For one of the few times this spring, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper paused for a long time.

The subject was versatile left-hander Hector Santiago and the role that suits him best for his future.

"Somewhere along the line with what he's featuring, he deserves a crack at being a starter because I think that's his dream," Cooper said of Santiago, who will start Monday against the World Series champion Giants at Scottsdale Stadium.

"But as we speak right now, it's not available. But heck, the way things happen in baseball, it could be tomorrow."

Santiago, 25, actually could be penalized by his versatility. He's being groomed as an insurance policy if John Danks hasn't fully recovered from left shoulder surgery by opening day.

Santiago started 2012 as the Sox's closer, but his durability serves him well as a long reliever.

For now, Santiago patiently prepares for the regular season while maintaining hope he can fulfill his wish to become a big-league starter. He showed glimpses of his potential toward the end of last season and this winter.

His final start in 2012 — a one-hit, 10-strikeout performance at Cleveland on Oct. 1 — was particularly special.

"That last one engraved in my head I could do this," said Santiago, who was 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four starts and had a 3.88 ERA in 38 relief appearances in 2012. "That night I had everything for a strike. I threw all my pitches. If I can go out there and have the same focus and the way I threw everything that night, there's definitely a chance I can be in the rotation."