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Former Dodgers prospect Carlos Santana helps Cleveland Indians reach World Series

Former Dodgers prospect Carlos Santana helps Cleveland Indians reach World Series
Cleveland Indians' Carlos Santana gestures as he scores after hitting a home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the third inning in Game 5 of the ALCS Wednesday. (Mark Blinch / Associated Press)

In 2008, the Dodgers acquired third baseman Casey Blake, in a push toward the World Series. They never would have imagined that the Class A prospect they traded to get Blake would qualify for the World Series before they would return.

Eight years later, Carlos Santana and the Cleveland Indians are in the World Series. Santana, 30, hit 34 home runs this season — tied with ex-Angel Mike Napoli for the team lead — and ranked eighth in the American League with a .366 on-base percentage.

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The Dodgers did not want to trade Santana, but then-owner Frank McCourt had told then-general manager Ned Colletti that the payroll could not be increased in the middle of the season. Colletti had to abandon a larger deal that would have brought Blake and CC Sabathia to Los Angeles and he had to include a premium prospect in Santana so the Indians would agree to pay the balance of Blake's contract.

At the time of the trade, the Dodgers indicated they believed Santana would hit well enough to reach the major leagues but would not play well enough defensively to remain at catcher. If he ended up as a designated hitter, after all, he would be of little use to a National League team.

Santana arrived in the majors in 2010; the Indians moved him to first base in 2014. He made the majority of his starts at DH this season.

Blake hit a combined .184, with one home run in 38 at-bats, in the Dodgers' National League Championship Series losses to the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008-09. Santana hit .167, with two home runs in 18 at-bats, in the Indians' ALCS victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Bunt? Who me?

Chicago Cubs ace Jon Lester glared at the Dodgers dugout after Joc Pederson tried to bunt for a base hit in the second inning. Lester threw him out.

The book on Lester might be to try to rattle him by dropping a bunt and seeing if he would make a wild throw to first base, but Cubs Manager Joe Maddon said that is easier said than done in this generation.

"In the major leagues today, you probably can count on maybe two hands really good bunters for a base hit," Maddon said. "It's not as easy as it appears to be, and it's just, 'Why don't you have your guys bunt?' or 'Why don't you have so-and-so bunt?' Well, he's not good at it."

That's fresh

Clayton Kershaw, who will pitch in Saturday's Game 6, reacted uncertainly to teammate Justin Turner's earlier comments that his 2 1/2-month injury absence might have been a blessing in disguise.

Kershaw ended this season with far fewer innings pitched than in past years — just 149, his fewest since his rookie season in 2008 and nearly 80 fewer than the average of recent seasons, when his performance in October became a story line of its own.

"Obviously the arm feels great and everything is coming out crisp,'' Turner said last weekend. "He's probably not having as much fatigue as most guys are having.''

When told of this observation Thursday, Kershaw shrugged.

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"I guess common sense would say that,'' he said. "If you haven't done something, you're probably fresher. But I never really felt bad in previous Octobers. I've always felt the same. So I don't know. I don't think it really works like that, honestly. But I feel good. So, sure.''

Cleaning up?

Carlos Ruiz batted fourth twice in the regular season, both in May for a weak Philadelphia Phillies team, against the likes of Brandon Finnegan and Adam Conley. But, in the Dodgers' biggest game yet, against Lester, Manager Dave Roberts had Ruiz bat cleanup.

Ruiz entered the playoffs 0 for 14 against Lester. The Dodgers started Ruiz in each of Lester's two NLCS starts, and Ruiz went hitless in five at-bats.

For what it's worth, A.J. Ellis — traded for Ruiz in August — is two for nine against Lester, with five strikeouts. Lester is the Cubs' lone left-handed starter.

Best wishes

Fred Claire, general manager of the Dodgers' last World Series championship team in 1988, returned home after surgery last Friday for cancer in his left jaw, he said on Facebook.

"I have a great team of doctors and an outstanding support group of family and friends and I'm hopeful of a full recovery," Claire said in a statement released by the team.

Short hops

Vin Scully delighted fans Thursday by shouting "It's Time for Dodger Baseball!" live from a suite on the same level as the Vin Scully Press Box. … Turner has reached base safely in 15 consecutive postseason games, a franchise record. Brooklyn Dodgers outfielder Carl Furillo reached base in 14 consecutive postseason games — all in the World Series — in 1953, 1955 and 1956. … Maddon on Cubs starter John Lackey, who appeared to scream on the mound after second baseman Javier Baez threw away a potential double-play ball in Game 4: "It's John. He vibrates at that frequency. You know that. He's an edgy human being. He's an edgy baseball player. So if you're surprised by it, that's your fault. John's always been that guy. He gets angry."

Times staff writers Bill Plaschke, Pedro Moura and Mike DiGiovanna contributed to this report.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Twitter: @BillShaikin

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