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Tigers coach Ramon Santiago excited to become U.S. citizen

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Chicago – This is something Ramon Santiago wanted to do, felt he needed to do.

His wife and kids were born in the United States and were, obviously, citizens. After years of living in this country, Santiago wanted to be, too.

Thursday, while the Tigers were playing a doubleheader in St. Louis, Santiago flew down to Miami, where he lives in the offseason, and became a citizen.

Tigers third base coach Ramon Santiago, 41, who is a native of the Dominican Republic, became a U.S. citizen this week.

“I was well prepared,” said Santiago of the process, adding how much studying he’d done in hotels and bus trips to and from road stadiums. “I was expecting a little longer (interview), but it’s better to be prepared. It was easy for me.”

Santiago, 41, was born in the Dominican Republic and didn’t arrive in the United States until he was an 18-year-old, 23 years ago.

More:In early stages, Bryan Garcia thriving in Tigers' closer role

He had a long, successful 13-year career, 10 of them with the Tigers.

“Coming to the United States when I was 18-year-old, this country gave me so much over the years,” Santiago said. “I owe my career to this country, and it was something, my kids and wife were already citizens, and for me, it was an important step.”

Santiago had been thinking about becoming a citizen for about three years, or when he became eligible to apply for citizenship (he earned permanent resident status in 2012).

Being able to share Thursday’s process with his family and friends was a special development.

“A very exciting day,” said Santiago of the whirlwind day. “I was able to see my family for one day, for 16 hours, and I got the citizenship. It was a very productive day.”

Santiago has drawn rave reviews as a third base coach (he shifted from first base this year) and infield instructor.

More:Tigers prospect Riley Greene 'ahead of the curve,' Alan Trammell says

A good communicator, Santiago is respected by the young players — who still remember him as a player — and he’s shown to be a valuable instructor with what’s become a youthful group of infielders.

“You see the work he’s put in with these infielders, he’s a great infield instructor,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He has a lot of drills he’s learned over the course of his career. He’s bilingual, he can speak to all the different infielders, from different countries, and he’s a calming influence out there.

“Coaching third base, he’s handled it pretty darn good. He brings a lot to the table with his infield ability and his major league experience as a hitter. He had a great career.

“There’s a lot of intangibles that help our ballclub out. And he’s a great guy, one of the nicest guys you’ll meet.”

Santiago stresses one thing above everything else with his infielders: have fun when you play the game and enjoy baseball, but also come to the ballpark prepared to learn.

“At this level, what I’m trying to tell them is you have to be prepared every day, you don’t know everything,” Santiago said. “You’re always, every day, learning something new. I’ve been playing for a long time and now I’m coaching for a third year and I’m still learning.

“One thing I tell them is come to the ballpark with a purpose. You have to come with a purpose to get better, and when you come to the ballpark, remember you’re going to spend six or seven hours, and remember, this is game but this is your job and this is where you live and this is where your family is depending on you. You have to take it seriously.

“I know it’s a game and enjoy it. But you have work to do and try to get better every day.”

Zimmermann goes to bullpen

Gardenhire confirmed pitcher Jordan Zimmermann will work out of the bullpen for the remainder of the season.

Zimmermann returned from a right forearm strain and started in Thursday's victory over St. Louis in his season debut.

"We’ll give him his time, probably three days (after Thursday’s start), and we’ll see where he is at,” Gardenhire said. "How we’re going to use him out of the bullpen will be dictated by how he’s feeling. We don’t want to see him have a relapse of that elbow thing. We’re going to be careful with him."

Tigers at White Sox

First pitch: 2:10 p.m. Sunday, Guaranteed Rate Field, Chicago

TV/radio: FSD/97.1 FM

Scouting report

RHP Spencer Turnbull (4-2, 3.32), Tigers:  Turnbull is coming off one of his best games of the season, throwing six shutout innings against Milwaukee. Turnbull is 0-2 with a 6.97 ERA against the White Sox in his career.

TBA, White Sox:  Indications are, it could be a bullpen day for the White Sox.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan