Humble Santana still the same after no-no
CLEVELAND -- He was born Johan Ramon Santana. He changed his name in 2003 to avoid confusion with the Johan Santana who was just starting to collect Cy Young votes with the Twins.Ervin Santana, then an Angels prospect toiling away in Class A ball, wanted to create his own identity. You could say, eight years later, that he certainly made a name for himself on a splendid Wednesday afternoon here at Progressive Field, where he tossed the 229th no-hitter of the modern era and the first by an Angels pitcher in nearly three decades. But in the wake of his outstanding outing against the Indians in a 3-1 victory, Santana, even when surrounded by champagne bottles chilling in Dubble Bubble buckets by his locker, didn't have a celebratory air about him. He was happy, certainly, but he also seemed to wear a reflective layer just below the surface. One that revealed itself when he used several of the few words he spoke at his postgame news conference to mention a lost family member. "I just want to dedicate this no-hitter," he said, "to my cousin, who just passed away." The cousin's name, Santana revealed later, was Ruben. But that was all Santana would share, his eyes welling up when the topic was broached.
That's the side of Santana you don't necessarily see when he's pumping the strike zone with fastballs and making hitters unsuccessfully lunge at his slider. He's a jokester one moment, a weeper the next and a proud pitcher, through and through. "Ervin's very humble," pitching coach Mike Butcher said. "He's emotional, but in a good way. He truly appreciates the game of baseball and works extremely hard at it." The work has sometimes been uphill for Santana in what has been a strange season. The 6-8 record, any Angels member will argue, is no indication of the way he's pitched, and manager Mike Scioscia has spent the last two months spreading word that Santana has been pitching much better than his numbers indicate. Consider what transpired here to be proof positive. The Indians had two baserunners against Santana because of shortstop Erick Aybar's first-inning error that allowed leadoff man Ezequiel Carrera to reach and Santana's eighth-inning walk of Lonnie Chisenhall that got Aybar off the hook before anybody could talk about him blowing a perfect game.
"Ervin's very humble. He's emotional, but in a good way. He truly appreciates the game of baseball and works extremely hard at it."
|-- Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher, on Ervin Santana|
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, CastroTurf, and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.