Posted on April 20, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Cleveland Indians Francisco Lindor
Image via sports.yahoo.com

A few weeks into the season, the Cleveland Indians finally have their best player back in the fold. The club activated shortstop Francisco Lindor on Saturday prior to a doubleheader with the Atlanta Braves. The Indians have fared well without him, but they’ll need Lindor if they’re ever going to compete with the elite teams in the American League. To make room for Lindor on the active roster, the Indians designated veteran DH Hanley Ramirez for assignment.

Lindor hurt his calf in early February while preparing for the start of spring training. After the injury, it was up in the air whether he’d make it back by opening day. Of course, all hope for opening day was lost when Lindor suffered an ankle sprain during the last week of March. A few weeks and three minor league rehab games later, Lindor is ready to get back on the field in a major league game.

“It’s been a long three months,” Lindor said upon being activated. “I miss the game. I miss the things within the game. It’s an honor, [and] it’s a privilege to be healthy. It’s a blessing, and I ain’t taking it for granted. I used to take health for granted. Not [anymore].”

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Naturally, Lindor will be eased back into the lineup. He’ll get some off days and be in the lineup as a DH in his first few days back. Indians manager Terry Francona says his whole body needs time to get back up to speed, not just his ankle. The skipper said the club will exercise “common sense” with regard to Lindor’s playing time immediately after his return.

That being said, the Indians haven’t gotten much offensive production from their backup shortstops early in the season. Third baseman Jose Ramirez has also struggled to get going thus far. The Indians need Lindor to hit the ground running in order to jumpstart their offense. In fact, they may need Lindor to hit in a different part of the order after serving as the team’s leadoff hitter during his breakout season last year.

“We have a different team from last year,” said Lindor. “Where Terry needs me, I’m going to hit. If he needs me second, I’ll hit second. If he needs me third, I’ll hit third. If he needs me last, and hopefully he doesn’t need me last, but I will hit last. Wherever he needs me, I’m going to be there and I’m going to be Francisco Lindor. I’m going to be the same player regardless of where I’m hitting.”

As mentioned, the Indians have survived the first few weeks of the season without Lindor. They opened Saturday in first place in the AL Central. However, they’ve yet to thrive or play up to their full potential. The Indians have scored the second-fewest runs in the American League this year.

As good as Cleveland’s pitching staff is, the Tribe needs its lineup to get going. With Lindor back and veteran Jason Kipnis being activated from the IL earlier this week, the Indians are close to being at full strength. There are no more excuses for the Indians not playing up to their full potential. It’s now time for the Tribe to kick things into gear and impose their will on a weak AL Central.

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