CLEVELAND, Ohio — Terry Francona gave his State of the Indians address on Tuesday morning. It is a day he frets over, a day where he wants to get everything right so he sets a good tone for the season.
He says it’s a day for looking forward, not behind. Are these Indians younger and more inexperienced without Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco and Carlos Santana? No doubt. But Francona said that could be used as a challenge instead of an obstacle.
“We look forward. This is our team,” he said. “That room in there, that’s what we have. Those are the guys who form that personality, the loyalty. We’re gonna rely on each other.
“That doesn’t mean we care about the guys who left any (less) — Carrasco or Lindor or whomever. You love the guys. You get fond of guys through numbers of years. But they’re now with other teams and we need to keep an eye on these guys.”
But Lindor is not the kind of player who just fades away. On Monday, he told Mets reporters that last season “I didn’t give my best in the weight room and that showed the last week of the season. I got tired. … So yeah, I just got tired. I didn’t give my best in the weight room. It showed. It showed the last week. That’s pretty much it when it comes to last year’s season.”
Francona said he hadn’t heard about Lindor’s comments.
“I wasn’t here a lot last year,” said Francona, who managed just 14 of the 60-game season because of health issues. “I’m never really comfortable commenting on a third person saying ‘well he did this interview so comment on this.’ Plus he’s on another team. I’m just not comfortable with that.”
Lindor certainly didn’t play like Lindor last season. He slashed .258./.338/.415 with eight homers. He struggled in the No.3 spot with runners in scoring position before being moved into the leadoff spot near the end of the season. His defense was strong, but on the bases he looked more distracted than tired.
In the Yankees’ two-game sweep over the Indians in the wild-card playoff, he went 1-for-8.
No. 1: Play ball
Aaron Civale and Logan Allen are scheduled to throw two innings each in Saturday’s three-inning intrasquad game. Lefties Kyle Nelson and Anthony Gose will follow.
Cal Quantrill will start the Cactus League opener on Sunday against the Reds. Triston McKenzie, James Karinchak, Bryan Shaw and Heath Hembree will follow. Quantrill was one of six players the Indians acquired from San Diego last season in the Mike Clevinger trade. He’s competing for the fourth or fifth spot in the rotation.
“I spent a big part of the offseason refining what I think I did well last year,” said Quantrill. “Hopefully, I can use more of my pitches, more often in high-leverage situations. I’d like to show that the second and third time through the order isn’t an issue. That I’ve got more to work with this year.”
No. 2: Don’t leave the hot corner just yet
The Indians spent all offseason talking about Nolan Jones making the move from third base to the outfield or first base. On Tuesday, however, Francona said Jones would open camp at third.
Jones, rated as the Indians’ No.1 prospect, was drafted out of high school as a shortstop, but moved to third after signing. Right now he’s being blocked at third by Jose Ramirez, who finished second in the AL MVP voting last year. That’s why the Indians had him working in the outfield during the Fall Instructional League.
“I think our thought on that is we’ll start him out playing third base,” said Francona. “I think it’s important for young guys, not to thrust too much at them too quickly. By all accounts, he’s done a tremendous job in the outfield. I even think at some point, he’d be a really good first baseman.
“But I think to start the camp, we’ll keep him at third, because we want him to have a good camp. We want him to feel good about himself. At some point, if we decide to move him, we’ll see how the camp goes.”
Jones spent last season at the Indians’ alternate training site at Classic Park in Eastlake.
No.3: Enemies no more
Francona met with new outfielder Eddie Rosario on Tuesday morning for their spring-training one-on-one meeting. He greeted Rosario by saying, “It’s so nice not to hate you anymore.”
Rosario laughed. He got the joke. In his career with the Twins, Rosario hit .301 (106-for-352) with 22 homers and 47 RBI against the Indians. The 22 homers are the most he’s hit against any team.
At Progressive Field, Rosario is a lifetime .353 (60-for-170) hitters with 11 homers and 25 RBI. In 45 games he’s posted a 1.031 OPS.
“He just seemed to wreak havoc (against us),” said Francona. “Now go ahead and wreak it all you want. We’ll pat you on the back. We got a good laugh out of that. He seems like a real good kid. He seems excited to be here.”
No. 4: Will baseballs stop flying out of ballparks?
MLB reportedly has taken steps to deaden the baseball after a record number of home runs were hit in 2019. It’s been reported that the inner woolen windings of the ball have been loosened, while the weight of the ball has been reduced by 2.8 grams. According to MLB’s research this should cut the distance on a drive over 375 feet by one or two feet.
When asked if he’d noticed anything different about the baseball, Francona said, “I haven’t, but I’ll be brutally honest here: I’ve got both hands full with these crutches, I haven’t exactly been picking up baseballs left and right. I haven’t even thought about it.
“I don’t really make it a point to try to notice. We’re going to play the game and I don’t think we need to put that stuff in players’ heads. If we play the game right and we hit the ball the way we’re supposed to, we’re going to score.”
Francona underwent surgery on his left big toe in January because of a staff infection. He’ll be on crutches for about three weeks and will have to wear a walking boot for much of the season.
New Indians face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Indians-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All MLB proceeds donated to charity.
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