Sunday brought with it the nugget of news that young right-hander Trevor Bauer is slated to start the Indians first Cactus League game Wednesday against the Cincinnati Reds.
The news also happened to come on the same day that Bauer, who spent all last season rebuilding his delivery, had a rough bullpen session that Indians manager Terry Francona admitted left Bauer “frustrated.”
But one of the many things the veteran skipper is an expert at doing is down playing information or an event that he suspects the media could blow out of proportion.
Often times, he uses a direct approach when attempting to defuse a situation. Sometimes, it comes off like he’s all but daring a reporter to ask a follow up question - at his or her own risk.
Understand, Francona is often pleasant and usually pretty candid with the beat reporters he deals with on a daily basis. But in the same way that the players can be with newcomers they haven’t had a chance to build a trusting relationship with yet, Francona tends to keep media members he’s not familiar with on a short leash.
Yet on Sunday, Francona showed a more reserved demeanor (or maybe he’s just as sleep deprived as I am) during his daily media presser - even as the group continues to grow with the start of games just around the corner.
Instead of getting frustrated and answering with a short response when a national media member asked what veteran DH Jason Giambi “had to do to earn a spot” on the Tribe’s roster this season, Francona was honest.
Understand first that it’s pretty obvious that Giambi (whom Francona simply refers to as “G”) could be one of his all-time favorite players – even going back to his days in Boston where he led the Red Sox to World Series titles.
Secondly, Giambi doesn’t have to suit up every day, let alone play or go through every spring drill, to earn a spot. At 43, he earned a spot on the 2014 roster the moment he agreed to return in the offseason.
Yet, Francona was gentle with his response.
“I don’t know about earning a spot,” he said. “Guys have to be able to help us win games. G showed that last year in a number of different ways.”
Giambi showed another way that his veteran presence can be invaluable to a team when he noticed something in Josh Outman’s delivery during Saturday morning’s workout that could lead to him tipping his pitches.
“He’s very good at helping everybody,” Francona said, noting he does little things like that “all the time.”
“The more he does those things, the better. He’s got a good eye and guys like to listen to him. You know you can sometimes have veteran guys (come in) who can push guys away. But G has that demeanor where guys like going to him.”
While it seems Giambi’s role might be morphing into a manager/coach-in-training, Francona was quick to disagree.
“No, he’s a player,” he said. “But he also brings huge leadership…(right now), we’re just trying to get him ready for a long season. At the same time, you have to be realistic. You can’t really treat him like everybody else. If you go out there and play him four days in a row or ask him to do some things that’s (not age appropriate), he’s got a chance to get hurt. So, we try to use common sense.”
In a common sense manner, as well