The Indians’ starting pitching is among the strongest in baseball to begin the season, but they are still missing an important part of what makes the staff tick -- the frontline catcher.
There was moderately encouraging news on that front on Saturday. Roberto Pérez, who has been sidelined since Wednesday with a right shoulder strain he suffered after making an off-balance throw on Opening Day, is making some progress, though it’ll be a few more days before he’s cleared to start throwing again.
“We've got pretty positive news last night that he's stepped up his strengthening exercises,” manager Terry Francona said before Saturday’s game in Minneapolis. “He's still three or four days away from the throwing, but he was examined by Dr. [Jason] Genin, and they thought he was doing really well.”
Pérez is rehabbing at the Indians’ alternate training site, Class A Advanced Lake County's Classic Park in Eastlake, Ohio, and it is undetermined if he will need to extend his time on the IL beyond the minimum of 10 days. But the catcher, who hurt his shoulder after slipping while throwing to first base in the Tribe’s season opener with the Royals, is at the very minimum noticing improvements. He will be reassessed on Tuesday.
In other injury news, outfielder Tyler Naquin, sidelined since July 25 with a hairline fracture on his right big toe, ran the bases on Saturday and will partake in a simulated game on Monday. Outfielder Delino DeShields, who is recovering from COVID-19-related issues, is also expected to play in simulated games at Lake County.
Francona is game for just about any changes Major League Baseball makes to the schedule or rulebook during an ever-evolving regular season, so when asked about the new seven-inning protocol for doubleheaders that took effect on Saturday, the veteran manager sounded unfazed.
“I think it’s a little odd that you change once the season started,” he said, "but if there’s ever a season where you’re going to make adjustments, this would be one.”
Given the frequency of doubleheaders appearing on the schedule due to prior postponements of games, MLB and the Players Association jointly agreed to implementing shorter games as a way to protect the health and safety of the players. This could be beneficial in not overextending pitching staffs, which could force teams to have to make multiple roster moves in an effort to keep a bullpen fresh.
Seven-inning doubleheaders are new to the Major Leagues, but they have been a longstanding staple of the Minors. So Francona, who managed several seasons in the Minor Leagues, has some experience in this area.
“Once you got to the fifth, you felt like man, you're almost home, which is true,” Francona said. “They seem like they fly by. It's only two innings, but they just seem like they fly by.”
Tribe trades Hoyt
The Indians traded right-handed pitcher James Hoyt to the Marlins on Saturday in exchange for cash. The 33-year-old right-hander was designated for assignment on Tuesday and had not appeared in a game this season. Hoyt made eight relief appearances for the Indians in 2019, posting a 2.16 ERA.