Luplow makes impressive bid for spot in outfield

Outfielder's two-homer game a boost with prospect Mercado in wings

May 9th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- With all the anticipation building for outfield prospect Oscar Mercado to get his first call to the big leagues, Jordan Luplow is doing everything he can to prove he earns a spot in the Indians' outfield.

For the second time in his career, Luplow recorded a multihomer game, hitting solo blasts in the second and fifth innings to help lift the Indians to a 5-0 victory over the White Sox on Thursday afternoon in a rain-shortened game at Progressive Field. The game entered a rain delay at 2:54 p.m. ET and, after two hours and 34 minutes, it was called due to inclement weather after five innings.

“It was really good for us and for [Luplow], I think for his confidence but also for us,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He can do that. I think, now that he has done it, I think it will do a world of good for his confidence. I think he’s actually been more confident since he’s been back. You can even see it in his outfield play.”

More than just a platoon?

Luplow broke camp with the Tribe and hit .222/.333/.222 with three walks and nine strikeouts in 21 plate appearances. But after a short stint in the Minors, Luplow came back to the big leagues, and he has hit .333/.429/.778 in his last 18 at-bats.

“It was nice to go down there and get some consistent at-bats and have some success and gain some confidence as well,” Luplow said. “And then to carry it over here in this locker room with these guys and their positivity and their demeanors, it helped a lot.”

The 25-year-old outfielder said he’s been working closely with Cleveland’s hitting coaches, Ty Van Burkleo and Victor Rodriguez, and was able to spot a few issues with his mechanics that he’s since fixed.

“I was doing things that I didn’t know I was doing,” Luplow said. “Getting on my back side a little too much and not being able to let my hands release and get through some balls.”

Those adjustments, along with his solid defense and versatility to play all three outfield positions, have quickly caught the Indians’ attention. Francona said after Thursday’s win that he knows Luplow is more than just a platoon guy.

“I was just looking at that now, because a guy swings the bat that good, I don’t want to be the one to cool him off,” Francona said. “ ... We don’t want him to be strictly a platoon guy. It’s hard though when you have three other guys that are left-handed, so, you know, we’ll see ... I’m just not sure what to do right now.”

Let’s make it official

Carlos Carrasco earned his first shutout since June 25, 2016, by pitching five scoreless innings, allowing two hits with no walks and six strikeouts. The two hits were the fewest he’s allowed in a start of five or more innings since June 11, 2018. The right-hander said he was warned he’d likely pitch through rain the day before his start, so when it started to pour, he had one thing on his mind: make it an official game.

“One of those innings I think I got a strikeout, [catcher] Roberto [Perez] threw to [Jose Ramirez] and he went to [Jason Kipnis] and I said, ‘No. Just get me the ball ... I just want to get to the fifth inning [to make it] official.’”

The long ball

After launching a 422-foot long ball to left field in the second, Luplow came back to the plate with a steady rain falling in the fifth. Despite the conditions, he sent a 424-foot homer to center field off Chicago starter Manny Banuelos, becoming just the second Indian since 2015 to hit two home runs at least 420 feet in a single game (Edwin Encarnacion, June 3, 2018). The second-inning homer was his first since Sept. 7, 2018 and his first RBI since Sept. 14, 2018.

“I just realized that coming up here I need to be myself,” Luplow said. “I don’t really need to try and be someone else, try and be a Francisco Lindor and do it all. Just gotta be Jordan Luplow, and I think that’s going to be good enough.”