2013 Spring Training Game #6: Royals 4, Indians 1
We all knew this day was coming. While going 36-0 in the Cactus League, 162-0 in the Regular Season, and 11-0 in the Postseason would certainly be a Tribe fan's dream come true, it is also completely unrealistic.
So, what can we glean from this first experience with failure in 2013? First off, in the "big picture", there is the realization that this offense - even in the hitter-friendly Arizona desert - will slump sometimes. Hopefully they will all be very brief. Also, it provides a chance to see how the team responds to failure. If what I have seen of this ballclub's attitude as any indication so far, they should have no trouble getting right back in the saddle and back at it today. Francona just won't allow it to turn out any other way.
As always, the real truth of a day in Goodyear lies in the various "little pictures" of each individual player's performance and how it affects where he will be spending Easter Sunday awaiting the start of the regular season. Following is a look at a few of the most compelling of these "little pictures" but, first, the lineup...
Stubbs - RF (Carson)
Cabrera - SS (Hernandez)
Kipnis - 2B (Santos - C)
Swisher - DH (McGuiness)
Santana - C (Phelps - 2B)
Reynolds - 1B (Aguilar)
Chisenhall - 3B (Spears)
Fedroff - LF (whole game)
Hunter - CF (whole game)
Albers - 1 IP
Perez - 1 IP
Shaw - 1 IP
Barnes - 1 IP
Soto - 0.2 IP
Guilmet - 1.1 IP
Paredes - 1 IP
Martinez - 1 IP
Gil - 1 IP
This report will focus mostly on pitching as it is very hard for an offensive performance to stick out in a loss in which only one run is scored. The lone exception is reserve right fielder Matt Carson who continued his hot streak at the plate by scoring the Tribe's lone run of the day on a solo home run to left field off of Royals reliever Brian Sanches in the 8th inning. While highly unlikely to make the Big Club's roster, Carson is making a very compelling case thus far to be playing at the corner of Neil and Nationwide come April.
On to the pitching, then. The bright spots included another stellar performance from closer Chris Perez (who came within a Johnny Giovatella double to left-center of a perfect second inning) and a solid outing from Preston Guilmet, who was called upon to get four outs as he succesfully brought an end to an ugly 5th inning before throwing a one-hit 6th.
The worst of the lowlights from the Tribe mound came from the culprit in the aforementioned 5th inning disaster: Giovanni Soto. While I will repeat what I said after his similarly dismal starting performance in the Spring Training opener in that he has never pitched a meaningful game above the AA level and is going up against Major League hitters, I am beginning to wonder if he is really gaining much of anything from these outings in big league games. In my opinion, Soto is a man for whom the start of minor league spring training games cannot come soon enough.
Finally, the other performances of concern involved the two relievers received in the Shin-Soo Choo trade: Matt Albers (who started the game) and Bryan Shaw (who pitched the 3rd inning). While neither pitcher was terrible, each gave up an earned run (Albers on two hits and Shaw on one) and a walk. While such a performance can be easily dismissed when made by a starter who would have time to settle down from a bad 1st inning in a regular season game, it takes on a greater degree of concern when it is the work of a reliever who is paid to pitch one inning and pitch it well. Admittedly, it is early and every reliever has their bad days, but performances such as yesterday's cannot become the norm for either of these pitchers if the Indians are to succeed in 2013.
In conclusion, while yesterday's loss was certainly a letdown from the euphoria of the first five games, it is still a Spring Training game and the true story behind the day, both good and bad, lies deeper than the final linescore on the Goodyear Ballpark scoreboard.