CLEVELAND — Carlos Santana had quite a debut at first base for the Cleveland Indians.
Normally a catcher, Santana started the first triple play of the season that helped lead Cleveland to its first win, 7-1 over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday.
“I caught the ball and everybody yelled to throw it to first base,” said Santana, who played his first career game at first base.
With runners at first and second put in motion by Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen in the fourth inning, Santana made a diving catch of a bunt by Alexei Ramirez. He caught the ball inches inside the foul line about halfway between home and first.
Santana scrambled to his feet and threw to second baseman Orlando Cabrera at first base to double off A.J. Pierzynski. Cabrera then threw to shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera at second base for the putout on Carlos Quentin, who had no time to get back to the bag.
“Orlando had told me to play in closer,” Santana said.
That came after Ramirez had bunted a pitch foul earlier in the at bat.
It was Cleveland’s first triple play since Asdrubal Cabrera turned an unassisted one against the Toronto Blue Jays on May 12, 2008.
Chicago had not hit into a triple play since April 22, 1978, at Toronto.
“The game changed with the bunt,” Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. “It totally changed.
“Everybody was hung out to dry. I didn’t know what to do. I was screaming from the bench, but I don’t know what I was saying.”
Even the savvy veteran Orlando Cabrera, who had been part of two triple plays early in his career with the Montreal Expos in 2000 and 2002, was surprised.
“Everybody was yelling to throw to second base and I said, ‘Why?’ “ the 36-year-old middle infielder said. “Then I realized, ‘Oh, yeah.’
“I wasn’t the only one. Quentin was nearly to third base. Those plays are surprising.”
Indians starter Justin Masterson was among those yelling, “Two, two, two,” though he originally was just hoping for a double play.
“Getting three was great, I’ll take it,” Masterson said. “I knew, but not right away. It was kind of slow motion in developing.”
The Indians quickly ran off the field, though, celebrating the 31st triple play in team history. That’s two shy of the American League record by the Detroit Tigers.
“A triple play is such an emotional play,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “The guys carried that emotion into the dugout. When you make one pitch and get three outs, it lifts everybody’s spirit.”
Acta was not surprised at Santana getting to the ball.
“He’s very athletic, can field well and we’ll use him over there from time to time,” Acta said.
Santana was signed as a third baseman by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004 and converted to catcher before being dealt to Cleveland in July 2008. The 25-year-old had knee surgery in August and Acta wants to keep his potent bat in the lineup, while giving his legs a rest by playing first on occasion.
“I like first base and I feel comfortable there,” Santana said. “Wherever the manager wants me to play, catcher, first, left field, right field, third base, it’s OK.”
The Indians have turned some memorable triple plays through the years, including the only unassisted one in a World Series, by second baseman Bill Wambsganss in 1920. The first unassisted triple play in history was by Cleveland shortstop Neal Ball in 1909 against Detroit.