The Anthony Santander-Félix Hernández connection and Santander's pitching days

When the Orioles were in Seattle last weekend, several of their players and coaches watched intently the pregame ceremony on Saturday night when former team great Félix Hernández was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. 

A career winner of 169 games with 2,524 strikeouts – all with Seattle over a 15-year career – it was a special night at T-Mobile Park.

He’s known simply as the “King” in Seattle. He was a six-time All-Star who won the 2010 AL Cy Young Award and was a runner-up twice. He pitched a perfect game against Tampa Bay on Aug. 15, 2012.

When he took the mound at home, the “Kings Court” would fill the leftfield stands with gold shirts and K cards. 

Like Hernández, the Orioles’ Anthony Santander is a native of Venezuela. When Santander was tearing it up this spring in the WBC, Hernández was a visitor to the Team Venezuela clubhouse. When he was 13, scouts compared a young teenager pitcher Santander to Hernández. In the spring of 2021, Hernández signed a minor league deal with the Orioles and the two countrymen were briefly teammates.

And late in the 2019 season, when Santander hit 20 homers for the first time in the majors, No. 20 came off Hernández. It was a three-run shot in the first inning.

“I was proud to hit a homer off one of the best in the business from my country and for all of baseball. I think I hit off-speed. His off-speed was nasty and you had to be looking for it to hit it,” Santander said over the weekend in an interview we did that aired on the Orioles Radio Network pregame show.

So, these two Venezuelans have a few connections. 

“One of the greats. We have (Miguel) Cabrera on the offensive side, and we have Félix Hernández on the pitching side (as Venezuelan stars). What he has done in his career is great not just for Venezuela but for all of baseball. An amazing pitcher.”

At one time, when he was a teenager, Santander was one of the top young pitchers in Venezuela. At that point he felt that if he made pro ball, it would be as a pitcher. He was compared to the great Felix.

“I was around 13 playing in a tournament in Venezuela,” Santander recalled. “At that time some scouts started to watch me. Everybody was starting to compare me to Felix Hernández. Was pretty great then at pitching and hitting but the pitching - was able to throw hard at that time and had a good changeup and curveball. Back then, I knew just a little bit about Hernández but when I learned more that was pretty cool to be compared to him. I loved pitching at that time. It was an honor to be compared to him.”

In the spring of 2021, the Orioles signed Hernadez to a minor league deal. But soon it was clear the velocity was not there and arm issues kept him from making the team. He opted out of his deal, was released and has not pitched in the majors in the regular season since 2019.

But Santander was briefly his O’s teammate.

“Amazing, amazing. He shared his experiences with us. He was a great teammate and always had a smile on his face. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with the Orioles that year, but it was great to be his teammate for a little bit.”

Fast forward to this spring and Santander saw Hernández as he was having a great WBC. Santander hit two homers and had four extra-base hits in five games, batting .353 with an OPS of 1.332 in the event. 

“He lives in Miami and was in our clubhouse. He threw out the first pitch and was always nice to us. Big smile, big hugs for all the players,” he said.

And that 13-year-old Santander, Anthony told me in Seattle, was pretty sure he might one day pitch in the majors.

“Yes, 100 percent. But I got hurt in my elbow and wasn’t able to continue as a pitcher. Thankfully I also had the ability to play the outfield. I started hitting left-handed (in addition to right) at age 15 and that helped me. But if I didn’t have that injury, I think I had a good chance to make it as a pitcher.

"I represented Team Venezuela in Little League and was one of the top three pitchers on the team at that time. I was in good company, and I had nasty stuff,” he said with a big smile.

Still No. 1: Once again, the Orioles are ranked as the No. 1 farm system in the majors in updated rankings released last night by

Going back to when the outlet started evaluating organizational talent before the 2015 season, four of the first five No. 1 systems (Cubs pre-2015, Red Sox mid-2015, Dodgers pre-2016, Braves pre-2017) won World Series titles in four years or less.

The Orioles feature baseball's No. 1 prospect in Double-A Bowie's Jackson Holliday and have six in the top 54 of the MLBPipeline top 100. They have been in the top spot for five straight rankings, dating back to their 2021 midseason re-rank. This is the first time any organization has been No. 1 for five straight rankings.

Click here for the latest No. 1 through No. 30.



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