GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Right-hander Bryan Shaw paid a visit to Indians training camp last week. Unfortunately, he couldn’t stick around.
Shaw, a workhorse out of the bullpen for Cleveland from 2013-17, had to leave for Glendale to join Colorado, which signed him as a free agent in the offseason to a three-year contract worth $27 million.
“He will be missed,” manager Terry Francona said of Shaw, who made more appearances than any pitcher in baseball over the last five years, leading the American League in three of his five seasons with the Indians. “I hate to use the word, but he’s a sweetheart, man. I told (Rockies manager) Bud Black when they signed him, I said, ‘You got a good one.’”
Shaw won’t be easily replaced, but the Indians feel confident they have pitchers to fill his setup role before handing the ball to lethal left-hander Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen.
“There’s a lot of good arms here,” Allen said. “We had a lot of guys step up for us last year, guys like Tyler Olson, Nick Goody. Dan Otero’s been huge for us, Zach McAllister’s been huge for us, so those guys, they’ll step up. We’ve been very fortunate the last few years where we have certain guys come in and they fill a vital role and pitch their tails off, when maybe they weren’t expected to carry that load, but they did.
“We’re kind of looking forward to seeing who that is (this year), but we do know that good clubs, championship clubs, they have guys produce and carry some weight that wasn’t expected.”
“In my opinion, we’re going to have a really good bullpen,” Francona said. “We may not quite know how it’s configured yet or like who’s throwing in what inning, but kind of like we were telling McAllister, Goody, Olson, Otero, pitching in the sixth inning could be the game on the line. We try to match up our guys where we think they can be successful.
“Some nights, it’s the sixth inning. Some nights, the save is the easiest part of the game. Now, there’s a lot of times where it’s not, but we try to match up our guys where we think they best fit and where we think they can succeed. And it could be any time. We kind of hate to pigeonhole guys, because we just think we’re not as good of a team (that way).”
Goody and Olson had breakout rookie seasons last year, the veteran Otero was solid for the second straight season and McAllister, who began his career in Cleveland as a starter, has transitioned into an employable reliever. Each brings a different element.
“Goody can really beat up right-handers with his breaking ball,” Francona said. “Otero, when he starts two-seaming it down low. They all have traits. McAllister with his fastball. They match up sometimes differently against different hitters and we try to keep track of that. There’s times when you can’t match up. Something happens, somebody exits too early. But we try to keep track of it. The best thing we can do is try to put them in situations where we think they can really succeed.”
All-Star Michael Brantley took batting practice during the first full-squad workout Monday. As has been the case the past few seasons, the Indians are hopeful the oft-injured left fielder will be ready for Opening Day, but won’t use it as a deadline.
“He can do it all, which is good,” Francona said of Brantley, who had right ankle surgery in the offseason. “And he’s been running. He just hasn’t been doing the cutting and stuff yet. He’s in fabulous shape. You can see it when you look at him. He’s cut. And that can’t be really easy to do when you have an ankle like that where you can’t really do aerobically as much as you would like.
“I’m telling you, man, if work ethic, if it means anything, he’s going to be OK, because he’s unbelievable. And I think his world gets better as he’s able to do baseball stuff. He spent a lot of time, a lot of monotonous time, doing things that if you shortchange it, it’s not going to work. But it’s not very much fun. Now, he gets to actually do baseball stuff. I think his world gets a lot brighter.”
Francisco Lindor watched Brantley take BP and came away impressed.
“My first thought was, ‘Damn, that’s his first BP? Damn. How come I can’t do that? I’ve been hitting all offseason,’” Lindor said. “He looks good. He’s strong. He was driving the ball all over the field. He probably won’t tell you that, but he looked really good.”
Brantley’s been more than a teammate for Lindor, serving as a mentor for the All-Star shortstop since he broke into the majors three years ago.
“(He’s been) extremely important,” Lindor said. “Every time I have a question, I go up to Brantley. Every time I’m thinking about something about hitting, I go to Brantley. Every time I’m thinking about something about the game, I go to Brantley. Brantley has helped me a lot. He’s one of the reasons I’m Francisco Lindor. He has helped me a lot. I thank the Lord for putting him in my path.
“To me, Brantley is like Daddy. Whatever Brantley does, I’m doing.”
Because he is out of minor league options and must make the club to avoid being placed on waivers, left-hander Ryan Merritt will be a candidate for a bullpen spot if he doesn’t win a spot in the rotation.
“We don’t want to lose him,” Francona said of the 2016 ALCS hero. “I mean, there’s a lot of spring training left but, one, he’s most likely next up in line if something happened to somebody (in the rotation). And, two, we don’t want to lose him. So those are all things that are going to have to be considered when we get down towards the end of spring training.”
Speed it up
In another effort to improve pace of play, Major League Baseball will employ a rule change this season that limits mound visits from managers, coaches and players without a pitching change to six per team over nine innings. For any extra innings played, each team will be entitled to one non-pitching-change visit per inning.
“I understand what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to take out a lot of dead time in the game without altering the way the game is played,” Francona said. “I think there’s going to need to be some adjustments. We’re going to have to keep track of this stuff. We didn’t used to. You just knew if it was your second trip of the inning. But even things like a shortstop running in, things that they do second nature.
“Like with Kansas City, (third baseman Mike) Moustakas used to always go to the mound. (Heck), they’d have a pitcher out in the third inning. So we’re going to have to be careful of those types of things. But they had talked to us about it at the winter meetings and said they wanted to do some things. Generally, when they do, when it’s all said and done, they have a way of working out that works pretty well.”