Tribe hoping for consistent pop from Santana

Francona not likely to move slugger to leadoff spot after all; fifth-starter battle begins

March 2nd, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Terry Francona asked the Indians' analytics department to do a study on how Carlos Santana might look as a leadoff hitter. The manager has been intrigued by the idea for a few years, but not to the point of following through on the move.

After reading the report that landed on his desk, Francona is not sure that using Santana atop the order is as good of an idea as he initially thought.

Spring Training information

"I thought, statistically," Francona said, "it would really lean more towards him like [a leadoff man] than maybe even I thought, and it really didn't. I don't think it was a bad idea, but I don't think it was like a runaway, 'Oh, you've got to do this.' Some of the power numbers may be where you're maybe losing out by doing that a little bit, but I still think his on-base is [good]. But, you know what? You get on base anywhere. It's never going to hurt."

As it happened, Santana launched a home run in his first plate appearance of the Cactus League schedule, accounting for one of Cleveland's runs in its 6-5 loss to the Reds. The Indians would love to see more of that kind of pop from Santana, who has spent the bulk of his career in the cleanup spot for the Tribe, but posted a career-low .395 slugging percentage last season.

Francona has toyed with the idea of Santana as a leadoff man, because the switch-hitter has drawn at least 90 walks in five straight seasons, including 100-plus walks in each of the past two years. While Santana has hit .231 over the last two seasons combined, he has still managed a .361 on-base percentage and a .772 OPS.

Other items of note from Tuesday:

• The battle for the fifth spot of the rotation officially began when Josh Tomlin logged one inning and lefty TJ House turned in two against the Reds. Those two, along with right-hander Cody Anderson, are the main candidates for the lone opening in Cleveland's starting staff.

"It's a tough race, There's no doubt about it," Tomlin said. "Those guys are great pitchers. Our job is to try to come together and be the best that we can to get ready for the season and, when our time's called to get up there in Cleveland, whenever that may be, to go out there and try to help this team win."

• The Indians will be looking at an assortment of players in center field this spring, as the team looks to fill the roster spot that opened when Abraham Almonte received an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. Tyler Naquin got the nod in center in the first Cactus League game of the spring, and the Indians' No. 9 prospect went 1-for-2 with a triple.

"He's a good center fielder," Francona said. "I don't think it matters whether you're in Cleveland, Columbus or Akron, he's a good center fielder."

• Veteran outfielder Rajai Davis, who was inked to a one-year contract over the winter, started in left field for the Indians, going 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as the leadoff hitter. Davis will split his time between left and center this spring, and Francona noted that he could also see action in right field later in camp.