This weekend the Cleveland Indians hosted TribeFest, an event at Progressive Field featuring autograph sessions with players, roundtable discussions with broadcaster Tom Hamilton, kids activities, clubhouse tours and other Indians-centric activities. On Sunday, a social media Q&A session in the Terrace Club featured Mark Shapiro, team president, and the team’s new manager, Terry Francona.
I had the pleasure of joining in the “tweet up,” and although there were some generic, canned answers to certain questions, for the most part both Shapiro and Francona were refreshingly candid. In Shapiro’s opening comments, he said he felt Francona and new outfielder Nick Swisher were huge additions to the club, both in terms of performance, and personality. He stressed that neither manager nor player felt joining the Indians was their last resort; rather, both wanted to be here.
Shapiro was asked if he had an estimation on when Indians fans could see new acquisition Trevor Bauer starting for the the big league club, but said he was among four or five guys in the mix for the final rotation spot, and he would be shocked if we didn’t see Bauer in Cleveland this season. Shapiro admitted he had not had a chance to speak with Bauer personally, but he said both GM Chris Antontetti and Francona had, and he received glowing reports on Bauer. Other topics touched on included if the Indians were going to sign a designated hitter (Shapiro said he likes the idea of using the DH spot to give regulars a rest) and if top prospect Fransisco Lindor is a franchise player (not yet, but he said Lindor could end up being a special guy).
Francona was up next, and his enthusiasm was apparent the moment he took the microphone. He said when he found out the Indians job was open, he decided he would either be managing the Indians or back at ESPN as an analyst. Two other times during the Q&A, he was asked in various ways why he would consider coming to Cleveland, and he made it clear he thought very highly of Shapiro and Antonetti, and considered them friends. He made a point to say “when we (the Indians) win,” and how he feels that at this point in his baseball career, money and market size aren’t as important to him as feeling comfortable and being in the right situation, which he felt Cleveland was.
Other topics touched on by Francona included him confidently stating that Carlos Carrasco is “fully healthy,” though an innings limit may be imposed on the right-hander as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. Francona wouldn’t state whether incumbent center fielder Michael Brantley would remain in that position, or switch to left field in favor of newcomer Drew Stubbs. When asked if he was worried about the lack of a real left-handed starter, Francona mentioned spring invitee Scott Kazmir‘s velocity was back up to 92-93 MPH, and told the fans to “keep an eye on him in spring training.”
Nothing earth-shattering, but it was nice to hear directly from two of the Tribe’s top decision-makers. FanFest wasn’t a perfect endeavor, as I spent a lot of time waiting in lines for various activities, but it certainly got me excited for the upcoming season. It was great to meet some of the other Indians-enthusiasts who I’ve interacted with on Twitter as well.
And shout-out to the brave soul wearing the authentic Aaron Cunningham jersey on my way inside.