By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo.: It’s a little late to worry about this now, but the Indians are relatively inexperienced when it comes to competing for a playoff spot.
Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs, Scott Kazmir and Ryan Raburn have been there, done that more than once. But most Tribe players have not felt the adrenalin rush that becomes part of a player’s DNA the first time he goes through a race to the wire.
Manager Terry Francona, who shepherded the Boston Red Sox through two successful World Series runs, isn’t sure how much it matters.
“Everything is a challenge,” he said Tuesday. “Some of our guys have experience and some of them don’t. Jason Kipnis has never been through a pennant race, but I’ll take my chances with Kip any day.”
It’s a given that players who have gone through the pressure of a race have an advantage over those who haven’t. But that doesn’t mean a team filled with pennant-race novices has no shot. Nothing means more than talent, and there are many players who don’t seem to need the familiarity of a race to feel comfortable with the additional stress.
“Experience is beneficial,” Francona said, “but I don’t think inexperience will keep you from getting there.”
It’s up to the manager and his coaching staff to keep players from feeling too much heat and remaining on an even keel, so that emotions don’t get in the way of playing the game.
“Part of our job is to get a handle on where guys are at,” Francona said.
It can be argued that the real pressure doesn’t begin until a team reaches the postseason. Yet there are countless players who have made impact contributions to their teams, even though they had never been within miles of a playoff game.
“You never really know, because you don’t know how a particular guy will react,” Francona said. “There are some guys who just rise to the occasion.”
The rule of thumb for managers is to maintain the tone and emotional level the team had during the regular season.
“You try to be real consistent,” Francona said. “That’s part of what our game is about. You can’t push a button and start giving rah-rah speeches. So you try to do the same things the same way every day.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.