© 2008 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.

09/27/08 8:18 PM ET

Hard work has paid off for Santiago

Tigers utility man credits recent hot streak to extra time in cage

DETROIT -- Ramon Santiago obviously doesn't try to hit home runs, certainly not like this. He simply tries to hit. The important part is that he hits a lot.

He isn't going to imagine that his three home runs over the past two games is a harbinger of a power surge, but Santiago credits hard work for putting him in a position to hit. He takes extra hitting in the batting cage when he can before games, whether or not he's in the lineup. He'll take some swings in between at-bats during games.

It's the way the Tigers utility man tries to keep himself fresh for whenever he's needed.

"It's a big reason," Santiago said Saturday. "I've been working my tail off every single day. Even if I'm not playing, I come in here every day with the same attitude and the same routine -- go to the cage and try to be ready."

With injuries to Edgar Renteria and Placido Polanco over the season's final week, Santiago has been needed quite a bit lately. He made his third straight start on Saturday in place of Polanco, who sprained his left ankle on a play at the plate Friday night.

All those at-bats have piled up in Santiago's favor, allowing him to keep repeating his approach at the plate. It isn't an approach for home runs, considering the three recent shots pushed his career total to 10 over 363 big league games.

"The other day, I wasn't even thinking about hitting homers," Santiago said. "If I said I was thinking about hitting a homer, I'd be lying to you. I was thinking about hitting the ball hard and hit it good. [Friday's homer] was [on] a curveball. I don't expect to [hit that out]. I stayed on it, put a good swing on it. I recognized it pretty good."

Staying that way, he said, is the key.

"You just have to keep your approach," Santiago said, "because that's what keeps you consistent, your approach."

It won't likely keep him hitting home runs, but if it keeps him a threat for base hits when he's batting, it'll keep him a valuable piece of the Tigers. Once the season ends, Santiago will head back to his native Dominican Republic and repeat much of the offseason program he did last year, a multifaceted approach that combines winter ball and winter training.

"What I did last year and this year before I came here -- I prepared myself very well physically and mentally before Spring Training," Santiago said. "I was working out with a personal trainer maybe five days a week. We did running, lifting, everything. And hitting, a lot of hitting. I was in a group with [Robinson] Cano and Melky Cabrera. We took a lot of swings until we got tired -- swing, swing, swing, swing. And coming into Spring Training, I felt very good."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.