ALLENTOWN — Lehigh Valley righthander Enyel De Los Santos has made a favorable impression on the Phillies organization since his trade from San Diego for shortstop Freddy Galvis in December.
The Phillies brass like his command of his pitches, his improvement in his off-speed selections and his ability to take the ball every five days.
Yet the trait that everybody enthusiastically mentions is the fire that burns inside the 6-foot-3, 170-pound righthander who will turn 23 on Christmas Day.
"Man, it is fun to watch him compete," first-year IronPigs manager Gary Jones said Monday after De Los Santos allowed two runs in six innings in a no-decision during a 3-2 win over Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. "He loves to compete and is really into it."
De Los Santos, who was named to the International League all-star team Wednesday along with Lehigh Valley lefthander Cole Irvin and first baseman Joey Menses, has a mind-set that never allows him to back down to a hitter.
"He will get after you," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' director of player development. "He has the weapons, but he also has the mentality as well."
Veteran relief pitcher Pedro Beato says when things aren't going well, De Los Santos shows the true sign of a competitor.
"Even on days he may not have his best stuff, he still battles," Beato said.
If a need arises, De Los Santos, who is not on the Phillies' 40-man roster, could put himself in consideration for a rotation spot with the big-league club, but he insists it is the furthest thing from his mind.
"No," he said with fellow Dominican Beato serving as translator. "I don't think about that and I only take care of my job here and the rest will take care of itself."
Last season was his first in double A and he went 10-6 with a 3.78 ERA with 138 strikeouts in 150 innings for the Padres' affiliate in San Antonio.
He was originally signed by the Seattle Mariners as an amateur free agent in July 2014 for $15,000 and was traded to San Diego in November of 2015.
Through Wednesday, De Los Santos led the International League with a 1.73 ERA in 83 1/3 innings. He had allowed zero or one earned run in 10 of his 14 starts and hadn't allowed more than three in any start this season. With 85 strikeouts, De Los Santos was averaging 9.2 strikeouts per nine innings. He had walked 28, averaging 3.0 walks per nine.
On Monday, De Los Santos consistently threw in the 92-93-mph range and topped out at 95 mph. His fastball and change-up are his staple pitches, but Jordan says the big difference has been the development of his slider and curveball.
"If I had a concern in spring it was about those pitches," Jordan said about the slider and curve. "Since spring training, his slider/curve has really improved."
The Phillies rotation has performed better than expected, but if a starter is needed, Jones feels De Los Santos is at the cusp of being a big-leaguer. "He is getting there and I always said no matter how good you are in triple A or in the minor leagues, the final development always occurs at the major-league level," Jones said. "There is still a bit of a learning curve, but he is getting there."
Then Jones added, "I wouldn't be afraid to call him up right now. If they asked me right now, I would say he is close, he is about there."
De Los Santos admits he is feeling good about himself on the mound."Of course, I am more confident," he said. "I have worked very hard so my performance can get better."