Wednesday, December 12, 2018 Medina 37°

Tribe Notes

Indians notes: Francisco Mejia climbing toward majors, but catching job still belongs to veteran pair


GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- In an effort to create more opportunities for Francisco Mejia’s projected big bat, the Indians experimented with the prized catching prospect at third base in the Arizona Fall League.

That likely won’t continue this spring.

“You know what? I don’t know about that,” manager Terry Francona said. “He’s done such a good job with his catching. Some of this stuff -- we tried to remind him of this in the one-on-one meeting -- the positional change stuff isn’t because we don’t think he can catch. We know he can catch. He’s actually doing really well. 

“It’s just, you look up right now and there’s (catchers Roberto) Perez and (Yan) Gomes and you’ve got a kid that’s, by some accounts, you hear some of the things they say about him as a hitter, that you’d like to, if something happens, have a way of maybe getting him to the big leagues if need be.”

Mejia, 22, has reached the radar quickly in his professional career. He was acquired by the Indians in 2013 and progressed to the Double-A level in his fourth full season in the minors, batting .297 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs for Akron last year.

Mejia made his major league debut as a September call-up in 2017 --
2-for-13 with an RBI -- and is pegged to start this year as Triple-A Columbus’ starting catcher.

It’s pretty clear he’s Cleveland’s future behind the plate, but the present still belongs to Gomes and Perez.

“It gets to a point where you’re going to have guys coming behind you,” Gomes said. “We’re extremely fortunate it’s a guy like Mejia. He’s proven a lot of things in the minor leagues, and he did a tremendous job for us last year.

“I know they want to see him be able to control a Triple-A staff and whatever it is. I know Cleveland’s definitely got a lot to look forward to when he gets here. But right now, it’s still ours.”   

Sick bay

The dreaded flu bug has infiltrated training camp.

Left-hander Andrew Miller has missed the last two days with the sickness, and center fielder Bradley Zimmer was sent home Tuesday with the same ilness. 

“Everybody’s aware of how bad the flu’s been going around,” Francona said. “We’re doing the best we can. We talk so much about teamwork, but this is the one thing we’d like not to pass around and share, so, we’ll see.”

Francona said Miller was expected back today.

Fight to the finish

The battle for the utility infielder spot on the 25-man roster is an all-or-nothing race between Giovanny Urshela and Erik Gonzalez. With neither owning minor league options, the loser will likely leave the organization. 

“We’re very aware that (only) one of them can probably make the team,” Francona said. “Now, again, things change. With a hamstring pull or something, things change. But, if we’re healthy, we’re going to have to make a decision and we know that. And we’re also aware that we’ll probably lose the other guy. They’re pretty good players and we know that, and we have some anxiety about that.”

Both Urshela, 26, and Gonzalez, 26, are top-shelf defenders, with Gonzalez a bit more versatile. Gonzalez had the better offensive numbers last year, hitting .255 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 60 games for the Indians, while Urshela batted .224 with a homer and 15 RBIs in 67 games. Urshela was Cleveland’s starter at third base in the Division Series loss to the Yankees, committing two uncharacteristic errors in New York’s 7-3 Game 4 win.   

Oh, Danny boy

Dan Otero may not fill Bryan Shaw’s former role exactly, but, like Shaw, the veteran right-hander does figure to serve as a workhorse out of the Indians’ bullpen this year.

“When he’s good, he’s efficient, he’s quick, he’s pounding the zone down,” Francona said. “My guess is regardless of where he pitches, when you look up in September or October, he’s going to have 60-65 (appearances), just like he always does. 

“He’s really valuable. He may not light up the radar gun, but again, when he gets on a roll, and we’ve seen it, he can be so efficient.”

Otero, 33, has made 114 appearances over his first two seasons in Cleveland, going 5-1 with a 1.53 ERA in 2016, and 3-0 with a 2.85 ERA last year. It earned him a two-year contract extension in December worth $2.5 million. 

Roundin’ third

Major League Baseball’s chief baseball officer, Joe Torre, paid his annual visit to Indians camp Tuesday, meeting with Francona and front office members. A certain topic of discussion was pace of play and the rule change that will be implemented this season that will limit visits to the pitching mound. ... Clevinger is expected to pitch one inning Friday, with left-hander Ryan Merritt following him to the mound.  

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or Like him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

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