The Cleveland Indians want their younger players to be respectful of the veterans, but also, to go through every drill and game with the intensity of someone competing for a roster spot, and that is exactly what they saw from catcher Francisco Mejia.
When the 21-year old backstop took the field, he did so intent on pushing those ahead of him on the depth chart, and that made a very positive impression on the Indians’ coaching staff, particularly manager Terry Francona.
“He wasn’t giving any ground,” Francona said. “We tell the young guys all the time, ‘There’s a way to be respectful of the veterans, but when the game starts or you get on the field, you don’t back down from anybody.’
“‘This is the way you want to make your living. If someone can’t keep up with you, maybe they can’t keep up,’ and he did a good job of that.”
During 11 spring-training games with the Indians this season, Mejia collected eight hits in 19 at-bats, including one double and a pair of home runs, with five runs scored, eight driven in and a .421 batting average.
Additionally, Mejia had a .450 on-base percentage and .789 slugging percentage in the spring.
Only 21 years old, Mejia brought with him an impressive resume to Indians spring training at Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, Arizona.
Over four minor-league seasons at the rookie and Single-A levels, Mejia registered 336 hits in 1,151 at-bats (.292 batting average) with 156 runs scored, and 193 driven in. He has drawn 89 walks against 209 strikeouts.
Additionally, Mejia had 103 extra-base hits with 68 doubles, nine triples and 26 home runs, as well as a 50-game hitting streak in Single-A last year.
Although successful in spring training, the Indians optioned Mejia to Double-A Akron and infielder Nellie Rodriguez to minor-league camp in order for the young up-and-coming players to have more opportunities to sharpen their skills before they advance in the system.
“He’s gotten enough at-bats early in camp, some of them as a DH,” Francona said of Mejia. “He doesn’t need to do that. Since they have games, he needs to start going and catching, but I thought the time here was good for him.
“He got to be with Sandy (Alomar, Jr.) for a month. He got to catch some of the Major League pitchers. I think he knows his skills. Although he has some developing to do, it can translate into helping a Major League team. We’ve all seen what he can do, so I think the experience was really good for him.”