CLEVELAND -- Coming off season-ending right hip surgery in 2018, Tyler Naquin was focused on building up his lower-body strength to try to have his first injury-free season since his rookie campaign in 2016.
The Indians right-fielder landed on the injured list on May 14 with tightness in his left calf/hamstring, but he was able to come back three weeks later, crediting his workouts for continuing to strengthen the muscles rather than letting the nagging injury hang around. And while he’s put in a lot of time in the weight room to make sure his lower half is in top shape, it’s his arm strength that’s started to catch people’s eyes.
In a 10-5 victory over the Royals on Friday night, Naquin threw out Alex Gordon at home plate in the third inning, recording his team-leading eighth outfield assist of the season. Entering play on Saturday, Naquin’s eight assists were tied with Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Joey Gallo of the Rangers for the second most in the Majors -- trailing Leury Garcia of the White Sox (10).
“I mean, I take a lot of pride in it,” Naquin said. “It’s something I work at. I think all of our outfielders can throw really well. I’ve seen [Jordan] Luplow make quite a few strong throws. ... We’ve got some good players all around the diamond. I think it makes for nights like [Friday night]. It makes it a lot of fun. Just stay consistent. If one guy doesn’t get the job, then you can always trust the next guy to get it done.”
Naquin fired a laser to the plate, so much so that it beat Gordon, who was tagging up at third, by three or four steps. Gordon attempted to avoid catcher Roberto Perez’s tag by circling around home, but Perez was able to roll on his back and get the glove on Gordon’s arm before he touched the plate. A replay review overturned the initial safe call.
“I mean he’s an athlete back there,” Naquin said. “If you say Berto can’t dance, just go look at that play.”
As the July 31 Deadline quickly approaches, Trevor Bauer’s name keeps popping up in more and more conversations. But as the rumors swirl, Indians manager Terry Francona is staying focused on his current roster.
“Our job as a staff is to take the guys we have and try to get the most out of them, and I’ve actually been really having fun with this group. To ever say, ‘Oh, man, we need that.’ That’s a slight to somebody else.
“I know [president of baseball operations] Chris [Antonetti] and [general manager Chris Chernoff] are always doing what they do, and listening and talking and doing things like that,” Francona said. “And everybody knows in the game that happens. I don’t feel it my place to ever say that because I just think it’s disrespectful to the players we have.”
This date in Indians history
1996: Alvaro Espinoza hit a walk-off homer in the 11th inning to lift Cleveland to a 6-5 victory over Minnesota.