CLEVELAND -- It is subtle, but important. Before the leg kick and before the swing that Carlos Santana used to propel the Indians to a walk-off victory over the White Sox on Friday night, there was a brief meeting between the toe of his right cleat and the dirt in
CLEVELAND -- It is subtle, but important. Before the leg kick and before the swing that Carlos Santana used to propel the Indians to a walk-off victory over the White Sox on Friday night, there was a brief meeting between the toe of his right cleat and the dirt in the batter's box.
Throughout Santana's Minor League career, and in his early seasons with Cleveland, the switch-hitter used a toe tap as a timing mechanism while batting from the left side. Then, it disappeared for a few years. Over the past month, Santana has brought the slight mechanical movement back, and it was on display in his home run that sent the Tribe to a 3-2 win over Chicago.
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"He's been really working hard at it," Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo said. "I'd say right now it's really getting good, where he's got control of it. The launch position he's getting into has really been consistent and he's really taking some good swings."
Van Burkleo noted that the return of the toe tap has helped Santana avoid drifting forward while swinging -- a problem he has experienced off and on without it. Assistant hitting coach Matt Quatraro added that Santana started using the tap again in early May, even though he spent the majority of the offseason and Spring Training working on making it a part of his swing again.
"He wasn't comfortable with the consistency of it during the spring," Quatraro said. "Now, it's helping him keep his stride direction straight."
Santana said he ditched the toe tap for a few years due to the left knee surgery he underwent in 2010. After that procedure, his knee did not feel as strong as it had in the past, so he began transitioning to a larger leg kick at the start of his swing. Years removed from that issue, Santana decided to work on reintroducing the adjustment for this season.
Santana has a .448 slugging percentage, which is his highest mark since 2013 (.455). From the left side, Santana had turned in a .511 slugging percentage to go along with an .863 OPS, with 13 of his 14 home runs coming from that side of the plate.
"In the Minor Leagues, I used it. I was doing that," Santana said. "I changed because I had the knee surgery [in 2010]. My knee affected it, so I had to try to change my leg kick. You know baseball, you have to adjust your approach. But, right now, I'm doing the toe tap, because I feel comfortable with it again and I see the ball better. This is something I was working on in the winter."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.