SEATTLE -- Francisco Lindor's first career stint on the injured list could be nearing its conclusion.
The All-Star shortstop will have his left ankle injury reassessed on Friday in Cleveland to determine if he’s ready to be activated from the IL, Indians manager Terry Francona said ahead of Wednesday’s finale of a three-game series with the Mariners at T-Mobile Park.
Lindor went 0-for-4 as the designated hitter on Wednesday for Triple-A Columbus in Louisville, Ky. He will play shortstop on Thursday, then make the 350-mile drive from Louisville to Cleveland, which Francona said was a more logistically sound plan than having Lindor wake up early on Friday to fly there. Lindor homered deep to right field while batting left-handed as part of a 2-for-3 night during the first game of his rehab assignment on Tuesday, when he played short.
Lindor has essentially been sidelined since Feb. 6, when he suffered a right calf strain. As he was nearing his return from that injury, Cleveland's catalyst sprained his left ankle during an intrasquad game in Spring Training on March 20.
An All-Star in each of the past three seasons, Lindor has been a beacon of consistency and health. He’s played in at least 158 games in that stretch and led the American League in plate appearances over the past two seasons while finishing in the top six in the voting for the AL MVP Award each of those years. Last season, Lindor clubbed a career-best 38 homers, tied for sixth most in the Majors.
And Lindor’s absence is perhaps more glaring to the Tribe’s lineup than had it been without any other player. In his stead, Indians shortstops are slashing .059/.140/.078 with 30 strikeouts in 51 at-bats over their first 17 games -- by far the worst in the Majors in each category. Cleveland broke camp with Eric Stamets at short, but Stamets’ offensive struggles became so illuminated that the club optioned him to Columbus on Tuesday and purchased the contract of 10-year Minor League journeyman Mike Freeman, who went 1-for-3 with an RBI single in Tuesday’s 4-2 win.
On Monday, the Indians designated veteran infielder Brad Miller, who had been more offensively productive than Stamets and Max Moroff, who was filling in at second for Jason Kipnis before Kipnis was activated from a right calf strain ahead of the series opener in Seattle. But with the return of Kipnis, the Tribe no longer had a need for a left-handed-hitting utility infielder. Miller, who was vocally upset with reporters about the club’s decision, cleared waivers and elected free agency on Wednesday, according to MLB Trade Rumors.