Indians’ 21-year-old SS Lindor continues to amaze on, off the field
The best thing that Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor did on Wednesday did not occur in front of the 2,919 fans inside Goodyear Ballpark for an Indians-Reds spring training game.
It happened under the right-field stands during the seventh inning. Midway through an interview with reporters, someone asked the 21-year old shortstop why he carries himself with an air of quiet, yet humble confidence long time.
"My dad and mom are very humble. I don’t want to say they are very strict, but they definitely set the boundaries of the house," Lindor said. "When I wear the jersey I have the Cleveland Indians on my chest but I have my dad’s name (on the back). I don’t want to embarrass them. I want to do things right. That way when they go to sleep at the end of the night they feel like they did a good job."
In the 11 days that position players have been in camp, Lindor has continued to draw rave reviews. He won the team endurance test with a dive near the finishing cones and looked good in workouts. In Wednesday’s 4-2 win over the Reds, Lindor had a good day defensively and at the plate.
What manager Terry Francona said before the game about Lindor was evident twice on Wednesday — he can make the spectacular and routine plays consistently because of his range.
During the second inning, he made a leaping grab on a Kristopher Negron line drive. In the third, Lindor fluidly fielded a slow grounder by Skip Schumaker on the infield grass and threw out the Reds left fielder by at least three steps. For anyone that watched the Indians last year, slow grounders often were an adventure.
"As soon as I jumped I realized I didn’t have to jump as high as I did. It was the first time out there (this season), and I haven’t seen the ball off the bat in a while," Lindor said about the play on Negron.
Francona said before the game that offensively they still aren’t sure how Lindor will develop. If the past couple years are any indication, the best fit currently is near the top of the order. Last year with Double-A Akron and Columbus, he had the third-most stolen bases in the Indians’ farm system (28). Over his last 20 games at Triple-A Columbus, Lindor had 13 runs scored while batting .330 with three home runs and nine RBI.
Lindor batted second on Wednesday and singled in his first two at-bats before striking out looking.
In his first major-league camp last year, Lindor played in 11 games and was 6 for 19 with a homer and five RBI. Not bad for someone who said he was nervous.
"This year I am learning, but last year I was trying to get to know the guys who I didn’t know," he said. "In a way, I was trying to prove myself the first time in a big-league camp. I know what I have to do and go out there and continue working. I have to continue to be the best player and learn so that when I go to the big leagues I can help the Indians win."
The fact that Lindor has always been one of the youngest players on his team, dating back to when he started playing organized ball, has also molded his maturity. Lindor has often discussed being on the same team as his older brother and cousin and how they were better than him. He used that to be like them or "a little better."
Indians fans have been clamoring for two years to see Lindor at Progressive Field. Barring a run of injuries at shortstop, the wait will be a little longer again this year. Francona succinctly described the organization’s approach that the goal is not to develop players just to bring them up. It is to develop them to help the major-league club win and contend. Even though many look to the outfield as a place where the farm system has depth, shortstop has become a strength. Jose Ramirez proved after the Asdrubal Cabrera trade that he could be an everyday shortstop while Lindor develops, and Erik Gonzalez batted .357 in Akron after Lindor went to Columbus.
"I can’t force it. I have to go out there and do my thing," Lindor said. "Whether they tell me if I made the team or am being sent down, I will handle it the right way and be very professional."
But for at least the next couple weeks, fans can get a preview of what is to come.
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