CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The best ability is availability, as the adage goes, and the Indians have been experiencing a lack thereof in the past month.
But over the last five years, no one has been as readily available as first baseman Carlos Santana, which makes his current stretch of recent bout with lower back stiffness such a departure from the norm.
The 31-year old has not missed more than 10 games in a season since 2012, a year in which he played a career-high 100 games at catcher. He had missed four games in 2017 prior to his off day on Tuesday, and is not in the starting lineup on Wednesday.
Indians Manager Terry Francona said the switch-hitter could be available off of the bench and feels like he could return to the lineup on Thursday. But the skipper also said he is not in a rush to write his name on the scorecard.
“It’s hard to lose guys even for a couple of days, but in the grand scheme of things, he’s played so much,” Francona said. “That’s why I’m not really trying to like, push him to be available.”
Santana appeared in the team’s first 82 games before missing the standard three days for paternity leave in early July. In 2016, he played 111 of the team’s first 112, missing one game in Philadelphia to allow Mike Napoli to play first base.
The break comes in the midst of a standard second-half Santana renaissance, as he has raised his batting average from .221 on June 24th to .252 on August 20th.
Francona said the couple of days off could lead to a continued ascent.
“I think if he can get a couple of days down it can help him, besides the fact that you don’t want him walking around with a back that is killing him, but a couple of days rest can really maybe help energize him because he’s played a bunch,” the manager said. “I mean, I know before I got here he played, but he plays. He posts every day. It’s really pretty amazing.”
Francona addressed the situations of the handful of current starters on the shelf with injury.
Jason Kipnis was placed on the 10-day disabled list for the third time this season, the second time for a hamstring issue. Infielder Erik Gonzalez was recalled in his stead.
On Kipnis: “He got scanned this morning and it showed that he did re-aggravate that. Now, is it scar tissue? That’s a little hard to tell. So, we kind of talked with Kip and rather than maybe try to milk it for three or four days, I think we felt like, let’s get him healthy. For however long we play, let’s give him a chance to be healthy. And I think he agreed with it. So, there’s really no timetable. It’s going to be on how he feels. If it truly is scar tissue, he’ll be quicker than probably normal, but like I said, they truly don’t know. His strength is pretty good, so we’ll see how it goes.”
On Lonnie Chisenhall: “Lonnie is going to join us Friday and work out with us, then potentially go back and play on Sunday, a game. I told him, ‘why don’t we get you back here and just revisit,’ because he’s had quite a week. So we’ll sit down and talk and see what we think he needs and what he thinks he needs. I think he felt like he was in a pretty good place. I think he’s been down, I think the last time he played was Saturday.”
On Michael Brantley: “He’s doing baseball activities, but he’s just not ready to resume running. It’s just got to heal. I know he’s wanting – if wanting to is going to help, you know – but you’ve just got to wait until it heals. I know he’s biting it, frustrated and is wanting to play, but we’ve got to let that thing heal.”