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Alonso's 'little warriors' helping him bust slump

First baseman has unusual bat rack; clubbed 4 home runs this past week
MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- To the left of Yonder Alonso's locker is a wooden stand roughly three feet in height. At the top is a triangular rack with nine circular sections cut out -- large enough for a bat handle. On Monday afternoon, Alonso had seven of his bats hanging from the apparatus, their barrels barely touching.

"A fighter needs to always take care of his boxing gloves," Alonso said. "A warrior needs to take care of his sword."

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CLEVELAND -- To the left of Yonder Alonso's locker is a wooden stand roughly three feet in height. At the top is a triangular rack with nine circular sections cut out -- large enough for a bat handle. On Monday afternoon, Alonso had seven of his bats hanging from the apparatus, their barrels barely touching.

"A fighter needs to always take care of his boxing gloves," Alonso said. "A warrior needs to take care of his sword."

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So, Alonso takes great care of his bats, rather than having them leaning haphazardly inside his personal stall. The Indians first baseman said the rack -- built for him by Jack Efta, the Progressive Field umpires-room attendant -- is the most important thing at his locker, with the exception of his wedding ring and wallet.

Those bats are the tools of Alonso's trade, and they have been treating him better in recent games.

Tweet from @MLBastian: Yonder Alonso has unique rack for his bats: ���A fighter needs to always take care of his gloves. A warrior needs to take care of his sword.���The rack was made by Jack Efta, the Progressive Field umpires-room attendant. pic.twitter.com/4v8ltQMXRO

Alonso was out of Monday's starting lineup due to Rangers lefty Cole Hamels being on the mound, but the first baseman headed into the game with a team-leading eight home runs. The power that arrived for Alonso during last year's breakout has continued in the early going this year, and has aided his steady climb out of an early-season slump.

When things were not going well for Alonso over the first couple of weeks of the season, the first baseman kept his focus on the successes within at-bats instead of the misleading results.

"As I've gotten older, I've realized not to get so concerned," Alonso said. "You've got to be realistic with yourself. You've got to be true to yourself and you've got to understand how you really feel. So, for me, I try to just relax and understand that, just continue to work and things will take care of itself."

Over his first 13 games, Alonso hit .186 with a .635 OPS in 49 at-bats, but his expected slugging percentage (.701 per Statcast™) was well above his actual slugging mark (.349) in that span. He had seven Barrels and an average exit velocity of 90.2 mph, but was getting poor results. In Alonso's next 13 games, he hit .260 with a .909 OPS in 52 plate appearances, in which he also had seven Barrels and a similar average exit velocity (90.9 mph). In that second sample, Alonso's actual slugging percentage (.640) was right in line with his expected slugging (.655).

Alonso -- one of eight players with 14 or more Barrels entering Monday's slate of games -- will continue to trust his process, and his meticulously organized bats.

"Those are my little warriors," Alonso said with a smile.

Worth noting
• Indians manager Terry Francona announced on Monday that pitching prospect Adam Plutko is scheduled to start one of Thursday's doubleheader games against the Blue Jays. Righty Carlos Carrasco will likely start the opener of the twin bill, with Plutko taking the ball in the nightcap.

Plutko has a 2.35 ERA in five starts (30 2/3 innings) for Triple-A Columbus this season. The right-hander logged 7 2/3 perfect innings in an outing against Indianapolis on Saturday, but was pulled after 95 pitches due to being under consideration for Thursday's doubleheader.

"He's commanding the heck out of the ball," Francona said of Plutko, who underwent surgery on his right hip in October. "That's really good. You wonder now, looking back, how much his hip bothered him last year -- and he pitched with it the whole year."

• Left-hander Andrew Miller (10-day disabled list, left hamstring) continues to play catch in his rehab program. Francona said the Indians remain optimistic that Miller can be activated when eligible.

"I think so, but again, we'll do the right thing. If he feels it, we're not going to rush that," Francona said.

• Lefty Jack Leathersich cleared waivers and was sent outright to Columbus. Leathersich was designated for assignment on Thursday when the Indians added reliever Jeff Beliveau to the 40-man roster.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

Cleveland Indians, Yonder Alonso