GOODYEAR, Ariz.: The education of Carlos Santana continues.
The Indians catcher remains a work in progress, both at the plate and behind it. That’s where Sandy Alomar comes in. The Tribe bench coach also is the club’s catching instructor, and he pays special attention to the needs of Santana, who has started 223 games at catcher.
As with all catchers, throwing, receiving, blocking the plate and dealing with pop flies are areas that require regular work. Alomar’s latest project for Santana is more cerebral.
“Communication is what we’re trying to emphasize now,” Alomar said Wednesday. “We don’t want him saying yes to something and not actually getting it.”
Santana was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and is still learning English, though he can carry on a conversation in his adopted language. However, he is not at a place where he understands every word and idiomatic phrase.
“Carlos is getting much better with English,” Alomar said. “He tries, but at times he doesn’t understand, but he acts like he does.”
Catchers are almost like commanders in the field, dealing not only with whomever is on the mound but taking note of where everyone else is on the diamond, which is why a good working knowledge of English is important.
One thing that Santana seems to have understood well: coming to camp in top condition.
“Carlos came here in great shape,” Alomar said. “It’s the best shape I’ve seen him in. He lost a lot of weight, and he’s very athletic.”
More Swisher talk
After watching Nick Swisher up close, Carlos Baerga can relate to the new Indians right fielder/first baseman.
“We need a guy like him in the clubhouse to keep everybody alive,” Baerga said. “He’s kind of a crazy guy, like me.”
Added Sandy Alomar, “A guy like Swisher reminds me of Carlos. He’s a happy guy with the same kind of intensity. Those kinds of players are important in the locker room.”
Something to guard against is Swisher trying to do too much because he signed a large [$56 million] contract.
“I’ve talked to him about that and will continue to talk with him multiple times,” manager Terry Francona said. “He does not have to carry this team on his shoulders.”
Giovanni Soto will be the first Tribe pitcher to take the mound in Friday’s exhibition opener against the Cincinnati Reds.
“He’s going to be starting a game in the WBC, so we thought this would be a good way to warm him up for that,” Francona said.
Scott Kazmir was originally scheduled to start, but he asked to throw another bullpen session first.
“He felt like he needed one more,” Francona said. “But the way he’s throwing scares me. I wish we could bottle it and start the season.”
Joe Smith has been slowed by a strained oblique, but threw a 20-pitch bullpen session Wednesday and reportedly felt fine.
“This was like his first day of spring training,” Francona said. “In two days he’ll throw a 30-pitch bullpen.”
It rained all morning, so all activities were moved inside, where hitters could take batting practice and pitchers could stay on their regular throwing schedules. … Because of late-season shoulder problems, Matt Capps threw every third day rather than every other day. This is not expected to keep him from being ready when the season starts. All he has to do is win a spot in the bullpen. … Many Tribe players will participate in a charity golf tournament after today’s workout.