Naquin feels '100 percent,' ready to go at camp

Francona may consider six-man rotation; Tribe creating safety code of conduct

July 4th, 2020

CLEVELAND -- Over the past three months, some players have had to drive all over the country to find places to properly continue their workouts, and others have built pitcher’s mounds and gyms at their homes. It’s been an unprecedented and frustrating time for many, but for outfielder , it was a blessing in disguise.

“Clearly wish what's going on right now would have never happened,” Naquin said. “But as far as my knee, it gave me a lot of extra time and a lot of resources to be here in Cleveland for the three months and get ready for the season and now here it is, and I'm ready to go.”

Naquin tore his right ACL in an attempt to avoid the outfield wall at Tropicana Field on Aug. 30. He was having his best and healthiest season since his rookie year in 2016. The 29-year-old was hitting .288 with 10 homers and 34 RBIs in 89 games, but he knew the second he dropped to the ground that his season was over.

“The first thing that came to my mind was, 'Not going to finish this game. Probably not going to finish this season. First thing I've got to do is get a pitcher so I can start this thing,'” Naquin said. “Now sitting here talking to y'all, talking about the end of it ... it's a great feeling, but the work is not done. In order to keep it right, I've got to continue to do what I've been doing, maybe even more, just to make sure I'm ready to go.”

Naquin began his rehab last fall and was advancing ahead of schedule to new activities. He was expected to have a follow-up appointment with the doctor who performed his surgery at the beginning of April to see if he could be cleared to resume all baseball activities, but that was postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak. So Naquin was given three extra months to strengthen his knee and assure he’d be ready for the new Opening Day.

“I feel great,” Naquin said. “The knee feels really, really good. Hit some balls live off the bat [on Friday], just felt normal. Just some fatigue here and there, an injury being an injury, but other than that, I'm 100 percent.”

Naquin will be thrown right back into the mix for Summer Camp, competing alongside the other nine outfielders on the 40-man roster. If he can show that he’s 100 percent healthy and pick up where he left off last season, he’d be the favorite to win the right-field job. The Indians also have Jordan Luplow high on their list, and he’ll likely give Naquin the most competition for a starting spot.

“We got a lot of players,” Naquin said. “So God willing, nobody gets [coronavirus] and I see with how we rolled with it last year, probably along those same lines. I'm going to go out there, play my game, play right field and make sure my knee is healthy and stay between the lines. This game always shakes out in different ways for everybody.”

Six-man rotation?
Despite the time off, the Indians’ starting rotation reported to camp ready for the season to begin. Carlos Carrasco simulated up to six innings at his house and manager Terry Francona raved about the work Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale put in to be ready for Summer Camp. But there are still only three weeks before Opening Day. With an extended roster to start the year, would the Tribe consider boasting a six-man rotation to help ease the starters into the season?

“It’s not too early to think about it, [but] I think it’s too early to talk about it,” Francona said. “Whatever puts us in the best position to succeed, especially early on because you have an expanded roster.”

Once the rosters are cut down to 26 players after four weeks of the season, not only would there not be enough roster spots to make an extended rotation work, but it’d also take more starts away from the Tribe’s powerful 1-2 punch in Shane Bieber and Mike Clevinger.

“Say you do that a couple times through the rotation or three, you’re going to cut Bieber and whoever out of a start or two,” Francona said. “So there’s things to think about. Naturally, first and foremost is their health. But we also need to win.”

Code of conduct
Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti explained that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association have agreed to creating codes of conduct. Each club will submit its own list of rules and guidelines that it plans to follow to help keep everyone safe from the coronavirus.

“The biggest variable is what happens away from the ballpark and what exposure individuals get away from the ballpark when they’re not within the constraints of our building,” Antonetti said. “So we’ve had a lot of dialogue with our players and our coaches and staff about creating a code of conduct that we all buy into.”

Plesac explained that social distancing is something they’ll keep working on and that they will avoid all crowded areas in public.

“We’re given this privilege to be able to come back and play and given this short window to even play,” Plesac said. “It’s a good time now just to really buckle down and focus on what’s important and work toward something greater at the end of the season and for these couple months, lock in and focus on what we have set for us at the end of the year.”

Bieber said over the next few days, the team will get together on Zoom to create these guidelines, and they’ll all continue to hold each other accountable to assure everyone's safety and health.

“You've got to put trust in that everybody's a grown man here and we need to go about our business on and off the field the right way,” Naquin said. “I don't have control over what the guys do off the field and they don't have control over me, but we respect one another and we understand what guidelines we need to follow in order to make this thing happen. But absolutely, I have full trust in everybody on the staff, the team and everybody in between. I believe in that.”