SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Indians closer John Axford pulled off a pretty impressive accomplishment Sunday night, correctly predicting 18 of 18 awards at the Academy Awards. He began making his Oscar picks Sunday afternoon on Twitter, hours before the awards show in Los Angeles.
“It was pretty neat,” said Axford, a film and television major at the University of Notre Dame, who went 14-for-15 in 2013. “I gained like 2,500 new followers on Twitter. It was on Deadspin, Yahoo, a few other things.
“It’s interesting. I guess I’ve done four years now. People tend to follow it more frequently as the years go on. It’s just Oscar picks, but I guess it can get some distance.”
WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 18 for 18! #Oscars
— John Axford (@JohnAxford) March 3, 2014
Axford did not predict all 24 of the awards, but said that’s his next challenge in 2015. NCAA March Madness selections will have to wait, though.
“A lot of people were asking about NCAA brackets,” Axford said. “You don’t want me to do those. I don’t watch college basketball. I just basically go with the numbers and every once in a while I’ll be like, ‘Well maybe this No. 13 seed will win.’ That’s how I do it.”
Manager Terry Francona was asked if he tried his hand at picking the winners Sunday night.
“Two things, one, I didn’t know there was an Oscars, and I was asleep,” he said. “I heard about Axford. I hope he’s as good in saves.”
Axford signed a free-agent contract with the Indians this offseason, knowing he would return to the closer role he lost last year in Milwaukee.
“I think he’s happy being here,” Francona said of Axford, who led the National League with 46 saves in 2011. “I think he’s looking forward to the opportunity to close out games and maybe prove that he can be more of what he was that year when he had 46. And nothing would be better for us than if he could do that.
“He’s got a live arm. He seems like a great kid. Everybody said great things about him.”
Time to grow
The Indians know Francisco Lindor is a top-level prospect. What they don’t know is what type of player the 20-year old shortstop will become.
“You don’t know,” Francona said of Cleveland’s first-round draft pick (eighth overall in 2011) from Puerto Rico, who hit his first home run of the spring Sunday. “I don’t think he’s going to be a power hitter, but can the guy hit the ball out of the ballpark? He’s proved he can do that.
“That’s part of what’s fun. You don’t know what these guys are going to grow into. (Philadelphia’s) Jimmy Rollins grew into hitting some home runs ... kind of a similar body, similar style of play. You just don’t know. What part of this does confidence play into it? And as you reach higher levels, bat speed, intelligence and timing, things like that. You just don’t know.”
Lindor is a projected star and he has shown leadership qualities in Cleveland’s minor-league system, but Francona cautioned that there are still hills to climb before the potential is realized.
“I think everybody feels like he has that type of (leadership) personality, but there’s a way to do it and you can’t skip steps,” Francona said. “I think he’s in a hurry to get to the big leagues, as every young kid is, but there’s a process and you can’t skip steps.”
The Indians announced that 161 of their 162 games will be televised this year.
SportsTime Ohio is scheduled to air 154 games, with FOX (Channel 8) televising one date exclusively -- June 21 vs. Detroit -- and the new Fox Sports 1 airing six. The June 21 nationally televised game is the same date as Omar Vizquel’s Indians Hall of Fame induction at Progressive Field.
The only game that won’t be aired locally will be July 5 vs. Kansas City.
In addition, the team’s flagship radio station, WTAM 1100-AM, will also broadcast 161 games. The only game that won’t be aired is April 16 at Detroit, with WMMS 100.7-FM providing radio coverage that day and simulcasting the majority of Cleveland’s games (150) throughout the season.
The Indians announced that the home opener sold out in 15 minutes. It is the 22nd straight time the home opener has been sold out -- 21 at Jacobs/Progressive Field. Single-game tickets are still available for all of the remaining 80 home games. ... Justin Masterson threw the equivalent of two innings in a simulated game Sunday in Goodyear. ... The Indians will play a B game against the Angels today in Goodyear. ... Today, 3:05 p.m. vs. White Sox at Goodyear Ballpark. McAllister (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. TBA.