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CLEVELAND (AP) — when they arrived at Progressive Field for an intra-squad scrimmage http://www.nationalsfanproshop.com/authentic-wilmer-difo-jersey , one of their last workouts before things get very real.The fresh swag included blue-and-red T-shirts emblazoned with “October Ready.”“October Redemption” may have been more fitting.After falling short of a World Series title the past two postseasons with gut-wrenching defeats, the Indians enter the 2018 playoffs looking to finish the job and end baseball’s longest championship drought — now at 70 years.“The last two Octobers,” said All-Star catcher Yan Gomes. “We had it in our grasp and it kind of just slipped away.”When the Indians open the AL Division Series on Friday in Houston with 20-game winner Corey Kluber facing Astros star Justin Verlander, those past fall failures won’t mean a thing to a Cleveland team that has had several weeks to get healthy and line up its pitching after coasting to a third straight Central title.But since blowing a 2-0 lead in last year’s Division Series to the New York Yankees, the Indians have been focused on getting their next swings on baseball’s biggest stage.This time, they want to make the most off them.“I certainly think that the way the last the last couple of years have gone have hopefully driven us to work a little bit harder, crave it a little bit more in getting there and being that last team to win a game,” said reliever Andrew Miller, whose struggles this season have included three disabled-list stints. “It’s not going to be easy. There’s a lot of good teams that you got to go through and you got to have a lot of things probably go your way.“You got to have luck on your side on top of it all, so this team is as capable as anybody. It’s just a matter of us getting those breaks and playing up to our ability.”The Indians enter this postseason with fewer questions than in previous years.Kluber is pitching as well as ever and the two-time Cy Young winner isn’t plagued by the back issues that led to him being so ineffective in last season’s ALDS. All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley is healthy as well, and Cleveland’s lineup — driven by dynamic infielders Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez — is deeper than ever following the late-season acquisition of third baseman Josh Donaldson, the 2015 league MVP.Jason Kipnis has a postseason of playing the outfield under his belt, and Ramirez, who was in the thick of the MVP race before a September swoon, has shown signs of emerging from his slump.The Indians’ bullpen has had some major problems, but lefty Brad Hand gives manager Terry Francona another late-inning option, and don’t be surprised if starter Trevor Bauer, who recently returned from a broken leg, is used in key relief situations.Francona believes his team is hitting its stride at just the right moment.“We were so unsettled last year in the playoffs,” he said. “We went through a lot of that the last two weeks. It’s not a lot of fun, because it’s unsettling. But I think — in fact Brian Goodwin Jersey , I know — it was for a good reason. Now, we’re going to see if it pays off. We think we have Donaldson in a good place. We think Andrew’s come so far. Kip’s had three weeks to play center field. Jose’s had three weeks at second.“If you have too many question marks, sometimes the answer is no. And we really don’t want that to happen.”The Indians don’t want a repeat of last October, either.Cleveland won the first two games at home over New York before losing 1-0 in Game 3, which could have easily gone to the Indians if Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge didn’t reach over the right-field wall to rob Lindor of a two-run homer.The Yankees went on to win Game 4 and closed out the series in Cleveland, bringing back painful memories for Indians fans who witnessed the Chicago Cubs end their Series drought on the same field a year earlier.“We didn’t put our best foot forward the last couple games,” Francona said, reflecting for a moment on last season. “Saying that, shoot, you’ve got to look at things in perspective. If Judge is 6’1 instead of 6’9, we probably win Game 3.”This October run for the Indians begins with a tough matchup against the defending World Series champions.Houston has it all, including a title Cleveland wants.“It’s going to be one of the most evenly-matched series of the first rounds,” Kipnis said. “In terms of staff, we line up with them. In lineup, we line up with them. It’s going to be a lot of fun to lace it up and get on out there. It doesn’t matter how you’ve done. In October last year we thought we were the best team and had a lot of wins, and here come the Yankees.“Once it gets to October, anything goes and anything can happen. That’s the fun part about it.” MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — With an opening for a designated hitter and a need for more power in the lineup, the Minnesota Twins found quite a fit on the free agent market with a six-time All-Star in Nelson Cruz.They’ll be counting on his impact beyond the middle of the batting order. There’s a clubhouse filled with still-developing players who could use his wisdom, too.The Twins signed Cruz to a one-year, $14.3 million contract that comes with a $12 million club option for 2020, formalizing Wednesday their addition of a player whose 203 home runs over the previous five seasons are the most in the major leagues during that span.“I don’t think we view Nelson just as a DH http://www.nationalsfanproshop.com/authentic-mark-reynolds-jersey ,” Twins general manager Thad Levine said. “He’s clearly going to be occupying that spot in the lineup, but as we’ve intimated, and you’ve got to hear in his voice, what he brings to the table is so much more than that. So we did prioritize this type of offensive production. We did try to prioritize this type of quality of character and leadership.”Cruz, who will turn 39 on July 1, batted .256 with 37 homers, 97 RBIs and a .342 on-base percentage in 2018 for Seattle. He hit a career-high 40 homers in 2014 in a one-year stop in Baltimore, after an eight-season run with Texas. Over the last five years, Cruz has played in an average of 153 games.Cruz served a 50-game suspension in 2013 for violating the major league drug agreement in relation to the sport’s investigation of the Biogenesis of America clinic. The Twins are still eager to rely on his production and mentorship in a youthful clubhouse.“I know my body. I know what I need to do to stay healthy first, you know? And what I do on a daily basis to prepare myself to be successful on the field, that’s the biggest difference,” said Cruz, who added he would be “very proud” to play in the outfield, where Eddie Rosario and Max Kepler are set at the corner positions. He’s only played there nine times over the previous two seasons.The Twins signed Logan Morrison last year for $6.5 million to serve as the primary designated hitter, but coming off a career-high 38-homer season, he struggled badly and eventually had hip surgery that shelved him in mid-August with a .186 batting average.Morrison, who wound up playing more than expected at first base while Joe Mauer recovered from a concussion, took 35 turns as the DH. He took a $1 million buyout and became a free agent. Mauer, who retired , had 33 starts. Robbie Grossman, who was not offered a contract and became a free agent Brandon Kintzler Jersey , was the DH 36 times.With 360 career home runs, Cruz is fourth on the active list behind Albert Pujols (633), Miguel Cabrera (465) and Edwin Encarnacion (380). He will earn $14 million in 2019, and if the Twins were to decide to decline the $12 million option for next year, they would owe him a $300,000 buyout.By signing second baseman Jonathan Schoop and claiming first baseman C.J. Cron off waivers, the Twins have added 88 homers to their lineup after finishing 23rd in the majors with 166 last season.“I could not be more excited. Last year when I went to Minnesota, I was thinking ahead, ‘This should be a good fit for me, a team that has really good young guys with a lot of talent,'” Cruz said on a conference call with reporters.MCruz’s most important relationship in Minnesota may be with third baseman and fellow Dominican Republic native Miguel Sano, a slugger long groomed to be a franchise cornerstone who regressed so much in 2018 he was sent to the minor leagues for six weeks of holistic reconditioning, from his swing to his attitude to his diet.“I naturally am always ready to help and willing to help,” Cruz said, “and he expressed that. He told me, ‘I want to learn how to be part of good teams.'”Schoop helped recruit Cruz, his teammate in Baltimore in 2014. Cruz is in the position that seven-time All-Star second baseman Michael Young held with Texas as the mentor of that team while Cruz was an up-and-comer.“He’s going to set a wonderful example in the way that he prepares for games and just being the person he is,” new manager Rocco Baldelli said. “That alone is going to be an asset for us going forward.”
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