Tribe interested to see if Naquin's bat will play

March 5th, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Given the questions that exist in the outfield right now, the Indians are taking a long look at prospect Tyler Naquin this spring.

On Saturday, Indians manager Terry Francona said the club knows that Naquin -- ranked ninth on's Top 30 Indians prospects list -- is solid as a defensive option for center field. What Cleveland is not as sure about right now is how close Naquin is to being ready for the Major Leagues with his bat.

"He's one of our better center fielders defensively, for sure," Francona said. "I want to watch him more. There's so much to like about him. I think he's still learning about the hitting part. There's times where you look and he's either late or early, and when he's on time, it's really good. How often can he do that?

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"We've all seen, you get into the season and that [changing speeds] is what pitchers are trying to do [to hitters]. So, we're trying to gauge where he's at, which is not the easiest thing, especially early in camp."

Last season, the 24-year-old Naquin was limited to 84 games due to a variety of health issues, but he hit .300 with seven homers, 25 doubles, 27 RBIs, 13 steals and an .828 OPS between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. Naquin dealt with a quad strain early in the year and missed time later in the season due to a concussion and then a hip issue. In 2014, he missed the second half after having his left hand broken by a pitch.

"He looks healthy, which is really good," Francona said. "He's missed so much time with a lot of different things. It doesn't help. When you're in the Minor Leagues and you miss your at-bats, it doesn't help. But, he looks healthy."

Other items of note from Saturday morning:

• Francona noted that left fielder Michael Brantley, who is working his way back from November surgery on his right shoulder, has a scheduled check-up with a doctor on Sunday. Brantley continues to progress well and remains in the soft-toss phase of his hitting program.

• Veteran third baseman Juan Uribe, who signed with the Indians on Sunday, is getting closer to being cleared to play in Cactus League games. Francona said Uribe might first get some at-bats as a designated hitter in Monday's Noon ET "B" game against the Reds.

• Francona said he does not plan on having catchers Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez in the lineup at the same time by design this season. While one catcher could start as a DH to try to maximize offensive production, the manager said that would likely only happen under unique circumstances.

• Former Tribe slugger Travis Hafner, who is a special assistant to baseball operations for Cleveland, is in camp helping out hitters on the Major and Minor League sides. Former Indians infielder Carlos Baerga also is in camp as a guest instructor.

• For the past few springs, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway has displayed spring pitching leaderboards on a whiteboard in the locker room. The two columns Callaway has posted once again are for first-pitch strikes and 1-1 strikes in Cactus League games.