Francona embraces challenge, intends to win

March 18th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians’ payroll has been talked about since the day the 2018 season ended. And while many still look at the team’s limited spending this offseason as a large area of concern, manager Terry Francona sees it much differently.

Francona managed the Red Sox, a much bigger spender than the Indians, from 2004-11. Before he took the job with the Tribe, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti explained their financial situation thoroughly, so he knew exactly what he was getting into. And even though the Cleveland market was much smaller than he was used to, Francona chose to come.

“I knew what the landscape was when I came in,” Francona said. “I just valued working with the people here over spending money for players. I mean, I enjoy doing it here with who I do it with and trying to figure things out together. And I think to this point, we haven’t reached the pinnacle, but we’ve done OK. And the idea is to win a World Series. But, on top of that, it’s to compete every year. And that’s hard to do.”

The Indians’ theme of the offseason was infusing young talent into their system to be successful in 2019 and beyond, while getting the club on a more sustainable financial path. This has resulted in bringing in guys like Alex Wilson, Tyler Clippard, A.J. Cole, Matt Joyce and Hanley Ramirez on Minor League deals -- and losing some key members of the 2018 roster to free agency.

“We walked through how are we gonna keep our window open,” Francona said. “We’d like to show up every spring with a realistic chance to win. Are you gonna be the favorite? Maybe not. But if you do the things we talk about, outwork people, all the things we try to live by, you realistically have a chance. Because I don’t think some teams can really say that. I mean, that’s just the way it is in baseball right now.”

Although his clubhouse has many new faces and may be a little younger and more inexperienced than in years past due to budget cuts, Francona said trimming payroll will not hold them back this season.

“It’s the reality of where we are, but rather than make excuses, we just need to figure out a way to win,” Francona said. “So, it’s kind of fun. Because we’re not gonna ever throw in a towel or lose a game and we’re like, ‘Man, if we had 5 more million dollars…’ We don’t feel like that. We feel like it’s our job to find players that can win. One, you can’t make any mistakes or minimalize them. We have to develop our players. We know that.”

Bauer racking up K’s
In the Indians’ 3-1 loss to the Padres at Goodyear Ballpark on Monday, allowed three runs on four hits, including two home runs, and fanned nine batters through 5 2/3 innings. Over his last two outings (10 1/3 frames), the right-hander has struck out 19 hitters.

“He got into the sixth inning with about 80 pitches, so that’s good,” Francona said. “Early on, he made a couple mistakes and they hit them good. But after that, he started using all his pitches and, like I said, getting into the sixth -- that’s pretty good.”

Lindor update
has started doing some more running, including sprints around the edge of the infield. Francona said that Lindor has felt really good throughout the process and will advance to doing some things on the bases over the next three or four days. How he responds to that will determine whether he will be ready to go for Opening Day.

Salazar progressing
After threw in front of the mound for the first time on Saturday, he may be working his way closer to an actual bullpen. Francona has been pleased with his progression.

“His progress has just almost skyrocketed,” Francona said. “… Really been a good couple weeks for him. And, hopefully, it’s a springboard to even better things, but I know Danny feels good about it and I know everybody else is pretty excited about it.”

Tough decisions ahead
Francona and his coaching staff held a meeting with the remaining 41 members of the Indians’ spring training roster Monday morning to address the inevitable final cuts that will be made this week. There are plenty of decisions left to be made, but Francona said, without a doubt, that the bullpen will be the hardest.

“We’re gonna have to not break with three or four guys that, in my opinion, deserve to be on the team just from what they’ve done here and kind of in the past, too,” Francona said. “… But we can’t keep 15 pitchers. I’d love to. Those are going to be difficult conversations, and we know that. That’s why I kind of told them as a group today, ‘Hey, I realize it starts getting tough. So, we’ll do the best we can.’”

Up next
The Indians will travel to Glendale on Tuesday to play the Dodgers at 10:05 p.m. ET at Camelback Ranch. Right-hander Shane Bieber will start against righty Walker Buehler.