Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 53
Bob Toth | On 03, Feb 2019
Major League Baseball will kick off the 2019 season with its earliest start ever (excluding international openers) as all 30 teams will take the field on March 28. Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 53 days
The number 53 is back on the market in Cleveland after being temporarily used by outfielder Greg Allen during his first two seasons in the Majors with the Indians and Melky Cabrera during his two stints with the Tribe in 2018.
After spending the majority of the 2017 season in the minors and splitting time between Cleveland and Triple-A Columbus a season ago, Allen transitioned over to the number 1 during the season. He is expected to be back in the single digit again in 2019, although he did appear at Tribe Fest wearing his old 53 again. How much he contributes to the roster this coming season will depend largely on what the team does in the final weeks heading into spring training, as the outfield has remained an area of great concern (at least among outsiders looking at the list of candidates heading to Goodyear, Arizona, to participate in this year’s spring training activities). Allen has a legitimate shot to win a spot at minimum as a reserve outfielder for the club.
Allen has shown flashes of what he can do at the Major League level over the last year and a month. His legs are easily his biggest weapon, as he picked off 21 bases in 25 attempts. He also had a dozen more thefts in his 47 games of action with the Clippers to give him 33 on the year in 43 tries. He was mainly a contact hitter and has never hit for a high average, but he used his hustle to leg out eleven doubles and three triples in his 291 plate appearances with the Tribe while adding 13 more doubles in his 205 trips to the dish at Triple-A.
Allen gives the roster balance as he is a capable defender and provides some plus speed off of the bench if used in that capacity.
Cabrera was a late signee with the Tribe a season ago, joining the club at the end of April before heading to the minors to prepare for the campaign. The 33-year-old was added to the 40-man roster during the third week of May, but he lasted just three and a half weeks before he was a roster casualty. He re-signed with the club on July 5 and made it into 78 games in total for the season, hitting .280 with a .335 on-base percentage and a .420 slugging mark with 17 doubles, six homers, and 39 RBI in his 14th MLB season.
The veteran is a free agent and will hope that he lands another contract earlier in the season than he did a year ago.
After two seasons in the Cleveland bullpen, Jeff Manship‘s time on the roster came to an abrupt end ahead of the 2017 season when the Cleveland front office opted not to tender him a contract in December, making the 32-year-old right-hander a free agent instead of an arbitration candidate.
The move may have come as a surprise to some at the time, as his overall numbers were average, especially compared to his incredible half-season of work with the club in 2015, but on the surface alone may not have merited being cut loose when due a fairly reasonable salary for the coming year.
Manship was a surprise low-risk addition by the Indians prior to the 2015 season. He did not make the roster out of spring training, but he put up good numbers at Columbus, earning him a call-up during the season. He took full advantage of that opportunity, posting a 0.92 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP in 39 1/3 innings over 32 games for Cleveland. The next season, he could not replicate the same degree of success, going 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.43 WHIP, seeing his hit rate jump more than one per nine innings and his walk rate climb nearly two per nine innings. The Indians let him walk, despite the affordable projection of a $1.2 million figure in arbitration according to the number gurus of MLBTradeRumors.com. He did not find offers in MLB to his preference and instead traveled to Asia to continue his baseball career, signing a $1.8 million one-year contract with the NC Dinos of the Korean Baseball Organization. He put together a nice season for the Dinos, going 12-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 21 starts.
Manship was rumored to have garnered some interest from Major League organizations, with several considering minor league contracts with spring training invites. But no offers rolled in for Manship to super agent Scott Boras in a crowded and slow-to-develop relief market and he inked a contract that would pay him far more than he had made in any one previous season (he was paid $760,000 in his final pre-arb season with the Indians in 2016). He did not pitch professionally in 2018, despite signing with the Cincinnati Reds briefly last February.
In wearing the number 53 over his last two seasons, Manship became one of many relievers (and converted starters, no less) to don the digits for the Cleveland Indians. The first player to do so, however, was catcher Jerry Willard, who broke into the Bigs in 1984 while wearing it for parts of his 87 games in his debut season. Right-handed reliever Reggie Ritter was next in 1986, wearing it in parts of each of his only two seasons in the Majors, both in the Indians organization. Sammy Stewart also wore it in his only season in Cleveland in 1987 while wrapping up his ten-year MLB career. Pitcher Kevin Wickander wore it over four seasons in Cleveland from 1989 to 1993 and handed it off later to Jeremy Hernandez, who took the mound 49 times in relief in 1993 for the Tribe in his lone season with the club.
Paul Shuey is the longest tenured 53 in club history, debuting less than two years after the club selected him with the second overall pick in the 1992 draft out of the University of North Carolina. He had arguably the most big league success of any of the former Tribesmen in the number, appearing in 361 games and posting a 34-21 record with 21 saves, a 3.60 ERA, and a 1.40 WHIP over nine seasons with the club before his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002.
The number bounced around on the backs of relievers like Carl Sadler, Jeriome Robertson, Jeremy Guthrie, and 20-year vet Arthur Rhodes before it found a more permanent home on the jersey of left-hander Rafael Perez.
“Raffy Left”, part of the bullpen matchup tandem with Rafael Betancourt, wore the number from 2006 to 2012 and become one of the more heavily used arms on the club’s relief staff, appearing in 73 games in 2008, 70 games in 2010, and 71 games in 2011. Early strong strikeout rates did not continue throughout his career, however, as he struggled during his middle and later years in Cleveland with higher hits and walks rates. Being a left-hander with some success at the Major League level earned him several additional opportunities along the way, as he signed free agent deals with Minnesota (2013), Boston (2013), Texas (2014), Pittsburgh (2014), and Seattle (2015), but he never once returned to the Majors.
He has spent time since pitching professionally in foreign leagues. He pitched in the Mexican League in 2015 and has worked in the Dominican Winter League with the Gigantes del Cibao for each of the last six years.
Following Perez, southpaw reliever Rich Hill wore it for Cleveland in 2013 with minimal success before reviving his career elsewhere after being converted back into a starting pitching role. Catchers Chris Gimenez and George Kottaras both represented it on the field during the 2014 season before Manship brought the number back to the mound.
Photo: Adam Glanzman/Getty Images
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