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Return to normalcy and 4 other things about the Cleveland Indians

The Plain Dealer  Cleveland logo The Plain Dealer Cleveland 5/12/2021 Paul Hoynes, cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Some normalcy will be returning to the Indians’ dugout on Wednesday afternoon against the Cubs.

Manager Terry Francona told reporters Tuesday that the team’s Tier 1 players and staff will reach the required 85% vaccination rate for the coronavirus on Wednesday. It means some of MLB’s health and safety protocols can be rolled back for the Indians.

“We just had a meeting and as of Wednesday we will qualify,” said Francona. “And there’s a number of ‘easements’ ... is that the right word? It’s probably a Realty term, but I think you get my point.

“You can back off wearing a mask in the dugout. Guys can play cards on the plane as long as they have a mask on. They can eat indoors (restaurants). It’s helpful to guys getting some sense of normalcy back.”

MLB started the week with 12 of its 30 teams having reached 85%. The number is expected to increase by the end of the week.

No. 1: Getting to know you

The battery of Shane Bieber and Austin Hedges made their second appearance this season on Tuesday night against the Cubs.

In Bieber’s first six starts Roberto Perez was his catcher. Perez, however, will miss the next eight to 10 weeks after breaking his right ring finger. Hedges did catch Bieber a couple of times during spring training.

“Because of Bieber and Roberto’s relationship from working together, it was kind of off the charts,” said Francona. “To expect that off the get-go is not fair. But I think Hedges is just fine.

“I’ve been so pleased with the way he’s run the game even before Roberto got hurt when he’d get a chance to catch. But now that he’s been in there two out of three, his energy, his attention to detail is really, really good. He really cares about getting his pitchers through the inning and through the game.”

Hedges caught Bieber on May 5 in Kansas City. Bieber went six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) with one walk and nine strikeouts. The Indians won, 5-4, but Bieber wasn’t involved in the decision.

This is Hedges’ fifth year in the big leagues. He said he caught Bieber a handful of times spring training, but the game against Kansas City was the first time they had a game plan.

“There’s definitely a lot of learning there — what he likes to go to and why and I think that just comes with time and experience,” said Hedges. “So today is going to be a good opportunity to learn him even more so moving forward we can just be flowing back and forth with each other.”

This will be Bieber’s first start against the Cubs. Hedges, acquired from San Diego last year, has caught against them before so that should help Bieber.

No. 2: Bounce back ability

The Indians have been no-hit twice in their first 34 games of the season. Each time they’ve bounced back the next day with a win.

Hedges was asked what that says about the Indians.

“Nobody’s going 162-0,” said Hedges. “The fact of the matter is we’re just trying to win a division. We can go out and get no-hit 20 times, but if we win the division and we make a playoff run, nobody’s talking about that.”

A reporter, frazzled from already covering two no-hitters, requested that the Indians try to avoid not getting no-hit 20 times. Hedges smiled and said, “We’re not going to get no-hit 20 times, but if it would guarantee winning the division, I bet you’d take it.”

No. 3: Now hitting in the second spot

Jake Bauers made his second appearance this season in the No.2 spot in the lineup on Tuesday. Francona has used five players there with Cesar Hernandez leading the way with 20 starts. Hernandez moved into the leadoff spot on April 26.

Francona said he wanted to balance his lineup and noted that Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay has been tough on right-handed hitters. Bauers, who bats left-handed, is hitting .333 (7-for-21) with four walks and three RBI in his last 10 games.

“I’ve kind of picked my spots with our No. 2 hitter,” said Francona. “This guy’s pretty tough on righties. Knowing Jake, he’ll take a walk, also. So there’s a decent chance he’s on base a couple of times.

“There are times where we’re trying to have balance in our lineup, also. So we’re trying to accomplish 3-4 things and certainly win the game.”

No. 4: Finally

Shortstop Javier Baez was scratched from the Cubs’ lineup with lower back pain. Eric Sogard moved from second to short and Ildemano Vargas came off the bench to play second. ... The Indians continue to be a team of extremes. They entered Tuesday night’s game at 18-14, trailing the first-place White Sox by one game in the AL Central. Yet they were hitting .210 as a team with the league’s fewest hits. As for bouncing back with wins after being victimized by two no-hitters, Francona said, “I hope you’re not asking me that like four or five more times. I think we’re inconsistent offensively, but I think our guys play and they don’t pout, which I appreciate. We knew going in that there’s times when it’s hard for us offensively, we know that. ... Ultimately what’s important is what our record is, and how you get there sometimes is a little different than maybe you think it should be.” ... Since Hernandez moved into the leadoff spot, the Indians entered Tuesday’s game with a 9-3 record.

New Indians face masks for sale: Here’s where you can buy Cleveland Indians-themed face coverings for coronavirus protection, including a single mask ($14.99) and a 3-pack ($24.99). All MLB proceeds donated to charity.

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