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Notes: Lindor to hit 3rd; Luplow (back) to rest

@MandyBell02
July 12, 2020

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona openly considered moving Francisco Lindor from the leadoff spot during Spring Training in February. Now that Opening Day is just 12 days away, the Tribe’s skipper has made his decision. Francona said Lindor will likely hit third in the lineup this season, leaving second

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona openly considered moving Francisco Lindor from the leadoff spot during Spring Training in February. Now that Opening Day is just 12 days away, the Tribe’s skipper has made his decision.

Francona said Lindor will likely hit third in the lineup this season, leaving second baseman César Hernández as the most probable candidate to fill the vacancy at the top of the order.

“That’s my sneaking suspicion,” Francona said. “Some of it was literally sitting down and talking with [Lindor] about comfort level, where he’s been in the past, where he thinks he is now. He was quick to say, ‘Hey, I’ll hit anywhere you want,’ which I appreciate. You do appreciate when players say things like that. But I also want to do what I think makes sense for our team.”

Lindor has spent most of his career in the leadoff spot, hitting .280 with an .870 OPS in 364 games. He's hit second in 180 games and logged a .285 average with a .798 OPS. In 162 games in the three-hole, Lindor batted .308 with an .818 OPS.

No matter where he's hit, Lindor is the only player in the Majors to have recorded at least 40 doubles and 30 home runs in each of the past three seasons. When he's at the top of the order, at least one of his at-bats each game is guaranteed to have nobody on base. With the numbers he's produced over the past few years, the more opportunities he has with runners on, the better.

The Indians picked up a solid leadoff replacement over the winter, signing Hernández after the Phillies decided against tendering his contract at the end of the season. The second baseman has spent the majority of his career at the top of the order, and he owns a .275 average and .753 OPS when hitting first.

“You know, he can get on base, and he can run,” Francona said. “He’s not going to lead the league in stolen bases, but he can hit from both sides, he can walk, and he can run the bases. So, there’s a candidate there. And then the other guys kinda fall into place.”

The Tribe still has a lot of moving pieces that it will need to iron out before the Opening Day lineup can be set, but the top four spots in the batting order may be settling into place. Francona has talked about using four switch-hitters at the top of the order, with Carlos Santana and José Ramírez joining Hernández and Lindor. In the team’s first intrasquad scrimmage on Thursday, Francona penciled Santana in the two-hole and Ramírez in the cleanup spot.

“There's a chance those guys hit first, second, third and fourth in the order,” Francona said on Saturday. “Is that the best use of switch-hitters? I don't know. But you want your guys hitting at the top of the order. But those are all things to think about.”

Luplow to miss Sunday and Monday with back soreness
Outfielder Jordan Luplow has been dealing with back pain since Summer Camp began and the Indians are exercising caution to make sure the injury does not get worse. Luplow felt well enough Friday to take a few swings in the intrasquad scrimmage as a designated hitter, but he did not bounce back the way he wanted to Saturday. He’ll be re-evaluated Monday.

“You know, I think we were really encouraged the other day,” Francona said. “He came back, DH'd and got a couple at-bats. And then it didn’t feel quite as good the next day as we were hoping, so we got him down for today and tomorrow. ... We’re gonna get him looked at tomorrow just to see if there’s something we can help to encourage the healing a little bit.”

Indians taking it slow with DeShields
Now that outfielder Delino DeShields has reported to Summer Camp after testing negative twice for COVID-19, the Tribe is making sure he doesn't do too much too soon.

“I mean he was limited to, this last week, I think some of it was jumping rope at his house,” Francona said. “I mean he was down for a while. We need to use good judgement with him, and we will.”

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.