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Indians’ Rajai Davis getting faster with age

Via MLB.com

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Rajai Davis cracked a smile when asked about the Sprint Speed leaderboard that is available from Statcast™. The veteran is quite familiar with the stastistic and his reaction made it clear that he was also up to speed, so to speak, with where he ranks.

“Oh, I know,” Davis said. “I’m aware.”

Davis ranked 11th in the Majors last season with a Sprint Speed of 29.3 feet per second. His place among the game’s fastest runners takes on a different look when considering that Davis is 37 years old. The average age of the 10 players who ranked higher than Davis last season is 24.9.

Even more incredible is the fact that Davis appears to be getting faster. According to Statcast™, the veteran outfielder posted a 28.9 Sprint Speed (19th overall) in 2015 and then had a 28.4 mark (54th) in ’16, when he previously played for the Indians. Davis said he was pleased to see the number climb even higher in 2017, backing up how he felt on the basepaths.

“That’s what I focus on. I focus on getting faster,” Davis said. “I believe that you can do what you believe you can do. I don’t believe I’m slowing down. So, I’m not. And I do things that help that and encourage it. It’s hard to go against what everybody says, but I don’t listen to everybody else.

“Obviously, that [Sprint Speed] is results. You want the results to go with what you believe. That just tells me that what I believe is actually working.”

This spring, Davis is among the outfield invitees in camp on Minor League contracts who are competing for a place on Cleveland’s Opening Day roster. Indians manager Terry Francona has been impressed to this point by Davis, whose age-defying speed can still impact a game.

“He’s fast,” Francona said, “but he spends so much time and he’s so diligent in maintaining that speed — for his career, but then also for the game. Like, if you put him in in the fifth inning, he’s always ready to run his fastest. That can’t be easy to do, especially at his age. But, you can see, when you watch him, he obviously feels good, because he’s getting down the line, he’s making aggressive turns. I don’t think he’d be doing that if he didn’t feel good.”

Injury updates
• Francona noted that left fielder Michael Brantley (October right ankle surgery) was doing fine on Thursday, following Wednesday’s appearance in a Minor League game. The manager said Brantley will continue to play in Minor League games before transitioning to Cactus League action. Francona was not yet ready to say whether Opening Day was a realistic target for the outfielder.

“If he doesn’t [return by Opening Day], I don’t think it’s going to be a whole lot after,” Francona said. “I just think we’re thrilled with how he’s doing, and we’ll kind of leave it at that. He’s in such a good place. He’s bouncing around. It gets kind of exciting. He’s such an important guy for us.

“We haven’t had him for so much of the last couple years, but he’s kind of the heart and soul of our team. Even when he wasn’t playing, he managed to be a leader. So, getting him back on the field, everybody would be thrilled.”

• Right-hander Danny Salazar (right shoulder inflammation) was scheduled to throw in a long-toss session up to a distance of 130 feet on Thursday. Salazar continues to get closer to a return to mound activity.

• Right-hander Mike Clevinger was scheduled to start against the Reds on Thursday, but was scratched due to illness. Reliever Evan Marshall started in his place.

What happens in Vegas
The Indians will send 27 players from their Major League camp to Las Vegas for the split-squad games against the Cubs on Saturday and Sunday.

Players making the trip include: Catchers Yan Gomes, Eric Haase and Jack Murphy; infielders Yandy Diaz, Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Drew Maggi, Mike Napoli, Richie Shaffer and Eric Stamets; outfielders Greg Allen, Brandon Barnes, Davis, Melvin Upton Jr. and Bradley Zimmer; and pitchers Jeff Beliveau, Preston Claiborne, Stephen Fife, Cameron Hill, Marshall, Zach McAllister, Ryan Merritt, Alexi Ogando, Tyler Olson, Neil Ramirez, Ben Taylor and Carlos Torres.

Worth noting
• Francona said the Indians are weighing whether to let Zimmer play full-time in center field, especially until Brantley returns to the lineup. Given Zimmer’s skills defensively and on the bases, Francona said the outfielder brings the kind of value that might steer the team away from a platoon situation.

“There’s some school of thought,” Francona said, “that until Brant comes back, maybe we just let Zimmer play, just to see how he does. He’s swung the bat well and he worked hard and he’s such a good defender. Sometimes, you give a guy a little rope and they take advantage of it. So, we’ll see. We’ll see where we’re at.”

• The concept of using Salazar as multi-inning reliever has been floated in the past, but Francona is not sure how realistic that would be for the pitcher. Said Francona: “If you put him in the bullpen … on a routine, I think Danny would be great. I don’t know that you can have a routine once the season starts. You need to get somebody up. If you told him, ‘We’re going to pitch you Monday, Thursday, Sunday,’ he might just be lights out. I don’t know how you do that.”

Up next
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco is scheduled to start for the Indians in a 4:05 p.m. ET Cactus League clash against the A’s on Friday in Mesa, Ariz. In six innings this spring, Carrasco has 12 strikeouts against one walk with two runs allowed. Beliveau, Ogando, Torres and Ramirez are also penciled in to pitch for the Tribe. The game will be broadcast live via exclusive webcast.

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