A busy week of roster transactions continued on Tuesday as the Cleveland Indians made five roster moves prior to their game with the Tampa Bay Rays.
The biggest of the moves is the promotion of top prospect Bradley Zimmer to the big league club. The addition of the fourth-year pro, who can play both center and right field, became a necessity when Abraham Almonte was placed on the 10-day disabled list Tuesday with a right biceps strain.
What was projected to be an intriguing pitching matchup between Cleveland’s Carlos Carrasco and Tampa Bay’s Chris Archer turned into a battle of offenses as the Indians held off a late Rays charge in an 8-7 win on Monday night.
The victory moved the Indians to the 20-win mark on the year as they became just the fourth American League team to reach the level. With the first place Minnesota Twins idle on Monday, the Indians pulled within a half game of the top spot in the AL Central while the Rays dropped to 19-22 on the season. It was the first time that Cleveland has won a home series opener since its very first series of the season against the Chicago White Sox.
The game was marred by early pitching problems for both starters and an early exit for the Tribe right-hander Carrasco, who left early with discomfort in his right pectoral muscle in another hit to an Indians roster heavily afflicted by injuries through the first month and a half of the season.
With a little bit of rain interference, Cleveland’s chances of avoiding its first losing series in two weeks was spoiled as rain parked itself over the Great Lakes region for much of the day on Thursday. It made for a good reason to relocate as the Indians packed up and headed to Missouri to take on a scuffling Kansas City Royals squad in three games this weekend.
The Indians (15-12) enter the weekend leading the American League Central Division once again, tied with the 15-12 Chicago White Sox. The crowding at the top of the division is evident as just one game separates the Tribe from fourth place Detroit (14-13) after the club dropped two of three to start their three-city road trip to kick off May.
The Indians capitalized off of a risky base running play and put up eight runs in an offensive outburst in the third inning and never looked back as Cleveland claimed their fourth consecutive series win with a 12-4 dismantling of the Seattle Mariners on a beautiful Sunday afternoon from Progressive Field.
Cleveland (14-10) finished its shaky month of April at home with a resounding win in the series finale with Seattle, pulling to 6-6 in the month after a rough start in its first two home series of the season. The team put up 12 runs on 15 hits against Seattle pitching, a staff that had struggled at times to limit damage against it this season. The 12 runs tallied by the Tribe marked the second-most runs scored by the club this season.
A two-run home run by Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the seventh inning proved to be the difference and Cody Allen closed out a nail biter in the ninth, leaving the tying run at third base, as the Cleveland Indians won their first home series of the season behind a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
After Houston took an early 3-1 lead against Corey Kluber, the Houston bullpen picked up the ball game in the fifth for Mike Fiers and had preserved the lead into the seventh, when the Indians took their first lead of the night.
Reliever Chris Devenski had been a force on the mound after taking over for Fiers. After he retired both batters that he faced in the fifth, struck out three straight batters in the sixth, and K’d the first batter of the seventh, Devenski issued a rare walk to Yan Gomes. Carlos Santana struck out swinging for the second out, Devenski’s fifth K of the night. Lindor stepped in for his second at bat against Devenski on the night and the switch-hitting shortstop clobbered a 2-0 pitch over the center field wall for a two-run shot that put Cleveland on top for the first time, 4-3.
With Chisenhall ready to go, the Indians made one of those tough decisions on Thursday afternoon as they optioned center fielder Tyler Naquin to Triple-A Columbus.
The Cleveland Indians used seven unanswered runs to overcome an early four-run deficit and defeat the Texas Rangers, 8-5, from Globe Life Park in Arlington in the 2017 regular season opener on Monday night.
In a matchup of staff aces, Yu Darvish and Corey Kluber took to the bump and showed that there was still some spring rust to knock off. Kluber worked out of a jam in the first inning after walking Carlos Gomez to start the game. He was caught stealing before a groundout by Shin-Soo Choo and a Nomar Mazara two-out double was wasted on a strikeout by Mike Napoli.
The Rangers would avoid run production issues to put up their first run of the season with the first batter of the second inning. Rougned Odor worked the count full before sending a slider over the fence for a solo home run to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead.
With just a matter of days until the Cleveland Indians open up their American League pennant defense, the final roster decisions have been made as the team announced on Thursday that prospect Yandy Diaz and veteran utility man Michael Martinez will be on the club’s Opening Day roster to start the 2017 season. It follows Wednesday’s news that outfielder Abraham Almonte will open the year with the Tribe with right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall set to land on the 10-day disabled list while dealing with a sprained shoulder.
The Cleveland Indians are going to need one extra outfielder and perhaps two when the regular season starts in April.
Right field is the only spot among the three positions currently fully settled. Lonnie Chisenhall will roam the spot when the opposition sends a right-hander to the mound, while it will be Brandon Guyer who will take over against an opposing lefty. That outfield position is known and well-manned.
The other two spots in the Tribe outfield have question marks. Tyler Naquin, who finished third in last year’s American League Rookie of the Year balloting, has done nothing this spring to suggest he is in danger of losing his spot in center field. However, he mostly plays against right-handed pitchers and was used in a platoon last year. His platoon partner was Rajai Davis, who is now gone to the Oakland Athletics. There is a door open there.
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Will this be the season that the Cleveland Indians see all that Abraham Almonte can provide the club at the Major League level?
It may be cliché to say, but this spring camp may be the biggest one of the lengthy professional career for the switch-hitting outfielder Almonte, who joins a crowded outfield mix in Goodyear, Arizona, looking to latch on to a job as a platoon outfielder or bench piece for the reigning American League champions.
Over the last couple of years, the Cleveland Indians have done well in finding veteran free agents no one else wanted and watching them become diamonds in the rough, so to speak.
Dan Otero last year and Jeff Manship in 2015 were both free agent relievers the Tribe was able to bring to spring training on minor league contracts. Both had histories of past success but were trying to rejuvenate careers that had fallen off in the seasons before joining the Indians.
Both veteran relievers proved to be strong contributors to Cleveland’s bullpen. Manship spent two seasons with the Indians before being casualty of management deciding not to make him an arbitration offer this past winter. Part of the reason was the emergence last year of Otero, giving Cleveland a deep bullpen without Manship. Both hurlers were important parts of an Indians club that went to the 2016 World Series.
The Indians are saying “goodbye” to a pair of popular veterans who played integral roles in helping the Tribe reach Game 7 of the the 2016 World Series. It was the first Fall Classic for the Tribe in 19 years. Gone are the power-hitting Mike Napoli and base-stealing Rajai Davis. Both veterans were signed to one-year deals before last season and both proved there was still a little something in the tank.
Napoli has yet to sign on the dotted line with another team. However, Cleveland’s big free-agent addition of first baseman/designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion means there is no room for Napoli. Encarnacion, who is a more consistent hitter over his career, is an upgrade there. The middle of the Tribe’s batting order got better on Thursday with the official announcement of the contract agreement.
Davis and his 43 stolen bases are also gone. The Indians did not sign an upgrade or a similar player as they did for the first base/DH job. Instead, the speedy 36-year-old shortstop inked a one-year, $6 million pact with the Oakland Athletics last week. Unlike Napoli and his power, it is unlikely the Tribe will reach outside the organization for a replacement to Davis’ feet.