Posted on February 8, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
Spring training injuries are the worst, and pre-spring-training injuries aren’t much better. The Cleveland Indians are about to learn that first-hand. The club announced on Friday that all-star shortstop Francisco Lindor will miss the next seven to nine weeks with a right calf injury. Such a timeline makes him questionable to return by opening day and could force Lindor to miss the early part of the season.
Lindor reportedly suffered a calf strain while working out in Florida in preparation for the start of spring training next week. He was seen at the Cleveland Clinic and diagnosed with a moderate strain. Lindor has already started the rehab process. If his recovery is quick, there’s a chance he’ll be ready to return by opening day. However, there is no guarantee that will be the case.
The 25-year-old Lindor is coming off the best season of his career. In 2018, he hit .277 with 38 home runs and 92 RBIs, helping him produce an OPS of .871. He was arguably Cleveland’s most valuable player and one of the best overall players in baseball. With the Indians losing the services of Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Yonder Alonso, and Edwin Encarnacion over the offseason, so they may be even more reliant on Lindor to carry the offense in 2019. Even if it’s for a week or two, the Tribe can’t afford to have Lindor out of their lineup this season.
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In the event Lindor isn’t ready for opening day, the Indians will have plenty of potential replacements. Yu Chang, one of Cleveland’s top prospects figures to be first in line. He’s yet to play in the big leagues, but he posted solid numbers in triple-A last year and should be reliable defensively. Max Moroff, acquired from the Pirates this winter, is another option, as is minor league journeyman Eric Stamlets. Of course, none of those three options are proven major leaguers.
Another option would be to move Jose Ramirez to shortstop temporarily. In the short-term, he should have no problem handling the position defensively. However, that would likely require Chang, Stamets, or Moroff playing third base. Journeyman Ryan Flaherty, who will be in camp with the Indians as a non-roster invitee, could be another option to handle the hot corner while Ramirez shifts to shortstop.
Needless to say, none of those options are that appealing. The Indians could pursue a little extra depth on the free agent market. But it would be tough to justify a major move on the off chance that Lindor isn’t back by opening day. With that in mind, the Indians will likely have to survive with an unproven fill-in in the event Lindor misses the early part of the season.
The silver lining for Cleveland is that Lindor at least has a chance to be ready by opening day. If he’s deemed healthy in seven weeks, which would be the best-case scenario, Lindor could be available for the team’s season opener on March 28. Either way, Lindor figures to miss a large chunk of spring training, which could hinder him early in the season. The bottom line is the Indians don’t need this kind of uncertainty surrounding their best offensive player heading into the 2019 season.