4/23/2013 8:39 P.M. ET
Santana's calmed approach paying dividends
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
CHICAGO -- Carlos Santana used to swing out of his shoes. Upon seeing a pitch he liked, the Indians catcher had a bad habit of hacking at it with all his might.
So far this season, Santana has reined himself in and the results have been strong.
"All the time, I tried to swing hard," Santana said. "This year, I have more control and I'm seeing the ball better."
The catcher's calmed approach has led to a strong first month.
Through 15 games, the switch-hitting Santana is batting .352 with four home runs, seven doubles, eight walks, nine RBIs and 11 runs scored. His 17.7 extra-base hit percentage (the percentage of extra-base hits within total plate appearances) ranked second in the American League, entering Tuesday.
"He's been pretty good so far," said hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo, who then laughed at his understatement. "He's a dangerous hitter. He's got power from both sides. He's got pretty darned good eye for the most part. Sometimes he'll try to do a little too much, but when he stays within himself, you've got to really pitch to him."
Another promising development for the Tribe has been Santana's early consistency from both sides of the plate.
Santana has hit .321 with a 1.044 OPS in 28 at-bats against right-handed pitchers and .385 with a 1.231 OPS against lefties. The catcher's production hitting lefty or righty has varied over his young career. In his rookie season in 2010, Santana hit .314 (1.002 OPS) against righties and .143 (.582 OPS) against lefties. From 2011-12, he hit .221 (.751 OPS) against right-handers and .296 (.888 OPS) against left-handers.
"What's really important for me is consistency," Santana said. "My first year, I was better left handed. The second year, it was right-handed. This year, I feel comfortable with my swing from both sides. I think it's experience. ... And I don't try to do too much from both sides."
When Van Burkleo was hired as Cleveland's new hitting coach this past offseason, he was excited about Santana's potential.
"Just looking at his video, I loved his swing," Van Burkleo said. "I think the biggest thing was just getting him to stay within himself and not take the big swing where he loses control of his body. He's got a big leg kick, but it also really loads that front side well, and when he maintains it and gets into that good firing position, he creates tremendous torque.
"If you look at Miguel Cabrera, he's got a big coil in the lower half, and that's why he creates so much torque and can drive the ball to all fields."
Swisher appreciates heads-up on lineup spot
CHICAGO -- Nick Swisher has reached a point in his career where he is no longer left guessing where he will be on the field or in the lineup when he arrives at the ballpark. Manager Terry Francona makes sure Swisher knows a day or two in advance.
"It took me 10 years to get this," Swisher said. "Now that I do have it, I guess I appreciate it that much more."
Swisher is not an exception, though. In his first season managing the Indians, Francona has made a point to communicate lineup decisions with all his players. Cleveland has a mix of players who can handle a variety of positions, so Francona wants to make sure they know in advance where they will be playing.
Swisher said that approach goes a long way.
"[Francona] has done a great job communicating," said Swisher, who moves between first base and right field. "I feel like I know every single day what I'm going to be doing. He does a really good job of that, especially with a guy who does move around as much as I do. It's nice to be able to have a manager who tells you ahead of time. You can get your mind mentally wrapped around that."
So far this season, Swisher has started 10 games at first base, five in right and five as a designated hitter. Other players who have moved around include Carlos Santana (catcher, first base), Mark Reynolds (first base, third base, DH), Mike Aviles (second base, shortstop, third base), Ryan Raburn (second base, outfield) and Drew Stubbs (right field, center field).
"We've got a lot of guys that can pay a lot of different positions," Swisher said. "That's a great thing for a manager to have. ... He lets guys know ahead of time, maybe even a couple days ahead of time, where they're going to be. So you know when you come to the ballpark every single day, you're ready to go. There's no questions that need to be answered. You know exactly where you stand."
Marson likely to be activated off DL on Wednesday
CHICAGO -- Backup catcher Lou Marson was back with the team on Tuesday, feeling better and itching to get back on the field.
As things currently stand, Cleveland is planning on activating Marson from the 15-day disabled list prior to Wednesday's game against the White Sox. It is possible that Marson will play, considering Chicago will be starting lefty Jose Quintana and Tribe catcher Carlos Santana was feeling under the weather on Tuesday.
Cleveland has not announced the corresponding move to add Marson back to the roster, but it is possible that catcher Yan Gomes will be sent back to Triple-A Columbus. If that is the going to be the case, Gomes is understanding of Cleveland's desire to keep him playing regularly rather than gathering rust in a bench role.
"It's their decision," Gomes said on Tuesday. "It's not like I can say anything about it, but I'll be happy either way just to be playing. I've had a great time here, man. It's a great team, a great atmosphere, a great organization and a great staff. Everything has been awesome."
Gomes was called up from Triple-A on April 9, when Marson landed on the 15-day DL with a strained neck due to a collision at home plate on April 6.
In six games with Cleveland since being summoned from Columbus, the 25-year-old Gomes has hit .211 (4-for-19) with one triple, two home runs and three RBIs. Gomes has thrown out the only two runners to attempt to steal against him, and he has posted a 3.52 catcher's ERA in his 46 innings behind the plate.
Gomes, who played multiple positions last season between five stints with the Blue Jays, has enjoyed the Indians' decision to keep him behind the plate on a regular basis.
"Absolutely," Gomes said. "It almost turns out to be a little easier for me, especially not having to work on so many positions. I can focus on one. They've made it pretty clear with me and I like that. I like the honesty. They let me know what they really want from me."
Quote to note
"That day in Houston, where we kind of broke out, I think it was good just mentally for the whole group. Some of the guys that got off to a slow start, I think they're starting to come around. I like some of the things that I'm seeing in their work. They're working hard. It's just a matter of time."
-- Van Burkleo, on Saturday's 19-6 win over the Astros
• Center fielder Michael Bourn, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right index finger injury, is scheduled to be re-examined on Thursday in Cleveland before rejoining the team in Kansas City this weekend. If Bourn has his stitches removed during the exam, he will be able to initiate baseball activities. He is eligible to be activated April 30.
• On Tuesday, the Indians named Double-A Akron infielder Giovanny Urshela the organization's Minor League Player of the Week for April 15-22. During that time period, Urshela hit .333 (10-for-30) with one home run, four doubles and seven RBIs for the Aeros. He recorded four multihit games and posted a .900 OPS over that span.
• Designated hitter Mark Reynolds entered Tuesday leading the American League with a rate of 8.6 at-bats per home run. His 10 percent home run rate (seven in 70 plate appearances) was also the best in the AL. Reynolds ranked fifth in the league with a rate of 4.33 pitches per plate appearance.