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Santana working through rough stretch

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CLEVELAND -- Slumps tend to be magnified at the start of the season. The way Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo sees things, Carlos Santana's current rough stretch has as much to do with a longer swing as it does with fighting the paltry numbers listed on the scoreboard.

Entering Sunday's game against Toronto, the switch-hitting Santana was batting .153 (9-for-59) with one home run, two doubles and three RBIs in 17 games. The catcher launched a two-run homer on Friday, but headed into the finale of the series with the Blue Jays mired in a 2-for-38 funk.

"It just seems like he's trying to do too much," Van Burkleo said on Sunday. "He went into that spell where he wasn't getting hits, and those 0-fers kind of pile up, and it kind of manifests. I think mentally, he's just trying to do too much, trying to get it all back in one swing. So we're just trying to get him focused on that one-on-one combat in the game.

"The focus needs to be on competing and not focused on the results so much. It happens at the beginning of the year, because you don't have a base. If he has 300 at-bats right now, he drops eight points instead of getting into the .100s. I think when guys start off slow, I think mentally it seems to last longer, because the numbers look so ugly.

"If he gets four or five hits, then all of a sudden the average climbs, the confidence gets there and the focus is more on competing and not so much on, 'I've got to get a hit to get out of this.'"

Despite his struggles to collect hits, Santana still entered Sunday with a .333 on-base percentage and 16 walks (second in the American League). The third baseman and backup catcher was also averaging an AL-best 4.83 pitches per plate appearance.

"That's what's great about Carlos," Van Burkleo said. "Even when he's not hitting, he's still productive. He's staying in the strike zone, and if they don't throw them strikes, he's going to end up taking his walks. That's great to have as a hitter, because you can always contribute, even when you're not feeling that great swinging it."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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