ANAHEIM -- Starter Ervin Santana recently asked the Angels for permission to pitch for the Licey Tigers of the Dominican Winter League, but they declined, general manager Jerry Dipoto confirmed.
The reason is simple: The Angels don't think it's a good idea for a starter they're going to rely on for 200-plus innings to crank it up for a one-month stretch in January, then shut it down and start back up again in Spring Training shortly thereafter.
Shortstop Erick Aybar, who's arbitration-eligible and also an contract-extension candidate, was allowed to play for Licey when he asked at about the same time. But in this case, a starting pitcher and a position player are "a different animal," Dipoto said, adding that the decision to keep Santana from winter ball was in no way health related.
"From Ervin's perspective, and quite frankly if Dan Haren or Jered Weaver or C.J. Wilson want to play winter ball, that would be an easy no-brainer [to say no]," Dipoto explained. "But in Erick's case, this is him tuning up. He's going to play maybe three times a week, and get himself in game shape and get himself ready. It's not as taxing on him and doesn't put us in a bad situation."
The Dominican Winter League is currently in its 18-game round-robin playoff stage, which includes the top four out of six teams and lasts until the end of January. The top two clubs in those standings will then play a best-of-nine series for a national title, with the league's champion advancing to the Caribbean Series to play against representatives from Mexico, Venezuela and Puerto Rico. That lasts from Feb. 2-8.
Infielder Alberto Callaspo and right-hander Jerome Williams previously suited up for the Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League. Callaspo batted .308, with 10 RBIs in 13 games, and hasn't played since the New Year. Williams, a candidate for the fifth spot in the rotation, went 5-0 with a 1.00 ERA in six starts (a span of 36 innings) and didn't pitch past Nov. 13.
"As a general rule," Dipoto said, "I'm a big advocate of winter ball and believe it's a good thing for players. ... But sometimes you have to be smart enough to understand that cranking a pitcher up in early-to-mid January and then shutting him down and then cranking him up again is probably not the best way to make sure that pitcher stays healthy."