GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians had to force Carlos Santana to slow things down a bit over the offseason. Coming off his first full season in the big leagues, the catcher wanted to take part in winter ball in his native Dominican Republic.
He was instructed to rest before training hard.
"He came from a long year, too," manager Manny Acta said. "I thought it was good that he was able to rest his body. It still wasn't easy. The kid wanted to play winter ball, too. He just loves to play."
Santana will have plenty of opportunities to play for the Tribe this season. When he is not behind the plate, he will see time as a designated hitter and first baseman to keep his legs fresh and his bat in the lineup. He projects to be swinging out of the cleanup spot.
Santana reported to camp a bit trimmer after an offseason spent training with Nelson Perez, a strength and conditioning coach for the club who moved to the Dominican Republic to work with Santana and pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez over the winter.
Santana said that it was a great experience, especially considering this was the first normal offseason he has had in a few years. Last winter he was recovering from a major injury to his left knee. Two years ago he was coming off surgery to fix a broken hamate bone in his right hand.
This winter he was able to train without doing rehab.
"It was a great experience," he said. "It was my first time working out with a trainer in the offseason. It was a big difference. There was more preparing for the season. I'll be ready. This offseason was normal."
Last season, Santana hit just .239, but he belted 27 home runs, collected 79 RBIs, drew 97 walks and fashioned a .351 on-base percentage. The Indians believe that his average will continue to improve, especially as he continues to develop his approach from both sides of the plate.
A switch-hitter, Santana hit .202 with a .736 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) against right-handers last year and .318 (.964 OPS) against lefties. It was a complete reversal from 2010, when he hit .314 (1.002 OPS) against righties and .146 (.582) against lefties in his short stay in the Majors.
"Last year he got caught up a little bit into not using the whole field from the left side," Acta said. "It comes with experience. He knows that he can use the whole field and still hit a good amount of home runs, because guys are going to make mistakesm and he's going to hit them out. It's a given. I expect him to be better this year."