Jim Souhan: Santana mentor watches with pride

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 3, 2012 - 8:40 AM

Pitching coach Bobby Cuellar helped the New York Mets ace acquire his no-hit stuff when the two were together with the Twins' Class AAA club.

New York Mets' Johan Santana waves his cap to the cheers of the fans after a video was shown before the baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, on Saturday, June 2, 2012, at Citi Field in New York, in tribute to his no-hitter the night before.

Photo: Kathy Kmonicek, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The Rochester Red Wings' Friday night game had been rained out, so Bobby Cuellar, the team's pitching coach, was watching the Twins and Indians on TV.

"Suddenly, oompah, there's another game to watch," Cuellar said. "I got to watch the last three outs of Johan's game. I'm very happy for the young man. I mean, the man."

Johan Santana was a young man when Cuellar first met him. Friday night, Santana used the pitch Cuellar taught him a decade ago to pitch the first no-hitter in New York Mets history, finishing the game with a changeup that dived under the bat of Cardinals slugger David Freese.

Cuellar sounded embarrassed to be credited with helping Santana, but the Twins have always praised his work in helping Santana become one of the best pitchers in the game.

"Absolutely," said Twins assistant GM Rob Antony. "That's what everybody in the organization talked about, and that's what Johan talked about."

History doesn't leave Cuellar much room for humility.

Santana played mostly center field as a kid in Tovar, Merida, Venezuela. The Astros signed him in 1995.

In three seasons in the lower reaches of Houston's farm system, Santana posted ERAs of 7.36, 4.72 and 4.66. The Astros left Santana unprotected in the Rule 5 draft. The Marlins chose him, and the Twins traded a pitcher named Jared Camp for him.

Santana posted an ERA of 6.49 in 2000 and 4.74 in 2001. The Twins sent him to Class AAA Edmonton. Cuellar helped him develop a changeup. Santana struck out 13.9 batters per nine innings. His ERA dropped to 3.14 and he returned to the big leagues.

Before Santana worked with Cuellar, his lowest ERA in a full season of professional baseball had been 4.66 in Class A for the Astros in 1999. Since meeting Cuellar, Santana has not posted a big-league ERA higher than 3.33.

"I came to this organization in 2002, and that's the year they sent Johan down," Cuellar said Saturday from Rochester, N.Y., the home of the Twins' top minor league affiliate since 2003. "What I was told, and what we did, was just let him pitch. There were a lot of conversations, a lot of discussions. You had a lot to work with with Johan."

When the Twins sent word that Santana should rejoin the big-league team, he was forced to skip a start for Edmonton. "He actually asked if he could make his next start for us before going up," Cuellar said. "When he left, he said, 'If you guys win it all, I get a ring, right?' And we did, and he did."

In his prime, Santana threw a fastball at 94 miles per hour and a changeup at 78. Friday night, Santana's velocity topped out at about 89 mph. To the untrained eye, he appeared to dominate the Cardinals, the best-hitting team in the National League, with two different changeups.

"I don't think they were different," Cuellar said. "I just think that sometimes he was throwing the changeup for a strike, and sometimes he was throwing it a little off the plate, and a little softer.

"I believe he throws the changeup by feel depending on the situation. That last pitch he threw, that just dropped out of the zone, you probably know it's coming, but you can't help yourself.

"The last few pitches he threw were changeups. He trusts that pitch. Trust has a lot to do with winning and losing. Believe me, trust is a big thing for a pitcher."

Minor league coaches don't reap many rewards. They don't make much money, and they don't get even an agent's cut when their protégés succeed.

"As a coach, you just want to help each player along," Cuellar said. "It was my pleasure to work with Johan. He's a better person than he is a pitcher."

For this coach, the reward came in the form of a quiet Friday night, and a chance to watch your former pupil throw the pitch you taught him until he had made history.

"That guy on the mound, and that guy afterward, so team-oriented, so humble, that's the guy I remember," Cuellar said. "That was so good to see."

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Gardenhire salutes Santana's gem

    Sunday June 3, 2012

    CLEVELAND - Twins manager Ron Gardenhire caught the tail end of Johan Santana's no-hitter on television Friday night.

  • Mets ace Johan Santana (57) high-fived teammates at the dugout after throwing the first no-hitter in franchise history Friday night.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions
Final123456789RHE
Cleveland «0020320007140
Minnesota010010000272
@Ballpark Replay
Preview | Matchup | Lineup | Log | Wrap | Box
W:C.Kluber(17-9) L:A.Swarzak(3-2)
HR: CLE- None MIN- None

