Swisher and Santana Hoping for Reversals to Disappointing Starts
Craig Gifford | On 20, Jun 2014
At times it feels as though Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana have been joined at the hip this season. The first two and a half months for both have taken eerily similar paths that neither would like to be on.
Both, who have been excellent hitters in years past, struggled through sluggish Aprils and Mays before getting injured right around the same time. Upon coming back each has had an impact on Tribe victories. Going forward, the pair will need to have even more impacts as they represent a big chunk of Cleveland’s offensive potential.
Santana and Swisher will never be confused with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. However, at their best, both Indians hitters are capable of 20-plus home runs, 80-plus RBI and hitting around .280. Neither was coming anywhere close to that as May was drawing to an end.
On May 26, Carlos Santana hit the disabled list with a concussion. At the time, he was hitting an ugly .159. The one positive was that the catcher/first baseman/third baseman had been drawing walks and had a solid on-base percentage. He had not lost his batting eye.
Since returning to the Tribe on June 6, Santana has hit .333 with three bombs and 10 RBI. His overall batting average has jumped to .193, while he now has nine homes and 27 RBI on the season. He has been an intregal part to Cleveland remaining in the AL Central Division hunt despite a blazing hot Kansas City Royals ball club.
Swisher went down with a knee injury on May 27 and returned to the Tribe on June 12. He has not been able to find his bat, hitting just .100 since his return, lowering his abysmal batting average from .211 to .200. However, since returning to the lineup, the veteran has had two of the biggest hits of the season for the Indians.
Yesterday, Swisher delivered a game-winning, 10th-inning grand slam. With two out and the Tribe down 3-1, the big hit pulled out a 5-3 victory over the visiting Angels from the jaws of defeat. It allowed Cleveland to take 2-of-3 games of their rain-shortened series with Los Angeles. An 11th-inning long ball on Sunday from Swish broke a 2-2 tie in Boston and gave the Indians a four-game Fenway Park split with the defending World Series champion Red Sox. It was a good sign to see the much-maligned veteran make that kind of an impact twice in a week as he looks to rebound from his miserable start to 2014.
For both guys, getting hurt and missing games may have actually been a blessing in disguise. Up until going on the DL, it appeared they were pressing to get into a groove. Both like felt the offense was theirs to carry as was the case for long stretches last season.
However, in the absence both Swisher and Santana, guys like Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Michael Brantley proved plenty capable of lifting the lineup. Swisher and Santana are not alone as offensive threats. They do not need to press the issue and may have realized they can play a little more relaxed.
In the case of Swisher, he has been a bit of a disappointment since signing his big free agent contract before the 2013 season. It is possible he has been pressing to live up to that deal ever since. Still, he did hit 20 homers last season, while hitting .242. Those are not great numbers, but are respectable for a guy hitting seventh in the batting order as Swisher now is. Other bats stepping up have taken away the onus of Swisher batting cleanup – not a natural spot for him.
While other players in the lineup have stepped up for the Tribe this season, the reality remains that Cleveland will need Swisher and Santana to provide a punch as the year goes along. Santana has certainly shown signs of being the Santana of old. Swisher is still in his funk.
The hope is both are healthier now than they have been all year. They each had a two-week break to clear their heads, which can be big for a player in a slump
Santana and Swisher are both proven to be solid run producers and there is no reason to think they will not make an impact before the season is over. The nice thing for the Indians is they have remained competitive with two key cogs going down disappointing paths so far. If both can find that path they’ve been on in years past, the Tribe offense only has better days ahead of it.
Those who said the Indians were better off when Santana and Swisher were out of the lineup were incorrect. Cleveland learned what it had in Chisenhall, which was important. Mike Aviles also got to play more and showed he can be a contributor. However, the recently returned duo will be needed if the Indians are to go back to the postseason this year. Cleveland is not playing many games, if any, in October without the pair in the lineup.
Clevelanders would love see Swisher and Santana continue to have mirroring seasons so long as it means a happy ending to the journey each has been on in 2014.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images