Terry Francona and Carl Willis pulled off a real-life “Abbott and Costello” act Tuesday night.
The Indians manager and pitching coach suffered a communication breakdown that would have been humorous had it not essentially cost Cleveland the game against the Cincinnati Reds.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth inning and the Indians clinging to a one-run lead, Francona wanted to make a pitching change and bring in left-handed reliever Oliver Perez to face lefty Reds slugger Joey Votto. Makes sense, right?
So, he called up Willis in the bullpen — who told right-hander Dan Otero to enter the game.
What was Willis thinking? Turns out a misidentified letter led to the wrong hurler coming in from the bullpen.
Francona’s affinity for nicknames — Perez is “OP;” Otero is “OT” — cost him dearly, too. Votto hammered a three-run triple off Otero to lift Cincinnati to a 7-4 win.
Francona took the heat for the miscommunication after the game as only he can.
“When I saw OT coming through the gate — and again, it’s not that I don’t think he can pitch — just not the guy I was expecting,” Francona said, via The Athletic’s C. Trent Rosecrans. “I know Carl’s beating himself up right now, but that one lands on me.”
Enunciation is important, kids.
Fortunately for Francona, the former Boston Red Sox skipper has a little room for error. Cleveland has lost four straight but still sits 8 1/2 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins for the American League Central lead.
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