The Cleveland Indians have a dilemma on their hands, one that could define what direction this team heads as the 2014 season starts to get in high gear. Two of the team’s big names, Carlos Santana and Nick Swisher, are on the bench getting closer to coming back from injuries.
In the meantime, while they have been sitting, the team has suddenly gotten hot. They did get swept by the rival Chicago White Sox, but returned home and beat up the Colorado Rockies in a three-game sweep over the weekend and started a three-game set against the World Series Champion Boston Red Sox with a solid 3-2 win.
The victory not only keeps the Indians as the hottest team in the majors at home (19-11), but also snaps a seven-game win streak for the Red Sox, who came to Cleveland as the hottest team in baseball. The Monday win puts the team at 28-30, just two games under .500, and they are doing the run with Swisher and Santana’s awful offensive seasons watching from the dugout.
Santana’s bad season at the plate is the most cause for concern, as he is hitting just .159 with six homers and 17 RBIs. He’s made the transition to playing third base, but now the team has both Lonnie Chisenhall (.361) and Mike Aviles (.286) manning the position and doing a good job filling in.
Yan Gomes is already the team’s starting catcher, and it will be hard to imagine Santana taking a lot of at-bats from any player who is hot right now. The team never could have imagined the season Chisenhall is having, coming up with big hits and also playing not only third, but also first for the club.
Swisher might find himself in the same boat as a player who is hitting just .211 with 49 strikeouts in 49 games in 2014. He’s showing his age and the team has him inked for another two seasons with a vesting option for a third year. While they can move Swisher around between first, right field and DH, again there’s the problem of who will lose at-bats once he returns.
Terry Francona will try to pull a 7-10 split when the two players come back, which is to get both players at-bats while keeping his red-hot players on the field. If Swisher and Santana come back and don’t get on track, Francona will have no choice than to put them back where they are now — on the bench.