GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Turning a double play and driving a ball nearly over the fence showed that Indians three-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor is closer to returning from a right calf strain.
Yet his status for Thursday’s season opener at Minnesota remains uncertain.
Lindor batted in every inning of a modified intrasquad minor league game Wednesday, going 0-for-6 with two walks.
Eager to hit, Lindor swung on a 3-0 count during his sixth plate appearance, extending it to nine pitches and drawing a walk. Out of caution and because of his morning baserunning, he was replaced by a pinch runner.
On a 3-0 count on his next time up, he ripped a ball to the right field fence where prospect Oscar Gonzalez made a leaping catch, preventing a home run.
Lindor was asked if he needs to play in a Cactus League game to be ready for the opener.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I can play in the minor leagues or B games to be ready.
“Baseball’s such a crazy sport that I can have five at-bats and feel great or have 60 at-bats and on opening day be completely lost. I’m taking at-bats and they can see that I’m all right. I can play. I don’t need that many at-bats.”
Lindor said he’s not concerned about the weather next week in Minneapolis.
“It’s going to be cold, but I’m sure with calf sleeves, heaters (my calf will be warm),” he said. “It’s the beauty of spring training. It’s always hot and then all of a sudden you show up to 25-degree weather. That’s how it is.”
Lindor didn’t hold back while running the bases Wednesday morning.
“I go as fast as my leg allows me and see how it feels a couple hours later, and so far, it feels great,” he said shortly after receiving treatment, following his play in the minor league game.
His daily treatment lasts 60 to 90 minutes.
“That’s going to be the new normal,” Lindor said.
Ultimately, his return to the major league level will take time.
“Of course I want to play this game, that’s why I’m here,” he said. “I want to help my team win. But that’s why they (trainers) are good at what they do. They can slow people down to make sure they don’t rush it.”
The Indians used a pinch runner for each of his walks.
“I want to go as hard as I can and have them chase me and tag me like Little League,” Lindor said.
Lindor, who calls the minor leaguers “the lions” because of their hunger to reach the big leagues, gained an appreciation for their determination when one of them ran on him on a relay throw.
“They’re going all-out and I’m trying to pace myself,” he said. “It reminded me not to take anything for granted, because at the end of the day, they want to be here (major leagues) and they’re working as hard as they can to be up here.”
In Scottsdale, where an Indians split squad was playing the Giants on Wednesday, second baseman Jason Kipnis was removed for precautionary reasons because of right calf tightness. Kipnis left after one at-bat and did not play defense.
“We’ll get a read. They’re looking at him now,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after the game.
Kipnis missed time last week for the same issue and was hampered by hip flexor tightness at the beginning of March.
He was scheduled to have an MRI on Thursday.
Starter on hold
Francona said he’s still not ready to announce the opening day starter.
“I think we’ll wait and get through (Corey) Kluber’s start. I think that makes the most sense,” Francona said of the two-time Cy Young winner who pitches against the Cubs today.
Kluber, who’s made four consecutive opening day starts, would have five days’ rest between his Friday start and opening day.
Since the Indians have a day off Wednesday, Trevor Bauer would have the traditional four days’ rest if he gets the nod to start opening day.
Right-hander pitcher Adam Plutko was sent to Triple-A Columbus on Thursday after giving up nine runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings Wednesday against the Giants.
Plutko gave has allowed 14 runs on 17 hits in 13 1/3 innings this spring, while striking out 11 and walking two.
Right-handed pitchers Alex Wilson and Justin Grikm and infielder Ryan Flaherty were told Wednesday they would not be on the 25-man roster.
“These guys have outs,” Francona said, noting that they will talk to their agents and discuss possibilities with other teams, knowing the Indians would like have them back at the minor league level.
Flaherty and Wilson later opted out of minor league deals and are free agents.
Right-handed pitcher A.J. Cole was sent to the minor league side.
Francona said the relievers are likely to be called up during the season.
“You don’t keep seven or eight guys the whole year,” he said. “It’s just not possible. Just try to remind, especially the veteran guys, if it’s a kick in the stomach (being sent down), we know that. But don’t let that derail you from what you’re doing because that doesn’t help anybody.”
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