April 24, 2014

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Indians: Santana close to return, as Tribe washed out again

CLEVELAND — Carlos Santana told manager Terry Francona he wanted to play tonight in the series opener with Central Division rival Chicago.

Francona said the catcher won’t, but he believes Santana’s words are an indicator he is close to returning to the lineup after taking a fastball off his left hand while catching. He was forced to leave the home opener Monday.

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“I think that’s really good news,” Francona said Thursday prior to Cleveland’s second straight rainout with the Yankees. “That means he’s not very far off and that the process is moving along quickly.”

Santana, who is off to a fast start — .500, two homers, five RBIs in seven games — caught a bullpen session and took batting practice Thursday.

His backup, Lou Marson, is further away from returning.

Francona said Marson, who is on the disabled list with a neck strain, is not close to beginning a minor league rehab assignment.

Neither is left-hander Scott Kazmir (right rib cage strain), who landed on the injured list days into the regular season. He played catch from 120 feet Thursday, with a bullpen session likely the next step.

The Indians are proceeding with caution where all the injured parties are concerned.

“I think (Kazmir) feels real comfortable right where he is, that’s also good news,” Francona said. “The idea when anything happens is to not cut corners, do it right, then when guys are ready, they’re ready and you didn’t cut corners and you lose them again.”

Francona said Kazmir would not be activated on the day he’s eligible — Wednesday.

“Only because that doesn’t fit in the rotation, but hopefully not too far after that,” Francona said.

Kazmir’s injury, Carlos Carrasco’s poor debut and subsequent demotion and consecutive rainouts have caused Cleveland to juggle its rotation less than two weeks into the season. The postponements have also affected the players’ daily routines.

“It’s part of it. It’s the extremely glamorous part of baseball,” Francona said. “You either do it and complain or you do it and smile. You’re going to be here, so you might as well … that’s just the way it is.”

Right-hander Justin Masterson will stay on regular rest to pitch against Chicago tonight. But Thursday’s scheduled starter, right-hander Zach McAllister, will take right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez’s spot Saturday. Right-hander Brett Myers is scheduled to start the series finale Sunday, with the Indians off Monday.

Jimenez, who threw a side session Thursday at Progressive Field, will return to the rotation Tuesday for the series opener against Boston.

As was the case Wednesday, there was no official makeup date given for the postponed game Thursday. The teams are discussing May 13 — an off-day for both clubs — as the potential doubleheader makeup date.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Like him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.