GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Edwin Encarnacion made a good first impression Saturday. Actually, a good first two impressions.
Encarnacion, the Indians’ most significant offseason acquisition, collected hits in his two at-bats in the exhibition opener against the Reds. He lined a single to left field in the first inning to score the first run of an 8-2 victory.
“It feels great. First game. I let it go and had fun,” said Encarnacion, who started at first base and batted cleanup. “I was just trying to put the ball in play. And I tried to be aggressive with a runner in scoring position. It happened good for me today. It’s spring training. I just wanted to see a lot of pitching and tried to be aggressive in the strike zone. And thank God I got my first hit.”
“When the bell rings it’s not going to matter,” manager Terry Francona said. “We just want guys to get ready (for the season), but you love seeing guys take good swings. Edwin took a couple good ones. Again, it’s February, but you love seeing that.”
Unlike a number of other Indians players, Encarnacion won’t be departing for the upcoming World Baseball Classic, choosing to remain at training camp in an effort to acquaint himself with his new team.
“I thought his reasoning was really respectful,” Francona said. “He said he wanted to kind of get to know everybody here. If he would’ve wanted to play for his (Dominican Republic) team, I would have completely supported him, but I thought his reasoning was really respectful.”
Thus far, the indoctrination period has gone well, according to Encarnacion.
“I’m getting to know everyone,” he said. “They play this game right, the right way.”
Francona is pleased that Encarnacion will be remaining in camp, but will be sad to see WBC participants — shortstop Francisco Lindor (Puerto Rico), left-hander Andrew Miller (USA), first baseman Carlos Santana (Dominican Republic), catcher Roberto Perez (Puerto Rico) and others — go.
“It is weird, it really is. It’s disjointed,” he said of the WBC. “You have your spring training time, and this team’s going to form its personality and then all of a sudden eight guys are gone. It is different. You go out to do your fundamentals and your shortstop’s not there.
“It can be frustrating. Again, every team deals with it and you do the best you can. We’ll probably be doing fundamentals later in spring than maybe we have in the past, just because we want to make sure we have our whole team together.”
Encarnacion was in the lineup Saturday with a number of other projected starters — Santana (DH), Lindor, Jose Ramirez (third base) and catcher Yan Gomes. His addition gives the Indians a premier run producer in the middle of what is expected to be a talented offensive group.
“It’s going to be a great lineup,” said Encarnacion, who hit 42 home runs last year for Toronto and led the American League with 127 RBIs. “We’ve got great potential. From one through nine, I think we have a lot of good players who can hit. This is going to be a fun year.”