With no DH vs. Bucs, slumping Santana sits

Francona confident first baseman will find hot streak

With no DH vs. Bucs, slumping Santana sits

PITTSBURGH -- Traveling to a National League city always presents a problem for Indians manager Terry Francona. For the series opener against the Pirates on Friday, first baseman Carlos Santana became the odd-man out with no designated hitter in the lineup.

Francona also felt the slumping Santana could potentially benefit from the break.

"That's the hope," Francona said. "I still think we keep waiting for Carlos to get hot. We all know he has it in him, and we've seen it. Remember last year, I think we went into Kansas City and he just went crazy with home runs and doubles. We know that's in there. When it comes out, we'll be thrilled."

Francona was referencing the trip to Kansas City last July 24-27, when Santana hit .643 (9-for-14) with five home runs in four games and used that offensive outburst to ignite a solid final two months. The switch-hitting Santana began last season in a prolonged cold spell, and he has followed on a similar path through the first three months this year.

Entering Friday's action, Santana was batting .211 with a .347 on-base percentage and a .367 slugging percentage, which are career lows in each category for the first baseman.

Over his past 20 games, Santana was only hitting .162 (12-for-74) with 21 strikeouts against nine walks, showing that even his keen eye has been absent over the past few weeks. Drawing free passes is one of Santana's primary skills, and he had nearly as many walks (54) as strikeouts (55) heading into this series at PNC Park.

"His work in the cage with [the hitting coaches] is impeccable," Francona said. "He's just been having a hard time carrying it through to the games more consistent. He'll take one good swing and you'll see it, and the next one you'll see him maybe pull a ball in the stands or roll over it or something. But it's there."

With Santana starting Friday's game on the bench, Brandon Moss moved from right field to first base and David Murphy (usually a DH or outfielder) manned right for Cleveland.

"At times early in the year, Murph would be the pinch-hitter," Francona said. "I just thought sometimes that's too easy to do. This way, you give a guy a day off. You can also keep some of the bats in the lineup that seem to be hot. ... It also gives us a switch-hitter off the bench."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.