Indians drop spring opener to Reds, 8-3
Tribe offense manages just three hits as young pitching faulters
Player of the Game: Chris Heisey (2-for-3) with a double, home run and two RBI.
It may not feel like it in Cleveland, but baseball is officially back.
The Indians dropped their first game of Cactus league action against their state rival Cincinnati Reds Wednesday afternoon, 8-3. Outscoring the Tribe 6-1 over the final four frames, Cincy cruised to the easy victory in the spring opener at Goodyear Ballpark.
Both the Tribe and Reds finished 2013 as wild card hopefuls, making the postseason only to be eliminated in a one-game playoff despite winning 90+ games during the regular season. Wednesday marked the first road to their redemption.
Rotation Battle Heats up Early
It was the young vs. the old in the first of many rotation battles this spring, as two of the five starting pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the Indians rotation took the mound Wednesday afternoon.
Tribe prospect Trevor Bauer started the game much of the same way he started the four games up in Cleveland last season. After a nine pitch walk to Reds leadoff man Billy Hamilton, Bauer walked former Indian Brandon Phillips on four straight to start the ballgame. The 23 year-old held tough and kept his composure though, striking out 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto one batter later. On the same pitch, Yan Gomes threw out Phillips trying to steal second before Bauer recorded the final out of the inning for a scoreless frame.
Yes, the walks were still present, but his new delivery which he worked on all offseason looked much more comfortable and fluid than one season ago. It should be interesting if Bauer can stay consistent in the weeks ahead, but don't count the phenom out by any means for the final rotation spot.
Now for the old, as veteran right-hander Aaron Harang followed Bauer's scoreless inning with one of his own. The 35 year-old looked very sharp in his Indians spring debut allowing just one hit to his former club while also striking out Cincinnati outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Signed to a minor league deal two weeks ago, Harang is a big name to watch this spring as he has always been durable during his career, having started 25 games or more in nine of the last 11 years.
Offense Cold as Winter
It was more runs than the Indians put up in October, but it's far from being anything to brag about.
Indians hitters managed just three runs on three hits in their first game action this spring, where two of the three hits came from players off the 40-man roster without any big league experience. It wasn't until the fifth inning that Tribe bats came to life, as Ryan Raburn lead off the inning with a double before scoring one batter later on a RBI base-hit by catching prospect Tony Wolters. An inning later, 22-year-old shortstop Erik Gonzalez singled before coming around to score on a sacrifice fly by former Giants infielder Ryan Rohlinger.
Young pitching faulters
Cincinnati scored twice off four different Tribe pitchers, but only two of them saw action in Cleveland last season. Southpaw T.J. House was one of those, as he surrendered two runs on three hits in two innings of work, walking one and striking out two. Believe it or not, House is the only left-handed starter in Indians camp and on the 40-man roster.
Lefty reliever Colt Hynes wasn't any better, giving up two runs in just 2/3 of an inning, and the same could be said for prospect C.C. Lee who gave up a two-run homer to Reds outfielder Chris Heisey in his inning of work. Lee is a dark horse candidate for a vacant spot in the Indians bullpen.
- Left-handed reliever Nick Hagadone struck out one in a scoreless effort in the fifth inning. With two southpaws in Josh Outman and Marc Rzepczynski set to start the year in Cleveland (barring injury), Hagadone more than likely is on the outside looking in when it comes to making the big league club.
- Outfielder Nyjer Morgan went 0-for-3 in his spring debut at the top of the Indians lineup. Signed to a minor league deal, Morgan like former Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur are battling for what looks to be only one available bench spot.
- Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera went a hitless 0-for-2 Wednesday, as he hopes to build on a dismal 2013. Having spent the last seven years with the Indians, Cabrera is a free agent at the end of the season.
Wins and losses mean everything, but that may not be the case when it comes to spring training games. Over the next four weeks, the focus should be on the development and consistency of individual player performances rather than final team records.
