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Santana's slump could lead to defensive shake-up

Santana has struggled on defense in 2014, recording five errors at third base in 25 games.
Santana has struggled on defense in 2014, recording five errors at third base in 25 games.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

What do the Cleveland Indians do with a problem like Carlos Santana?

The patient Santana is on pace to have a truly strange offensive season. He has just 24 hits in 46 games for a paltry .146 batting average, yet he is actually walking more than ever before in his career. His on-base percentage is .303, nearly 60 points below a career average, but given his lack of hits could be much, much worse.

Manager Terry Francona's hands are tied. He has already begun moving Santana further down in the batting order. He has just 10 extra-base hits through 46 games and he's knocked in 13 (Michael Bourn at the top of the lineup has 11 and he's played in 19 fewer games).

It may have something to do with his defensive change in 2014. Last year, Santana worked in 83 games as catcher, 28 as a first baseman and appeared in 47 as the designated hitter.

In the off-season, Santana honed his infield chops and has spend more than half hits games at third base, splitting the rest of his time at catcher and designated hitter.

Results are mixed, though not encouraging. He's made five errors thus far and just two American League third baseman have more (although, each has played at least 54 more innings there in 2014 than Santana). His fielding percentage is among the worst in the league.

It's hard to speculate whether the defensive change has muddled Santana's hitting focus and spurred a long slump. Either way, it may come to a point where Lonnie Chisenhall, the team's preeminent designated hitter, will get pushed back to his usual third base.

If Santana puts in more time behind the plate, that may allow Yan Gomes to grab some plate appearances as the designated hitter. He has 38 hits in 137 at bats this year, with 15 extra-base hits to his credit to go along with 10 walks.

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