Indians’ Josh Naylor breaks ankle in frightening collision

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
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CLEVELAND — Josh Naylor‘s hustle and heart will be missing from Cleveland’s lineup for a while.

Naylor will need surgery after breaking his right ankle in Minnesota during a frightening collision with rookie second baseman Ernie Clement as they tried to catch a pop fly.

Naylor, who has been a clutch hitter and bright spot for the Indians, smashed into Clement in the fourth inning of the Indians’ 8-2 loss. Naylor was sprinting toward the infield to try and catch a ball hit by Minnesota’s Jorge Polanco when he slammed into Clement.

The Indians said Naylor has a “closed” fracture and dislocation. He’ll be out indefinitely.

Naylor spent the night at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minnesota. He returned to Ohio on Monday, accompanied by trainer James Quinlan, who took Naylor to his apartment before coming to Progressive Field.

Naylor will be evaluated at the Cleveland Clinic this week by foot/ankle specialist Dr. Mark Berkowitz. The team did not give a timetable for Naylor’s return, but due to the severity of the injury and necessary recovery time, it’s likely Naylor will miss the remainder of this season.

His loss is another blow to the Indians, who despite a rash of injuries have stayed competitive.

“He has a big heart,” manager Terry Francona said. “As with a lot of 23-, 24-year-old kids, they can make some mistakes during games. But you could tell him that and he’d be, `OK, yes sir, I’ll try not to do that again,’ which is what you’re looking for.

“He just keeps playing. I’m really hopeful that going through this, that will be what gets him to the finish line and back to being a good player, is that attitude.”

The impact with Clement spun Naylor, whose right foot was planted awkwardly underneath him. Naylor immediately reacted in pain, rolling around and pounding his hands into the grass while calling for help.

His leg was placed in an air cast and the 24-year-old was carted off the field on a stretcher as his shocked teammates consoled Clement and gathered themselves.

“It was hard,” Francona said. “I had to walk away a couple times.”

The Indians placed Naylor on the injured list before opening a three-game series against Detroit.

Acquired by Cleveland last year in a trade with San Diego, Naylor has been steady contributor this season. He’s batting .253 with seven homers and 21 RBIs while playing both right field and first base.

The Canadian has also become a fan favorite because of his all-out effort and for batting .714 (5-for-7) with a homer and three RBIs against the New York Yankees in last year’s playoffs.

Naylor’s injury is perhaps the most serious for the Indians, who are 2 1/2 games out of first in the AL Central.

The club is also without reigning Cy Young winner Shane Bieber (shoulder), starters Aaron Civale (finger) and Zach Plesac (thumb), slugger Franmil Reyes and Gold Glove catcher Roberto Perez (finger).

Reyes took batting practice in Cleveland on Monday and could be nearing a return following a rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus. He’ll play three consecutive games at Double-A Akron before the Indians consider activating him.

In need of another outfielder, the Indians recalled Oscar Mercado from Triple-A Columbus. The 26-year-old was once considered part of Cleveland’s long-term plans after he batted .269 and hit 15 homers as a rookie in 2019.

But Mercado slumped all last season, batting .128 in 36 games. After a slow start this spring, the Indians sent him to the minor leagues.

The Indians also recalled left-hander Logan Allen, who is slated to start Thursday against Houston.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.