The big league diamonds in Goodyear, Arizona, got a little less crowded on Monday as the Cleveland Indians announced several roster moves with just over two weeks to go until their regular season kicks off in Seattle.
Five players – Abraham Almonte, Francisco Mejia, Julian Merryweather, Shawn Morimando, and Adam Plutko – were optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Four more – Bobby Bradley, Louis Head, Josh Martin, and Adam Wilk – were reassigned to minor league camp. The most notable names of the nine, however, were those of Almonte and Mejia.
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.
Home field was advantageous one last time for the RubberDucks on Wednesday as Akron used a three-run third inning to defeat the Trenton Thunder 4-2 in Game 2 of the Eastern League Championship Series.
Rob Kaminsky started for the ‘Ducks and retired eight straight to start the night before two-out singles from Sebastian Valle and Tyler Wade. Kaminsky buckled down, striking out his fourth batter of the night as the scoreless game moved to the bottom of the third.
Four straight hits from Akron in the bottom half off of Will Carter opened up the game for the ‘Ducks. Singles from Greg Allen and Yan Gomes to start the frame set up a run-scoring opportunity for Jordan Smith, who got his second hit of the game with a double to right, scoring Allen for the early lead. Nellie Rodriguez followed with the game-changing hit, scoring a pair with a single to center to give Akron a 3-0 lead.
Eric Haase’s one-out RBI-single in the tenth inning ended a dominating pitching performance by both Akron and Altoona as the RubberDucks defeated the Curve 1-0 to win the Eastern League Western Division Championship on Sunday night.
An incredible pitcher’s duel between Altoona’s Brandon Waddell and Akron’s Nick Pasquale took place on the mound in Akron as the pitchers matched pitch for pitch, out for out, with the RubberDucks’ righty coming away with the slightly longer outing in the impressive display from both young arms.
The magic number is one for the Akron RubberDucks with two games to go in the 2016 regular season as the club hopes to clinch an Eastern League Western Division crown as the season comes to a close.
The up and down season for the ‘Ducks, full of massive and frequent roster shuffles throughout the year, will be decided with a pair of games against the Bowie Baysox on Sunday and Monday. Akron (75-64), winner of three in a row and six of their last eight, is chasing Altoona (75-63), who have dropped two straight while the ‘Ducks have won two in a row to pull within a half-game of tying the Curve for the top spot in the division. The Harrisburg Senators (74-66) entered the day two games in back of Altoona and a game and a half behind Akron with an elimination number of two. The top two clubs to emerge from the Western Division will advance to the postseason. Reading and Trenton have already clinched postseason appearances in the Eastern Division.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
The Akron RubberDucks are making their postseason push and have done so behind another impressive winning streak.
A ten-game winning streak came to an end on Thursday night with a 7-4 loss at Canal Park to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Earlier in the week, they completed a pair of sweeps, knocking off Bowie twice last Friday and Saturday before Sunday’s game was preempted by rain. They outscored Reading 13-6 during the week, winning 5-2, 4-1, and 4-3 to push the streak to ten before another the loss to start the four-game set with Richmond.
Akron is now just 2.5 games out of first place, trailing the Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate), who won 5-3 on Thursday. The ‘Ducks will finish their series this weekend against the Flying Squirrels before taking their final road trip of the season to Erie for four straight. They will conclude the regular season with five against Bowie, including the completion of the suspended game.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
Two very different All-Star games took place on Wednesday with two very distinctly different results as the Double-A Eastern League and Triple-A International League participated in their own midsummer classics.
The Double-A All-Star Game pitted the Eastern and Western Division clubs against one another from Akron’s own Canal Park. The Triple-A contest featured the International League versus the Pacific Coast League from BB&T Ballpark in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Eastern League of Professional Baseball announced on Wednesday four roster additions for next week’s Eastern League All-Star Game in response to several recent promotions around the league.
Two members of Akron’s bullpen, J.P. Feyereisen and Louis Head, were added to the Western Division team, replacing two former members of the RubberDucks, starting pitcher Shawn Morimando and reliever Perci Garner. The pair had been recently promoted to the roster of the Triple-A Columbus Clippers.
When looking at things in the context of wins and losses, particularly given the success of several of the other teams in the Cleveland minor league system, it would be easy to dismiss the 2014 edition of the Carolina Mudcats as unproductive. A 62-74 overall record for the campaign will not look good in the media guide next season. Of the top-four teams in the Tribe’s organization, only the Mudcats failed to advance to the playoffs.
While winning is important, Minor League baseball is predicated on other things. It is important to discern whether the Carolina Mudcats as an organization provide an environment conducive to learning and have a coaching staff that sends players upward in the organizational ladder.
To say that Akron RubberDucks centerfielder Tyler Naquin has been hot at the plate lately would be an understatement. Scorching, sizzling, scalding, searing might be a better way to describe his bat of late. Naquin the Indians first pick from the 2012 MLB First Year Player Draft hit .485 for the week with 16 hits in 33 at bats. Naquin scored eight runs, added a double, triple, two homeruns, four runs batted in and two stolen bases. Naquin is currently on a 15-game hitting streak, which he has maintained an unbelievable .453 average with 29 hits in 64 at bats.
Naquin’s hot hitting started before the 15-game streak, however. In his last 48 games Naquin has amassed 72 hits, leading to a .365 batting average while scoring 44 runs and adding 12 stolen bases as the leadoff hitter in the RubberDucks lineup. Interesting enough it took the first 16 games of the season for Naquin’s bat to get started. In his first 16 games he hit only .200 with 22 strikeouts, leading some to wonder if Naquin was indeed ready for the jump to Double-A to start the year. Naquin, sporting a robust .327 average on the season, has put that talk to rest and then some.
After a lackluster start, the Lake County Captains finally seem to be settling to a groove. Although they are still second-last in the Midwest League Eastern division (20-34, .370), before their game on June 5, the Captains have won five of their last six games, including a season-high four game winning streak from May 29 through June 1.
Numerous players have helped the team along in this newfound road to success, including two recently named to the Midwest League All Star Team.