CLEVELAND — Indians first baseman Yonder Alonso bats in the middle of the lineup and has the ability to go deep at any time, but he bunted for a single to beat the shift Thursday night with the game scoreless, one out and the bases empty in the second inning.
Manager Terry Francona might have had a problem with Alonso’s approach back in the day, but times have changed.
“There’s times where I think, if a baserunner is as important as driving the ball, bunts are good,” Francona said. “I think if you talk to older baseball people, they’d be hesitant to do that. I think they didn’t have to deal with all the shifting that’s involved (now). So maybe it’s changing some of your philosophy a little bit, where not only do you get on base, but you can make defenses play you more honest.
“Not only does he get on base with a hit, but hopefully now when they play him maybe it’s a little more straight-up. Maybe he gets a hit because he doesn’t hit into the shift.”
Francona has embraced the defensive shift approach, but admitted there are times he won’t employ it — and it has nothing to do with the pitcher on the mound.
“It’s not so much the (pitcher) as the situation of the game,” he said. “It took me a while to figure this, but when guys hit balls into areas, they do it against all pitching. It took me a long time, ‘this guy’s 94 (mph), this guy’s 84.’ They hit the ball the same place or we wouldn’t shift them, but the situation of the game sometimes dictates maybe where we won’t.”
Some managers, such as Tampa Bay’s Kevin Cash — a former assistant coach for Francona in Cleveland — are taking advanced metrics to a new level.
Cash has used relievers as starting pitchers in multiple games this season.
“Things that I probably would say ‘no way’ 10 years ago, we’re probably doing (now),” Francona said. “I don’t see us doing that (in Cleveland) at the moment. I don’t think it puts us in our best position to win. I also know that if Cashy’s doing it, I have enough respect, if he’s putting his name on it, there’s probably a pretty good reason behind it. Every team is built a little different and you try to put yourself in the best position to win any way you can.
“I just know I do whatever I think puts us in the best position to win. That’s the best way to go about it. If it’s different for other teams, it can be different from year to year, depending on who you have on your team. I think you know when you get asked all the time, ‘What kind of manager do you want to be? Aggressive?’ Well, if we have guys that can run, yeah. If we have guys that can’t run, no. You try to take what talent you have and put them in the best position to succeed.”
Brandon Guyer (neck strain) began a rehab assignment Friday at Double-A Akron, with fellow outfielder Bradley Zimmer (rib contusion) set to join him to begin his rehab stint Saturday.
Francona said Guyer and Lonnie Chisenhall (right calf strain), who has already begun a rehab assignment, would play the outfield Friday, with Zimmer set to play the outfield today and DH Sunday. Chisenhall is scheduled to play the outfield again today, with Guyer serving as the DH.
The trio is rehabbing in Akron because Triple-A Columbus is on the road.
** Right-hander Nick Goody (right elbow inflammation) has been shut down.
“He still feels it a little bit, the symptoms,” Francona said of Goody, who has been sidelined since May 4. “When that happens, they’ve got to stay away from the throwing and just go back to the range-in-motion, strengthening exercises, those types of things.”
Veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera has started slowly at the plate with only two hits in his first 14 at-bats (four games) through Thursday.
“His batting average isn’t going to reflect it, but I think he’s actually had good at-bats,” Francona said. “He kind of popped in right when we’re facing the best pitching in the league for about a week or 10 days. I think his at-bats have been good, though. He doesn’t have a ton to show for it, and he’s thrown out two guys from the outfield. He’s been OK.”
Attention in center
Though he entered Friday batting only .225 over 14 games, Greg Allen has done a solid job in place of Zimmer in center field.
“He’s a good outfielder,” Francona said. “I think whether you put him in right. ... you saw him a little bit in left in spring training. The other day in Houston he made a really nice play. So, he’s a good defensive outfielder. I think you could put him anywhere out there and he’d be fine.”
Indians starting pitchers had posted 33 quality starts through Thursday, which ranked second in the majors to Houston’s 39. The rotation’s 3.37 ERA ranked second in the AL to Houston’s 2.26.
** The Indians will honor Francona’s late father tonight with a pregame ceremony and commemorative patches on their uniforms.
** Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch tonight.