When I was in school, my college’s slogan was “Unusual Combinations.” It spoke to the variety of major/minor choices that students made throughout their time at the school – a biology major with a theater minor, an English major with a minor in math. Not bad combinations, just ones that weren’t expected.
There are a lot of unusual combinations out there that, on paper, don’t make sense, but in reality, are good ideas. Peanut butter on a hot dog. A peanut butter and pickle sandwich. Strawberries and balsamic vinegar. Wearing black and navy together.
Another unusual combination? Baseball and ballet.
Canal Park may have been the most popular spot to be in Akron this week.
Not only was it the homecoming weekend for Indians top prospect Bradley Zimmer, but it was also the rehab weekend for Indians 1B/OF Nick Swisher. On top of all of that, CBS Sports was also at Zimmer’s homecoming game to televise the entire event.
“Ya, that was pretty cool. I know my parents and everyone back home were watching so I’m glad they got to be a part of it,” Zimmer said.
With the All Star break over and gone, the Akron RubberDucks are looking forward to September. While this team may not have looked exciting on paper, they’ve managed to put together a solid season thus far through 2015. Through the first half of 2015, the RubberDucks stood at a record of 47-43 and as of July 20, they’re sitting in third place of the Eastern League Western division with a record of 50-44. Going into the second half, and beyond, they’re sporting a higher than .500 record, and have real chances of seeing playing time once September rolls around.
Looking back at the first half, the RubberDucks have a lot they should be proud of, but there are definite parts of their game that need to be improved on.
As a pitcher is growing up, the first skill that they are taught is the ability of how to throw a strike. As time moves on, you begin to move away from just throwing a strike with a fastball, to throwing strikes with a variety of pitches. From there, you begin to take that knowledge and enhance your view of the batter at the plate, and find ways to get them to turn what should be called a ball outside, to a swinging strike by the batter. For some, that takes longer than others to adjust their mentality to this type of approach. For lefty Ryan Merritt, he’s starting to figure out why he needs to make this adjustment.
Merritt, 23, was drafted by the Indians in the sixteenth round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. He’s been in the Indians system since 2011 where he appeared in four games for Arizona rookie league. He’s spent parts of four season with short season Mahoning Valley, Low-A Lake County, High-A Carolina, and now Double-A Akron. In 2014, Merritt was awarded the Bob Feller award for being the best pitcher in the Indians minor league system. The year before this award was given to current big league starter Cody Anderson.
In 2014, he posted an outstanding ERA of 2.58, a record of 13-3 in 25 games. In those 25 games, he pitched a total of 160.1 innings, racked up 127 strikeouts to only 25 walks. Merritt is kind of a smaller guy. He build is unlike a lot of pitchers. Due to his size, he tends to stay around the 90’s for his fastball, but his ability to control his pitches is what makes him so effective. He’s got a very similar build to fellow Cleveland Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin. Well, aside from the fact that Merritt toes from the left side of the rubber.
The Indians are well known for making some outstanding trades in the past. One of the more recent trades was when the Indians acquired Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles for reliever Esmil Rogers from the Toronto Blue Jays. Back in 2014, the Indians trading a struggling Vinnie Pestano for an also struggling Michael Clevinger from the Las Angeles Angels, and it looks like they may have from a diamond in the rough.
Clevinger, 24, was initially drafted by the Angels in fourth round of the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft. He spent parts of 4 seasons in the Angels minor league system, and dominated at almost every level. He averaged a K/9 ratio of 9.18 while with the Angels. In 2014, prior to getting traded, he was posting an ERA of 5.37 with a record of 1-3 in 13 games with High-A Inland Empire.
The Indians found interest in Clevinger, when the Angels were seemingly giving up on him as he seemed to be lost on the mound. While Pestano had lost his job in Cleveland, the Angels wanted to give him a shot in their bullpen. Thus the Indians moved Pestano to acquire Clevinger, who was immediately sent to High-A Carolina for the remainder of the 2014 season.
In order for someone to improve, they need to see their low points and find a way to improve from that. In 2014, Double-A Akron outfielder Jordan Smith discovered first-hand what it felt like to be overcome by the competition. After hitting .293/.370/.402 with High-A Carolina, he followed up in his first season with the Rubberducks hitting .248/.300/.331.
Smith, 24, was drafted by the Indians in the ninth round of the 2011 June Amateur Draft by the Cleveland Indians. Smith is a 6’4” and 235 pound outfielder who’s been primarily playing right field for the RubberDucks. Usually this position is reserved for a player who can smack a ton of home runs, or at least hit for decent power. While Smith has never really panned out to be the power hitter that everyone though he would be, he’s been consistent of keeping his ISO over .100. At High-A Carolina in 2013, he hit 29 doubles, 6 triples, and 5 home runs. Granted, the home run count is bound to be lower due to the Carolina league not being a high home run league, but then comparing those numbers to his first season in Akron, it doesn’t look so great. He hit 2 home runs, 24 doubles, and 4 triples.
