The puzzle pieces have been there for a while, but theyíve never been put together.



Indians manager Terry Francona said on Tuesday that he hasnít put much thought into the lineup, whether it be for Opening Day or when Michael Brantley returns. But one idea that has crossed his mind is utilizing Carlos Santanaís ability to get on base and putting him in the leadoff spot.



Francona stressed that itís just a thought right now, but itís something that could make sense given Santanaís career .365 on-base percentage. Santana is also one of only four qualified hitters to post an OBP higher than .350 in each of the past five seasons, per MLB.com, joining Ben Zobrist, Andrew McCutchen and Miguel Cabrera. Those attributes traditionally warrant more value higher up the batting order.



ďThe one thing Iíve thought about is maybe Santana leading off,Ē Francona said. ďItís only a thought. Because of his skill-set, I think heíd be maybe one of the better leadoff hitters in the game. I know it seems a little unique, maybe out of the box, and youíve got to have somebody hit cleanup. Again, I donít know if Iíd do it or not. But itís something Iíve thought about.Ē



The Indians have tried to take advantage of Santanaís skill-set before and put him in the No. 2 spot for 30 games last season. But Santana didnít feel comfortable there and hit just .196 with a .336 OBP.



ďThe problem was he didnít like it,Ē Francona said. ďI know you canít let your nine guys dictate where they hit but if theyíre hitting in a spot where itís affecting them in a negative way, and I have the ability to change it, Iíd be kind of silly not to.Ē



Whether Santana would feel comfortable in the leadoff spot might be unknown without a few games there, though the Indians could experiment with it this spring.



Francona has made a move like this before, when as manager of the Boston Red Sox he inserted first baseman Kevin Youkilis, another high-OBP hitter, into the leadoff spot for 95 games. So there is a precedent.



Of course, taking Santana out of his current No. 4 or No. 5 spot in the lineup weakens the middle of the order, something that might be an issue especially with left fielder Michael Brantley expected to miss roughly the first month of the season. Traditionally, Santana has been at his best with men on base in front of him. But when Brantley is healthy, Santana as the leadoff hitter would allow, perhaps, Jason Kipnis to slide back to No. 3 and Michael Brantley into hitting cleanup, even if itís a little odd to have a primary designated hitter/first baseman hitting first.



At this time, the Indians are only kicking around the idea. It might not look natural, but a leadoff hitter being the guy who gets on base the most isnít anything new.