CLEVELAND, Ohio — It doesn’t sound as if Franmil Reyes is going to see a lot of time in the outfield. At least not the early stages of MLB’s 60-game season that begins July 24 for the Indians at Progressive Field.
Manager Terry Francona, speaking to reporters on a Zoom call from PNC Park in Pittsburgh on Saturday, says Reyes is going to see a lot of time at DH, while occasionally helping out in right and left field.
“It’s been harder (to play him in the outfield) just because he missed three days getting tested,” said Francona. “Then he missed another day and half when he slid hard. In a ramped-up camp, missing five days has probably made it a little harder.
“He has played the outfield a few times. My hope is that trend continues a little bit. I think it gives us a stronger lineup if we’re able to run him out there to left or right field at least some of the time.”
Reyes attended a July 4 party and didn’t wear a mask. His picture appeared on social media and the Indians barred him from Progressive Field until he tested negative for the coronavirus. On Monday he made an awkward slide toward second base — Francona called it a car crash — and wrenched his back.
On Friday night against the Pirates, the first time in Spring Training II that the Indians have played a team besides themselves, Reyes DH’d and batted fifth. The starting outfield had Oscar Mercado in center, Tyler Naquin in right and Domingo Santana in left.
Reyes made 83 starts in right field last year for the Padres. When the Indians acquired him as part of the Trevor Bauer deal, he made 45 starts at DH and three in right.
The Indians played their ninth game of Spring Training II on Saturday. Reyes has DH’d six times.
The outfield situation is still murky. Delino DeShields is expected to open the year on the injured list as he recovers from his bout with the coronavirus. There was a chance Jordan Luplow, another outfielder, could join him because a sore back. Luplow, however, had three at-bats against Adam Plutko in a simulated game on Saturday at Progressive Field. He’ll DH Sunday night at Progressive Field.
If DeShields opens on the IL, the Indians still have nine outfielders on the roster. They all have options except for Domingo Santana.
“We’re trying to figure out where everybody fits,” said Francona. “We got a lot of choices and some really tough decisions to make. I don’t want to rate the field right now because that’s not fair to anybody. But we’ll be conscientious like always with our decisions.”
No. 1: The utility of it all
The Indians have three players competing for the utility job — Mike Freeman, Christian Arroyo and Yu Chang. Arroyo is the newest addition, coming over in a trade from Tampa Bay in July. He was unable to play at that time because of a forearm issue, but has made a solid impression in Spring Training I and II.
“We’re trying to get a feel for him in what he can handle moving around the diamond,” said Francona. “We know he’s got a lot of pop in his bat. He’s an interesting kid. He’s a little removed from being a premier prospect because he was banged up for a couple of years. But you can see inside there what people liked.
“Is he able to do that off the bench in part time duty? Those are things we’re trying to figure out. We’re trying to move him around the diamond. We’ll see where it goes.”
No. 2: No holding back
Francona said the Indians are not thinking about holding Mike Clevinger back after he experienced some delivery problems on Wednesday. Clevinger, who had surgery on his left knee in February, said he was having problems planting his left foot and locking the knee so he could drive toward the plate. He said it was if his body didn’t trust that the knee would hold his weight and energy.
“I think he said it was definitely more mental than physical,” said Francona. “You understand it. You’re landing on that leg so hard and you’re using it as leverage. I don’t think he fully trusted it. The hope is that as it continues to hold up and get stronger he won’t be thinking about that anymore.”
Clevinger’s last start before the start of the season will be Monday against the Pirates at Progressive Field.
No. 3: Familiar face in Pittsburgh
Erik Gonzalez started at shortstop for the Pirates on Friday night. Gonzalez spent 10 years in the Indians organization before they traded him to the Pirates before the 2019 season for Luplow and Max Moroff.
“He’s a great kid,” said Francona. “Defensively, he’s really good. I think we were pretty comfortable with our shortstop (Francisco Lindor). We didn’t think he was best suited for the bench. When you trade a player, it doesn’t mean you don’t like him. We were trying to make a baseball trade. Pittsburgh valued him and we valued Jordan Luplow. It ended up working out pretty good.”
Gonzalez suffered a broken shoulder last year, while Luplow hit .276 with 15 homers and 38 RBI in 85 games for the Indians.
No. 4: In closing … a trip to Classic Park for Jefry Rodriguez
Right-hander Jefry Rodriguez was assigned to Classic Park, site of the Indians’ alternate workout site, on Saturday. Rodriguez came to Spring Training II with a sore lower back and didn’t pitch in an intrasquad game. “Now we’ll get him stretched out with the hope that he can help us at some point this year,” said Francona. “There was so much to like last year and he made so many delivery adjustments.” The roster is down to 37. … Zach Plesac started Saturday night against the Pirates. Francona noted that Plesac has been more balanced on the rubber in Spring Training I and II. “His balance when he gets over the rubber is like night and day,” said Francona. “Last year he was able to compete so well and his arm is so quick that he got away with it. You’re going to see him do a lot more things physically this year than last year because of that.”
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