Excellent starting pitching is the norm for the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats staff under Cleveland Indians management. D.J. Brown was 11-3 in 2015 while wearing a Hillcats jersey. Julian Merryweather pitched exceptionally well in 2016, earning an All-Star nod and a …
Mitch Longo, the product of Mayfield, Ohio, walked in his first three plate appearances on a Wednesday night that ended the first week and the first homestand of the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats’ 2018 season. When on base, the 6’ 0″, 185 lb. Longo wears a glove that most closely resembles a penguin’s flipper. The black Velcro straps wind around and above the wrist, securing the cushioned glove in case he should dive back into first base, or slide headfirst when advancing.
Beginning his third season in the Cleveland farm system, Longo sports this contraption to protect the site where he had hand surgery early in 2017. His immediate goal for 2018 is to stay healthy and show the Indians what he can do.
“In short season rookie ball I rolled my ankle, and then last year I broke my hamate bone,” says Longo recalling past injuries. “I don’t want the stigma of not being a guy they can rely on.”
The Carolina League announced on Monday night that Lynchburg Hillcats right-hander Justin Garza had been named the league’s Pitcher of the Week for games played between April 5 and April 15.
Garza won the first Pitcher of the Week award of his career after making a pair of scoreless starts for Lynchburg, earning a win and taking a no-decision to start his 2018 season.
Free agent moves of Major League players get the majority of attention in the offseason, but plenty of role players and other prospects still hoping for a chance at a big league pay day bounce around the country when their pro contracts come to an end. A handful of Indians farmhands were on the move over the winter, with several others still unsigned.
The Baltimore Orioles came sniffing around the Tribe’s former prospects, including snatching one up through a Rule 5 claim.
Fresh green grass. The crack of the bat. A bright warm day requiring sunscreen and a ball cap. These are sure signs of spring training and an impending new season. While Cleveland Indians farm hands were working out in balmy Arizona, fans of the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats were enduring a March of temperatures in Central Virginia ranging from a low of 22°F to a high of 78°F. Opening Day usually marks a point when winter fast retreats in the rear view mirror. This year, winter decided to hang around a bit longer.
Under clear, sunny skies, a game time temperature of 59°F paired with a steady breeze out of left field. A mix of old and new Hillcats trotted out onto Calvin Falwell Field for the season opener. Newcomer Sam Hentges would get the nod as the Opening Day starter for the Hillcats.
The commissioner’s office announced on Friday that Cleveland Indians’ minor league pitcher Alsis Herrera has been suspended for 80 games without pay after violating the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.
Herrera, 25, tested positive for the banned substance Stanozolol. He was expected to start the season at High-A Lynchburg.
While plenty of focus has been given to the big name free agents departing the Cleveland Indians organization this offseason, there has been plenty of movement down on the farm for the club’s minor league free agent class.
The names are nowhere near as big as Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw, and Joe Smith, who have all signed lucrative contracts in Philadelphia, Colorado, and Houston, respectively, nor are they as big as Jay Bruce, who is still testing the free agent waters while waiting for the right deal, but the moves cut into some of the existing depth in the team’s minor league system.
The annual Winter Meetings wrapped up on Thursday from Orlando, Florida, with the completion of the Rule 5 draft.
Despite having an open 40-man roster spot, the Cleveland Indians did not make a selection during the Major League portion of the procedures, but the club did lose right-handed pitcher Jordan Milbrath to the Pittsburgh Pirates with the eighth pick in the draft.
During the minor league phase, the Indians selected left-handed pitcher R.C. Orlan from the Washington Nationals farm system during Round 1 of the Triple-A phase. The Tribe lost two more minor leaguers, when outfielder Junior Soto was nabbed by the New York Yankees several picks earlier in the round and shortstop Ivan Castillo was selected with the 41st pick by the Toronto Blue Jays in Round 3.
Minor league infield prospect Willi Castro put together a career year on the farm for the Cleveland Indians and headed to the Dominican Republic to participate in offseason activity in the Dominican Winter League. But after a hot start there, the 20-year-old shortstop has seen his last game action for 2017 as he has been shut down with a left knee injury sustained in the competitive offseason league.
Castro injured the knee on a slide in the third inning of a game against Los Gigantes de Cibao on October 24. He returned to Cleveland to be examined by a team doctor the following Monday, with an announcement by the club a week later confirming that he had sprained the MCL in his knee.
The Cleveland Indians’ season may be over and the World Series nearly half way complete, but competitive baseball continues to be played at spots across the globe.
Eight different Tribe prospects are in Glendale, Arizona, working in Arizona Fall League play. Four more have headed to South America to work in the Venezuelan Winter League, while nine more have taken up temporary residence in the Caribbean while participating in the Dominican Winter League.
Three different Tribe position prospects and six pitchers are scattered throughout the six-team Liga de Beisbol Dominicano.
Arizona Fall League play is under way as some of the top prospects around the minor league landscape pair up for competition in the annual six-team offseason league.
Hopeful prospects are a week into the six-week schedule as players work to hone their craft against a collection of some of the best up-and-coming names working their way through the levels of professional baseball. The Indians are well represented in their home-away-from-home in Arizona, where eight of their minor leaguers help make up the roster of the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Those eight Indians prospects have teamed up with representatives from the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates for league action in Glendale this year, after Cleveland players worked with different clubs while playing for the Mesa Solar Sox last October and November.
The Lynchburg Hillcats were the dominant team in the High-A Carolina League. They won both halves of the Northern Division and finished the season with an 87-52 record. The next closest team was the Buies Creek Astros at 74-65, who failed to qualify for the playoffs in either half of the Southern Division.
One significant contributor to the Hillcats success was the stability of their roster. Of the 12 position players on the Opening Day roster, only one was not with the team when the season ended on September 9 (infielder Yonathan Mendoza, who received a promotion to AA Akron on July 6). Seven of the original 13 pitchers also lasted the full season on Lynchburg’s roster. For a minor league team whose primary goal is player development, that level of stability is unusual.