CLEVELAND: Sunday, Indians manager Terry Francona moved leadoff hitter Michael Bourn down to the No. 9 spot in the lineup, the first time Bourn had ever been placed there.
It came after nearly a month of Bourn clearly not looking like himself or swinging the bat well. Francona wanted to give Bourn time to figure things out. Being a veteran, Bourn had been in slumps before and had broken out of it. Francona wanted to show at least some loyalty to Bourn, and he also didn’t want to start changing the lineup every night.
It’s a balance Francona keeps in mind when making lineup decisions.
“I do it when I think it’s right,” Francona said. “I’d rather be too slow than too quick [to make a change] — especially with veteran players. I think about it a lot, talked to [bench coach Brad Mills], obviously. I don’t try to ever do it out of emotion.”
Francona talked during the spring about how moving a player to a certain spot might make sense for one player, but it doesn’t make sense for others in terms of how it affects their slot. He also doesn’t want to start messing with hitters’ mindsets by moving them up and down as they heat up and cool down.
“They’re not robots, and I hope I never lose sight of that,” Francona said. “It’s part of why, if I’m too slow sometimes, I don’t want the players to ever think like I would treat this like a rotisserie baseball team. That’s now how I feel. Especially with veterans, you want to give them every chance, that fine line between loyalty and being stubborn.”
So Francona gave Bourn some space until the time came that a change was needed. He’s been swinging the bat better since the move, collecting four hits — two of them doubles — and three RBI in his past three games.
Keep it down
Starting pitcher Danny Salazar has had a strong start to his season since being called up from Triple-A Columbus, going 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched.
The Indians have been working with Salazar on his off-speed pitches, particularly his curveball. They’ve also had an initiative to get him to keep his electric, 96-plus-mph fastball down in the zone.
“[Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway] has been really talking to him, I mean a lot, about getting the ball down in the zone with commitment and intent,” Francona said. “Even in his catch game, instead of just playing catch, once he gets out to a certain distance they have the guy get down because they always want him to throw the ball downhill because he has a tendency to spray fastballs up.”
The development of Salazar’s curveball has been another reason he’s been able to find success not just with his natural stuff in early parts of his outings, but as a starting pitcher in need of throwing six or seven innings. The effectiveness of several pitches is needed to handle a lineup two or three times.
“I’m trying to feel comfortable with it,” Salazar said of his curveball. “Sometimes it’s going to be there, sometime it’s not going to be there. It’s a new pitch that I’m trying out right now and if I feel like it’s working, I’m going to use it.”
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.