GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor is ready to put himself back out there and compete for a World Series title despite the possibility it all could end in heartache again.
But that doesn’t mean he’s over the hurt of the last two seasons.
“It’s still in my head,” he said. “It’s like the girlfriend that you break up with. You never get over it. You turn the page, but you can’t get over it. You always remember that she was there.”
Though it’s reached the postseason in each of the past two seasons, Cleveland ultimately hasn’t been up to the challenge in its bid to secure the franchise’s first world championship since 1948.
Despite owning a 3-1 lead over the Cubs in the 2016 World Series, the Indians lost in seven games. Last year, Cleveland — the favorite to repeat as AL champ — took the first two ALDS games against the Yankees, only to lose three straight.
Rather than lick their wounds, the Indians are using the back-to-back failures as some major motivation.
“We ain’t curling up, I guarantee you that,” Lindor said. “We’re going after it, man. We want to win. Everybody wants to win and finish the thing. We understand that winning makes everything a lot easier and smoother and keeps everybody happy. We want to do that.
“We want to accomplish our dreams. My dream is to win. There’s not a single player here that doesn’t want to win. It’s just a matter of playing right at the right time, playing good baseball. Three-one, we don’t finish, 2-0, we don’t finish. That’s what we have to work at, finishing it.”
The Indians took the first step toward defending their Central Division title Monday, holding the first full-squad workout of training camp. Next up is Cleveland’s exhibition opener Friday against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark.
“It’s an exciting time of the year. You kind of figure out what kind of club you’ve got,” closer Cody Allen said. “There’s quite a few new faces here this year, so we’re gonna use this time to get to know each other and kind of figure out who we are as a club.”
As he’s done since he became manager in 2013, Terry Francona addressed the team prior to the workout.
“The message never changes,” said Francona, who has guided the Indians to more wins than any team in the American League during his five-year tenure. “I don’t think it hurts them once a year to hear it again and, for the new guys, I think it’s fair so when they step on the field, they know what’s expected. I don’t think, again, we don’t do it very often, but I don’t think once a year is too much, where you can remind guys of exactly how we feel and exactly how we want to attack the challenges that might be coming our way.”
Not that 2017 was a bust — far from it. Cleveland won its second straight division title, posting the best record in the AL (102-60) and sending five players to the All-Star Game in Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley and Andrew Miller. Included was an AL-record 22-game winning streak.
“To me, last year was fun. We had a great year,” Lindor said. “But to me, it wasn’t a successful season. That’s not a successful season, because we didn’t finish. We were healthy and we learned a lot from what we went through in the season and we’re blessed. But we didn’t win. At the end of the day, it’s a season you don’t remember. When you don’t win, that’s what you remember the most.”
With AL contenders Houston, Boston and New York improving this offseason, the task figures to be much more difficult. But the goal is the same for the Indians, who still own one of the league’s best pitching staffs and a star-laden lineup: win the World Series.
“I don’t think that path ever changes,” Francona said. “You’re not going to talk to one manager that’s not going to be half-full, the glass. I think we have reason to be optimistic.
“Now, we need to prepare and the idea is to prepare better than every team out there. That’s hard to do. We try to place a value on what it takes to win and we try to do it better than all the other teams. That’s a really hard task, because there’s 29 other teams and there’s a lot of good baseball players.”