In­di­ans’ Lin­dor set to sparkle in Se­ries

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers AP Sports Writer

Born in Novem­ber, Fran­cisco Lin­dor is an Oc­to­ber baby this year.

You’d never know these are his first steps on base­ball’s pres­sure-packed post­sea­son stage.

Cleve­land’s daz­zling short­stop, who can il­lu­mi­nate a ball­park with his swing or smile, has spent the past few weeks show­cas­ing his tal­ents while help­ing the In­di­ans get to their first World Se­ries since 1997.

And at 22, Lin­dor is just get­ting started. He’s on a tra­jec­tory to be­come one of base­ball’s big­gest stars.

“He’s a pretty spe­cial kid,” said In­di­ans man­ager Terry Fran­cona, who never misses a chance to gush about the kid they call Frankie.

Fol­low­ing a reg­u­lar sea­son in which he bat­ted .301, hit 15 homers and drove in 78 runs, led the AL in sac­ri­fice flies and made stun­ning de­fen­sive plays that drew com­par­isons to for­mer In­di­ans Gold Glove wizard Omar Vizquel, Lin­dor has de­liv­ered clutch hits and de­fen­sive gems through­out the play­offs — while wear­ing cleats with “Believe­land” writ­ten on the sides over a sketched Cleve­land sky­line.

He’s bat­ting .323 for the In­di­ans, who are 7-1 in the post­sea­son af­ter sweep­ing Boston and tak­ing out Toronto in five games. Lin­dor’s two-run homer in a 2-0 win in Game 1 of the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries set the tone against the Blue Jays, and he fin­ished the se­ries with three multi-hit games, be­com­ing the youngest player since Derek Jeter in 1996 to have that many.

Lin­dor has also teamed up with sec­ond base­man Ja­son Kip­nis to turn sev­eral cru­cial dou­ble plays to stymie ral­lies.

And he’s do­ing it all with a re­fresh­ing, child-like ex­u­ber­ance that makes him easy to root for. The na­tive of Puerto Rico who moved to Florida when he was a kid plays with an in­fec­tious pas­sion. He’s the con­sum­mate team­mate, ea­ger to give a hug or high five at a mo­ment’s no­tice.

But per­haps most im­pres­sively, there doesn’t seem to be any­thing that fazes Lin­dor.

“You see guys like that some­times,” said Fran­cona, adding that Lin­dor re­minds him of Boston sec­ond base­man Dustin Pe­droia early in his ca­reer. “They’re pretty rare. He cer­tainly seems to, what­ever the chal­lenge is in front of us, the big­ger it is — the more he seems to en­joy it. He is re­ally young, but he’s learn­ing fast and that ex­cites all of us. It’s hard, but you can prob­a­bly re­place those num­bers. It’s hard. But you have a 22-year-old kid do­ing it and he’s go­ing to get bet­ter, and he’s also a very in­tel­li­gent player.”

Lin­dor is part past, part fu­ture.

He’s got his own base­ball fash­ion sense, pulling his stir­rups high like all ma­jor lea­guers did years ago to re­veal speck­led san­i­tary socks un­der­neath. Lin­dor, named an All-Star in his first full ma­jor league sea­son, usu­ally wears two beaded neck­laces over his No. 12 jersey and al­ways a cru­ci­fix.

His game is 21st cen­tury, a blend of power, speed and elec­tric­ity. Lin­dor has dis­played more power than ex­pected while fill­ing the No. 3 spot in Cleve­land’s bat­ting or­der when Michael Brant­ley was shelved with a shoul­der in­jury.

In the field, Lin­dor has awed with deep stops in the hole and he has saved runs with div­ing stabs up the mid­dle.

Last week, Lin­dor spent time in Toronto with Hall of Famer Cal Rip­ken and for­mer Phillies short­stop Jimmy Rollins, who in­ter­viewed him for a TV pack­age. A stu­dent of the nu­ances that make base­ball spe­cial, Lin­dor swapped secrets with the pair and was stunned by the 6-foot-4 Rip­ken’s size.

“I looked at him and I’m like, ‘Wow, what am I do­ing at short?” he said mod­estly.

When the In­di­ans won their last World Se­ries in 1948, they were led by a short­stop, who also hap­pened to be their man­ager — Lou Boudreau.

And while Lin­dor doesn’t worry about the ro­ta­tion or lineup, he’s help­ing Fran­cona keep the In­di­ans, who have over­come ob­sta­cles all sea­son, grounded and fo­cused on their next hur­dle.

They’ve been dis­missed all sea­son.

“It’s just funny be­cause no one is count­ing on us but our fans,” Lin­dor said. “No­body wants us there. I’m just en­joy­ing the ride, hav­ing fun and I’m a lit­tle kid. I be­lieve in my­self and I be­lieve in my team­mates and I be­lieve in what we have.”

When he was play­ing in the mi­nor leagues two years ago, Lin­dor posted on Twit­ter that he had dreamed he was play­ing for the In­di­ans in the World Se­ries, “and we won. (hash)cant­wait.”

Lin­dor’s vi­sion could hap­pen quicker than even he imag­ined.

“I never re­ally thought about my age, but I thought I would be in the World Se­ries,” he said. “Ev­ery kid does.”

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