The end of the 2008 season came along with the end of a contract for starting shortstop Edgar Renteria. With the Tigers having no intentions of resigning Renteria, the starting job was all but given to the long-time professional backup, Ramon Santiago.
Santiago grew up in the early 1980s, in the little town of Las Matas de Farfan, Dominican Republic.
As a backup in 2008, Santiago knocked in 18 runners in 124 plate appearances, while posting an average of .282. His defense has always been there, too, with a career .973 fielding percentage, making just three errors in 118 total chances.
Santiago had waited for this moment—his seven-year career, five with Detroit, was finally going to pay off. He would be a starter on a major-league team again.
Then, December 28th rolled around, and Detroit signed free agent Adam Everett to a one-year, $1 million contract. Santiago saw himself slip back into the second slot on the depth chart once again.
Then, the 2009 regular season came knocking.
With Adam Everett a defensive shortstop and the Tigers lacking offensive fire power, manager Jim Leyland made a move to put Ramon as the starter for a few games, and it sure did pay off.
In a start on April 13th versus the White Sox, Santiago went 3-5 with a home run and three RBI. Later in the month, Santiago got the nod against his former team, Seattle, and he went 2-3 with a double and five RBI.
Now into May, Santiago has begun to play, on average, two or three games a week and has his coaches, teammates, and fans praising that decision. In the month of May, through May 25th, he is hitting a whopping .441, with six extra-base hits and nine RBI.
Not only has Ramon's bat sizzled so far this season, his leather isn't too bad either. Thus far this season at second base, Santiago has yet to make and error, and at shortstop has made a mere two.
Coming from a die-hard Tigers fan like myself, this guy may be one of the most important pieces to the puzzle in Detroit. His mix of speed, defense, and hitting ability off the bench adds another dimension to the Tigers squad.
Ramon Santiago is a Hall of Fame backup, and a key to Detroit's success.