Big League Stew

Defensive miscues lead to heated exchange in Indians dugout

Mark Townsend
Big League Stew

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Rather than subject his young catcher to 130 tough days behind home plate, Cleveland Indians manager Manny Acta decided it would be wise to move Carlos Santana around a little bit this season. Acta's plan not only serves to keep his 25-year-old budding star healthier and fresher, but it also allows his developing bat to stay in the lineup on a daily basis.

Acta has given Santana 70 starts at catcher, one start at DH and 37 starts at first base. Santana actually played a lot of third base while in the Los Angeles Dodgers system, so the practice of fielding groundballs certainly isn't foreign to him. And honestly, the times I've seen him play at first I've come away impressed with his mobility, glove work, and decision-making.

The setup appears to be a win-win situation. Or should I say appeared? Because over the past couple of nights, Santana's transition has hit a couple significant bumps in the road. Significant enough, at least, to motivate All-Star shortstop and teammate Asdrubal Cabrera to openly confront Santana in the dugout about his defense during the first inning of Thursday night's 4-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Watch the dustup here: {YSP:MORE}

A pretty quick exchange thanks to the intervention of starting pitcher Fausto Carmona, but unquestionably animated and heated.

According to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports, this is what led to it:

Santana has struggled with some throws at first base. He dropped a throw from Cabrera Wednesday night, leading to three unearned runs, and he couldn't handle a throw from third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall in the first inning Thursday, leading to another unearned run.

To expand a little further on Chisenhall's error, the throw ended up sailing over Santana's head. It appeared to be catchable, but rather than coming off the bag to secure the catch, Santana attempted to hold the bag and the ball got away from him. That's just the case of a young guy at a new position trying to do a little too much, but it's understandably maddening to his teammates.

As for Acta's take on the confrontation?

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

"I like it," Acta said when asked about the argument. "It means people around here want to win. Asdrubal confronted Carlos about not catching the throw. Carlos didn't like the way he talked to him. That's fire. I like it. People care. That's all I can ask for."

I like it, too, because it's not a situation where Cabrera was looking to point a finger at someone else for his own performance. He had a point to get across, and maybe he could have done so a little softer, but if Santana wasn't receptive at first, he needed to adjust his tone. That's his job now. After the trade of Orlando Cabrera in July, Asdrubal IS the senior member and unquestioned leader of Cleveland's infield. It seems he's already comfortable in that role.

Also, Cabrera's words may have had even more than their desired effect on Santana. A couple innings later, he offset the unearned run by hitting a solo home run off your likely American League Cy Young Justin Verlander.

Said Santana: "Everything is fine. This is something that happens to teams. Me and him are friends."

And despite the tough loss, the two friends are still right in the thick of the AL Central race.

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