SAN FRANCISCO -- Working with a switch-hitter can often be twice the challenge for a hitting coach. Like any pair of hitters, one might be swinging the bat well and the other might be trying to dig himself out of a persistent slump.
Switch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera has been dealing with that kind of Jekyll-and-Hyde situation in the batter's box early on this year. From the left side, the shortstop has been slumping. From the right side, Cabrera has been hitting extremely well.
"When you get switch-hitters," Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo said, "you have two different guys."
Entering Friday's game against the Giants, Cabrera was hitting just .156 (7-for-45) with a .469 OPS from the left side against right-handed pitchers, but had a strong .343 (12-for-35) average and a .978 OPS batting right-handed against lefties.
Overall, Cabrera had a .238/.315/.375 slash line with one home run, eight extra-base hits, seven RBIs and 12 runs through 22 games played for Cleveland.
"I think early in the season, he really wasn't feeling that good left-handed," Van Burkleo said. "His timing was off. He was getting started a little late, but he was feeling it pretty good right-handed. Right-handed, he really has been pretty solid all year. He's had a good feel for it, where left-handed he just went thorugh a little spell where he was in a little slump.
"It's been getting much better left-handed. Probably the last three or four games, he's been getting on time, getting into a good position. He's had a lot of hard luck, too. ... Right now, I'm pleased with him on both sides of the plate."
Van Burkleo said one key for Cabrera is getting his hands into a good hitting position.
"It's just getting in a good firing position on time," Van Burkleo explained. "When he's late, his hands usually leak forward early and he ends up trying to play catch up. When he gets in a good position, his hands stay back. He keeps his hands back and he's in a good separated position where he can use the lower half corrected and everything syncs up."
Francona sticking with Santana in cleanup spot
SAN FRANCISCO -- Carlos Santana opened this season as the Indians cleanup hitter and manager Terry Francona has no intention of going in a different direction right now.
Santana has been in a prolonged slump to start this season, but Francona is not ready to pull the plug on using him in the lineup's fourth hole just yet. Francona feels that the switch-hitting Santana serves a purpose in the cleanup spot and the manager believes the third baseman will make more of an impact before too long.
"He's expanded the zone more than we've seen," Francona said. "Saying that, he's still walked as much as he's struck out, which is kind of amazing. I just think he's such a good hitter that, when he gets hot, he'll go."
Heading into Friday's game, Santana was batting .137 with one home run, three doubles, three RBIs, 18 walks and 18 strikeouts in 21 games for the Indians. Francona gave Santana a mental day off on Monday, but the third baseman went 1-for-11 in the three games leading into the current road trip.
Francona said he has considered a lineup change, but does not feel it is the right time to make a switch.
"I've thought about doing things like that," Francona said. "I just don't think it's the right thing to do for our team. If he got to a point where he looked like he couldn't handle it, that's different, because you have a responsibility to the team, you have a responsbility to the guys. But when he hits -- and he will -- hitting right smack in the middle helps everybody.
"It breaks up our lefties. You could put [Michael] Brantley anywhere, but you also don't want to have every lefty in the league lined up to face [No. 3 hitter Jason Kipnis] and Brantley in the seventh inning. That's not doing them any favors."
Johnson happy about transfer rule change
SAN FRANCISCO -- Major League Baseball's Playing Rules Committee announced an adjustment to the game's transfer rule Friday and the new interpretation went to effect immediately.
MLB is not calling it the "Elliot Johnson Rule," but the Indians utility man does not mind if Cleveland fans describe it as such. Before Friday's game against the Giants, Johnson had a good sense of humor about a rule that came into a play for him and the Tribe earlier this month.
"It's fitting that we're in San Francisco," Johnson said, "where the Buster Posey Rule and the Elliot Johnson rule are converging."
The "Buster Posey Rule" is how the new guidelines for home-plate collisions have come to be known, because the regulations gained steamed in the wake of the Giants catcher's injury in 2011. As for Johnson, his non-catch against the Padres on April 9 was one among a handful of plays that paved the way for the alterations to the transfer rule.
