Francona wants Ramirez 'to be a weapon'

March 2nd, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians manager Terry Francona believes that Jose Ramirez can be an everyday player in the big leagues. For now, the makeup of Cleveland's roster is such that the versatile infielder looks to be headed for a super-utility role this season.

For Wednesday's Cactus League game against the Reds, Ramirez got the nod at third base, where he could see action on days when veteran Juan Uribe is not in the lineup. Ramirez also offers the Tribe a backup option for second base and shortstop, and Francona also plans on giving him innings in left and center field during Spring Training.

"We haven't made our roster by any means," Francona said on Wednesday morning. "But, under the right circumstances, Jose, we want him to be a weapon. I tried to explain that to him in the meeting. Sometimes, you have a utility player on your team and it's like, 'OK, this guy gets a day off, so we'll play him.' What I'd like it to be is where we're looking at Jose and we're like, 'Hey, we want to get him in a game.'"

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Francona was quick to point to Ramirez's showing in the second half, when he hit .259 with 16 extra-base hits, 31 runs scored and more walks (19) than strikeouts (15) in his final 50 games. In September, Ramirez hit at a .280 clip with an .888 OPS in 24 games.

"He [can be] kind of a catalyst," Francona said. "He's driven some balls out of the ballpark. He's stolen some bases. He can play defense. And he's a very confident young player. If we can get to that point with him, I don't think it matters what position he plays. He can helps us."

Other items of note from Wednesday:

• Right-hander Zach McAllister is scheduled to log two innings behind starter Danny Salazar in Thursday's game against the Reds. McAllister, who projects to be in the bullpen, will be stretched out to three innings before potentially being transitioned back into a relief role.

"One, it protects us," Francona said. "Two, we really think it's good for him. ... I think that Zach, he wants to be a starter. And I would never tell him he can't be, because I think he could be. In our situation right now, he might be a better weapon in the bullpen. Maybe it ends up being different, or maybe in a couple years it's different."

• After each spring game, the Indians post a "Swing of the Day" on a board in the clubhouse with still photos breaking down the swing mechanics. The first player honored was outfielder Tyler Naquin, whose triple against the Reds on Tuesday was on display in the locker room Wednesday.

• The Indians are looking at left-handers Kyle Crockett, Giovanni Soto, Tom Gorzelanny and Joe Thatcher as possible lefty specialists this spring. Ross Detwiler could also fit that role, though he is being stretched out to handle multiple innings for now. Francona said it can be hard to find left-on-left opportunities for such pitchers during Spring Training games, so evaluating at-bats rather than entire outings can be important.

"It's really hard," Francona said of having the lefty relievers face lefty hitters in the spring. "It's not as easy as it sounds. We look sometimes at who's coming up, but you can't tell what the other team's going to do."