GOODYEAR, Ariz. — The Indians won the American League championship and advanced to Game 7 of the World Series last year.
With left-hander Andrew Miller on the roster for a full year and after acquiring elite slugger Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason, the consensus is they will be even better this year.
Manager Terry Francona would prefer to wait and see.
“You don’t know what happens. You never know,” Francona said Thursday. “Guys get hurt or go down. Our goal is always to be better, but I think the best goal is to, ‘OK, we show up today, we take care of business today. Whatever we’re supposed to do, kind of try to kick its (butt). And then show up tomorrow and do the same thing. Over the course of time, I really believe you end up where you’re supposed to be.
“Things happen and you adjust, but rather than look down the road ... yeah, we always want to be better, but there’s a way to get there, and it’s not by skipping steps.”
Nobody knows about the uncertainty and tough luck a long baseball season can bring more than the Indians, who endured injuries to key players Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Yan Gomes and the bloody finger of right-hander Trevor Bauer.
They overcame it all to earn their first World Series appearance since 1997, and with all those players healthy to start the spring — outside of Brantley, who is expected to be ready by Opening Day — there is plenty of reason for optimism again this year.
“I think this time of the year, everybody’s glass is half-full,” Francona said. “I think we have good reason for ours to be half-full. There’s a lot to be optimistic about. Now, it’s our chance to start go preparing on the field, because without doing that correctly, none of it works the way it’s supposed to.”
The Indians fell a win shy of celebrating their first World Series title since 1948, and if they are searching for a role model, they need to look no further than their own Central Division rival Kansas City.
The Royals lost Game 7 of the World Series in 2014, but then came back the following year to win it all.
“I’ve thought about that a lot. Hopefully, it mirrors itself,” Francona said. “I think we’ve actually kind of followed their pattern a little bit. Just being kind of brutally honest, guys can come back with the sense of entitlement or they can come back being hungry, knowing where they were, be like, ‘Man, I want to get back there again.’ My guess is No. 2 with these guys. I think they’ll be just fine.
“I just want them to be themselves. I want them to be proud of who we are. I think they’ve earned that and I think they will continue to. That’s the one thing about our game that will never change is you can’t stop earning it. Whether you’re a coach, a manager or a player, it’s great to build a resume, but you better keep building or it’s going to get torn down.”
With the first full-squad workout scheduled for Saturday, Francona is set to meet with his team for the first time shortly after.
What will his message be?
“I’ve been thinking about that for a while,” Francona said. “Anybody knows me, I’m not a real big meeting person, except I think the first one of the year is important. I think you’re kind of laying the groundwork for what your team is going to be, things like that.
“As proud as you are of what happened last year, we don’t want to be the team that looks up in June and is still talking about last year. We’ll probably talk about that a little bit, being proud of what we did, but also, this is a new team. It’s 2017 and this team will have its own identity. Every team is different and this one will be also. We don’t know what the script’s going to be, but I think we’re all looking forward to it.”
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