By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
OAKLAND, Calif.: In a move that is sure to be popular with Indians fans, Asdrubal Cabrera has been removed as cleanup hitter and replaced by Carlos Santana.
Also for now, Carlos Carrasco is being shifted to the bullpen, at least for Friday night. Long-term plans for him — that means a week or more — will await developments.
Cabrera is not the kind of hitter that populates the No. 4 spot in any big-league lineup. But manager Terry Francona doesn’t have a prototype cleanup batter anywhere on the roster.
Early in the season, Santana batted fourth, but Francona didn’t think that was his proper role as a catcher still developing his skills behind the plate.
“We had him batting fourth, but we told him his primary job was catching,” Francona said. “That’s sending the wrong message. But now, Yan Gomes is catching more.”
Santana batted in the cleanup spot against the Oakland Athletics on Friday night as the designated hitter.
He is more of a home run and RBI threat than Cabrera, who has been battling a slump for much of the season. Santana and Cabrera both are switch hitters, so Francona won’t lose any flexibility by moving Santana between two left-handed batters, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley.
“Kipnis is fine where he is [third], and Brantley has done a great job moving around [fifth Friday night],” Francona said. “I don’t want to stack up a bunch of lefties together.”
Francona doesn’t think Cabrera had the best of luck batting fourth.
“I think he hit a lot of balls hard,” Francona said. “And when you’re the fourth guy in the lineup, you get pitched a little different.”
In 81 at-bats in the cleanup spot, Cabrera batted .198 with two home runs and 10 RBI. By comparison, in 24 at-bats Santana batted .208 with three home runs and six RBI.
Carrasco was summoned from Triple-A Columbus to bolster a tired bullpen for a day or two. But after throwing five innings of one-hit ball against the Los Angeles Angels in relief, he made a spot start and lasted just 4⅓ innings Wednesday against the Minnesota Twins, giving up four runs.
So what will Francona do with him?
“He will be in the bullpen tonight,” Francona said. “For the time being, that’s where we are. I like the idea that an eight-man bullpen gives us a better situation to win.”
Francona does not intend to expand the rotation to six pitchers.
“That would be hard to do right now,” he said. “Maybe in September, it might be a different story.”
Carrasco seems to like the idea of pitching out of the bullpen.
“I feel different [better] in the bullpen,” he said. “If I start, I have to go deeper in the game than 4⅓ innings. Whether I start or pitch in the bullpen, I just want to help the team.”
Francona said it is not time to abandon Carrasco as a career starter.
“Until he proves he can’t start, we’re not going to bail on him as a starter,” Francona said. “You just don’t find those kinds of arms that often.”
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.