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Guardians Notes: Austin Hedges put on IL, Sandy Leon’s return a life lesson

92.3 The Fan
92.3 The Fan
 2022-06-28

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Catcher Austin Hedges was placed on the seven-day injured list and Sandy Leon was re-acquired from the Reds Tuesday morning.

Hedges is sidelined retroactive to June 26 due to a concussion.

“Hedgie was exhibiting signs of a concussion,” manager Terry Francona said prior to Game 1 of their doubleheader with the Twins. “He passed the tests, but we were not comfortable playing him.”

Francona, who admitted he didn’t remember when Hedges initially suffered the concussion, and athletic trainer Joe Kessler met with Hedges Monday afternoon.

“If it’s an ankle or a quad or something, but when you’re talking about someone’s head [you’re cautious],” Francona said. “We finally said we’re not sure what the right answer is but we know what the wrong one is so we said we can’t put you in the game because he just wasn’t himself.”

Cleveland sent cash to the Reds for Leon, who has been playing for AAA Louisville.

“I give [Mike Chernoff] credit, man, he got on the phone,” Francona said. “Most likely, this is short term. We’ve all seen things change. We felt like getting somebody that our pitchers know will cause less of a [problem] and hopefully will be kind of seamless.”

Leon was with the Guardians in spring training as a non-roster invite but did not make the club.

“There’s a lot of familiarity there,” Francona said.

Leon’s return, even if expected to be brief, is a life lesson for everybody about how to handle adversity and things not going the way you might have hoped.

“I know he wasn’t happy, and I don’t blame him,” Francona said. “But I think it’s a good lesson for people, especially young players. Here’s a guy that is a veteran, was there since early February in that other camp and he was still professional when we talked to him. Because if he wasn’t and he burned some bridges, he might not be back. Yet you look up two, three months later he’s back in there giving me a hug and ready to go and we’re excited to have him, so a pretty good lesson in there.”

Utility MVP – Ernie Clement has been the ultimate team player, and valuable utility man for the Guardians so far this season – the type of player every team needs.

“It’s certainly helpful,” Francona said. “It doesn’t always show in the statistics. It’s nice when it doesn't, a guy that’s reliable, a guy that’s a good teammate, a guy that’s when he’s not playing not only doesn’t make people worse but actually makes people better – that’s a pretty good gift. And for a young player, Ernie has kind of accomplished that without a lot of service time. That’s not an easy thing to do”

Monday night Clement caught in the bullpen, took over at third base for Jose Ramirez and pitched the ninth inning. After the game he joked about throwing knuckleballs at the Twins, who scored two runs on four hits off him in Minnesota’s 11-1 win.

“I don’t think Ernie knew he had a knuckleball,” Francona joked.

Francona knows exactly how Clement felt Monday night. He pitched a scoreless inning in relief himself as a player with Milwaukee in 1989.

“It actually got me going,” Francona said. “When I was with the Brewers, we were playing in Oakland, and we were getting beat up. I pitched and if you look, we had one strikeout as a staff that day, it was me. [I] Struck out Stan Javier, and then it kind of got me going for [whatever reason]. Went up to Seattle the next day and hit a home run and for about the next month, kinda swung the bat a little better. It was kinda fun.”

Balancing act – The Guardians farm system is loaded with young talent, and they continue to field the youngest team in the big leagues this season.

They’re also competing with the Twins within the AL Central thanks to a stretch that saw them go 16-5 before they crashed back to earth upon coming home where they’ve lost their last five entering Tuesday’s doubleheader.

“That is something we think about every day, or try to remind ourself every day,” Francona said. “Because you come off that road trip and everyone’s feeling good but it’s probably not realistic to think we’re going to play .800 baseball the rest of the season. It’s still felt good, and it was fun and got us back into contention.

“We’re trying to balance always winning, because that’s why we’re here. I’ve never seen or felt a night where we’ve lost where I’ve gone home and been like, ‘That’s OK, we’re young.’ It still kinda rips your heart out but we do need to find out [what we have]. I think sometimes what’s worse is not finding out.”

While fan and media criticisms of lineups and player usage come with the territory of being a big league a manager, there’s a method to the madness of how Francona and the organization is bringing their young players along.

“I’ll have people ask me from time to time on the street, ‘Why won’t you hit Kwan first’ back in the spring, [and I would say] ‘We’re trying to develop this kid,” Francona said. “I want to make sure that when we do something that we’re not setting a young player back. I talked to [Gimenez] early in the year because he felt like a kid where he felt like he had to get three hits or he wasn’t going to play the next day. I said, ‘Hey man, there’s going to be some days, you’ll grow into it. Don’t be trying to do too much.’”

Roster moves – In addition to the return of Leon via trade and placement of Hedges on the IL, the Guardians recalled right-hander Anthony Castro from Columbus along with left-hander Konnor Pilkington, who is the 27th man for the doubleheader and will start Game 2. The team also designated right-hander Ian Gibaut for assignment.

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