Tribe duo dives for home -- nearly together

Chang quickly follows Naylor with slide to plate for 'funny' encounter

March 25th, 2021

Indians outfielder Josh Naylor was standing a few feet off second base as he watched Roberto Pérez’s long fly ball carry into the outfield. He waited to take off until he saw the ball hit off the wall and trickle onto the ground. But little did he know, Yu Chang, who was on first base, was right on his tail.

Naylor raced around third base and dove into home plate to score a run in the Tribe’s 6-5 loss to the D-backs on Wednesday night at Salt River Fields. But as he crossed the plate, he heard his teammates yelling for him to slide. Confused, he looked back -- while lying on the ground -- to notice that Chang was diving right behind him.

“I honestly had no idea [Chang was right behind me],” Naylor said. “That's partially my fault, because I should have been maybe halfway getting down the baseline. … After I slid, I heard, ‘Down, down, down.’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean down? I already slid. The play’s over.’ And then he came sliding in. It was just funny.”

Chang got a much better jump than Naylor did on Pérez’s double. Chang’s sprint speed clocked in at 28.6 feet per second, according to Statcast, while Naylor’s sprint speed was 27.6 feet per second. Even though Naylor was moving faster than the speed he averaged in 2020 (26.9 ft/sec), it wasn’t enough to pull away from Chang.

“I forgot how fast he was; I forgot how slow I was,” Naylor said. “He was right on my tail.”

The Tribe teammates came inches away from a collision, but they instead got up from the ground with big grins on their faces, as they continued laughing until they reached the dugout.

“We just both smiled at each other because it was like, 'OK that was really, really close,'” Naylor said. “Could’ve been bad.”

Naylor's odd encounter at the plate was one of the handful of highlights he made Wednesday night. After a quiet offensive start to camp, Naylor settled in and recorded an RBI single in the second and swatted his first homer of the spring in the fourth, which was the progression he needed to see with Opening Day a week away.

“Right now, I feel really good,” Naylor said. “I feel like there’s more adjustments I can make before the season starts, and then I’ll be ready to kick-start. I feel good daily. I’ve been working hard with all the guys here. We’ve been motivating each other. The coaches are motivating us. It’s been a great spring so far.”

Luplow in center?
The Indians have been looking to find their starting center fielder after Oscar Mercado was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on Sunday, and the team sent Jordan Luplow to center for the first time this spring on Wednesday evening. Manager Terry Francona has made it clear that he wants Luplow’s bat in the lineup whenever a left-hander is on the mound.

While Luplow was supposed to play with the Tribe on Tuesday, he ended up being a late scratch and got sent to the team’s "B" game against the Dodgers to face southpaw David Price. Luplow hit two homers in the contest. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts on Wednesday, but he could be an option to start in center field against Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd on Opening Day on April 1.