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11/12/12 7:30 PM ET
Santana ready to hit ground running in KC
By Dick Kaegel / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- Ervin Santana might be moving from Disneyland to Cowtown, but the change has his stamp of approval. "I'm happy to be here, and I'm healthy, so it's good," Santana said on Monday after being examined by doctors during his first day in Kansas City as a member of the Royals. He passed his tests, he told reporters at a late-afternoon media session. "Everything's good, ready to go. No issues," he said. Santana did have some issues on the mound last season for the Angels, finishing 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA. But he made 30 starts, pitched 178 innings and finished strong with a 5-3 record and 3.76 ERA in his last 11 starts. In those games, he held opponents to a .196 average and the Angels went 8-3. He did experience a slight elbow problem. "A little soreness, but nothing major," Santana said. Scouting reports say that Santana's velocity has dropped off slightly in the last two or three years. "I know if I keep working on it, it's going to come back, and I'm just not worried about it," he said. "I just have to locate the fastball, and that's it." Santana, a right-hander, throws the basic four-seam and two-seam fastballs, a slider, changeup and occasional curveball and is looking forward to delivering them to catcher Salvador Perez. "He's very intelligent; he knows what he's doing behind home plate," Santana said. "He knows how to read the guy's mind, and he works fast. He's trying to be on the same page with the pitcher." Santana, from San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic, was born Johan Santana but decided to change his first name to Ervin three years into his professional career. It seems there was a pesky left-hander also known as Johan Santana who already was becoming rather famous in the Major Leagues with the Twins. "I was Johan Santana and I became Ervin Santana," he said. "Because before they sent me the baseball card with Johan Santana from Venezuela pitching and I said, 'That's not me.'" Thanks to that change, we don't have to distinguish between two Johan Santanas by using middle names. Santana was asked what he liked about the Royals. "Young team, a lot of talent, aggressive team, it'll score a lot of runs," he said. That would be a change from last season when the Royals finished a distant 12th in scoring among the 14 American League clubs. But they did show off some outstanding defensive players, including Gold Glove-winning left fielder Alex Gordon, shortstop Alcides Escobar, third baseman Mike Moustakas and right fielder Jeff Francoeur among others. "When you have guys like that it makes you more comfortable as a pitcher that you know that any ball is going to be caught. And we have a lot a speed, so it's good, as a pitcher, to know that," he said. Santana, who was acquired on Oct. 31 from the Angels in exchange for Minor League reliever Brandon Sisk, will be counted on to make a difference in a starting rotation that had a rough season. For Santana, whose $13 million option was exercised as part of the trade, it's the first time in his 12-year pro career that he's been outside the Angels' organization. "It's just like I'm a rookie now," he said. "This is a new team, and I just have to enjoy it, know my teammates and the manager and everybody. I'm a new guy here." So new that Santana hasn't even been assigned a uniform number yet, although the 54 he wore with the Angels apparently is up for grabs. "If they have 54, I'll wear 54. If not, I'll wear something else," he said. If nothing else, Santana certainly seems agreeable.
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.