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Lights, fans, action: Terry Francona wants Cleveland Indians’ intrasquad game to be the real deal

CHICAGO – When it comes to clinching a spot in the postseason early is always better for manager Terry Francona. But if it has to happen late, so be it.

What concerns Francona the most is the downtime between the end of the regular season and the start of the postseason. He feels that baseball is such a sport of timing and rhythm that how the downtime is handled can determine the success or failure of a team when the postseason begins.

To that end that’s why the Indians will play an intrasquad game on Oct. 2 at Progressive Field. Francona is kicking around the idea of opening the gates to fans, having sideline reporter Andre Knott work the game and turn on the scoreboard. He wants to make it as close to a real game as possible.

“We don’t have it all (planned). I’ve got a lot of brilliant ideas,” said Francona in a self-deprecating tone. “In my perfect world, you open the gates, let the people come in and maybe donate to a charity. Say they want to pay a dollar. I don’t care, whatever it is.

“OK, you’ve got to get people to work the game. You’ve got to get police. We’ll see. Chris (Antonetti) is really on board with it. I’d like to have it as close to a game as we can. I don’t know how we’ll pull that off. One way or another, we’re going to play a game. I might be quiet. I might be like that rain out in April.”

The regular season ends on Sunday in Kansas City. The Indians will hold an optional workout on Monday at Progressive Field, play a game on Oct. 2 and workout again on Oct. 3 After that workout they’re expected to board a charter flight and fly to Houston where they’ll workout at Minute Maid Park on Oct. 4 and face the Astros In Game 1 of the ALDS on Oct. 5.

Last year the Indians played a similar intrasquad game in preparation for their ALDS matchup with the Yankees. Executives Antonetti and Mike Chernoff played the infield – wearing catcher’s masks – and Indians’ employees sat in the stands and cheered.

“I think we had like 1,000 people there,” said Francona. “They were cool. They were yelling and yelling. It was cool.”

Can we talk? The Indians’ postseason roster should be close to set by Oct. 2.

“We told the players that on Tuesday (Oct. 2), that would be the latest (they would be told if they made the postseason roster or not),” said Francona. “I’m going to talk to some guys on this trip, some of the younger guys just so they know. That way they can’t stay to plan and do things.

“Everybody is going back to Cleveland. But if we know, and I talked to Chris on Sunday, I don’t think there is any reason why we can’t sit and talk to them, especially when we’re on the road. Rather than just bringing in nine guys real quick on Tuesday.”

Left out lefty: The Indians have four lefties in the bullpen in Andrew Miller, Oliver Perez, Brad Hand and Tyler Olson. They’re all pitching well, but it’s unlikely all four will make the postseason roster because the Indians need some right-handers to matchup late in games.

Miller has a 2.70 ERA in his last 17 games. Perez has allowed just three of 41 inherited runners to score. Hand has converted eight of nine save chances with the Indians. Olson has struck out 14 and not allowed a run in his last 13 games.

“If you call it a problem, it’s a good problem,” said Francona. “But I’d always rather have that.”

Speaking generally about the last couple spots on the roster, Francona said, “A lot of times the last couple of spots come down to fits as opposed to maybe who has the best ERA or something like that. I understand that’s hard sometimes for players to understand – I get it. That’s why we’ll explain it to guys when it’s time. But it’s got to be a good fit, too.”

He’s OK: Catcher Roberto Perez left Sunday night’s game against Boston after getting hit by a foul tip in the shoulder. Francona said he’s fine and could have stayed in the game, but they wanted to be careful and were anxious to get rookie Eric Haase into the game.

“Whatever he experiences here is good for him,” said Francona. “He such a good kid. He pays attention. He’s always ready.”

Finally: Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez did not start Monday after playing in Sunday night’s 4-3 win over Boston in 11 innings. … The Indians are 13-4 against the White Sox after Monday’s win. … The Indians have thrown 65 quality starts this year, tying Houston for the MLB lead. It’s the most by the Indians since they threw 108 in 1968. … Trevor Bauer will start Tuesday and be on a pitch count of 60 to 65 pitches. … Yes, those were dogs you heard barking at Guaranteed Rate Field. Monday was Dog Night at the ballpark.

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