GOODYEAR, Ariz. — It’s not always easy being the new guy, especially when you’re an unheralded player joining a team that has won two straight division titles, advanced to a World Series and qualified for the postseason in three of the last five seasons.
Welcome to Yonder Alonso’s world.
Alonso, a career .268 hitter with 67 home runs over eight years, was Cleveland’s most notable offseason acquisition — much to the chagrin of fans. After spending the past two seasons with perennial losers Oakland and Seattle, he has been thrust into a high-profile spot with a club that has built a winning tradition. He replaced popular first baseman Carlos Santana, who signed a three-year, $60 million contract with the Phillies.
“Right now it’s just getting acclimated with the guys,” said Alonso, who signed a two-year free agent contract with the Indians worth $16 million, with a club option for 2020. “This group has been together for quite some time now, so for me it’s just to come in, make sure I do my work, make sure I’m involved with the guys.
“They’ve been opening their arms every single day I get here ready to work. They’re happy for me to be here. I’m excited. I can’t wait to get it going.”
Cleveland’s success over the past five years was a big reason Alonso chose the Indians over other suitors this winter.
“These guys have created something here, they’ve built something here for quite some time, and for me, it was just being around guys that are winning every single day,” he said. “Their staff is great and their fans are behind us every single day. That was a no-brainer for me to go to a winning team.”
Alonso, who turns 31 in April, is doing his part to fit in. He attended the “TribeFest” event in Cleveland in January and pulled a prank that had everyone in stitches.
Embracing the fact he wasn’t well-known, he disguised himself as a fan. Alonso pretended he didn’t know closer Cody Allen, called him Corey Kluber and asked for an autograph, then got in the cage against Allen, who was soft-tossing to children.
It gave people an early look at Alonso’s fun-loving personality.
“I’m serious, I get to work. I’m here to get my work done, making sure my job is done correctly,” he said. “When there is time to have some fun, there’s no question I would like to have some fun with the guys.”
Alonso had a bit of fun last year, making the All-Star team for the first time as the lone representative for Oakland. He didn’t have a great year, batting .266 with 67 RBIs, but he did clout a career-high 28 homers — five more than Santana, who hit .259.
The majority of Alonso’s homers came at Oakland’s Coliseum and Seattle’s Safeco Field — parks not considered conducive to the long ball.
“I don’t really concern myself with what field I’m playing on,” Alonso said. “When I’m facing guys, I’m facing them, I’m not facing the park. If you put some good swings on the ball, if your mechanics are right where you want them to be and your mindset is right, anything is possible.
“For me, I didn’t really care so much about hitting in Oakland or Seattle, I just wanted to make sure I was putting together some good at-bats, some tough outs.”
Alonso arrived at training camp prior to the position-player deadline, and so far, he likes what he sees with his new team.
“It’s just a tight, tight group, a bunch of guys who get along just great,” Alonso said. “It’s a bunch of guys who are working every single day, just happy to be here, happy to get to work. They’re on a mission.
“Man, it’s nice to come in here and feel comfortable and knowing that everyone is pulling the same direction.”
If Alonso is able to duplicate his production from last season, he should fit in just fine.