MINNEAPOLIS -- After months of analyzing what the Indians’ outfield could look like in 2019, manager Terry Francona has officially pieced together his three starters.
While Leonys Martin was a guarantee to be in center, Francona decided to put Jake Bauers in left and Tyler Naquin in right. Those two had been the front-runners of the outfield competition since Hanley Ramirez signed on Feb. 26, moving Bauers out of the infield. But the big question was whether the two left-handed hitters would prove they could be more than platoon guys in the corners.
“I’m going to do everything I can to force Tito to keep me in there, man,” Naquin said after the team’s first spring game on Feb. 23. “I love that guy, but I’m going to try to force him to force me out of that lineup. So, I’m excited.”
It seems like he has.
Prior to Thursday’s season opener in Minnesota, Francona said that he spoke with Bauers and Naquin and that he thought they both would be everyday players.
"I think there's a way to get guys to be everyday players," Francona said. “I told them I'd pick my spots when they hit against lefties or when they sit against lefties, because I wanted them to know. And then they were good about it.”
With Francisco Lindor (calf strain and ankle sprain) and Jason Kipnis (calf strain) on the injured list, Francona may continue to bat Jose Ramirez in the No. 2 spot behind Martin to split up the left-handed hitters.
“I mean, I absolutely love Frankie in that [leadoff] spot,” Francona said on Wednesday. “One, because _he_ loves it. But, two, how many runs he produced. By that I mean scored and drove in. But he’s not here, so Leonys has done it and he’s comfortable there.”
To keep the left-handed batters spaced out, Naquin may see more time hitting in the No. 3 spot, until the team is back at full strength.
“I’m just trying to set up our lineup where we have some balance, where we're not running out three, four lefties in a row,” Francona said. “And I thought with Naquin, just his psyche, I thought he could handle it. Now, against lefties, we may do something different.”
Tito excited for Opening Day
Even after being around the game since the 1980s, Francona said that Opening Day is still a big deal to him.
“We’re not going to get rewarded more than one win or one loss, but it’s a really special day,” Francona said with a grin. “You still get that same feeling. It’s part excitement, part nervousness, a little bit of terror. ‘Did I remember how to do this?’ But then you get into the game, and it’s back to baseball.”
The Indians are waiting for a second opinion on Lindor’s acute left ankle sprain from Dr. Robert Anderson in Green Bay, Wisc., before releasing an official timetable for his return. He sustained the sprain Tuesday in an intrasquad game against Double-A Akron in Goodyear, Ariz., while in a rundown between first and second base.
“We’re trying to arrange a second opinion with him,” Francona said. “When we do, then we’ll have more clarity.”
Final roster move
The Indians officially announced that they purchased the contract of Hanley Ramirez from Triple-A Columbus. In order to make room for him on the 40-man roster, Ben Taylor was designated for assignment.