Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona may have to keep getting creative with his lineup to give the team a chance to defeat the Chicago Cubs.
As LeBron James so eloquently put it, nothing is given in Northeast Ohio. Everything is earned.
The Cleveland Indians have dealt with countless setbacks in 2016, yet have still earned a spot in the World Series. The absences of Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco seemed to doom this team, but a 7-1 postseason record says otherwise.
While the team has continued to fight through this adversity, they are set to face more against the Chicago Cubs in the World Series.
The first example of this deals with Jason Kipnis and an ankle that doesn’t exactly look healthy.
That looks horrific, although Kipnis has made it clear he is ready to go. His ankle may just be sporting an absurd amount of tape throughout the series.
But if Kipnis is unable to go at any point, Michael Martinez will have to step up, as he is the only backup infielder on the roster. He currently has one at-bat this postseason, which ended with a strikeout.
Kipnis has not lit it up thus far, only recording five hits in 30 at-bats this postseason, but he does have two home runs. He is also a key piece on defense, forming a great tandem with Francisco Lindor. Losing him would be another setback, but it would be tough to say it ruins any chance of winning the series, as that would be a foolish thing to say after seeing how this team has continually rebounded all year.
Terry Francona will have to keep an eye on Kipnis, perhaps taking him out at the end of games if the team has a lead. The team has had nearly a whole week to rest, but any rest right now still helps, especially with that grapefruit of an ankle.
The next creative move deals with Carlos Santana, whom Francona wants in the lineup when the team plays under National League rules in Chicago. Where Francona wants to put Santana is rather surprising.
It may seem like risky timing to try the Santana experiment in left field during the World Series, but Francona is not going to put him out there if he isn’t capable of fielding the position.
Santana’s presence in the lineup is valuable, but NL baseball involves more pinch hitting late in games. Perhaps Santana can be more valuable in that sense?
Fans will just have to trust Francona, as he has made all the right moves up to this point. He knows his players best, and likely has a great read on how Santana is as an outfielder. Let’s just hope a bad play in left field doesn’t haunt the Indians.
The same goes for Kipnis at second base, but all we can do now is hope for the best and cheer on this team. It has seemed to work so far.