Fourteen thoughts for the 14 hits the Indians collected off five Royals pitchers at Goodyear Ballpark.
1. It’s becoming more obvious by the day that the Indians are rooting for Carlos Santana to win the third base job. Obvious if you’re into body language.
2. Credit WTAM’s Nick Camino for catching the Tribe showing their true feelings about Santana for the second straight day. (I’ve got to give the radio guy his due, even if most of the rest of us in the press box are typing non-stop during the game.)
3. In the top of the fourth inning with shortstop Jason Donald on second following a double, Royals second baseman Omar Infante slapped a ball to Santana. Santana ran Donald back towards the second base bag and tagged him for an unassisted putout to end the inning.
4. “He’s playing third base like a third baseman,” Francona said after the game. “He made a strong throw earlier. He took the option of running the runner back, which is fine. Once a guy proves he can make the plays … I just don’t see the game being real quick for him.”
5. Camino has been watching Indians manager Terry Francona like a hawk on all things Santana (and asking about him nearly every morning). This time Camino spied Francona fist-bumping third base/infield coach Mike Sarbaugh in the dugout after Santana’s play.
6. That comes on the heels of Wednesday’s game against the Padres, when Camino caught Francona looking at general manager Chris Antonetti in the stands after Santana backhanded a ball and threw a bullet to first in the third inning.
7. Here’s what Camino coerced out of Francona on Thursday morning. Asked about Santana’s plays in the field Wednesday, Francona said, “They were very athletic. He moved his feet; he did everything. I don’t know if a lot of third basemen can make those plays. So we know it’s in there. Then again, consistency in our game is huge. It’s nice to see that that’s in there.”
8. When asked what the biggest adjustment for Santana will be as he tries to convert from catcher, Francona said, “Not the throwing. Once he moves his feet, his arm is about as good as anybody’s. You’re used to viewing the field the other direction. Now you’ve got balls hit at you, sometimes 90 feet, sometimes 80 feet away. You’ve got a different glove. I could name you 10 different things. I don’t know if you saw (the Angels’ Mark) Trumbo’s quotes, he said it was the hardest thing he ever had to do. Carlos has done a great job just to get where he is. Now we’ve got to keep going.”
9. Asked (by me, not Camino) whether Santana’s athleticism is a surprise, Francona said, “No, everybody’s always felt he was very athletic. As a catcher he was very athletic.” I'm sure "was" meant nothing, but....
10. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan suffered a slight left calf strain against the Padres Wednesday when he stumbling awkwardly out of the batters’ box after a late-game double and is day-to-day. But Francona won’t rush him back into action. “We need to protect him from himself," Francona said. "He’s kind of on a mission here to if not show us, show the world that he’s back and ready to play. He plays so hard that he’s going to have to pass some tests on the medical side. That’s not to hinder him, that’s to protect him."
11. Kent State and Strongsville High School product Anthony Gallas was among the seventh-inning replacements against the Royals, taking over in right field. Gallas went 0 for 2.
12. Francona seems to be enamored with infielder Elliot Johnson, who has played for the Tampa Bay Rays, Royals and Atlanta Braves. So his .429 batting average in nine spring games might not be necessary to impress, but it can’t hurt. “If you’re looking for a guy you can move all over the diamond and catch the ball … You can put him at short, you can put him in center,” Francona said. “That’s a hard guy to find. He’s really dependable defensively.”
13. Another quiet, dependable player is spring invitee Matt Carson, a 32-year-old outfielder who has played only 92 games in the majors. Carson went 2 for 2 with a two-run homer and a double against the Royals and is batting .292. “He’s just a solid player,” Francona said. “He’s always ready. He enjoys trying to do the right thing. He’s kind of a classic example.” There is probably no roster spot for Carson. But he proved valuable last season, called up from Triple-A Columbus on Aug. 28 when right fielder Ryan Raburn went on the 15-day disabled list.
14. I’ve seen eight spring games and I must give the Indians credit, they do not disrespect the National Anthem. Every day they gather in a straight line down the baseline, while their opponent has a few stragglers standing in the back. In that regard, every day looks like Opening Day for the Tribe.