Santana credits playing first base for hot hitting
CLEVELAND -- Not often do players discuss the correlations between offensive success and defensive stability, but for Carlos Santana the result has been overwhelmingly positive.
Santana's scorching performance at the plate over the past several games -- one that garnered him American League Player of the Week honors -- has been a welcome one for the Indians, who sorely missed his power presence in the cleanup spot during his early-season slump. While the obvious explanation for the resurgence would simply be a talented hitter returning to form, the 28-year-old's recent offensive uptick was also influenced by his opportunity to settle down in the field at first base.
"The first two months, I played different positions," Santana said. "It bothered me a little bit. Right now, I'm playing only one position. But, I'm open. I'm open with the manager. Whatever position he puts me, I'll play, but I feel more comfortable when I play only one position."
Dating back to June 6, Santana has slashed .311/.421/.622 with 14 home runs and 33 RBIs, including last week's 15-hit, six-homer outburst. That production has largely coincided with "El Oso" taking over as the team's primary first baseman last month after splitting his time at third base to begin the season.
Santana is batting .338 and has hit 15 of his 20 home runs when playing first base this season (43 games). Conversely, he has hit at a .129 clip in 26 games at the hot corner while going 3-for-34 in 11 games at the backstop. Santana's last time starting at a position other than first was May 25, when he filled in at catcher and caught a foul ball to the facemask that landed him on the seven-day concussion disabled list.
"Carlos is swinging the bat so well we could put him in center field right now and he's going to swing the bat," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's a pretty good hitter, he just went through a tough beginning of the year. The one thing I think was frustrating for Carlos earlier in the year, and I understand this, it seemed like every time he caught he'd get hit by a foul ball.
"He was catching sparingly and getting beat up to boot. And I don't think that helps, especially when you're not getting hits."