Naquin's first career homer impresses Indians

Left-handed-hitting rookie hits 401-foot opposite-field shot against Royals

Naquin's first career homer impresses Indians

CLEVELAND -- Tyler Naquin's first season in the Majors has been very taxing on his truck. He has become all too familiar with I-90 on his trips from Cleveland to Triple-A Columbus and vice versa between multiple promotions and demotions to start the season.

In the Indians' 6-1 win over the Royals on Friday night, the rookie outfielder at last cashed in on some of his early Major League mileage with his first career home run.

"I couldn't really feel anything," Naquin said. "It was pretty special touching home plate with [Mike Napoli] and [Jason Kipnis] standing at the top of the dugout. It was a special feeling. Especially to be a part of a team like this, with good chemistry in the clubhouse and a bunch of good guys."

Leading off the seventh inning, Naquin lifted a 3-1 offering from Royals starter Edinson Volquez into the left-center bleachers. The opposite-field blast traveled 401 feet from the plate at 104 mph, according to Statcast™. It also gave the Tribe a four-run cushion.

"That ball went out in a hurry," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That's hard to do. Good for him. He's come back this time and seems more relaxed which I think is good."

Naquin's most recent return to the Indians' clubhouse comes under difficult circumstances. On Wednesday, outfielder Marlon Byrd accepted a 162-game suspension for PEDs.

Byrd's departure left a vacant spot in the outfield, leading to the immediate need for Naquin to truck back up from Columbus. Naquin has started two games in center field since rejoining the club and has a pair of hits in six at-bats.

"I haven't seen too many lefty oppo home runs here," Indians outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall said. "There's probably been six or seven that I've seen and that was one of the more impressive ones. It's up there. He's got pop and quick hands."

Naquin's teammates were so impressed with his homer and his perseverance throughout the year that they chose not to give him the silent treatment, and instead greeted him with several hugs and high-fives.

"When he comes up, he's positive. When he gets sent down, he's positive," Chisenhall said. "It's part of the game. I know he's put a lot of miles on his truck from here to Columbus, but when he comes up, he's got energy when he's here. That's good to see, especially out of a young guy who has options, and he's not really sure of his fate."

Naquin, who is now hitting .313 in his first 67-at bats, may just avoid hopping back in his truck for the time being. With Byrd's departure and Michael Brantley still a while from returning to action, it appears the rookie may be needed more on an everyday basis.

"The last time was harder than maybe we realized," Francona said of Naquin's last demotion. "The big thing is maybe not the emotions at the time, but where do you go from here. How do you make it better. I think we are in a really good place, which is really good. This kid's got a chance to be a good player for awhile."

Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.