Terry Francona unveiled before Monday’s exhibition game against the Pirates that he would go with four switch hitters to lead off the Indians’ line-up to start the season. A preview of what could be for the Tribe in the shortened season was on display in Cleveland’s 11-7 victory over Pittsburgh. Here are five thoughts on the game: 

  1. César Hernández set the table, and Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor followed. While the Tribe trailed 2-0 early on, the quality of at-bats only led to the eventual breakthroughs. Hernández had a 12-pitch at-bat, culminating in a single back up the middle to start the game. 

“That was the best at-bat I’ve seen all year to this point,” Francona said. “His first two at-bats were phenomenal. He probably saw 20 pitches tonight. That at-bat in the first inning directly leads to us getting runs.” 

Speaking of those runs, Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor looked like they were in midseason form, and the potential of the two hitting back-to-back just says “nightmare” for opposing pitchers. With two outs in the third inning, Ramirez all but swung out of his shoes, lacing a double down the right field line to score Bradley Zimmer. Lindor went the other way off of right-hander Chris Stratton, knocking a double off the wall towards the left-field corner and scoring Ramirez. He wasn’t done yet, as Lindor opened the game up in the fifth, breaking a 3-3 tie with a three-run bomb to right. 

  1. Zimmer has done everything in his power to make the Indians’ 30-man opening day roster, and it showed again Monday night. Getting the start in left field, he showed off his new stance at the plate with a 2-for-3 performance, including a go-ahead two-out RBI single in the fourth inning to score Tyler Naquin. While the 27-year-old may have been flying under the radar entering Summer Camp, Zimmer has emerged as an X-factor in the shortened season. Earlier on Monday, Francona explained his adjustments at the plate and how special of a story he’s put together. 
  1. Mike Clevinger sounded content following his five innings of work on Monday. The right-hander, who will start game two of the season on Saturday against the Royals, allowed three earned runs on two homers from Phillip Evans and Guillermo Heredia. Clevinger struck out five to only one walk and allowed four hits. He threw 64 pitches, 43 of which were strikes. 

“It felt a lot more game-like,” Clevinger said of his first start against an opposing team. “I was a lot more in tune with everything going on. I just made a lot better strides on my delivery. Getting in this kind of game scenario let me trust my mechanics and my knee more. I saw it with my breaking stuff and velocity today. It’s inching towards the final product.”

According to IBI Editor-In-Chief and Senior Prospect Writer Justin Lada, Clevinger averaged 94.1 miles per hour on his fastball. His 2019 average was 95.4, but the right-hander gave off the sense that he’s naturally gearing up to hit those types of marks once the games begin to count this weekend. He generated nine swings and misses – six on the slider, and three on the fastball. 

  1. Outfielder Jordan Luplow, who has been battling back issues, got into some game action and homered to left in the fifth inning. While his status has been questionable as to whether he’ll make the opening day roster, that was a step forward. 

“I was asking him before the game, ‘hey, make sure you’re ok now. Don’t do anything silly,’” Francona said. “After he came back, he said ‘I’m fine,’ which was pretty obvious because that was a nice swing and he almost got one the next time up.”

  1. In the midst of some concerning moments for the bullpen, Tribe relievers Hunter Wood and James Karinchak showed some good signs. Wood left the bases loaded in the eighth inning to keep the Pirates from getting any closer, notching a pair of strikeouts. Then came Karinchak, who has the emotion and moxie of a modern-day Ricky Vaughn, striking out the side in the ninth inning. The 24-year-old Karinchak has the stuff to be a game-changer in the bullpen, and performances like his outing to shut the door on Monday are only encouraging for that cause. 

“He’s going to be a kid, you’re going to see a lot of late counts,” Francona said of Karinchak. “He’s still trying to find his command but his stuff is good. He’s got so much confidence in that breaking ball, trying to get him to feel the same way about that fastball.”

The Indians will be back in action Tuesday with another simulated game that will go four and a half innings. Carlos Carrasco, who will start Sunday’s opening series finale against the Royals, will get some work in on Tuesday in order to align with his first start. Also of note, Tribe outfielder Delino DeShields Jr., who missed the start of summer camp with COVID-19, will appear in his first simulated game action on Tuesday. Francona also said Monday afternoon that the coaching staff planned to talk through their rotation plans once more before deciding on what they will do. There could be news on that front Tuesday, with the potential for a six-man rotation in play if Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale and Adam Plutko are all included in the first go-around to accompany the trio of Shane Bieber, Clevinger and Carrasco. 

Follow @John_Fanta and @Official_IBI on Twitter for the latest news and notes on the Tribe.

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