MYRTLE BEACH Jahdiel Santamaria raced around the bases rather quickly after cracking a home run Monday night at BB&T Coastal Field against the Winston-Salem Dash.
It’s difficult to tell if that’s the 23-year-old Panamanian’s customary home run trot, or if he was just excited. Santamaria may not even know.
The dinger was his first home run in the U.S. in 120 games as a professional. His last home run came in the Dominican Summer League as a member of the New York Yankees organization in 2007, and he had gone homerless in Low-A Rome last year and at Staten Island in the Rookie League.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” Santamaria said through Pelicans pitcher Angelo Paulino, who acted as an interpreter. “It feels a little bit strange, but it feels real good after the slump I had, to come back and hit that home run without expecting it. I expect more [homers] or I’ll just keep hitting line drives and getting my hits.”
Santamaria’s early-season struggles have typified the Pelicans’ struggles at the plate. He went hitless in his first 20 at-bats, but after sitting out two games he recorded two hits Sunday and the homer Monday. He went 0-for-3 Tuesday as the Pelicans got just three hits in a 7-1 loss to the Dash.
“We rested him a couple days over in Salem just to relax him a little bit, then he got two knocks,” Pelicans manager Rocket Wheeler said. “So he’s relaxed a little bit and that’s what he needed to do.”
Santamaria’s rare power display has been one of the Pelicans’ rare offensive highlights recently. Since beginning the season 3-0, they have scored more than four runs only once in their past nine games, going 1-8 over the stretch.
The Pelicans are hoping the imminent return of leadoff hitter Cole Miles helps spark the offense. Miles is eligible to come off the disabled list today and should return to the field in the next few days.
“Being a leadoff hitter who can run like he does, he was the spark of our offense the first three games,” Wheeler said. “… It could be one or two more days before he’s back in the lineup.”
A single by Adam Milligan, double off the outfield wall by Gerry Rodriguez and sacrifice fly by Calvin Culver in the Pelicans’ seventh inning accounted for their only run Tuesday.
First baseman Gerardo Avila provided the team’s most spirited at-bat. He was ejected in the fifth inning after arguing a third strike with home plate umpire Tyler Wilson.
Avila thought the second strike was inside and stepped out of the box to regroup, and asked for time before the next pitch. It wasn’t granted, and Wilson called him out on strikes on a pitch on the outside corner.
Wheeler argued the ejection, then expounded on what he thought of Wilson between innings.
The Pelicans made two errors Tuesday, but also made a few stellar plays in the field. Shortstop Ryan Barba went to one knee to backhand a sharp one-hopper in the third-base hole and immediately bounced up to release a throw that got Dash third baseman Jon Gilmore by a couple steps.
A diving catch in the fifth inning by Rodriguez in left field likely saved a run, and Pelicans second baseman Yoel Campusano went deep in second base hole and spun to throw and deny Jon Gilmore’s bid for a single.
Santamaria has shown he’s not afraid to go after it in the outfield. He missed a week last May after making a diving catch in which he crashed head-first into the center-field wall and needed to be carted off on a stretcher. Tuesday night, he was stunned after crashing into the left-center wall attempting to track down a triple by Jason Bour.
Right-handed pitcher Zeke Spruill was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday. He was replaced on the Pelicans’ roster by righthander Van Pope, who was promoted from the Braves’ Gulf Coast League team.