With eye on defense, Tribe keeps Santana at first
BOSTON -- In limiting Carlos Santana's playing time behind the plate of late, the Indians have kept his health in mind. By not playing Santana at third base since he was activated from Major League Baseball's concussion list, Cleveland has kept its defense in mind.
For Friday's game against the Red Sox, Santana was penciled into the starting lineup at first base for the seventh straight game. Since he was activated June 6, Santana has only played first and spent one game as a designated hitter.
"I think we're a better defensive team that way," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think Carlos is probably a better first baseman than he is a third baseman."
When this season opened, Santana served as Cleveland's regular third baseman and backup catcher. The goal heading into the year was to reduce his action at first base and DH, which was his primary role late last season after Yan Gomes emerged as the starting catcher.
Over the past six weeks, first baseman Nick Swisher has dealt with knee issues, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall has emerged as one of the game's hottest hitters and Santana dealt with the second concussion of his career. Cleveland has kept backup catcher George Kottaras to help give Gomes a break, leaving Santana to mostly first base and DH duties over the past week.
Chisenhall has played some first base this season (five starts while Swisher was on the DL), but Francona noted that Santana has more experience at the position in his career.
"He's played a lot more first than Lonnie," Francona said. "Lonnie's played first base four times or five in his career. Carlos has played a lot of first. I just thought that was an easier way to come back [off the concussion list]. He hadn't played in a week."