Loyalty can only go so far in baseball.
Indians manager Terry Francona spent the last month insisting Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher would hit eventually hit.
But when Sunday’s 44th game of the season rolled around and the pair was still languishing near the Mendoza Line - (Swisher at .201) and below (Santana at .154) - the veteran manager whom players adore for his unwavering support finally realized it was best for the team to make a change.
“I try hard to never treat our lineup like a fantasy team,” Francona said. “…But I think I got to a point where I felt like instead of being patient, I was being stubborn.”
Looking to avoid a series sweep by visiting Oakland, Sunday’s Indians lineup reflected Francona’s frank thoughts as he juggled the order in an effort to shake the struggling offense from its early season doldrums.
Thus, the Tribe faced A’s right-hander Jesse Chavez (3-1, 2.44 ERA) with first baseman Swisher dropped down from second to sixth in the order and third baseman Santana moved out of the cleanup role down to seventh as the Indians look to avoid a series sweep.
“Milsy (Indians bench coach Brad Mills) and I talked a long time last night about this,” Francona said. “This is not a lineup that is gonna be for the rest of the year, but the hope is it can help maybe jump start us a little and make it easier for some guys who are struggling a little bit.”
For now, shortstop Mike Aviles and designated hitter Ryan Raburn are in the spots vacated by Swisher and Santana, respectively. But Francona warned moving guys up and down the lineup aren’t as easy as fans might think.
“It’s not just moving a guy out of a slot, it’s also moving somebody else into a slot,” he said. “Sometimes I think people just assume a guy’s hot, put him in cleanup. It doesn’t always work that way, you get pitched differently and things like that. You have to maintain some balance in your lineup or you’re setting up hitters for (tough matchups) and you’re not doing your lefties or right-handers a favor.”