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Last time out, the Cleveland Guardians were struggling to keep pace with the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. Well, after winning a series at home against the Toronto Blue Jays and taking one game from the White Sox in Chicago, the Guardians are 15-15 and are climbing back into the thick of things.
Unfortunately, a COVID-19 outbreak in the clubhouse could throw a huge wrench in that as Cleveland heads to Minneapolis to take on the Twins today. Guardians manager Terry Francona is among those out of the rotation due to COVID-19, and there are now questions about who will take over in his absence. Today, we'll break that down along with Josh Naylor's continued resurgence and Franmil Reyes's comeback in this week's edition of key takeaways.
But, before we get started, a little housekeeping note – on May 26, Right Down Euclid is partnering with Platform Beer Co. to have the first Right Down Euclid Community Happy Hour! It'll be from 3 p.m. EST to 6 p.m. EST and all are welcome to come! Plus, for the first 50 people that arrive, drinks are on Platform!
Register here via Facebook – looking forward to meeting some of you there and celebrating the community that makes this possible!
Let's knock this story out of the park – starting with who will take over for Francona.
Who will take over for Terry Francona for Cleveland in Minnesota against the Twins?
On Wednesday, the MLB announced that Cleveland's series finale in Chicago against the White Sox had been postponed because of multiple positive COVID-19 tests among the Guardians’ traveling party. It's the club's second COVID outbreak in less than three weeks. The first news of the outbreak came when it was announced that manager Terry Francona tested positive and would not manage Wednesday’s game. Also testing positive are bench coach DeMarlo Hale and other uniformed personnel and traveling support staff. It was initially announced that Hale, the bench coach, would replace Francona to manage Wednesday’s game.
As of Tuesday morning, no Guardians players had been tested. So, unless they show symptoms of COVID it’s unlikely they will be. But, Cleveland is now in a bit of a scramble as the team is expected to soldier on as they head to Minneapolis to take on the division-leading Twins. Right now, it’s unknown how many other members of the coaching staff and support staff have tested positive, but the front office was already making plans to dip into their minor-league system to add coaches against Minnesota. Again, Hale was the contingency plan in the event Francona was unavailable.
But, with Hale also out, it's uncertain who will be the skipper for the Guardians this weekend. In 2020, first-base coach Sandy Alomar stepped in for Francona for 60 games. Alomar led the then-Indians to the postseason, but the team hasn’t reported his status for this weekend. Third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh, meanwhile, has a resume of managing in the Cleveland minor-league system, but like Alomar, his health status has not been announced.
The Guardians aren’t expected to name a temporary manager until Thursday’s off day in Minneapolis. If they are unable to find a healthy option to manage the club from their primary staff, here are their minor-league managers: Andy Tracy in Columbus, Rouglas Odor in Akron, Greg DiCenzo with Lake County and Omir Santos in Lynchburg. If Hale was the only coach impacted, don't be surprised if Alomar gets the nod in Francona's stead. But, if Alomar remains unavailable, then it should be Sarbaugh. If neither can go, then it feels logical to say Tracy would be the next man up.
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Guardians first baseman Josh Naylor has been sensational this past week for Cleveland. After battling back from a gruesome injury, he could be vital to the Guardians long-term.
The continued resurgence of Josh Naylor makes him more of a necessity long-term for Cleveland
The White Sox were up 8-2 against the Guardians in the ninth inning on Monday night. The game should have been over. Although Cleveland had closed the gap to four after a White Sox error, much of the crowd had already left their seats at Guaranteed Rate Field when Guardians’ first baseman, Josh Naylor, walked up to the plate. With the bases loaded and two outs on the board, the lefty dug in and placed the barrel on the first pitch from Chicago's Liam Hendricks, a 99-mph bullet at the top of the box. 421 feet later, the grand slam finally hit the ground as the Guardians rounded the bases to tie the game.
Naylor, who’s having the best season of his career so far, wasn’t ready to clock out just yet though. After the White Sox tied the game at 9-9 in the bottom of the tenth inning, the Guardians lineup got back around to Naylor in the top of the eleventh. The lefty slugger stepped into the box, this time with two men on base. Two outs on the board again, the situation felt similar to the setup for his ninth-inning bomb.
The lefty totaled eight runners batted in on the night, all of which came in the eighth inning or later. It was the first time in MLB history (since the RBI statistic began being recorded in 1920) that any player had ever hit for eight RBIs in the eighth inning or later. After Monday, the Guardians first baseman is hitting .338 on the season and has an OPS of .944, which would be 12th best in the MLB if he had the required number of at-bats.
Last week, a reader asked the Right Down Euclid mailbag whether or not Naylor was a real part of Cleveland's future. Since that question, Naylor has been on a hot streak and it's a continued sign of his recovery after suffering a gruesome injury last season. If anything, this just continually reaffirms his pedigree as a top prospect and also cements his status as a vital piece as the Guardians continue to retool into a legitimate contender in the American League.
Guardians slugger Franmil Reyes has struggled all April long. But, things might be starting to come together for him in May.
Finding Franmil Reyes' offensive consistency continues to be a work in progress for Cleveland but it's starting to trend upwards
You may have heard plenty about it but Cleveland slugger Franmil Reyes is in a slump for most of April. Francona dropped Reyes to sixth in the lineup in an attempt to help jump-start the slugger’s bat. But no matter what adjustments were made, Reyes continued to struggle and his bat slipped further and further into a slumber.
Reyes didn’t play in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against San Diego. In the second game, he started in right field and reached base three times, twice on singles and once on a hit by pitch. But, in the third inning of the Guardians’ doubleheader nightcap against the Blue Jays, Reyes might've woken his bat up. Reyes crushed a ball 110.8 mph onto Progressive Field’s home run porch for his first home run since April 22. Reyes’ home run was part of a productive night for Cleveland’s offense, which mashed 11 hits in an 8-2 win over the Blue Jays to secure a doubleheader split.
While Reyes’ offensive outburst occurred in the second game, he managed to make an impact in the Guardians’ 8-3 loss in the opener. In the fourth inning, Reyes worked a four-pitch walk off Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman. Not only did the walk signify a small victory for a batter who has struggled to get on base (Reyes entered the game with a walk percentage of 3.3, which is in the bottom 7 percent of baseball), but it was also the first walk Gausman had issued all year.
“I think he’s working at it,” Guardians bench coach DeMarlo Hale said. “He understands that it hasn’t been a good start for him, but it says something about him that he’s working through.”
After struggling all season long, Reyes seems like he's trending upwards. His approach has undergone a clear change in the past week in an effort to not try to do too much. Adding a productive Reyes to the middle of the Guardians' lineup is something Cleveland has been looking forward to since Opening Day. The lineup has been full of singles and doubles hitters, which has been working. Adding Reyes as the slugger adds another dimension to the heart of the order and only makes things easier long-term. Hopefully, it works and is a sign of things to come.
Evan Dammarell is a sports journalist covering all things Cleveland right off the shores of Lake Erie. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Email him at email@example.com. Did you enjoy this edition of Right Down Euclid? You can get it in your inbox two to three times a week by subscribing here. All it takes is either your Facebook account or email address!