Santana gets standing O; Dozier returns

April 7th, 2021

When was introduced during Cleveland’s opening ceremonies on Monday, the ovation he received from fans was nothing compared to the ovation they gave their former first baseman when he first came to the plate in Royals blue.

The entire stadium was on its feet as Santana tipped his helmet, paying respect to the team he had been a part of for 10 seasons. Monday was the first time he faced his former club after signing a two-year contract with Kansas City when Cleveland did not pick up Santana’s option over the offseason.

“Respect the fans, respect the team,” Santana said Wednesday. “[A lot of] respect for the organization to give me the opportunity for 10 years. So I had to pay my respect to the team. … I think a lot of things. Proud to come back to Cleveland, and I have a lot of emotion. But I feel good. Very happy to come back and play.”

Santana went 0-for-4 in his return Monday, but he made a stellar play at first to start a 3-6-1 double play with two on and no outs in the ninth to help preserve the Royals’ shutout.

He was also able to say hi to some of his former teammates, like José Ramírez and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber -- the pitcher Santana and the Royals faced Wednesday. And of course, Santana caught up with Cleveland manager Terry Francona.

“I have a lot of respect [for] Tito,” Santana said. “He’s like my dad. He was my manager for a long time, and I have a great relation to Tito and all the coaches, but especially Tito. We keep in touch. It’s great. He’s a great person, great manager, and I [really] respect him.”

Dozier returns to lineup
was back in the lineup Wednesday afternoon after missing the past three games with a right thumb contusion that happened when he was swinging on Opening Day last week. He said it happened on his groundout in the second inning on Thursday, but he didn’t think much of it until he reached first base in the seventh. By the time he got to third base, he didn’t think he could grip a ball or bat. He left the game in the eighth inning.

Royals manager Mike Matheny said he almost made a late change for Monday’s game to put Dozier into the lineup, but instead thought it was better to give Dozier the extra two days with the off-day on Tuesday.

“I threw batting practice to him, and he lost a number of balls,” Matheny said. “The strength was there. He looked great. Throwing the ball across the infield looked good. He got the swelling down.”

Now that the swelling has gone down, Dozier is ready to go. He’ll wear a protection pad on his thumb and a batting glove on his right hand to cover it -- which he hasn’t done in some time. Ever since he was little, he has always worn a batting glove on his left hand but not on his right.

“It was sore, and still sore, but the swelling was the biggest thing,” Dozier said. “I can actually grip a bat now, grip a ball. Have to wear a batting glove on my right hand, which is going to be weird, but I’ll do whatever just to get in that lineup. … Once I was able to swing, and felt good swinging, I knew I was ready.

“Since I had my strength, I knew nothing was seriously wrong. It just was a matter of getting that swelling down and being able to tolerate the pain.”

Royals turn to Junis, bullpen
The reason that the Royals made Wednesday a bullpen game, with right-hander Jakob Junis starting, was to give all their starters an extra day of rest, with Brad Keller scheduled for Thursday’s start against the White Sox. The Royals decided to take advantage of the off-days -- Tuesday and Friday this week -- and a rested bullpen because of those days.

It goes back to the workload question that teams are facing after a 60-game season, forcing starters to make a significant jump in innings this year.

“The thought was, instead of putting everyone on regular rest, take advantage of the off-days,” Matheny said. “… Anything that we can do to save any of our guys extra work, whenever we can give them rest, we’re going to. We’ll have this conversation a lot through this season. We had how many conversations like this, even at the end of last year and through the offseason of, ‘How are we going to adjust after a 60-game season knowing that there’s a workload question?’ Part of that’s going to be taking days when we can get it.”