Last year the World Series champion Boston Red Sox finished with a 17-17 spring training record. Despite a 25-7 start by the Kansas City Royals, the team failed to qualify for the postseason at season's end. The same could be said for a few N.L. teams, as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and L.A. Dodgers finished with the three worst spring records in the National League, yet all three teams went on to make the playoffs seven months later.
It's not how you start, it's how you finish.
Up next for the Indians: Spring training action continues Thursday afternoon as the Tribe battles Cincy once again at 3:05 p.m. All-Star Justin Masterson is slated to get the start against Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto. Other Cleveland pitchers scheduled to pitch include Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Tyler Cloyd, David Aardsma, Josh Outman, Blake Wood and Mike Zagurski.
The game can be seen live on SportsTime Ohio, or through Newsradio WTAM 1100.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
Mentioned this in the other article...but wonder if the yanks and Tribe couldn't have a match for a catcher. Yanks don't have a lot in the minors but are pretty stacked at catcher. Cervelli is out of options I believe and while he could end up McCann's backup has some guys that could easily bump him out. Decent OBP skills especially against lefties. Small sample but has a .305 BA, .402 OBP vs lefties in career. Yanks could use another infielder...
I know Cabrera is the one we have talked about dealing most, but if Elliot Johnson has a good spring wonder if Aviles couldn't be moved in a smaller deal? If Santana shows he's able to play 3B at least agianst lefties then Aviles may not see much time there...AC should start at SS (Johnson can backup) and Kip obviously is the starter at 2B (and Raburn can backup there). If AC goes down with injury you could turn to Jose Ramirez too and Lindor could even be ready in July/August. Not saying we need to trade Aviles but could be expendable.
Do think that bringing in another catcher (still not calling it a 3rd catcher) probably depends on how much Santana plays at 3B. However...I do think one scenario that hasn't been talked about (at least much) is finding a catcher that can platoon with Chiz (Gomes can DH and rest on those days).
but do not recall seeing anything bad. He did have a 3-1 (Hynes) play that he handled well. I was pleasantly surprise by Harang inning of work maybe the Indians have a keeper there.
When asked about the roster construction and decisions to be made, Francona said something to the effect "can Santana catch" as if it's still not a done deal he'll be the backup catcher.
As people know I'm against Santana catching in 2014 but with how they went about this off-season I'd have thought they were set on him backing up (didn't add any catcher of note despite numerous options this winter). Can't imagine they are really considering Treanor or Carlin....at least I hope not.
Agree on Hags looking good. Would love to have a legit 3rd lefty option. As good as Scrabble was for us last year, can't ignore how much he struggled in St. Louis. He's no sure thing IMO.
Know I'll catch flack for this...but as far as Moncrief's defense...meh. Made a decent play on that first liner to him but that 2nd fly ball, while it looked nice was more a product of him turning the wrong way and taking an bad route to the ball. I'm sure getting used to that Arizona sky isn't easy but that was not a good play at all....he simply just made it look tough. Not saying he's bad out there, could be a great defender, but he didn't show it yesterday.
If Moncrief gains any plate discipline he could the future starting in RF by 15. If there is any injuries to OF he could get call up this year.
Nice mechanics by Bauer in the first outing. Strong velocity (even without a gun to know the 'number'). Aaron Harang is definitely ahead of a normal schedule.. His baseball life is on the line, so, that's not unusual..
Francisco Lindor looks like the real deal. Chasing a ball in the dirt reminds him that he's still not old enough to buy a drink. Good things to come..
Carlos Moncrief showed he can "go get em" in the field.. Cohort Jesus Aguilar looked more than comfortable at the plate, good eye..
Lonnie let a ground ball go by (Ole') without getting leather on it.. followed it up with getting in front of a smash that he recovered to throw out Billy Hamilton.. Not a bad day in the field.
CC Lee was unimpressive..
First spring game in the books..30 more to go..