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Bradley Zimmer is ready to take on 2018 with a chip on his shoulder

CLEVELAND– Throughout the 2017 season, Indians center fielder Bradley Zimmer became well-known for his speed and defense after being called up last May.

It was something that was sorely missed down the stretch for the Tribe, as his rookie campaign was cut short during the waning weeks of the regular season.

In the Indians’ 3-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles on Sept. 10, (which was No. 18 in the Indians’ 22-game streak) Zimmer made a head-first slide into first base trying to avoid the tag from the Baltimore’s Chris Davis. While Davis made the tag, he also stepped on Zimmer’s hand.

As a result, Zimmer suffered a fracture in the fourth metacarpal (below his palm and under his ring finger) of his left hand. His absence was one fallen domino that put the Indians’ outfield through the ringer last year. But those worried about Zimmer’s progress need not fear.

“I’m feeling totally healthy, I’m ready to go,” Zimmer told reporters on Friday.

As fans know, Zimmer was sidelined for the remainder of the year, missing the last few weeks of the regular season and the ALDS series against the New York Yankees, which the Tribe went on to lose after holding a 2-0 series lead.

“It’s something I would have loved to been a part of,” Zimmer said when asked about missing the postseason. “Injuries happen, it’s unfortunate, but it just gives you that much more motivation. I feel like I would have helped out a lot, and it was tough to watch from the sideline. But still being a part of it and cheering those guys on was extremely fun and a great experience, so I’m really looking forward to next year and doing the same thing.”

By the time the postseason rolled around, the Indians outfield was depleted. Zimmer was out, and Michael Brantley was fighting an ankle injury. While the team put him at DH during the ALDS series, they moved Jason Kipnis, who had dealt with his share of injuries in 2017 as well, over to center field instead of back to his usual second base.

While Zimmer was just one piece of a pretty deep outfield, his absence was immediately felt.

“We missed him,” manager Terry Francona said. “He came at a time, where from all reports he really wasn’t a finished product. And he gave us such a help defensively, speed-wise, he held his own at the plate. He had that one period where he really struggled, but he really held his own at the plate. But defensively, he made us a different team.”

Last season, Zimmer posted .241/.307/.385 slash line. He also added in 39 RBIs, eight home runs, 15 doubles, two triples, 41 runs and 18 stolen bases. The experience he got at the Major League level combined with the adversity he faced is something Zimmer says he is taking into 2018.

“I think it’s just experience,” Zimmer said when asked the most important thing he learned last year. “Just being around these guys and knowing that I belong here, and building off my success and failures last year. So, really excited, I have a chip on my shoulder, and can’t wait to get going here in February.”

But as long as there are no further complications or injuries, having Zimmer around for a full season will mean the team can get a better feel for what exactly his ceiling is.

“Having him back healthy will be really nice to see is he ready to advance into playing everyday, can he handle that, do you have to give him a break against lefties,” Francona said. “Those are things we don’t know yet, but it’s nice to know he’s healthy and back because we really did miss him.”

Ashley is a former basketball player who covers the Cleveland Cavaliers, Indians and high school sports for NEO Sports Insiders. She also covers the Cavs for SB Nation's Fear The Sword. Ashley is a 2015 graduate of John Carroll University and previously worked in political journalism. You can follow her on Twitter @AshleyBastock42

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