CLEVELAND — Thanks to an injury to outfielder Abe Almonte, the Indians’ top prospect, outfielder Bradley Zimmer, is getting his first opportunity in the big leagues.
With Almonte (right biceps strain) heading to the 10-day disabled list, Cleveland promoted Zimmer from Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday.
Zimmer, a first-round draft pick in 2014, is batting .294 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 33 games for the Clippers. He got off to a slow start, but hit .419 (13-for-31) with two homers and five RBIs over his last eight games.
“One, there has to be a need. And, two, when there is a need, we want the guy to be in a really good spot, like for a younger player,” Francona said of the decision to promote the 24-year-old Zimmer, who made his big league debut Tuesday, starting in center field and batting ninth. “By all accounts, this is as good a place as he’s been in. With the timing fitting, we thought it made sense.”
Zimmer said he was in an ice bath following Columbus’ game Monday at around 11:30 p.m. when he was called to the office of Clippers manager Chris Tremie and informed of the promotion.
“Honestly, that moment, it’s hard to put into words how that moment was,” Zimmer said. “The feeling is something I’ll never forget. I’m still enjoying it.”
Zimmer said he met with Francona shortly after arriving at Progressive Field.
“He basically just said ‘congratulations, enjoy the moment’ and just kind of took some weight off my shoulders,” Zimmer said. “He just said, ‘Go out there and be Bradley Zimmer and do what you can tonight and enjoy it.’”
“I told him that today could be the most exciting day of his life. ‘Enjoy it,’” Francona said. “And then the quicker that the guys know that he cares about winning ... and that’s not just getting hits. The perceived little things are big things here. I think he understands that.”
Zimmer was a candidate to make the Opening Day roster after an impressive performance during his first big league training camp this spring.
“Obviously, I wanted to be here, but it was more excitement for me knowing what I was able to do in my time there — show the staff and these guys that I’m playing with now what I’m able to do and what I’m able to contribute to this team winning,” he said. “Ultimately, that’s why I’m here is to help these guys win. Really, that’s it.”
In addition to placing Almonte on the injured list and promoting Zimmer, the Indians recalled reliever Shawn Armstrong from Columbus, while optioning infielder/outfielder Yandy Diaz back to the Clippers. Cleveland also designated minor league pitcher Carlos Frias for assignment.
Consistent playing time was difficult to find for Diaz, who in two stints with the Indians (18 games) hit .203 (13-for-64) with three RBIs.
“We tried to explain to him that all the things we talked to him about — we keep ramming it down his throat, defense, defense, defense,” Francona said. “We’re not mad at him. We just want him to understand how much we put a premium on that side of the field, too.”
Carlos Carrasco’s next start will be pushed back a couple of days, but the right-hander avoided a trip to the DL after leaving his outing Monday night with tightness in his left pectoral muscle.
Francona said Carrasco would return to the rotation Tuesday in Cincinnati.
“I think Carlos feels like he’ll be more than ready. The trainers are fine with that,” Francona said.
- The Indians have converted their first 11 save opportunities, accounting for the longest streak by a Cleveland bullpen to begin a season since the save became an official statistic in 1969.
- Cleveland is 13-0 when owning the lead after six innings.