ST. LOUIS — Less than two weeks ago Gabe Kapler said everyone should begin to talk about Carlos Santana as a "Gold Glove defender."
Two costly throwing errors — and one costly indecision — by Santana in the four-game series against the Cardinals were not enough to change the Phillies manager's mind.
"You're not going to make a good throw every time the ball comes out of your hands," Kapler said after Sunday's 5-1 loss. "Santana is a high, high-quality defender at first base. We want the ball in his hands. He has a tremendously accurate arm and we want him making those throws over the long haul. That doesn't change as a result of a couple of less than optimal throws."
Santana, trying to complete a fourth-inning double play Sunday, misfired on his throw to second base and sent it past Scott Kingery and into shallow left field. A run scored, and the Cardinals then tacked on another. It was a quick decision and a tough play, said Santana, who entered the series with just one error in his first 40 games.
He made almost the same miscue in the fourth inning on Saturday, when he threw away from Kingery and into left field after fielding what looked to be an inning-ending double play. A run scored and the Cardinals added two more runs before the inning ended.
Santana made a nice play on Friday to charge a sacrifice bunt with Jake Arrieta pitching. He looked toward second base and seemed to have a good chance to throw out Francisco Pena, who ran from first. Santana hesitated, double-clutched, and instead opted for just one out at first base. The next batter doubled in Pena to propel a four-run third inning.
"It was a little hard for me, but that happens," Santana said. "I try to focus every day on my defense. That happens. I need to keep my focus and do what I can. The little things. It's not me, but it happens. I have to keep it up."
It was not the best weekend for Santana, but he was not alone in his struggles. The Phillies finished the four-game series with six errors.
"We can play a tighter brand of defense," Kapler said. "We are a good, athletic defense. We can pick it up a notch. We're better than we showed out there on defense in general."
Jerad Eickhoff (back muscle) pitched three innings with triple-A Lehigh Valley as he made his second rehab start. The righthander will likely need one more rehab start before being activated from the disabled list. He threw 43 pitches and allowed one earned run on four hits with no strikeouts and one walk.
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said last week that Eickhoff will return to the starting rotation when he's ready. Zach Eflin, who seems to be the odd man out, has done his best to change the team's mind — he has a 1.56 ERA in four starts since being promoted from triple A.