He wants the new-look and revitalized Indians ready to roll.
Francona, his eight seasons with the Boston Red Sox fading with each passing day, will address Cleveland’s players today for the first time before sending them onto the field for their first full-squad workout. Francona has had plenty of practice at such gatherings, and he understands this one holds special meaning.
“For me it’s the biggest meeting of the year because it sets the tone for how we’re going to do things,” Francona said Thursday after the Indians went through drills under abundant Arizona sunshine. “It is an important day. I’m not a big meeting person, but tomorrow is an important one.”
And not just because it’s the first one.
Francona wants the Indians, revamped by an unexpected spending spree this winter by Cleveland ownership, to embrace what lies ahead. He wants them to appreciate the value of each day and not take a single one for granted. He knows their start could go a long way in determining how the Indians finish.
Francona wouldn’t reveal many details of his planned speech, but divulged its theme.
“In a nutshell, ‘we don’t want to reinvent the wheel,’” he said. “We just want to do it better than other people and there’s ways to do that.”
The 53-year-old Francona has been revived after a season as a broadcaster. He’s back doing what he loves most — being a big league manager. He missed hanging out in the clubhouse, sitting on a table and talking to players or standing on a back field watching his relievers throw their bullpen sessions.
Francona breathes baseball, and he wants his players to do the same. That’s why some of his speech will center on them making the most of every moment they get on the field.
“That’s an important part for our staff, trying to create an atmosphere that these guys want to show up every day and do the right thing,” he said. “That’s a really important thing and you don’t want to take it for granted. It’s easy on a day like today when it’s 65 and sunny. But there are going to be days where it’s windy and rainy and you want the guys to go out there and fight through it.
“You want to go out there and do the right thing.”
When Francona was hired in October, he inherited a team that had collapsed in the second half of last season. The Indians lost 94 games and the outlook for 2013 wasn’t promising.
To the surprise of just about everyone, the Indians invested $117 million in guaranteed money on free agents, landing outfielders Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn — two of the top available players — and giving Cleveland fans hope that their team can return to relevancy after several tough seasons.
Bourn, an All-Star with Atlanta last season, arrived at the team’s training complex Thursday to undergo a physical before he can officially sign his four-year, $48 million contract. Bourn is expected to participate in today’s workout and then will be introduced at a news conference shortly afterward.
Bourn’s arrival has already triggered a domino effect through Cleveland’s projected lineup. Francona intends to play the speedster — he led the NL in steals three times — in center field with Michael Brantley in left and Drew Stubbs, acquired in a December trade from Cincinnati, in right field. Swisher will move from the outfield to first base with Mark Reynolds, another new face, assuming the full-time designated hitter role.
Francona said Jason Giambi, who recently signed a minor league contract, could make the roster as a pinch hitter and part-time DH. The 42-year-old Giambi interviewed for the Colorado manager’s job before deciding to resume his playing career. He eventually signed with the Indians, and Francona couldn’t be happier to have him around.
“I feel like it’s an honor that he’s in our camp, that’s how strongly I feel about this guy,” Francona said. “He’s everything you want in a player. He’s got some mileage. He’s a good teammate. He respects the game. He wants to win. Even when he’s on the other team you always respected him, you just didn’t want to see him up at the plate.
“He might be one of the most respected guys in the game.”
- Right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer insists a rap song he performed called “You Don’t Know Me” is not a response to any critical comments made by former Arizona teammate and catcher Miguel Montero, who recently said Bauer didn’t listen to him when they were with the Diamondbacks. Bauer claims he recorded the song, which was posted on his Twitter account Wednesday night, in December.
- Francona said he has always despised intrasquad scrimmages, so the Indians will not have any for the first time in decades.
- Reliever Joe Smith, slowed by a sore oblique muscle, did some throwing and reported no problems. Smith expects to be working off a mound soon.