One of the challenges of a natural infielder finding playing time in the outfield is learning how to play near the wall on deep fly balls.
In Jose Ramirez’s case, he has to deal with a 19-foot wall that includes an odd angle near the left-field line (under the Home Run Porch) and a video board that will deaden any possible carom.
Ramirez, receiving significant time in left field in Michael Brantley’s absence, is still getting some of the nuances down. It was evident Sunday, when Baltimore’s Mark Trumbo doubled off the left-field wall with the bases loaded in the first inning. Trumbo smashed a 116-mph line drive, per Statcast, right to the section of the wall where it becomes angled, just to the left of the Sherwin Williams ad. Ramirez got caught in-between trying to play a couple different possible caroms, and it got by him, allowing all three runs to score instead of, possibly, only two.
“I’m working on this,” Ramirez said though a team translator. “I still don’t know the wall all the way, because it gives different bounces at different times.”
Prior to Monday’s game, bench coach Brad Mills and Ramirez practiced in left field fielding hits off of different parts of the wall. They found that different sections of the wall will result in different caroms in addition to different angles.
“This is my fourth year here, and there's been some balls that seem to come off a little harder this year than they have other years,” Mills said. “I know Brantley has had much more experience out there, so maybe he made them look like they weren't coming off that hard. I don't know. So, I wanted to go out there and I brought Jose out. … We found a few that seemed to be a little less angled and a little not coming off quite as much.”
The Indians installed a new video board near the top of the wall. If a ball hits the screen in front of the video board, the ball won’t bounce off like if it hits the padding. Ramirez is also to dealing with the relatively new issue of knowing when to keep going toward the wall or when to back off and play the bounce. Then there’s playing the right bounce.
Ramirez added that he’s working during batting practice and watching video of Brantley and others playing bounces off the left-field wall. The Indians this spring wanted to give Ramirez additional time in the outfield to expand his versatility and get his bat in the lineup more often. Brantley’s extended absence has resulted in extended time for Ramirez in left field.
“When he first went out there, I thought there were a lot of new things. And I think he’s kind of slowly progressed,” Mills said. “There’s some other things now that I don’t want him to get comfortable with. One is a little bit of the wall, maybe. And I’m not saying that he is at all, but I just want to give him a little bit of a read of how things are going to come off and do things.”
Indians manager Terry Francona said on Monday that the possibility remains that Carlos Carrasco’s next step could be to rejoin the Indians.
Carrasco, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring, threw a rehab outing for Double-A Akron Saturday and then threw a side session on Monday. It’s possible he could make one more rehab appearance before joining the Indians. It’s also possible he could make his next start in Cleveland, but with a pitch count. For now, the Indians will see how things progress.
“We’re going to keep the door open for him starting his next start,” Francona said. “I think we also have left the door open with wether we want to let him start, maybe piggy-back him. … We’re leaving all options open. I think we want to continue to discuss it a little bit. And mainly, when I say discuss it, I mean allow the medical people as much time as we can with him. Then we’re able to make a baseball decision based on good medical information and not guessing.”
When the Indians do reactivate Carrasco, it’s possibly Mike Clevinger or Ryan Merritt, in the bullpen are optioned to Triple-A Columbus.