05/11/2013 6:48 PM ET
Hill delivering as key piece of Francona's bullpen
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
DETROIT -- Indians left-hander Rich Hill had not given up a home run in nearly four years until surrendering a solo shot to Detroit's Andy Dirks in the seventh inning on Friday night. If Hill does not yield another blast until 2017, that would be just fine with manager Terry Francona.
"That would be the hope," Francona said with a smirk.
Dirks' shot off Hill marked the first long ball allowed by the lefty since the fourth inning of an outing on July 21, 2009. It was a homerless streak consisting of 51 consecutive appearances, though it is worth noting that Hill missed a significant amount of time during that span due to a right elbow injury.
Streak or no streak, Francona believed early on that Hill would be a good fit for Cleveland's bullpen.
After being hired as the Indians manager this past offseason, Francona put Hill high on his wish list for free-agent acquisitions. Francona managed Hill with the Red Sox and hoped to do the same with the Tribe, but it would need to be on a Minor League contract initially. For months, the manager kept buzzing the left-hander's cell phone in an effort to bring him to Cleveland.
"I had more conversations with Rich than any of our other free-agent guys," Francona said. "[General manager Chris Antonetti] teased the heck out of me. I called Rich at one point late, when he wasn't getting a Major League offer, and I said, 'Hey, Rich, man, if it comes down to it, this is a great place for you.' He was pretty steadfast about wanting a Major League invite.
"I said, 'Where we're situated, we have some guys we don't want to take off the roster, but that would be a non-issue. If you can get past that, this is a great place for you.' It took him a while and then finally he signed, I think when there was no Major League offer. And I think he just got tired of me calling."
Through 11 appearances for the Indians, the 33-year-old Hill had a 3.52 ERA with 10 strikeouts and a .154 opponents' batting average (.091 for righties and .200 for lefties) in 7 2/3 innings. The veteran lefty has enjoyed being part of Cleveland's bullpen, which entered Saturday ranked first in the American League with a 2.61 ERA.
"It's been great. It's a great unit out there," Hill said. "All of the guys have been pulling for each other, and giving each other little pieces of advice here and there on how we can improve and continue to be aggressive and attack the zone and go after hitters late in the game."
Tribe to get another look at Bauer on Monday
DETROIT -- Pitching prospect Trevor Bauer has his critics, but Indians manager Terry Francona is clearly not one of them. On Saturday, Francona spent a significant portion of his meeting with reporters raving about the potential that exists in the right-hander's arm.
Cleveland will get another look at Bauer on Monday, when he is scheduled to come up from Triple-A Columbus to start the second game of a doubleheader with the Yankees.
"I might be the high guy on him," Francona said. "I think this guy is going to be what we're looking for. He just has to develop, and sometimes that takes a while to do."
Bauer -- acquired from Arizona within the complicated three-team, nine-player trade also involving Cincinnati in December -- will be making his third start of the season for the Indians. He also served as a spot starter on April 6 (at Tampa Bay) and May 1 (versus Philadelphia), putting his potential on display, while also showing that there is plenty of room for growth.
Across 10 innings with the Tribe, Bauer (1-1, 2.70 ERA) has allowed just three hits and held batters to a .097 average, but the young righty has also issued 13 walks compared to seven strikeouts. In four starts at Triple-A, Bauer has gone 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 10 walks in 24 2/3 innings.
Earlier this week, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti was in Columbus, Ohio, where he sat down with Bauer to discuss bouncing between the Minors and Majors. Cleveland wanted to make sure that the 22-year-old prospect did not feel the trips to the big leagues were getting in the way of his development.
"Chris was just down there the last three days and visited with him for a pretty long time," Francona said. "Part of the conversation was, I think he asked, 'Do you think this hinders your development?' Because that's the last thing we want to do. And he was all on board with this. As long as he can handle it, I think it's good for his development, as long as he doesn't view it as an interruption."
Throughout his professional career, Bauer's clubhouse manner and unique pregame routine has been well documented and much critiqued. During his time with the D-backs, Bauer was criticized for being stubborn. Francona said Bauer's mentality and approach reminds him a bit of a young Josh Beckett.
"He's a little stubborn," Francona said of Bauer. "But I think there will come a day when we're glad he is. I think there's a part of this kid that knows he's good and that he's going to be good. There's just some development left. ... I think what gets hidden is he's a pretty fierce competitor."
Francona not paying attention to attendance in Cleveland
DETROIT -- Indians manager Terry Francona has not spent much time staring out into the Progressive Field stands, checking to see what the attendance looks like for any given game. All he has been worrying about is guiding the Tribe to the win column as often as possible.
Cleveland ranks last in the Majors in home attendance, but Francona said that does not change his job.
"It's early in the year. It's cold. It's during school," Francona said. "I guess I feel like my responsibility is to try to get our team to play the best baseball we can. And, if you're an Indians fan, you'll be proud of your team. I guess if we get to a point where we're playing like that, and we're backing it up -- not just a hot streak -- our attendance will get better.
"Everybody keeps talking about, 'Let's get back to where it was in the '90s.' That's not fair. The city's not where it was in the '90s. These people have hit some hard times. I don't show up and rate our fans by attendance. I want our team to play good baseball. I know that when I walk around downtown, which I do a lot, people are excited and they're friendly."
Entering Saturday, the Indians ranked last in the Majors with 239,765 fans drawn through 17 home dates. Cleveland was averaging just 14,104 per game. Tampa Bay had the second-lowest average home attendance in the Majors at 18,328.
Asked if the fans who have shown up have been into the games, Francona said he honestly has not noticed.
"I think you'd be shocked at what you don't hear in the dugout," Francons said. "There's times when I leave the dugout, like to take a pitcher out, and it's like, 'Whoa'. When you're in the dugout, it's almost like a cave, You're in your own world and you don't really pay attention to that stuff."
Quote to note
"You can shift all you want. Unless you put somebody in the bleachers, you're not going to have it fully covered."
--Francona, on Tigers sluggers Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera
• Indians right fielder Drew Stubbs was out of the starting lineup on Saturday for the first time since April 14. Francona said it was a scheduled day off for Stubbs, who would likely return to the lineup on Sunday. Center fielder Michael Bourn, who returned from the disabled list on Friday, will "most likely" be out of the lineup Sunday, according to Francona.
"He has played every day," Francona said of Stubbs. "I've been looking for a day to give him a day off, especially with a day game [Sunday]. He'll probably come back and play center [on Sunday]. So this, to me, looked like a nice night to do it. And I tried to thicken our lineup [with lefties] as much as we can to make [Tigers ace Justin] Verlander work for every out he has to get."
• Francona noted that Indians right-hander Brett Myers (on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow injury) threw off the mound in a bullpen session on Saturday. Myers is scheduled to throw off a mound again during the team's upcoming road series in Philadelphia (Tuesday-Wednesday). Reliever Vinnie Pestano (right elbow tendonitis) is slated to resume a throwing program on Sunday in Cleveland.
• Through 33 games this season, the Indians have been on both sides of plenty of blowouts. The average score in Cleveland's 18 wins was 7.3-2.3 and the average score in the club's 15 losses was 2.4-6.6. The Tribe had an identical 18-15 record through 33 games last season.