Cleveland Indians eye Lindor return

The Cleveland Indians are scheduled to re-evaluate the injured ankle of shortstop Francisco Lindor on Friday, setting the stage for the All-Star’s possible return to the lineup as early as this weekend. Fresh off a nine-game road trip, the Indians will play a three-game interleague series with the Atlanta Braves. 

While working out prior to Spring Training, Lindor sustained a calf injury. The Indians anticipated that Lindor would only miss a couple of games to start the season. However, a few days before the team broke camp, Lindor suffered a high-ankle sprain while playing in a minor league game. While the Indians traveled home to Cleveland after their opening series against Minnesota, Lindor was flown to Wisconsin in order for the team to make sure they “got it right” according to manager Terry Francona with regard to Lindor’s injury. 

At the end of the 2017 season, the Indians had to watch as their former All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley underwent ligament surgery on an ankle injury that was initially diagnosed as a sprain. With that memory in their mind, the Indians wanted to take every precaution to ensure that Lindor’s ankle was given a thorough and complete evaluation. 

The Indians could certainly use Lindor’s bat in the lineup. As of April 18, the Indians were batting an American League worst .201 as a team. In fact, only the Cincinnati Reds had a lower team batting average than the Indians.  The recent additions of outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and second baseman Jason Kipnis have helped add a veteran presence to a lineup that over the first 10-15 games was relying on players who, up to this point, have been career minor leaguers. 

For his career, Lindor has a .288 batting average with a WAR (wins above replacement) of 23.8. Last year Lindor had career highs in both slugging percentage (.519) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.871). The 2-time Silver Slugger also had career highs in virtually every statistical category including home runs (38), runs batted in (92), and stolen bases (25). 

Lindor has been the topic of conversation this offseason because of his pending free agency after the 2021 season. Lindor turned down a multi-year extension valued at over $100 million after the 2016 season. For the past two seasons, Lindor has been firm in his desire to test the free agent market while not shutting the door on returning to the Indians. Owner Paul Dolan fanned the flames of fan discontent by stating it was unlikely the Indians would make a contract offer in the range of the recent deals signed by Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Mike Trout, then making an ill-advised, although taken out of context, quip that fans should “enjoy him” when asked how fans should view these next three seasons.