Santana's hitting issues overshadowing progress in the field

Carlos Santana made some terrific plays at third base in last night's game, but his solid fielding has been overshadowed by his struggles at the plate.

Cleveland Indians third baseman Carlos Santana (41) fields a ground ball hit by Minnesota Twins first baseman Chris Colabello.

David Richard / USA Today Sports Images

CLEVELAND -- Terry Francona said early in spring training that there wouldn't be a fair gauge on how Carlos Santana was doing at third until he was tested in plenty of game situations. With three great plays in Wednesday's 4-3 win over the Twins, Santana has exceeded expectations in the field.

In 17 games at third, Santana has made only two errors in 44 chances. That has been overshadowed due to Santana's struggles at the plate and the Indians leading the majors in errors with 34.

"I've been working hard with Sarby (third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh) and I'm feeling more comfortable at third," Santana said.

Santana was tested starting on the first pitch of the game when Brian Dozier laid down a bunt. Santana didn't hesitate and grabbed it bare handed and threw it down to first where Nick Swisher also displayed some nice footwork by catching it and staying on the bag.

After striking out to end the third, Santana robbed Chris Colabello of a single in the fourth with a diving stop and quick throw.

Said Mike Aviles of the play: "It shows what he is capable of doing. You see him range to his left, dive, get up. He caught the ball and when he got up I knew the guy was out because he has a cannon. It's just one of those things that shows how versatile he is and what he can bring to the table."

In the ninth, Santana had to go into foul territory near the third-base dugout and got the final out, which ended a Twins rally. Minnesota had runners on first and second when Santana made the catch while fighting off a fan wearing a tie-dye shirt. He stumbled but held on to the ball.

Santana said of the play that he was just trying to follow the flight of the ball to have a chance at getting it and didn't notice the fan.

"Santana, he was doing magic with the glove tonight," pitcher Danny Salazar said.

After going 4 for 11 with a pair of home runs and six RBI in the Angels series, Santana is 2 for 22 during the current homestand and is hitless in his last 20 at-bats as his average has dropped to .139. The lowest it has been this season is .122 after the Giants' series.

"I'm trying to keep positive about the offense. It's a long season," he said.