CLEVELAND -- Hours before Monday's game against the Rangers, Indians bench coach Brad Mills stood alone in left field, baseballs strewn throughout the outfield grass. Mills would pull a ball out of a bag, hit it off the left-field wall and study the way it caromed.Mills repeated the process over
CLEVELAND -- Hours before Monday's game against the Rangers, Indians bench coach Brad Mills stood alone in left field, baseballs strewn throughout the outfield grass. Mills would pull a ball out of a bag, hit it off the left-field wall and study the way it caromed.
Mills repeated the process over and over, and was eventually joined by left fielder Jose Ramirez, who is still learning the quirks of Progressive Field's 19-foot wall. They discussed a play from Sunday's game, and they talked about what Mills found during his solo session with the green-padded behemoth. Mills then hit a few balls off the wall so Ramirez could practice fielding the ricochets.
"We just kind of played with it a little bit," Mills said. "When he got out there, I kind of talked to him about what I saw when I hit balls. And then he came out there and we kind of walked through it. I didn't try to wear him out. I just wanted to stand there and just see how balls come out and see where he needs to go when a ball's hit in a particular area."
The pregame study session came about for a couple of reasons.
For starters, Mills has noticed that the wall has played slightly different this year. The bench coach is not sure why, but some balls have seemed to shoot off the wall harder than in the past. Also, the new videoboard in the left-field wall is made of a material that causes baseballs to drop straight down rather than bounce hard back into the field.
Ramirez, who has a 23.2 UZR/150 and minus-2 Defensive Runs Saved through 178 1/3 innings in left field this season, is still learning all those nuances.
"I'm working on this," Ramirez said through team translator Anna Bolton. "I still don't know the wall all the way, because it gives different bounces at different times."
The timing of the workout was also due to a key hit for the Orioles in the first inning of Sunday's 6-4 loss. With the bases loaded, Mark Trumbo crushed a pitch from Cleveland righty Mike Clevinger with an exit velocity of 116 mph, according to Statcast™. The ball rocketed over Ramirez's head while he tried to position himself properly. The ball bounced off the wall, shot hard to Ramirez's right and skipped toward left-center field, where center fielder Rajai Davis eventually scooped it up.
The baseball bounced to the left of a blue Sherwin Williams sign, which is located below the videoboard in the wall. Had the ball hit that sign, or the digital screen, it likely would have caromed down and to Ramirez. Instead, the baseball hit an angled portion of the wall, causing it to shoot off the padding at a sharper angle.
"He tried to go halfway in between," Mills said. "And it hit that wall and just shot the other way and didn't allow him to get back. Now, if it would've hit the Sherwin Williams sign, it would've come right back to him and, hopefully, we could've stopped the guy from scoring from first. That was our goal."
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 listen to his podcast.