I don't want to get all "angel-centric" here, but the Angels rotation has been a topic of discussion all season. That rotation got a much needed "shot in the arm" yesterday as Ervin Santana returned to the mound to make his 2009 regular season debut. He would leave way before the Angels walked off with a victory in the 12th inning, but overall his return to the rotation was successful. Returning from an elbow injury can be tricky; however, Santana was able to throw his slider as well as his fastball with pretty good velocity and okay results.
On the afternoon he would throw a total of 92 pitches including 52 strikes. He did register five strikeouts, but obviously making his first start of the season, his control was not all there. He walked three, hit a batter, and threw a wild pitch in five innings. He didn't get many swinging strikes, four, but as he goes through the process a few more times the results will follow; or so the Angels hope.
Stuff wise Santana was a few notches below the norm. He threw a combined 58 fastballs (54 four seam, 4 two seam) between 89-91 mph. He maxed out at 93 on the four seam which was still below his 2008 average of 94.5. Accompanying the fastball was his slider. Santana made the push towards become mostly a two pitch pitcher last year, and the trend continued in his first start. He threw a slider 34% of the time, however only 13 of the 31 sliders went for a strike. The slider's velocity was also down around three miles from last year. The most important part is coming off of an elbow injury, he did not show fear in throwing the pitch. The velocity and arm strength shouldn't be a problem once he gets a few more starts under his belt. He wasn't quite the dominant starter he was in 2008, but the Angels have to be encouraged by what they saw.