MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians manager Manny Acta named Carlos Santana his cleanup hitter long before this season began. The catcher lost that responsibilty and is now tasked with convincing Cleveland to trust him with that role again.
"That can take care of itself," Acta said on Friday.
Over the past two weeks, center fielder Michael Brantley has served as the Tribe's fourth hitter, while Santana has bounced between the fifth, sixth and seventh spots. As of late, Santana has been heating up at the plate, making it seem possible the catcher could return to the cleanup spot in the near future.
Acta is not going to rush anything.
"He's swinging the bat better," Acta said of Santana. "But we still feel that Michael gives us a good shot there to drive in runs the way he's been swinging the bat. They're going to have to work their way eventually there. That's the ideal situation for us, but we just don't want to jump the gun right away. We feel like we're fine right now like that."
Entering Friday's tilt with the Twins, Santana was hitting .316 (18-for-57) with three home runs, seven doubles and nine RBIs in his past 18 games. During that stretch, the switch-hitting catcher had more walks (14) than strikeouts (10) and an impressive 1.062 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
Santana has lifted his season average 20 points to .238 from .218 in that 18-game span.
One reason Acta likes Brantley in the middle of the lineup is the fact that the center fielder has hit .293 overall and .302 with runners in scoring position this season. That said, Brantley has hit just .213 (10-for-47) in his 13 games as the Tribe's cleanup man. When he has hit out of the Nos. 5-7 holes, the center fielder has posted a .341 (72-for-211) average.
Acta said his hope is that Santana does not worry too much about where he falls in the batting order.
"I don't think the lineup spot should be a goal," Acta said. "It should be to just continue to have good at-bats and improve his offense. It doesn't matter where you hit in the lineup."