Cleveland Indians: Will Thumb Injury Cool Down the Hot Start of Carlos Santana?

Updated: April 15, 2013

By Evan Meyer
Staff Writer

During a break in the action of the Cleveland Indians 14-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Tuesday night at Progressive Field, catcher Carlos Santana was seen sitting at the far end of the third base dugout doing his best impression of the late actor Telly Savalas in the 1970s TV drama ‘Kojak’, as he was enjoying a lollipop with his left thumb and wrist in a compression bandage.

The injury occurred in the ninth inning of the home opener Monday, when Santana was hit on the thumb from a fastball thrown by right handed pitcher Chris Perez and had to leave the game. He said afterwards that it was a mix-up in signs and he is listed as day-to-day.

The injury stopped what has been a phenomenal start for the 27-year old, which began as the starting catcher for his native Dominican Republic team winning the 2013 World Baseball Classic, defeating Puerto Rico in the Championship Series 2-0. Santana batted .273 in the classic with two homers and three RBIs. He led all players in the event with nine walks.

He rejoined the team at the end of spring training and batted an impressive .333 average. But when the season started in Toronto, he was hitting the cover off the baseball with a .500 average (12-of-24) with two homers and five RBI along with three multi-hit games.

In the series finale against Tampa Bay, Carlos celebrated his 27th birthday by going a career best five-for-five with two homers and three RBIs. Before the injury, he was second in the AL with that .500 average, and according to Indians media relations, only Julio Franco and Carlos Baerga, had started a season stronger offensively than Santana.

When Manny Acta was the Indians manager, he wanted to make Santana the big bat of the lineup. When he got called up in 2010, he hit a solid .260 with six homers and 22 RBI in 46 games before breaking his leg in a collision at home plate early August in Boston and was lost for the season.

In 2011, recovering from the injury, Carlos was a designated hitter and played some first base as well as catcher. His batting average dipped a bit to .239 but had 27 homers and 79 RBI’s.

Last year, he got off to a very slow start at the plate, but finished the campaign leading the club in homers (18) and RBI (76) as the Indians struggled last season especially in the second half. While the team had trouble collecting victories, it was not the fault of Santana who hit .278 with 13 homers and 47 RBI.

With the acquisitions of Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds, Santana no longer has to be the biggest bat in the Indians lineup, play designated hitter or first base, he can concentrate again on being an everyday catcher, a position that he has not gotten to do full-time since he came up in 2010.

The day he went five-for-five against the Rays, Carlos not only celebrated his birthday, but agreed to a five-year $21 million contract as he will be one of the keys to the Indians future.

When he returns from the thumb injury, do not expect him to come to the plate with the lollipop in his mouth and say to the umpire and the opposing catcher “Who loves ya, baby?”

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