Santana wants to catch, but focused on winning
CLEVELAND -- More often than not these days, Carlos Santana heads into the Indians' clubhouse and sees his name listed as the team's designated hitter. Santana would prefer to remain the starting catcher for Cleveland, but that role has been taken over by Yan Gomes in the past six weeks.
Indians manager Terry Francona has discussed the change in roles with Santana, but that has not necessarily made it an easy transition.
"This is a little hard for me, or for any player," Santana said on Tuesday. "For me, I want to win. The manager put Yan behind the plate and he's done a good job, so we're better hitting and catching, too. It's hard for me, but I'm not thinking about that. I'm confident in the manager about the lineup he puts out every day.
"We're still fighting, fighting for the Wild Card. And we're 4 1/2 games back of Detroit. It's affected me a little bit, but I'm thinking about winning. I'm thinking about trying to help my team, and trying to be patient. I'm thinking about just staying in the lineup every day."
In the first four months of the season, Santana caught 61 percent of the innings (572) compared to 38 percent for Gomes (358). Since Aug. 1, though, the pair of backstops have reversed course in terms of playing time behind the plate, with Gomes handling 63 percent (212) of the innings compared to 37 percent (124 2/3) for Santana.
Gomes (.302 average with 10 home runs and 34 RBIs in 72 games) and Santana (.264 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs in 136 games) have both handled themselves well offensively, but Gomes has been the better of the two on defense.
Gomes entered Tuesday leading the American League with a 46.9 (15-for-32) caught-stealing rate, while Santana had thrown out just 15.5 percent (9-for-58) of would-be basestealers, according to STATS. Cleveland's pitchers had a 4.13 ERA with Santana behind the dish compared to a 3.67 mark with Gomes.
"He's good, and he's getting better," Francona said of Gomes. "That's exciting. You start to catch more and the hope is just what's happened, that he's gotten better. You see some guys start to get banged up, or their legs get a little heavy, arm doesn't have quite as much carry. That hasn't happened in this instance. This kid is getting better."
Gomes' swift learning curve has been a great development for the Indians, but it has left Santana working through the adjustment of serving more as a DH and part-time first baseman.
"This is my position," Santana said of catching. "Right now, it's changed a little bit, because Yan is having a good year. I'm playing every day. It's a little hard for me, but I want to be a good teammate. I don't worry about that. ... The most important thing for me is staying in the lineup every day."