Notes: Bradley's blast; Bieber vs. Santana

March 2nd, 2021

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians have a handful of position battles to watch over the next four weeks, and prospect did his best over the offseason to make the Tribe’s decision at first base as difficult as possible.

Bradley focused on his body this winter, dropping 35 pounds to get himself into peak physical condition to best compete for the job. Despite dropping the weight, he proved Monday that he hasn’t lost an ounce of power by crushing a solo homer to deep right field.

“He hit that ball like a man,” Francona said after Cleveland’s 8-6 loss to the Royals. “But it was nice to see Bobby get a good swing and, regardless, the work he has put in is going to pay off for this kid. He is in the best shape of his career since I’ve seen him, and I’m really happy for him.”

Bradley -- rated as the club’s No. 14 prospect by MLB Pipeline -- has seen his weight fluctuate in the past. He’s played seasons at heavier weights and seasons at lower weights. So what makes this spring so different?

“This time I feel like I got down to this weight the right way,” said Bradley, 24. “Generally in the past, it would be more dieting and not so much equal work in the gym and on the field. I was just thinking the diet would take over things. This year, incorporating that diet with going to the gym, with running and things like that.”

The Indians have and Bradley as their top options for first base. is also a first baseman, but the team informed him that he’ll be looked at as a right fielder this spring. Bauers may have more Major League experience, but Bradley is hoping that his power -- the power that helped him launch 33 homers for Triple-A Columbus in 2019 -- can separate him in the race.

“Jake Bauers is a natural first baseman,” Indians third-base and infield coach Mike Sarbaugh said. “We like the way he plays first base. Bobby's a natural first baseman, a big target. If you ask any infielder, they love having a bigger target to throw to. We have that. Josh Naylor has played first in the past at times. We have some guys that we feel good about filling that position, whoever that is. If you ask any infielder, they're comfortable with any of those guys.”

Hello, old friend
The Tribe got its first look at Carlos Santana in a Royals uniform on Monday afternoon, and starter walked off the field in the first inning with a smile on his face. With two outs, Santana swung at the first pitch he saw from his former teammate and grounded out to second base. It was a surprise to Bieber, who rarely ever saw Santana take a hack at the first pitch, so he was sure to yell over to Santana at first base.

“I looked at him and I said, 'What's wrong with you? You never do that,'” Bieber said. “He looked back and said, 'Spring Training, bro.' He was trying to punk me, that's for sure, with the first-pitch swing.”

“Guys leave, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less fond of them,” Francona said. “We certainly don’t want Carlos to beat us this year, but he is one of our all-time favorites, and certainly myself included. He’s a lovable kid, and now he has grown into a lovable man. But it’s fun to see him.”

Game MVPs
The Indians are looking for any way to bond as a team while following the COVID-19 protocols. They try not to gather together for long periods of time for meetings or any other activities. So, the team is setting aside a few minutes every day to hand out an MVP award to a player for the game from the day prior.

After every game, one player will be awarded $50 for his performance. However, after the Tribe’s spring opener, the coaching staff couldn’t decide between three players, so , and each took home the honors.

“And it’s certainly not the money aspect of it,” Francona said. “We’re trying to have a little bit of fun with the guys. There will be times where when they win an award, we’ll make them talk to the team about what it means to them or things like that. But it was just the idea to have a little bit of fun.”

Giménez shined in his first game with his new organization, logging a triple and a single along with solid relay throw home to nab a runner at the plate. And the Indians were sure to recognize his efforts.

“I think it’s really positive to reinforce positive behaviors and performances,” Giménez said, “but I think most importantly, it reinforces the relationship we have, not only among players, but also with coaches. We’re a big family. We’re a big group. So those types of things reinforce that sense of, we’re doing this as a group and as a family.”