It’s already clear just over a month into the season how much better Carlos Santana’s fielding has become. Last night’s win over the Minnesota Twins was a complete team effort by the Cleveland Indians featuring three fantastic plays by the former catcher. There was no telling how far Santana would come defensively after taking eight years off from fielding at third when he was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Tribe should be more than satisfied about his progression towards playing the part at the short corner.
The first and final outs of the Tribe’s 4-3 walk-off win over the Twins were recorded by Santana on two difficult plays. Brian Dozier tested Santana in the first at-bat last night, laying down a soft bunt that required a barehanded play and perfect throw. Santana passed the first test of the day, proving his range is better than some would assume.
In the fifth inning Santana tracked down a firmly hit grounder in the gap, where he dove and got back on his feet to deliver an out to Nick Swisher at first. This was perhaps his third-best glove work of the night when he was credited for the Tribe’s final defensive out fighting the fans along the stands to catch the 27thout. With the struggles John Axford has been having on the bump, it was huge to end the inning with two men on after the closer worked his way into trouble once again.
While Santana waits for his bat to resurface to a competent level, a couple nice plays defensively could go along way for his overall confidence. A successful hitter like Santana could use any kind of encouragement about his game hitting .139/.298/.278 in 115 at bats. The extra hours Santana put in with infield instructor Mike Sarbaugh during Spring Training are paying off to not only make the routine plays but those he is not expected to finish. With all of the injuries and reassignments within the Indians’ 25-man roster, it’s refreshing to see potentially problematic areas of the depth chart working out as the Tribe awaits the return of their everyday roster.