CLEVELAND -- After two weeks of facing their teammates, the Indians will get to play against a different opponent in three exhibition games against the Pirates before the 2020 regular season gets underway.
The Tribe announced Monday afternoon that three matchups against the Pirates have been scheduled for July 18, 20 and 22. The first and third game of the series will take place at PNC Park and the second game will be played at Progressive Field. All three contests will be aired on WTAM 1100, and SportsTime Ohio will carry the broadcast on July 20. All games are slated to start at 7:05 p.m. ET.
“[At] that point, we’re going to be trying to get guys closer to real game at-bats,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “You take a step up in intensity every time you do that. Shoot, we may not even take the entire team over there. We’ll have pitching back here that night. So we’ll leave some guys back here to do a sim game just so we don’t bus guys over there just to sit.”
Cleveland will face Pittsburgh more often than any other National League Central opponent this season with six matchups scheduled, including a three-game series on the road from Aug. 18-20 and the final series of the season from Sept. 25-27 at home.
After the third game of the exhibition series on July 22, the Indians will have one day remaining of Summer Camp before hosting the Royals for Opening Day at Progressive Field on July 24. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.
Luplow to miss three-to-five days with back soreness
The Indians have been cautious with Jordan Luplow in the first week-and-a-half of Summer Camp, as the outfielder experienced back soreness once practices got underway. He took a few swings in Friday’s intrasquad game as a designated hitter, but when he didn’t bounce back the way he expected to on Saturday, the Indians arranged for him to get an MRI on Monday. The results came back clear, but the team determined that he will still need a few more days of rest.
“For the most part, it [was] really encouraging news,” Francona said. “Nothing structurally that needs to be attended to. My guess is that he’s going to need 3-5 days to get back to baseball, though. Just so he can take care of this correctly. … We don’t want to have anybody sit out, but when you start looking at guys’ bodies, you start to get nervous because whether it’s a guy’s back or throwing shoulder or elbow, because they’ve been so active for a number of years, there’s generally something going on in there they can find.”
The battle of the fourth and fifth starters
Beyond Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco, the Indians are still trying to lock down who will make up their starting rotation this season. Aaron Civale had a strong first intrasquad outing on Sunday night, allowing two runs with two walks and eight strikeouts in six innings, but Francona said that doesn’t mean the pressure is now on Adam Plutko and Zach Plesac to out-perform Civale in their starts on Monday to be able to earn their spot.
“I admit, we were really pleased with how [Civale] pitched,” Francona said. “I mean that’s stating the obvious. We wouldn’t make a pitching decision based on one intrasquad game in July. You try to take a lot more information than that to put into your decision-making process. The biggest thing you’re looking for -- we want to see everybody do well -- but you’re looking, are the shape of their pitches the same? How stretched out are they? Where does it fit on our team? There’s a lot of things that go into that.”