Chicago White Sox

Ervin Santana leads list of options to fill No. 5 spot in rotation

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Ervin Santana throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Friday, Aug. 10, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

In 2017, Ervin Santana was 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA for the Twins.

The right-hander led the major leagues with five complete games and three shutouts. He pitched in the All-Star Game and started against the Yankees in the American League wild-card game.

If Santana comes close to matching that effort this season, the White Sox are going to be thrilled.

Looking to add competition at the No. 5 starter’s spot, the Sox signed the 36-year-old Santana to a minor-league contract Feb. 23. If he makes the 25-man roster, Santana will get $4.3 million this season.

Santana made his first Cactus League start Wednesday and allowed four earned runs on eight hits in a four-inning stint against the Diamondbacks.

Last season, an injured right middle finger limited Santana to five starts with Minnesota. He was 0-1 with an 8.03 ERA.

“It was difficult because when you have finger issues, you’re not going to be able to hold the grip the way you want to and throw the ball the way you want to,” Santana said. “It was frustrating.”

With multiple off days early in the season, the Sox likely won’t need a fifth starter until April 10.

That would give Santana additional time to get ready, and he could move up the rotation ladder if his finger feels good and he regains his old form.

If Santana struggles, Manny Banuelos and Dylan Covey are the other options for the No. 5 spot.

At the urging of veteran scout Bill “Yogi” Young, the Sox acquired Banuelos in a Nov. 1 trade from the Dodgers.

In 31 games (18 starts) with Triple-A Oklahoma City last year, Banuelos was 9-7 with a 3.73 ERA while finishing fifth in the Pacific Coast League with 127 strikeouts.

Signed by the Yankees in 2008 as a 17-year-old phenom out of Mexico, the left-hander was tracking in the right direction until he missed the 2013 after having Tommy John surgery.

“Very interesting guy,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “He was once a top prospect before the injuries derailed him. At one point, I think he was viewed as potentially untouchable by the Yankees as he was on his ascent. He’s obviously had some setbacks, but he pitched last year without restriction. His stuff seemed to come back to the level it was at before.”

In five Cactus League starts this spring, Banuelos is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA. He is out of minor-league options, so he might stick as a relief pitcher for the Sox if Santana claims the final rotation spot.

Covey was 5-14 with a 5.18 ERA in 27 games (21 starts) for the Sox last season.

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