The Indians don’t expect to have star shortstop Francisco Lindor back until at least the end of April, president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti revealed in a radio appearance on WTAM 1100 this afternoon (Twitter link via WKYC-TV’s Nick Camino). Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets that Lindor has been diagnosed with a “mild” high left ankle sprain and won’t resume running for another week to 10 days. The Indians are expected to provide a more concrete timetable on Lindor’s return as soon as tomorrow, Hoynes noted earlier.
Lindor’s injury troubles began in February when the team announced that a calf strain would shelve him for seven to nine weeks, thus putting his availability for Opening Day in jeopardy. The 25-year-old appeared to have a chance to return on the low end of that timetable, but the team announced just prior to Opening Day that Lindor had incurred a new ankle injury in a baserunning mishap during a game on March 26.
The absence of Lindor, one of baseball’s premier all-around talents, is a brutal blow to an Indians lineup that has looked punchless thus far in the young season. Cleveland opened the 2019 campaign with Eric Stamets and Brad Miller lined up in the middle infield, Roberto Perez behind the plate and bounceback hopeful Hanley Ramirez at designated hitter.
Cleveland still has the dangerous Jose Ramirez near the top of the batting order, but they’ve struck out at a 32.6 percent clip as a team and plated just 10 runs through their first four games. Obviously, that’s a microscopic sample and not cause for panic, but the lack of proven bats around the diamond for the Indians is nevertheless glaring. With Lindor sidelined, they’ll need some combination of Jake Bauers, Tyler Naquin, Carlos Santana and the elder Ramirez to step up in the middle portion of the order. It’s possible that longtime Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez, currently with the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate, could also emerge as a candidate to join the big league roster.
Offensive question marks aside, Cleveland’s brilliant rotation and a generally weak division should still keep the club in the playoff mix. Cleveland is also fortunate to face a light schedule this month, with the only matchups against expected contenders coming in the form of a three-game set against the Braves from April 19-21 and a four-game set in Houston from April 25-28. Beyond those two series, the Indians will face the Blue Jays, Tigers, Royals, Mariners and Marlins this month.