CLEVELAND (AP) — Indians manager Terry Francona has made several lineup changes in an attempt to turn around the team’s struggling offense.
The Indians have scored three runs or fewer 23 times in their first 43 games going into Sunday’s matchup with Oakland. Cleveland is in last place in the AL Central and has lost three straight and five of seven.
Nick Swisher, the No. 2 hitter for most of the season, was moved to the sixth spot. Carlos Santana batted seventh after hitting cleanup in all 42 of his previous starts.
Francona has been reluctant to make changes, but thinks the time has finally come.
“We try real hard to never treat our team like a fantasy team, bouncing guys around,” he said. “I want to have a lot of respect for where guys hit and why they’re hitting where they’re hitting. I think I got to a point where instead of being patient, I was being stubborn, and that’s not good either.”
Francona and bench coach Brad Miles talked about the changes for several hours after Saturday’s 6-2 loss to the Athletics.
“This is not a lineup that’s going to be in place for the rest of the year, but the hope is it can help maybe jumpstart us a little bit and make it a little easier for the guys who have struggled,” Francona said.
Swisher and Santana, both switch hitters, have scuffled the first two months of the season. Swisher is batting .201 with three homers and 16 RBIs, and he’s hitting .163 with no homers and four RBIs from the right side.
Santana is batting .156 with five homers and 13 RBIs, including a .140 average from the left side.
“When they get going they’re going to be guys who really help us, but in the meantime we have to piece it together a little bit better,” Francona said.
Another reason Francona has been hesitant to make changes is several other hitters have struggled. Ryan Raburn, who hit cleanup Sunday, is batting .184 with no homers and eight RBIs. The Indians are also playing without All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis, who has been on the disabled list with a strained right oblique since May 2.
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, another switch hitter, was given the day off. He’s batting .258 with three homers and 13 RBIs.
The Indians, who won 92 games and made the playoffs as a wild card team last season, already trail Detroit by 9½ games in the AL Central. The teams open a three-game series at Progressive Field on Monday.
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