CLE@OAK: Santana puts Tribe on the board with single

DETROIT -- Carlos Santana knew his new role with the Indians was going to be challenging this season. When he decided to take on being Cleveland's third baseman, backup catcher and cleanup hitter, Santana did not expect his offense to take a hit.

On Wednesday, Santana said he believes his early-season slump is partly the result of getting used to bouncing between positions.

"Yeah, it's affected me a little bit, but it's all right," Santana said. "Everybody knows it's hard, and it's affecting me a little, too, but I'll keep it going."

Entering Wednesday's game in Detroit, the switch-hitting Santana was batting just .186 (8-for-43) with no home runs and one RBI. Santana's 14 walks -- compared to seven strikeouts -- have helped him post a respectable .386 on-base percentage.

Santana served as the Tribe's starting catcher for the bulk of the past three seasons, but he moved into the backup role this year given the emergence of Yan Gomes behind the plate. Santana was in Wednesday's lineup as the designated hitter, giving him six starts at third, five at DH and three as the catcher this season.

Indians manager Terry Francona hopes Santana's current slump does not develop into something more than an early obstacle.

"I think what happens is, when guys aren't swinging the bats, frustration can set in," Francona said. "He's our cleanup hitter and he's a heck of a hitter. What he has done has helped us win a few games, just by being able to go behind the plate.

"If that's how he feels, I probably need to sit and talk to him to make him feel better about things, because what he does is very valuable. What I don't want to lose sight of is, the day before the season, he was all in. I don't want to let a slow start with the bat ruin that."

Santana sounded confident that he would be able to turn things around soon enough.

"I know the fans, everybody, they worry about my hitting," Santana said. "But this is like two weeks. It's a long season -- six months. This is the first month. I need to keep going and I'll come back."

Aviles, Bourn speak on importance of Robinson

MLB and fans everywhere celebrate Jackie Robinson Day

DETROIT -- Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on Tuesday, but the Indians were unable to participate when extremely cold temperatures and snow forced a postponement of Cleveland's game with the Tigers. The tribute in Detroit carried over to Wednesday's tilt at Comerica Park.

Maybe that is fitting, because Robinson's legacy is worth remembering each day during a baseball season. With Robinson's famous No. 42 stitched on the back of each Cleveland jersey hanging in the visitors' clubhouse, Indians infielder Mike Aviles spoke of the importance of honoring the Hall of Famer.

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On April 15, 1947, Robinson debuted with the Brooklyn Dodgers, breaking baseball's color barrier.

"If it wasn't for Jackie Robinson," Aviles said, "a lot of players such as myself wouldn't be here. Who knows when the barrier would've been broken? I know there's a lot of players across the league and in the Minor Leagues that are very appreciative for what he endured for the time that he played. It was a very tough era. It wasn't a very welcoming era.

"He endured a lot and was basically the ambassador for Latins, blacks, Asians, everybody. Once he broke the color barrier, it allowed other teams to understand that there are a lot of good players all over the country and the world. If you don't know about it, it's definitely worth going back and reading about what he endured.

"I know every time I put that jersey on, I'm honored. I get a couple goosebumps putting it on, because as soon as you see that 42, you think about what he went through."

Indians center fielder Michael Bourn echoed Aviles' comments.

"I got the chance to watch the movie this offseason," said Bourn, referring to the film "42" that came out last year. "The things that he had to endure just for African-Americans just to play baseball, I mean, you can't even put it into words. That just shows the strength he had. It took strength to do what he did. It would've broken me, I can tell you that.

"It's just not easy, but God puts certain people in certain situations because he knows they can handle it. He put him in that situation, and all we can say is thank you. Hopefully we get more African-Americans into playing baseball. I think that'd be what he wants, just from the things he had to endure and the things he saw. I'm happy to be able to put on his number and excited to be able to wear it."

African-Americans comprise 7.8 percent of Major League teams -- roughly half of where the percentage stood between 1972 and 1996 -- according to a USA TODAY survey of this season's Opening Day rosters. Bourn hopes to see that figure rise in the years to come.

"It's a beautiful sport to play," Bourn said. "I'm glad my dad had me play it as a young kid. It'd be nice to see more of us in the sport. I would want my boy to play it, if he wanted to and was interested in it. It'd be a joy to watch."

Asdrubal struggling with first-pitch approach

CLE@CWS: Cabrera beats the double play to score a run

DETROIT -- For as long as Asdrubal Cabrera can remember, he has had a propensity for swinging at the first pitch. The Indians shortstop has found success with that approach throughout his career, but this season has started with some struggles.

Considering that pitchers are instructed on the importance of throwing first-pitch strikes, Cabrera said he sees the initial offering as a good pitch to attack at certain times.

"I'm just looking for my pitch," Cabrera said. "You get fastballs on the first pitch a lot of times, so I swing at it. I know that the pitcher, all the time they try to get ahead in the count."

Entering Wednesday's game, Cabrera was batting .316 with a .769 OPS on the first pitch over the course of his career. That is a better showing than his overall numbers -- .271 average with a .746 OPS. This season, though, Cabrera was batting .188 overall through 13 games, with a .111 average through nine at-bats ending on the first pitch.

Indians manager Terry Francona said the last thing the team would do is ask Cabrera to alter an approach that has worked for him over the years.

"That's the way he hits, especially when there's runners in scoring position," Francona said. "That's kind of been his M.O. Guys hit the way they hit. They work every day on mechanics and things like that, but if you try to alter a way a guy hits, the craft is so hard to begin with, you're going to have a chance to mess guys up."

Quote to note

"Guys get to their level. That part amazes me. Guys have a way of getting to their level. Sometimes they do it in the [strangest] fashion, but they get there. It's like the same thing with a guy that starts off hitting .500 the first two weeks. If he's a .250 hitter, he usually gets to around .250."
-- Francona, on early-season slumps

Smoke signals

• While center fielder Michael Bourn was on the disabled list, left fielder Michael Brantley shifted to center against left-handed starters, opening the door for more playing time for utility man Ryan Raburn. Now that Bourn is back, Francona said he will continue to find ways to keep Raburn consistently in the lineup.

"Early on, I don't think Bourny is probably going to play 10 in a row," Francona said. "Raburn is going to get a lot of at-bats. Whether it's left field, right field, maybe even a game at first, he's going to get a lot of at-bats."

• In the second tilt of a doubleheader with Double-A Akron on Wednesday, Indians designated hitter Jason Giambi went 0-for-2 with one walk and one strikeout in his latest rehab game. The 43-year-old Giambi (fractured rib) could be activated from the 15-day disabled list as early as Friday, when Cleveland begins a seven-game homestand.

• Heading into Wednesday's game with the Tigers, Indians outfielder David Murphy was batting .391 (9-for-23) with three doubles, one triple, two home runs and 10 RBIs over his previous seven games. Murphy was also hitting .500 (5-for-10) with runners in scoring position and .438 (7-for-16) with runners on base for the season.

• To help commemorate the 20th season in Jacobs/Progressive Field's history, the Indians have created a website that includes facts, articles, videos and more. Fans can check it out at Indians.com/ProgressiveField.