CLEVELAND -- Carlos Santana needed only seven plate appearances before hitting the right-field seats with his first career home run ball. That was on June 12, 2010, when the Indians got their first up-close glimpse of the catcher's power potential.
Fast forward to April 1, 2011. Despite rehabbing a torn knee ligament all offseason, Santana showed no ill effects on Opening Day, slugging a two-run homer to the bleacher seats in left-center.
As the 2011 campaign winds down, one fact will stand out when Indians coaches and executives assess the future of the ballclub: The team has a powerful bat that can serve as one of the lineup's centerpieces for years to come.
Santana's average (.239) does not strike fear into the opposition, but his on-base percentage (.352) reflects his patience at the plate and ability to draw walks, and his home run total (26) is the highest by a switch-hitter in franchise history.
"I never think about trying to hit home runs," Santana said. "I try to make good contact with the ball and have a good swing and swing through the ball. I never think, 'OK, I need to get a home run' or 'Let's try to get a home run.'"
Santana's 26 long balls are the most he has hit at any level. He slugged 23 in 130 games for Double-A Akron in 2009 and connected on six in 46 games for the Tribe last season.
"I'm not surprised, but I'll take it," he said. "I just try to put a good swing on it. I can't control where the ball goes."
Santana's late power surge -- he has hit five homers in his last seven games -- has not surprised his teammates.
"He's been driving the ball," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "He's our big power threat right now. He's one of the few ones we've got right now, it looks like. You can tell the talent is there, and he's only going to get better from here."
Duncan comfortable in September groove
CLEVELAND -- There is no secret, no key ingredient, no winning formula, outfielder Shelley Duncan claims. He is simply in a groove.
"There's nothing different," said Duncan, who is hitting .351 in his last 11 games, with four home runs and nine RBIs.
In that stretch, he has raised his overall average to .271, the highest it has been since May 3. With injuries to outfielders Shin-Soo Choo and Michael Brantley, Duncan has earned increased playing time. He admits that might play a factor in his recent surge, though he said that is far from rocket science.
"That always helps everybody," he said. "I'm more comfortable."
Duncan has hit six of his 10 home runs this month, tied for third-most in the American League. In 66 games this season, he is batting .271, with 38 RBIs.
Indians to salute Hegan on Saturday
CLEVELAND -- The Indians will salute broadcaster Mike Hegan before the nightcap of Saturday's doubleheader against the Twins. Hegan, who played in the Major Leagues for 12 seasons, will step into a new role with the organization that includes serving as a resource for Indians broadcasting, community and business initiatives through the Indians Alumni Ambassador program.
Hegan grew up in Cleveland, and his father, Jim, played for the Indians for 17 years. Hegan has spent the last 23 seasons broadcasting Indians baseball from both the TV and radio booths.
Along with Herb Score, Hegan was nominated for the 2012 Ford C. Frick Award for excellence in Major League Baseball broadcasting. Fans can take part in online voting for the award until 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 30 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame's Facebook page.
Celebrating his 50th season in professional baseball, Hegan will be inducted into the Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame on Thursday.
The Indians recalled right-hander Corey Kluber from Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday. Kluber posted a 7-11 record and 5.56 ERA in 27 starts with the Clippers. He made his Major League debut on Sept. 1, tossing 1 1/3 scoreless innings, before being optioned back to Columbus on Sept. 3.
The Indians acquired Kluber from the Padres on July 31, 2010, in the three-team trade that sent starter Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals.
Entering Tuesday's action, the Indians had allowed five grand slams in their last 12 games.
Zack Meisel is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.