Follow along with Indians infielder Mike Freeman as he chronicles each day of Summer Camp ahead of the Tribe’s July 24 opener against the Royals at Progressive Field.
Day 9 — Tuesday, July 7
Today, I was in the morning group and did not get much sleep because of that whole unfortunate lack of sheets dilemma. Totally my own fault, but still the reality. I might refer to today as a “strap it on and hang with ‘em” type of day. Just because you may not be feeling your best when you wake up, we must find a way to create an energy that allows us to perform no matter what. There are plenty of days during the season where you might be sluggish, but come game time, those watching would never know. And to be honest, no one cares why you did not sleep well, just go out and do your job.
Enough with all that. Today was a great morning of work. We did our usual prep and cage work before stretch. After stretch, we ran the bases to continue to increase the workload and familiarize our bodies with the things we are used to doing when games start. The infielders got some great work in on defense before moving into batting practice. With us being the morning group, our on-field work was done after batting practice, so I was able to go see our strength coach, Joe Kessler, in the weight room to get a workout in.
Today, we were due for another round of testing, and we are not allowed to eat or drink anything 30 minutes before, which is hard when you feel dehydrated from the hot, humid weather out on the field. Nevertheless, I set a new personal best in the saliva-spitting COVID-19 test department with one spit and quit. It is the little things I find joy in right now. Shane Bieber, where you at?
After finishing my test — and with this possibly being my last early day of Summer Camp — a few of us got away to play golf. Disclaimer: we each had our own cart. It was a full day, but for us, having golf as an outlet away from baseball helps break up the repetitiveness that these days can sometimes create. Having that escape refreshes your mind to be ready to get back at it tomorrow.
Day 8 — Monday, July 6*
Afternoon group. Faced Carlos Carrasco and struck out three times. Was OK with my at-bats, however. His velo looked good, command for offspeed was there. I watched Yu Chang hit one of the farthest balls I have seen at Progressive Field. It landed about 5-7 rows shy of hitting the scoreboard in left. Good day overall at the park.
I was able to move into my apartment and socially-distanced socialized with a teammate. Socializing prevented me from getting sheets for the new bed that was delivered. It could be a long night of sleep.
*I went back and looked at what I wrote for this day. I obviously was providing bullet points to go back and expand on, but I feel like you get the gist. Sometimes, less is more.
Day 7 — Sunday, July 5
Another early-group workout for me today. The schedules are relatively similar each day, depending on what group you are in. Depending on my mood that day, I may not elaborate too much on the workout, because it’s been told before. I say that because this is one of those times. It was a solid workout where guys improved and did what they needed to do.
One wrinkle in today’s schedule was that we had our second round of COVID-19 testing after the workout. To try and bring some fun to a mostly monotonous process, I challenged Shane Bieber to a spit-off to see who could fill the tube fastest. Biebs crushed me. But we got it done much sooner than we would have otherwise, so did anyone really lose? I do not think so.
Day 6 — Saturday, July 4
Happy Fourth of July! It certainly does not feel like July 4 today. For the last nine years, I have played in a baseball game on this day, and it has always been one of my favorite days to suit up. Now, if we are looking at the bright side, I did get to suit up and run around the field today, so we were able to salvage some nostalgia from years past. I even found some Fourth of July socks from last year to wear during today’s workout to make it a little more festive. I also had a USA tank top underneath my jersey I thought about busting out during my first at-bat, but I chickened out.
Now, onto the baseball stuff. Today was like yesterday in that I was in the afternoon group, so I had more live at-bats on the schedule. The difference today was there were more pitchers throwing, so we took batting practice before the game, instead of between innings.
One thing I failed to mention before about the groups we are in is that both morning and afternoon groups have a group of infielders and outfielders. This helps when doing our position work so there are not too many guys together at once. It also allows us to field our positions during the half-innings we are not taking at-bats. And for me, taking ground balls is great for working on the fundamentals, but you cannot quite simulate game speed in practice, so the live reps on defense help shrink the gap from practice to games.
Today’s simulated game featured the city of Cleveland’s MVP, Shane Bieber. I was looking forward to facing him to better understand why he is so good. I came away from my at-bats with a better understanding. His control is elite, as we all know. I was surprised at the action of his curveball. I took two first-pitch strikes from the curveball, and I was talking to the guys about the shape of it and how much different it is from most. It has tight spin and does not have the pop out of the hand that you see from most traditional curveballs. It is smaller than others from a depth standpoint, but with it being smaller, it was hard for me to pick it up as quickly as I do the “bigger” curveballs.
One of the benefits of facing teammates is the opportunity for feedback. We understand that this is going to help our team, so it allows for productive discussion after at-bats. For instance, Bieber and I talked about his changeup because every pitch I hit in my three at-bats was a changeup. The two I rolled over had different spin than the one I hit up the middle. Being able to describe the differences and what I saw out of his hand can help him throw the pitch the way he wants to more consistently.
All in all, today was a longer day because of the number of arms that threw, so there was not much time after the workout for anything other than a shower and getting dressed. With my family still at home, there are limited options for things to do after practice, so it is back to the hotel to isolate and get ready for tomorrow.
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) July 3, 2020
Day 5 — Friday, July 3
Today was the first official day of workouts. It was the first day of having a unified schedule sent out the night before with our arrival times. They split us into a morning group and an afternoon group to limit our interaction. All the simulated games are in the afternoon, so if you are in the morning group, it is a lighter workload consisting of cage work, position work, batting practice and a workout.
Today, I was a part of the afternoon group. We did the same amount of work as the morning group, with the simulated game added at the end.
