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White Sox’ Hector Santiago isn’t screwing around with pitch

Starting pitcher Chris Sale allowed run four hits no walks six innings Thursday. He struck out seven Dodgers. | Christian

Starting pitcher Chris Sale allowed a run, four hits and no walks in six innings Thursday. He struck out seven Dodgers. | Christian Petersen~Getty Images

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Updated: May 1, 2012 8:25AM

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Before discovering the screwball while playing winter ball two offseasons ago, Hector Santiago was nothing more than a fastball-changeup left-hander. His scroogie, which has vaulted the 2006 30th-round draft pick into the White Sox’ closer picture, is one of the most intriguing story lines of Sox camp.

Still, Santiago knows his career will go as far as his fastball command takes him.

“I still say my put-away pitch is a well-located fastball, definitely,’’ said Santiago, who throws in the 92-95 mph range. “Depending on the count, if you can trick them, make them look for the screwball, then go in or hit a good spot away, yeah.’’

Santiago throws his changeup slightly harder than his screwball. The change sinks and tails away from right-handed hitters but doesn’t drop as much as the screwball. He got a strikeout against a lefty this week with a cut fastball, a pitch he’s developing this spring.

For Santiago, the screwball — a money pitch in the past for lefty relievers Jim Brewer, Tug McGraw and Willie Hernandez — was conceived while playing catch. When the bench coach overheard him talking about it, he brought Santiago to a bullpen to try it off a mound, and the rest was history.

“At camp the following spring, [then-farm director] Buddy Bell came up to me and said, ‘Hey, if anyone asks you, tell them I taught you that,’ ’’ Santiago said. “In the spring, it took off and became the story.’’

Closer for a day

Santiago, Addison Reed and Jesse Crain got the ball to Matt Thornton (perfect save) in the ninth with scoreless appearances. Manager Robin Ventura cautioned not to read too much into Thornton pitching the ninth. If it has been decided, he’s not saying.

“At this point, we haven’t totally concluded how we’re going to do it,” Ventura said.

If that’s the case, that’s fine with Thornton, who has two more outings scheduled.

“You can tell me Opening Day; I don’t care,’’ Thornton said. “It doesn’t matter to me. They will figure that out here soon enough.’’

Crain’s perfect eighth was his first appearance since March 12 because of a strained right oblique. He said it was the best he has thrown all spring.

Sale in control

Left-hander Chris Sale had his second outstanding start, allowing a run, four hits and no walks Thursday against the Dodgers.

He struck out seven in six innings. Of his 86 pitches, 61 were strikes.

Sale ranks among the Cactus League leaders with 22 strikeouts and has walked two.

“I was told from a very young age to not give them anything, and that’s something I paid attention to a lot,’’ Sale said.

Sale struck out five of the first six batters and fanned Matt Kemp three times.

“[Catcher Tyler Flowers] did a great job mixing it up back there,’’ Sale said.

“He was in-out, up-down, hard-soft. It was a fun day to pitch.’’

It was Sale’s last day to pitch in Arizona. His next outing is Tuesday in Houston.

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