The Indians’ experiment with former catcher Carlos Santana transitioning to third base has continued into the New Year, with Santana still playing third in the Dominican Republic Winter League. Manager Terry Francona said Wednesday that a decision has not been made yet, but that he expects Santana to continue his hand at the hot corner through spring training.
“It sounds like he's improving,” Francona said of what he’s read of Santana, who last manned third base regularly eight years ago as a young Los Angeles Dodgers farm hand. “But we don't need to make any kind of decisions today, nor will we at the beginning of Spring Training. If he can handle playing third - some, a lot, little - we'll see. That's all part of Spring Training. If he can handle it, it gives us another option with our middle-of-the-order bat.”
However, with Santana’s everyday catching duties behind him as Yan Gomes has been installed behind the plate full time, Francona is leaning toward making the switch-hitter the primary candidate to be the Tribe’s cleanup hitter.
Last season, Santana hit .268 while catching. His average jumped 20 points to .288 when he played first base or served as the team’s designated hitter.
“Early on, because we had spoken so much about his catching being a priority, I thought it was a little unfair to hit him cleanup,” Francona said. “So we hit him down in the order. But, when he wasn't catching, yeah, he looked pretty good in that spot. He hits from both sides of the plate, he takes a walk, and he hits good pitching. There's not a lot not to like.”