SCOTTSDALE, Ariz.—Right shoulder surgery followed by a forearm strain limited Anthony Santander to just 29 games during the 2017 season. Sent to the Arizona Fall League by the Orioles to get more playing time, the rust from having so few at-bats plagued Santander early on.
As the AFL winds down however, Santander is finding his comfort zone and rediscovering the stroke that made him such a promising young hitter.
Santander went 2-for-5 with a double, a triple, two runs and three RBIs to lead Salt River to an 11-4 rout of Peoria on Tuesday afternoon. After beginning the Fall League in a 5-for-38 slump with 11 strikeouts, the 23-year-old Venezuelan is 10-for-34 (.294) with 10 RBIs in his last eight games.
"It's just nice to be back on the field," Santander said through a translator. "It's a great opportunity to continue to improve my game. I've been feeling really good lately."
Santander hit .290 with 42 doubles, 20 home runs and 95 RBIs at high Class A Lynchburg in the Indians organization in 2016. The Indians left him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft in light of his end-of-season shoulder surgery, however, and the Orioles grabbed him with the 18th selection.
Santander was eager to make a positive early impression on his new organization, but his body betrayed him. Elbow soreness plagued him throughout spring training and he began the year on the minor league disabled list. An MRI in May revealed a ligament strain in his forearm and he received a PRP injection, which knocked him out until July.
He finally made his season debut at Double-A Bowie on July 27, played 16 games in the minors, and then was called up to the Orioles, where he mostly came off the bench in 13 games down the stretch.
It was a lost year on paper, but Santander saw it differently.
"It really wasn't frustrating because I took it as an opportunity down in Florida to work on my body," Santander said. "Work to get stronger, work on my bat and my defense. Just be ready for when I was given the opportunity and the chance to produce for my team."
Santander is certainly producing now. He kickstarted Salt River's offense Tuesday with a leadoff double in the second inning and eventually came home with the game's first run. In the sixth inning he blew the game open, lining a bases-clearing triple down the right-field line against Blue Jays lefthander Danny Young, and then came home on a Brian Mundell single.
Santander's hot streak comes just as the AFL nears its end, an unfortunate coincidence of timing. But with his first taste of the major leagues and a strong finish in the Fall League at his back, a healthy Santander is feeling confident for what lies ahead in 2018.
"I've used this whole year to get stronger," Santander said. "Come spring training, I'll work my tail off to get a spot on the big league team."
NEWS AND NOTES
—Salt River outfielder Monte Harrison, the Brewers No. 6 prospect, hit an opposite-field three-run homer off Red Sox lefty Henry Owens in the third inning. Harrison, who is limited to two games a week as a taxi squad player, has five homers in 11 AFL games.
—Red Sox third baseman Michael Chavis went 2-for-4 with two home runs for Peoria, one an inside-the-parker and the other a 373-foot shot down the left-field line. Chavis' inside-the-park homer in the fifth inning came when Salt River center fielder Victor Reyes collided with right fielder Yonathan Daza as they chased down Chavis' one-hopper in the right-center gap. Both Daza and Reyes remained facedown after the collision as Chavis circled the bases. The outfielders stayed down for nearly five minutes while being attended to by trainers before rising and walking off the field under their own power. They were replaced by Braxton Lee in center and Corey Ray in right.
—Mundell reached in all five of his plate appearances. He went 3-for-3 with a double, two walks and three RBIs.