ARLINGTON -- The reality of life as a big league catcher is that the job takes a toll on the player. Indians manager Terry Francona believes that was the main issue during Carlos Santana's recent slump at the plate.
Santana has shown signs of life in the batter's box of late for Cleveland, which leans on him as a regular catcher, part-time first baseman and middle-of-the-order hitter. Francona said Santana's up-and-down showing to this point this season is simply the product of his place on the field.
"Catching catches up with your body," Francona said. "You lose some of the life in your body. I think that's just natural. With Carlos, when he was struggling, he was trying to do too much and got a little long at times. Actually, he's done a lot of his damage when he's been down in the count, when he stays short, because he's so strong and so quick."
Entering Wednesday, the switch-hitting Santana had hit .344 (11-for-32) with a .417 on-base percentage and a .469 slugging percentage over his past nine games. In the previous 29 games, he managed only a .180 average. On the season, Santana was hitting .284 with eight homers, 17 doubles, 27 RBIs, 33 runs and 35 walks through 59 games.
Lately, Francona has increasingly split Santana's playing time between catching, first base and designated hitter. Over the past 25 games, including Wednesday's tilt against Texas, Santana started 48 percent (13 games) behind the plate. He started at catcher in just five of the last 13 games. Over the season's first 40 games, Santana started in 65 percent (26 games) behind the plate.
Francona has started to give backup Yan Gomes more time behind the dish.
"Carlos has the versatility to move around," Francona said. "We didn't want Gomes to get here and sit him very much. We thought that would hinder his development. And he's been catching so well and hitting the ball that it's kind of easy to get him in there. It leaves some gas in Carlos' tank. It's a long year."
"I think it will help [Santana]. I think his body will feel fresher. I know he loves to catch, but I think it'll be good for him in the long run. He is [still] going to catch the bulk of the games."
Kluber doesn't have to rely on just strikeouts
ARLINGTON -- Corey Kluber has shown the potential to become a strikeout artist for the Indians, but he altered his style in his latest outing against the Rangers.
After posting impressive strikeout totals in recent starts, Kluber took advantage of an aggressive Rangers lineup, using his slider and cutter to induce a wave of ground-ball outs on Tuesday during Cleveland's 5-2 win. The right-hander ended with only three strikeouts in his eight innings, but created 14 outs on the ground, including 10 in the first four frames.
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said Kluber picked up on Texas' approach and exploited it.
"I thought it was more their game plan against him," Callaway said. "I'm sure they looked and said, 'Hey, this guy has really good secondary stuff. Don't let him get ahead of you, because he's going to wipe you out.' But he continued to pound the zone and he didn't try to do too much.
"When they're giving you outs early in the count, you take them. He knows that. I think all the pitchers know that, and he did a great job of making pitches early and letting them try to do too much with them."
Heading into Tuesday's victory, Kluber had been one of the American League's top strikeout pitchers over the past month. During the period of May 15-June 10, which includes Kluber's five starts prior to Tuesday, Kluber ranked second in the league with 11.33 strikeouts per nine innings. The rest of the top five in that list includes Anibal Sanchez (11.37), Justin Verlander (11.30), Felix Hernandez (10.36) and Derek Holland (10.36).
"That's pretty good company," Callaway said.
On the season, Kluber has gone 4-4 with a 4.08 ERA over 11 appearances, which include 57 strikeouts and 12 walks over 57 1/3 innings. Entering Wednesday, the right-hander's 4.75 strikeout-to-walk ratio ranked ninth in the AL, and his 8.95 strikeouts per nine innings ranked 12th in the league. Kluber was sixth in the AL with a 26 percent swing-and-miss rate.
Callaway said Kluber has continued to show improvement in making adjustments on the fly.
"Definitely," said the pitching coach. "He's been so good at recognizing when he needs to adjust and what his game plan is, and sticking with a game plan and knowing what people are trying to do against him. He's very prepared and likes information, and he's done a really good job with that this year."
Francona keeping tabs on Chisenhall in Minors
ARLINGTON -- When third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall makes his return to Cleveland, the Indians want it to be for good.
Indians manager Terry Francona had a 45-minute discussion this week with Triple-A Columbus manager Chris Tremie to check up on Chisenhall's progress in the Minors. Francona said on Wednesday that the reports are that Chisenhall has been inconsistent defensively, but off the charts in the batter's box.
Francona would not say whether Chisenhall might have a return trip to the Tribe in the near future.
"I don't know if we have a timetable," Francona said. "I do know that the object of when we sent him down was for it to help. It wasn't punishment. So we want to make sure when he comes back, that he has a base to be successful. That's kind of how we looked at it."
The Indians optioned the 24-year-old Chisenhall -- their Opening Day third baseman this season -- to Triple-A on May 13 after he hit just .213 (20-for-94) in 26 games. At the time of his demotion, Francona said the idea was to give Chisenhall "a deep breath" before bringing him back to the big leagues.
With the Clippers, Chisenhall has been breathing easy.
Through 23 games at Triple-A, the left-handed-swinging Chisenhall has hit at a .402 (37-for-92) clip with six home runs and 24 RBIs. The third baseman has collected 11 walks, 14 extra-base hits and 19 runs scored. In the field, Chisenhall has made eight errors.
Francona reiterated that the Indians want Chisenhall to stick in the Majors after he is brought up again.
"Yeah, we sent him down to help," Francona said, "because we think he's going to be one of our [key players]. He's still really young and there's too much to like. This has happened to a lot of players. To his credit, he's gone down there and he's working hard and getting his hits and getting better. That's good."
Quote to note
"We've got a lot of veteran guys in here who keep us from doing that when we're going through a time like that. It's a game where you're going to go through ups and downs. I think if you start putting more pressure on yourself, you start pressing a little bit. And when you get in those type of situations, it makes it that much harder. Baseball is hard enough as it is."
--Kluber, when asked if he felt pressure on Tuesday to end the team's eight-game losing streak
• One area that the Indians have struggled with this season has been consistency from their left-handed relievers. Heading into Wednesday's game, Cleveland's lefty bullpen arms -- Nick Hagadone, Rich Hill, Scott Barnes and David Huff (no longer with the team) -- had combined for a 7.61 ERA with a 1.65 WHIP. Francona remains optimistic about the southpaws on hand.
"I think we have the right combination," Francona said. "I just don't think we've had the right results yet. When they get rolling, it'll definitely complement our bullpen. There's no denying that. And to be pretty honest, it makes it harder for me, because we have some pretty good right-handers. So you try to pick the right spot. That's been a little bit of a challenge for me lately."
• Indians backup catcher Lou Marson, who has been on the disabled list since April 25 due to a right shoulder injury, is still dealing with soreness and has been pulled from his Minor League rehab assignment with Columbus. Francona noted that Marson recently met with renowned arm specialist Dr. James Andrews. The Indians are expected to provide a more detailed update soon. There is currently no timetable for Marson's return.
• The Indians announced Wednesday that they have signed four players selected in the First-Year Player Draft. Cleveland has signed right-hander Trevor Frank (eighth round out of the University of California Riverside), catcher Shane Rowland (20th round out of the University of Tampa), infielder Grant Fink (23rd round out of Missouri Western State College) and infielder Mike Giuffre (36th round out of Brookdale Community College in New Jersey).