SEATTLE – When Ty France sprained his left elbow in late June during an on-field collision, the Mariners needed help at first base. That prompted general manager Jerry Dipoto to make a trade with Kansas City for 12-year MLB veteran Carlos Santana.
During the 14-day stretch France was absent, Santana helped “ease some of the blow,” manager Scott Servais said Thursday, the day France returned to the lineup.
Santana’s switch-hitting abilities – he’s “pretty even” on both sides – have benefited the Mariners, Servais said. The manager said Santana’s experience was beneficial to younger players too, who have been learning from the ways he prepares.
France is easing back this weekend against the Blue Jays as a designated hitter, but he plans to return on defense shortly afterward. From there, Servais said France should be back at first base the majority of the time.
“But if (France) needs a day, or he’s going to DH for a day, there’s nobody better to put than Carlos (Santana) over there with all the experience he’s got,” Servais said Friday.
Servais joked that Santana could play shortstop or third base, before backtracking to more serious terms. The 36-year-old is on the back side of his career and is locked in at first base. But once France returns to the lineup at first base, that’ll free up at-bats for Santana at DH.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Servais said Thursday of the depth. “We’ve got guys that can handle the position, and as long as they swing the bat (well), we’ll find spots for them.”
Santana was a Mariner for a brief stint in the 2018 offseason. In December that year, Seattle acquired Santana from Philadelphia as part of a trade that also brought the Mariners J.P. Crawford. But 10 days later, Seattle traded Santana away to Cleveland as part of a three-way deal.
Servais said he’d joke with Santana every time they crossed paths that Santana was his favorite player he never managed. But with France’s injury, the Mariners needed to find a solution at first base, and this time it came in the form of Santana – for real.
“Carlos, obviously, he fills a big need for us right now with Ty France out,” Servais said on June 28. “Hopefully, Carlos can step in and give us some good at-bats. Certainly, he’s comfortable over at first base and he’ll do a good job for us.”
Since arriving in Seattle, the veteran has done just that, with eight hits, an RBI and six walks in 35 plate appearances through Thursday.
Santana made 136 starts at first base last season with the Royals. He hit .214/.319/.342 with 19 home runs and 69 RBIs.
Santana said he isn’t bothered by a reduced role once France has fully returned.
“(France) is like family; everybody has to be all together,” Santana said. “We don’t think about that. We’re on the same page.”
Santana knows his start to the 2022 season was slow (he had a .150/.287/.242 slash line through May), but he’s in a better groove and he’s looking forward.
“Finish strong, this is my mentality,” Santana said. “I know what kind of player I am – all of my career, I’ve started slow but finished strong when the team needs me.”
Servais said Seattle hopes the momentum will continue for the 36-year-old.
“Carlos has been great. I really love what he’s brought to our team, our clubhouse. For a guy who’s played as long as he does, you can see it, he loves playing baseball. And that’s contagious,” Servais said Friday.