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Zimmer confident Tribe's OF mix will surprise

Outfielder rehabbing at camp from July shoulder surgery

By Mandy Bell / MLB.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2019 6:44 PM ET

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The Indians' outfield has drawn quite a bit of attention over the offseason, after losing Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall. And even though Bradley Zimmer will not be ready for Opening Day, he's not worried about the team's strength in the grass.

"I could care less what anyone has to think about our performance, myself. That's for them to think," Zimmer said. "I know what I have and what we have is plenty good and can compete with any outfield out there. So I think we're going to be fine. To be honest, we're probably going to shock a lot of people."

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Zimmer, 26, underwent right shoulder surgery last July and was originally expected to miss 8-12 months for a return to full baseball activities. He seems to be right on schedule, if not slightly ahead.

"Obviously I want to be back as soon as possible, playing and be on this team, contributing," Zimmer said. "But at the same time I want to be 100 percent physically and be able to have no questions that something doesn't feel right or whatever. I'm just sticking with the plan and taking it day by day, continuing to make strides daily, weekly, until myself and the staff feels like I'm ready to play."

Zimmer has graduated from hitting off a tee to taking full swings in the cage. In January, he was throwing up to 75 feet, but he's making sure to not rush himself.

"It feels great swinging," Zimmer said. "Everything feels pretty good for the most part. It's just throwing is the last thing to come. So whenever that comes along I should be good."

Because of the injury, Zimmer played in just 34 games for the Indians last season, hitting .226 with two home runs and nine RBIs. His last appearance came on June 3 in Minnesota.

"It was not fun," Zimmer said of being sidelined. "I think watching is the best way to put it, it's tough to do. It's not where I want to be, but I'm in a lot better place now and did a lot of work this offseason to get to where I am for 2019, so I'm really looking forward to this year."

Until Zimmer makes a full recovery, the Indians will have outfield options in Greg Allen, Jordan Luplow, Tyler Naquin, Leonys Martin and Matt Joyce. The Indians have already told Martin that he will be the club's starting center fielder, leaving the corner spots up for grabs.

"People that want to doubt you or say whatever they want to say, [I] take it as motivation," Zimmer said. "It'll be fun to see them on the other end when we're proving everyone wrong."

Video: Lindor discusses rehabbing timeline for calf injury

Antonetti optimistic on Lindor
As Francisco Lindor continues to rehab his right calf injury, the rest of the staff remains optimistic that he will return for the start of the regular season. Lindor is expected to return to a Major League game between March 27-April 10.

When manager Terry Francona spoke to the media on Thursday, he guessed that Lindor would be back sooner rather than later. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti seems to think the same way, which makes it less likely for the club to explore free-agent options.

"We have thought about what our depth might be in that spot in the event he's not ready," Antonetti said at Cactus League media day on Tuesday. "So we'll continue to explore those options, but based upon what we know, we're still expecting him to be back for, if not [Opening Day], the vast majority of the season."

As Lindor battles through the first serious injury of his big league career, he remains nothing but positive, which Antonetti said is pretty special.

"Every day you're around Frankie is a refreshing day because of his mindset, his attitude and his mentality," Antonetti said. "He can find the positives in anything, and he really enjoys coming to the ballpark every day, no matter what circumstances. He can reframe what's happened, talk about it in a positive light, talk very specifically on what he learned and how he's going to go about the time he has in front of him to make himself a better player and a better teammate."

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @MandyBell02. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.