CLEVELAND — Along each stop this postseason, Indians manager Terry Francona has taken a sentimental journey — greeted by former co-workers and friends from his lengthy career in baseball.
In the American League Division Series, it was one of his closest buddies, Boston manager John Farrell and Red Sox players David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. In the ALCS, it was Toronto team president and CEO and longtime friend Mark Shapiro — Cleveland’s team president when the Indians hired Francona prior to the 2013 season.
Now in the World Series, Francona has been reunited with a former player who is almost like a son to him in Cubs Game 1 starter Jon Lester, and Chicago’s president of baseball operations, Theo Epstein — the general manager during Francona’s tenure in Boston (2004-11).
“I think what it is, is that the people that I’ve been fortunate enough to have been associated with are pretty good,” Francona said. “I used to get asked a lot about Theo when he went to Chicago (in 2012), because I had been with him for eight years. I was pretty consistent with my answer, that he was too smart and too hard-working to not make it work. And that’s come true.”
Francona and Epstein were tight in Boston. So much so that when Francona was fired following a disappointing 2011 season, Epstein left for Chicago in 2012. Francona said the two remain in touch.
“I saw him in spring training when we played them (this year),” Francona said. “He made a point of coming down, actually during the game. And we text every so often. Something comes up or something happens that he thinks is funny or jogs a memory. We’ve texted back and forth during the last couple of playoff series.
“I mean, we were together eight years. Eight years in Boston, I would say is almost miraculous. There’s a lot of fond memories and we got through some tough times together and came out in the end. I knew when things got tough, where I could go.”
There were no surprises on either World Series roster released Tuesday morning.
Right-hander Danny Salazar was an addition for Cleveland, which dropped right-hander Cody Anderson, while Chicago added outfielder Kyle Schwarber, who was in the lineup at DH for Game 1.
Salazar will begin the series in the bullpen but could be an option for a shortened start in Game 4 on Saturday in Chicago.
“I don’t think that we’re going to have clarity,” Francona said. “He’s in the bullpen. We don’t know what’s going to happen. You can’t just say, ‘We’re going to use him early.’ Because if it’s bases loaded, I don’t know if that’s fair to him. But if we have a situation where it’s an open base … like, you might see a couple guys warm up. It’s something we wouldn’t do during the year. If it’s the right situation, we might bring him in.”
Curve to the curb
If Salazar appears in the World Series, it’s likely he won’t be employing his curveball.
“I’m only throwing fastball, change-up, slider,” said Salazar, who has been sidelined since Sept. 9 with a forearm strain. “I haven’t thrown a curveball. I think that was the pitch that I got the soreness in my forearm. I haven’t tried to throw it yet and they haven’t told me to throw it, so I’m going to keep it that way.
“I don’t know. Maybe I’ll add it. I haven’t thrown it. It doesn’t bother me throwing any other pitches. We’re saving that pitch maybe for later.”
As hard is it is to believe, Francona actually called left-hander Ryan Merritt’s big-time performance in the ALCS clincher — well, something along those lines, anyway.
“I did tell our guys before the (ALDS), I said, ‘Somebody is going to come and help us win that isn’t here right now.’ It always happens,” Francona said. “Trevor (Bauer) actually came to me and said, ‘I remember you telling us that.’ He goes, ‘That’s why I thought we were going to win.’ I wish he would have told me that before the game. Those are the kind of the cool things that come from people doing pretty good things.”
Merritt, who had made four career big league appearances, pitched 41⁄3 scoreless innings in the ALCS Game 5 clincher in Toronto last Wednesday.
Andrew Miller had no ties to Cleveland before being acquired in a trade with the Yankees this season, but since arriving, he’s learned how much a title would mean to the city and its baseball fans.
“They’d obviously embrace it and have a good time with it,” Miller said. “That’s our goal, to give them that. As individuals we all want to do it, but that’s part of the picture for us. We’ve been supported here and we absolutely want to reward them with that.
“I came here as a visiting player. All the people talked about was how great the parade was for the basketball championship. We’re seeing it already. Everybody is very appreciative and excited. We’re excited to have made it this far, but we have more work to do.”
Francona got unexpected visitors to Progressive Field prior to Game 1.
“I actually had one of my kids driving through on the way to Boston, so they stopped about 2 o’clock and got to see the grand kids,” he said. “They just stopped through and pulled off at (Interstate) 90 for about a half an hour and got to say hello to the grand kids.”
- Rajai Davis, the Indians’ Game 1 leadoff hitter, entered the night without a hit and with five strikeouts in 12 postseason at-bats.
- Kenny Lofton nearly didn’t make it to Progressive Field in time to throw out the ceremonial first pitch. Lofton was stuck at LAX late Monday night, waiting stand-by to fly to Cleveland. An Ohioan on the flight gave up his seat so Lofton could make it to the game. Lofton was on the mound in time, firing a strike to the plate.
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