CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona has always been a fan of matchups. We’ve already seen Jordan Luplow and Ben Gamel platooning in center field and Jake Bauers and Yu Chang platooning at first base depending on whom the opponent sends to the mound. But don’t expect this to be a trend that carries over to the shortstop position as well.
Francona penciled in Amed Rosario at shortstop again in Monday's 3-0 loss to the Royals after he got his first start of the season at short on Sunday in Detroit. Rosario went 1-for-2 with a walk and a nice diving stop in the sixth to rob Hanser Alberto of a hit. With Andrés Giménez being a left-handed hitter and Rosario being a right-handed hitter, there’s an opportunity to have yet another position constantly rotating. But Francona said that likely won’t be the case.
“Giménez, he’ll be right back in there,” Francona said. “I just want to keep Amed in the lineup today. We’ll be doing some mixing and matching. Amed’s gonna move back and forth a little bit. He’s not just a platoon player, for sure. We’ll make sure we keep everybody to a point where they can be productive.”
If Rosario isn’t expected to only fill a platoon role, what exactly does that mean moving forward? Because the Tribe has been so optimistic about Giménez’s future, it’s hard to imagine that he will not have an everyday role. That leads us to believe Rosario is on the verge of getting more time in center field.
He first started getting reps in the outfield just two weeks before Spring Training ended. His first Cactus League appearance in center field resulted in three errors (two fielding, one throwing), but he continued to show improvement in the final days of camp. Even though the regular season is underway, he’s still getting extra practice in the outfield when he can.
“What he’s doing in the days he’s not playing, he takes balls at [center and short],” Francona said. “And then the day he’s playing, he takes balls at the position he’s playing.”
Excitement for home opener
Even though the Tribe already had three games under its belt, there were still plenty of emotions building for the first game at Progressive Field. After spending the entire 2020 season in an empty ballpark with cardboard cutouts and piped-in crowd music, everyone -- players, coaches and manager included -- was anxiously waiting to step on the field with some fans back in the seats.
“You can toss a ball to a little kid and that’ll make his day,” outfielder Josh Naylor said. “All he can think about for the rest of the day is that player tossing him a ball. It can change someone’s life. It’s awesome having fans out there. It’s gonna be great. I can’t wait to interact with Indians fans.”
“I think we missed the fans, maybe more than they miss being here,” Francona said. “Playing in front of empty ballparks, I mean it was better than not playing, don't get me wrong, but having people here will really be welcome.”
No blizzard for Bieber
Shane Bieber pitched through intense periods of snow squalls on Opening Day on Thursday in Detroit, but this time around, he’s looking forward to the projected temperatures in the upper 60s on Wednesday.
“I’ve had a couple days to reflect and although it didn’t go as planned or I would’ve liked, it’s a cool memory to have to pitch in that type of weather and stuff like that,” Bieber said. “It definitely is a little bit harder to warm up. Velocity is going to tend to dip down on a league average. It’s gonna be a little bit harder to grip the ball. But at the end of the day, it’s our job to go out there and pitch and pitch competitively. That’s what you have to find a way to do.”
Regardless of the results of Thursday’s game, Bieber also got his first taste of having fans inside the ballpark. And like Francona and Naylor, he enjoyed the experience -- even if he was being heckled.
“It’s awesome,” Bieber said. “I got all the Bieber jokes back in Detroit. It felt like home. Unfortunately, they were all still the same jokes. So we’re still looking for some originality. But no, it’s good. It’s good to have that energy, that buzz, that competitiveness. It’s awesome. They really do change the game and make it better.”