CLEVELAND — Indians catcher Lou Marson is one of the hottest hitters in the American League, but that doesn’t mean he will see more action in the second half of the season.
Tribe manager Manny Acta said he plans on keeping catcher Carlos Santana and first baseman Casey Kotchman in their present roles, even though Marson has made a strong case for more starts.
“The way Lou is hitting does make things easier for me, but that’s not going to change what we’re doing on an everyday basis,” Acta said Thursday prior to Cleveland’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays.
“It makes us happy, though, to see him coming around the way he has.”
Marson is batting .478 during his current six-game hitting streak, including a 2-for-4 performance Wednesday in the Indians’ 12-3 win over the Angels. Over his last 19 games, the three-year veteran is hitting .393 (24-for-61).
On the season, Marson now tops the Tribe in batting average at .295 and on-base percentage at .394 — though he doesn’t have nearly enough plate appearances to qualify for the MLB leaders in either category.
“Marson has been a huge plus for us lately,” Cleveland outfielder Johnny Damon said. “It also should help us down the line because it’s going to let Carlos have the chance to rest more or play some more at first base.”
The Indians are 29-21 when Santana starts at catcher, compared to 12-16 for Marson. Santana also has an AL-best 36.6 percent success rate throwing out base stealers, while Marson is at 7.1 percent.
Kotchman, meanwhile, remains the MLB all-time leader in fielding percentage at first base at .998. He also is warming up with the stick, batting .273 in his last 25 games and is the ninth-toughest batter to strike out in the AL.
According to Acta, those numbers offset both players’ shaky season averages. Kotchman is hitting .231, while Santana is at .218.
“We can’t forget that Santana is our everyday guy behind the plate,” the skipper said. “We also have a regular first baseman.
“Now, Lou does give me some options if I want to give one of them a day off or use Carlos at first base or give Travis (Hafner, designated hitter) a break. I’ll feel pretty good about doing it, but don’t expect things to be much different than they have been when everyone has been healthy.”
Damon and Kotchman both played for the Rays last season, helping Tampa Bay win the AL wild-card berth.
Not surprisingly, the visiting media mobbed them at their lockers before the game, asking for their thoughts on their old and new teams.
“Having Johnny in Cleveland with me is a lot of fun, but I’m just trying to be a good teammate and help out any way I can,” said Kotchman, who attended high school in St. Petersburg and still lives there.
“I do try and keep track of the Rays on a day-to-day basis because we had a lot of fun times together last season.”
The well-traveled Damon also spoke fondly of his time with Tampa Bay, joking, “Every year it feels like I’m playing against a new former team.”
Damon continued, “When I’m done playing, the Rays are definitely a team that I’ll love coming to visit. After all the ups and downs we went through last year, and of course the brilliant finish, we really became like a family.”
Indians pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez has clearly turned the corner, posting a fine 2.93 ERA over his last six starts.
In his first 10 performances this year, the lanky right-hander had a 5.79 ERA, leading to much speculation about his future in Cleveland.
“Early in the year, every five days it was a big question mark what you’d get, due to his inability to throw strikes consistently,” Acta admitted. “But for the last month and a half now, you look forward to seeing him pitch because he gives us a chance.”
Baseball being baseball, Jimenez has only gone 2-3 since regaining his throwing touch on June 5. He went 5-4 over the first two months of the season.
Overall, Jimenez is 7-7 with a 4.59 ERA and leads the AL with 57 walks and nine wild pitches.
Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan and his wife Elyse have welcomed twin boys into their family, William and Walker. The new mother and her sons are all doing well.
Duncan was placed on the three-day paternity list Wednesday, meaning Cleveland must make a move to return him to the 25-man roster before its Saturday game against Tampa Bay.
Avon Lake and Kent State product Nick Hamilton started at third base and went 1-for-3 in his pro debut with the Single-A Arizona Rookie League Indians. Hamilton’s father Tom is the Tribe’s longtime radio play-by-play announcer.
Cleveland’s average home attendance of 18,815 is the worst in MLB by nearly 2,000 fans per game. The Rays rank 29th at 20,583, while Oakland is 28th at 21,401.
Quote of the day
“When you put the bat on the ball, you’ve got a chance. If you strike out, you’ve got no chance. That’s why we stress the importance of not striking out so much around here.” — Indians manager Manny Acta.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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