Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51: Shawn Armstrong
Laurel Wilder | On 13, Feb 2016
As Did The Tribe Win Last Night helps fans count down the days until the Indians retake the field in an official Major League game, we look back at some of the players who wore the Cleveland jersey with pride.
Countdown to Opening Day – 51 days
Last year was finally the year.
After coming into the Indians organization in 2011 when he was drafted in the 18th round, pitcher Shawn Armstrong seemed to be destined for a sky-rocketing ascent through the system. At age 21, Armstrong had a powerful arm, threw for strikes, and had the dominance to fly through the lower levels of the Indians minor leagues. He played one game in Mahoning Valley in 2011, followed by two games in Lake County the following season, 26 in High-A Carolina, and 17 in Double-A Akron, where he closed out his 2012 season. The big leagues seemed to be beckoning at some point the following season. Armstrong was poised to have it all before many other guys his age even found their first full-time job.
Unfortunately, Armstrong missed the beginning of the 2013 season with an injury and spent much of the season rehabbing in Arizona. He played in 30 games with Akron that year, but didn’t see a glimpse of a level beyond Double-A.
The 2014 season was much of the same. Armstrong again found himself in Akron, though his performance began to improve after his injury-laden season. In 44 games, Armstrong went 6-2 and finished with a 2.12 ERA. He earned 15 saves and struck out 68 batters in 51 innings.
So improved was Armstrong’s performance that he earned a coveted promotion to AAA Columbus before the year was out. in five games with the Clippers, Armstrong threw only five innings and struck out four, but there was hardly room for concern. Armstrong was finally on his way to achieving the status he’d been yearning for – moving up the ladder to the big league stage.
It started as a promising season for Armstrong in AAA last year. Through early August, Armstrong tallied 69 strikeouts in 44 innings, posting a 2.25 ERA with 14 saves. He was throwing more like the Armstrong of old, the Armstrong who had been predicted to have a Cody Allen-esque rise through the organization.
And finally, it paid off.
Armstrong received the call that he was moving up to Cleveland in early August, where he pitched a scoreless ninth inning in his first Major League appearance with the Cleveland Indians. He cemented the Indians 17-4 Saturday night win over the Minnesota Twins.
After his initial performance, Cleveland.com quoted manager Terry Francona as saying, “We probably saw the best of him [Saturday] night and that’s pretty good. The guys said that he was coming in feeling good about himself. You could see that. If I threw like that, I’d feel good about myself, too.”
Armstrong made a total of eight appearances in Cleveland last season. He struck out eleven batters and finished five games with no saves. His big league ERA is 2.25.
The 2016 season could very easily be Armstrong’s big league breakout season. He had a taste of the Major Leagues last year, which will likely only make him hungrier for more appearances at the top of the food chain. With an invite to big league Spring Training, Armstrong will find himself in the middle of the competition from the beginning of camp when he reports next week. There will be no time for the pitcher to waste before he needs to compete for a bullpen spot with the Tribe. Armstrong is most effective with his sinker-slider combination when attacking hitters, but can suffer from inconsistent control. Hopefully, some intense focus and work can help smooth over those issues.
The Indians have had a decent amount of young pitchers step up the challenge in recent years, what with the talents of Kyle Crockett and Cody Anderson leaving impressive marks on the Tribe. Armstrong’s name should always have been in that grouping and, now, he may finally have his opportunity to do so.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images