By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
MIAMI: For the Indians, it’s back to the National League, where no American League team wants to be.
Playing at an NL venue means that an AL club must send its designated hitter to the bench to await just the right moment to pinch hit, if that moment ever comes.
“Under the old interleague play, you might have nine games in a row in National League ballparks, and that was hard,” manager Terry Francona said Friday. “Now, you have three games. We don’t have a pitcher that’s used to hitting, but it’s not the end of the world. And we’re not tied to one particular DH.”
Francona doesn’t have much faith that his pitchers can compensate for a missing designated hitter.
“Maybe Corey Kluber,” Francona said, giving the starter the benefit of the doubt. “Zach McAllister thinks he can hit. And maybe that’s good, because he might be a better hitter than bunter. By his own admission Ubaldo [Jimenez] is not a hitter.”
This is the first trip to the Miami Marlins’ new ballpark for the Tribe, and one thing that stands out is the large expanse of outfield.
Just to the left of dead-center field, the fence is a yawning 418 feet from the plate, and the power alley in right is 392 feet away from the hitter. The number on the fence marking the left-field power alley reads 386 feet, which means batters don’t get much of a break there either.
Before Friday night, Francona had seen one game at Marlins Park, the opener of the new facility in April of 2012, when he was a color commentator for ESPN.
“It plays big, and it is big,” he said. “It’s also quick, because the infield is cut short.”
On television, the stadium tends to look like a busy amusement park, with a colorful, moving scene, typifying Florida, constructed behind the center-field fence. But there is little quirkiness to the building.
“The whole field is a little different,” said Marc Rzepczynski, who pitched here as a member of the St. Louis Cardinals. “St. Louis was the first team to play here last year. It was very interesting, with all the dancers and everything [on Opening Day]. It’s a lot better than the old ballpark.”
The Marlins used to play in the Miami Dolphins’ stadium north of Miami.
“I think this park fits the city,” Rzepczynski said. “The city is a little different. It’s very multicultural.”
How multicultural? The scoreboard flashed the news that after Friday night’s game, fans would be treated to fuegos artificiales. Fireworks.