Excitement accompanies Puig, Reyes to Tribe

Former Red appealing suspension; Cleveland special to former Friar

August 2nd, 2019

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona had phone conversations with and before the two arrived in Cleveland, and they both had one thing in common: “They seem extremely excited about coming, and so that’s a good first step,” Francona said.

Prior to the Indians' 7-1 loss in Thursday night's series finale against the Astros -- during which they each made their Tribe debuts -- Reyes and Puig took the podium to address the media, sporting Indians gear for the first time. The right-handed hitters add 49 combined homers and 107 RBIs to a Cleveland lineup that desperately needed pop from the right side of the plate. The two became the first duo ever with at least 20 homers acquired in a single midseason trade.

“Hopefully they add some depth,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said on Wednesday. “Both guys are really productive hitters, are capable of hitting the ball out of the ballpark at any point in time. Combine that with some of the other guys we have in our lineup, we feel like we now have a deep lineup that’s capable of scoring runs in a variety of different ways.”

From fracas to new city

Puig left Cincinnati after a melee on the field with the Pirates that resulted in the outfielder receiving a three-game suspension. Because he’s appealing, it didn’t affect his Indians debut on Thursday -- during which he went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk while starting in right field and hitting cleanup.

“I don’t have too much to say about that,” Puig said about the dustup with the Pirates. “We’re going to appeal. Things happen in the moment like that when you throw the ball to one of your teammates. You need to go out and defend your teammates. After that, everybody outside the baseball field, we are friends. Thank God there was no injuries for either side. We’ll see what’s going to happen in the next couple of days.”

The 28-year-old knew Carlos Santana and Francisco Lindor before calling them teammates, but he is most excited to be under Francona’s leadership after taking a trip with the Tribe’s skipper to Japan in 2014.

“Everybody’s talking about him that he’s an amazing manager and an amazing person, and I’m excited to be on this team and be next to him and start talking to him,” Puig said. “I’m feeling he can help me a lot in these two or three months, that I’m going to be here next to him to be a better baseball player and a person inside and outside of the baseball field.”

Although he was attempting to respect his teammates on the Reds after Tuesday’s loss, Puig was struggling to contain his excitement to join a contending ballclub.

“Now, with this team, I can make my dream come true: keep going, make the playoffs again, fight in the playoffs,” Puig said. “With Houston, the Yankees, no matter who’s coming, we’re going to fight and do the best that we can -- like a family and like a team, together, and win the championship, because this team has potential and good players to go to the World Series.”

A homecoming for Reyes?

Reyes -- who singled in his first at-bat and finished 1-for-4 while serving as the designated hitter and hitting sixth -- may not be from Cleveland, but the city held a special place in his heart before he knew he’d end up in Northeast Ohio. In 2014 and ’15, Reyes played for the Fort Wayne Tincaps, a Class A affiliate of the Padres, and met his wife at a game he played against the Lake County Captains in Eastlake, Ohio.

“When I got the news, that was the first thing I told her, like, ‘It’s crazy, we’re getting back from where we started,’” Reyes said. “So, Cleveland is really special for me. I know I’m going to have a lot of love from this city.”

Reyes had no issues getting that love while he was in San Diego. And while he’s focused on making an impact on the field, one of the 24-year-old’s goals is to establish a special connection with his new fanbase.

“I know my guys [from the Padres] love me and my team, and the city does, too,” Reyes said. “But I'm [wanting] to do the same thing here in Cleveland: Make the people love me like it was back in San Diego.”

There’s no hiding the power that the 6-foot-5, 275-pound slugger has, and one of the first thoughts that popped into his head when he was told he’d been traded to the Indians was the hitter-friendly ballpark of Progressive Field, especially for a right-center-field hitter like himself.

“I told myself I'll be doing the same thing I used to do,” Reyes said. “Just hit the ball on the barrel and not try to do too much, and things are going to happen.”

Roster moves

The Indians announced Thursday afternoon that outfielders and Greg Allen were optioned to Triple-A to clear space on the 25-man roster for Puig and Reyes.

Allen has spent the season going up and down between the big leagues and Triple-A, but in his most recent stretch with the Tribe, he hit .313 with an .847 OPS in 18 games. Bauers had spent the entire season with the Indians, slashing .233/.308/.379 in 100 contests.