Unlike big league camp in 2016, the Cleveland Indians are now facing the pressure of living up to the hype that carried them to the World Series just three and a half months ago.
The Tribe’s undying passion for the game fuels their championship aspirations and reflects the character of their players both on and off the field.
Francisco Lindor exemplifies this kind of character.
Manager Terry Francona discussed his shortstop’s leadership qualities to go along with topics pertaining to Corey Kluber and Abraham Almonte on Thursday.
- Moments after sprinting the length of the infield to catch a sky-high pop-up just past the pitcher’s mound, Lindor jokingly collapsed to the surface of the sun-bathed infield at the training facility a few days ago. Not only did Lindor display his humorous qualities after the valiant effort, but he has also remained humble throughout the spring and developed into a reliable leader heading into the 2017 campaign.
“He has a ton of leadership skills,” said Francona. “As you accumulate experiences, I think those leadership skills become easier just to happen. I don’t think you’d necessarily tell yourself, ‘I’m going to be a leader.’ Those guys usually aren’t leaders. They may view themselves that way. The guys that it kind of comes naturally, those are the guys that probably carry the most weight.”
“Frankie, right now, some of his leadership stuff is just the way he plays and the way he plays with energy and shows up every day. I consider that leadership.”
- Whether confirmed or not, Kluber would like to be on the hill for Game 1 against the Texas Rangers on Apr. 3. Despite an ample workload on short rest throughout October and November last year, the former Cy Young winner was optimistic he would be prepared to make a third consecutive opening day start.
“The plan is still to pitch when the season starts. It’s just if for whatever reason I’m not able to do that, then we can bump me to the end of the rotation,” Kluber said to reporters. “I think everybody in here, their goal is to be ready when the season starts.”
Although Francona was noncommittal earlier in the week, he decided to shed light on his plans for the 30-year-old hurler prior to Saturday’s Cactus League opener.
“He’s penciled in for opening day,” said Francona. “If he needs another start to feel comfortable, we can push him back a little bit. I think it makes a lot of sense. I think Corey thinks it makes a lot of sense. That way you’re not scrambling at the end too. If he needs one more start, he has it.”
- With an 80-game PED suspension in the rearview mirror, Almonte now has his sights set on 2017. The former Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres farmhand is one of the most versatile players on the roster as a switch-hitter that can effectively defend across the three outfield positions.
“I was really impressed the way they trusted me, believed in me and put me back in the big leagues to try to help them out,” Almonte said in an interview after making the seamless adjustment back to the MLB to fill the void left by the suspended Marlon Byrd. “I feel mentally stronger and more positive. Now I really see it, and I know that everything is possible.”
Following an eight-year tenure in the minor leagues, Almonte has logged at least 50 games of MLB action in 2014 (59 games), 2015 (82) and 2016 (67). If Michael Brantley were to miss further time due to injury, Almonte could surpass the century mark for the first time in his career.
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.