CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor has come a long way from the hill near his childhood home in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Lindor would position himself at the bottom and his dad, Miguel, would be halfway up the knoll with a bat, sending rubber balls bouncing down for his young son to
CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor has come a long way from the hill near his childhood home in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Lindor would position himself at the bottom and his dad, Miguel, would be halfway up the knoll with a bat, sending rubber balls bouncing down for his young son to field.
Those yellow rubber balls have led to gold. On Tuesday night, Lindor was named the American League's Rawlings Gold Glove Award winner for shortstop, becoming the youngest shortstop to win the award since Alan Trammell in 1980. Since being called up to Cleveland two seasons ago, Lindor has not only emerged as an energetic leader and impactful offensive player, but one of the elite defenders in the game.
"It's an honor. It's a blessing," Lindor said in an interview on ESPN shortly after learning he won the award. "Just to be here and be nominated and now win, it's huge. Words can't describe how happy I am right now. I can't wait to show it off to my pops."
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This Gold Glove could be the first of many for the budding star.
"Francisco has done a phenomenal job on every facet of defense," said Chris Antonetti, the Indians' president of baseball operations. "The pride he takes in his defense for a young player is really extraordinary. He works at it every day with our coaches to be as good as he can be defensively. We saw that play out over the course of the season -- how special and what an impact he has made for us defensively."
Lindor became the first Indians player to win a Gold Glove since Grady Sizemore captured one of the AL's outfield awards for the 2008 season. Before Lindor this year, Omar Vizquel was the last Cleveland shortstop to take home the annual hardware, doing so in '01. Lindor, 22, is the youngest middle infielder in team history to win a Gold Glove and the youngest Tribe player to win one since 1976 (center fielder Rick Manning, 21).
Like Lindor, Trammell won the AL Gold Glove at short at 22 years old, doing so for Detroit in '80. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lindor and Trammell are the only shortstops under the age of 23 to win a Gold Glove Award in baseball history.
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Lindor credited his father -- along with his older brother, Miguel, and cousin, Christian -- for pushing him throughout his youth. While recounting the tale of his dad hitting grounders from the hill near his childhood home, Lindor laughed. The shortstop told of how, if he would miss one of the skipping balls, it would keep bouncing behind him and wind up in the thicket.
"I never wanted to go chase the ball and have it in the bushes," Lindor said. "I was scared of the bushes. I didn't know what was in there. So, I would do whatever it took to make sure that I read the bat the right way or read the hop of the ball and try to catch it, or keep it in front of me at least."
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (a two-time Gold Glove winner) and Tigers shortstop José Iglesias joined Lindor as finalists for the AL's top defensive honor at the position this year. Simmons led AL shortstops in Defensive Runs Saved (18) and UZR/150 (25.1), but finished with more than 300 fewer innings than Lindor did for the AL champion Indians.
On Aug. 14, Lindor was reminded of those workout sessions with his father after a risky play behind the mound against the Angels. On a high chopper off the bat of Nick Buss, Lindor charged and snared the ball with his bare right hand before firing it quickly to first base for the out.
"That took me back to when I would try to make a fancy play," Lindor said, "and my dad would scream at me, 'Don't miss the ball!'"
In his first full season in the Majors, Lindor finished with 1,364 2/3 innings, which ranked fourth in the Majors and AL. Lindor's 17 Defensive Runs Saved ranked fourth among shortstops in baseball and second in the AL, while his 20.7 UZR/150 was third in the Majors and second in the AL for his position. Lindor posted a 20.8 UZR, which ranked first among his AL peers and second overall in baseball.
Among the more traditional statistics, Lindor finished the season second in the AL in both assists (448) and total chances (674), ending with 12 errors and a .982 fielding percentage.
The highlights were seemingly endless this season, and often ended with Lindor smiling.
On April 23, Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera nearly knocked Lindor over with a sharp grounder. The shortstop stabbed the ball with his glove, nearly did a backward somersault and recovered in time to throw Cabrera out at first. After the play, Lindor could not contain his laughter on the field. On May 3, Lindor made a diving stop in the hole, robbing Detroit's Justin Upton of a would-be hit. From the outfield grass, Lindor made a pinpoint, one-hop throw to first baseman Mike Napoli for the out. Once again, Lindor grinned after the play.
Twice in the span of 10 days in June, Lindor made a diving grab while playing in a shift, and then flipped to third baseman Jose Ramirez to complete a 6-5-3 putout.
Those were just a few of the many jaw-dropping plays turned in this year by Lindor, who made his first All-Star team this year and was the runner-up for the AL Rookie of the Year last season.
For all the spectacular plays, though, what impressed Indians manager Terry Francona this season was Lindor's increasing attention to detail. During the shortstop's rookie year in '15, Lindor showed that knack for defensive wizardry, but also slipped up on routine plays. In his sophomore season, Lindor showed improvement across the board, earning praise from Francona during the postseason.
"We all saw last year when he got called up, his ability to make the spectacular play," Francona said. "Not everybody can do that. But, as he's maturing in this league, his ability to understand that you have to make the routine play [is improving]. ... He's so good about always treating every ground ball like it's the last one. And for a kid that's 22 years old, that doesn't always happen."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.