GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- One potential benefit to having so many new players in the Indians' lineup this season will be less pressure on catcher Carlos Santana.
Indians manager Terry Francona wants Santana to first focus on strengthening his rapport with the pitching staff before worrying about his offensive output. Cleveland believes Santana's numbers will remain solid, but the club no longer needs him to hoist the offense on his shoulders.
"I don't know where he's going to hit in the batting order," Francona said. "But he doesn't have to hit cleanup. When you're preaching to a kid, 'Hey, catch first, run the staff and, oh by the way, hit cleanup,' you're sort of sending a mixed message."
Santana, 26, has served as the Tribe's primary cleanup hitter over the past two seasons. Now, with the additions of leadoff man Michael Bourn, first baseman Nick Swisher, designated hitter Mark Reynolds and right fielder Drew Stubbs, Francona can be a little more creative in how he structures Cleveland's batting order.
The switch-hitting Santana is slated to hit sixth in Friday's spring opener against the Reds.
"He's a very good hitter," Francona said. "But there's a lot of ways having those guys around helps. That's one of them, but there's a ton of ways -- just by the way they go about their business. When your best players practice correctly, it's kind of hard for the other guys not to follow."
Last season, Santana hit .252 with 18 homers, 27 doubles, 76 RBIs and 91 walks in 143 games for Cleveland. The catcher improved in the second half, when he hit at a .281 clip with 13 homers, 14 doubles, 46 RBIs and 45 walks in 74 contests.