With less than three weeks to go until the start of the Major League Baseball regular season schedule, the Indians have started to trim away at the long list of camp candidates in Goodyear, Arizona, looking for a job with Cleveland.
The Indians optioned infielders Willi Castro and Yu-Cheng Chang to Double-A Akron on Friday prior to the team’s action against the Colorado Rockies. Right-handed pitcher Cole Sulser, left-hander Robert Zarate, and first baseman Nellie Rodriguez were also re-assigned to minor league camp.
The Cleveland Indians announced on Thursday morning that the team had come to terms on a minor league contract with left-handed pitcher Robert Zarate, who last pitched professionally in 2015. He will join seven other Indians minor leaguers who were extended non-roster invitations to spring training next month.
In addition to Zarate, the Indians have invited position players Bobby Bradley, Nellie Rodriguez, and Richie Shaffer and right-handed pitchers Louis Head, Cameron Hill, Josh Martin, and Cole Sulser to play with the team during the spring.
The Indians now have 17 non-roster players scheduled to participate during spring camp in Goodyear, Arizona.
Akron’s Eric Haase was the hero of Sunday night, clinching an Eastern League Western Division Series win with a walk-off single in the tenth inning. He still had a little magic left in that bat of his on Tuesday as his grand slam in the fifth inning powered the RubberDucks over the visiting Trenton Thunder by a 6-3 final in Game 1 of the Eastern League Championship Series.
Trenton jumped on top with two runs in the first against Akron starter Michael Peoples. Tyler Wade singled to start the game but was picked off by Peoples at first. Dustin Fowler singled, but was erased on a force out at second on a grounder to short by Miguel Andujar. Nearly out of the inning, Mike Ford homered to right, scoring Andujar to make it a 2-0 Trenton lead.
Akron could not score in the second after getting back-to-back two-out walks from Haase and Eric Stamets, but they did not miss out on a scoring opportunity in the third as they tied the game against Trenton starter Ronald Herrera. Ivan Castillo and Greg Allen singled to start the inning, putting runners on the corners for Yan Gomes. The rehabbing Indians catcher singled on a liner to center to score Castillo and move the speedster Allen to third. Jordan Smith grounded into a force at second, but Allen scored on the play to make it a 2-2 game.
After winning 17 straight games at their Canal Park home, the Akron RubberDucks have suddenly come back down to earth at home after splitting a series last weekend with the Harrisburg Senators. Akron won the first two, but the club dropped the last two before taking its series opener against Altoona to end the month of May on a positive note. The RubberDucks lost their third game in four days with a 2-0 shutout on Wednesday in the middle game of their three-game set with the Curve.
The RubberDucks (36-16) will play 30 games over the next 30 days, with off days on June 6 and June 20, but a pair of doubleheaders on June 5 and June 25. Their schedule is split perfectly, with 15 games in Akron and 15 on the road. They remain the top club in the Eastern League’s Western Division, six and a half games in front of Altoona in the division prior to Thursday’s action and have a 20-5 record at home this season.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
Indians farmhand Adam Plutko may have started his professional career slower than expected, but he’s speeding up quickly.
Plutko was drafted last year in the 11th round of the First Year Player Draft out of UCLA. Unlike most players making their professional debut in the same year that they were picked, the Indians held Plutko out until the 2014 season as they were concerned over the amount of innings he had already thrown for the Bruins in the 2013 collegiate season.
In 2013 Plutko was named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player helping the Bruins win the College World Series. Plutko was on the same pitching staff with the Bruins as Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole and the Indians own Trevor Bauer. Plutko actually came into college with what most scouts thought better stuff than both Cole and Bauer with a fastball that sat around 95 mph as a freshman. Plutko saw his velocity drop down to around 90 mph over time for the Bruins and witnessed Cole and Bauer also become first round picks. As a junior in 2013 Plutko had become the workhorse and the ace of a staff in which many didn’t have high hopes for. While Plutko and the Bruins proved many wrong in 2013, it still didn’t help his draft status as the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series wasn’t taken until the 11th round by the Indians.