GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin has already started doing straight sprints and is hitting in the batting cages every other day. He said all that’s left is to not get so excited about his progress that he tries to rush to the finish line.
“Just from the things I’ve seen, people bounce back from this differently,” Naquin said. “Everybody’s different. I’m thankful that I’m moving really fast, but I’m not getting ahead of the process. I know that if I trust it, keep going, I’ll be better than I was before.”
Naquin tore his right ACL in an attempt to avoid the outfield wall at Tropicana Field on Aug. 30. He said he knew the second he hit the ground that he was going to miss the rest of the season. It was at that time that his mindset switched to how he could recover as quickly as possible. He has learned to lean on players who have gone through a similar process, like teammate Mike Freeman and Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs.
“Being able to reach out to guys like that around the league, you just say, ‘Hey, man, there’s not a lot of ACLs done in baseball. Any secrets?’” Naquin said. “But with our staff, I trust them 100 percent. They’ve never led me astray. Unfortunately, I’ve had to spend some time with them over the years, but we’re praying that this is the last one. Just be able to stay healthy and do what I’m capable of doing and stay in the lineup and just performing.”
Naquin has said that being ready for Opening Day will always remain his goal, though his timetable to return is between April and June. Because Naquin has flown through his rehab process, the Indians said at Tribe Fest on Feb. 1 that they may need to make sure he’s not moving too quickly.
“He’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to,” manager Terry Francona said. “I’ve already, not yelled at him, but gave him the speech sort of, and the trainers have. He’s doing tremendous. We don’t want to slow him down. That’s not the object. But you don’t want a guy to go too fast. Sometimes, these things have to heal. But he’s doing terrific. … He’s going about this just like he goes about trying to play right field. He’s attacking it, and he’s gonna do fine.”
Clase throws first side session
Francona has made it clear that he’s not looking to evaluate his pitchers this early in camp so that they don’t feel the need to do too much. However, in his first look at 21-year-old Emmanuel Clase in an Indians uniform on Friday, it was hard for him not to be impressed.
“He was throwing 100-mph bowling balls,” Francona said of Clase, Cleveland's No. 23 prospect per MLB Pipeline. “I mean, that was fun to watch. You try to make sure you don’t evaluate because you don’t want guys overdoing, but just watching him without much effort, that ball was coming out and it was going this way and [the opposite way], and it was heavy. It looked like it was really heavy.”
Major League coaching promotions
The Indians promoted Justin Toole and Kyle Hudson to the big league coaching staff Friday morning. Toole will serve as a hitting analyst after spending the past three seasons in a similar role with Class A Lake County, Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Double-A Akron. In his new position, he will support the hitting coaches through an evidence-based approach, connecting to resources throughout the organization.
Hudson will be a Major League staff assistant. After his eight-year professional playing career, he became a coach at his alma mater, the University of Illinois, in 2016 and joined the Indians in ’17, serving as the bench coach at Lynchburg, Lake County and Triple-A Columbus. Hudson will instruct the club’s outfielders on defense and handle their in-game positioning, taking that responsibility off bench coach Brad Mills’ plate.
“I thought [Mills] was getting dragged into too many different [directions],” Francona said. “I’m in his ear and he’s trying to get somebody [positioned]; I thought it was unfair to him. So that’s why we came up with that. But we wanted somebody that could take over from Day 1 in Spring Training. I didn’t want Millsy to be out there, guys not knowing who to go to. The guy had to be able to handle the responsibility of not just where do we play them, but helping them learn and teach them fundamentals of outfield play.”