Fully Healthy Santana Allows For Defensive Improvement
By A.J. Atkinson
Few prospects are as talented as Cleveland Indians’ catcher Carlos Santana. Few prospects are also as rushed as Santana.
Based on how Tribe fans talk and the expectations they have set for Santana, one wouldn’t guess he’s only played 201 games. Even more surprising, this is only Santana’s fifth year catching.
In 2011, Santana only played 46 games before missing the rest of the season due to knee surgery after a collision at the plate. The surgery prevented Santana from participating in many of bench coach Sandy Alomar’s catching drills last spring training.
Because of the limited practice time behind the plate, the more defensive catcher Lou Marson received time behind the plate while Santana played first base, a less demanding defensive position—not to mention more of an offensive threat than Matt LaPorta.
Now healthy, Santana is able to participate in all of Alomar’s catching drills.
“He’s going to be better for it because last year he wasn’t able to do all the reps and practices with Sandy,” manager Manny Acta said. “Now he’s healthy and can do all the drills Sandy has for him. He has the tools to be very good back there.”
Santana said he feels he will be much more prepared this season defensively because of the ability to work with Alomar this offseason.
“I’m very excited to work with Sandy,” Santana said. “Everyday he works with defense and talks a lot about concentration. I think it’s going to be much better than the last few years.
Alomar said Santana is still plays like an outfielder, the position he possessed four years ago. Alomar said it was too early to compare Santana with the rest of the league’s catchers because he hasn’t caught a full season, but believed with more concentration and practiced skills, Santana could be right there with the rest of the league’s catchers.
“His footwork sometimes tends to be long,” Alomar said. “Sometimes he has bad habits from playing outfield, but once he’s a fulltime catcher, we’ll be able to compare him to (the rest of the league’s catchers).”
Moving Santana behind the plate allowed Cleveland to purchase Casey Kotchman, a more improved hitter and fielder than LaPorta.
“We’re going to catch Carlos as much as we can and we do have a first baseman now,” Acta said. “We’re very happy to have (Kotchman) aboard. He’s a great fit. Not only is he good defensively, he swings the bat well. We had a lot of strikeouts last year at first base. We’re looking to lower the amount of strikeouts and he knows how to play the game.”
With seven years in the league, Kotchman has a career batting average of .268 with only 289 strikeouts in 2,588 at bats (11 percent) to Laporta’s .238 career batting average with 206 strikeouts in 909 at bats (23 percent).
With Santana set up stronger and more comfortable behind the pate this year compared to past seasons, Santana’s offense may also benefit. Santana said he isn’t preparing any differently in terms of hitting for this upcoming season.
“I’m not going to do anything different,” Santana said. “Keep things consistent and do what I do.”
Photo: Jordan Bastain/MLB.com
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