In the first inning against San Diego that afternoon, Johnson tracked down a fly ball from Chris Denorfia in deep right field. Johnson made the catch, took a handful of steps, braced himself against the right-field wall, spun around and then dropped the baseball after grabbing it out of his glove with his throwing hand. It was not ruled an out, Denorfia was given a double and the play stood as called after an instant-replay review.
"I think the play with me was a little bit more egregious than any of the other ones. It was excessive," Johnson said. "It was even to the point where, following games after that, umpires were watching the last out, the last catch all the way to the dugout. Really? What are we doing? Are we seriously trying to do this right now?
"It was getting to the point where they were trying to maintain a sense of consistency and it had just gone to far."
The transfer rule and its new interpretation were discussed and agreed upon by MLB, the MLB Players Association and the World Umpires Association. Under the new guidelines, an out has occurred when a player has complete control over the ball in his glove. If he drops the ball after opening his glove, it will still be ruled an out. Moving the ball to the throwing hand is no longer required.
Umpires will use judgment if a ball is dropped during the transfer.
"We're going back to using common sense," Johnson said. "I don't know why whatever needed to be enforced the way that they were doing it. Why change it? I don't understand. Whatever. They got it fixed and all is good now."
Indians manager Terry Francona was pleased about the new interpretation.
"When I talked to Joe Torre [MLB's executive vice president of baseball operations] back a few weeks ago," Francona said, "he said, 'We're working on it.' It just can't happen overnight. All along, they've kind of said, 'Hey, we want to get it right.' I think they've done a pretty good job. They're trying.
"All they really want is what's best for our game. It's not perfect, but what is? It's getting better. They're trying to make it better. That's really all you can ask.
Quote to note
"Eventually, it was going to have to [change]. What are we doing here? We were changing the game. The game is great. We don't need to be making things like this. I realize we can do little things to make it better, but this was something that didn't need to be happening."
-- Johnson, on the new interpretation of the transfer rule
• Francona did his best to persuade veteran right-hander Tim Hudson to sign with Cleveland as a free-agent over the offseason. Hudson, who knows Francona from the manager's time as the A's bench coach in 2003, went on to sign a two-year contract worth $23 million with San Francisco.
"I did talk to him and told him that we were really interested," Francona said. "I've known him for a long time and I really respect him. I knew what it was going to come down to. You can do all the talking you want, but the contract's kind of what [it comes down to]. I called and told him that we were definitely interested. He's an easy guy to bet on."
• Cleveland right-hander Corey Kluber spun his first career complete game Thursday, ending with a career-best 11 strikeouts, no walks and no earned runs. It marked the first complete game by an Indians pitcher with at least 11 strikeouts and no walks since Tom Candiotti turned the trick on Oct. 1, 1986. Not once during Kluber's outing did Francona warm up a reliever.
"He was doing great," Francona said. "He threw, out of 101 pitches, 75 strikes. And they were quality strikes. That's kind of how you draw it up. He threw in, he threw out, he cut it in, he cut it away, he sunk it, he threw a changeup and he threw a bunch of strikes. That's pretty much how you'd like to draw it up."
• Entering Friday's game, Indians utility man Johnson had not appeared in a game in two weeks, with his last action coming on April 11 in Chicago against the White Sox. Francona said it is sometimes tough to balance fielding the best lineup with making sure every player gets into games. The manager also knows it's not the easiest job for Johnson.
"I've thought about that," Francona said. "Sometimes, depending on how your team is configured, it's not the easiest role for him, but because he's there, you can use other guys differently. So it helps out team, even though he's not been getting at-bats. And I know it's hard, and I think about it all the time."
• The Giants handed out 40,000 bobbleheads Friday depicting Duane Kuiper in an Indians uniform. Kuiper, who is a broadcaster for San Francisco now, suited up for Cleveland from 1974-81 and hit his only career home run with the Tribe in '77.