CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – The Cleveland Indians returned home on Monday to open a seven-game home stand against the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field, but the Tribe’s 6-11 start to the 2015 season has been less than ideal.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti met with the media before Monday’s game to address a number of topics, including why Francisco Lindor remains at Triple-A Columbus, what he’s thought of Danny Salazar’s progress from Spring Training to now, what he sees in Michael Bourn’s struggles, and if the Tribe is intimidated by the Detroit Tigers.
Here are some of the highlights of Antonetti’s chat with reporters:
What would you say to those clamoring to see the Indians promote Francisco Lindor immediately?
“I would encourage them to take a look at Jose Ramirez’s body of work, not only what he did last year at the Major League level, but the way he played and performed throughout our development system. He’s a guy that’s produced at each level and played very well at each stop he’s been at, including the Major Leagues. Admittedly, he’s had a rough start to the season, offensively especially, but he’s the same guy that came up last year, struggled initially, then figured things out the second time, figured things out, and was a big part of our team’s success in the second half. That’s the first part.
“The second part, with Francisco, we’re really encouraged with the progress of his development. I think we said that in Spring Training. At the end of Spring Training, he took advantage of the days that he was in Goodyear and the off-season to continue to improve as a player, and he’s continued on that path in Columbus. So, he has a bright future in front of him that he can control in terms of the type of player he’s going to ultimately become, and he’s on his way to doing that. What the timetable is for his ascendance to the Major Leagues hasn’t changed from what we talked about in Spring Training.”
What does Lindor still have to work on at Triple-A before getting called up?
“There’s a number of things that we’ve talked with, not only Francisco, but each player has a specific developmental plan that we talk with them about. Rather than getting into the specifics of those, because it’s something that is really between the player and us, I can tell you that Francisco is committed to that plan and has worked hard to continue to improve and get better as a player.”
Do you ever worry that players will get frustrated when they don’t get called up?
“If we weren’t communication with them, I’d worry about it. But we are. Francisco has got a very clear understanding of the things that we’ve partnered with him, talked with him about, that he can continue to improve as a player. Tom Wiedenbauer, our field coordinator, was here [today]. We just spent an hour in talking about Francisco and other guys on the Columbus team and where they are in their plans and progression. I’m very confident that Francisco has a very clear understanding of the things he’s working on.”
Have you figured out what type of player Lindor will be offensively?
“I think we’ve believed he has a chance to be a complete player — offensively, defensively, on the bases, as a teammate, as a leader — and he’s on that path. He’s a guy that’s always controlled the strike zone well, manages his at bats from both sides, has shown power as well. We wouldn’t set any limit to what type of player he can be offensively, other than a pretty good one.”
Is there an ideal time to call up a prospect?
“In an ideal world, the team’s playing great, and the player’s playing great, and there’s an opportunity that naturally presents itself. But rarely in life, as we’ve seen in the first few weeks, do we live in an ideal world.”
What have you thought of Danny Salazar’s progression from Spring Training to now?
“Danny’s made great strides in the first month of the season. He went down to the Minor Leagues with a clear purpose, and to his credit, he worked on the plan he discussed in Major League camp. He and Carl Willis and Ruben Niebla stayed consistent with that plan and put in a lot of work to get Danny to execute the plan we talked about. He went down there with a purpose and worked his tail off to do it. It’s been very encouraging to see that progress come so quickly. I think Danny’s next challenge will be staying consistent with it. [The question will be] can he continue with the work in between starts, the preparation? And then when he takes the mound with the same approach that he’s demonstrated in his first couple starts up here and the start he made in Columbus.
What have you thought of Nick Swisher’s rehab?
“He’s made great progress. The way he’s gone about his rehab has been extraordinary — his mindset, his approach, and how committed he is to doing everything in his power to get back, not only as quickly as possible, but to get back as quickly and completely as he can. I think he’s starting to feel more and more comfortable offensively. Now the next step in his progression is to continue to build up his volume and to continue to build up his defensive play where he’s comfortable and unrestricted in the outfield. But he’s made great progress along those lines and hopefully he’ll be ready in the near-term to impact our team up here.”
What are you thoughts on Michael Bourn’s offensive struggles?
“Offensively, he’s still working to find his swing and approach. I know he’s working with [the hitting coaches] everyday to try to get back to a consistent level of offensive performance. The way to do that is to start with a consistent base, foundation with his swing, and approach at the plate. He’s working to do that. He just hasn’t yet found it. The great thing about Michael is he’s never going to shortchange the work. He’ll show up today just as committed as he was yesterday and last week to try to get there. The encouraging thing is that he’s healthy. He’s not restricted in any way. In the past, when Michael’s been healthy, he’s been a productive player. We’re confident he’ll get back there.”
What about Bourn’s speed?
“I think we’ve seen signs of Michael getting back to that type of player, it’s just hard to see on the offensive side if you’re not on base consistently and not hitting the ball with more authority.”
Are you concerned about team’s slow start?
“In an ideal world, we would have won more games than we have already. But I think we’ll refrain from reading too much into just a handful of games. I continue to believe in the roster that we have and that we’ll play better than we have so far.”
How worried are you about the fast starts by the Tigers and Royals?
“Every game, there’s a sense of urgency to every game. I think we have enough things that we have to focus on in-house, to control, try to improve the way we’ve played than to focus on anyone externally. I mean the good thing is, we’re going to have the opportunity to play both of those teams a lot over the balance of the year. If we play the way we’re capable of playing, then we can certainly make up the ground we’ve lost so far.”
Do you think the players are intimated by the Tigers?
“I don’t think so. I think they’ve outplayed us thus far. I don’t think there’s an intimidation. I think we haven’t executed as well as we’re capable of executing. But I don’t see us afraid or intimidated.”