CLEVELAND — A month ago, Indians fans were ready to run catcher Carlos Santana out of town. Now, he’s one of Cleveland’s most productive hitters.
Santana, who has struggled at the plate for much of the year, has caught fire in July, entering Wednesday having reached base in all 18 games during the month, while batting .309 (17-for-55) with six doubles, two home runs and eight RBIs. He was 11-for-29 with two homers and seven RBIs over his last 10 games through Tuesday.
“He’s been seeing the ball better,” manager Manny Acta said of Santana, who was at .237 with seven homers and 37 RBIs in 81 games on the season through Tuesday. “It’s good to see because he’s still a pretty young guy who needs to perform in order to keep his confidence level up.
“We need him badly. We’re not going to go anywhere unless him and (Travis) Hafner swing the bat the way they are capable of doing.”
The Indians have been working all season to control Santana’s movement at the plate. According to Acta, he’s limited some of the movement, but is still a work in progress in the department.
“It takes time,” Acta said. “The goal is to minimize his body movement and calm down so he can see the ball better.”
Ins and outs
A day after playing hero in a 3-2 win over the Tigers, outfielder Aaron Cunningham was designated for assignment, clearing the way for newly acquired infielder/outfielder Brent Lillibridge.
Lillibridge’s ability to play the infield won out over Cunningham, who has strictly been an extra outfielder.
“It was more convenient for us,” Acta said. “We’re not bringing (Lillibridge) over here claiming that he’s going to turn around our whole ballclub, but he’s a good fit, because he can play all over the field and he can run.”
Cunningham, whose successful squeeze bunt scored the game-winning run Tuesday, hit .175 (17-for-97) with a homer and seven RBIs in 72 games for Cleveland. He is expected to accept a Triple-A assignment with the Indians if he clears waivers.
According to closer Chris Perez, Indians fans might be disappointed at the July 31 trading deadline.
“I don’t see anything big on the horizon,” Perez said of prospective moves from his team. “It seems like the same four teams are going after the same players. We usually don’t win those battles.”
The Indians are reportedly interested in a right-handed bat and a starting pitcher, but have rarely been mentioned as suitors for the big-name players that are available.
The Indians had few options on the bench to pinch run for slow-footed Travis Hafner when Acta decided to employ the squeeze after the designated hitter’s triple in the seventh inning Tuesday.
Lou Marson was the choice, with the backup catcher sliding in safely as the throw got away from Detroit catcher Alex Avila.
“He was the best baserunner available,” Acta said of Marson.
Hafner is coming off knee surgery and Acta did not want to risk sending him to the plate on Cunningham’s bunt.
“It’s a tough crowd when you get pinch run for after a triple,” Hafner joked. “(Acta) must have seen the tank was empty.”
It was the fifth time Acta has employed the squeeze as Cleveland manager, with all of them successful attempts.
The Indians entered Wednesday with a 14-14-3 record in 31 series this season. The Indians have swept four series and have been swept four times. … Tonight, 7:05, Channel 3/WTAM 1100-AM. McAllister (4-2, 3.21) vs. Verlander (11-5, 2.42).
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