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Francona's Thoughts: Tribe Fest special (Part 1)

The prelude to Tribe Fest took place on Friday afternoon as the media congregated with the likes of manager Terry Francona, SS Francisco Lindor, RHP Corey Kluber, LHP Andrew Miller and many others. Francona spoke at length on his thoughts from 2016 and what he expects for the Indians in 2017. Here is the former half of his interview...

Less than one day separates Cleveland Indians fans from the annual Tribe Fest on Saturday at the Intercontinental Hotel in Cleveland, OH.

To commence the weekend festivities, manager Terry Francona discussed a variety of topics ranging from last year's World Series to the signing of Edwin Encarnacion.

His positive vibe and charismatic smile had officially returned to the city of Cleveland.

Without further adieu, here is the first half of what the Indians skipper had to say to the press...

Q (media): How are you feeling?

A (Francona): Pretty good. This has been I think officially the shortest off-season in history. We played for a month, then I stayed here until the second week of December trying to get healthy enough to go home. So in two weeks, went and visited the kids for Christmas, went back home for two weeks and here I'm leaving on Tuesday.

Q: Are you guys trying to do your best to repair some of those guys that went a bit longer in the postseason run for a shorter off-season?

A: I think they will be fine. You know, the other thing to remember is because of the WBC (World Baseball Classic), it's a longer spring training and you probably won't see Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, Andrew (Miller) because he may pitch (in the WBC) and that's different. You'll see a lot of the younger pitchers early and we'll try to balance recuperative things while also knowing that they need to gear up, because when the bell rings you can't just flip the switch. We've already been in communication and we'll continue to, they're good about stuff like that.

Q: How different is it going into spring training as a defending champion rather than chasing the Royals or whoever?

A: You know what, it really doesn't matter. I mean it's not going to get us a win or a loss. When the new season starts, the only thing last year will have done is experience. We try to draw from everything, good or bad. But once you draw from that, it's time to move on and even though you have a lot of the same names back and faces, it's a different team, another personality, their own, it's 2017. That's something we'll talk about in the first meeting. We don't want to be that team that come July is talking about last year because this year's not so good. We'll talk about that.

Q: How surprising was it to get the Encarnacion deal done when it finally became a reality?

A: I think Chris (Antonetti) and Cherny (Mike Chernoff) were pretty honest, we didn't think he'd be in our neighborhood or however you want to put it. Give them a lot of credit, they do so much work to be prepared that when that happens, we're the recipient. It very easily could have been another team. They were ready because they had done their homework and we got it done. Pretty special hitter.

Q: How does he (Encarnacion) change you guys?

A: We had to replace Nap (Napoli) which for a number of reasons isn't easy. Then all of a sudden you're talking about maybe the most productive hitter in the game. You sit him in that four-hole most likely and just let him go. He's been an unbelievably productive hitter. Just having an anchor in your lineup and then if Brantley's okay, that adds two really, really good hitters. 

Q: Speaking of Brantley, what have you seen thus far in the off-season?

A: More of the same. If work ethic and diligence means something, he'll be an All Star. Because of everything he went through and it's been well-documented, when he got into games that's when he ran into trouble. But I think he feels like he's making great progress, he's got to let it play itself out. There's a program in place and he follows it and hopefully as he gets into games, we won't run into that last hurdle. That would be wonderful for us, we miss him a whole lot more than people realize. 

Q: Did you learn anything by the way he (Brantley) was brought along that you might do something differently during spring training or early in the season?

A: I don't believe we thought of that a lot, we did the processes exactly like we were asked to do. Every time we got him into games, something would flare up on him. He never skipped a step, he never passed all his milestones, he just ran into problems when he'd get into a game. It confounded us a lot, I don't know what else we could've done differently. We spent so much time trying to think of what was the right thing with Michael. 

Q: Have you watched Game 7 at all?

A: No, I was there. I enjoyed it. I liked the journey, I think the journey's fun. I'm ready to move on pretty quick. Win, lose or draw, I'm ready to do the next thing.

Q: (Rajai) Davis gave you guys such a nice boost of speed atop of that lineup and you were a first-to-third time most of last year. How do you replace that or how do you make up for those losses and stolen bases, etc.

A: Well, we're not going to make up for the stolen bases, I mean that's what he did. My hope is that the first-to-third thing you're talking about, we're one year wiser and so we're better because we need to do that, especially without a stolen base guy. We're going to have a team with a bunch of guys that can steal 10, 15, 20 bases so we need to be a team that always goes first-to-third, things like that. I agree, Raj (Rajai) was a really important guy to us, it's just when you start talking about signing Encarnacion, it's kind of hard not to really want that bat. 

Q: Is there a reason with Jose Ramirez that leads you guys to believe that last year wasn't a fluke?

A: You know sometimes you get off to a slow start (or) fast start, it could affect your batting average in the end there. He showed us he's a good player. He was tested, he played left, he played third. He's a good player and like I said, some guys get off to a slow start, somebody will on our team it never fails, but it doesn't mean he's not a good player. Now we know he can get through that and come out on the other end.

Q: Do you still plan on using his (Ramirez's) versatility at all or do you see him settling in at third base?

A: Where our team is situated right now, he's our third baseman. I think our biggest question with him is when our team starts to fall out of shape, is he the guy that plays second when Kip's (Kipnis) off, plays short when Lindor's off or do you have a utility guy that's able to do that. We don't know yet.

Look for the latter half of Francona's interview this weekend as part of all the Tribe Fest coverage.

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.

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