Santana starting at third far from set in stone
Francona, Tribe won't rush decision, will see how it plays out at camp
CLEVELAND -- The Indians might have a new third baseman on their hands in Carlos Santana. Then again, Cleveland might not. All that has been decided to date is that the catcher is working on potential transition to the hot corner.
During a sit-down with local media on Wednesday afternoon, Indians manager Terry Francona said that patience is the key to the Santana situation.
"I probably shouldn't read too much," Francona said, "because every time I read something I get confused. Carlos offered to go play third base in winter ball, which we all thought was terrific. And it sounds like he's improving. But we don't need to make any kind of decisions today, nor will we at the beginning of Spring Training.
"If he can handle playing third -- some, a lot, little -- we'll see. That's all part of Spring Training. If he can handle it, it gives us another option with our middle-of-the-order bat."
A recent report quoted Santana in Spanish, indicating that Cleveland's former starting catcher was concentrating on becoming the team's new third baseman. During winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Santana has worked exclusively at the position, which he previously played regularly eight seasons ago as a Minor Leaguer in the Dodgers' system.
With Yan Gomes now assuming the No. 1 catching duties for Cleveland, Santana expressed a willingness to give third base a try again. At the moment, Santana is in the plans as the Tribe's second catcher, but he could also see action at first and third base, as well as designated hitter.
Francona was not willing to estimate how much time Santana might see at third.
"I've never even seen the guy play third, so I would never make a comment on that," Francona said. "We've got a lot of time to let that play out. But, we will give him a chance to play some in Spring Training."
Francona did say that he is comfortable with the switch-hitting Santana as the team's cleanup hitter now that he is no longer the primary catcher. Last season, Santana hit .268 with 20 homers, 39 doubles, 74 RBIs, 93 walks and an .832 OPS overall, and he posted a .288 average with an .828 OPS in 264 combined at-bats as a first baseman and DH.
"Early on, because we had spoken so much about his catching being a priority," Francona said, "I thought it was a little unfair to hit him cleanup. So we hit him down in the order. But, when he wasn't catching, yeah, he looked pretty good in that spot. He hits from both sides of the plate, he takes a walk, he hits good pitching. There's not a lot not to like."