Baseball: Down the line

The day is coming, and probably soon. The Cleveland Indians will promote catcher Carlos Santana, and we'll start to find out whether the kid the Dodgers traded for Casey Blake two years ago was a surplus prospect or the next John Smoltz or Jeff Bagwell, a long-term stud sacrificed for short-term help.

The Dodgers did just fine, for their purposes. They got Blake to help push them toward October, and with him they advanced to the National League Championship Series in consecutive years. Better yet, they re-signed him at a reasonable salary.

But, as the Dodgers insisted two years ago that they could not take on any salary, the Indians insisted on Santana. The Dodgers essentially sold off their best minor leaguer, and last winter Baseball America included him on the same top-10 prospect list as Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg and Buster Posey.

Lou Marson, the Indians' catcher, is batting .171 through Friday. Santana, in his fourth season since converting to catcher, has a 1.043 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) at triple A, biding his time while working on blocking balls, smoothing his throwing motion and calling games.

"That's why he's not here," said Cleveland coach and six-time All-Star catcher Sandy Alomar. "He still needs to learn and grow. The tools are there."

The Dodgers defended the trade at the time by saying they believed Santana would hit in the majors but might struggle to catch, and the Indians would have the designated hitter option that the Dodgers would not. Alomar wondered: So what?

"That's the question I asked myself," he said. "If you can't catch and you can hit, they'll put you in the outfield. When you have a good bat, they'll find a spot for you."

Santana would look mighty nice in left field at Dodger Stadium, right about now.

Quote ofthe weak

Quiz time: Which major league manager offered the following quote last week?

"I love our division," the manager said. "I don't know why people want to call it weak, if they want to have balance in baseball. Isn't that all anybody wants, to show up every day with a chance to win?"

Rising stars,falling stars

No team in the NL entered the weekend with a better record than the San Diego Padres, and so what about dumping their stars? Jake Peavy is winless for the Chicago White Sox, with a 7.85 ERA. Trevor Hoffman has a 13.50 ERA for the Milwaukee Brewers, with four blown saves in seven chances and six home runs given up in nine innings. Hoffman blew four saves last year, in 41 chances. … After Alex Rodriguez signed for $25 million per year in 2000, no player signed for more than $20 million per year until 2008. Now that club includes Ryan Howard, Joe Mauer, Manny Ramirez, CC Sabathia, Johan Santana and Mark Teixeira, with Albert Pujols ($30 million?) on deck. … The starting pitchers for the July 13 All-Star game at Angel Stadium? Based on April performances, we'd go with Ubaldo Jimenez of the Colorado Rockies (5-0, 0.79, one no-hitter, no home runs given up, 22-1/3 consecutive scoreless innings) and Francisco Liriano of the Minnesota Twins (3-0, 0.93, no home runs given up, 23 consecutive scoreless innings). … Quiz answer: Cleveland's Manny Acta, whose team plays in the AL Central. We would have guessed the manager worked in the NL West or AL West.

— Bill Shaikin

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