Well, we don’t know for sure whether he’ll be batting cleanup or not, but according to Indians manager Terry Francona—and he ought to know—Carlos Santana will indeed start the 2014 season as the Indians’ everyday third baseman, getting the nod over Lonnie Chisenhall.
Having been replaced as the team’s #1 catcher by Yan Gomes in the second half of the 2013 season, Santana, who was originally signed as a third baseman in the minors, offered to move to third base if the Indians management thought it would be a good idea. Toward that end, Santana played a lot of third base in the Dominican Republic winter league. Indians infield instructor Mike Sarbaugh spent considerable time working on mechanics with Santana.
The results were encouraging enough to continue playing Santana at third in spring training. Yesterday, when the team announced that Chisenhall, who was a disappointment at the plate last year, would be part of the 25-man roster on Opening Day, many observers concluded that he would be the starting third baseman. But today Francona made it clear that he was going with Santana, and that he had no intention of platooning with Chisenhall.
This news has to come as a disappointment to Chisenhall, but given his 2013 slash line of .225/.270/.398, he might just be relieved that he made the team at all. In addition to using Chiz at third when Santana relieves Gomes behind the plate, as he will probably do at least once or twice a week, Francona will likely use Chisenhall as a defensive replacement for Santana in the late innings of close games.
Given Santana’s relative unfamiliarity with playing one of the more important defensive positions, this idea may not work. If Santana proves to be a huge defensive liability at third, Francona will probably reconsider and give the job back to Chisenhall. If that happens, Santana, who isn’t going anywhere, will simply see more at-bats as the DH, or will occasionally start at first base.