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Lindor puts stellar defense on display

MLB.com @MLBastian

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Lindor focused on his fielding over the winter and made it a priority for this spring. The Indians' All-Star shortstop has earned a reputation as one of the best defenders at his position, but he felt like that aspect of his game slipped last season.

"I definitely feel like I let down a lot of the pitchers last year," Lindor said earlier this spring. "Not by making errors, but by not getting to the baseballs and not getting those two outs when they were needed, instead of only getting one out. I want to improve on my defense."

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Francisco Lindor focused on his fielding over the winter and made it a priority for this spring. The Indians' All-Star shortstop has earned a reputation as one of the best defenders at his position, but he felt like that aspect of his game slipped last season.

"I definitely feel like I let down a lot of the pitchers last year," Lindor said earlier this spring. "Not by making errors, but by not getting to the baseballs and not getting those two outs when they were needed, instead of only getting one out. I want to improve on my defense."

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During Wednesday's 11-6 loss to the Cubs, Lindor wasted no time in wowing the fans at Goodyear Ballpark with some dynamic plays on the field. The shortstop was involved in a pair of defensive gems in the first inning, but a diving stop against Chicago's Tommy La Stella was the real jaw-dropper.

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With two outs, La Stella sliced a pitch from Indians righty Trevor Bauer up the middle, but to Lindor's right. The shortstop took a few quick strides, snared the roller with a dive and then swiftly shifted to a knee. In one smooth motion, Lindor popped up to his feet and fired the ball to first baseman Yonder Alonso, who scooped the two-hopped throw as the shortstop tumbled to the ground.

That third out served as an exclamation point to an inning that also featured a strong relay throw by Lindor. One hitter before La Stella, Albert Almora Jr. doubled to center field, where Bradley Zimmer slipped as he gathered the ball. Zimmer recovered in time to get the ball to Lindor, who then sent a pinpoint throw to catcher Yan Gomes to complete an 8-6-2 relay to cut down Ian Happ at the plate.

Video: CHC@CLE: Zimmer, Lindor relay for the out at home

Lindor -- a Gold Glove Award and Platinum Glove Award winner in 2016 -- is hoping to continue to flash that kind of defense in the upcoming season. During 2017, Lindor had five Defensive Runs Saved in 1,377 innings at shortstop, while posting a 6.6 UZR/150. That was a dropoff from '16, when he had 17 DRS in 1,364 2/3 innings with a 20.7 UZR/150.

"Pitchers work as hard as they can," Lindor said. "When they execute and I don't help them, that's not right."

Lineup matters
The lineup that Indians manager Terry Francona fielded against the Cubs might be close to how things look come Opening Day.

Lindor led off, followed by Jason Kipnis, Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion, Alonso, Lonnie Chisenhall, Gomes, Zimmer and Melvin Upton Jr. The only caveats are that Upton is in camp as a non-roster invitee and is trying to win a spot on the roster, and Michael Brantley's presence could shake up that order, if his surgically repaired right ankle is 100 percent in time for the regular season.

Lindor led off 63 games last season and thrived in that role, hitting .281 with 18 of his career-high 33 home runs and a .904 OPS atop the order.

"Frankie really liked it," Francona said. "So, when you have a guy that is that much of an impact player that really enjoys it, well, that's [helpful]. ... For a number of reasons -- having a guy that is a switch-hitter, and when you turn the lineup over, you've got a guy that can drive in some runs -- I think it makes a lot of sense."

Video: CHC@CLE: Gomes crushes a mammoth grand slam to left

Injury updates
• Right-hander Danny Salazar (right shoulder) has advanced to playing catch up to a distance of 90 feet. Francona said pitching coach Carl Willis, the medical staff and Salazar will now discuss whether the next step will be a mound session or first building to a longer distance in a long-toss program.

• Brantley went 2-for-4 against live pitching in a simulated game setting during Wednesday's team workout. He continues to work through controlled outfield work and agility drills in his running program.

Video: Brantley talks about his swing

Worth noting
• Bauer started against the Cubs on Wednesday night, but endured a tough outing. In 3 1/3 innings, Bauer was charged with eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits, including two home runs. The Tribe's No. 3 starter struck out three and issued three walks.

Tyler Naquin, Brandon Barnes, Mike Napoli and Brantley were among the Indians batters who got at-bats during Wednesday's simulated game. Minor Leaguers filled out the defense and pitchers Stephen Fife, Louis Head and Josh Martin each got work in.

Up next
Right-hander Josh Tomlin is scheduled to start for the Indians on Thursday, when Cleveland hosts the Dodgers in an 8:05 p.m. ET Cactus League clash at Goodyear Ballpark. The matchup will be available live on MLB.TV. Closer Cody Allen, lefty Tyler Olson and bullpen candidate Carlos Torres are among the other Tribe pitchers slated to appear. Lefty Alex Wood will start for Los Angeles.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Trevor Bauer, Francisco Lindor