CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The words “giving birth” and “at the best possible moment” do not occur often in the same sentence, at least without a few pounds, few ounces of sarcasm attached.
For Indians first baseman Carlos Santana, his wife Brittany may not have “picked” a better time to have the couple’s third child.
The 31-year old returned to the team Saturday after three days on the paternity list, perhaps needed time off for the switch hitter. In a corresponding move, the team optioned RHP Shawn Armstrong to Columbus.
Along with all of the responsibilities with bringing a child into the world, especially all while having two children already, Santana’s season has been a harsh rebound from his career year in 2016.
“Everything went well with the birth. That’s always nice to get off your shoulders,” Acting Manager Brad Mills said. “I think he’s had a little mental break as well.”
Santana has acknowledged his struggles so far this season, and the numbers back up the idea of a slow half-season. After posting career highs in OPS, wRC+, WAR and wOBA for a single season a year ago, the first baseman has struggled to career lows in all four categories through 82 games in 2017.
If anything was imperfect about the timing is was that Santana has gained some traction as of late, posting a .345/.424/.621 split over 33 plate appearances in his last eight games.
His return comes at a time where the offense around him have gotten hot collectively, posting back-to-back 11-run nights, but also against a pitcher in which both Santana and the Indians as a whole have had success.
In his career, Santana is 17-for-73 off of Tigers Saturday starter Justin Verlander, with eight home runs, 10 walks, a .233/.329/.616 slash and a .946 OPS. The eight dingers are double the amount against injured Twins closer Glen Perkins, second on Santana’s casualty list.
Since 2016, the Indians have hammered the former Cy Young winner, posting a .728 OPS against him in five games a season ago, the highest among opponents Verlander faced more than twice.
The onslaught has continued in 2017 through three games in which the Indians have a 1.068 OPS on five home runs through 14 1/3 innings.
Against the Tigers as a whole, Santana posted a 1.009 OPS over 18 starts a season ago, with a respectable .799 mark through 9 starts in 2017.
The timing may be nice for Edwin Encarnacion as well, who played three consecutive games at first base, his first stretch of three or more in the field since early April.
“(Edwin) can be the DH now and put Carlos back at first base and kind of go from there,” Mills said. “I think the whole process is pretty good. Get Carlos back at first base in the lineup and get Edwin where he’s comfortable back at DH. Not that he’s not comfortable at first, but get him kind of restful there as the DH.”