Lindor called up for finale vs. Tigers
DETROIT -- Francisco Lindor returned to his locker during Triple-A Columbus' rain delay at Huntington Park on Saturday night. The shortstop picked up his phone and saw that he had received a text message from Indians manager Terry Francona.
Lindor opened it and read words he has dreamed about since childhood.
Come on, Frankie. Get up here. Congrats.
On Sunday morning, Lindor officially arrived to the big leagues, walking into the clubhouse at Comerica Park and finding a locker that included an Indians jersey with No. 12 stitched across the back. In order to add their top prospect (and MLB.com's No. 3-ranked prospect in baseball) to the roster, the Indians placed designated hitter Nick Swisher on the 15-day disabled list with left knee inflammation.
Lindor received hugs and handshakes upon entering the visitors' locker room, and he quickly made his way to the manager's office for his first face-to-face chat with Francona as a Major Leaguer. Each moment was special for Lindor, but the 21-year-old shortstop will cherish the moment he informed his family of the news.
On Saturday, Lindor had a host of family members, including his mom, in attendance for his Triple-A game in Columbus. After reading the text from Francona, Lindor told them all to meet him in a lobby inside the ballpark.
"I was like, 'Hey, pack your stuff,'" Lindor said, still smiling. "They cried. They laughed. They screamed. I was like, 'Try to keep it down. Not too many people know.' It was a great moment."
For Sunday's game in Detroit, Francona gave veteran Mike Aviles the nod at shortstop for Lindor's first day in the big leagues. Lindor arrived only a few hours before the start of the game and will deal with extremely heightened expectations. By starting on the bench, Lindor has a chance to soak everything in and calm any nerves before entering the first game of his career.
"This has obviously been talked about a lot, just because of who he is," Francona said. "We got a chance to talk this morning, about expectations and wanting him to be himself and trying to help us win. It's no different than anybody else."
In the seventh inning of Cleveland's 8-1 loss to the Tigers on Sunday, Lindor entered as a pinch-hitter and remained in the game as the designated hitter. Lindor struck out on four pitches in his first at-bat but came through with a single against Detroit's Joakim Soria in the ninth. Lindor stumbled on the play and had to retreat to first base -- robbing him of a double for his first Major League hit -- but he had no complaints.
"I'm playing in the big leagues," Lindor said. "It can't get any better. I'm happy."
Lindor is the latest in a line of highly-touted prospects to reach The Show in recent weeks.
On Saturday, the Twins promoted outfielder Byron Buxton, MLB.com's No. 1-ranked prospect in baseball. The Astros called up shortstop Carlos Correa (MLB.com's No. 2 prospect) last week, and the Rangers promoted third baseman Joey Gallo (No. 8) earlier this month. The Cubs called up much-hyped prospects Kris Bryant and Addison Russell earlier this season.
Given the advent of social media, the argument could be made that Lindor has been one of the most hyped prospects in Indians history. Many Tribe fans have been clamoring for Lindor's promotion since early this season, but the Indians had remained steadfast in their insistance on finding the most opportune time for both the young shortstop and the ballclub.
With the Indians playing better of late (22-18 since May 1, entering Sunday) and Lindor also on a recent tear (.400 average through 11 games in June), Cleveland felt the timing was right. Francona noted that former shortstop John McDonald, who is a special assistant to player development for the Indians, and Triple-A manager Chris Tremie both told the Tribe's manager that Lindor looked ready.
"When a guy is 21, he's 21," Francona said. "Tremie had kind of gone out of his way the other day to write me a note, just saying, 'Hey man, just so you know, this kid has really kicked it into gear.' This is before we knew anything was going to happen."
Through 57 games this season, the switch-hitting Lindor hit .279/.346/.398 with two home runs, 11 doubles, five triples, 22 RBIs, eight stolen bases and 26 runs scored for the Clippers. In parts of five seasons in the Minor Leagues, Lindor hit .278 with 19 triples, 21 homers, 73 doubles, 89 stolen bases, 162 RBIs, 185 walks and 253 runs scored in 414 games.
Lindor was Cleveland's top pick (eighth overall) in the first round of the 2011 Draft.
It is also worth noting that the Indians have likely moved past Super Two deadline, meaning Lindor will probably be unable to secure an extra year of arbitration down the road. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti has insisted, however, that Lindor's contract situation had no impact on the timing of his promotion.
"We want to have a collective feeling," Antonetti said last month, "that the player is prepared, or as prepared as possible, to not only come up here, but to come up here and succeed and contribute to a winning team. I think we've seen it in the past where there's been times where we and other teams may have been expedient in that and maybe brought players before they were ready."
The Indians believe that time has arrived for Lindor.
Francona made that clear with his text.
"It was very, very cool," Lindor said. "It showed me that he's excited. And I'm excited, too. I couldn't be any happier. I just couldn't wait to be here and join the team."