CLEVELAND — Hall of Famer Jim Thome was back in Cleveland on Tuesday for a ceremony to announce that he, former teammate Sandy Alomar and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor would serve as official ambassadors for the upcoming MLB All-Star Game at Progressive Field.
It gave the Indians’ all-time leading home run hitter an opportunity to reminisce about the last time Cleveland hosted the Midsummer Classic in 1997 — the same season the Indians advanced to Game 7 of the World Series.
Thome was the starting first baseman for the American League and participated in the Home Run Derby, while Alomar was named MVP after hitting a game-winning homer in the seventh inning.
“Yeah, I didn’t hit one (in the derby), then, obviously watching Sandy and that special moment, it’s what makes it great,” Thome said. “When you look back and here he is. When you get to come back (to Cleveland) and you’ve got Lindor, who’s like the face of baseball right now, what he means to the game. It’s just a special time.
“Reflecting back to the days of the 1990s, we’ve always talked about whether it was an All-Star Game, all those great playoff games, a World Series, it brings back a lot of great memories. And that’s what this will do to the young kids. It will do it to the parents, the grandparents that will spend five days here during All-Star week. They’ll get to really truly enjoy what’s the best about the game, and that’s the players and everything involved.”
Lindor, a two-time All-Star, has replaced Thome and all the great players from the ’90s as the face of the franchise. Thome thinks Cleveland’s charismatic shortstop is an ideal choice.
“When you walk in a room, there’s certain guys that have this energy,” Thome said of Lindor. “He has a great smile. He loves the game. You never really know when he’s struggling because he has joy and excitement playing the game. I respect that. I really do. He plays the game hard. He’s really good.
“Let’s face it, when you’re good and you’ve got everything that comes with that, and you’re a good person, and you give back to the game like he has, that’s why you’re up there as far as the top five faces of baseball — special. And it’s great for Cleveland because they can embrace a guy like that and say, ‘He’s one of ours.’”
There is mutual respect.
“It’s special. We have two Hall of Famers, one in the Cleveland (Indians) Hall of Fame and the other one in the Baseball Hall of Fame,” Lindor said of Alomar and Thome. “It’s special, unique and to be an ambassador with them, it makes me happy, it makes me proud. They both came out of here. Hopefully one day I’ll be close to them.”
Carlos Gonzalez may not be doing a whole lot of hitting — .222, with two homers and five RBIs in 19 games through Wednesday — but he has provided top-flight defense in left field.
It was on display Wednesday night on two diving catches, one with the first two batters aboard in the opening inning.
“Personally, I always put in a lot of work when it comes to defense,” said Gonzalez, who is a three-time Gold Glove winner. “It’s one thing to struggle at the plate, the hardest thing to do in baseball is hitting. A lot of times you’re going to go through ups and downs. But when it comes to playing defense, you always have to be heads up to work hard, to make plays behind the pitcher. It’s always nice to make those kind of plays.”
The Indians are on the road for the next five days, beginning a three-game series in Oakland tonight at 9:37.
RHP Cody Anderson (0-1, 11.12 ERA) makes his second start for the Indians in the opener, while the A’s counter with RHP Frankie Montez (4-2, 2.75).
RHP Trevor Bauer (4-3, 3.42) goes for Cleveland on Saturday (4:05 p.m.) against RHP Aaron Brooks (2-3, 5.74), while RHP Jefry Rodriguez (0-2, 2.41) starts for the Indians in the series finale Sunday (4:07 p.m.) against RHP MIke Fiers (3-3, 5.48).
Triple-A Columbus first baseman Bobby Bradley went 3-for-4 with his seventh homer, a double and three RBIs in a 6-2 win over Charlotte on Wednesday.
Bradley, a third-round draft pick in 2014, entered Thursday batting .315 with 12 doubles and 20 RBIs in 29 games.
He started the season ranked Cleveland’s seventh-best prospect by Baseball America and MLB.com.
Switch-hitting Carlos Santana entered Thursday batting .344 (11-for-32) against left-handed pitching, which ranked ninth in the American League. His .475 on-base percentage against lefties was a league-best.