ARLINGTON -- The reality of life as a big league catcher is that the job takes a toll on the player. Indians manager Terry Francona believes that was the main issue during Carlos Santana's recent slump at the plate.
Santana has shown signs of life in the batter's box of late for Cleveland, which leans on him as a regular catcher, part-time first baseman and middle-of-the-order hitter. Francona said Santana's up-and-down showing to this point this season is simply the product of his place on the field.
"Catching catches up with your body," Francona said. "You lose some of the life in your body. I think that's just natural. With Carlos, when he was struggling, he was trying to do too much and got a little long at times. Actually, he's done a lot of his damage when he's been down in the count, when he stays short, because he's so strong and so quick."
Entering Wednesday, the switch-hitting Santana had hit .344 (11-for-32) with a .417 on-base percentage and a .469 slugging percentage over his past nine games. In the previous 29 games, he managed only a .180 average. On the season, Santana was hitting .284 with eight homers, 17 doubles, 27 RBIs, 33 runs and 35 walks through 59 games.
Lately, Francona has increasingly split Santana's playing time between catching, first base and designated hitter. Over the past 25 games, including Wednesday's tilt against Texas, Santana started 48 percent (13 games) behind the plate. He started at catcher in just five of the last 13 games. Over the season's first 40 games, Santana started in 65 percent (26 games) behind the plate.
Francona has started to give backup Yan Gomes more time behind the dish.
"Carlos has the versatility to move around," Francona said. "We didn't want Gomes to get here and sit him very much. We thought that would hinder his development. And he's been catching so well and hitting the ball that it's kind of easy to get him in there. It leaves some gas in Carlos' tank. It's a long year."
"I think it will help [Santana]. I think his body will feel fresher. I know he loves to catch, but I think it'll be good for him in the long run. He is [still] going to catch the bulk of the games."