CLEVELAND — Francisco Mejia was promoted from Triple-A Columbus on Saturday, but it will only serve as a tease for Indians fans who have clamored for Mejia’s arrival on the major league level.
“He’s gonna DH (Saturday). (Today), maybe he pinch hits or something, we’ll see,” manager Terry Francona said. “And then we’ll send him back. He knows that. We just thought we could expand our roster a little bit.”
The Indians have been trying to transition Mejia from catcher to right field, but according to Francona, they’ve met with some resistance from MLB.com’s 15th-ranked overall prospect.
“If (Francona) mentioned something about that, I wasn’t aware of it,” Mejia said through an interpreter prior to Saturday’s game against the Yankees. “They asked me to start working in the outfield and I started doing that. I’m trying to do the best I can at that position.”
“He views himself as a catcher and he is a catcher,” Francona said. “We’re trying to explain to him that, ‘We’ve got outfield needs and we think you’re a really advanced hitter. If you can play the outfield good enough, you can come and play in the major leagues. (It) doesn’t mean you can’t catch at some point.’
“He’s been playing more outfield recently, just because of the need. I’ll probably get a chance to visit with him here the next couple days, which is good, because I think in-person conversations go a lot farther.”
Mejia’s outfield transition began in left, where he has appeared in 23 games for Columbus. He’s played in only seven games in right, where he struggled to adapt early.
“Right now, at this moment I’m not having any issues with it,” Mejia said. “I’m getting more used to it. They’ve been giving me more time playing right field, so I’m starting to feel more comfortable with it.
“The hardest thing for me was being over there without getting balls hit to me. Sometimes it feels a little bit boring. Besides that, I’m fine.”
This will be Mejia’s second brief stint this year with the Indians. He joined Cleveland for one day, June 11, in Chicago, but did not appear in the game.
It was beneficial for Mejia, who credited conversations with Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo and assistant Victor Rodriguez for reversing his fortunes at the plate.
After struggling over the first two months, Mejia caught fire in June, hitting .455 (45-for-99) with 23 RBIs in 24 games. Overall, he’s batting .279 with seven home runs and 43 RBIs in 77 games.
“I think it can be a reminder that they’re a phone call away,” Francona said of Mejia’s short stays. “One day you can be in Columbus or wherever. The next day you’re in Chicago. I think that sometimes can serve to give them some hope, especially when you’re struggling like that. ‘Hey, I’m actually pretty well thought of.’ Yeah, I think it can be good for guys.”
One can speculate the Indians called up Mejia to showcase him for a potential trade. His name has surfaced numerous times as the July 31 trade deadline looms.
“I don’t worry about that,” he said. “I came here to give 100 percent and help this team win games.”
To clear room on the 25-man roster, the Indians optioned Friday’s starting pitcher, Shane Bieber, back to Columbus. Bieber, who is 5-1 with a 3.53 ERA over the first seven starts of his MLB career, is expected to rejoin Cleveland’s rotation after the All-Star break.
Francona said Bieber would make a shortened start (3-4 innings) for the Clippers prior to his first outing of the second half.
Andrew Miller (right knee inflammation) faced hitters in a live bullpen session at Double-A Akron on Saturday. Afterward, he told the Beacon Journal that the next step would be a rehab appearance — likely with Columbus and possibly prior to the All-Star break.
Miller has spent two stints on the DL and appeared in only 17 games with a 4.40 ERA.
Whether or not Trevor Bauer appears in Tuesday’s All-Star Game will affect how the Indians set their rotation coming out of the break, according to Francona.
“That’s part of why Kluber (right knee soreness) wasn’t DL’d, just to keep our options open,” he said.
Kluber, who received a lubricant injection to the knee Friday, is tentatively scheduled to make his first second-half start July 23 at Progressive Field against Pittsburgh.
Jose Ramirez (56) and Francisco Lindor (55) entered Saturday leading the majors in extra-base hits. Lindor’s 85 runs through Friday accounted for the most runs in franchise history prior to the All-Star break and the most in the majors since Todd Helton’s 87 in 2003.
The Indians had outscored opponents 155-105 over their last 15 games at home through Friday.
Bieber produced Cleveland’s 58th quality start of the season Friday, which accounted for the second-most in the majors behind Houston’s 69. The rotation’s 3.44 ERA ranked third in the majors behind the Astros (2.99) and Dodgers (3.29).