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After being called up, Santana makes first start

After being called up, Santana makes first start

HOUSTON -- As Domingo Santana stood in the dugout before the Astros started to stretch, his former Triple-A Oklahoma City teammates wouldn't let it slide. This wasn't about him crying last night, either.

"Take your cleats off," George Springer barked over and over.

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Jon Singleton and L.J. Hoes stood watching Springer call out Santana for wearing the wrong kind of shoes for the afternoon warm up.

"You don't have turf shoes?" they asked.

From noon on, Tuesday felt more like a reunion than your typical pregame routine of batting and fielding practice. Santana, the 21-year-old slugging outfield prospect, is the third top prospect the Astros have called up since-mid April. The other two, Springer and Singleton, were the guys ribbing him for wearing the wrong shoes to warm up.

Santana was called up when center fielder Dexter Fowler went on the 15-day disabled list with a right intercostal strain. Fowler's time on the DL is retroactive to June 27, when he was originally scratched from Houston's lineup. His replacement, Santana, was hitting .304 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs through 84 games for the Redhawks. He started in left field Tuesday and hit eighth between Chris Carter and Marwin Gonzalez.

"When those opportunities are available, it's nice to reward a player who has been playing well," general manager Jeff Luhnow said. "If we're going to bring him up, let's give him a chance to play. He'll get some at-bats. That's the idea. We didn't really bring him up to put him on the bench."

The Astros flew Santana in, along with infielder Enrique Hernandez and left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman. The plane carrying the three Astros prospects landed at noon and delivered an additional glimpse of Houston's future.

Hernandez replaced infielder Jonathan Villar, who was optioned to Triple-A, and Chapman was called up to replace Jerome Williams, who was designated for assignment.

After Oklahoma City's game last night, RedHawks manager Tony DeFrancesco called the team together for what appeared to be a routine meeting. Then he decided to let the three players know they would leave to play in the Major Leagues the next morning.

"He just started pointing at people, and I was one of them," Santana said. "I couldn't believe it. I thought he was joking around."

Only this was no joke. Santana was soon on the phone with his parents, including his crying mother and jubilant father. That's when the emotion took hold.

"There were just tears coming out of my eyes," Santana said. "They were all crying and I started crying too. I didn't know it was going to come this soon."

Santana, one of four players acquired from the Phillies in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, had been playing right field and is the last of those four players to reach the Majors.

In Tuesday night's 13-2 loss, Santana came up empty at the plate, going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. He reached base once on an error.

"It was a tough game for me, but I really enjoyed playing on a different stage," Santana said after the game. "It felt great."

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Mike Vernon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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