CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Terry Francona has some decisions to make on his elimination game lineup for Wednesday. He has already made a few, but that has only given him more decisions to make.
“We got a couple things going,” the manager said. “I’ve got about four lineups down there just because there’s a lot of either/ors.”
Much of the process will depend on the availability of designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, who Francona says he ‘thinks’ will be ready to go by Wednesday night. There are then positional questions to weigh alongside the availability of third baseman Giovanny Urshela.
“He showed up a little more sore today,” the skipper said of Urshela. “That ball kind of attacked him last night. So we just want to — we’ll make a run through the entire group just to make sure we’re okay.”
With a 1-for-11 stretch under his belt, Michael Brantley’s involvement is a question as well. Francona said Tuesday that where and when the All-Star plays is dependent on Encarnacion’s availability.
“Sabathia’s been tough on him historically anyway,” Francona said. “We may be better off having him on the bench. I haven’t quite worked through that yet.”
If Brantley’s involvement is dependent on who will DH, an inference could be made that he is not in consideration to play in left field at all.
With the lefty on the mound, Austin Jackson will assuredly start in the outfield, leaving a decision to be made between Lonnie Chisenhall in left field and Jason Kipnis in center. Given that Kipnis has continued to play against lefties, that decision does not sound like it will take much thought.
The latter part of Francona’s comment holds water as well. Whether or not it is Urshela or Erik Gonzalez at third, Brantley is probably better suited as a pinch hitter with Encarnacion in the lineup anyway. The only reason to justify removing Jackson or Kipnis from the lineup is because of Kipnis’s ability in center, which Francona has maintained faith in.
Francona did not sound as if he would stray too far from his plan entering the series, admitting that his team was sloppy defensively in Game 4, but wanting to stay in his lane.
“I just know that the magnitude of these games, I just wanted to make sure our group is — I want to do my part. I don’t want to overdo,” he said. “You always kind of walk that balance.”
The two-time World Series champion also made sure to say something to his men, while not saying too much. He met with his team for just 30 seconds postgame.
“I was glad we did it, because I felt better when we left,” Francona said of his non-‘rah rah’ speech. “You might as well start heading in the right direction as soon as you can. Not let guys think about it all night and everything like that. And I was pleased that we did that.”