As he started the opportunity ahead of him with the Seattle Mariners, Carlos Santana had to correct himself.
“I’m excited, everything is new, and this is my first time, no my second time, here with this team,” he said Tuesday afternoon.
Santana was a member of the Mariners organization for 10 days back in December 2018, the amount of time that it took for Jerry Dipoto, the president of baseball operations, to acquire him along with J.P. Crawford in a trade with the Phillies and then trade him to Cleveland as part of a three-team trade that included the Rays.
After Dipoto re-acquired him and more than $4 million in cash, to offset what is still owed on his $10.5 million salary, from the Royals in exchange for right-handed pitchers Wyatt Mills and Will Fleming, Santana was activated on Tuesday with infielder Drew Ellis being optioned back to Class AAA Tacoma.
This time it was real.
Santana was wearing a Mariners uniform (No. 41) and in the starting lineup — batting fifth and playing first base — for Game 2 of the three-game series vs. the Baltimore Orioles.
“I think he’ll fit right in here,” manager Scott Servais said. “Obviously, he’s got a ton of experience and he’s willing to share that with some of our younger players and wants to do everything he can to help us win a few ballgames.”
With Ty France on the 10-day injured list with a strained left elbow, Santana will handle first-base duties.
“Carlos, obviously he fills a big need for us right now with Ty France out,” Servais said. “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.”
Santana is a familiar with the role that the Mariners are asking him to fill. He enjoys being a veteran presence and believes he can still contribute at the plate.
“Nothing changes,” he said. “I’m going to help the team the most I can and help them make the playoffs. I’m happy to be here and help the team in any way I can.”
Santana got off to a brutal start to the 2022 season, posting a .150/.287/.242 slash line in 35 games (April 7-May 30) and 142 plate appearances. Of his 18 hits, he had five doubles and two homers with 10 RBI, 23 walks and 21 strikeouts.
But he’s picked up it since June, posting a .357/.478/.554 slash line with 20 hits in 69 plate appearances, including five doubles, two homers, 11 RBI, 13 walks and seven strikeouts.
“That’s just me, all of my career, I started slow and then I finish strong,” he said. “In the first months, I had a lot of good contact, got unlucky. But I take my walks and get on base all the time. Everything is fine. My swing is good now. I feel good. We’ll see what happens with the new team and new opportunity.”
France took ground balls with his teammates before pregame and has been swinging a fungo bat — lighter and less heavy-ended than a normal bat — in the cages.
“We’ve got to be cautious there, but I’m optimistic that he can get back soon,” Servais said. “We miss him. There is no doubt. He is having a great season, but we don’t want to push it either. We want to make sure he’s close to 100%. I don’t know if anybody ever gets back 100% at this time of year, but if you can get out there and play, I know he wants to really bad.”
Tuesday night’s temperature at first pitch, which is part of the official boxscore for all games, was 59 degrees. On Monday, it was 87 degrees at first pitch. Per Mariners PR, it was the second largest changes (+/-) in game-time temperatures in back-to-back games at T-Mobile Park.
30° … April 12, 2008, 80° to April 13, 2008, 50°
28° … June 27, 2022, 87° to June 28, 2022, 59°
28° … June 28, 2000, 89° to June 29, 2000, 61°