GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) – The navy blue Indians uniform wasn’t the only thing Juan Uribe wore as he walked around the team’s spring training complex for the first time.
He also sported a wide grin.
After waiting on a deal and working through issues with his visa, Uribe finally signed with the Indians on Sunday and was thrilled to have the opportunity to start his 16th season in the majors.
“I was kind of worried because this is what I know to do and this is what I love to do,” Uribe said through a translator. “I was kind of like, ‘I know that I got a feeling that the Indians are going to sign me and I got a feeling that we’re going to be able to get into a deal.'”
The Indians were adamant about signing the 36-year-old veteran to be Cleveland’s primary third baseman this season, manager Terry Francona said.
“We were trying to get him all winter,” Francona said. “I thought (Indians President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti) was really good this winter about being patient and not letting things go away, and staying after it.”
The Indians pursued Uribe for numerous reasons.
The first of those reasons, according to Francona, was that the Indians wanted third baseman Giovanny Urshela, who played in 76 games as a rookie for Cleveland last year, to start the season in Triple-A.
“Gio wasn’t ready quite offensively when he got to Cleveland last year,” Francona said. “Getting him some at-bats at Triple-A might end up being the final touch to him being an everyday third baseman in the major leagues, which would be great.”
Uribe’s presence will allow Urshela to gain more experience in Triple-A, but the veteran fit the bill for the Indians in plenty of other ways as well.
“We wanted somebody that can catch the ball. We wanted somebody that understood and cares about winning,” Francona said. “He has a good reputation for being really good with the young Latin players. A lot of things that we liked.”
Finishing his 2015 season having hit just below his career average of .256, Uribe is still a serviceable hitter and fielder. He played for the Dodgers and Braves earlier last year and wound up in the World Series with the Mets.
The veteran infielder would love to produce for Cleveland, but he’ll be content if he can help the team to have a successful year in any way possible.
“It doesn’t matter to me if I hit .100,” Uribe said. “Right now, the more important thing, it’s just to make the Indians win baseball games on a daily basis.”
Going through his first official workout with the Indians, Uribe didn’t fully partake in the activities with his new teammates as he eases his way into a new season.
The half-day wasn’t at all the way in which he wanted to start things with Cleveland, but he maintained that he’s happy to have an opportunity with the Indians.
“I was a little bit anxious just because I’m a guy that likes to report and to be at spring training a week before everybody shows up,” Uribe said. “I’m now here and I’m going to do the best that I can to try to be ready.”