Tito’s tip to Guardians in Classic: ‘Take a second and take this in’

March 8th, 2023

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Guardians entered Wednesday’s 6-0 victory over Team Mexico at Goodyear Ballpark with a few familiar faces missing from their roster.

Cleveland sent a handful of players off to their respective teams for the World Baseball Classic, including Cal Quantrill (Canada), Bo Naylor (Canada) and Andr?s Gim?nez (Venezuela). Gim?nez will compete in Miami, as Venezuela is grouped to play against Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Israel and Nicaragua on the East Coast during pool play. But Quantrill and Naylor will be just down the road in Phoenix.

The decision for Naylor to join Team Canada wasn’t the easiest. He knows that he’s trying to prove he belongs on Cleveland’s roster sooner rather than later. Missing some time during Spring Training probably wouldn’t help his cause if Opening Day was his goal. However, realistically, the Guardians have been hinting at the fact that Naylor should begin the season with Triple-A Columbus since before the World Baseball Classic rosters were revealed. As long as he stays healthy during this time, it shouldn’t alter his future with the club, which Guardians manager Terry Francona tried to reiterate before he left camp.

“We told him to enjoy himself, first of all, because it’s a huge honor,” Francona said. “And we just made him promise that he’d come back in one piece. We just told him to communicate with us if anything’s going on, and he promised to do that.”

Unless Mike Zunino sustains an injury before Opening Day, it seems all but certain that Naylor will join Columbus to start the year. As of now, Cam Gallagher appears to be the top candidate to win the backup catching role. If this would be the case regardless of Naylor’s participation in the World Baseball Classic, there’s no reason he shouldn’t enjoy this honor.

Unlike Naylor, Quantrill’s role with the Guardians is already established. If he and Triston McKenzie perform like they did last season, that pair could team up and make a scary trio with Shane Bieber at the top of Cleveland’s rotation. But even though he’s a lock on this roster, Quantrill was still trying to find ways to continue popping into Guardians camp while he balances his Team Canada schedule. Francona insisted that he enjoys this moment.

“I said, ‘Hey man, you’re going to this thing, your dad is a part of the coaching staff, take a minute and enjoy it,'” Francona said. “I know he’s gonna get his work done, but take a second and take this in because this doesn’t happen very often.”

Roster moves approachingEveryone in Cleveland’s rotation prepares for the season differently. Most went two innings in their first Cactus League outings, while Aaron Civale went just one. But guys like Bieber have already thrown three innings in a start (and could’ve gone four last time out, considering he was so efficient), which leaves only a few innings to fill for the rest of the hurlers who need to get their reps in. Because of that, the Guardians are nearing the time that younger pitchers or guys who won’t make the Opening Day roster will be sent to Minor League camp.

“This is where [pitching coach] Carl [Willis] really has to start working at [balancing everyone’s work],” Francona said. “That’s why, at some point, you’ll see roster moves because we can’t stretch out all the people we need to. It’s not fair to them.”

De Los Santos and Sandlin make spring debutsNick Sandlin and Enyel De Los Santos were the last two of Cleveland’s regulars to get action out of the bullpen this spring. During the postseason last year, Sandlin was sidelined with a right shoulder strain and the team was careful with his progression this spring, making sure not to rush him into game activity. De Los Santos tweaked his left hamstring just before camp got underway and needed a little extra time before getting thrown into the mix.

Both were able to make their spring debuts in Wednesday’s win. Sandlin gave up two hits, one walk and struck one batter out in his inning of work, while De Los Santos permitted just one hit in his frame.

“Nick, I thought he yanked a couple fastballs,” Francona said. “He’s gonna be a guy where repetition will really help him. I thought the ball came out of De Los [Santos’ hand] really well. So it was a good day, and we can get those guys pitching.”