Left turn: Indians start Carlos Santana in left for Game 3
CHICAGO (AP) — Indians manager Terry Francona barely batted an eye before deciding to send slugger Carlos Santana into left field.
The decision wasn’t hard.
“We didn’t show up to keep the game close,” Francona said before Game 3 of the World Series. “We’re trying to win.”
Despite Santana having minimal experience in left, Francona has him out there Friday night as the Indians and Cubs play the first Series game at Wrigley Field since 1945.
Cleveland’s designated hitter, Santana has only played four innings in left in his seven seasons with Cleveland, and that was back in 2012.
But with the Indians unable to use the DH during three games in the National League ballpark, Francona was in a bind and chose to go with Santana — over Coco Crisp or Brandon Guyer — while knowing it could backfire.
“Carlos has been terrific about it,” Francona said. “He volunteered. He seems excited. If he makes a bad play out there, it would hurt our chances to win and then come talk to me, not Carlos. I don’t think that’s fair to him. I really think when it’s all said and done, this gives us a better chance to win than not or I wouldn’t have done it.
“Certainly, it’s a little bit of a crapshoot, I get that,” Francona said. “But I don’t think we came all this way to play it safe.”
The Indians are confident Santana is athletic enough, but Santana will also have to deal with nerves, winds blowing hard toward left and Chicago’s Bleacher Bums who will undoubtedly criticize his every move.
Francona said he spoke to his players, Cleveland president Chris Antonetti and general Mike Chernoff before making the move with Santana, who came up as an outfielder but has primarily caught or played first and third base.
He had to make a similar move when Francona managed Boston, putting David Ortiz at first.
“He ended up coming up and throwing somebody out at third in a Cardinal game,” Francona said. “The rules are what they are, so, you can either complain or try to adjust. I’m obviously a little uncomfortable because he hasn’t done it. But still, it potentially outweighs not playing him or (Mike) Nap (Napoli). Tomorrow, we’ll see. If I had a crystal ball, I’d either do it or not, but I don’t. I’ve been thinking about this since we clinched, even before we knew who was going to be pitching.”
The Cubs have their own issues in left.
Slugger Kyle Schwarber wasn’t medically cleared to play in the field after coming off knee surgery, so Chicago manager Joe Maddon can only use him as a pinch-hitter.
Despite missing six months, Schwarber had no rustiness in his sweet swing as he went 3 for 7 with two walks and two RBIs in Games 1 and 2, providing some needed punch for Chicago after Maddon benched struggling right fielder Jason Heyward.
Jorge Soler will start in right in Game 3 for Chicago with Ben Zobrist in left.