Carlos Santana’s return to Cleveland has been a smashing success

Carlos Santana’s return to Cleveland has been a smashing success

CLEVELAND — Carlos Santana’s last act in Philadelphia was to smash up a couple of big-screen televisions.

Back in his comfort zone of Cleveland, he is simply smashing baseballs.

“Last year was hard because it was difficult for me to play with a new team, new friends, and a new manager,” he said on Monday, the eve of his first All-Star Game. “I played with Cleveland for a long time and it was tough for me. It was a little bit to figure out and I was affected. But I’m happy to come back.”

The Phillies signed Santana to a three-year, $60 million contract before the 2018 season. He hit just .229 with 24 homers, 86 RBIs and a .766 OPS.

The Phils traded him to Seattle in the offseason to open first base for Rhys Hoskins. The Mariners subsequently peddled him to Cleveland, where he played his first eight seasons.

Back with the Indians, Santana is on his way to a career year at age 33. He is hitting .297 with 19 homers, 52 RBIs and a .958 OPS.

“Everyone knows I had power hitting,” he said. “I changed a couple things in the offseason. That helped me a lot. I’m hitting the ball up the middle.”

Santana said he got pull-happy in Philadelphia.

“The Philly stadium is small,” he said. “Right field is like 320 (feet). I wanted to hit to the right side. I wanted to pull. Now, I’m back to trying to hit the ball up the middle.”

Though he struggled in some areas, Santana played in all but one game for the Phillies last season. Even down the stretch, when some players checked out, he posted every night, often out of position at third base. 

Santana did not see the same dedication from some of his teammates and the news came out in March that he ended his stay in Philadelphia by smashing a couple of TVs in a backroom of the clubhouse. He was upset that some players were spending too much time in there playing video games while he and the other eight guys on the field were trying to win a ballgame, often unsuccessfully in September.

“It’s something that happened,” Santana said. “We were fighting with Atlanta and we had lost eight-straight games and I was a little frustrated with that. Everyone knows that that’s not my personality.”

Santana smashed the TVs on the penultimate day of the season. Why didn’t he express his frustration sooner? 

“I don’t know,” he said. “I can’t control it.

“I don’t want to talk about that because it’s in the past. I want to stay with my teammates and I’m so happy here in Cleveland. It’s in the past and I don’t want to talk too much.

“I like Philly. It was a great season. The fans knew baseball. Everything was positive.”

Well, not everything. 

But all is good now for Carlos Santana.

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At the Yard podcast: Phillies takeaways from the GM Meetings


At the Yard podcast: Phillies takeaways from the GM Meetings

Jim Salisbury relays the juiciest info — Phillies and leaguewide — from MLB's GM Meetings in Arizona. Check out the latest At the Yard podcast.

• Scott Boras immediately makes his presence felt

• Biggest takeaways from the GM Meetings

• Phillies interested in Mike Moustakas

• Surveying the third base landscape

• Gerrit Cole, Cole Hamels and more

• Odubel Herrera update

• Gabe Kapler's rocky road to acceptance in San Francisco

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What about Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ forgotten man?

What about Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ forgotten man?

SCOTTSDALE, Arizona — Odubel Herrera, the Phillies’ forgotten man, is working out in Miami as he seeks to restart his career after an 85-game suspension for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

But can the Phillies, given all that has happened, actually ever put him back on the field again?

“I don't know the answer to that. I really don't,” general manager Matt Klentak said at this week’s annual general managers meetings. “I think the best thing I could say there is, because the landscape has changed, he's going to have to earn whatever he gets. He doesn't walk back in as the opening day center fielder. 

“Right now, he’s on the 40-man roster and under contract so if camp started tomorrow, he would be there. What happens between now and February? I don’t know.”

Herrera, who turns 28 next month, was the Phillies’ starting center fielder for four-plus seasons before his suspension for an incident in May, and he has two years and more than $20 million remaining on his contract. When Major League Baseball and the Players Association forged its joint policy on domestic violence, both sides agreed that a player violating the policy could not have his contract voided. To move on from Herrera, the Phillies would have to eat the remainder of his salary and prove that they were releasing him for purely baseball reasons.

If you listen closely, you can almost hear Klentak building that case.

“I think the most important thing to recognize with Odubel is the situation that he left in the spring when he was suspended and the situation he's coming back to are not the same,” Klentak said. “Because Scott Kingery went out there and played a well-above-average defensive center field for us for spurts last year. Adam Haseley came up from the minor leagues and did a really good job and we still have Roman Quinn, who when healthy is as dynamic as any player in the league. So, whereas Odubel had been the everyday center fielder for a handful of seasons, now all of a sudden there's more of a competition there so the landscape has changed.”

Herrera was an All-Star in 2016 but his performance has declined in subsequent seasons. Dating to August 2018, he has hit just .204 over his last 84 games.

The Phillies still have several months before they have to make a decision on Herrera and with five openings on the 40-man roster, they are not in immediate need of space. It is still possible that Herrera could be traded (with the Phillies eating the bulk of his salary and getting little in return), but other teams will face the same public scrutiny about taking on the player. The Phillies could also option Herrera to Triple A, but that would require keeping him on the 40-man roster and in the organization.

Klentak was careful to point out that Herrera “is an option for us.” But given the gravity of the situation and the time that has passed, one has to wonder if he really is. Time will tell.

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