The Indians are expected to be without Francisco Lindor through all of spring training, and the star shortstop could also miss the first couple of weeks of the season.
Lindor suffered a moderate calf strain while preparing in Orlando, Fla., for spring training, the Indians announced Friday. He was evaluated Wednesday at the Cleveland Clinic by Dr. Mark Schickendantz.
Lindor has been given a timeline of seven to nine weeks to return to major-league game activity. That window started Wednesday, meaning the first day he could return to the team is the eve of Opening Day, when the Indians start the season in Minnesota against the Twins on March 28.
The injury has, of course, put Lindor's status for Opening Day in serious jeopardy. The Indians will likely want to ensure that once he returns, he’s completely ready and beyond a heightened risk of aggravating the original injury. In previous cases, Opening Day was viewed as an artificial timeline, and the weak AL Central Division affords the Indians the freedom to be extra cautious.
One of the issues with the Indians roster is how top heavy it has become after the free-agent losses of key players Andrew Miller, Michael Brantley, Cody Allen and others. That could especially be true with the lineup, which has already lost Brantley and Yan Gomes (who was traded to the Washington Nationals) and will have to rely on a less-than-ideal outfield situation.
Lindor finished last season in the top six in American League MVP voting for the second year in a row and in the top nine for the third year in a row. Losing him for an extended time would significantly weaken the top of the order. He slashed .277/.352/.519 and belted a career-high 38 home runs to go with 42 doubles, 92 RBI, 129 runs scored and 25 stolen bases. His 7.6 fWAR put him in a tie for the fourth-best total in baseball among position players.
The Indians and Lindor, who is under club control through the 2021 season, agreed this winter to a $10.55 million deal to avoid arbitration.
Additions to camp
Left-handed-hitting outfielder Matt Joyce announced via Twitter that he has signed a deal with the Indians, adding another candidate to an uncertain outfield. As reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and MLB Network, Joyce is being added on a minor-league deal.
Joyce, 34, has a career .770 OPS in 11 major-league seasons with the Detroit Tigers, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates and, most recently, the Oakland A's. Last year, he struggled to a .208 average and .675 OPS in 207 at-bats.
The Indians also signed infielder Ryan Flaherty and catcher Dioner Navarro this week to minor-league deals with nonroster invitations to camp.
Flaherty, 32, a versatile utility infielder, hit .217 with a .590 OPS in 81 games last season for the Atlanta Braves. Previously, he spent six seasons with the Orioles.
Navarro, who turns 35 on Saturday, is back after being away from baseball because of a family medical emergency. He most recently appeared in 22 games for La Guaira in the Liga Venezuela Beisbol Profesional, hitting .284 with a .748 OPS.
The Indians and free agent right-handed reliever Alex Wilson reached an agreement on a minor-league deal, according to Jeff Passan of ESPN. The report added that Wilson will make $1.25 million if he makes the big-league club and could earn an additional $750,000 in performance bonuses.
Wilson was non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers this past winter. He has a career 3.23 ERA and 3.81 FIP in six major-league seasons. Last year, he posted a 3.36 ERA and 4.28 FIP in 61 2/3 innings. He also held right-handed hitters to a .191 average and .517 OPS.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.