Indians' Lindor Shows Professional Approach In First Camp




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When Indians 2011 first-round pick Francisco Lindor arrived at the club's early spring training workouts, team officials expected he'd show excellent range at shortstop to go with a plus arm. And they weren't surprised to see that he has a smooth swing that allows the switch-hitter to spray line drives from both sides of the plate.

But they were impressed to find that he's playing the game in a way that belies the fact that he's only 18.

"He's lit us up everyday," Indians farm director Ross Atkins said. "During BP, when the fourth group is hitting, he's still reacting with 100 percent focus and intensity on every ball that's hit. He's not looking up into the sky or talking to the guy next to him. Every ball that is moving, he's locked in on. You see that with older established players, but he is wired that way already. It's natural for him to have a professional experience every time he's on the field. His parents and coaches have done an incredible job with him."

Atkins said that the Indians' coaching staff has had to work to stay ahead of Lindor—they've found that instead of just reiterating the fundamentals, he's ready to work on more advanced aspects of the game.

"His defense is very locked in," Atkins said. "It's about creating consistent routines and pre-positioning . . . There is no play that limits him. As a baserunner he's outstanding. He's shown he's comfortable stealing bases. At the plate, we're focused on his approach. We want to make sure he doesn't start to get into any bad habits."

• While Lindor is wowing coaches in his first spring training, 2010 second-rounder LeVon Washington is trying to show his second spring training is different from his first.

The center fielder struggled last year in his first full pro season. The Chipola (Fla.) JC product hit .218/.331/.315 in low Class A while hip and knee issues limited him to 79 games.

As much as he struggled at the plate, Washington's problems stemmed from his failure to play the game with the kind of controlled abandon that is expected from a player with his kind of speed (a 65 runner on the 20-to-80 scale) and athleticism.

Washington appears he's aware of that. In his first meeting with team officials this spring, he told them how eager he was to show that he's learned from his rough introduction to pro ball. In the first couple of games this spring, he's been a standout at the plate and in the field.

"He's more confident playing at 100 percent of his effort level," Atkins said. "He's giving 100 percent effort and staying under control. Last year he was playing with hesitancy."

Washington is showing signs he's more comfortable at the plate (the Indians have spread him out to give him a better base) and in the field.

"He's going back on the ball hard. His angles on balls are much better. He's coming through the ball in front of him. It's not the same hesitancy," Atkins said.

• It's been a relatively injury-free minor league camp for the Indians, but like most all teams, not everyone has made it through unscathed. Righthander Dillon Howard, the team's second-round pick in 2011, was held back slightly by a minor knee injury. He's back on the mound now and is expected to pitch in a spring training game in the near future. Righthander Austin Adams, the team's No. 8 prospect, has what Atkins termed as minor shoulder soreness that has kept him off the mound. Similar shoulder soreness has sidelined lefthander Matt Packer, who ranked No. 29.

• Lindor is the Indians' most talented farmhand, but if there is anyone else in the farm system that can come close to matching at least some of Lindor's tools, it's 19-year-old outfielder Luigi Rodriguez. The center fielder is still somewhat raw, but in extended glimpses he shows all kinds of ability.

"Physically, he can do almost all the things Lindor does," Atkins said. "It's all about refining his approach. He has great aptitude and confidence. He's very aggressive. We're just trying to rein everything in. His mistakes right now are aggressive mistakes."

• At the big league level, a pair of Indians prospects are making their case to stick around. Lefthander Nick Hagadone has allowed one run in seven innings for a sparkling 1.29 ERA in six appearances. Most importantly for a pitcher who has had control problems at times, Hagadone hasn't walked a batter this spring. With the Indians in need of a lefthander in the pen, Hagadone looks ready to to build on the 11 innings he got in Cleveland last September.

Rigthander Chen Lee is not expected to break camp with the big league club, but he's making that decision tougher and tougher. As many of the veteran relievers in camp have struggled, Lee has shown plus stuff and the aptitude to use it. Lee has saved three games in his six appearances while going 0-0, 3.00. Lee is still likely to go to Columbus to start the season, but he's doing enough to show the Indians' front office that he could be a midseason callup.