CLEVELAND -- If you hear your name called in the MLB Draft, it makes your dreams of becoming a pro baseball player come true. But that’s rarely the moment when the concept of being a professional athlete sets in.
That didn't come until Cleveland manager Terry Francona and general manager Mike Chernoff hopped on a Zoom call with the 20 draftees the club signed to welcome them to the organization.
“Yeah, for me, it kind of made everything more real,” Indians Competive Round B selection Doug Nikhazy said. “It’s obviously very intimidating, but the more you get to talk to people and especially talking to Tito, you’re talking to the top. You’re talking to the guy all the way at the top. And he’s so personable, telling you he cares about you, he wants to talk to you, he wants to partner with you as he said, so it was a relief and it made it less of just an organization. It has a face to it, and it’s a really nice guy named Tito. We’re all glad to be here.”
“Yeah, most definitely,” Cleveland’s first-round pick Gavin Williams said. “Especially when [Francona] got on, everything set in a lot more than what it did.”
Francona made the call on Tuesday, and he was excited to talk about his brief conversation with the new group of young players. He noted that it’s easy to forget it’s their first day in professional baseball, and getting to be a part of that experience was enjoyable. His message?
“Pretty much just talked about what the Cleveland Indians are as a team,” second-rounder Tommy Mace said. “[We talked about] the expectations they have for everyone in their staff and in the organization and how the organization is run, and the beliefs they have from staff to player and from player to staff.”
The three top picks will have a limited time as Cleveland Indians. They sat from afar in Goodyear, Ariz., watching the team make a franchise-altering decision on Friday to rename its organization the Cleveland Guardians at the end of the 2021 season. And they are just as excited to be Guardians.
“I know there’s a lot of history behind the name and why they chose Guardians, and that’s something I do want to start to understand and start to learn,” Mace said. “I’m excited to learn about the history of the Cleveland Indians and why they chose that name and hopefully play for the Guardians one day.”
Cleveland has been navigating through a handful of players battling back problems, and slugger Franmil Reyes was the latest victim. Originally in Sunday's lineup against the Rays as the designated hitter, Reyes was scratched 30 minutes before first pitch at Progressive Field due to lower back spasms.
Per doctor’s orders, Francona had to leave prior to first pitch on Saturday evening to get some rest at his apartment as the skipper is dealing with a head cold (he tested negative for COVID-19). When he wasn’t feeling much better on Sunday, the team decided it was best for him to get an extra day at home. Bench coach DeMarlo Hale served as acting manager.
“We thought it made sense to give him another day today, and we’ll have the off-day tomorrow to try to feel better,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “More than anything, we want to make sure it doesn’t continue to get worse and try to minimize the chance that it spreads. So he’s still not feeling great, but hopefully he turns the corner soon.”
Ramírez has scheduled day off
While José Ramírez continues to work through some left elbow trouble that has been bothering him all month, Cleveland decided to give him more time off than he’d usually have to make sure it doesn’t get worse. There were no extra flareups Sunday to keep him out of the lineup; it was already determined that the third baseman would get the day off.
“He’s made great progress and he feels better,” Antonetti said. “But part of the plan was to give him the day off today, so he’ll be off the bench if needed, but we wanted to try to limit his volume.”