CLEVELAND — One of the ones who got away made his first appearance at Progressive Field in a visiting uniform, starting at third base for the Yankees in the series opener Friday night.
Gio Urshela, who spent the first nine-plus years of his professional career in the Indians’ organization, has been one of the biggest surprise stories in baseball, going from a defensive-minded bench player to consistent offensive producer.
He’s been a fixture in first-place New York’s lineup, batting a team-leading .323 with four home runs and 24 RBIs in 51 games.
“He never hit like he’s hitting (now),” manager Terry Francona said of Urshela’s days in Cleveland. “He’s really swung the bat well, and from what I’ve heard, it’s been from Day 1 of spring training till now. (He) never had a problem, I didn’t think, with having quick enough hands. He just swung at balls, he’d go out of the zone too much. We all know what kind of a defender he is.”
The Indians traded Urshela to the Blue Jays shortly into last season and the Yankees acquired him for cash considerations at the end of the year. He joins Tampa Bay’s Yandy Diaz as young players who have found success this year after leaving the Indians.
“I think sometimes a change of scenery is good for players,” Francona said. “We’ve got guys over here that have struggled somewhere else and done well (here). We don’t have all the answers, either. Sometimes guys will go other places and it kicks in for them, and Gio’s a good example of that.”
Outfielder Clint Frazier, Cleveland’s first-round draft pick (fifth overall) in 2013, was also in the lineup for New York. Frazier, who was dealt along with three other minor leaguers for Andrew Miller at the trade deadline in 2016, was batting .268 with 11 homers and 30 RBIs in 44 games through Thursday.
Though he has cited no official injury, right-hander Trevor Bauer said he has been dealing with physical issues that have contributed to his poor month-plus performance.
“Right now, I’m just trying to feel good for my next start physically,” Bauer said after allowing three homers to Minnesota’s Max Kepler in a 5-4 loss Thursday night. “My body is pretty banged up and that’s really where my focus has been, trying to get ready physically. I’ve executed really well the last three starts and I’ve lost all three of them, so for a while I didn’t feel like I could execute because I didn’t feel like I could move the way I need to move. And now I feel like more so the way I need to move and I execute well, but I still get beat. I’m giving everything I have for my team, but it’s been rough.”
Francona said he believes all the players are dealing with physical issues of some sort but under the rules only the player can decide if he wants to talk about them.
“If they start to pitch and get over 100 innings, (they have) tweaks and aches and pains, things like that,” he said.
Mike Clevinger (upper-back strain) allowed four runs on three hits (one homer) with two walks and three strikeouts over four innings of his rehab debut for Triple-A Columbus on Thursday.
There were some silver linings.
“He touched 98 (mph), which was kind of amazing,” Francona said. “Obviously he threw a lot of pitches in a short amount of time, but he came through it OK. We’ll want to visit with him to get his take on it, but he came through it healthy and that’s the good news.”
The Indians are hopeful Clevinger will be activated from the IL after his second rehab outing, which is scheduled for Tuesday at Double-A Akron.
- Corey Kluber (right forearm fracture) will be evaluated next week. He’s been on the injured list since May 2 and isn’t expected to pitch until August at the earliest.
- After experiencing a setback days before leaving Goodyear, Ariz., to begin a rehab assignment at Columbus, Bradley Zimmer (right shoulder surgery) has been shut down through at least Monday.
- He hasn’t appeared in a game at the minor or major league level since June 10 of last year.
- Roberto Perez entered Friday with homers in three straight games. With 10 homers and 10 runners caught stealing, Perez joins Milwaukee’s Yasmani Grandal as the only catchers in the majors with double-digit totals in each category.
- Oscar Mercado entered Friday with 17 hits over the first 18 games of his career, accounting for the most over the span by an Indians player since Jason Kipnis had 19 hits in 2011.