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Yandy to focus on playing third exclusively

Young slugger has MLB-ready bat, but position changes affected him at plate last year
MLB.com @MLBastian

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Yandy Diaz bounced between third base and the outfield during Spring Training last year, and was deemed an unfinished product defensively. His performance in the batter's box is what forced the Indians' hand, leading to a spot on the Opening Day roster.

This spring, Indians manager Terry Francona wants to avoid moving Diaz around. During Saturday's 11-2 win over the D-backs, Diaz got the start at third base, and that is the position he will focus on in Cactus League play. Diaz is blocked by All-Star Jose Ramirez at the hot corner right now, but Francona wants to do what he feels is right for the player's future.

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Yandy Diaz bounced between third base and the outfield during Spring Training last year, and was deemed an unfinished product defensively. His performance in the batter's box is what forced the Indians' hand, leading to a spot on the Opening Day roster.

This spring, Indians manager Terry Francona wants to avoid moving Diaz around. During Saturday's 11-2 win over the D-backs, Diaz got the start at third base, and that is the position he will focus on in Cactus League play. Diaz is blocked by All-Star Jose Ramirez at the hot corner right now, but Francona wants to do what he feels is right for the player's future.

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"When the guy shows the ability with the bat that he did," Francona said, "he was kind of the obvious candidate to kind of move around a little bit, because we thought he could help us. I do think it was hard on his development. He was trying to master one position, let alone two or three. So, I do think it'll help."

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Francona also noted that Diaz is also only recently recovered from a sports hernia that he sustained during winter ball.

"We just felt like, 'Let's simplify it a little bit,'" Francona said of the plan for Diaz.

Last spring, Diaz hit .458 (22-for-48) with 34 total bases and a 1.252 OPS in 20 Cactus League games for the Tribe. In 49 games for Cleveland in '17, Diaz was inconsistent. He turned in a .263/.352/.327 slash line in 156 at-bats. He started 37 games at third, three in left field and served as the designated hitter five times. Francona felt Diaz held his own at third.

"He had a game or two in the outfield that was a little rough," Francona said. "But, I thought he played like an average Major League third baseman, which is plenty good."

Worth noting

• Francona enjoys having players whose success stories give examples for other players. One case is left-hander Tyler Olson, who went to Triple-A Columbus after a solid showing last spring, and appeared blocked by veterans Andrew Miller and Boone Logan. By the second half, an injury to Logan opened the door for Olson, who turned in a 0.00 ERA in 30 appearances for Cleveland.

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"He had a really good spring last year," Francona said. "That's what we tell them: 'Do the best you can. Embrace being a part of what we're doing. Compete. And, it might not be on your timetable, but if you can really help, you'll get your chance.' And he's the perfect example."

Tyler Naquin is a center fielder by trade, but Bradley Zimmer is primed to open this season at that spot for the Tribe. Under the circumstances, and with outfield jobs up for grabs, Francona plans on giving Naquin time at all three outfield spots this spring. Naquin started in left field in Saturday's game against the D-backs and hit a two-run home run.

"We're going to put him at all three," Francona said. "You'd just hate for a guy to come down to the end and us have to make a decision based on, 'Oh man, we didn't play him there.' That would be bad, in my opinion."

• Second baseman Jason Kipnis, who was dealing with lower-back tightness in recent days, hit during live batting practice on Saturday. Francona indicated that, barring any setbacks, Kipnis will make his Spring Training debut on Sunday against the Reds.

• Francona said there is nothing new regarding right-hander Danny Salazar, who is working his way back from right shoulder inflammation. Salazar continues to work through the flat-ground portion of his throwing program, building up to long toss.

Up next
Right-hander Trevor Bauer is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut on Sunday, when the Indians take on the Reds in a 3:05 p.m. ET tilt at Goodyear Ballpark. Homer Bailey is slated to start for Cincinnati. Cleveland will tentatively have Francisco Lindor, Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion and Yonder Alonso in the lineup. The game will be available on MLB.TV.

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, Yandy Diaz