CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Cleveland Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion is healthy. At least healthy enough to hit four times.
Encarnacion is back in the starting lineup for ALDS Game 5 after missing Games 3 and 4 with a sprained ankle that made him exit in the early goings of Game 2. The slugger ran in the outfield at Tuesday’s optional workout before hitting live pitching off of lefty Ryan Merritt.
Manager Terry Francona said that both the running and hitting portions looked fine.
“If I wouldn’t have been looking for it, I wouldn’t have known that something was going on,” he said.
The 34-year old Encarnacion told ESPN on Tuesday that he would probably not be in the lineup if the game were not a do-or-die situation. With everything on the line, he decided to play through the pain.
His manager was asked whether or not he was worried about his cleanup hitter putting too much pressure on himself.
“I didn’t before you said that. I’m starting to,” Francona laughed. “No, he’ll be okay. I mean, I think it’s kind of stating the obvious. He doesn’t feel great. I wouldn’t want to miss this game either. You do what you can.”
It is no coincidence that the team had struggles offensively without Encarnacion in the lineup. As expected, an offense was not as potent without the man who does most damage in the order. That offense had taken a healthy upswing upon the arrival of Jay Bruce because of the length the pair provides.
That length should go a long way in an elimination game.
What Encarnacion’s presence also brings is leadership by example, a trait Francona has assigned to his DH and said he prefers to a vocal leader.
“He very quietly goes about his business in a really professional way,” the manager said. “But Edwin has been terrific. He’s not the loudest guy in the room. But when you ask him a question, he gives you a thoughtful answer. He’s always offering to do whatever he can. He’s solid. He’s really solid.”
Michael Brantley is also absent from the starting lineup.