If you were to go and look back at your most recent resume and cover letter submitted for employment, how many of your listed skills could you be called on to verify at a moment’s notice?
Type 75 words per minutes? Sure, if you don’t mind a lot of mistakes.
Proficient in spreadsheets? Depends on your definition of proficient.
Make a start and throw at least 75 pitches six days after signing a minor league contract with an organization?
For Hector Santiago, he had no choice but to accept the offer. This was the only opportunity being offered to him.
And it also fit one of the listed qualifications on a cover letter/resume he submitted to the Mariners and 29 other teams before the 2020 season.
After making five starts in winter ball, including pitching for Puerto Rico in the Caribbean World Series, the veteran left-hander had no offers or invites to MLB spring training. With no real interest, he decided to give his arm a rest.
His last start in winter ball was on Feb. 6. He played catch on Feb. 9 and didn’t pick up a ball again. He continued to lift and do cardio work at a gym, but there was no long toss or bullpens.
On Friday, April 30, he was on a mini vacation on a beach in Puerto Rico when he got a call from his agent.
“I was just coming out of the water from a dive and doing some spear fishing,” he said. “My agent said the Mariners were interested. And then Sunday afternoon, he said, ‘Hey, you’re gonna sign your contract, you’re gonna leave tomorrow. And then you’re gonna start on Saturday.’ And I’m like, ‘Whoa, this escalated really quick.’ I showed up to Tacoma and they said, ‘You’re starting Saturday and get ready to go.’ And it’s 75 pitches.”
Santiago threw a light bullpen three days before the start and then on May 8, in the Rainiers’ third game of the season, he went out and pitched four shutout innings without allowing a hit, striking out seven batters and walking two.
“I didn’t know how my arm is gonna bounce back from that,” he said.
But his arm always bounces back. That was also part of his submitted resume.
And it’s also why he’s back in the big leagues.
On Thursday, Santiago had his minor league contract selected from Class AAA Tacoma and was added to the MLB roster while lefty Daniel Zamora was also recalled from the Rainiers. Right-handers Wyatt Mills and Yohan Ramirez were optioned back to Tacoma and injured reliever Sam Delaplane, who underwent Tommy John surgery, has been designated for assignment.
“I thought I was gonna have another year off and possibly my career ending,” he said.
When Santiago makes his first appearance for Seattle, it will be his first MLB game since Sept. 26, 2019.
“You just hope for the best,” he said. “All I could do is stay ready, wait for a phone call. I can’t put pressure on a team to call me. I can just put myself in the best position physically, stay healthy and just wait for a phone call. It ended up happening a little bit later than I wanted to this year, but I’m getting back to the ultimate goal — back in the big leagues.”
Few established pitchers would have followed Santiago’s path and reported to a team, even a minor league team, and pitched in a game without a proper buildup. Then again, few pitchers would’ve sent a cover letter/resume to all 30 teams to try and land a job.
Before the 2020 season, Santiago was in the similar position of having no teams interested in him.
After a discussion with his wife, Esther, where he talked about all his previous different roles as a pitcher, he started writing down his qualifications and accomplishments on notepad of his iPhone. He sent the two pages worth to his agent, Jim Murray, as sort of a joke.
“He sent it to all 30 teams,” he said. “He said, ‘I’m gonna mass email this to all the GMs, are you OK with that?’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever I can do to open a door and get my way back into a stadium, get myself a jersey and have an opportunity to play.”
The letter read:
“Need a pitcher? I can. Starter, long relief, middle relief, left-handed specialist, closer, finisher, mop-up. Start on short rest. Start today pitch tomorrow. I’ve done it all. Need a guy to abuse to save the rest of the bullpen, that’s been my career! Let’s do it. I’m all in. It’s all me. I’ll throw 162 games. I’ll throw live BP for hitters before games and be ready for the game the same night. Trust me, you can’t throw me too much.
“Manager: How you feel? Me: I’m good to go. Let’s go, put me in. Can you shag BP by yourself? Yup, I’ll do it. Can you flip (short toss to hitters) in the cage? Yup, got it. Hec, can you clean the spikes? Yup, got it. Hec, can you wash the uniforms tonight? Yup. I’ll be the ‘yes man’ for whoever needs me to be. My career has literally been just like this — ha-ha.”
It’s not exactly a template for resume success, but it landed him a minor league deal with the Tigers. But when COVID-19 shut the game down, he never got the opportunity.
Now he does.
“You definitely don’t want somebody to rip the jersey off your back,” he said. “You want to be able to go home and say I gave everything I have and I think I’m done. I’m 33 but I still feel like I have life in the arm and enough in the body.”