GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The list of ailments the Tribe had to deal with popped up immediately last year. Francisco Lindor started Spring Training with a calf strain and later sprained his ankle just before Opening Day. Mike Clevinger landed on the injured list after just two starts and the rest of the rotation’s injuries occurred like a domino effect. But Indians manager Terry Francona believes his team became unified due to the adversity for the rest of the season, and he thinks that will carry over to 2020.
“That’s the idea,” Francona said. “And this team will form a new identity and we don’t know what it is yet. And we will deal with adversity. Every team does. It could start tomorrow. That’s the way the game is. It doesn’t help, but you can’t let it get in the way.”
The Indians turned to young inexperienced players in 2019 to use as temporary replacements or to make spot starts, but a handful of them earned their way into becoming impactful everyday players. Now guys like Oscar Mercado, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale and Jefry Rodriguez will try to prove their results can remain consistent, while a new group of younger players like Logan Allen, Scott Moss and Daniel Johnson try to be the next wave of talent to make it to the big league level.
“Because of what happened last year, the younger kids came up,” Francona said. “With that comes some natural enthusiasm. When they respect the game enough where the veterans allow them to be themselves, then it really works well. But it’s got to be from both sides. It’s not just the young guys, it’s the veterans. Once they know that these guys are accountable and want to win, then they can show their personality and they don’t have to walk around on eggshells, because that doesn’t help anybody.”
Francona addressed the media for the first time this spring on Thursday afternoon after pitchers and catchers had their first workout. It’s his second-favorite time of the year -- behind only the postseason -- as the 60-year-old who’s taking part in his 40th Spring Training struggled to hide the smile on his face about beginning another season.
“I think I got up at 4:15 [a.m.] and I had a little pep in my step,” Francona said. “Now my pep is a little different than maybe someone else’s pep, but it’s like your clock. It’s so weird how two days ago was a normal day. I got up today, man, and I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve got to do this, this, this and this.’ Like it’s game on. I guess when it gets to a point where it doesn’t feel like that, that’s when it’s time to probably start thinking about not doing it. But if today was any indication, I’m OK, because I was pretty revved up.”
Domingo Santana was seen in the Indians’ clubhouse on Thursday afternoon, but the outfielder is still in the final process of passing his physical. He’s expected to officially sign with the Tribe before position players report on Saturday.
Carrasco at full strength
The Indians were hesitant to place any expectations on starter Carlos Carrasco this past offseason after the right-hander battled leukemia during the 2019 season. Following a normal offseason, Carrasco is now feeling completely healthy and said he expects to be back in the rotation immediately.
“He graded out pretty well as far as strength and everything,” Francona said. “I know he gets tired of us asking him how he’s doing. I said, ‘You’ve got to understand that we have to ask you. We have to.’ And he goes, ‘I know.’ I said, ‘We’d love for you to take the ball every five days and throw 200 innings,’ and he wants to do that and he expects to do that, but we still need, out of respect to what he’s been through, to check on him. I thought he looked tremendous today.”
Tito’s take on the three-batter minimum
Francona started to begin planning for the adjustment that will come with the new three-batter minimum rule that requires pitchers to face at least three batters or pitch to the conclusion of the half-inning before being taken out of the game. The regulation goes into effect on March 12. After that, Francona said you could see some of their regulars in more Minor League games to avoid increasing their pitch counts too quickly.
“Say [Brad] Hand is going out and is going back-to-back [days] and the first hitter fouls off 10 [pitches],” Francona said. “Now we’ve got to have him out there for 30 pitches. We don’t want to hurt anybody. So you’ll probably see less Major League games, especially during the back to backs.”