Sports
Home / MLB

MLB -- Unlikely duo may patch Indians' holes in the outfield

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-08-22 13:20:12

BOSTON -- With the notable exception of Michael Brantley, the outfield has been a medical and statistical wasteland for the Cleveland Indians this season.

Cleveland's center fielders rank 28th in the majors with a combined .628 OPS, and the right fielders had an aggregate 12 home runs and a .399 slugging percentage entering Tuesday night's game at Fenway Park. Bradley Zimmer (shoulder) and Tyler Naquin (hip) are recuperating from season-ending surgery, and Lonnie Chisenhall 's hamstring issues have been persistent enough to temper expectations that he'll be back anytime soon.

The front office tried to upgrade the product by acquiring Leonys Martin from the Detroit Tigers at the non-waiver deadline July 31. He lasted a mere six games and 15 at-bats before a life-threatening bacterial infection derailed his season. There's no timetable for his return.

So what's a manager to do? Keep running out the names at his disposal, pat a few guys on the fanny, and hope the production exceeds the resumes.

While Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez were going a combined 0-for-8 Tuesday, the Indians got some big contributions from complementary sources. Melky Cabrera went 3-for-4 with a home run, and Greg Allen was strong on both sides of the ball in a 6-3 victory over Boston at Fenway Park.

It was the Indians' second straight win over the Red Sox, who are in the midst of only their second three-game losing streak this season.

This one was a statement game on behalf of veteran players who keep hanging around for the love of the game, and prospects who show flashes of promise through a combination of confidence and opportunity. In the first two games of the series, Cabrera and Allen are a combined 8-for-13 with three home runs.

Cabrera, 34, was one of baseball's premier hit collectors during his peak. In 2011, he batted .305 with 201 hits and 102 runs scored for the Kansas City Royals. But his reputation took a hit in 2012 when he received a 50-game PED suspension and participated in a fake Web site scam in an attempt to cover his tracks. He even relinquished his 2012 batting title with the San Francisco Giants because he didn't want to benefit from an achievement that he considered "tainted."

After stops with the Blue Jays, White Sox and Royals, Cabrera couldn't get a sniff on the free-agent market last winter. He was all but begging for a job when the Indians signed him to a minor-league contract in April.

Even then, opportunity was short-lived. The Indians designated Cabrera for assignment in late May, only to bring him back in July because of the ongoing health issues of Chisenhall and Zimmer. But even in those uncertain times, Cabrera refused to concede he might be done.

"That really didn't cross my mind," he said through a translator. "At that time, you really just can't let your head down, so I didn't. I was home working in the cage. I was hitting. I was going to the gym every single day just hoping for another opportunity. Thank God, the Indians called me and gave me that opportunity."

During his recent hot stretch, Cabrera has homered in three straight games and in five of his last nine. He's found a comfort zone in the Cleveland clubhouse, where the Indians value his presence rather than dwell on his past.

"He's a good teammate," Francona said. "He cares about the right things, and he's given us a lot of stability out there."

Allen, 25, is still in the process of discovering whether he belongs. The Indians regarded him as an intriguing prospect when they selected him in the sixth round out of San Diego State University in 2014. But Allen still needs to develop consistency as a switch-hitter to go along with his plus speed and extraordinary glove in center.

The last two weeks have been promising. Allen's 15-game hitting streak ties him with shortstop Francisco Lindor for the second longest by an Indians player this season.

"He's using the whole field and keeping the ball out of the air to left field, so he's on balance," Francona said. "And when he gets something inside that he can handle, he's driving it a little bit. He's staying through the ball so much better, hitting line drives up the middle and to left field."

It's a rare night when Jackie Bradley Jr. isn't the best defensive center fielder on the premises at Fenway Park, but Allen turned in two acrobatic catches Tuesday. He slammed into the wall to steal extra bases from Xander Bogaerts, and ranged deep into the triangle to rob Mitch Moreland in the seventh inning.

"You can't really count him out," said Shane Bieber, the starter and winning pitcher for Cleveland. "He's so fast and gets such good jumps and has such a good feel for playing the outfield, he's always got a chance."

Realistically, the Indians are pushing their luck to expect Cabrera and Allen to keep performing at this level, so they're keeping their options open for another trade. San Francisco's Andrew McCutchen, a pending free agent for a club that has faded from contention, seems like a natural fit. But Indians officials privately express doubt that McCutchen would be exposed to waivers and go through all 15 National League teams and much of the AL and still be available when their turn rolls around.

So Allen plays center, and Cabrera is logging the bulk of the time in right, and they're enjoying the ride for however long it lasts.

"This is a tremendous opportunity for me, and I'm really thankful to the Indians for giving it to me,'' Cabrera said.

He can rest assured that the feeling is mutual.

Most Popular

Highlights

Top
BACK TO THE TOP
Copyright 2015 - . All rights reserved.
FOLLOW US