The Cleveland Indians brought back nearly two dozen from last year’s team that was one win away from their first World Series Championship since 1948, but the additions they made have added a veteran presence in the locker room.
While first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion and left-handed reliever Boone Logan drew the bulk of the headlines, the Indians also signed veteran outfielder Austin Jackson, who despite coming off of a serious knee injury last season, made the opening-day roster for the Indians.
“I thought he did a good job of getting himself ready and being prepared, but we don’t have to overwhelm him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I think he’s going to be a very good complementary player, and he knows how to play. He’s a good veteran. I think he’s going to bring something to our ball club.
“Once you see a guy’s healthy enough to move around. He didn’t get tested. That didn’t change, but that doesn’t mean he can’t make the plays. You watch him move around, and he’s moving fine. He may not be as fast as he used to be, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to be a good outfielder.”
Over 914 career games at the Major League level, Jackson smacked 971 hits, including 182 doubles, 49 triples and 55 home runs, in 3,573 career at-bats. Along with a .272 career batting average, Jackson scored 546 runs and driven in 314.
Additionally, Jackson drew 315 walks and collected 108 stolen bases in parts of five seasons with the Detroit Tigers (2010-2014), two with the Seattle Mariners and Chicago Cubs and the 2016 season with the Chicago White Sox.
“We’d like him to play against left-handers for sure,” Francona said. “Then, depending on the make-up of our club, we’d probably…It’s just hard to answer right now because I don’t think we know the make-up of our club. He’s never been a huge split guy for most of his career, but you take your team too and see what makes sense.”
Jackson provides the Indians with depth in the outfield, as well as the ability to match up well against a wide variety of opposing pitchers.
“I don’t think Guyer has to just always play against lefties, so sometimes, we worry so much about our lineups and perfect lineups,” Francona said. “Sometimes, it’s not going to be perfect, and in the meantime, getting some of those guys at-bats is good for them. If Guyer faces some righties, he’s going to be more dangerous against lefties.
“When a left-handed hitter faces a lefty, you have to have good mechanics, or they don’t just get you out, they embarrass you. Then, when you face a righty, if you just face the opposite side, you can get into some bad habits. When a lefty faces a lefty, you better stay in there because you’re not just going to make an out, you’re going to look silly.”
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