ARLINGTON, Texas: The Indians’ offense is not going to live and die by the bunt single.
That doesn’t mean bunting for a hit has no value. So far, the Tribe has nine bunt hits, nobody with more than two. It’s probably unusual that six different players have contributed to this total, but the Indians have more players who can run than most clubs.
As might be expected, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley have two bunt singles apiece. One other player has two: Carlos Santana, who neither is fleet of foot nor known for his bunting skills.
Santana has taken advantage of opposing teams playing a shift on him when he bats from the left side (he’s a switch-hitter). With the third baseman stationed in the shortstop hole, Santana has been able to lay down a bunt that travels through no-man’s land before anyone can reach hit.
“I had to learn bunting,’’ Santana said. “I’ve had good moments and bad moments, but I practice all the time.’’
So far, Santana has not made an out trying to bunt for a hit, but at least to some observers, that isn’t the point. What is a guy who can hit doubles in the gaps or home runs over the fence doing trying to bunt his way on base?
“I only do it with nobody on base,’’ Santana said. “And I only do it if they play the shift.’’
Does it matter if Santana bunts his way to first, draws a walk or singles to the outfield? He’s a base runner regardless of which method he uses. And if the third-base area is wide open, bunting is the easiest option.
All of this is fine with manager Terry Francona.
“Carlos has worked very hard to do this,’’ he said. “It’s not just a lucky attempt. If he continues to get bunts down, they will have to play the whole field [not shift] and his average could go up.’’
Francona has only one concern.
“What I don’t want him to do is change his swing to beat a shift,’’ he said.
That’s where laying one down to beat a shift comes in handy, because in a real sense, Santana doesn’t swing at all when he reaches on a bunt single.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.