Twenty-three final thoughts for the number of spring games I covered. Tomorrow morning, I’m off to Oakland.
1. With the roster set and the Indians departing for Oakland (and a day off Sunday) after the game, there was a little bit of a cruise control feeling to the two games against the Padres.
2. Francona did not seem all that distressed with the fact that No. 3 starter Zach McAllister gave up two runs on Friday night, throwing 90 pitches in four innings, and No. 4 starter Danny Salazar surrendered six runs (five earned) in his five innings Saturday. The Padres scored five runs in the third off Salazar, who struck out five and walked two.
3. In his assessment of Salazar, Francona mentioned a third-inning error by Nick Swisher on a bunt that was popped up by Chris Denorfia. “The one inning it was tough. It’s kind of amazing when you don’t take the outs that are given to you. Swish came in and knocked that ball, kind of tackled it,” Francona said. “Then (Salazar) left some balls over the middle that they hit pretty good.”
4. Francona knows what he wants to see from Salazar in the regular season. It’s all about the slider. “When he throws his slider along with his other pitches, he can be devastating,” Francona said. “It’s still a little inconsistent at this point. That will come. He threw enough good ones to get excited about, just got to keep upping that percentage.”
5. Asked what percentage he wants, Francona said, “Every one. Mickey (Callaway’s) point is that every once in a while he’s guiding it as opposed to letting it fly like he does with his other pitches because he has such tremendous arm speed. But that will come. He’s probably been a little bit behind everybody else as far as throwing this spring. It will come. He feels good, he feels healthy, he’s going to be OK.”
6. Francona said Salazar won’t be ready to go nine innings, but that wasn’t expected of him with his spring work monitored. “He feels really good about himself,” Francona said of Salazar.
7. Matt Carson is headed to Triple-A Columbus, but he left an impression. The outfielder homered twice and drove in five runs Saturday. “That’s about as nice a kid as there is and has been swinging the bat the last week really well and hasn’t had a lot to show for it,” Francona said. “He’s an easy guy to pull for.”
8. Spring invitee Carson is the perfect example of the depth in the minors that could be needed this season. Last year he was called up on Aug. 28 when Ryan Raburn went on the disabled list and batted .636 for the Tribe in 11 at-bats in 20 games. “You don’t know how important it’s going to be or when it’s going to be important, but it will be important,” Francona said. “I told him, ‘Go do your thing. You know how we feel and you know we trust you. I don’t think his batting average at Triple-A is going to be the most important number.” Carson has been in professional baseball since 2002 but has only one year of major league service.
9. The Indians finished the spring with a 20-9-2 record. Francona seemed satisfied. “I think guys feel good about themselves, I think that’s the biggest thing we want. It’s a whole different ballgame when the season starts. Guys got their work done, they know what’s expected of them. Now we can go play,” he said.
10. Reliever Vinnie Pestano had another rocky outing, pitching two-thirds of an inning in the sixth and giving up a two-run homer to Seth Smith. Pestano finished the spring with a 9.00 ERA.
11. “Since he threw the back-to-back … It’s interesting because he wants more work. There’s some inconsistencies there still. The first at-bat (a walk to Tommy Medica) the guy saw 10 pitches and he couldn’t quite put it away. You see it so often, the next hitter you leave it over the plate.”
12. It seemed strange to see Dick Enberg in the dugout before the game. Enberg, going into his fifth season as the play-by-play man for the Padres’ television network, asked Francona if he had any good useable stories about Padres manager Bud Black. Francona and Black were Indians teammates in 1988. The Tribe went 78-84, finishing sixth in the division, 11 games back.
13. “You know the movie ‘Major League?’” Francona said to Enberg. “We were closer to that. If you had told me that five managers were on that team because we were horrible. We were so bad, you couldn’t have an ego. We were all trying to hang on and be a major league player. Me and Blackie and John Farrell hung out together a lot, which is kind of rare. Normally you don’t see a position player with two pitchers. We went everywhere together.”
14. Along with Francona, Black and Farrell, the Boston Red Sox manager, were former Phillies manager Charlie Manuel (the hitting coach) and Dave Clark, an interim manager of the Houston Astros in 2009.
15. When it was suggested to Francona that he hit .300 that year as a first baseman/outfielder, he said, “Yeah, but did you see the RBIs? I had 11 RBIs.” Actually it was 12.
16. Broadcaster Tom Hamilton thanked outfielder Nyjer Morgan in the dugout before Saturday’s game. Morgan batted ahead of Hamilton’s son Nick in Monday’s game against the Reds and the elder Hamilton said Morgan encouraged Nick every time up. Tom Hamilton said minor leaguers are told not to talk to the major leaguers during games.
17. Nick’s other impression of the major leagues? “They don’t eat leftovers,” he told his dad.
18. Blake Wood was asked if he noticed that the Fowler Field radar gun clocked him at 102 mph Friday night. “It was kind of like a video game,” Wood said. “Balls were flying, the infield was fast and the radar gun was juiced.” Danny Salazar was “clocked” at 103 mph on Saturday.
19. MLB.com said the Indians have agreed to sign reliever Mark Lowe to a minor league deal, first reported the Tampa Bay Times. Lowe would go to Triple-A Columbus.
20. Francona said he didn’t know how to answer a question on whether he was more comfortable managing the Indians this season. He said he did his homework on his players after he was hired on Oct. 6, 2012.
21. “I was comfortable with the team early,” Francona said. “I didn’t want that to be an excuse for us not to win that I didn’t know these guys. I didn’t think that was fair to anybody. I worked pretty hard in the winter to get to know them. I had a pretty good feel for our team. Our guys try pretty hard to do the right thing. If you can get that every day you’re in good shape.”
22. The Indians may have the most unpretentious clubhouse/locker room I’ve been in. When boxes of sandwiches were brought in, probably for the bus ride to the airport, Raburn chirped, “We’re brown-bagging it?” When Pestano heard that, he said, “We’re a classy bunch.”
23. Enberg and Francona chatted about whether the University of Arizona would win the NCAA. Francona played three years there from 1978-80. When Enberg said he would be soon hearing from the alumni association for a donation, Francona said, “I already have. Those seats on the floor didn’t come free.”