8/21/2014 2:01 P.M. ET
Francona walks 'fine line' using 'pen at record pace
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- During a mound visit on Tuesday night, while the Indians were trying to claw back into the game against the Twins, second baseman Jason Kipnis had an emphatic message for manager Terry Francona.
"He's like, 'We're going to win this game,'" Francona said on Thursday morning. "I told him, 'I'll keep bringing pitchers in all game. If you guys are going to keep scoring, I'm with you.' I kind of felt a sense of urgency. It was like, 'If these guys want to keep playing, I'll help.'"
Francona then chuckled.
"I probably overdid it a bit," he added.
In Cleveland's 7-5 comeback win over Minnesota that night, Francona used seven relievers, including four in the seventh inning alone. Francona has been utilizing his eight-man bullpen army at a record pace this season, but the manager has tried hard to keep his relief corps as fresh as possible at the same time.
Heading into Thursday's game against the Twins, Francona had used his bullpen a Major League-leading 446 times. The Rockies ranked second overall with 413 total relief appearances and the Angels (397) ranked second in the American League. Through it all, the Tribe bullpen had posted an AL-best 21-percent inherited runners scoring rate and the league's third-best ERA (2.85).
"I think that's a tribute to those guys," Francona said of the group's strong numbers amidst the high usage. "I also think that we have worked hard to balance pitching them enough where we can win, and not overdoing it. That's a fine line."
To Francona's point, the Indians entered Thursday as the only team in baseball with four relievers with at least 55 appearances (Bryan Shaw, 61; Cody Allen, 59; Marc Rzepczynski, 57; Scott Atchison, 55), but the Indians had no relievers in the AL's top 10 for innings pitched. Overall, the Tribe bullpen's rate of 16.4 pitches per inning was the sixth-lowest mark in the league.
At Cleveland's current pace of 3.6 relief appearances per team game -- a figure that could rise after rosters expand on Sept. 1 -- the team would log around 578 combined relief games by season's end. That would shatter the AL record of 540 (set by Francona's 2013 Indians) and come within range of eclipsing the Major League record of 588 (2007 Nationals).
"I don't see anybody on fumes out there," Francona said. "We watch so carefully."
Tito thinks of Schilling during Ice Bucket Challenge
MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians manager Terry Francona had a good friend on his mind as a cooler filled with ice and cold water was dumped over his bald head on Wednesday night.
Francona, along with the rest of the Cleveland coaching staff, participated in the ALS ice bucket challenge that has been sweeping the nation via social media. Francona took part with his thoughts on former pitcher Curt Schilling, who revealed this week that he is in remission from oral cancer and has been an advocate for ALS charities for several years.
"The whole time I was doing it," Francona said, "and I don't want to get all emotional, but I was thinking of Curt Schilling. I know how near and dear the fight to find a cure for this is to him. I saw him. He was on TV and radio [Wednesday]. I got to hear him. That is what I was thinking about the entire time."
Francona and his coaches completed the challenge on the visiting dugout steps after the Tribe's 5-0 win over the Twins on Wednesday, and the team informed Minnesota of the event to make sure there was no confusion over what might have looked like a postgame celebration. Earlier this week, Indians team president Mark Shapiro, as well as a handful of the team's players, also did the challenge.
Red Sox manager John Farrell -- a good friend of the Tribe's skipper -- initially challenged Francona to participate in the charitable cause. The ice bucket challenge has involved having ice water dumped on a person's head, and the participant is also encouraged to donate to an ALS charity of their choice.
Schilling, who pitched for Francona in both Philadelphia and Boston, heads Curt's Pitch for ALS, which is a charity aimed at raising funds to help find a cure for the disease.
"The idea behind it is awesome," Francona said. "Because of how I feel about Schill, and what he's going through, the timing of it was impeccable. ... The timing for me personally was really rewarding."
Of course, Francona could not end the conversation without working in a shot at Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash.
"He was the biggest baby," Francona said with a smirk. "He was grumpy all day."
Quote to note
"It absolutely feels like last year. We've just been playing better, cleaner baseball. Our pitchers are going after the strike zone. Our defense is playing better. We're not making two or three errors a game where it's costing us runs."
-- Indians utility man Mike Aviles, on the Tribe's recent hot streak
• Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher, who underwent season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both knees on Wednesday, will remain in Los Angeles for the first segment of his rehab. It is yet to be determined when Swisher will rejoin the Tribe in Cleveland. Swisher is expected to need at least eight to 10 weeks for a full recovery.
• Francona noted on Thursday that outfielder David Murphy, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique injury, has resumed light core exercises as part of his rehab. Murphy is expected to be sidelined until at least mid-September.
• Double-A Akron outfielder Anthony Gallas (a native of Strongsville, Ohio) went 1-for-4 with a home run in the RubberDucks' 6-5 win over Altoona on Wednesday. Gallas has hit .320 with an organization-leading 23 home runs through 120 games this season.
• Congratulations are in order for Francona, who became a grandfather last week. Francona's daughter, Leah, welcomed a baby girl into the Francona family.