Veteran third baseman hitting .461 since returning from injury
By Shane Jackson
CLEVELAND -- Juan Uribe stood in front of his locker at the corner closest to the door in the clubhouse answering questions. At last, someone asked him about his black hat with red cursive letters etched "J 2 U" on the front. "J" for Juan. Two being the number he wore last year and "U" for Uribe. On the left side of a hat a phrase in cursive read "Papi," which also has a significant meaning to the third baseman.
"The girls call me 'Papi,'" Uribe said after the Indians' 7-4 win over the Rays on Monday at Progressive Field. "They ask me, 'What's your name?' [points to 'Papi.']"
On Monday, Uribe homered in the eighth inning, lifting a 1-1 pitch from Rays reliever Erasmo Ramirez over the center-field wall and clearing the trees. According to Statcast™, the ball traveled an estimated 421 feet with an exit velocity of 102 mph.
"I think it was a fastball," Uribe said. "That's what I always look for, the pitch that the pitcher throws over the plate. I always look for the fastball, just like every hitter does. They can throw me curveballs. They can throw me whatever, but I'm always going to try to hit the fastball and make good contact with it when it's over the plate."
Uribe's two-run shot was the second homer of the inning and gave the Indians a three-run lead. It also marked the third homer in three days for the 37-year-old third baseman who has played in 1,804 games, the 10th most among active Major Leaguers. It's the first time in his career he has homered in three straight games.
"He's been big," Cleveland shortstop Francisco Lindor said. "He's been in the middle of everything these last few games. That's why we got him. He's doing what he can do."
Prior to this three-game stretch, Uribe had hit only two home runs in 35 games. In 157 at-bats, he had 13 RBIs. Meanwhile, during this three-game span he is hitting .461 with three homers and six RBIs.
Uribe does not point to any one thing he has done differently these past few games, but does give credit to having time off to think about what he can do differently. Before this three-game span, Uribe missed five games due to a groin injury he sustained against the Angels on June 12.
"I talked to the manager and I told him I needed five more days of rest," Uribe joked before adding, "What I was thinking about in the days that I was off and wasn't able to play was to let the ball come to me and use my hands and not to try to look for a certain pitch, just to let the ball come to me and hit it."
Prior to Monday's game, Francona joked that with Uribe's recent success, he might just have to give him five days off more often.
"He says he plays better with five days off," Francona said. "If we play him three times a month he will be awesome. But he's actually swung the bat really good the night he came back and it carried over."
However, if Uribe continue to swing the bat as he has of late, he will continue to see his name etched in the lineup card.
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.