CLEVELAND: Before Carlos Santana broke into the major leagues with the Indians in 2010 as a catcher, he was a prospect as a third baseman for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
He last played third in Class A in 2006, but Santana brought up the possibility of returning there to the Indians this offseason in an attempt to maintain his versatility.
Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti met with a handful of local media Friday afternoon at Progressive Field with the Winter Meetings taking place next week in Orlando.
The hot corner was a hot topic.
“Carlos really is passionate about wanting to find a way to impact the team — any way he can,” Antonetti said. “Carlos took it upon himself to say, ‘Hey, I’ll not only catch, but if I can be serviceable at third base, it gives [Indians manager Terry Francona] potentially another option.’ So, to his credit, he’s down there at the complex, taking ground balls there and now he’ll progress into games in winter ball for an undetermined amount of time, but at least for a month.”
Santana recognized the need to add more versatility after Yan Gomes took over as the everyday catcher last season. And with Nick Swisher splitting time between the outfield and first base, he too limits Santana’s infield options.
Santana is reluctant to become primarily a designated hitter at age 27. With practice, he plans on becoming legitimate competition to struggling third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall.
The path to third has meant hard work for Santana and a plan to playing third during winter ball in his native Dominican Republic.
“We’ll have more information as he’s out there playing more,” Antonetti said. “The benefit is he’s played there before, so he has experience. But most importantly, it’s something Carlos wants to do and he’s working at it. If he continues to do that — he’s athletic, he had good hands, a phenomenal arm — I think it’s just him getting reacclimated to the position.”
Odd man out at third
Another reason the Indians appreciate Santana’s willingness to work at third is the disappointing offensive effort turned in by Chisenhall, the team’s 2008 first-round (29th overall) selection.
The left-handed hitting Chisenhall, 25, has batted .244 in parts of the past three seasons for the Indians, including a career .194 average against left-handed pitchers.
“He has a ton of ability,” Antonetti said. “That’s clear, that’s been evident. He needs to work to figure out a way to become a consistent major-league player. I have no doubt that if Lonnie puts in the work offensively, defensively and with conditioning, he’ll be a really good player.”
When the Indians acquired young right-handed pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-team trade last December, the hope was that the Diamondbacks’ willingness to part with the third overall pick from the previous season was due mostly to misunderstandings and hurt feelings.
But instead of competing for a job in the Indians’ starting rotation, the eccentric Bauer spent last season engrossed in rebuilding his delivery — mostly with mixed results at Triple-A. In four starts with the Indians, he struggled to a 1-2 record with a 5.29 ERA that included more walks (16) than strikeouts (11) and one game in which he opted to pitch exclusively out of the stretch.
Although Bauer enjoyed great success in the minor leagues before last season, Antonetti said Bauer wanted to rebuild his delivery in an effort to become more efficient and durable in the majors.
“He undertook considerable delivery adjustments that he’d initiated last offseason,” Antonetti said. “Maybe we and he if anything, underestimated the magnitude of those adjustments, how long it would take him to get to the point where he’s comfortable executing that delivery consistently.”
Out of options
Right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco will make the Indians roster in 2014 regardless of how well he performs in spring due to being out of options; he would have to clear waivers to go back to the minors. Antonetti said the spring would be used to determine whether Carrasco at 26 will be as a starter or a reliever.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.