There was a healthy dose of skepticism when it was reported in November that Carlos Santana was working out at third base, but it sounds like a position switch could actually happen.
In a story (link in Spanish) by Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes, Santana said that he’s “getting ready to play third base, no other position” and that “those are the plans of the team.”
The experiment is clearly a priority, as the Indians sent infield coach and third base coach Mike Sarbaugh down to the Dominican Republic to help Santana with the transition while he was playing in winter ball. While there have naturally been some struggles, the reviews have been mostly positive. However, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti recently told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com that the club will wait before making a final decision on his role for 2014.
“The most important thing is that he’s working hard at it. He’s committed to being the best player he can be at the position, which is great. That’s all we’re looking for at this point. We’re months away from having to make any sort of evaluations or decisions.”
Santana played some third base early on in his pro career as a farmhand with the Dodgers, but he hasn’t done so since 2008 when he was in High-A ball. While the position switch is a bold idea, it’s easy to see the benefits of the experiment, as Yan Gomes could take over as the full-time catcher in 2014. If Santana can’t cut it at third, he’ll likely split time between catcher, first base and DH like he did last season. The Indians still have Lonnie Chisenhall as a fallback possibility at third base, but he has been a disappointment so far in the major leagues.
The Yankees and Astros are set for Game 7 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday, and neither team will hold back as they seek a World Series berth. The Astros are prepared to back starter Charlie Morton with any able-bodied pitcher in their ranks — including Justin Verlander, though A.J. Hinch said it would be a “dream scenario” to get anything more from his ace — while the Yankees are prepared to utilize all but a few of their arms. One pitcher you won’t see? Right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who last took the hill for the Yankees during their Game 5 shutout on Wednesday.
Tanaka expended 103 pitches over seven scoreless innings in his last start, fending off the Astros with three hits, a walk and eight strikeouts. He hasn’t pitched on fewer than three days of rest all year, and even with a do-or-die scenario facing the Yankees on Saturday night, manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to compromise his starter’s ability to stay rested and ready for the World Series.
Girardi will also play it safe with fellow right-hander Sonny Gray, who dominated in a five-inning performance in Game 4. All other pitchers should be available and ready to go, though the club is hoping for a lengthy outing from veteran starter CC Sabathia. Sabathia is no stranger to the postseason: over eight separate playoff runs, he touts one championship title and a collective 4.24 ERA in 123 innings. He held the Astros scoreless in his Game 3 start, blanking them over six innings on three hits, four walks and five strikeouts for an eventual 8-1 win.
Even without Tanaka or Gray likely to take the mound for Game 7, the Yankees will enter the series finale with history on their side. Per MLB.com, they have a 4-3 road record in Game 7s and are 6-7 in all 13 Game 7 finales to date. The Astros, on the other hand, dropped their first and only Game 7 clincher back in 2004, when the Cardinals capped the NLCS with a 5-2 win in St. Louis. The teams are scheduled to face off for the first-ever Game 7 at Minute Maid Park on Saturday at 8:00 PM ET.