Notes: Luplow confident; rehab, injury updates

March 9th, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- In two weeks, the Indians will escape the desert and head to Houston to play two final exhibition games before the regular season finally gets underway. In that time, the Tribe will have to figure out who the best fits are in their outfield. Before their 3-1 loss to the Rockies on Sunday, one thing that Indians manager Terry Francona said he noticed is 's increased confidence.

Luplow entered his first Spring Training with the Indians last year after being traded from the Pirates the previous offseason. He went 9-for-44 (.205) in 19 Cactus League games and was on the big league club until April 13, when he was optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Fast forward a year later, and the 26-year-old has radiated confidence and comfort, both in and out of the Indians clubhouse.

“I mean last year, Lup didn’t get a hit until, like, the last week [of camp], you could tell he was pressing,” Francona said. “He didn’t know anybody. You try to help, but they got to live through it. Now they come out here, they know where they’re going, they don’t need somebody helping them, pointing to the kitchen, or showing them where Field 2 is. So it’s getting reacquainted and not introducing, which I think helps everybody.”

After he came back up to the big leagues last year on April 28, he hit .281 with a .953 OPS, 15 homers and 38 RBIs in 78 games. He demolished lefties and the majority of his start days came when a southpaw was on the mound. But, at the end of the regular season, he and the Indians both expressed their belief that he could be more than a platoon guy. That belief hasn’t changed.

“We kind of told him that we thought he earned the right to maybe carry a little more weight,” Francona said. “Again, a lot of it depends on how guys play, but we think he can handle a little more responsibility."

In an unfinished, overcrowded outfield, the more responsibility a player can be entrusted with, the better. The Indians have yet to make their first round of cuts and currently have 10 outfielders on their 40-man roster, plus three non-roster invitees who are outfielders. During the offseason, the Tribe said that Oscar Mercado -- as long as he’s healthy -- will be a guarantee in the grass. Now, it seems like Luplow could be the next lock for the outfield, at least for the beginning of the season.

Injury updates

Mike Clevinger: Clevinger is scheduled to do workouts with weighted balls Sunday morning, before he meets with his doctor in the afternoon to have a checkup on his surgically repaired meniscus.

“He’s actually doing really well,” Francona said. “They don’t want to put the brakes on him, but they want to make sure that he doesn’t overdo it. … We’ll have a little better framework on his schedule tomorrow.”

Tyler Naquin: Naquin is expected to sit down with the Indians' medical team on Sunday to determine his schedule moving forward. He had surgery to repair his torn ACL in September, and has already taken on-field batting practice, in addition to being cleared to do full weight room activity.

Daniel Johnson: Johnson had to miss the first few spring games due to a sprained ankle he had been dealing with in the weeks leading up to the Cactus League opener. He’s since gotten back into the Indians’ lineup, but Francona said it’s not completely healed.

“He still feels it, but I think he’s doing OK,” Francona said. “I mean, he’s getting down the line good and everything. I would say it’s lingering a little bit, which we thought it would. But I think he can definitely play through it.”

Up next

The Indians will have split-squad games on Monday against the Giants at Goodyear Ballpark and against the Angels at Tempe Diablo Stadium. will get the ball against San Francisco and Logan Allen will make the start against Los Angeles. The Indians' home game is slated to start at 4:05 p.m. ET, while the road game will get underway at 4:10 p.m. ET.