At the beginning of the season, I felt as if many fans and not surprisingly the national media, had written off the Indians. I believe one of the major reasons for that feeling was the trade of Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco.
Lindor had grown up with the team and he was beloved by fans. His nickname “Mr. Smile” was accurate as his grin was infectious. The two-time Gold Glove winner was an integral part of the team.
Carrasco had pitched for the Tribe for 11 years. Fondly known as “Cookie” Carrasco battled leukemia which kept him off the mound for most of 2019. He did return to pitch in relief that September. Cookie’s teammates, the organization and the fanbase all showed immense support. He received the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2020.
Losing two players who were particularly important to fans was a hard pill to swallow. I believe it was going to take something special to get fans engaged with the team again.
The face of that team has since changed. It is now full of an eclectic group of guys. Some of them are young players, a few have been claimed off waivers, a few signed as free agents and a few now find themselves veterans.
It’s the quarter point of the season and as of June 5 the Indians sit three games back of the first place White Sox. Thus far Cleveland has had to work through acclimating new players as well as injuries.
Catcher Roberto Pérez suffered a fractured finger and had surgery in early May. Pérez is expected to be out at least eight weeks. Austin Hedges, who was acquired in the San Diego trade of Mike Clevinger, has filled in at the backstop. Cleveland signed free agent backup catcher René Rivera after Pérez went out.
The Tribe’s DH Franmil Reyes was injured during a swing in late May. Reyes was diagnosed with an internal oblique strain. He is expected to be out between five and seven weeks. Skipper Terry Francona has utilized several players in the designated hitter spot since Reyes’ injury.
Outfielder Jordan Luplow had a nagging left ankle sprain since mid-May which landed him on the injured list. Luplow continues to be evaluated and his return is unclear at this time.
Lastly, starting pitcher Zach Plesac injured his right thumb “aggressively removing his shirt” after an outing. Plesac suffered a non-displaced fracture when his thumb hit a chair. Fortunately, he will not require surgery but will be out for at least a month.
Despite the setbacks this team is surprising critics. They’ve managed to win when they weren’t supposed to. I credit this to the chemistry of the squad. The Indians are 31-25 and that’s on pace with the team’s starts since 2016.
Simply put the team is winning and they’re fun to watch. This group of guys are going against all odds and finding a way to get wins. These wins have come by the way of nail biting saves from flame throwing Emmanuel Clase and energetic James Karinchak. Other wins were dramatic walk-off’s by Amed Rosario, Cesar Hernandez and Jordan Luplow.
The passion and hustle of younger players, such as Josh Naylor and Harold Ramirez, has brought a hunger to win into the clubhouse. The combination of this hunger coupled with the veteran presence of players like José Ramírez and Shane Bieber is working. Bieber, the reigning AL CY Young winner, is only 26 years old yet he is a mentor to the younger pitchers.
I’m optimistic and excited about the Indians. Even after a loss they are able to get up, dust themselves off and get back out there. To me, this team is reminiscent of Indians teams in the past who gelled and found themselves atop the AL Central. I have said “don’t sleep on this team” since Spring Training and I stand by that.