ADVERTISEMENT

Toronto - LP: D. Hutchison 2 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: M. Tanaka 5
Washington - WP: S. Strasburg 2 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 1
NY Mets - WP: J. deGrom 10 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: E. Santana 2
Boston - WP: J. Kelly 3 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: M. Gonzalez 2
Milwaukee - LP: W. Peralta 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 1
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Danks 10 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: N. Karns 5
Cleveland - WP: C. Kluber 7 FINAL
Minnesota - LP: A. Swarzak 2
Detroit - LP: R. Porcello 2 FINAL
Kansas City - WP: J. Guthrie 5
Seattle - LP: H. Iwakuma 3 FINAL
Houston - WP: C. McHugh 8
Los Angeles - WP: C. Perez 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: J. Turner 5
Texas - WP: S. Tolleson 2 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Street 1
Philadelphia - LP: M. Gonzalez 6 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Doolittle 8
San Francisco - LP: R. Vogelsong 2 FINAL
San Diego - WP: I. Kennedy 8
Arizona - LP: W. Miley 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: C. Bergman 8
Cincinnati - WP: A. Simon 7 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: L. Lynn 2
San Diego 22 FINAL
Buffalo 10
Dallas 34 FINAL
St. Louis 31
Washington 34 FINAL
Philadelphia 37
Houston 17 FINAL
NY Giants 30
Minnesota 9 FINAL
New Orleans 20
Tennessee 7 FINAL
Cincinnati 33
Baltimore 23 FINAL
Cleveland 21
Green Bay 7 FINAL
Detroit 19
Indianapolis 44 FINAL
Jacksonville 17
Oakland 9 FINAL
New England 16
San Francisco 14 FINAL
Arizona 23
Denver 20 FINAL
Seattle 26
Kansas City 34 FINAL
Miami 15
Pittsburgh 37 FINAL
Carolina 19
Chicago 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
Washington
Columbus 4 FINAL
Carolina 3
Buffalo 0 FINAL
Washington 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Calgary 1 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Edmonton 0 FINAL
Calgary 1
Old Dominion 45 FINAL
Rice 42
Troy 0 FINAL
(12) Georgia 66
Georgia Tech 27 FINAL
Virginia Tech 24
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
(9) Michigan State 73
Iowa 24 FINAL
Pittsburgh 20
Bowling Green 17 FINAL
(19) Wisconsin 68
Maryland 34 FINAL
Syracuse 20
Tulane 13 FINAL
Duke 47
Hawaii 12 FINAL
Colorado 21
Marshall 48 FINAL
Akron 17
North Carolina 41 FINAL
(23) East Carolina 70
Army 21 FINAL
Wake Forest 24
Virginia 33 FINAL
(20) BYU 41
(6) Texas A&M 58 FINAL
SMU 6
Rutgers 31 FINAL
Navy 24
Central Mich 10 FINAL
Kansas 24
Utah 26 FINAL
Michigan 10
Florida 21 FINAL
(3) Alabama 42
Louisville 34 FINAL
FIU 3
Fla Atlantic 19 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Indiana 31 FINAL
Missouri 27
San Jose St 7 FINAL
Minnesota 24
Texas State 35 FINAL
Illinois 42
Massachusetts 7 FINAL
Penn State 48
Georgia State 14 FINAL
Washington 45
Appalachian St 20 FINAL
Southern Miss 21
(14) Miss State 34 FINAL
(17) LSU 29
Northern Ill 14 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Middle Tennessee 17 FINAL
Memphis 36
Utah State 14 FINAL
Arkansas State 21
Miami-Ohio 24 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Idaho 24 FINAL
Ohio U 36
Ball State 23 FINAL
Toledo 34
(13) So Carolina 48 FINAL
Vanderbilt 34
(4) Oklahoma 45 FINAL
West Virginia 33
Ga Southern 28 FINAL
South Alabama 6
UNLV 14 FINAL
Houston 47
Miami-Florida 31 FINAL
(21) Nebraska 41
New Mexico 38 FINAL
New Mexico St 35
Clemson 17 FINAL
(1) Florida State 23
California 45 FINAL
Arizona 49
San Diego St 7 FINAL
Oregon State 28
(2) Oregon 38 FINAL
Washington St 31
Louisiana 9 FINAL
Boise State 34
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(24) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(11) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
Texas-El Paso 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(25) Kansas State
Tennessee 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(12) Georgia
Vanderbilt 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Kentucky
Wyoming 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(9) Michigan State
Northwestern 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
TCU 9/27/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Iowa 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Tulane 9/27/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
So Florida 9/27/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Colorado State 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Western Mich 9/27/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
Maryland 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Indiana
Akron 9/27/14 12:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Bowling Green 9/27/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Arkansas 9/27/14 2:30 PM
(6) Texas A&M
Kent State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Virginia
Western Ky 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Navy
Minnesota 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Wake Forest 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Louisville
FIU 9/27/14 2:30 PM
UAB
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:30 PM
NC State
Miami-Ohio 9/27/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Colorado 9/27/14 3:00 PM
California
Louisiana Tech 9/27/14 3:00 PM
(5) Auburn
Texas 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Kansas
Temple 9/27/14 3:00 PM
Connecticut
(16) Stanford 9/27/14 3:15 PM
Washington
TX-San Antonio 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
South Alabama 9/27/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
Cincinnati 9/27/14 5:00 PM
(22) Ohio State
Rice 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Missouri 9/27/14 6:00 PM
(13) So Carolina
Boise State 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Air Force
North Carolina 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Clemson
Central Mich 9/27/14 6:00 PM
Toledo
Troy 9/27/14 6:00 PM
ULM
New Mexico St 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(17) LSU
Memphis 9/27/14 6:30 PM
(10) Ole Miss
Duke 9/27/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida
Texas State 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Washington St 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Utah
(8) Notre Dame 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Syracuse
(7) Baylor 9/27/14 7:00 PM
Iowa State
UNLV 9/27/14 7:00 PM
San Diego St
Illinois 9/27/14 8:00 PM
(21) Nebraska
Oregon State 9/27/14 9:30 PM
(18) USC
Nevada 9/27/14 9:30 PM
San Jose St
Chivas USA 0 FINAL
Toronto FC 3
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 23 FINAL
Hamilton 25
Calgary 15 FINAL
Montreal 31
Ottawa 32 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How sure are you that the Twins are on the road to improving?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close