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Francona's Thoughts: April 27 vs. Houston Astros

Manager Terry Francona talked about Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and more just hours before Thursday's first pitch against the Houston Astros.

On Andrew Miller pitching in the seventh inning:

A: "One, you don’t know if they’re going to pinch hit. They have some issues going health-wise, but they have the ability to maybe let Springer hit and then put Kemp in the game. So rather than bring Boone in there, bring in Andrew. If they do pinch hit we’re OK with Andrew facing him. I was hoping maybe we could get all the way through McCann. Now we did, but it took a lot. I was hoping it’d be an inning and two-thirds. And I didn’t want to use Shaw for just two hitters before them, when Trev gave up the home run. Because I was getting a little nervous there getting to Andrew. Thankfully Trevor reeled it in and got those last couple outs. "

On Cody Allen:

A: "He was going to pitch last night one way or another. We had gotten Andrew up the night before and just had him finish an inning. And then if we were able to come back he would have stayed out there. And Cody was going to pitch one away or another last night. It starts to get where they start to feel it. And I had talked to Cody before the game. Cody and Shaw are the two—if they get to four days, they start to feel it. Now Andrew and Cody had both gotten up and gotten hot in Chicago on a day they didn’t pitch, so that was one of those days. "

On Bryan Shaw:

A: "He’s not a big fan of spring training. His stuff, we’ve seen him a few different ways, where as he builds, some guys as the tank seems to get empty, especially for relievers, he seems to get stronger as the season goes. But coming out of the chute he’s got a lot of life in his arm right now. I think command is probably the biggest thing, not spraying pitches or getting into hitter’s counts. His arm looks like it has so much life, and that’s good."

On Allen's knuckle-curve:

A: "His breaking ball right now is as good as we’ve seen it. In the past, it’s taken him a while to find that when the season started. April had been a pretty tough month for him in a couple years. But his breaking ball is not just good but consistent right now."

More on Allen:

A: "He’s fun. I’ve said it a lot of times about all the bullpen guys. I understand it, why people would ask about Andrew or the closer, but all our guys out there, they do a tremendous job of keeping themselves available, pitching when we feel like it helps us the most and I think also understanding that they don’t want to come out of games, but if we mix and match and let them complement each other, that we’re probably all going to be better in the long run. I’ve loved this bullpen. I think I’ve said that a lot of times. They’re fun to work with. Cody since the day I got here, he was kind of like the Miller, we used him all over the place and when there were runners on. And he kind of morphed into being a guy that would close the game, as a lot of guys do. But his attitude has never changed, which is really healthy. "

On Kluber's curveball:

A: "I think it’s probably different for different hitters. There are a segment of hitters where, when Klubes is on his game, you see hitters go out trying to have early contact because they don’t want to get to that. I think there’s times where he can get guys thinking fastball, then throw the breaking ball. I think a lot of it, some nights, when it’s like his A breaking ball, his movement is so late with all his pitches that, that’s where you see some of the awkward swings with the ball getting off the barrel a bit."

On Shaw's spring training performance:

A: "You say that, and we remind ourselves every year, but it still causes you some anxiety. I think, and Bryan may not own up to it, but I think even by the end he had had it where he’s like, you know. But he has really good selective amnesia, and I think you need it when you’re a reliever. As long as the ball is coming out of his hand OK, he’s going to be OK because he’s done it. He’s faced these hitters over and over. He holds his stuff really well, that’s been really impressive."

On Austin Jackson:

A: "He had that scope done, but he had a lot going on in there. He was late starting the spring, but when he got the go-ahead from the trainers, he got going full speed real quick. We had a real short look at him to make a decision, but he kind of made it easy just because he looked healthy. He’s always reliable. He’s a good veteran guy to add to your team, and I think just as time goes on, and he’s not playing every day beating on that knee, I think you’re going to see him still get a little more in his game."

On pushing Andrew Miller's innings:

A: "How much do you want him to pitch? One of our goals is to pitch our best guys as much as we can, without pitching them too much. That’s really one of our goals. But once you go too far, sometimes you can’t back off of that. We monitor their workload a lot, we communicate with them a lot because we want to keep them out there pitching, but you don’t want to do too much."

On Miller throwing 32 pitches last night:

A: "That’s a lot last night. It’s not just the number, but you’re asking a guy when he’s probably starting to fatigue a little bit to make the most important pitch of the game. I think you have to remember that. That was a really stressful outing for him."

