CLEARWATER, Fla. – Carlos Santana signed his $60 million contract in December and returned home to the Dominican Republic. The first baseman needed a new way to prepare for his first season with the Phillies. So he tried something different. He pushed cars.
"It's a complete workout," he said.
Santana, under the guide of a personal trainer, pushed a Mercedes-Benz sedan by its hood for 120 yards. He would do it eight times in a row in the parking lot of a fitness center.
"You use every single muscle in your body," Santana said. "Those cars are so heavy you really need to push through. It wasn't only to get ready for preseason, it was also to get ready for the season and be successful during the season."
That work ethic helped persuade the Phillies to make Santana their biggest free-agent signing in seven years. General manager Matt Klentak was also drawn to Santana's plate discipline and his ability to reach base at a high rate. He posted a .363 on-base percentage last season and averaged nearly 100 walks per season over the last seven years. His walk rate and strikeout rate are nearly identical. He averages more than four pitches per plate appearance. The Phillies may bat Santana second, which should provide chances for Maikel Franco and Rhys Hoskins to drive in runs.
"When you have a guy in the middle of the lineup grinding down the opposing pitcher – just imagine, you're a pitcher on the other side and you're delivering pitch after pitch that's getting fouled off or a ball that is just off the corner and being taken, you get exhausted," manager Gabe Kapler said. "Guess who benefits from that? The next man up and the next man up, and there's this ripple effect. An exhausted starting pitcher or even an exhausted reliever is a really good thing for the Philadelphia Phillies."
Santana was one of the first free agents to sign this winter as the market moved slowly. Several big names are still available. Santana said he is shocked to see how the market moved, but he is happy that it worked for him. He was attracted by the Phillies' young players and said the Phils remind him of the Cleveland teams he played with in the postseason.