Indians relief pitcher Brad Hand used the word “fun” multiple times when the topic of postseason baseball came up during a recent interview.
Hand, 28, sat at his locker in the Indians clubhouse at Progressive Field before a Saturday night victory over the Boston Red Sox, and reflected on what his approach will be when he enters a playoff game in October.
“It is going to be fun,” Hand said. “The atmosphere is obviously going to be a lot of fun to play in, so I think that as players we kind of thrive off of those types of atmospheres. I am definitely looking forward to the first game.
“You are not going to try to be a different pitcher in the playoffs. You are going to go out there with the same game plan and with the same stuff that you have.”
Hand, who was born in Minneapolis, said he attended a Twins wild-card game as a fan “back in the day” at Target Field, so he has witnessed the excitement from the crowd.
This week, he is expected to be a key left-hander out of manager Terry Francona’s bullpen during an American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, the defending World Series champions.
Games 1 and 2 are in Houston on Friday and Saturday, and then the series shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 on Oct. 8. Games 4 and 5, if necessary, are scheduled for Oct. 9 in Cleveland and Oct. 11 in Houston.
Francona announced Sunday that right-handers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco will start the first two games for the Indians in Houston. The Game 3 starter will also be a right-hander, either Trevor Bauer or Mike Clevinger.
Starting pitching has been one of the Indians' strengths all season, as evidenced by Kluber, Carrasco, Bauer and Clevinger each having winning records to go along with over 200 strikeouts and ERAs under 3.50.
The bullpen has been the opposite, with a mixture of good results and poor results.
Indians General Manager Mike Chernoff acquired Hand and side-arming right-hander Adam Cimber in a July 19 trade that sent top catching prospect Francisco Mejia to the San Diego Padres.
The transaction was made to bolster an Indians bullpen that was struggling with righty Cody Allen having an up-and-down season and lefty Andrew Miller dealing with nagging injuries. Left-hander Oliver Perez and right-hander Neil Ramirez were two newcomers giving Francona effective outings, but the Indians needed more help.
Hand was the Padres' closer with a 2-4 record, 24 saves and a 3.05 ERA in 41 games. He struck out 65 batters and allowed 15 earned runs and 15 walks in 44 1/3 innings.
Since the trade to the Indians, Hand is 0-1 with eight saves and a 2.28 ERA in 28 appearances. He has 41 strikeouts and allowed seven earned runs and 13 walks in 27 2/3 innings.
“I am not trying to do too much,” Hand said. “I am trying to do the same things that I had been doing. I am not going to come in here and be a different guy. Whatever way I can help in the playoffs — it is going to be fun so I am just going to enjoy it.”
Hand said joining forces with Allen and Miller could give the Indians an electric bullpen.
“It is nice to have three weapons like that down there and everybody else down there has been throwing well, too, so it will be fun to see what we can do in the playoffs for sure,” Hand said.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.