The first 20,000 fans in attendance at Wednesday’s Guardians home game against the Reds will receive “Thank You, Tito” t-shirts, to commemorate what is very likely Terry Francona’s final home game as the Guards’ manager. It isn’t much of a secret that Francona is planning to retire after the season, though he has stopped short of making an official announcement since “he would rather execute an Irish exit than attract one extra iota of attention,” the Athletic’s Zack Meisel writes. Meisel’s piece is an excellent profile of Francona’s long career as a manager, coach, and player, providing plenty of insight and colorful anecdotes into one of baseball’s greatest skippers.
Here’s more from around the AL Central…
- The Twins will use Pablo Lopez and Sonny Gray (in an order to be determined) as the starters of their first two playoff games, manager Rocco Baldelli told The Athletic’s Aaron Gleeman and other reporters. Baldelli didn’t confirm any of Minnesota’s other pitching plans for October, but in implying that Kenta Maeda will be working as a reliever during the postseason, that would seem to set up Joe Ryan as the team’s top choice as a third starter. Ryan has a 3.82 ERA over 30 2/3 innings since returning from the injured list, as trying to pitch through a groin strain contributed to some very shaky numbers for Ryan in midseason after an outstanding April and May. Maeda has had a strong season in his own right and hasn’t worked as a reliever since 2019, but his usage out of the bullpen gives the Twins a potential impact reliever for their playoff run.
- Tigers prospect Jace Jung has played only second base and DH during his two pro seasons, but he’ll now be getting some looks as a third baseman in the Arizona Fall League, Lynn Henning of the Detroit News writes. Both MLB Pipeline (67th) and Baseball America (98th) rank Jung among the top 100 prospects in baseball, though both outlets have concerns about his eventual defensive future, as second base was seen as a less-challenging spot for Jung than the hot corner. However, an even more highly-touted Detroit prospect faces similar defensive questions, as Colt Keith (18th BA, 25th Pipeline) looks ticketed for second base duty. Keith gets the priority because he has posted big numbers at Triple-A this second and could factor into Detroit’s lineup as early as Opening Day 2024, while Jung might need more time to get acclimated at his new position and has yet to reach Triple-A. Keith and Jung are two of several intriguing position-player prospects coming up the ranks in the Tigers’ farm system, to the point that Henning feels a possible logjam for future playing time gives the Tigers a good problem to have in figuring out who plays where, and ultimately might players might be kept or used as trade chips.