Notes: Santana continues 'magic' spring

Notes: Santana continues 'magic' spring

MESA, Ariz. -- Ervin Santana answers to "Magic," but it has nothing to do with the 24-year-old Angels right-hander throwing fastballs and breaking balls past hitters.

Santana, it turns out, has been "Magic" since his high school days in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. It seems he had a nice flair for the sport once enriched by Earvin "Magic" Johnson.

"I played basketball in high school and was pretty good, so they started calling me 'Magic,'" Santana said, nodding when asked if he made all-city and all-district teams. "I played center -- scored some points, got rebounds, blocked a couple of shots a game. I loved it."

Santana was a magic man Sunday at HoHoKam Park, working four perfect innings before surrendering a long homer to Cliff Floyd -- the only run he yielded in 6 1/3 innings of four-hit work, striking out four hitters while walking one.

"I'm just trying to be good every outing," said Santana, who has pitched superbly in five of six spring appearances, giving up six of his 10 earned runs in 24 2/3 innings in one game against the Padres.

Putting his fastball in good spots and getting nice bite on his slider, Santana also kept hitters off balance with a changeup he said he's confident throwing in any count.

"I'm almost ready," Santana said, referring to his season debut April 4 against Texas in Anaheim. "Just one more [tuneup]."

He'll pitch in the Freeway Series against the Dodgers on Friday night in Los Angeles.

And, no, basketball was never a career option. Realizing there wasn't much of a future for 6-foot-2 pivot men, Santana focused his energies on baseball, evolving last season into a 16-8 artist in 33 starts for the Angels with a 4.28 ERA -- and even better things on the horizon.

Down the stretch: The battle for possibly two roster spots in the outfield figures to go down to the wire among a foursome of quality candidates -- and poker-faced manager Mike Scioscia isn't tipping his hand on favorites.

Tommy Murphy, Reggie Willits and Curtis Pride are familiar to Angels fans, each having made appearances in Anaheim. They're joined by slugging Nick Gorneault, who has had the best spring of the four in terms of offensive production.

Murphy and Willits are generally viewed as basically the same player -- versatile enough to play all three outfield roles; blessed with strong, accurate arms; fast, switch-hitters with good baserunning instincts.

Spring Training
News and features:
• GM Stoneman on Angels' spring:  350K
• Lackey ready for season:  350K
• Cabrera on spring routine:  350K
• Branson Wood on his preparation:  350K
Spring Training info: coverage  |  Schedule  |  Ballpark  |  Tickets

Willits has the edge in his ability to get on base and play small ball -- bunt, hit behind runners -- while Murphy can drive the ball with power, especially his natural right side.

Gorneault has shown the ability to leave the middle of any ballpark with serious muscle, but he's more than that. He's disciplined enough to drive 2-2 fastballs on the outer edge to right field -- his .414 Cactus League average reflects his knowledge of the craft. Gorneault has a strong arm but plays only the corners.

Pride hasn't had a good spring with the bat, but the image is clear of the veteran delivering in clutch situations in the past.

"There are a number of guys for [outfield] depth," Scioscia said. "We haven't ruled out Murph and Willits on the club [together]. Each of them brings a different dimension. There could be a role for both those guys.

"Nick brings a little different piece than Reggie and Tommy, a right-handed bat off the bench. He does have a live bat. If that's something that rounds out our roster, we're going to consider it.

"We've considered guys on the depth chart, how they mix and match. There's a lot of baseball to be played this week [before final decisions are made]."

Up next: Angels southpaw Joe Saunders (1-0, 4.05 ERA in four starts) gears up for his April 5 regular-season debut against Oakland in Anaheim when he faces the Cubs' Jason Marquis on Monday in Tempe Diablo Stadium. Saunders will make a final tuneup Saturday night in Anaheim against the Dodgers.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.