CLEVELAND -- When first baseman Carlos Santana returned to Cleveland last year after spending 2018 in Philadelphia, he couldn’t express enough just how happy he was to be home. Those feelings certainly haven’t gone away, and now Santana has two more reasons to celebrate.
In Tuesday night’s 7-1 loss to the Cubs, Santana drew his 858th career walk with the Tribe, which moved him into sole possession of second place in franchise history, surpassing Tris Speaker (857) and moving behind Jim Thome (1,008).
“I worked hard for that,” Santana said. “Thank you, God, for giving me the ability for that and for my career. I’m working hard for that and I think God gave me that ability to be able to recognize the strike zone. I’m surprised for everything that’s happening right now.”
Though the slugger, who carried the Indians’ offense throughout the 2019 season, hasn’t yet found his rhythm at the plate (sporting a .196 average entering Wednesday’s series finale against the Cubs), his on-base percentage was still .453 with the help of a Major League-leading 24 free passes.
“He doesn’t go out of the zone very much,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I think it’s actually really good. Because his batting average isn’t very good, but he’s not trying to swing his way out of it by going after bad pitches. Because all that’s going to do is lower his batting average and he’s not going to get on base. At least while he’s not swinging the bat like he will, he’s getting on base at a really high clip. That’s always a good thing.
“He amazes me how violent his swing can be, yet he doesn’t go out of the zone very much. His hands are so strong that he can stop that swing. It amazes me.”
While Santana is leaving his footprint in the Indians’ history books, he’s also hitting milestones in his personal career, as Wednesday marked his 10th year of Major League service time.
“I thank God for giving me my career and 10 years of service,” Santana said. “I’m so excited for that. And thanks to my teammates and my family, everybody who supports me. I appreciate everybody who supports me, even in the hard times they are there. Thank you to everybody for supporting me and working with me. I’m excited for that and very happy. I have to keep going. Hopefully I can play five more years, you never know. But that’s my mentality right now.”
Pérez wants to play Friday
The Indians have been without their starting backstop, Roberto Pérez, for over two weeks. In the first game of the year, he made an awkward throw while falling to the ground that, combined with continuing to play for a few more days, caused a strain in his right shoulder. He’s been at the team’s alternate site in Lake County and has run the bases, thrown as far as 150 feet and was expected to throw to the bases on Wednesday.
“He’s doing really well,” Francona said. “He’s champing at the bit.”
From the time he went on the injured list, Pérez has only seen positive improvements and is hopeful that the lack of setbacks will allow him to get back in the Tribe’s lineup as soon as Friday. But Francona said they’ll still have to consider if that’s the smartest move.
“I just think the medical people think it’s been 15, 16 days,” Francona said. “That’s a lot without being in any type of game action. The worst thing we could do is, once you overstep, you can’t take it back. So we’ll try to do it right. You’ve heard me say it a million times: You can’t just do what’s right when it’s convenient. That’s the best explanation I can give you.”
Should they mix up the top of the order?
With a struggling offense comes plenty of questions and analysis. Francona decided to have his four best switch-hitters take up the top four spots in the lineup to start the season, and he has been consistent with the order despite the cold bats. Has he started to consider shifting things around?
“If I said I hadn’t thought about everything, I’d be lying,” Francona said. “But I guess my answer would be, the bottom of the order is hitting whatever it’s hitting. It’s been documented that it’s not very good. So if you start moving those guys up, I probably don’t have a good reason to do that. I’ve never been a real big fan of picking the lineup out of a hat; I’d like there to be a reason why, and sometimes the reasons are probably wrong, but I’d like there to be a reason.”