Like one of his trademark heaters, Johan Santana exploded onto the baseball scene in 2004, going 20-6 with a 2.61 ERA, 256 strikeouts and winning the American League Cy Young Award in his first full season as a starter for the Minnesota Twins. He was so dominate that he didn’t lose a game after July 11 of that season, winning 13 in a row until May 1, 2005, when he lost a 2-1 decision to Bartolo Colon and the Angels despite throwing a two-hitter.
Santana proceed to turn in another stellar year in 2005, going 16-7 with a 2.87 ERA. He won the 2006 AL Cy Young, compiling a 19-6 record and a 2.77 ERA while striking out 245 batters.
Previous to those two years, however, Santana didn’t become a regular in the Twins’ rotation until the second half of the 2003 season. Up until that point, he had filled in for injured starters and worked out of the bullpen as one of the Twins’ set-up men.
He earned a spot in the rotation during the second half of 2003, going 12-3 and setting a franchise best for winning percentage. His effort helped the Twins win the AL Central crown for the second straight season.
Listed at 6 feet tall – short for a major league pitcher – Santana has a fastball that regularly reaches the mid-90s. He throws a slider, but it’s his devastating circle changeup – which approaches a batter at below 80 mph – that made him a Cy Young quality pitcher. He learned the pitch from minor league pitching coach Bobby Cuellar during a stint in Triple-A in 2002.
The Twins acquired Santana in a sort of an odd trade in the Rule 5 draft during the 1999 winter meetings. The Florida Marlins actually drafted Santana, but coveted Jared Camp, whom the Twins had selected. So after making the picks, the teams swapped players and the rest is history as Camp never developed. The Rule 5 draft allows major league teams to draft other organization’s minor-leaguers who are not on the big club’s 40-man roster.
Most of Santana’s development actually came in the Houston Astros organization, after they signed him in 1994. Santana is from Tovar, Venezuela, located in the mountainous area that has produced few major-league baseball players.
Scout Andres Reiner saw Santana play centerfield in a national tournament for 15- and 16-year-olds. Reiner asked the Astros for $400 to make the 350-mile trip to Santana’s home, but the players were on strike, and the Astros turned Reiner down twice. Finally, general manager Bob Watson paid the money out of his own pocket and Reiner was able to make the trip and sign Santana.
Santana signed a four-year, $40 million contract before the 2005 season, but is eligible for free agency after the 2008 season and will surely command a sizeable raise on the open market. There have been questions over the Twins’ ability to hold onto their ace, as well as star outfielder Torii Hunter.
Santana on the web
Minnesota Twins: Official page
Minnesota Twins official page; contains short bio, stats, and links to recent video highlights.
Rotoworld.com Player Profile: Johan Santana
Rotoworld is a great source for fantasy baseball information and advice.
Geocities fan page by 'batgirl'
A tribute to the Twins ace with a short bio and photo gallery.
Flickr: Santana gallery
Photos of Johan Santana with an option for a slide show.
YouTube: Santana strikes out 17th
Amateur video of Santana setting a club record 17 batters in one game.
Latest on Santana
Though Santana has pitched well in 2007, the Twins offense faltered and his win-loss record suffered. The subject of trade rumors, he made no secret of his disappointment when the trading deadline passed and he was still with theTwins. On Aug. 19, he set a franchise record by striking out 17 players in a game.
News and Commentary
The Art of Deception
City Pages, a Twins Cities magazine, profiles Santana and his changeup with a photo gallery.
Santana thriving in role as starter
In a 2004 Baseball Digest article, Santana describes how the Astros discovered him.
Who is/was better? Pedro Martinez or Santana?
John Beamer of Hardball Times discusses the merits of Martinez and Santana in peak seasons.
Third Base Line blog: an open letter to Santana
Twins fan writes to Santana hoping he will pitch well enough to turn a lady friend into a fan.
On the opinions of other players
"When you hear from other players and they're telling you you're the best pitcher in baseball, that makes you feel really good."
On the player he emulated as a kid
"I just wanted to be like my dad, Jesus. He was a good shortstop."
On his tendency to struggle early in the season
"In the future, I want to be consistent from Day 1. We're still making adjustments. I still believe that I can be better."
On his future with the Twins
"It doesn't make any sense for me to be here, you know?"