Rock bottom is defined as “the lowest possible level in life.” I’m pretty sure that this definition can be replaced by “Cody Anderson‘s 2014 season,” as that’s exactly how it seemed at the time. The big right hander has taken this season in stride though as he’s used it as a stepping stone to move forward, and he’s doing so gloriously.
Anderson, 24, was drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the17th round of the MLB June Amateur Draft in 2011. Originally drafted as an outfielder, Anderson has converted into one of the Indians most promising pitchers in their system, if not the most promising. This didn’t seem the case though in 2014, where Anderson had his worst season of his young career thus far. In 25 games he had a record of 4-11 with an ERA of 5.44. He only pitched in 125.2 innings, a K/9 of 5.8, BB/9 of 3.2, was serving up about 10 hits per nine innings. Let’s just say that everything that could have gone bad for Anderson did go bad.
In this first edition of the Tribe Time Now: Minor League Report, Danny Madden (@danny_Madden) and Laurel Wilder (@LaurelWilder) of Did The Tribe Win Last Night? join host Kevin Gall (@kgall216) of Burning River Baseball to discuss the state of …
After an offseason of rebranding, fresh faces, and boat load of renovations, the Double-A Akron RubberDucks came into the season with a promising season ahead of them. In his inaugural season as the RubberDucks manager, Dave Wallace looked on to lead what could have been one of the best Cleveland Indians minor league team in recent history. Unfortunately, the season ended earlier than expected as the RubberDucks were eliminated from the playoffs in four games against the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Regardless of how the season ended, in their first season as RubberDucks, this team was still impressive from the get-go, and continued to do so all season long.
To start off the season, the RubberDucks had one of the deepest lineups that a team could possibly have when it comes to having bench options, solid starting pitching, and an experienced bullpen. The infield consisted of some of the Indians top prospects in Francisco Lindor, Joe Wendle, Ronny Rodriguez, and Tony Wolters. Along with these infielders, the outfield was full of great players as well, including one of the Indians top prospects Tyler Naquin. Along with Naquin, the RubberDucks also had Bryson Myles, Tyler Holt, and Jordan Smith to compliment Naquin. For the starting pitching, Cody Anderson was deemed the opening day starter after having a successful season in High-A Carolina the season before where he was named the top starter in the Indians minor league system in 2013. Following Anderson, Gabriel Arias, Joseph Colon, Will Roberts, and Kyle Davies were the other members of the starting rotation. Arias and Davies were quickly promoted to Triple-A Columbus after having hot starts to the season.
Lake County Take Game One From Fort Wayne; Captains 5, Tin Caps 1
Courtesy Lake County Captains
Luis Lugo started for the Captains and pitched five innings while allowing three hits, one unearned run, one walk and he fanned nine as the Captains beat Fort Wayne 5-1 on Saturday. With the win, the Captains took the one game to nothing lead in the best of three Midwest League Eastern Division Championship Series.
Fort Wayne took the early lead in the bottom of the first inning. Trea Turner doubled and was sacrificed to third base and scored on a fielding error. The unearned run put the TinCaps up 1-0 after one inning.
Durham Takes Early Lead, Hangs on to Control Series; Bulls 3, Clippers 2
After losing a heartbreaker on Thursday night in the ninth inning, the Columbus Clippers fell behind early on Friday night. Spotting Durham three runs in the first two innings was enough for the Bulls to hang on to a 3-2 victory and now lead the series, 2-1. Columbus will try to fight off elimination this afternoon at 1 p.m.
Durham plated a pair of runs in the bottom of the first when Jason Christian started the inning with a single off Clippers’ starter Shaun Marcum. After Marcum retired the next two hitters, Jeremy Moore singled in a run and Tim Beckham doubled in another to put the Bulls up 2-0. In the bottom of the second inning Nick Franklin homered to left field to give Durham a 3-0 lead.
Bulls Battle Back To Even Series With Clippers; Bulls 4, Clippers 3
For the first time all season, the Columbus Clippers took a lead to the ninth and didn’t come away with a victory.
Trailing 3-2, the Durham Bulls got to Columbus reliever J.C. Ramirez and sent the game to extras. Cole Figueroa opened a wild 10th inning with a triple and later came crossed the plate on Tim Beckham’s sac fly to give Durham a 4-3 win and even the Governors’ Cup semi-finals at one game apiece.
Columbus got on the board first when Audy Ciriaco launched a solo home run to left in the bottom of the second.