While the Cleveland Indians battle to find a way to play games in this miserable season we call spring 2018, Francisco Lindor is busy doing Francisco Lindor things. On the field, that means being one of the best overall shortstops in baseball with the best smile in the game to boot. It also means being on set with Champs Sports for an upcoming promo, which he was nice enough to take a break from and talk to me over the phone for a few minutes.
We talked his defense, playing in Puerto Rico, his good dogs, and more in this exclusive Let’s Go Tribe interview.
Let’s Go Tribe: How at all has your drive changed since coming so close to winning it all in 2016?
Francisco Lindor: I think the only thing that’s changed is the expectations of people, that’s the only thing that has changed. Our expectations have been the same as a player. We have been working just as hard, even maybe a little bit harder, to be back where we want to be. I think the expectation of people that year, they didn’t really have us on their radar and we made it all the way.
LGT: How are you liking the lead-off role? Was it a case of you wanting to bat lead-off, or going wherever Tito wanted to put you?
FL: No, I like leading off. I think it’s cool. I think it’s fun to get things going early in games and running hard and working as hard as I can to work the counts and stuff to give my teammates a chance to see more pitches. I think that’s a pretty cool thing and I’m glad Tito gave me the opportunity.
LGT: Next week you guys are playing the Twins in Puerto Rico; I don’t think you’ve gotten to play a regular season game there. How much does it mean to you to play back where you grew up?
FL: It means a lot, it’s a dream come true. I haven’t played in Puerto RIco since I left and that’s a long time ago — 14-15 years old and I haven’t been able to be back there with my family, my friends, people that watched me play in Puerto Rico as a little boy and now I have a chance to be in Puerto Rico and to play in Puerto Rico. Not only play in Puerto Rico but represent the Cleveland Indians and the Major League Baseball organization, it’s special. I’m honored and blessed to be part of it. It’s a dream come true.
LGT: This is kind of the complete opposite of playing in Puerto Rico, but how was it playing in 32-degree weather? Was there anything, even if it’s not baseball related, that happened even if it’s like “it was so cold that this” fun thing kind of happened, or was it all miserable trying to play in that cold?
FL: So yeah, usually during the offseason when it’s 32 degrees I’m telling everybody, “Boys, I’ll see you inside, I’m not going back today.” But that wasn’t the case that day, I had to be outside to do my BP stuff outside then try to play nine innings and hopefully not to go into extra innings. And we didn’t, thank God. It’s fun now because we’re done with it, but at that exact moment it wasn’t really that much fun. It was a great time because I was playing the game I’m blessed to be on the field, but it was too cold for baseball.
LGT: Is it a lot harder when it’s someone like Corey Kluber up there who doesn’t give up a lot of hits and you’re just kind of standing around?
FL: No, no, it’s actually pretty good. Becasue it’s 1-2-3 let’s go in. It wasn’t like, “Alright, they scored five runs and wait around, change the pitcher,” it was more “1-2-3 let’s go back inside.” Same thing with Bauer, same thing with Carrasco and Tomlin, they did a great job. Everybody did a great job. The pitching staff has done a great job getting us back in the dugout.
LGT: You mentioned in spring training that you wanted to get better on defense and you worked a lot over the offseason and were going to continue in spring training — what exactly did you change, and what about last year made you specifically improve on your defense?
FL: I haven’t really changed much, it’s just a mindset, you know? It’s not about how hard you work, it’s about your mindset. Baseball can get very long and very repetitive, but it’s the way you think, the way you prepare day in and day out, the way you go about it as the pitch is being thrown; that can change. It’s something that’s a small change and It helps your pitching staff, it benefits your team.
LGT: There’s something we’re all kind of dying to know at Let’s Go Tribe: What is it about the dark navy blue jerseys that you guys use so much? Is it kind of like a superstition thing, or do you guys just like them?
FL: It’s pitchers. The pitchers get to pick what jerseys we wear that day. So I put on that, they’re the ones that dress us up day in and day out, they’re the ones that pick if it’s white or blue or grey, so that’s on them — I have nothing to do with the jerseys (laughs).
LGT: Something you did have control over was your hair in spring training. Everybody got a kick out of that, was it like a fun thing to get people going in spring training or were you kind of hoping to keep it?
FL: No, no, no I’m growing it, it’s growing. Right now I got my side black and the top is blonde, but that will change. Also I’m not sticking to it, it’s something that I just did cause I got tired of the curls and I wanted to do something different and look a little bit crazy and just have fun and look like Amber Rose for a couple days and go about my day.
LGT: Did you get a lot of Sisqo comparisons and everyone singing the “Thong Song” at you?
FL: Oh yeah, they did that at least seven times a day. (laughs) Eventually I went to the internet to try to find out who Sisqo was.
LGT: Back in September, you posted on Twitter about your puppy and you had another puppy. How hard is it to leave them during the season, and be honest, do you Facetime them when you’re gone for long stretches?
FL: Man, they travel with me. Oh yeah, they’re at my house right now. I just haven’t posted a picture in a while. I’ll post another picture in the next couple days just for you.
LGT: Oh, cool, thank you. That was going to be my next question “when are we getting more pictures of the puppy” so that’s good.
FL: They aren’t puppies no more they’re huge now. One is 92 pounds and the other is like 80 pounds so they ain’t puppies no more.
LGT: I promised my six-year-old son that if I ever interviewed you again he’d get to ask a question, so Noah wants to know, “Francisco, what’s your favorite food to eat?”
FL: Lasagna. I love lasagna and I love pizza. I would eat pizza every day of my life if they would let me. I have eaten pizza, like a full box of pizza, before games. I haven’t done it this year but I think I’m gonna start doing it.
LGT: So the last question — maybe you kind of answered it there: Jose Ramirez has Jose Jose Salsa, Terry Francona has the TIto and Son’s Pasta Sauce, what would Francisco Lindor’s signature pre-packaged food be?
FL: (laughs) I don’t know, I think it’d be like, a... milkshake or something like that. That’d be kind of cool.