Francona looking for spark at top of the order
Run producers can’t produce without runners on base. Especially a team that doesn’t use hit the long ball frequently. In the Cleveland Indians case, there’s a lack of execution as a team offensively–but the table setters haven’t been coming to dinner. The struggles forcedTerry Francona
to make some “drastic” changes, including movingMichael Bourn
from the leadoff spot to the ninth spot.
The last time Bourn started in a spot other than leadoff? June 28, 2011. Part of the issue is Francona believes in his veterans. He’s a law of averages man, believing his guys will come around. Last season he handled the situation with Jason Kipnis, Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana in a similar fashion. He waited and waited. But with this start, Francona can’t keep waiting.
"“As much as I didn’t want to do it,” Francona said, “I felt like I wasn’t doing my job if I didn’t do it.”"
He’s loyal to his players, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But at 6-11, and the gap between first place and last place widening, so something’s gotta change.
Again, it’s not just the guys at the top. There are struggles up and down the lineup. But the Tribe aren’t scoring runs, because the top of the order isn’t getting on. This team isn’t going to hit the ball out of the park at a high rate, so they need baserunners.
Michael Brantley appears to be getting healthy after his back issues, so having him back in the lineup will help immensely. Brandon Moss and Carlos Santana have done what they can, and Jerry Sands has been a pleasant surprise.
Nick Swisher is rehabbing, as well as Zach Walters. And while not in the “immediate” plans, Francisco Lindor has started to heat it up in Columbus. All could factor into the an improved offense in the future. And let’s not forget Yan Gomes. There is help coming, just spread out right now.
And getting a break from playing the Detroit Tigers for a while can’t hurt. The Indians have had their struggles against them, as they account for five of the 11 losses. Now the Tribe will get a Kansas City Royals squad that will be a little different thanks to suspensions, giving them a chance to hopefully make up some ground.
The starting pitching has been there, just hasn’t gotten support. Hopefully, as guys get healthy, giving Francona more options–he can get production from the top of the order. But the Indians need to keep this gap from growing too large, as a rough April last season left them no wiggle room last season in their playoff push.