CLEVELAND -- Carlos Santana needed only seven plate appearances before hitting the right-field seats with his first career home run ball. That was on June 12, 2010, when the Indians got their first up-close glimpse of the catcher's power potential.
Fast forward to April 1, 2011. Despite rehabbing a torn knee ligament all offseason, Santana showed no ill effects on Opening Day, slugging a two-run homer to the bleacher seats in left-center.
As the 2011 campaign winds down, one fact will stand out when Indians coaches and executives assess the future of the ballclub: The team has a powerful bat that can serve as one of the lineup's centerpieces for years to come.
Santana's average (.239) does not strike fear into the opposition, but his on-base percentage (.352) reflects his patience at the plate and ability to draw walks, and his home run total (26) is the highest by a switch-hitter in franchise history.
"I never think about trying to hit home runs," Santana said. "I try to make good contact with the ball and have a good swing and swing through the ball. I never think, 'OK, I need to get a home run' or 'Let's try to get a home run.'"
Santana's 26 long balls are the most he has hit at any level. He slugged 23 in 130 games for Double-A Akron in 2009 and connected on six in 46 games for the Tribe last season.
"I'm not surprised, but I'll take it," he said. "I just try to put a good swing on it. I can't control where the ball goes."
Santana's late power surge -- he has hit five homers in his last seven games -- has not surprised his teammates.
"He's been driving the ball," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "He's our big power threat right now. He's one of the few ones we've got right now, it looks like. You can tell the talent is there, and he's only going to get better from here."