Notes: Lindor at leadoff; RHP Hill recalled
CLEVELAND — When the Indians hit an offensive skid two weeks ago, scoring five runs over three games, Francisco Lindor proposed the idea of shaking up the lineup to temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. After the club struggled again over its last two games against Kansas City, Alomar was ready
CLEVELAND — When the Indians hit an offensive skid two weeks ago, scoring five runs over three games, Francisco Lindor proposed the idea of shaking up the lineup to temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr. After the club struggled again over its last two games against Kansas City, Alomar was ready to make a change.
Though Lindor said he told Alomar to put him in whatever spot would best help the team, the obvious choice was moving him back to leadoff, as the team did for Friday’s series opener against the Twins.
“I think if the time was gonna be right, this is the right time to do it,” Alomar said. “Frankie has a lot of history in the leadoff spot. It’s not something that is new to him. If it’s something that was new to him, I would’ve considered not doing it.”
Tribe skipper Terry Francona had conversations with Lindor throughout Spring Training and Summer Camp about moving to the three-hole to have him at the plate with more baserunners. While Lindor has hit at No. 3 for the first 44 games of this season, he has batted .275 with a .790 OPS and just .133 with a .450 OPS with runners in scoring position.
“I was definitely more aggressive leading off, for sure,” Lindor said. “In previous years, it was like I had to be on first, I have to steal second or I have to find a way to get to second. If I don’t get to second, I have to go first to third. It’s a requirement.”
Though Lindor hasn’t quite looked like his usual self at the plate this season, his career numbers from the No. 3 spot are still trending in the right direction. But with just two weeks remaining in a shortened season, the Indians don’t have much time to keep experimenting. That led to the decision to return to where he’s most comfortable.
Here’s a look at Lindor’s career stats from each of the top three spots in the batting order:
First: 364 games, 89 homers, 212 RBIs, 137 walks, 240 strikeouts, .280 average, .870 OPS
Second: 180 games, 24 homers, 86 RBIs, 57 walks, 120 strikeouts, .285 average, .798 OPS
Third: 206 games, 24 homers, 103 RBIs, 73 walks, 124 strikeouts, .300 average, .812 OPS
“He has [1,534] at-bats leading off,” Alomar said. “His OPS is way higher than hitting second or third. My assessment is that Frankie — pitch distribution is a little different leading off than when you’re hitting third, and nobody wants to walk the leadoff guy. I feel like he’s gonna get better pitches to hit.”
The change comes ahead of a three-game series against the Twins, who sat in second place in the American League Central entering Friday with a half-game lead over the Indians. The Tribe will also match up four more times against the first-place White Sox in just over a week, so they are looking to put their offense in the best position heading into the postseason.
“At the end of the day, this is not about where I can do better for myself,” Lindor said. “This is where I can do better for the team and where we feel more familiar with the position we’re in right now.”
Prior to Friday’s game, the Indians recalled righty reliever Cam Hill and designated Dominic Leone for assignment. In 13 2/3 innings in his first stint with the Tribe this season, Hill owned a 3.95 ERA with 11 strikeouts, three walks and held hitters to a .133 average.
José returns against righties
José Ramírez (left thumb contusion) was sidelined for Tuesday and Thursday’s games, while only hitting against left-handed pitching on Wednesday as the switch-hitter only felt pain in his thumb against righties. But with Kenta Maeda on the mound on Friday, the Indians were confident enough to put Ramírez back in the order against a right-hander.
“Those two days that he didn’t have to hit lefty really helped him a lot,” Alomar said. “From the last two days, he’s improved dramatically, so he’s in the lineup tonight. He wants to play. He said he feels good. He’s able to manage it by that.”
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.