Sluggers' patience taxing to opposing hurlers

Tribe's Napoli, Santana among leaders in pitches per at-bat

Sluggers' patience taxing to opposing hurlers

CHICAGO -- The power potential that Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana can provide in the heart of the Indians' order will understandably garner the most attention, but it is their patience that can have a trickle-down effect for the rest of the lineup.

Through the first two games, Napoli and Santana have given a glimpse of their ability to see a wealth of pitches. Entering Friday's 7-1 win over the White Sox, the duo had seen 85 combined pitches in their 16 trips to the plate, or an average of 5.3 per plate appearance. Having them back-to-back in the order can be taxing on opposing pitchers.

"They're high-intensity pitches," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "They're making them work late into the count. They're drawing walks. They're putting pressure on them, so when the pitcher gets to other guys, they have runners on base or might have a letdown, because they just went through a long at-bat. It's just making the pitcher work that much more."

Santana has averaged 4.28 pitches per plate appearance over his career and has ranked in the top four among qualified Major League hitters in each of the past three seasons in that category. Napoli led the Majors with 5.57 pitches per PA in 2013 (Santana ranked third that year with 4.29) and the first baseman has averaged 4.34 over his career.

Santana's three-run jack

Napoli, who has been hitting cleanup, had seen 47 pitches through his first eight plate appearances, while Santana (No. 5 in the order) had seen 38 in his eight PAs. They each drew a walk and belted a home run in Wednesday's win over the Red Sox.

"That takes a toll on a pitcher," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "If a pitcher just for a second takes a deep breath or gets frustrated, and gives somebody a pitch they can hit, that definitely [helps]. Plus, I think hitters get more dangerous the more pitches they see."

Other items of note from Friday

• Right-hander Tommy Hunter (15-day disabled list) is making rapid progress in his comeback from offseason core-muscle surgery. On Friday, the reliever was slated to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus, though the Clippers had their game postponed due to inclement weather. His timetable for return to the Majors remains unknown.

"He's been like a bull in a china shop," Francona said. "And I mean that in a good way. We knew that. This guy, he's kind of been on a mission. As they fulfill their obligations, when they pass their milestones with the training staff, there's no reason to hold them back. We don't want to slow guys down."

• Indians left fielder Michael Brantley, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right shoulder issue, joined Triple-A Columbus on Friday to continue his workouts. Cleveland felt it made more sense to send Brantley there, rather than have him deal with traveling to Chicago. Brantley does not have a date for beginning an official Minor League rehab assignment.

• Tribe right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall was scheduled to begin a Minor League rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus on Friday, but the postponement (the second in as many days) will push his program back by a day. Chisenhall is on the 15-day DL due to a left wrist issue that flared during Spring Training.

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.