September 14, 2014

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Indians notes: Shortstop and top prospect Francisco Lindor making early impression, but not ready for majors just yet

Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor throws to first base against the Cincinnati Reds during an exhibition baseball game Thursday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor throws to first base against the Cincinnati Reds during an exhibition baseball game Thursday. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Indians manager Terry Francona considers shortstop Francisco Lindor, the organization’s top prospect, major league ready in the field.

At the plate, it’s a different story, though it’s tough to tell from the way Lindor is swinging the bat this spring.

In five exhibition games, Lindor, 20, is hitting .333 (3-for-9) with a double, a home run, four RBIs and four runs. Of his three hits, two are of the game-winning variety.

He hit a combined .303 with 22 doubles, two homers, 34 RBIs and 25 stolen bases in 104 games last year with Advanced Class A Carolina and Double-A Akron.

“Defensively, he can play with anybody,” Francona said of the Puerto Rican native. “He could probably keep his head above water, offensively. I don’t think that’s the goal. The goal is for him impact the game on the bases and in the batter’s box, and the more games, the more reps they get, the better they are.

“Every level you move up, there’s the need to make more adjustments. That’s why you don’t see guys skipping levels too much.”

Though there’s been much discussion of Lindor’s timetable to the big leagues, he has yet to play at the Triple-A level, where he is expected to open the regular season as Columbus’ starting shortstop.

Lindor is aware that the Indians already have a pretty good player standing in his way — two-time All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera, whose contract with Cleveland expires at the end of 2014.

“I’m trying to learn as much as I can from him,” Lindor said. “I could care less if he signs (a new contract). If he signs, that’s great. He’s taking care of his family. I’m just trying to learn from one of the best. He’s one of the best at what he does.”

Ready or not

It was a lesson to learn for bullpen candidate Nick Hagadone, who was unprepared to pitch Wednesday against the Mariners in Peoria when the Indians called on him. He told reporters prior to Thursday’s game that the mistake would never happen again.

“We had already hoped he (had learned),” Francona said. “It’s not perfect, but if he learns from that on March 5, we can live with it. I’d rather it be March 5 than April 5.”

Hagadone, who split the season between Cleveland and Columbus, tinkered with his mechanics in the offseason after posting a 5.46 ERA in 36 appearances for the Indians.

“There’s not as many moving parts and you can see he’s not thinking through his delivery as much,” Francona said. “He’s a big strong kid and he throws up to 97 (mph). He has margin for error. If he can work ahead, hitters have to respect what he does. You’re not going to see a ton of balls squared up. When he’s running into problems is when he falls (behind). Then all of a sudden hitters shrink the strike zone and it gets more difficult.”

Bauer’s power

Fifth starter candidate Trevor Bauer seems to be throwing harder this spring.

“I think that’s a byproduct of having a better delivery and getting more comfortable with his delivery,” Francona said of Bauer, who changed his delivery this winter along with a number of elements in his quirky pregame routine. “With that comes confidence.”

While Bauer has been clocked as high as 98 mph this spring, he is still struggling with control during the early stages of the exhibition season. In three appearances (five innings), Bauer has walked three batters and allowed two runs on five hits (one homer).

Zach the Knife

The Indians have been working right-hander Zach McAllister on pitching more inside to right-handed hitters. Righties hit .266 off him last year with a .430 slugging percentage, while lefties hit .250 with a .398 slugging percentage.

“He did a really good job against left-handers (last year),” Francona said, “but you’ve got to get some of those righties from extending their arms, because when he does that, it’ll open up the plate for everything else.”

Roundin’ third

  • Right-hander Danny Salazar is scheduled to pitch in game conditions for the first time when he takes the mound in a simulated game in Goodyear today. Salazar has been limited to bullpens this spring as the Indians lighten his load in preparation for his first full season in a big league rotation.
  • Today, 3:05 vs. Cubs (Cubs Park, Mesa). Carlos Carrasco (1-0, 2.25 ERA) vs. Jackson 0-1, 4.50).

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.