Naquin opens season on Indians roster, Brantley questionable
GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) Don't tell Tyler Naquin there's no crying in baseball. The 24-year-old on Friday got the news he's been waiting for since he was 3 or 4 years old and playing T-ball in a pasture behind his church.
Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona informed Naquin that he was going to be on the team's opening day roster.
''I'm speechless,'' said the soft spoken outfielder from Iola, Texas. ''This only happens one time. It is a really cool situation for me and my family. I still don't have the words. My first T-ball team was the Indians.''
Naquin was taken by Cleveland in the first round of the 2012 draft and has been knocking on the door of the major league for two years, but injuries delayed his development. He was hit by a pitch in June 2014 and suffered a broken hand that required surgery. He logged 76 games and hit .313 at Double A-Akron.
Last spring he strained his quad. Naquin started the season at Akron and hit .348 in 34 games. He was promoted to Triple-A Columbus but ran into an outfield wall and suffered a concussion. After he recovered from that, a hip injury ended his season on Aug. 24.
Another injury this year opened the door for Naquin. The shoulder injury to All-Star Michael Brantley, along with Abraham Almonte's 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance, left Cleveland looking for ways to fill the large hole in the outfield. Naquin stepped up by hitting .400 with two home runs. Both came Wednesday off Kansas City's Kris Medlen.
Even Francona choked up when telling the left-handed hitter he made the opening day roster.
''That was one of the more touching ones for us,'' Francona said. ''We've seen this kid come from, two years ago in our one-on-one meetings, he barely would look at us. He's grown into a man and accepted the challenge this spring. We've all seen what he's done with it. It was hard not to be emotional. The last thing I wanted to do was start crying at 9:30 in the morning.''
Naquin called his mom, dad and brother.
''There were tears, absolutely,'' Naquin said. ''It hasn't even hit me, man. I'm sure it will hit me when I get back to my hotel. I wish I had more for you guys. I've been preparing for yes or no.
''I've always put my trust in those guys (coaches). I think anybody who has ever played for Tito (Francona) knows he sticks to his word. They have been good to me ever since I've been drafted. I'm blessed to help the Indians win.''
Said Francona: ''There is not a drawback anywhere. He's part of the organization. He's had to battle some injuries and he's going to break camp as a major league player for the first time in his life. That's as exciting as you can get.''
Brantley was to be examined Friday afternoon and hit in the cage.
''With Brant possibly not starting on time, we're probably going to carry five outfielders,'' Francona said.