Tribe Notes: The Indians' start, Lindor's health and Santana's big day

The Indians are off to an impressive start

James Rapien
April 19, 2019 - 4:24 pm
Apr 11, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Cleveland Indians first baseman Carlos Santana (41) hits an RBI single in the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Indians enter this weekend with an 11-7 record and are in first place in the American League Central.

Their success in the division is expected, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t had an impressive start to the season. They’ve dealt with injuries and roster turnover, but they find themselves in a familiar spot – first place in the AL Central.

Most teams, even in a weak division, would struggle out of the gate if they had to deal with the same issues as the Indians.

Jose Ramirez is off to a terrible start. The Indians’ star is hitting .145 this season, which is the fourth-worst batting average on the team. He only has one home run. For comparison – veterans like Hanley Ramirez and Brad Miller have been better at the plate. Would anyone expect the Indians to be in first place with Ramirez off to such a poor start?

It's not like his teammates are carrying the load. The Indians are ranked 29th in OPS, batting average and runs scored.

Everyone expected the rotation – that some consider the best rotation in baseball, to carry a team that was expected to have its’ issues producing runs.

Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber have struggled to start the season. Mike Clevinger is expected to miss the next three months with a back injury. The rotation has had its' moments, with Trevor Bauer leading the way, but they haven’t been the dominant force that most expected coming into the season.

The Indians have done enough to not only keep their head above water, but put themselves in a favorable position moving forward. They’re expecting to add Francisco Lindor to the active roster in the coming days.

How many teams could deal with the injuries – from Clevinger to Lindor and Jason Kipnis – that the Indians have overcome, while also juggling an unproven bullpen, an underwhelming rotation and an offseason that was full of roster turnover?

Manager Terry Francona deserves plenty of credit. He’s made the right moves and got the most out of a bullpen that was full of question marks.

This team and organization aren’t in the clear. Winning the division isn’t enough – fans have the World Series on their minds. No one can win a championship in April, but they could’ve put themselves in a hole.

Most teams would’ve been forced to battle back after a slow start. The Indians’ sweep of the Mariners said a lot about their character. Bauer, Carrasco and Kipnis were just a few of the players who stepped up and helped the team get back on track after an awful series against Kansas City.

Brad Hand, Nick Wittgren, Jake Bauers and Greg Allen also came up big in high-leverage moments. That says a lot about the team, the organization and the structure that they’ve built at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

Frankie’s Return – Is anyone else surprised that Lindor has progressed so quickly? It wasn’t long ago that the 25-year-old was visiting Green Bay to see a specialist for his sprained ankle. Fast forward to this week and he’s hitting home runs for the Columbus Clippers.

The Indians won't rush their star back. They’ve kept their head above water without him. It's still surprising to see him progress so quickly.

Is there a chance the injury wasn’t as bad as everyone expected? After the news broke that Lindor suffered an ankle sprain, some believed it could cost him all of April. Now he's on track to potentially return this weekend.

If Lindor is close to returning, giving him a few more days might be a wise decision. Instead of bringing him back for Saturday’s doubleheader against Atlanta, they could wait until the Miami series to activate him. That would mean he wouldn’t play until Tuesday.

Lindor is one of the best players on the planet and if the Indians think he’s ready to play, then it’s silly to question them, but it’ll be interesting to see how they handle the situation over the next few days.

Santana’s Big Day – Carlos Santana is off to a great start for the Tribe, but Friday was more important than anything he’ll do at the ballpark.

Santana became a United States citizen in downtown Cleveland on Friday morning. The 33-year-old passed his citizenship test earlier this month. This is a good look at what went into the process and what it means to him.

Santana is a big reason why the Indians are off to an 11-7 start. The veteran has been one of the best players in baseball so far this season. Santana’s posted a .515 on-base percentage, which is only behind Mike Trout. He ranks third in the American League with a .389 batting average.

The Indians hoped Santana could replace Edwin Encarnacion in the lineup. He’s exceeded expectations so far and has been a plus defender at first base.

His stellar play has not only helped the Indians deal with injuries, but it means the top of their lineup could be one of the best in Major League Baseball once Lindor returns.

Bauer’s Video – I enjoyed watching Bauer chat with Nolan Arenado about baseball, the 2016 World Series, the All-Star game and so much more. You can watch the video below: