"We've tried to tell our catchers, 'Defense first,'" Francona said. "Then, if we turn around and hit the guy cleanup, that's kind of sending the wrong message."
Santana was in Cleveland's starting lineup as the fourth hitter for Friday's game against the A's, marking the second straight game that he assumed the cleanup duties. Slumping shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera -- the cleanup man over the past few weeks -- was dropped from fourth to sixth in the order.
Francona said the difference now is that Yan Gomes has seen an increasing amount of time behind the plate for the Indians. In turn, Santana has taken on more time at first base or designated hitter, the role he served on Friday.
"The reason we really didn't [hit Santana fourth] early," Francona said, "and I was retty open about it, was the fact that he was catching. ... But we've been catching Gomes more now, and with Santana either playing first or DHing, I don't feel like maybe we're sending the wrong message. Hopefully, we can use his offensive skills and not take away from the defense."
Entering Friday, the switch-hitting Santana was batting .261 with 14 home runs, 29 doubles, 51 RBIs and 60 walks in 113 game. Over the course of his career, he has spent the most time in the cleanup spot (194 games), but Friday marked only his seventh game filling that role this season under Francona.
Cabrera, who was out of Wednesday's lineup in Minnesota, entered Friday mired in an 0-for-16 slump. Over his past 36 games, he was hitting .175 with a .200 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), showing that some bad luck has played a role. In his previous 60 games, Cabrera hit .268 with a .333 BABIP.
"I actually think Cabby hit a lot of balls hard," Francona said. "I think when you hit in the middle of the order, you're going to get pitched to a little differently. That's why I kind of like the idea of a veteran there, because I'd rather a veteran handle it than a younger guy. I just think it works better.
"I do think Cabby has hit a lot of balls, lately, hard, and he hasn't gotten rewarded for it."