GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- At the start of spring training a year ago, Carlos Santana
was the Cleveland Indians
starting catcher and Yan Gomes
was No.3, behind Santana and Lou Marson. At the start of spring training this year, Gomes is the starting catcher and Santana is a designated hitter and potential third baseman.
The conversion of Santana to third base began following the 2013 season -- at Santana's request. Gomes played so well offensively and defensively last year that over the last two months of the season he was starting most of the games behind the plate, with Santana getting most of his at bats at DH.
Following the season, during his exit interview, Santana told general manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona that he would like to try playing some third base in 2014. Indians officials were open to the suggestion for a couple of reasons.
One of the reasons was that they want to keep Santana's middle-of-the-order bat in the lineup, even though Gomes had replaced him as the starting catcher. The conversion to third base is not as big a stretch for Santana as it might appear because when he originally signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers it was as a third baseman.
Another reason the Indians were willing to look at Santana at third base is that Lonnie Chisenhall
has continued to have trouble establishing himself at the major league level. Chisenhall has been the top hitting prospect in the Indians' minor league system over the last few years, and he has hit well at each minor league level. But he has struggled in his attempt to transition to the big leagues.
Thus, Santana went to the Indians' spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz., following the 2013 season and began his re-orientation at third base. He then played several games at third base during winter ball in the Dominican Republic. The plan going into spring training is to continue to give Santana playing time at both third base and catcher. Francona said the team will let it play out during spring training and make a decision by opening day on how much Santana might play at third base during the regular season.
It would not be a surprise to see the switch-hitting Santana get most of his at-bats at third base against left-handed pitchers because Chisenhall struggled hitting left-handers last season. Clearly, however, the Indians' willingness to look at Santana at third base is also an indication that the front office is still not yet sold on Chisenhall as the final answer at that position.
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