CLEVELAND -- Have no fear, the youth is here.
As if the Indians -- the youngest team in the Majors -- weren’t already inexperienced enough, the team added two new bats (Bobby Bradley and Ernie Clement) to the lineup over the past two weeks. And Bradley and Clement played large roles in the Indians’ 7-2 victory over the Orioles on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
Since getting the callup 11 days ago, Bradley has been red-hot for Cleveland, hitting .440 with a 1.361 OPS, three homers and 10 RBIs in 27 plate appearances after an RBI single and a solo shot in Tuesday’s victory. Indians fans had long awaited Bradley’s arrival after first baseman Jake Bauers hit just .190 with a .557 OPS, two homers and six RBIs in 113 plate appearances before he was designated for assignment and traded to the Mariners.
“I'm glad he got off to a good start because I think that was important for him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said, “Gives him something to kind of fall back on. But he's done a really good job of, for the very most part, swinging at strikes. Even tonight, I think he swung at a 2-0 fastball a little bit up, but it was a fastball count. He got a fastball and he took a good swing. He shortened up and hit the ball to left field a couple times. He's been good for us. It's been fun to watch him.”
The Indians have been faced with plenty of adversity this season, aside from the fact that the roster is so young. With starters Shane Bieber and Zach Plesac, backstop Roberto Pérez, outfielder Jordan Luplow and slugger Franmil Reyes all on the injured list, the team knows it will have to get creative to find ways to win. Part of that process is getting a glimpse at the up-and-coming prospects, and while Bradley has quickly found a way to jump in the spotlight, he was more excited about the performance from another rookie on Tuesday night.
With so many young players on the Major League roster comes a lot of relationships that were formed deep in the Indians' farm system. That includes Bradley and Clement. The two have played together all throughout the Minor Leagues and spent the entire 2020 season together at the club’s alternate training site. And when Clement safely made it to third after his first big league hit, no one was more excited for him than Bradley.
“I was probably one of his biggest fans in there cheering him on,” Bradley said “Playing with the guy, coming up through the Minors, Site 2 last year, this year, there’s no better feeling than seeing one of your teammates get their first big league hit.”
Clement had a cheering section beyond Bradley, as his parents, sister, grandmother and aunt and uncle were in attendance to witness his first career hit -- one that was a crucial at-bat for Cleveland.
He may not have an RBI on his baseball card just yet, but sometimes a player’s impact isn’t recorded on a stats sheet. An errant throw on his single to center permitted a run to score to give the Indians a 2-1 lead, as Clement moved to third before the end of the play. His efforts sparked a five-run inning that helped Cleveland easily walk away with the victory.
“It was awesome,” Clement said. “I’m glad I could help the team win. That was the main focus. If it happened to be a base hit, that’s great. But any way to get it done.”
“His baserunning after the base hit was really good,” Francona said. “It was heads up, it was aggressive. It was fun to hear everybody how excited they were for him when he got back to the dugout. I enjoy that part of our game.”
A player’s first trip to the Majors can always be pressuring. But with so many guys being the same age on the Indians' roster -- and many of them have played together for multiple years -- it could end up taking some of the additional stress away. Bradley has even explained that now that he knows the big league ropes, he doesn’t feel any of the pressure he felt in 2019. And the more that attitude can rub off on the rest of the young players on this roster, the better off the team will be during this difficult stretch.
“We’re just letting loose, having fun,” Bradley said. “In my head, this is 12-year-old All-Stars, as fun as we can get, just playing some summer ball.”