CLEVELAND -- Perhaps the most impressive element of the Indians’ franchise-record 17-game winning streak has been the production Cleveland has received from its group of young players.
Since joining the big league roster -- some of them as injury replacements and some as September call-ups -- the young guns have done more than participate. They have contributed.
“They’ve done a good job,” manager Terry Francona said. “And the fact that they catch the ball really helps. I think it’s kind of a unique thing that so many of the young players are so good defensively. You look at (Giovanny) Urshela, (Erik) Gonzalez and (Greg) Allen. Man, you don’t hold your breath when you put them in a game because you know they’re going to catch the ball, which is kind of unique.
“We’ve had (special assistant to baseball operations) Johnny (McDonald) here and (Arizona Rookie League hitting coach) Bobby Magallanes. We’ve had them kind of helping them stay involved in the game, which I think has been really good for them. You don’t want them just to get up here to sit down on the end like they’re not even on the team. So, we’ve had a lot of help there. I think everybody’s in a pretty good spot.”
Guys such as Urshela, Gonzalez, Allen, Yandy Diaz and even top prospect Francisco Mejia have fit right in with the Indians’ core of veterans, much in part because they’ve proven they belong.
“I never understood (veterans not welcoming the younger guys),” Francona said. “Young players need to show the veterans that they care about winning. Because when you first get here, there’s a tendency to want to call home. ‘Hey, I played.’ You’ve got a group of guys in here that have played a lot of games and they care about winning.
“Once they can prove to the veterans that they care about winning, which means they’re going to show up on time, they’re ready to do their job. Our guys do a really good job of allowing them in. I know that you have to earn your stripes. But we’re one team.”
Mejia, Cleveland’s projected future catcher, had played in four games through Friday since arriving from Double-A Akron, collecting two hits, an RBI and a run in only seven at-bats.
But Francona said he’s pushed for more plate appearances.
“Mejia, I don’t know if you can tell on TV, but he stands by me half the game with his bat like, ‘Hey man, I can go get a hit,”’ Francona said. “It cracks me up. I told (bench coach Brad Mills), finally, I said, ‘Fine, let him go hit.’”
Ace in the hole
Right-hander Mike Clevinger began the season at Triple-A Columbus, but has become a staple of the Indians’ rotation, posting a 9-5 record and 3.30 ERA in 22 appearances (19 starts).
Is it just the natural progression of a young pitcher?
“I think with guys that are good enough (it is),” Francona said. “Yeah, it’s nice to see though because not everybody does that. But, he is, he’s getting better and he’s maturing and it gets exciting. It’s fun to watch guys get better.”
Clevinger, who Friday became the first Cleveland starter to work three straight scoreless outings of at least six innings since John Denny in 1981, said the key to his success has been a more aggressive approach.
“(I’m) just trying to give the team a chance, just get our hitters back in the dugout as quick as possible and quit working the edges (of the plate) and let my defense work for me,” he said.
Back in there
Francona said it was likely Jose Ramirez would play Saturday, but a sore right wrist sidelined the MVP candidate for the third straight game.
Francona said Ramirez was in the lineup he sent home with players for the series finale against Baltimore today, but that he told Urshela to be on stand-by.
Edwin Encarnacion reached base for the 32nd straight game, accounting for the longest active streak in the majors. ... Bradley Zimmer has stolen 18 bases and been caught just once. ... Olympic gold medalist gymnast and Columbus native Simone Biles was in attendance for Friday’s series opener, throwing out one of the ceremonial first pitches and participating in the Hot Dog Derby race. ... Tonight, 8:05, ESPN; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM. Bauer (15-8, 4.39) vs. Hellickson (2-3, 6.87).