Notes: Tito gives speech; Kipnis named starter

February 18th, 2019

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- It's a moment Indians manager Terry Francona stresses about for weeks.

Prior to Monday's first full-squad workout, Francona gave his annual preseason speech, addressing his team as a whole for the first time this year. With a plethora of new faces staring back at him, he wanted to make sure he relayed exactly how he felt.

"I feel it sets the tone for how we're going to carry ourselves as a team, how we're going to attack challenges," Francona said. "And for the guys who have been here it's a reminder. For the new guys, I think it's fair so when they get on the field, they understand what our expectations are when you're an Indian. … But I still get butterflies."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Francona told the team that at Spring Training players can be broken into three groups: those who are trying to create a good first impression, those who are competing for jobs, and the veterans who are getting ready for the long season. He noted that this team has more players in that middle group than in years past.

"We talk a lot about that middle group, because there's a lot of good players in there and there's not as many spots," Francona said. "That's just the reality of it. But there will be a need, it may not be on their timetable, but there will be a need. And their challenge is to embrace what we're doing and this culture and just make the best impression they can. Our promise back then is we'll be honest and conscientious in our communication with them."

Preparation for this moment doesn't begin at one specific time. Francona said when something randomly pops into his head that he considers a good message to convey, he immediately jots it down, even if he has to pull over to the side of the road while driving.

"I don't want to bore them," Francona said. "I don't want to have them sitting there and just have to listen to me talk, but I try to touch on the things that are important, knowing that we have all spring to build off of that."

Even if the Indians have experienced more turnover this offseason than any other during Francona's time in Cleveland, he said the overall message to his guys was the same as any other year.

"The way we feel about the game never changes, but we have to recognize we have more new guys than we've had," Francona said. "But every year you begin to grow your unique personality for that year, regardless of how many guys were back."

Kipnis named second baseman

In the first few days after players report to camp, Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti and general manager Mike Chernoff join Francona in sit-down meetings with each member of the team. When took his seat, he was officially informed he would be the club's starting second baseman this season.

"I think he's got something to prove," Francona said. "Even when you've been in the game seven or eight years, guys don't like not being as good as they can be. They've got a lot of pride, and I put him in that category."

Francona said Kipnis offered to go back and forth between second and the outfield during their meeting, which Francona appreciated but said was not in the Tribe's plan.

"I don't know how fair that is to him," Francona said. "And I told him that if something ever changes, that we'd talk to him."

Ramirez arrives slimmer

Jose Ramirez reported to camp 6 pounds lighter than what he was at the end of the season. He said his offseason schedule was the same, except he tried to eat a little less.

After finishing third in American League MVP voting the past two seasons, Ramirez said he's hoping to finally win the award.

"It's a motivation for [me]," Ramirez said through an interpreter. "[I] get a lot of press and stuff in [my] home in the Dominican, so playing for [my] family and getting all that press in the Dominican, it's just a great motivation."