CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Indians have played three intrasquad games in Spring Training II at Progressive Field. In each of those games Francisco Lindor has hit third in manager Terry Francona’s lineup.
Francona said Sunday that Lindor, one of the top leadoff hitters in baseball over the last 2 1/2 years, most likely will open the season in the No. 3 spot in the lineup on July 24. New second baseman Cesar Hernandez seems to be headed for the leadoff spot.
Lindor has hit 126 doubles and 103 homers over the last three seasons. In that stretch he’s hit 32 or more homers per season. A move to the No. 3 spot should give him an opportunity to drive in more runs. His top RBI year in that stretch was 2018 with 92.
“I think we’re probably going to hit him third,” Francona told reporters on a Zoom call Sunday afternoon. “That would be my sneaking suspicion. We may end up lining up those four switch-hitters one, two, three, four.”
Hernandez, signed as a free agent this winter, has spent much of his career hitting at the top of the order.
“Last year was a little bit of an aberration for Cesar Hernandez,” said Francona. “He can get on base and he can run. He’s not going to lead the league in stolen bases. But he can hit from both sides, he can walk and he can run the bases.”
Lindor hit .284 (170-for-598) with 40 doubles, 32 homers and 74 RBI last year. He scored 101 runs and stole 22 bases in 27 attempts.
Francona said that part of the decision had to do with his conversations with Lindor.
“It was just talking to him about comfort level,” said Francona, “where he’s been in the past, where he is now. He was quick to say I’ll hit anywhere we want, which I appreciate. You appreciate when players say that, but I also want to do what I think is best for our team.”
Hernandez hit .279 (171-for-612) with 31 doubles, 14 homers and 71 RBI last year for the Phillies. He scored 77 runs and stole nine bases in 11 attempts.
Francona said Saturday that he’s been thinking about hitting Hernandez, Jose Ramirez, Lindor and Carlos Santana, all switch-hitters, in the top four spots of the lineup.
Lindor, in 364 games, is a .280 (432-for-1,534) hitter in the leadoff spot with 99 doubles, 89 homers and 212 RBI. In 162 games in the No. 3 spot, he’s a .308 (195-for-634) with 34 doubles, 17 homers and 84 RBI.
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