Yesterday, during the sim game, the hitters sat around while Aaron Civale was taking his half-inning break. Today, however, Adam Plutko was the only pitcher, so to be efficient with our time, we hit batting practice in between innings. And going from a live at-bat to batting practice throws an interesting wrinkle into something that is typically routine. There was a level of adjustment we are not used to. This will be a season of uncomfortable, so early practice will not hurt.
The sim game started favoring the hitters in the first inning with a couple hits, but Plutko settled in after. It is funny how a pitcher may not have his best command one inning, but after coming out for the next inning, he does not miss a spot. That was how it went for Plutko today, and those are the kinds of adjustments you love to see for our team.
After these sim games, it is hard not to sit at your locker and decompress like we are used to after a normal game. Those times are when I do some of my best reflection and how I can self-evaluate and leave the results at the field so I do not bring them home with me to my family. Instead, we have a window of time to meet, which leaves no room for lollygagging.
Summer Camp starts tomorrow, and (sorry, Mom) we’re not sleeping tonight. pic.twitter.com/jVllAb9dpe
— Cleveland Indians (@Indians) July 2, 2020
Day 4 — Thursday, July 2
Today felt like college initiation day. We were all divided into three groups throughout the day to do an hour-long training and tour our new facilities. It began by watching a video from MLB summarizing the health and safety protocols that are expected while we are at the ballparks. After the video was finished, we proceeded to get explanations and guidelines we should be aware of each day.
On our tour, we passed a makeshift gym on the concourse intended for players housed in the visiting clubhouse to use for the time being. We then were pointed to where our food would be served outside on the concourse. And our new dining room is now scattered seats around the Homeplate Club.
We ended the tour back in the clubhouse, where we were shown the best ways to enter and exit and what is expected while walking from room to room, like wearing masks, no bare feet, etc.
After initiation, we proceeded with our work as planned. My day consisted of live at-bats against Aaron Civale, so my schedule was slightly different. I warmed up in the gym before doing my tee and flip routines in the cages. Once complete, I headed down to the field to wait for Civale to be ready to throw his five innings. Today we would refer to as a “show and go,” because we did not take batting practice and went from the cage right into the game. As for Civale, I thought he was sharp, crisp, confident and locating like it was midseason. Sure, we got a few hits here and there, but when you get five consecutive at-bats off the same pitcher, that is to be expected.
Upon completion of the sim game I got my ground balls in to complete today’s work. Another frowned-upon shower, and my day was complete.
Day 3 — Wednesday, July 1
Today is the day. We got our COVID-19 test results back. It was a strange wait, because although I felt no signs of having COVID-19, the unpredictability of the disease leaves cause for doubt. Having said that, I tested negative.
A negative test means I can go to the field today. And not like the fields I have been going to back home, but Progressive Field, or to many still, The Jake. And boy, was it nice to be back. The grass, the dirt and familiar faces made it all feel right.
I would be lying if I said everything looked the same. New entrance, new walk to the clubhouse and for half the guys, a whole new clubhouse. And not a single piece of lounge furniture located in the clubhouse. Big comfy couches and chairs, gone. Ping-pong table, gone. Arcade games, gone. It was strange, for sure, but also necessary.
This will be a season of strange, and the thought of that inspired me to put fingers to keys to document the evolution of this year.
One notable change is the time slots guys are assigned to get their work in. We are given a time to show up and get ready, and then we have a three-hour window to complete our work and leave the ballpark. These new protocols cause the players to be more creative and efficient with their time, but it also creates an increase in work for much of the staff. In between groups, there is cleaning and sanitizing that must be done before the next wave of players can show up. The amount of work behind the scenes that has taken place to get this season off the ground is nothing short of heroic.
That being said, my day consisted of getting my body loose, going on the field to throw and take ground balls, running sprints in the outfield, hitting in the cages and working out in the gym. And after the workout, much to the behest of MLB, I took a shower.
After my day was complete in well under three hours, I meandered my way out of our clubhouse, being sure to follow the direction of the yellow arrows on the ground so I didn’t walk the wrong way on our one-way streets.
Day 2 — Tuesday, June 30
Day 2 was much like Day 1, minus the finger-prick-and-spit contest. We were not allowed to do workouts at the field, so we again played golf. I am not the type that can sit in a hotel for too long with little to do. In my defense, we did a good job of making a day out of the golf course. My former Clemson teammate, and new Indians pitcher, Dominic Leone joined me to play one of Cleveland’s finest courses, Canterbury Golf Club.
The weather was too good to stop after 18 holes, so after a pit stop at 19, we played 12 more for good measure. We must get it in while we can.
Day 1 — Monday, June 29
After a day of driving yesterday from South Carolina, I was given a 9 a.m. ET arrival today to report to the stadium to get COVID-19 testing done.
When we first arrived, someone was there to take our temperature to ensure we did not have a fever. From there, we went to the next room where we had our temperature taken again before signing forms acknowledging that we were prepared to play this season under new levels of risk. Some of us were not expecting these forms, but what are you going to do? Once complete, we moved to the ballpark concourse, where tables were set up with doctors and nurses prepared to administer the tests.
It felt like a day in Spring Training where everyone is required to give blood as part of our physicals. The difference in these tests and the ones in spring was that this was going to be just a pin prick rather than a standard needle-in-the-arm procedure. However, we were required to prick ourselves, which proved to be strange, having never done it myself. I managed to draw blood, and they proceeded to collect the sample to test for antibodies. While we waited for these results, we were handed a small tube with a cone-shaped opening. The medical staff then coached up a bunch of players on how to properly spit. Sounds easy enough, but apparently for a member of the front office, it took almost an hour.
Before we left, we received the results of our antibodies test and were told we would get the results of our COVID-19 tests within 24-48 hours. At this point, it is probably 10 a.m., and we are not allowed at the ballpark. What better way to fill some time than to play golf? So, we did.