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06/18/11 8:07 PM ET

Santana, Buck working out at first base

CLEVELAND -- Carlos Santana and Travis Buck stood near first base on Saturday afternoon, listing to instructions from Indians manager Manny Acta and third-base coach Steve Smith. It was a crash course in defensive techniques.

With first baseman Matt LaPorta placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right ankle on Saturday, Santana and Buck become the top alternatives to man the position in his absence. Acta indicated that Santana, Cleveland's regular catcher, will now see the bulk of his playing time at first.

"I'm not saying that Carlos is going to be playing there every single day," Acta said. "But for the majority of games, he's going to play at first base."

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On days when Santana plays first base, catcher Lou Marson will be behind the plate for Cleveland. That was the alignment for Saturday's game against the Pirates and, despite only having two catchers on the big league roster, it will likely be the most frequent combination until LaPorta returns.

Up to this point this season, Santana has served as the Tribe's No. 1 catcher and the backup at first to LaPorta, who is expected to be sidelined for two to three weeks. Buck, on the other hand, has no Major League experience as a first baseman. He has, however, played some first base this season with Triple-A Columbus.

The Indians also gave Buck a few innings at first base during Spring Training.

"It could be a little bit," said Buck, when asked how much first base he expects to play. "It could be a lot. It could be none. I've kind of positioned myself where I'm more versatile now than I have been in the past.

"Obviously, the more positions I can play, the better off I'm going to be and the more I'll help this team. Whatever it takes, if I'm over there a lot or not at all, I'm going to be ready at any time."

Acta also noted that third baseman Jack Hannahan is a third option for first base, though the manager would likely prefer to keep his steady glove at the hot corner. In the event that Hannahan does move across the diamond to play first, Adam Everett and Orlando Cabrera could assist the Tribe at third base, too.

"He's valuable wherever they hit a ground ball or throw a ball," Acta said of Hannahan. "We certainly don't want to move Jack the way he's going, but a man's got to do what a man's got to do."

Acta unsurprised by Bucs' defensive shift

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Manny Acta was hardly surprised to see the Pirates using a defensive shift against a handful of Cleveland's hitters during Friday's 5-1 victory over Pittsburgh. Acta has been known to do the same against opposing teams.

"That's done through the defensive charts," Acta said on Saturday. "They must have our guys hitting the ball on the ground that way, and probably hitting it in the air to the opposite field. It's something that some teams do to distract the hitter a little bit, too, and try to make them change their swings and all that.

"That's why I do it a lot of times. Mostly, it's because they must have enough data to tell them that those guys have been pulling the ball on the ground."

In a couple cases, the Pirates began in a normal shift before altering their defensive alignment in the middle of at-bats. Pittsburgh used this approach specifically against Cleveland outfielders, and left-handed hitters Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo on Friday night.

In both situations, the Pirates switched the defense in one-strike counts.

"It's done because with one strike the guy is less likely to try to bunt," Acta said. "They make sure they take away the bunt on the first pitch, because you can always try a bunt if they do it with no strikes. If it's a foul ball, so what? I've got two more strikes left."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle echoed that explanation.

"We'll wait just to honor the fact that they might try to put a ball down early," Hurdle said. "They've shown that they have in the past. We get video like everybody else. There's guys that have taken the early shot at the bunt.

"Not many of them do it with one strike, and obviously none of them are going to do it with two strikes. We stay there for one strike and then we move on out."

Tomlin working to alter his approach

CLEVELAND -- If it is possible to throw strikes to a fault, Indians starter Josh Tomlin was doing so in a recent string of rough outings. When the right-hander was working ahead in the count, he was still being hit hard.

Tomlin showed solid improvement during Friday's 5-1 win over the Pirates.

"I was able to locate my pitches better," Tomlin said. "I wasn't throwing as many 0-2, 1-2 strikes. I was making better pitches on 0-2 and 1-2 to hitters."

In Friday's win, Tomlin allowed just one run on six hits over 6 2/3 innings, finishing with five strikeouts and no walks. In each of his previous three starts, the righty allowed six runs. Part of Tomlin's issue was allowing critical hits when he worked ahead in the count.

"At times," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "we've gotten hurt the last couple weeks when we're way ahead in the count. It's very tough for guys like him to make adjustments and throw the ball two feet outside when they're not used to that."

Entering Saturday, Tomlin was throwing 68 percent of his pitches for strikes, tying him for the highest percentage in the American League. His 66 percent rate for first-pitch strikes was tied for third in the league. Still, Tomlin had allowed 18 percent (seven runs) of his 40 runs when making either an 0-2 or 1-2 pitch.

"We preach as pitchers to get ahead early," Tomlins said. "Once you kind of get in that mode of throwing first-pitch strikes and second-pitch strikes, sometimes you can kind of get lackadaisical and throw a pitch in there for a strike that's 0-2 or 1-2; It doesn't really have a purpose at all, and it gets hit. That's something that can't happen on my end."

Quote to note

"I'm getting used to it a little bit. I've taken ground balls here and there. I thought I did pretty well in Columbus. Obviously it's a little different than the outfield. You have to pay a little bit more attention now." -- Indians outfielder Travis Buck, on playing first base

Smoke signals

• When the Indians lost first baseman Matt LaPorta to a right ankle injury on Saturday, the club did not consider purchasing the contract of veteran first baseman Nick Johnson from Triple-A Columbus. Johnson is coming back from multiple surgeries on his right wrist. "Nick needs at-bats," Indians managers Manny Acta said. "He's not in a spot yet to come up here.

• For 15 minutes following the conclusion of Sunday's Father's Day game against the Pirates, Tribe fans will have a chance to play catch on the outfield grass at Progressive Field. Tickets for the "Play Catch" promotion cost $15 per person and are available in three sessions: 20 minutes after the game (Session 1), 45 minutes after the game (Session 2) and 70 minutes after the game (Session 3). Tickets are limited. More details can be found at indians.com/playcatch.

• Entering Saturday, Indians closer Chris Perez had converted his last 11 consecutive save chances. Dating back to last season, he had converted 27 of his last 28 save opportunities. On the year, Perez had 17 saves (second-most in American League) with a 2.49 ERA and a .200 opponents' batting average.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.