Francona has a little fun with two Guardians who made the team

March 26th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

This is the time of spring when players are ushered into the manager’s office regularly, usually receiving the news that they did not make the Opening Day roster and are being sent back to the Minor League side.

Some players are expecting this talk at some point in camp, others aren’t. Regardless, it’s never easy for manager Terry Francona and his coaching staff to have to break this news.

When lefty and righty were each called into Francona’s office, neither knew what to expect.

“He made my stomach drop, for sure,” Gaddis said. “He started with, ‘I don’t like having these conversations.’ So my stomach dropped.”

“They brought me into the office and sat me down, started with this part of Spring Training’s like when a lot of tough decisions get made,” Herrin recalled. “So, I didn’t know if I was getting sent back down.”

What was probably, in reality, mere seconds of a pause before finding out they made the roster felt like an eternity to a player waiting to hear what his next step will be this season. Gaddis and Herrin both made it to the final days of camp, watching the guaranteed big leaguers pack their bags and get instruction on when the equipment trucks will be coming to pick up their things -- all while having no idea where they would be in a few days.

In those seconds, it’s easy to reflect on what this spring entailed and why they each deserved to be with the Major League team.

Herrin fills an obvious need now that southpaw Sam Hentges is sidelined with left shoulder inflammation. But the 26-year-old lefty showed improvements with his fastball, was able to get ahead in counts and proved he can compete against big league hitters.

“I knew they put me on the 40-man for a reason, hoping I could help the team at some point this year,” Herrin said. “I didn’t know what the chances were to make it to start the year, but as we kind of progressed into Spring Training, I felt like I had been having a pretty solid Spring Training and you kind of notice the locker room getting thinner and thinner.”

Gaddis, the club's No. 28 prospect, has had an impressive camp, with a team-high 17 strikeouts at the time he entered Francona’s office. He made some recommended adjustments to his mechanics and was one of the most reliable arms of the spring.

“It’s not like I ever knew anything [about making the roster], it was just hoping and going out there every time I had the chance to pitch, which isn’t too much in Spring Training,” Gaddis said. “I just tried my best every day.”

Francona knows how badly these players want to hear the decisions. And when he’s forced to have so many difficult conversations, he didn’t want to miss an opportunity to enjoy the fun ones.

“So, we did,” Francona said with a smile.

After the fear came over them that they did not make the Opening Day roster, Francona revealed the truth.

“And then he was like, ‘But that’s not gonna happen today.’ So that was pretty cool,” Gaddis said.

“Then he told me congratulations, they’re excited to have me to help us win some games,” Herrin said. “It’s really a surreal feeling.”

The last duo to be named to Cleveland’s 2023 bullpen immediately picked up their phones and called their parents with the news.

“Just listening to Herrin and Gaddis talk about calling their mom and dad, that was cool because we don’t get to do that as much as you’d like,” Francona said. “So, it’s pretty cool.”

Herrin’s mom, Cathy, couldn’t help but scream into her phone. Gaddis’ father, much like his son, kept a calm tone, congratulating his son and reminding him that the time to start working is now.

The Herrins are getting their plans together to get to Seattle next weekend and the Gaddis family is planning to be in Cleveland the following week for the home opener.

“It’s the dream I’ve had since I was four years old,” Herrin said. “It’s great.”