BOSTON -- Plans can always change in light of performance. That is why the Indians have seemingly scrapped the initial idea of using catcher Carlos Santana as a part-time designated hitter against left-handed pitching.
On Saturday, Santana was in the starting lineup as the first baseman with lefty Felix Doubront on the mound for the Red Sox. Using Santana at first base rather than as a DH on the days he doesn't catch has been an unexpected trend.
Manager Manny Acta said this is due to the solid showing from DH Travis Hafner.
"It has to do with Hafner's good start," Acta said. "Hafner was swinging the bat well at the beginning of the season, and we wanted to keep him in there."
During Spring Training, Acta indicated that Hafner might sit against left-handed pitching, giving Santana a chance to serve as DH to keep his legs fresh. Instead it has been first baseman Casey Kotchman, who carried a .194 average into Saturday's game, who has taken a seat on the bench to allow Santana time in the field.
Santana has appeared in four games at first base this season: against Doubront on Saturday, against White Sox lefty Eric Stults on Monday, against Rangers lefty Derek Holland on May 5 and against White Sox lefty Chris Sale on May 1. Santana's lone appearance at DH came with Sale on the hill on April 19.
Acta was also quick to note that Doubront's three-year splits against left-handed batters are actually favorable for the Indians' lefty-heavy lineup. Entering Saturday and dating back to 2010, lefties have hit .281 with a .876 OPS off Doubront, compared with .275/.768 by right-handed hitters.
"Lefties have had some success against him," Acta said, "so I'd rather keep Hafner in there."
Acta explains moves with Donald, Lopez
BOSTON -- The Indians never doubted that Jason Donald was up for the challenge of filling a bench role this season, but they also knew it could be a tough assignment for the young infielder to handle.
On Saturday, Cleveland optioned Donald to Triple-A Columbus in light of his offensive struggles, which most likely stem from his sporadic playing time. The Indians purchased the contract of utility infielder Jose Lopez to fill Donald's spot on the bench.
"We feel that [Donald] needs to play," manager Manny Acta said. "I don't think it's an easy job to handle for young guys, especially guys that are doing it for the first time. I think Lopez is a veteran guy that handled it well when he was here. He's probably better equipped to do it.
"We need Jason to get regular at-bats. He's going to go down there and play."
In 16 games for the Tribe, the 27-year-old Donald hit just .178 with eight singles and four RBIs. He also managed only a .095 average against left-handed pitching. He served as a backup option for second base, shortstop, third base and the outfield, giving Cleveland a versatile right-handed option off the bench.
Lopez, 28, was on the Opening Day roster but was designated for assignment on May 1, when the team added outfielder Johnny Damon to the roster. The right-handed-hitting Lopez hit .190 with one homer and three RBIs in five games before being outrighted to Triple-A. While with Columbus, he hit .522 with four doubles and four RBIs in six games.
Lopez provides a backup option for first, second and third base, as well as designated hitter. Acta noted that third baseman Jack Hannahan can slide over to shortstop in the event that Cleveland needs to give Asdrubal Cabrera any time off.
"If it is something that is long-term, we'll obviously call somebody up to play," Acta said about the backup situation at shortstop. "But for a one-day type of thing, we're OK with Hannahan sliding over."
Quote to note
"This is the first time he was up here to do that. Whenever he's been here in the past, he's had regular at-bats. Last year, when [Jason] Kipnis went down, he got a chance to play every day at second base. Before, when [Asdrubal] Cabrera got hurt, he played shortstop. It's not easy to handle. As much as you want to try it, that job, young guys usually struggle with it." -- manager Manny Acta, on Jason Donald's struggles in a bench role
Reliever Rafael Perez (on the 15-day disabled list with an injured left lat) has advanced to throwing long toss at a distance of 120 feet in his recovery program. Cleveland is hopeful that he will be able to move to bullpen sessions within the next week or so.
Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo entered Saturday riding an eight-game hitting streak, during which he has posted a .310 average with one home run, three RBIs and five runs scored, but he went hitless in the contest against the Red Sox.
Entering Saturday, center fielder Michael Brantley was hitting .313 with a .333 on-base percentage in his past 17 games dating back to April 25. He hit .196 with a .274 on-base percentage in the first 12 games of the season prior to that stretch.