Tribe activates Santana, slots him at DH
Acta indicates catcher likely back behind plate Wednesday
DETROIT -- The Indians took their time with Carlos Santana's recovery from a mild concussion, making sure the catcher passed a number of required tests before allowing him to take the field again. On Tuesday, Cleveland had its cleanup hitter again.
No one was more thrilled than Santana.
"I'm very happy," Santana said prior to Tuesday's game against the Tigers at Comerica Park. "It's very exciting to come back to the lineup."
The Indians activated Santana from Major League Baseball's seven-day concussion disabled list before the game and optioned shortstop Juan Diaz back to Double-A Akron to clear a spot on the roster. Santana was in his usual spot in the lineup as the fourth hitter, but the Tribe put him in the designated-hitter role.
Indians manager Manny Acta indicated that Santana would likely move back behind the plate on Wednesday.
"We have to put him back there," Acta said. "He's cleared [by MLB]. He passed everything. He's normal. He's our catcher and he needs to catch."
Santana exited the Indians' game against the White Sox on May 25 in the seventh inning after Alex Rios fouled a pitch off the catcher's mask. As he sat in the dirt behind home plate, clearly dazed, Santana tried to convince Acta that he could remain in the game. Cleveland was not about to put Santana at risk in a possible concussion situation.
"He had no chance," Acta said. "He was dizzy. How can you keep somebody out there that is dizzy, catching balls that are coming at him over 90 mph? We understand that part of the game. Players want to stay in there and help their teammates, but it's a very serious matter nowadays."
With full-time DH Travis Hafner (right knee) on the disabled list and out for at least the next month, the Indians can use Santana as a DH on days he does not catch. For the time being, Cleveland is carrying three catchers, with backup Lou Marson and third-stringer Luke Carlin on the bench.
Through 43 games this season, Santana has hit .245 with five home runs, seven doubles, 24 RBIs and a .360 on-base percentage. On Monday's off-day, Santana went 1-for-4 with a two-run home run in a Minor League rehab appearance for Class A Lake County.
Acta noted that Indians head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff is currently looking into alternatives for the type of mask Santana uses. Santana had been using a titanium frame, which is lighter, but the catcher may go back to using a steel mask to offer better protection. Bench coach Sandy Alomar Jr., a former catcher, said they have been working with Santana on making sure he is wearing the mask properly as well.
Alomar added that Santana's positioning behind the plate might have played a role in the situation. Santana sets up deeper than some catchers due to the way he receives the ball. That can create slightly more space for a foul tip to travel.
"He's not a guy who receives it deep," Alomar said. "Everybody has different styles. He's one of the guys who catches it more out front. That's his style, so he has to give himself more room. But it adds some distance from the point of contact."
That said, Alomar noted that the solution is not as simple as telling Santana to move closer to the plate.
"It doesn't work like that," Alomar said. "A lot of things in catching is a process until you go out there and are able to do it. We'll see how comfortable he gets. He has adjusted many other things. You don't want to put too much stuff on the guy's plate. He already has plenty."
Acta said outfielder Johnny Damon is scheduled to rejoin the team on Wednesday after being gone three days while on paternity leave. Cleveland has not officially announced a subsequent transaction to activate Damon, but Carlin will be removed from the roster prior to Wednesday's game.
Indians third baseman Jack Hannahan, who is currently on the 15-day disabled list with left calf and back issues, might be ready to resume baseball activities by next weekend, according to Acta. Hannahan has hit .276 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 31 games this season.
Indians third baseman Jose Lopez was a late scratch from Tuesday's starting lineup due to lower back soreness. Lonnie Chisenhall replaced Lopez at third base and was slotted into the eighth spot in the batting order. Lopez had been in the original lineup as the Tribe's No. 5 hitter.
On Tuesday, the Indians named Class A Lake County outfielder Jordan Smith the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for May 28-June 3. During that stretch, Smith hit .433 (13-for-30) with one homer, four doubles, one triple and four RBIs, while posting a 1.166 on-base plus slugging percentage.