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Cleveland Guardians welcome Terry Francona back to the dugout and many new faces in the field

Cleveland Guardians spring training
Terry Pluto
/
Cleveland.com
The Cleveland Guardians wrapped up Spring Training in Goodyear, Ariz., and open the season Thursday in Kansas City.

There will be a lot of new faces in the field when the Cleveland Guardians open the season Thursday in Kansas City. The team with one of the lowest payrolls in the major leagues will be filling out its roster with young players.

Sports commentator Terry Pluto says the Guardians are glad to have veteran manager Terry Francona back in the dugout.

The manager, in his 10th season in Cleveland and 22nd overall, has missed significant time over the past two years dealing with a number of health issues.

Let them play
And Pluto says they're going to need his experience.

"Right now they have only two players over the age of 29. This is the youngest team ever for [Francona] and is probably the the youngest team in the major leagues," Pluto said.

Pluto said the front office's plan is to sort out all of the young talent.

"The idea being that, if they are ever going to really get back to where they're good, they have to have the right group of young players because they're not going to go out and buy a bunch of guys. But you've got to figure out which ones are which," Pluto said.

"It's not just the team being young with no goal in mind. [Francona] thinks a lot of these guys can become really good players in time."
Terry Pluto

Young team
Some of the younger players who will see a lot of playing time include Bobby Bradley, who will play first base, and Yu Chang at second base. Then, Andrés Giménez will be playing shortstop. Jose Ramirez will play third.

"If you go around that whole infield, they have basically one viable major league player in Jose Ramirez. Now, maybe some of those other guys will end up being good. They don't know," Pluto said.

Still, Pluto said Francona is up to the task.

"It's not just the team being young with no goal in mind. He thinks a lot of these guys can become really good players in time. And so he's willing to kind of go through this stage of his career. He'll be 63 in the middle of April," Pluto said.

Pluto acknowledges that a rebuilding year isn't going to get fans pumped up.

"They have a marketing problem. Ownership is viewed as cheap. Some people don't like the name change. Others are just sort of, 'Oh, they're OK,'" Pluto said.

Players to watch
There are some young players Pluto is excited about. For one, pitcher Triston McKenzie.

"You saw some of him last year [when] he came fairly close to a perfect game. He had a great spring and spring training, and I think he's going to be very good."

Pluto is also excited to see how ace Shane Bieber rebounds from a season-ending injury this past June. And he also likes outfielder Steven Kwan.

"He's a guy that just vaulted through the farm system," Pluto said.

Prediction
And, as he does every year, Pluto offered a prediction.

"I was trying to keep them up over .500, but I just can't do it. I think I'm going to come in at 77- 85. They could be really good a year from now, but they're too young," he said.

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Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. After serving as WKSU's Morning Edition host for a dozen years, she moved to afternoons in March of 2022 to become the local host of All Things Considered. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio's sports scene called The View From Pluto. She also hosts and produces Shuffle, a podcast focusing on Northeast Ohio’s music scene.