Manager Terry Francona has watched Corey Kluber win two Cy Young awards in the last four years. On Tuesday, before Kluber made his first spring training start of the year, Francona was asked what he expects from Kluber during camp.
“That when he gets to opening day, he feels really good about himself,” Francona told reporters in Goodyear, Ariz.
Kluber, if you haven’t guessed by now, is scheduled to be the opening day starter for the third straight year when the Indians start the regular season on March 29 against Seattle at Safeco Field.
“I could care less what his ERA is,” said Francona. “He’ll work on things during spring training. A lot of times you see that the veteran pitchers are the ones who give up runs in spring training. They know they have a spot on the team. He may want to work on fastball command one day so he won’t throw a breaking ball.
“The biggest thing is that when we get to opening day, he feels really, really good about himself.”
Kluber allowed one run on one hit in two innings in Tuesday’s 16-8 win over Oakland at Goodyear Ballpark. He struck out three and walked one.
“I try to use the first time or two to get used to facing another team and having the defense behind you,” Kluber told reporters after his start. “I wasn’t working on anything specific. Moreso, I was just trying to get used to having another team out there, facing hitters, reacting to swings and things like that.”
No. 1: Thumbs up for Josh Tomlin
Francona liked the way Tomlin looked in his first start of the spring on Monday in a 7-6 loss to Milwaukee. He threw two scoreless innings with two strikeouts.
“He was terrific. He said he felt strong,” said Francona. “His ball had life through the zone. He threw a couple fastballs down that usually sink or sail, but they just rode through the zone. He looked really sharp. I was really encouraged.”
Francona said they’re going to experiment defensively when Tomlin pitches this spring. He’s going to have the infielders play behind more runners than they have in the past to take away the holes in the infield.
“I think it’s such an advantage,” said Francona. “Tomlin is so quick to the plate, yet he’s a contact pitcher. So if we take the hole away, it should help.”
No. 2: Richie Shaffer is hard to ignore
Shaffer, former No.1 pick of the Rays in 2012, has played four games this spring as a minor-league invitee for the Tribe. Not only is he hitting .800 (4-for-5), but he’s hit one triple, two homers and driven in nine runs.
In his first of two at-bats on Tuesday, he hit a grand slam to turn a 6-6 tie into a 10-6 lead. Last year at Class AAA Columbus, Shaffer hit .227 (105-for-463) with 30 homers, 89 RBI and 188 strikeouts.
Shaffer told mlb.com on Tuesday, “I’m trying to make a case that there’s always room on a roster. That’s my goal, is to go out there and just force someone’s hand and to make a move, and to be like, ‘We can’t not have this guy out there.'”
Francona, for his part, has said that he’s glad Shaffer has gotten off to a good start this spring. That was not the case last spring, but Shaffer still impressed with his power. Just like he’s doing this spring.
Shaffer will concentrate on playing first and third base this spring.
No. 3: No mound work for Danny Salazar.
It’s looking more and more as if Danny Salazar will open the season on the disabled list because of a sore right shoulder. Francona was asked Tuesday if Salazar was close to throwing off the mound yet. The answer was no.
“He’s not even at long toss yet,” said Francona. “He’s on a shorter version of it.”
Salazar injured the shoulder during his offseason conditioning. The Indians have known about the injury since Tribe Fest in January.
Outfielder Brandon Guyer (left wrist) has been cleared to start his “return to play’ program. Still no word when he can swing a bat.
No. 4: Francisco Mejia, the wild card.
The Indians like the way Mejia catches. But they like the way he swings the bat better. It’s one of the reasons that he could be playing third base or the outfield sometime this season for the Indians.
“Offensively, he’s so advanced,” said Francona. “That’s why we’ve talked (position changes) with him. If something happens in April, May or June, he’s probably our best minor league hitter. If he’s able to play another position, does that speed up his ascent to the major leagues?
“I fought putting Carlos (Santana) in the outfield. After putting him out there four or five times, I didn’t worry about it. And the game didn’t change that much. Sometimes I think we worry too much.”
Mejia has two hits in four at-bats so far this spring. He hit a two-run homer against the Brewers on Monday.
No. 5: That’s not how to run the bases.
If you were wondering how the Indians hit into a game-ending double play on Monday with runners on second and third in a 7-6 loss to the Brewers, well, here’s how it happened.
Nellie Rodriguez was on third and Yu Chang on second. Chang had just hit a ground rule double to make it a 7-6 game. If the ball had stayed in play, Rodriguez would have scored the tying run, but instead he had to stop at third.
Willi Castro, the next batter, sent a grounder to former Indian Jesus Aguilar at first base. Aguilar stepped on first, but when Rodriguez stopped after breaking toward home, he threw to second after Chang broke for third. Rodriguez, all 260 pounds of him, then broke for home, but Chang was tagged out just before Rodriguez scored.
It will not go down as one the Tribe’s best base-running moments of the spring.