On 100-inning relievers:

A: "I think it depends on who you are. I mean if you can find that guy, he can be really, really valuable. (I) remember in Minnesota, when I first came over here, Swarzak was that guy. He was 90 (to) 95 innings. And pretty good innings too. That’s really valuable. But kind of like people were saying last year, ‘well everybody is going to do what Miller’s doing,’ – well first you got to have Miller, not everybody can say that and not everybody’s built to pitch 95 innings a year and also be effective."

On playing Lonnie Chisenhall in center field:

A: "I’m really happy with him. I think his throwing is – you don’t see the big arms in center field in this day in age as much as maybe you did awhile back. But Lonnie’s got the good release, he’s very accurate. The first game he played a couple balls were over his head. I don’t think he catches them anyway, but that’s probably not how he wants to take a route. So he’s worked on that. I think Lonnie’s a good outfielder. Yesterday, off the bat, Correa I thought he had a chance then I realized that Correa used a two-iron. It was in the right direction and it was pea. It was a really good jump."

On Chisenhall's throwing arm:

A: "And Lonnie is uncannily – his throws into second, how many times do we see where he gets a guy or it’s bang-bang. His accuracy is really good. So you take quickness of release and accuracy, I’d take that over strength of an arm any time."

On Michael Brantley's contact rate:

A: "I think it’s a small sample size too. I think that first 100 at-bats there’s a lot of things – remember last year, Kip struck out so much early – things happen. I think Brant looks really good. I think he’s really smart and I think he’s healthy. I think that first 100 at-bats for anybody, there’s going to be some abnormalities. But with him it would be almost hard to imagine nothing being different. He missed a lot of time."

On finding a balance point with relievers:

A: "That’s a really important – whether it’s a question or a statement – it’s really important. Because like I said, you want to pitch them as much as you can but not too much. And if you bite off too much, that’s why we make those decisions before the game. Like if a guy’s down, we make it before the game because it’s amazing how in the eighth inning you can talk yourself (into), ‘Ah he’s okay, he can get one hitter.’ That’s not a good way to do it. And then once you go too far, it takes a long time to catch up. Even if you don’t hurt somebody, you know they might be down two days now. So just giving them their day where they can regroup does a lot of good. And then, the ups and downs in the bullpen, I don’t think people pay enough attention to guys getting hot in the bullpen."

On Miller's weird inning on Wednesday:

A: "I don't know about that. I think when you get up to around 30, it's obvious he was working pretty hard. Like I say, you're trying to make the pitch that's going to save the game. The game's on the line right there. I think you've got to at least remember that. As a starter, I always put an asterisk [by high-stress innings], just because you have a couple of those, and it's going to eat into your start."

On data to analyze a pitcher's fatigue:

A: "I think Mickey does a really good job on keeping tabs on stuff like that. I just think sometimes, like they had pretty good at-bats, too. One of the guys, one of the right-handers laid off two of his breaking balls and I was thinking, 'Uh oh,' because he took them really well, and I was worried. But then, you saw his competitiveness kick in, too."

On where Carlos Beltran was hit by a pitch on Wednesday:

A: "Foot."

On his philosophy of giving relievers the night off:

A: "I've always done it like that, because I think you make mistakes. I just think in the seventh or eighth inning, it's just so hard to not. You have a guy sitting there. Andrew Miller is a good example. Nine times out of 10, you're going to make him available, and it doesn't work. You'll hurt somebody. And I think the pitchers appreciate it, because we do, we ask a lot of them. They pitch a lot. We know that, but we don't want to hurt them. So, I think that's a way of allowing them that day where they can almost like a regen day. They can do some arm exercises or whatever, because they know they're not pitching that night."

On when Jason Kipnis will be 100% back:

A: "I think his at-bats have been pretty good. His first at-bat -- I think it was against Quintana -- he had about an 11, 12-pitch at-bat. A really good at-bat. I think those things can hasten up the [process]. That was really impactful, watching that. You know what? I don't think there's ever a number. When you leave Spring Training, you want guys to feel like they're in good shape, feeling good about themselves. But, it never fails. The one guy that hit .400 gets off to a slow start. One guy that had 12 at-bats and hit .180, they get three hits the first game and then they feel good. It's kind of hard to figure out an exact science to it."

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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