Indians notes: Tribe bats have a confidence problem  

Dropping Lindor from leadoff spot makes little sense to Terry Francona

Daryl Ruiter
May 24, 2019 - 5:32 pm

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports


Cleveland, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – They say hitting is contagious.

In the Indians case, so is the inability to hit.

“Some of it is simply confidence,” Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to the second game of their four-game series with Tampa Bay. “Even for the good and great players, their confidence takes a hit.”

While some might dismiss the notion of confidence, in baseball, a day-to-day 162-game grind, it is everything to players, and Francona understands that more than anyone.

“It’s easy to say ‘well, be confident’ but you gotta feel it first,” Francona said. “Sometimes getting the feel is hard. I also know it’s easy for me to sit here and say, ‘pick a side of the plate and pick one pitch.’ When a guy’s throwing 95 and snapping off a breaking ball and change, it’s easier said than done, but that’s the way you build into having some success.

“Sometimes it turns around like that, sometimes you have to build into it but I think that’s the best way to start because these guys got too good of stuff to try and hit everything.”

Unfortunately for Francona’s Indians, they can’t anticipate much of a confidence boost when they face Rays lefty Blake Snell, who is 3-4 with a 3.31 ERA Friday night and right-hander Charlie Morton with his 4-0 record and 2.65 ERA.

“Yeah, thanks,” Francona said with a smile.

The Indians currently have the third-worst batting average in the American League entering Friday night’s game and have scored two or fewer runs in a game 19 times in 49 games and for Francona, there is no easy fix.

He’s also trying to protect younger players and put them in the best possible position to succeed.

“Part of why when Carlos Gonzalez was here, I hit him fourth, it wasn’t necessarily because of the production, but I didn’t want to get some of the younger guys in there that are gonna get beat up,” Francona said. “I don’t think that’s developing players. Obviously you’re trying to win and there’s strategy, but I’ve got an obligation to help these guys get better and no get beat up.”

Leave Lindor alone – With the Indians offense running on fumes these days, Francona has been tempted to drop Francisco Lindor from the leadoff spot, but that’s about it.

“I talked to him about it too and he said, ‘I’ll hit wherever you want me to,’” Francona said. “There has to be a reason that makes you better and I don’t know if I could say that would make us better. Could hit him third or fourth. He’s a great player but then who’s leading off?”

Lindor is one of few bright spots offensively this season hitting .286 with seven homeruns and 15 RBI.

“Sometimes you change things and you’re like, man wait a minute,” Francona said. “That’s not the issue [offensively]. We have to find a way to lengthen our lineup…but I think it’s going to be more with our guys’ approach ad the guys we have picking it up a little bit.”

Mercado sits – Indians left fielder Oscar Mercado was not in the lineup Friday, a day after a scary collision with center fielder Leonys Martin that resulted in a three-run inside-the-park homerun.

“[He’s] Sore. Moving around OK,” Francona said. “He’s trying to make himself available for later. I don’t know if that’s realistic or not. But he’s not worse off. I think we figured he’d be kinda sore today.”

Clevinger counter – Mike Clevinger threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Friday.

The plan is to send Clevinger to Arizona Saturday for a week to 10 days to continue to work and rehab in a controlled environment.

“We can set up games for him and then we can transition him to the minor leagues as we ramp him up,” Francona said.

Naquin progress – Tyler Naquin ran the bases Friday afternoon to test his problematic calf.

“He looked like he was champing at the bit, which is a good sign,” Francona said.

Francona said he will meet with the medical staff prior to Friday’s game to discuss the next steps for Naquin. He is likely headed for a rehab assignment in the coming days.