DETROIT — During spring training, Carlos Santana’s focus was on defense, as the converted third baseman adapted to a new position. Now, it’s on his offense or lack thereof.
Santana, who entered Wednesday batting just .186 (8-for-43) with one RBI over his first 13 games, said prior to the series opener against Detroit that the position change has played a part in his offensive struggles to start the season.
“Yes, it’s affected (it) a little bit,” said Santana, Cleveland’s cleanup hitter, who grounded into an American League-high five double plays over the first 13 games. “But it’s all right. I’m a good hitter. It’s a long season. This is the first two weeks.
“I know the fans, everybody, they worry about my hitting. This is like two weeks. It’s a long season — six months. If I keep going, I’m going to come back.”
Over the 13-game span to begin the season, Santana made six starts at third base, four at designated hitter and three at catcher. He said playing multiple positions on a regular basis has been more difficult than he imagined.
“It’s hard. I understand. Everybody, they know, third base back to catcher and DH,” he said. “It’s hard, but I try to be strong. I need to keep going. I cannot control the situation. The only thing I can control is the situation how I play.”
Reporters told manager Terry Francona of Santana’s comments.
“If that’s how he feels, I’ll probably need to sit and talk with him to make him feel better about things, because what he does is very valuable,” Francona said, referring to Santana’s versatility. “What I don’t want to lose sight of is the day before the season, he was all in. I don’t want to let a slow start with the bat ruin that.”
Santana is still getting on base, entering Wednesday with a team-high 14 walks and a respectable .386 on-base percentage. Francona believes the career .254 hitter will pick up the pace at the plate.
“I don’t think I’ve ever brought up his offense because I know he’s going to hit,” Francona said. “He’s our cleanup hitter and he’s a heck of a hitter.
“Coming out of the gate, this happens all the time. You have weather, you have inconsistent at-bats because of the weather. Guys have a way of getting to their level. Sometimes they do it in (the strangest) fashion, but they get there. It’s like a guy that starts out hitting .500 the first two weeks. If he’s a .250 hitter, he usually gets to around .250.”
As expected, center fielder Michael Bourn made his season debut, starting in center field and batting leadoff. Bourn, who was activated from the disabled list Tuesday replacing outfielder Nyjer Morgan on the 25-man roster, missed a month with a strained left hamstring that he sustained during an exhibition game March 16.
Bourn drew a walk in his first at-bat of the season.
Jason Giambi (fractured rib) went 0-for-2 with a walk and a strikeout Wednesday during a rehab appearance for Double-A Akron. Giambi is 0-for-8 in three rehab games.
The veteran designated hitter could be activated from the disabled list as early as Friday.
You have to beat the best to be the best, and the Indians weren’t able to do that last season against three-time defending Central Division champion Detroit, which won 15 of 19 games against Cleveland.
“They kind of beat us up a little bit last year,” Francona said of the Tigers, who finished a game ahead of the Indians in the final division standings. “For us to get where we want to go, certainly beating them would help. We gotta beat everybody, but they kind of had their way with us last year.
“They did what good teams do. They beat you up sometimes, they win some close ones, and the other games, they found a way to win those too. That’s what a good team does.”
- Both teams wore the No. 42 Wednesday in recognition of Jackie Robinson Day (Tuesday).
- Indians pitchers entered Wednesday ranked second in the majors with 10.16 strikeouts per nine innings.
- Today, 1:08 p.m., STO; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Salazar (0-1, 6.75) vs. Verlander (1-1, 2.57).