CLEVELAND: It’s unfashionable to find anything positive about the Indians’ season, but the turnaround of Carlos Santana in the second half merits some praise.
How bad was Santana’s first half? On July 3, he was batting .218 with five home runs and 29 RBI. He hit two homers in May, none in June and endured a stretch of 40 games (through July 17) without hitting a ball out of the park.
Ousted manager Manny Acta and the coaches tried to convince Santana to make an adjustment in his approach, from noisy to quiet hitter. That is, Santana would raise one leg before he was ready to swing then do a little toe tap with his front foot.
Too much movement, Acta would say, but Santana had a difficult time making the change. Then July began and things started to change for the better.
Since July 1, Santana is batting .284 with 16 doubles, 13 home runs and 47 RBI in 78 games. Since Sept. 9, a span of 19 games, Santana is batting .311 with three doubles, two triples, four homers and 15 RBI.
Santana said the revived numbers are a product of him thinking about hitting the ball up the middle rather than trying to pull the ball.
“He got little in the second half,” manager Sandy Alomar said, referring to the way Santana has cut down on his swing. “I’m so proud of the way he’s proved his worth. I think he can still be much better, even though he’s pretty good now. He can be a 100-RBI guy.”
Santana at times has struggled with his catching, most noticeably throwing out runners (25 percent), but much of that problem would be solved if the Tribe pitching staff were intent on holding runners close to their bases.
“I think he’s making improvement,” Alomar said of Santana’s catching skills. “He’s not making super progress but he’s better.”
Some observers wonder if Santana should be converted to first base full time (he’s played the position part-time) or remain a catcher, exclusively.
“That’s not my call to say,” Alomar said.
There might still be a question of whether it is worth continuing Santana’s development as a catcher at the risk of diminishing his potential as a hitter.
“He can put up Victor Martinez numbers when he’s fully mature,” Alomar said.
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.