Eight seasons and almost 1,100 games into his major league career, Cleveland Indians first baseman Carlos Santana has done a little bit of everything for the Tribe. He came up as a catcher, but has played third base, first base and both outfield corners as well. Having spent most of his career batting cleanup, last season's move to the leadoff slot helped the Indians win the American League pennant. He has averaged 34 doubles, 26 homers and 106 walks per season.
One thing he hasn't done? Performance-enhancing drugs. Even with some of his fellow Dominicans suspended for PEDs -- notably Starling Marte of the Pirates and David Paulino of the Astros this season, and two more minor league players on Friday -- Santana has proven willing to address the threat they represent to players at every level of competition.
ESPN's Marly Rivera caught up with Santana to talk about Dominican players facing the temptation of PEDs from childhood on the island to the major leagues, his rejection of PEDs and his future as a free agent.
Recently there were some comments in the media questioning Adrian Beltre's 3,000 hits, because of the fact that so many Dominican players have been involved with the use of steroids. What did you think about that?
That's something that right now has been in decline in the Dominican Republic. As players, especially us Dominicans, who have tested positive the most, that's something that we as Latinos need to improve upon. I know there are a lot of young guys who want to have their dream years and make it here in the big leagues. But when it comes to Adrian Beltré, I think Adrian Beltré has had a wonderful career. And he has worked hard. Everyone has a different opinion. I can't speak to something that I don't know for a fact, but I believe that Adrian Beltré [has his accomplishments] because he is an extremely hard worker. Even further, I had the opportunity to spend time with him during the World Baseball Classic and I have seen how hard he works, and it's really impressive, especially at his age.
Beltré is the first player born in the Dominican Republic with 3,000 hits -- does that inspire you?
Yes, of course. I am one of those people who has asked him about his routine, about what is it that he does to stay in shape and what's the key to staying so long in the big leagues and keeping in the shape he has.
How available were steroids when you started to develop as a player and how difficult was it to tell yourself, 'I'm going to do things right'?
It's a little difficult, especially when you're a young kid. Sometimes you'd go to the gym and people would come up to you and, like we say, sell you a dream: 'You take this and you're going to hit 50 home runs,' and that's not right. But unfortunately, that happens in our country. They go and talk to one of these young kids, 'You'll be a big leaguer,' but maybe, and maybe not. That's what happened in my case. They came up to me and said, 'You want to hit 50 homers? Put this on.' That's something that us Dominicans have to improve upon. Thank God, nowadays it's not as common as it used to be, but I believe we are still No. 1 in that aspect, and I hope that it continues to improve.
Has it gotten better or is it about the same from when you started playing baseball?
No. There's less access because it's something very risky. I hope things continue to improve, especially with young kids who are promised a world out there, and I believe they are making a mistake and there's no one talking to them about it.
What has helped you to always say no?
Thank God, I think it's because of my work ethic, working hard, doing things right. I think that's how one can stay at this level. I have never done it. I know it's bad. It's something that will damage my career. So if I start doing the wrong thing, my career will start going downhill. That's what I urge young guys to do. In my case [I have been offered steroids], but with my mindset, I have always been able to say no, that I made it here to the major leagues, and why am I am going to do something that is not legal in the major leagues.
Do you think steroid use tends to arise from the pressure poor Dominican kids feel because baseball is their only way out of poverty?
The truth is that there are many different cases. I think there are many cases. They are different cases, and it could be that, yes, but it also happens to people who have spent years [in MLB]. There are many cases. But what can I say; it's something that at the moment speaks for itself.
Great players from the Dominican Republic have tested positive for PEDs, with the most recent case being Starling Marte. How do you reconcile that they felt the need to do that?
In don't know much about Starling Marte's case, but it's wrong because we've worked so hard to get here and now all of a sudden something like that happens. As a teammate, you shouldn't put yourself in that situation.
You were never tempted? Maybe when you were you not doing well at the plate or after an injury, saying, 'Well, if I take this ...'
No, I have not, and I believe that, thank God, that it's because I like hard work. So baseball for me is No. 1, and I never want it to end. So it's something that has never crossed my mind, no.
Does it help you to see yourself as an example for your children and for the people who follow your career?
Yes. Thank God, I've been able to have a career where I have been able to stay in the major leagues on my effort and hard work, and I think I'll always be like that.
You'll be a free agent at the end of the season; would you like to stay in Cleveland?
I don't know what the future holds. That's up to God. The only thing I can control is to get ready every day to play baseball and that's what I'm firmly focused on right now. To be honest, the truth is that at first I was giving a lot of thought to my free agency. But, thank God, I have a great teammate who just went through that, and that's Edwin Encarnacion, and he has always given me advice and talked to me about free agency. He always tells me to focus on playing my style of baseball and to have fun, and that has helped me a lot, especially in the second half of the season.