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Notes: Lindor starts; Clevinger, Bieber updates

@MandyBell02
February 21, 2020

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After 147 days, the wait is finally over. The Indians will return to game action on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark, as they host the Reds at 3:05 p.m. ET. In anticipation of the first spring contest, the starting nine for the opener was posted in the Tribe’s

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- After 147 days, the wait is finally over.

The Indians will return to game action on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark, as they host the Reds at 3:05 p.m. ET. In anticipation of the first spring contest, the starting nine for the opener was posted in the Tribe’s clubhouse on Friday afternoon, and fans will see a few names who are expected to be in the Opening Day lineup.

Francisco Lindor will start at short, Oscar Mercado will play center, José Ramírez will start at third, Carlos Santana will play first and César Hernández will get the start at second (all of them hitting in that order). The order of those five players at the top of the lineup could be an early look into what the Indians will put together on March 26, though the club is debating whether to take Lindor out of the leadoff spot.

From there, the position battles will begin. Jake Bauers, who has revamped his swing to prove he deserves a place on the 26-man roster, will start in left, Bobby Bradley will DH, Sandy León will get the start behind the plate as Roberto Pérez is expected to take the first week of games off to help ease him into the season after having bone spurs removed from his ankle during the offseason, and Bradley Zimmer will start in right.

The outfield will be the area to watch over the next five weeks, as 10 players on the 40-man roster are competing to make the big league club. Mercado is the one lock to take the field every single day, but the other two positions -- wherever Mercado doesn’t end up playing -- are up for grabs. Now, the Indians just have to hope that they don’t have to wait another 24 hours to get the spring schedule underway.

The team knows the Goodyear area is expected to get some rain on Saturday afternoon. If the game is cancelled, it would be the first rainout for the Tribe at Goodyear Ballpark. If it happens, the Indians said they will not make any changes to the lineups they have already put together for Sunday and Monday road games against the Royals and Rockies, respectively. Instead, the home lineup for Saturday’s game will get bumped back to Tuesday’s home contest against the White Sox at 3:05 p.m. ET.

“Because we have a group that’s already ready to go the next day,” manager Terry Francona said, “and just with the way the road games work, I want to keep it on that schedule.”

Clevinger progressing
After being sidelined with a partial meniscus tear the day after pitchers and catchers reported to camp on Feb. 12, Mike Clevinger has already moved on from his crutches and is moving around pretty seamlessly on his surgically repaired knee. The righty has spent a lot of his time at the Tribe’s backfields, watching his fellow hurlers throw batting practice. But soon, Francona said, Clevinger will be able to begin his own arm workouts again.

“He’s really moving around better,” Francona said. “I think they wanted to give him between three to five days to kind of let things settle a little bit. We want to be aggressive, but also the guy had surgery and you want to make sure he’s OK.”

Bieber ramped up
The Indians had discussions about whether they should take things slowly with starter Shane Bieber to begin Spring Training. Because of the load he carried in 2019 while the rest of the starting rotation battled stints on the injured list, on top of his 214 1/3 innings pitched, the Tribe considered making sure he’d ease his way into camp. Francona and the rest of the coaching staff decided that there’s not enough time this spring to take that approach and Bieber has been officially given the green light to go through his regular routine.

“[Pitching coach] Carl [Willis] just told him, finally, 'Just throw the ball,'” Francona said. “I think he was kind of happy to hear that. I mean he’s in great shape, takes care of himself, he’s fun to watch. Just kind of stay out of his way.”

Bieber threw his second round of batting practice on Friday to a hitting group that included Delino DeShields, Zimmer and Domingo Santana. In both sessions, the right-hander has looked sharp -- so much so that Lindor yelled out throughout his at-bats about the life Bieber’s stuff had when he faced him earlier this week.

“He’s in terrific shape,” Francona said. “We tried to scale him back a little bit. He can’t do that.”

Up next

The Indians decided to reward Jefry Rodriguez for his hard work over the offseason by naming him as the starter for the opening spring game against the Reds at 3:05 p.m. ET on Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark. Vladimir Gutierrez will get the ball for the Reds. Listen to the action live on Gameday Audio.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.