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 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.
The Lake County Captains put to bed a five-game losing streak during the week by ripping off three straight wins to take their series against the Great Lakes Loons before starting their homestand against West Michigan with a 4-3 win. …
Mother Nature has been unkind to the young Mahoning Valley Scrappers this week. The Indians’ short-season affiliate has had three rainouts and a pair of doubleheaders in the last week because of the weather.
The Scrappers were set to play three with Connecticut on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, but had to settle for a Monday doubleheader and Tuesday’s finale. They swept the three games to push their winning streak to five straight. After Wednesday’s off day and Thursday’s rainout in Aberdeen, the Scrappers played their second doubleheader of the week, winning game one 7-1 before a 6-2 loss in the nightcap to end their six-game winning streak. Saturday’s matchup was similarly drowned out by rain.
Mahoning Valley (18-22) returns home Sunday for three with Williamsport before hitting the road for six straight against West Virginia and Hudson Valley. They have incredibly pulled within four games of the .500 mark and are eight and a half games in back of State College in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division.
In other news and notes from the Scrappers’ scrapbook:
Baseball has returned to Niles, Ohio, as the Mahoning Valley Scrappers’ short-season is now underway.
Debuting on Friday, June 17, the Scrappers dropped each of their first two games to open the Class-A season last Friday and Saturday at home against West Virginia. They hit the road and claimed their first win on Sunday in Auburn behind a 14-3 offensive explosion. Mahoning Valley lost the final two games of their series with Auburn before moving on to Williamsport, where they lost three heartbreakers, 1-0 in the first game and 2-1 in the final two.
The late loss on Friday, after the Crosscutters scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth to take the final at bat lead, knocked the Scrappers to 1-7 on the season and left Mahoning Valley buried deep in the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division.
In other scraps from the Scrappers:
Less than a week since the conclusion of Major League Baseball’s 2016 June Amateur Draft, the Cleveland Indians have come to terms with several selections, including three of their top four picks.
On Friday, the Indians announced the signing of Will Benson, their first round selection taken with the 14th overall pick, to a professional contract. A first baseman/outfielder who turned 18 on Thursday, Benson was in Cleveland on Friday for a physical. The 6’6”, 220 pound left-handed hitter out of The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, Georgia, hit .454 with a .566 on-base percentage, eleven doubles, eight homers, and 41 RBI during his senior season.
Baseball returns to Niles, Ohio, this weekend as the Mahoning Valley Scrappers kick off the short-season New York-Penn League season against the West Virginia Black Bears at Eastwood Field on Friday night.
Manager Edwin Rodriguez is at the helm for the Scrappers and is joined by pitching coach Tighe Dickinson and former Indians farmhand (and published author) Justin Toole in his new capacity as the team’s hitting coach. Plenty of young and fresh faces will fill out the roster for Mahoning Valley as several look to begin or continue their paths towards potential Major League careers.