October 30, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
42°F

Tribe commentary: Don’t be crazy, just let Santana catch

The Indians lead the major leagues in wild pitches and the fingers are beginning to point in catcher Carlos Santana’s direction, especially after an errant offering from Matt Albers scored the winning run in a 2-1 loss to the Royals on Monday.

Is Santana a great defensive catcher? No. But the Indians don’t lead the big leagues in passed balls. It is called a wild pitch for a reason. I have an idea for Cleveland pitchers: Throw more strikes. Pretty sure Santana would catch those.

Does Santana need to a better job of blocking the ball? I think the answer is an obvious, “Yes.” But does he need to change positions — again — or become a career designated hitter? Some would say yes, but I say no.

I don’t hear people criticizing Santana’s arm and ability to derail the opposition’s running game. That’s part of defense, too, ya know? And doesn’t he get some credit for the rotation’s recent hot streak? Calling a game, which Santana has been praised often for this season by pitchers and manager Terry Francona, is also an aspect of defense behind the plate.

People are calling for this guy’s job, or at least strongly suggesting that he should move because he doesn’t block the ball well? Have you seen him hit one? It’s a possibility that Santana, who entered Saturday batting .277 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs in 67 games, is the Indians’ lone All-Star representative among a weak crop of American League catchers. Along with Minnesota’s Joe Mauer, St. Louis’ Yadier Molina and San Francisco’s Buster Posey, Santana is one of the majors’ top offensive backstops — and the Dominican Republic native might have more power than any of them outside of maybe Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia, who had 15 homers through Friday, but was batting just .217.

The offensive production Cleveland gets from its catcher is a rare commodity, and there’s no guarantee that’s going to come from Yan Gomes should the Indians relocate Santana.

And how do you think Santana’s psyche will handle another move? “Hey, kid, you were so bad behind the dish, I think we’re going to need to move you to DH.”

A big part of the reason for this discussion is because of the emergence of Gomes, another offensive-minded player, who like Santana, began his career as a third baseman.

While I will agree that the Indians need to find more playing time for Gomes, it shouldn’t come at Santana’s expense. And let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves with Gomes, who has been nicknamed “Yanny Bench” by teammates. He’s put up solid offensive numbers in 31 games through Friday — .261 with six homers and 17 RBIs — but he’s far from a finished product, and it should be him, not Santana, moving around.

I’m not saying Santana wouldn’t be better suited at first base or even DH, but Cleveland’s current roster wasn’t built that way. When healthy and productive, Nick Swisher plays first base, Lonnie Chisenhall plays third, Mark Reynolds is the DH and Santana is the catcher. Now that Chisenhall is back, there isn’t much room for Gomes when Swisher returns from injury.

Bottom line, Santana is an average defensive player with above-average offensive abilities that make it easier to live with his shortcomings blocking the ball on WILD PITCHES.

My, my Myers

The Brett Myers deal looked like a questionable one when the Indians signed the right-hander to a one-year contract worth a whopping $7 million this offseason.

Not any more, though. It’s clearly a terrible one.

We’re nearly three months into the regular season and Myers has made four appearances (three starts) — all of them bad — while accumulating an 0-3 record and 8.02 ERA.

He’s been on the disabled list since April 20 with elbow tendinitis and has already had one minor league rehab assignment scrapped. I’m not real sure the Indians don’t want to just keep him on the injured list if they can.

At this point, the only senario would be Myers returning as a reliever, a role he served fulltime last year with the Astros and White Sox.

And if that’s the case, he will be one of the highest-paid relievers in the league. And probably not a very good one, either.

Speaking of that

Reds manager Dusty Baker praised the Indians’ offense after Cleveland swept his team at Progressive Field on May 29-30.

“They can hit,” Baker said. “The Indians have been hitting since the beginning of time. It’s just a matter of how they pitch. They’ve got an improved team, big time. They aren’t the same team we played last year.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.