By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
Benito Santiago wants back in.
Santiago is playing Winter Ball in his native Puerto Rico, hoping to prove that he still has the arm and the skills behind the plate to be a contributor on a contending club. It's been a year and a half since he appeared in what many folks thought was his last Major League game, but, at 41, Santiago says he is rested and ready to return.
Several teams have scouted Santiago during his comeback attempt -- he's hitting .250 with five RBIs through 14 games with Ponce -- and the former National League Rookie of the Year has expressed an interest in playing for either Philadelphia or Texas. Santiago, who has thrown out 13 of 15 runners trying to steal this season, believes he can be a valuable asset to a young pitching staff, particularly the one in Philadelphia.
"I bring a lot of energy to a staff," said Santiago, a career .263 hitter in 20 Major League seasons. "Just talk to Jason Schmidt [with whom he was a teammate in San Francisco from 2001-03]. My experience brings a lot to those guys. Everywhere I've played, the team ERA has gone down. I've been doing the job with young guys for a long time, and my pride has always been as a catcher. I can help these guys be someone in the future."
Santiago is a five-time All-Star who won the National League Championship Series MVP Award in 2002 with the Giants. He has three Gold Gloves to his credit, and with the suddenly burgeoning group of 40-somethings dotting Major League rosters, Santiago figures he has nothing to lose.
He last played for the Pirates in 2005, appearing in six games and going 6-for-23 (.261). He also played in the Mets' farm system that year, splitting time between Triple-A Norfolk and Class A St. Lucie, where he went 11-for-42 (.262) in nine games with five RBIs.
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"The fact that I'm 41 doesn't make me old," Santiago said. "I feel pretty good about this. Just because I haven't played the last couple of years doesn't mean I'm out. I went home and I didn't have any injuries, and now I've decided to come back. People tell you they don't miss the game, but they lie. You always miss the game.
"I think I can help anybody. I'm playing like I was five or six years ago. And if someone comes to see me in Puerto Rico, they'll see it, too."
Santiago said he'd listen if a team wanted to send him to Triple-A, but that he would have to discuss any such move with his agents, Joe Rosario and Joe Longo.