Francisco Lindor's smile beams out his passion for baseball. And while many Midwest League players are frustrated by hitting the metaphorical August wall in their first full season of professional baseball, Lindor expresses a happiness to have another challenge and another learning opportunity.
At 18 years old, Lindor is putting smiles on the faces of the Cleveland Indians front-office staff who drafted him in the first round last year. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound switch-hitting shortstop is hitting .258 for Lake County and isn't fazed by the 'grind it out' stage of the season.
"I'm playing baseball every day, and I'm grateful for that," said Lindor, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 Draft out of Montverde Academy near Orlando. "It's a long season, but you have to grind it out. You still have to play hard and make adjustments. You have to look at it like, 'I'm tired.' You have to look at it like you still have a chance to learn and gain experience.
"It's more about the mental side of the game," Lindor continued. "You have to come out and compete. You can't think about what you did in April, what you did in May, what you're doing in August. ... It's the mental side of the game that separates you. If you can stay strong the last couple of months, that's what it's all about."
Lindor's manager at Lake County, David Wallace, said that Lindor's outlook reflects his maturity.
"Francisco is the complete package," Wallace said. "He is just as good of a person off the field as he is a player on the field. We value that in this organization. All the talent, the work ethic, it's all there. He's got his feet firmly planted on the ground. He knows it's not going to be an easy path to the big leagues. Hopefully it's a quick path, but he understands that he's not going to be handed stuff because he's a first-rounder.
"He's a manager's dream because he's low maintenance," Wallace added. "He's a mature guy for his age. He understands the game way better than a lot of guys his age. He doesn't cause any trouble. You can tell that he was raised the right way, whether that was his family or a coach."
Lindor said that he looks at every situation as a learning opportunity, including when he was one of five players at his classification invited to participate in the Futures Game.
"I was happy and thankful to be in that game," Lindor said. "It was a great honor. The best thing was I learned a lot from that game. I soaked in everything possible that I could. So many people helped me. ... The best thing was just being around great players, watching how they went about the game, their preparation, and learning from that."
Lindor's switch-hitting talents have developed nicely in the Midwest League, according to Wallace. He's also adjusted well to a minor switch in his fielding -- Lindor only has 15 errors this season, and most of those were early in the year.
"We wanted him to play a little bit deeper than he was used to, just to cover more ground," Wallace said. "That kind of affected his internal clock, as he fielded a ball. ... Now, guys are getting down the line a little bit quicker, he's playing a little bit deeper, so that's one of the things that separates him. You tell him once, he takes it and makes the adjustment seamlessly and quickly, especially offensive adjustments that might take a guy a week, a month, even a year, we work on it before a game, and he's taking it into the game that night."
Reunited: Lake County manager David Wallace and Roberto Hernandez (formerly known as Fausto Carmona) were reunited recently when the Indians sent Hernandez to Lake County for a rehab assignment. Wallace and Hernandez played together for Lake County in 2003, the franchise's first season.
"It was a surreal moment for sure," Wallace said of managing a team with Hernandez on the roster. "We sat down, we laughed about it. ... It was exciting for me to be a small part in him getting back to that point. We're excited to see him get back to help Cleveland. He was very gracious. He got the team postgame spreads both times he was there, so we ate like big leaguers for a couple of nights. It was good for our guys to see how he goes about his business, and for them to know that he was right here where they are at one time."
Painful record: Wisconsin's Brandon Macias is the Timber Rattlers' King of Bruises. Macias was hit by a pitch for the 19th time this season, a Timber Rattlers' single-season record. The previous HBP mark was held by Luis Tinoco, who was beaned 18 times in 1996.
Shuffle time? Eleven of the Midwest League's 16 teams have Player Development Contracts that expire at the end of this season. If teams decide that they want to change affiliations, they must give written notice to Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball between Sept. 3 and Sept. 11. The two-week negotiation window for PDCs is Sept. 16-30. The deadline for teams to have PDCs locked up for the 2013 season is Oct. 7.
Swing and a miss:: Quad Cities pitcher Hector Hernandez struck out a career-high nine batters in five innings of work against Burlington, and the River Bandits' pitchers struck out a season-high 17 batters in a 12-inning game against the Bees. Burlington, though, held on for a 7-6 victory. Interestingly, Hernandez's previous high of eight strikeouts in one game came against Vermont last season, which, like Burlington, is an Athletics farm team. On Monday, six of Hernandez's nine strikeouts came against batters he faced in his eight-strikeout game against Vermont last season.