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updated: 4/8/2012 3:07 PM

Santiago saves first win for White Sox manager

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  • Alex Rios rounds third after hitting his game-winning home run in the ninth inning Saturday at Texas.

      Alex Rios rounds third after hitting his game-winning home run in the ninth inning Saturday at Texas.
    Associated Press

 
 

If Robin Ventura ever wants to take a look at the baseball from his first win as White Sox manager, he will have to travel to Newark, N.J.

That's Hector Santiago's hometown, and the Sox' surprising new closer got the ball after recording the final out and saving Saturday night's 4-3 victory over Texas.

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"Hector tried to give it to me, but I gave it back to him," Ventura told reporters after the White Sox won their first game of the season a day after falling 3-2 to Texas. "He's a player. He earned that."

Santiago is a 24-year-old rookie left-hander. He pitched out of the bullpen in two games for the Sox last season and spent the rest of the year starting at Class A Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham.

When Santiago reported to training camp this spring with his screwball in tow, he didn't know if he'd make the 25-man roster as a reliever or be shipped back to the minor leagues to continue pitching out of the bullpen or starting rotation.

But after getting the call in the bottom of the ninth after Alex Rios' leadoff home run in the top of the inning put the Sox in front, Santiago retired Mitch Moreland, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus to bag the save.

After the game, Ventura was asked if Santiago is the White Sox' closer.

"He is," said Ventura, who was doused with beer after getting his first win as manager.

The White Sox didn't get too down after Friday's season-opening loss, and they shouldn't get too excited about evening their record at 1-1. But after a miserable 2011 and long, long off-season, a surge of relief is understandable.

"That's as good of a team win as you can have," starting pitcher Jake Peavy said.

It's hard to argue with Peavy, who was shaky early before pulling it together and delivering 6 innings, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits.

Santiago's emergence did end the big closer mystery, but shortstop Alexei Ramirez helped his cause by making a highlight catch with his back to home plate on Moreland's short flyball leading off the ninth inning.

After going hitless in his first 6 at-bats of the season, Rios came through with the big tiebreaking home run off Rangers closer Joe Nathan.

Matt Thornton got the win, but the left-handed reliever had to work out of a full-blown jam in the eighth inning after getting two quick outs.

Texas loaded the bases after that, and Thornton threw 3 straight balls to Mike Napoli but came back and got the Texas catcher on a groundout.

And don't forget Paul Konerko, who was 2-for-4 with 3 RBI while playing in his 2,000th big-league game.

Yes, Ventura got the traditional beer shower after getting his first win as manager, but it was an all-around party for a Sox team in need of something to celebrate.

"It's just nice," Ventura said. "You get a kid like Hector Santiago, he comes in his first game … he's a tough kid. I just love the way he goes out there, his attitude every day he comes to the park.

"Rios with the big home run. I like the feeling we have. I like their attitude when they come in here. They do the work. It's a team win."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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