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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | May 19, 2019

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 30 – Tyler Naquin

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 30 – Tyler Naquin

| On 26, 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 – 30 days

Tyler Naquin kicked off his spring with the Tribe in nice fashion, yanking a pitch down the right field line at Goodyear Ballpark and over the wall for a solo home run, giving Cleveland its first run of Cactus League play in 2019. Will that be a positive omen for the right fielder, who is looking to stake his claim to a roster spot after several seasons of mixed results and injury?

Naquin’s third season in the number 30 for the Tribe came to a premature end last season after just 61 games. He had provided some encouraging numbers through the first half, but the injury bug’s repeated bites led to lackluster second half figures.

Naquin – Ron Schwane/Getty Images

He was hitting .294 after the first month of the campaign, and an eight-game hitting streak through May 11 pushed that mark to .333. A left hamstring strain paused his streak temporarily, as he took some time to recover from the injury before spending nearly two weeks out on rehab assignments in Akron and Columbus. He returned to the Indians lineup on June 15 and resumed his hitting streak with single hits in his first three games back, but he got just three more hits over his next 28 at bats while working back in center field. July was less kind to Naquin, as he got hits in eleven of his 19 games while hitting just .242 with a .277 on-base percentage. Then, just a month and a half after coming off of the disabled list, a strained right hip knocked him out for the rest of the year.

It followed a disappointing sophomoric effort in 2017, when he started and ended the season on the Tribe roster, but spent the majority of the year back at Columbus with the Triple-A Clippers while also missing nearly a month and a half on the minor league DL with lower back tightness.

Not long ago, Naquin was the 15th overall pick in the 2012 draft. His 2016 debut season resulted in a third place finish in the American League’s Rookie of the Year voting, as he posted a .296/.372/.514 slash with 18 doubles, five triples, 14 homers, and 43 RBI in 116 games. Since that breakout season, he has appeared in just 80 games, slashing .256/.287/.341 with nine doubles, three homers, and 24 RBI.

The Indians’ muddy outfield picture is relying on a strong spring and a return to those breakout numbers from Naquin, who may more realistically be playing as part of a time share in the corner. The left-handed hitter has performed strongly against right-handed pitchers in his career, hitting .283 with a .341 on-base percentage and .454 slugging mark with 23 doubles, four triples, all 17 of his career homers, and 56 of his RBI in 528 plate appearances. In a significantly smaller sample size against southpaws (60 plate appearances), he owns a career .250 average with a .328 OBP and a .365 slugging with four doubles, a triple, and eleven RBI.

One of the more highly touted players in the city over the last few decades to wear the number 30 was pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, whose acquisition came at a lofty cost, or so it seemed at the time.

Jimenez had spent more than ten years with the Colorado Rockies and was coming off of his best big league season when the Indians added him to the club in 2011 in a surprising midseason move.

Jimenez – Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The right-hander wrapped up his sixth Major League campaign with unheard of numbers at Coors Field in 2010, making the only All-Star appearance of his career. He finished the season with a 19-8 record while posting a 2.88 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 33 starts. He logged four complete games and twice threw shutouts. It earned him a third place finish in the National League Cy Young race.

He was off to a shaky start in 2011, earning a 6-9 record with a 4.46 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 21 starts before the deadline when the Indians made the call to acquire the 27-year-old. It came at a perceived high cost at the time, as the team sent 2009 first rounder Alex White and 2010 fifth overall pick Drew Pomeranz to Denver, along with a third pitcher, Joe Gardner, and catcher/first baseman/outfielder Matt McBride for two and a half years of Jimenez.

He struggled a bit in his first American League action, going 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in eleven starts as the Indians succumbed to injuries down the stretch. The following season was even worse, as he went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP (the worst still of his 12-year career), but under new coaching leadership in manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway, he put together a 13-9 showing in 2013 with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP while averaging a career-best 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings for the Indians’ AL Wild Card contending team.

He cashed in on the turnaround, signing a four-year, $50 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. That hefty price tag bought the O’s 117 games of Jimenez, who went 32-42 with a 5.22 ERA while several times spending stretches out of the team’s rotation. The rest of the league’s opinion of Jimenez’s grasp of the game was clear after his contract ended following the 2017 season, as he did not pitch professionally in 2018.

Unlike Jimenez, who cost the Indians a significant prospect haul, one of the best to wear number 30 for the Indians instead provided the Tribe with a notable return when he was sent out of town ahead of the final year of his contract in town.

Joe Carter hit the pro circuit in 1981 when the Chicago Cubs took him with the second overall pick in the June draft out of Wichita State University. But, despite reaching the Majors in 1983, the Cubs packaged him up just three months and one day after the ink dried on his first pro contract to acquire pitchers Rick Sutcliffe and George Frazier and battery mate Ron Hassey. The Indians, in return, rebuilt their outfield. Joining Carter in the trade was pitcher Don Schulze and outfielder Mel Hall, who would team with Carter for much of the rest of the decade in the outfield at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Carter – Getty Images

Carter blossomed into a dangerous threat in the lineup for the Tribe. After hitting 13 homers in 1984 and 15 homers in 1985, he exceeded that combined production in 1986, when he became a 20-20 man for the first time in his career. He hit .302, stolen 29 bases, and recorded 200 hits (including 36 doubles, a career-best nine triples, and 29 homers). His 121 RBI were tops in baseball.

He followed it up with a 30-30 season, hitting 32 homers and stealing 31 bases in 1987 to become the first player in franchise history to accomplish the feat. He had 36 doubles, 27 homers, and 98 RBI in 1988 and appeared in all 162 games in 1989, giving the club 32 doubles, 35 homers, and 105 RBI.

Set to become a free agent after the 1990 season and appearing ready to explore the free agent market for top dollars, the Indians sent him to San Diego in December of 1989 for a three-player package that included veteran Chris James, top catching prospect Sandy Alomar Jr., and Carlos Baerga.

Carter would go on to play nine more seasons (spending just one in San Diego) and would be a five-time All-Star and a World Series hero for the Toronto Blue Jays along the way before splitting his final big league season in 1998 with Baltimore and San Francisco. The move paid off in its own ways for the Indians, however, as Alomar would spend eleven years behind the plate for the club, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1990 and being named to six All-Star teams. The Tribe also got the best years of Baerga’s career, which included back-to-back 200-hit seasons in 1992 and 1993 (the first two of three career All-Star appearances for the second baseman).

Other notable 30s in Tribe history (50 in total): Thornton Lee (the first in 1933), Jim Hegan (1941), Red Embree (1944-45), Pat Seerey (1947-48), Gene Bearden (1948-50), Hoot Evers (1955-56), Dick Donovan (1963-65), Wil Cordero (2001-02), Brian Tallet (2003-05), Andy Marte (2007), Lou Marson (2009-10).

Photo: Rick Yeatts/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below.

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 61 – Dan Otero
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 59 – Carlos Carrasco
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58 – Neil Ramirez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 57 – Shane Bieber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 55 – Roberto Perez
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 49 – Tyler Olson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 47 – Trevor Bauer
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 46 – Jon Edwards
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 45 – Adam Plutko
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 44 – Nick Goody
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 41 – Carlos Santana
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 39 – Oliver Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 38 – Eric Haase
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 35 – Ben Taylor
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 33 – Brad Hand
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 32
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 31 – Danny Salazar

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