Sports

Indians’ Naylor has broken ankle after collision

CLEVELAND — Josh Naylor‘s hustle and heart will be missing from the Indians‘ lineup for a while.

Naylor will need surgery after breaking his right ankle Sunday 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 to 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 rest of the season.

Clement said Monday that he felt some guilt about his role in the collision before exchanging text messages with his injured teammate.

“The words of encouragement from Josh, that meant the world to me because I was involved in that accident and it was really hard,” Clement said. “But you know there is nobody that wanted to be out on that field than Nails tonight, so I just wanted to play my heart out like he told me.”

Clement responded with two hits and three runs in Cleveland’s 13-5 rout of the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

Naylor’s 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 a 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 2½ games out of first in the AL Central.

The club is also without reigning AL 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 Columbus. The 26-year-old was considered part of Cleveland’s long-term plans after he batted .269 and hit 15 homers as a rookie in 2019.

But Mercado slumped last season, batting .128 in 36 games. After his 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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