CLEVELAND -- With his offense in dire need of a lift, manager Terry Francona said he has considered dropping All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor down from the leadoff spot to lengthen the lineup.
“I’ve talked to him about it, too,” Francona said of Lindor, who along with Carlos Santana, has been one of the only hitters producing on a consistent basis. “I think there has to be a reason that makes you better and I don’t know if I could say that that would make us better. We could hit him third or fourth ... he’s gonna be a good one, two, three, four, five (batter), he’s a great player. But then who’s leading off? We’re probably taking maybe the best leadoff hitter in baseball (out of the spot). Man, that’s a pretty good thing to have. Sometimes you change things, you’re like, ‘Man, wait a minute, that’s not the issue.‘ We have to find a way to lengthen our lineup and I get it. But I think it’s going to be more with our guys‘ approach and the guys we have just picking it up a little bit.
“Part of why when Carlos Gonzalez was here I hit him fourth. It wasn’t necessarily because of the production, but I didn’t want to get some of the younger guys in there that are gonna get beat up. I don’t think that’s developing players. Obviously you’re trying to win and there’s strategy, but I’ve got an obligation to help these guys get better and not get beat up.”
The Indians entered Friday with the third-worst batting average (.222) in the American League, scoring an average of 3.9 runs per game. They had scored two or fewer runs 19 times in 49 games through Thursday.
“Some of it is simply confidence,” Francona said. “Even for the good and great players, their confidence takes a hit. It’s easy to say ‘well, be confident.’ Sometimes getting the feel is hard. It’s easy for me to sit here and say ‘pick a side of the plate and pick one pitch.’ When a guy’s throwing 95 (mph) and snapping off a breaking ball or change-up, it’s easier said than done.
“But that’s the way you build into having some success. Sometimes it turns around like that, sometimes you have to build into it. But that’s the best way to start. Because these guys got too good of stuff to try to hit everything.”
Francona already moved one of the team’s most high-profiled players -- Jose Ramirez -- down in the order from third to fifth.
Ramirez entered Friday batting .198 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 49 games. He had only two homers over his last 26 games through Thursday.
- Oscar Mercado was not in the lineup after straining his hip on a collision with center fielder Leonys Martin on Thursday.
“(He’s) sore. Moving around OK,” Francona said of Mercado, who remained in the game after the play but was later pulled. “He’s not worse off. I think we kind of figured he’d be sore today.”
- Catcher Roberto Perez was back in the lineup upon receiving clearance from MLB after experiencing concussion-like symptoms when he took a foul tip off his mask Tuesday.
- Outfielder Tyler Naquin (left calf strain) ran the bases and took some outfield practice prior to the game. Francona said he was set to meet with Naquin, team president Chris Antonetti and the medical staff after his pregame media session to discuss the next step.
- Right-hander Mike Clevinger (upper-back strain) threw a 35-pitch bullpen session at Progressive Field and will leave for the team’s spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., today.
According to Francona, Clevinger will remain in Goodyear for the next 7-10 days.
“We can control the — I would say intensity — but that’s impossible. But the length of innings and we can set up games for him,” Francona said of Clevinger, who is eligible to leave the injured list on June 6. “And we can transition him to the minor leagues as we ramp him up.”
Following a 15-pitch bullpen session Thursday, Trevor Bauer and the Indians think they have figured out a way to solve the right-hander’s command problems.
Bauer, who has walked 35 batters over 70 2/3 innings of 11 starts, has allowed four or more runs and five homers in four of his last five outings, walking 16 over 30 innings.
“His arm strength is off the charts, we’ve all seen it. For his size, the way he throws the ball ... I think the way (pitching coach) Carl (Willis) put it, we’re trying to get him back to some of the things he was doing last year because we may have veered away a little bit, and he was pretty damn good last year.”
Left-hander Oliver Perez had posted 12 straight scoreless appearances through Thursday with 12 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA from 8.44 to 3.75. ... The Indians entered Friday with a 14-9 record in day games and an 11-15 record at night. ... Today, 4:10, STO; WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM, Carrasco (4-4, 4.30) vs. Morton (4-0, 2.65).