Fourteen finall thoughts on where the Indians go from here with right fielder David Murphy out four to five weeks with a strained right oblique and designated hitter/outfielder Nick Swisher getting a second opinion on his sore right knee.
1. The biggest loss with Murphy is that he was hitting .382 with runners in scoring position. Going into Tuesday, that average ranked second in the American League. The next best Indians were Michael Brantley, whose .349 was tied for fifth in the AL, Lonnie Chisenhall (.316), Yan Gomes (.287) and Michael Bourn (.281). Those who will have to pick it up in that department in Murphy’s absence are Carlos Santana (.242), Mike Aviles (.216) and Jason Kipnis (.200).
2. As for Swisher’s knee, he said Sunday, “We need to figure out what's going on because this is something that's been banging around for a while." Monday’s exam at the Cleveland Clinic led him to seek a second opinion, which would seem to indicate that rest won’t be enough.
3. Swisher sounded almost embarrassed by his inability to run the bases Saturday. “I think you could just physically see it,” he said. “But what are you going to do? It’s what I’m paid to do. I just want to get healthy, want to get back to being me, playing the way I know how. I’ve never had a year like this before. It’s been very frustrating.”
4. That would lead me to believe that even if Swisher received bad news Monday, perhaps that surgery is needed, he’s frustrated enough to get it done now so he will have plenty of time to rehab for next season.
5. Francona seemed excited by the arrival of Zach Walters and Tyler Holt, even though this is Holt’s third stint with the Indians.
6. “I’m excited to watch him play,” Francona said of Holt, who started Tuesday in right field. Holt made a good running catch of a low line drive off the bat of the Diamondbacks Cliff Pennington to end the third inning.
7. Asked why Holt has been the outfielder going back and forth from Triple-A, Francona said, “He’s gone level to level and never been Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect, but everywhere he’s been he’s excelled and all the staffs have just loved him. He’s a very good outfielder, he’s a very good baserunner. It may be a little hard when you get sporadic at-bats to see what type of hitter you are, especially at the major league level, but we don’t want shortchange him, either.”
8. Francona told a story from about 10 days prior to illustrate. “I knew we had to send him out after the game, I think he knew, too,” Francona said. “He was screaming on the bench in the ninth inning for whoever was hitting. You get that enthusiasm and when it’s real, especially this time of year when everybody’s a little tired, that goes a long way.”
9. Francona said Holt was the same in his first stint with the Tribe. “I said hello to him and he said, ‘Let’s do this!’” Francona said. “He’s ready to go. Kind of caught me off guard.”
10. Infielder/outfielder Walters was acquired in the July 31 trade with the Washington Nationals for shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Even though he went 0 for 3 with a walk Sunday against the Yankees, Francona was encouraged to see Walters “lean all over those two balls to center field.”
11. Francona said in the next six weeks, the Indians need to find out if Walters can play shortstop. That seemed curious since they have a glut of talented shortstops in the minors.
12. “With his power and his ability to switch-hit, if he can play short, that’s always kind of the key,” Francona said. “That’s part of what makes Mike Aviles … we all see what he does. A guy who can play short and the outfield, that lengthens out your roster. If (Walters) can do that, that makes him more interesting. We’re already kind of excited about him.”
13. Francona said the Indians may answer the shortstop question without playing Walters in a game. “I don’t think in the foreseeable future you’re going to see him play short, but he’s going to take a lot of ground balls there,” Francona said.
14. With Walters’ power, the Indians have to find out everything they can about his versatility. “I think this kid can play in either league,” Francona said. “As we get to know him, we’ll have a much better feel what his skill set is and how to position him to best have success.”