Francona apologizes to Indians for bullpen blunder

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CLEVELAND (AP) Indians manager Terry Francona spent the night tossing, turning and trying to forget.

There are tough losses during the course of a season. And then there are troubling ones – like what happened Tuesday night.

“I thought about it at 1 o’clock. I thought about it at 2 o’clock. I thought about it at 3 o’clock. I thought about it at 4 o’clock,” Francona said Wednesday, still coping with the Indians’ shocking – and embarrassing – 7-4 loss to Cincinnati. “Between 6 and 8 I actually slept.”

He wasn’t the only one with insomnia.

Francona and several of his coaches had trouble moving past a communication breakdown that helped the Reds score seven runs in the ninth inning. As the Reds were rallying, Francona wanted to bring in left-hander Oliver Perez to face slugger Joey Votto with two outs, the bases loaded and the Indians clinging to a 4-3 lead. But pitching coach Carl Willis thought he heard Francona tell him to summon right-hander Dan Otero.

Votto promptly hit a three-run double off Otero, giving the Reds a 6-4 lead.

“He thought I said O.T.,” Francona said, using Otero’s nickname. “I said O.P.”

Whatever was said, it wasn’t OK as the Indians suffered their third straight loss and intensified discussion about a beleaguered bullpen that dropped to 5-16 with an AL-worst 5.37 ERA.

When he arrived at Progressive Field for the series finale, Francona felt the need to apologize to his players for his role in the gut-wrenching loss, which wasted a brilliant performance by All-Star Trevor Bauer, who struck out 12 in eight innings.

“It falls on me,” he said. “But then, you’ve got to move on, too. So the best way for me to do that was I actually talked to the team and told them that I thought I messed up. And I apologized because I don’t like messing up. And inadvertently I came in last night and I thought took responsibility. But I also put O.T. in a tough spot. And I didn’t want to do that.

“So I told the guys. I said, `Hey man, that was not my intention.’ So I thought that was the best way for me to move on. It was a tough one. It was a tough night. I didn’t sleep very good.”

Francona said Willis, bench coach Brad Mills and bullpen coach Scott Atchison all felt culpable in the loss, but the Indians manager made it clear he’s the one who bears responsibility.

“Atch was killing himself,” Francona said. “I said, `Let’s look back at it. You can’t pick up the phone and go, are you sure?’ You know, everybody is just so conscientious. It was a mistake and I’m confident it won’t happen again, but I don’t take it lightly either.”

Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman knows how Francona felt. As someone who has managed over 1,500 major league games, Riggleman knows how quickly a decision – good or bad – can escalate.

“Anybody who’s managed any length of time, something similar has happened,” said Riggleman, who has managed in San Diego, Chicago, Seattle and Washington. “Whether it’s a lineup error or whether it’s a miscommunication in the dugout, a miscommunication on the phone to the bullpen, miscommunication on a double switch. I would almost have to call somebody and question, somebody who’s been in the game for a long time if it hasn’t happened at some time to them.”

“Because there’s just so many things said and done and decisions that are made, that the slightest misunderstanding can turn into that and you figure people who have done this between the minor leagues and big leagues, if you’ve done it 20 or 30 years, there’s going to be a few of those. It’s painful.”

Freelance reporter Ashley Bastock contributed to this report.

Cubs, RHP Taillon reportedly agree to 4-year contract

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SAN DIEGO — The Chicago Cubs have added Jameson Taillon to their rotation, agreeing to a four-year contract with the right-hander that is worth roughly $68 million.

A person familiar with the negotiations confirmed the deal to The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because it was pending a physical.

The Cubs haven’t formally announced the move, but President of Baseball Operations Jed Hoyer said the team has been looking at Taillon for a long time.

“I think he’s a really good starting pitcher,” Hoyer said at baseball’s winter meetings in San Diego. “He’s been really consistent. I think he’s continued to get better as he’s gotten healthier in his career. I think he’s showed the promise he had.”

The 31-year-old Taillon is coming off a solid season with the New York Yankees, going 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA. He matched his career high with 32 starts and worked 177 1/3 innings, his best total since he logged 191 innings in 2018.

The move puts Taillon back in the NL Central after he began his career with Pittsburgh. Taillon made his major league debut in 2016 and went 29-24 with a 3.67 ERA in 82 starts in his first four seasons with the Pirates.

Taillon missed the 2020 season after he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow for a second time. He was traded to the Yankees in January 2021 for four prospects.

“Since he’s been healthy, beginning with the Yankees, I think he’s pitched really well,” Hoyer said. “Yeah, I think there’s still more in the tank. But obviously we’re excited to get him. He’s a guy we targeted at the beginning of the offseason.”

Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft, moves into a rotation that also includes Marcus Stroman, who finalized a $71 million, three-year contract last December. Kyle Hendricks is hoping to return to form after he missed the last part of the season with shoulder trouble.

Chicago went 74-88 this year and finished third in the NL Central. But it went 40-31 in its last 71 games. The rotation had a 2.89 ERA after the All-Star break, third in the majors behind the Astros (2.70) and Dodgers (2.73).

The Cubs also got Cody Bellinger on Tuesday, agreeing to a $17.5 million, one-year contract with the 2019 NL MVP. Bellinger figures to play center field, but he also could get some work at first base.

The team could add another starting pitcher, and it is monitoring the shortstop market.

“Really glad with the two guys that we are able to potentially come to an agreement with while we’re here,” Hoyer said. “And obviously a lot of offseason left.”