Indians’ News and Notes from Down on the Farm
Bob Toth | On 23, Apr 2016
The 2016 baseball season is off to a hot start on all levels for the Cleveland Indians and their minor league affiliates, despite the early weather-related interferences provided by the environment. This week was a much different week than the first week of play, as the Tribe and all of their active farm clubs got in a full slate of work and looked good in the process.
The week was highlighted by several impressive individual pitching performances, hitting streaks at the plate and winning streaks in the standings, and even a player of the week award.
With so many games and names to know, here’s a breakdown of some of the things you may have missed.
PAPI WINS PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Lynchburg’s Mike Papi was named the Carolina League Player of the Week after hitting .314 over the first ten days of the season. During that span, he hit a league-best four home runs, including three in a two-game span last weekend, and slugged .800.
LYNCHBURG LOATHES LOSING
The Hillcats brought an eight-game winning streak into action on Friday night as they were set to host the Frederick Keys.
In his first season of action at High-A with the Hillcats, Julian Merryweather is a perfect 3-0 in three starts and has yet to give up a run over 17 2/3 innings. The 24-year-old righty has given up 15 hits, walked a pair (to give him a 0.96 WHIP), and struck out 13.
BRADY ALLOWS ONE HIT OVER SEVEN
Merryweather’s teammate on the pitching staff, Sean Brady, put up a second straight strong start after struggling in his season debut for the Hillcats. Against Frederick on Thursday, he allowed just one hit over seven innings, walked two, and struck out four.
OH CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN
Captains backstop Francisco Mejia is off to a blazing hot start despite some of the cool weather that Lake County has played in to start the year. The 20-year-old switch-hitter had hit in eleven of 12 games entering action on Friday, including an active ten-game hitting streak. He is hitting .435 on the season with six doubles, one triple, and 12 RBI and had struck out just four times in 46 at bats. He returned for a second season in Eastlake after hitting .243 last season with 13 doubles, nine homers, and 53 RBI.
ESPARZA SPARKS TWO-HITTER
The Captains defeated the Whitecaps 8-1 on Wednesday. Matt Esparza started the game and gave the Captains seven strikeouts over six innings and allowed just two hits and three total base runners in that span. He was credited with the win for the second straight start.
TWOS FOR LUKES
Nathan Lukes, a left-handed hitting outfielder with the Lake County Captains, put together four straight two-hit games from April 17 to April 20, giving him seven multi-hit games in his first dozen this season. The 21-year-old seventh round selection by the Indians in the 2015 draft is also excelling against southpaws, hitting .417.
CAPTAINS REACH MILESTONE WIN
With Tuesday’s 6-3 win over the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Lake County Captains reached the 400 victory mark since joining the Midwest League back in 2010. They had spent the first seven seasons of their franchise history in the South Atlantic League.
BAERGA MEET & GREET
The Captains announced on Thursday that former Indians player Carlos Baerga will come to Classic Park for a meet & greet on Sunday, July 3, prior to their game that night. It will be open to a limited number of fans. More details are available at captainsbaseball.com
RUBBERDUCK FANS FLOCK TO QU-AKRON
The Indians’ Double-A affiliate announced on Monday night that the club had drawn its most fans for an opening series at Canal Park in ten years. The four-game series against the Bowie BaySox drew a total of 22,382 from April 14 to April 17, the most fans hosted at the park since 22,980 visited in 2005. This year’s tally included a sold out home opener on the 14th that featured 7,671 fans. The series finale on Sunday fell less than 20 fans short of reaching the 6,000 mark.
“We are humbled and excited by our amazing fans’ passion for RubberDucks baseball and for our all-star season at Canal Park,” said Akron General Manager Jim Pfander in a press release from the club. “This is a great start to the season and I know the affordable family fun we have planned will keep smiles on the faces of fans of all ages.”
SMITH REACHES NEW HEIGHTS
Longtime member of the RubberDucks, Jordan Smith, was promoted to Triple-A Columbus on Monday when the Clippers put Michael Choice on the seven-day disabled list. The 25-year-old Smith appeared in 126 games in each of the last two seasons at Double-A with the RubberDucks, working in their outfield, and played eight games this season with Akron before the promotion.
Columbus Clippers veteran utility man Michael Martinez has been tough to keep off base through his first 12 games entering play on Friday night. The 33-year-old switch-hitter had reached base successfully in eleven of them, including a season-opening seven-game hitting streak that has been chased by a four-gamer that was active Friday. He has a .326 batting average on the young season.
Photo: Tim Phillis/TCP Photography