Some Good News and Some Bad News from Indians’ Camp in Goodyear
Bob Toth | On 13, Mar 2017
The World Baseball Classic has deprived Major League spring training camps of countless players, but life carries on as the 30 teams prepare for the quickly approaching regular season slate of games.
The Indians, down eleven players from their organization, have continued on without some of the bigger names from their roster, including Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana, and Andrew Miller. Despite the vacancies, the show must go on and the Tribe has put together a good stretch of play with their depleted roster, winning three straight over the weekend and four of their last five contests overall.
But with the good, generally comes the bad, and there was plenty of both over the course of the week.
Despite a 2-for-5 effort combined in his spring debuts on Friday and Saturday as the team’s designated hitter, Jason Kipnis has been shut back down after his delayed start while dealing with a strained right rotator cuff. The injury has not been problematic while swinging a bat, but has caused discomfort and complications while throwing. He will be on the sidelines for a period of two weeks before resuming action and, given the few weeks left in spring training, the chances are slim that Kipnis will begin the season in the Opening Day lineup.
In the event that Kipnis in fact remains unable to go when April begins, the club has several options to consider, including non-roster camp invitees Michael Martinez, Ronny Rodriguez, and Daniel Robertson, or 40-man roster member Erik Gonzalez. The team could also get creative and shift Jose Ramirez over to second base and retain a third baseman on the club, opening the door for guys like the injured Yandy Diaz or the WBC participant Giovanny Urshela, although that would seem less likely.
WHERE IS YANDY?
Diaz has been out of action since leaving a game against the Oakland Athletics on March 4 with what was described as a right groin injury after drawing two walks and striking out once in the contest. He had appeared in seven games through the first eight days of action with 15 total plate appearances, posting a .222 batting average with a pair of doubles as his only two hits for the spring season, but a .533 on-base percentage courtesy of five walks and a hit by pitch.
The injury comes at a tough time for the 25-year-old, who was an outside candidate to fight for a spot on the roster as a reserve outfielder or even as a utility man. Opportunity has knocked with the uncertain statuses of Michael Brantley and Kipnis and the late start to the spring from veteran Austin Jackson, but Diaz has not been able to get on the field to answer the call.
He ran the bases on Friday and was expected to take batting practice over the weekend, but was still considered several days away from returning to game action.
ANDERSON’S ELBOW ISSUES
The Indians announced on Thursday that starting pitcher Cody Anderson had been shut down, preceding the news on Friday that an MRI revealed a mild ulnar collateral ligament sprain.
Following the postseason, he underwent an arthroscopic debridement of his right pitching elbow and was expected to be ready in time for the start of the season. Instead, pain had surfaced during bullpen sessions, prompting the MRI. It was believed that he was destined to return to Triple-A Columbus to start the season after spending time between Cleveland and Columbus last season, working as both a starter and reliever throughout the year.
MATHIAS DISLOCATES SHOULDER
Infield prospect Mark Mathias, over from minor league camp, suffered a dislocated left shoulder during Saturday’s game with the Kansas City Royals. In the ninth inning while playing second base, he ranged to his left to make a diving stop but while attempting to push himself up to throw to first, crumpled back to the outfield grass and instantly clutched at the shoulder. He left the field on a cart.
“They’re going to take him back and put it back in, which I’m sure they’re doing now, and I’m sure it isn’t a whole lot of fun,” shared manager Terry Francona following the game. “Hopefully, when it gets back in, the damage that was done is minor. We’ll see. He was hurting.”
The 22-year-old third round pick out of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in the 2015 draft played with High-A Lynchburg and Double-A Akron last season. He is expected to undergo an MRI in the coming days to reveal the extent of the injury. He has dealt with shoulder injuries in the past, as during college he had right labrum surgery.
On his Twitter account on Sunday, he tweeted that “No athlete is truly tested until they’ve stared an injury in the face and come out on the other side stronger than ever.”
KLUBER, TOMLIN, AND JACKSON DEBUT
Several Indians made their spring debuts last week, including a pair of members of the starting rotation and an outfield option for the club this season.
Corey Kluber made his first start of the spring last Monday, but the end results were not quite what some might have hoped for. He faced Milwaukee and made 31 pitches in two and one-thirds innings, but allowed six runs on eight hits with a pair of walks and four strikeouts. Things were much more encouraging on Sunday against San Diego as he worked four innings (50 pitches) and allowed two runs on five hits with no free passes and four more strikeouts.
Josh Tomlin’s debut was more economical than Kluber’s, working three and two-thirds scoreless innings on March 9 against the Los Angeles Angels. In the same game, Austin Jackson made his Indians debut, going 1-for-3 with a solo home run. Four of his other five plate appearances since his return, however, have ended in strikeouts.
Top catching prospect Francisco Mejia, working regularly with the Major League club as a member of the 40-man roster this spring, has made quite the impression with a strong debut in camp.
The 21-year-old switch-hitting backstop, who spent time between Class-A Lake County and High-A Lynchburg last season while working on a 50-game hitting streak at the plate, is hitting .438 through nine spring games. He has hit safely in each of his last three and four of his last five. He got his first two hits and first two RBI of the spring last Wednesday and over the weekend hit home runs in back-to-back wins by the Tribe. His blast on Saturday against the Royals was a grand slam.
The Indians announced three roster moves on Sunday afternoon in advance of their game with the Padres. All three moves involved pitchers in camp, as left-hander Tim Cooney and right-handers Perci Garner and Dylan Baker were optioned to the minors.
The injured Cooney will report to Triple-A Columbus, as will Garner. Baker, a member of the 40-man roster who has pitched in just one game over the last two seasons and 225 innings in total since being drafted in 2012, was sent to the Double-A Akron RubberDucks. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015 after throwing five no-hit innings to begin his second stint at High-A and had a cleanup procedure on his other arm in January of 2016. He has not appeared in official game action since April 9, 2015.
Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images