Notes: Reyes raking; McKenzie's command

March 23rd, 2021

He’s hit two home runs in two days, but Indians slugger doesn’t think he’s ready for the regular season just yet.

Reyes launched another longball in the Tribe’s 6-3 loss to the Brewers on Monday at Goodyear Ballpark after he smacked a two-run homer on Sunday and a solo shot on Friday. Monday’s blast struck the middle of the batter’s eye in center field, but Reyes says he’s just getting started.

“I need more,” Reyes said. “I have to keep making adjustments. I still don't feel very comfortable. If you see, that pitch was right in the middle, OK, I get it. But the last at-bat, how that was, the walk, that’s how I like when I'm feeling. I like to feel that way, when I recognize my pitch.”

Last spring, Reyes was on fire at the plate when everything was halted due to the COVID-19 outbreak. When he returned to Summer Camp in July, he lost his timing at the plate and struggled to get it back. Although he thinks he needs a few more reps this spring before the season starts, Reyes at least thinks his timing is in a much better spot than it was heading into last season.

“Franmil looks a little more dangerous,” manager Terry Francona said. “He's getting to pitches he didn't a little earlier in spring. As much as you like to see guys get hot so we can talk about them, it just doesn't always work that way. But he's starting to heat up at the right time.”

The Indians have been trying to find their perfect outfield mix, attempting to move Amed Rosario out to center field. But Reyes has yet to see time in the outfield. Does he think he’s being overlooked?

“I’ll do whatever they want,” Reyes said. “Honestly, right field, catcher, shortstop -- whatever. I feel great. I’m ready for the challenge. Honestly.”

Catcher? Shortstop?

“I never played shortstop in my life,” Reyes said, with his unmistakable belly laugh. “But I remember during the season, having fun with Oscar Mercado at shortstop, [saying] 'Wow, what hands I have.' You guys have to see that. I swear.”

Before Reyes left the Zoom room, he made sure to remind the media, once again, that this team has something special in store for 2021.

“I have been asking my teammates 'How you feel? Are you there already?'” Reyes said. “Cesar [Hernandez] told me he feels so good. [Eddie] Rosario said, ‘Let's wait for the season. In the season, you will see me rocking baseballs.' I feel great, honestly, about my team.”

Repetition key for McKenzie
Because Triston McKenzie has tossed only 33 1/3 innings over the last two years, the Indians know that the 23-year-old right-hander needs as many reps as he can get. McKenzie has labored so far this spring, owning a 7.53 ERA in five outings, and those struggles continued on Monday, when he gave up six runs on six hits (including three homers) with four walks and three strikeouts. As McKenzie competes for a spot in the rotation, the Indians will look for him to better his command in his final outing before Opening Day.

“I think he had a walk every inning,” Francona said. “You’re certainly not looking for that. Saying that, if he gets to a point where he’s throwing the ball through the glove a little bit better, he’ll be fine. His secondary pitches are good. He just doesn’t always throw through the catcher, as opposed to kind of trying to be too fine with it. And then he’s either down and out of the zone or up and away.”

Otero back with Tribe
The Indians announced on Monday that former reliever Dan Otero retired from pitching and has been hired by the Tribe as an assistant in the club’s baseball operations department. Of Otero’s eight years in the big leagues, he spent four with Cleveland (2016-19) before ending his career in the Yankees' organization in 2020.

According to the Tribe, Otero will focus on assisting in all facets of the department, including the support and enhancement of the current Major League advance scouting process. He plans to work mostly remotely from his home in Miami.

“He’s a wonderful guy,” Francona said. “He’s got so much to add. I’m glad for our organization because we got him, but I’m glad he stayed in baseball. The game’s better for it when guys like that stay in the game. And I’m glad he’s with us.”