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Terry Francona: Carlos Santana open to any option that helps Cleveland Indians

Manager Terry Francona says veteran infielder Carlos Santana is open to any option that helps the Cleveland Indians win.

<p>Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis (22) and designated hitter Carlos Santana (41) celebrate after scoring on a wild pitch by Chicago Cubs pitcher Jon Lester in the fifth inning in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field.</p>

During his seven years with the Cleveland Indians, Carlos Santana has done a little bit of everything for the club, and despite being a veteran in a contract year, he continues to be committed to the goals of the team more than individual achievements.

A catcher during his early days, Santana has also competed at third base, first base and designated hitter, and even played outfield when the Indians played at Wrigley Field in the 2016 World Series. And when Santana was not playing for the Dominican Republic in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, he was working in the outfield to improve his skills and give the organization options to keep him in the lineup.

“Carlos is really open to it,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Santana playing more in left field. “I don’t know. We’ll see. I love the fact that he’s willing to.

“It’s the same stuff we talk about all the time. You have anxiety about playing a guy out of position, but then, if you look up at the end of the game and you haven’t scored…We’re trying to work through all of that stuff. I guess the good news is he’s willing, and I get excited about that.”

The Indians exercised the option on Santana’s contract after he had a career year in 2016.

In 158 regular-season games for the American League champions, Santana collected 151 hits, including 31 doubles, three triples and 34 home runs. In addition to the career-high 34 home runs and triples, Santana scored a personal-best 89 runs and drove in 87, marking his third straight season with at least 85 RBI.

During 15 postseason games, Santana had 10 hits, including one double and three home runs with eight RBI, six runs scored and eight walks.

“He has really done a good job,” Francona said. “He’s worked hard at first this spring. He’s been tremendous, and I guess I just want to make sure that people know that.”

During the 2016 season, Santana had a .259 batting average and .498 slugging percentage, but by virtue of his 99 walks, he had a .366 on-base percentage and settled into the leadoff role for much of the year.

And depending on the health of the Indians’ lineup, Santana could very well fill that leadoff spot during the 2017 season.

“For the first week of the season, probably, but I haven’t spent as much time as maybe people would think just because a big-enough hitter in Brantley changes your order,” Francona said of Santana in the leadoff spot going forward.

“If you’re talking about like third base or a guy that’s going to hit down in the order, that’s different. Michael’s been our three hitter pretty much the whole time, so that can change things. I do like the idea of Santana’s on-base skills, and the other thing to think about is you certainly want to protect Edwin.

“I think people look at Santana as he’s perfect, and he is good. Sometimes, I think Ramirez is even better just because he doesn’t strike out and he’s a switch hitter. It could go either way. Those guys are kind of interchangeable.”

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