Baseball is back. Tito is back. Heck, even Tyler Naquin is back.
After two long days without any Major League Baseball action (with exception of the trade of Jose Quintana across the sprawling city limits of Chicago), the Cleveland Indians are back in action as they start a Bay Area road trip on Friday night with three games with the Oakland Athletics.
The Indians (47-40) went into the All-Star break in the spot that they belong, leading the American League Central Division. While they have been able to hold off the hard charging Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals in recent weeks, the true test will come down the stretch in the second half. A playoff tested Indians team would presumably have the advantage over a young Twins club with glaring deficits in its starting rotation, but the Royals still could roll the dice and go in on one last hurrah before dealing with a financial crisis in free agency following the season.
A quality start by left-hander Shawn Morimando sent the Columbus Clippers to an 8-1 victory over rival Indianapolis on Friday night.
With less than a month to go until the All-Star break, the Clippers have climbed back within two games of the .500 mark at 29-31 on the season. Their surge towards a winning record has been made possible by a 6-2 record in June. The bats in general have come to life for the Clippers over the course of the last three weeks, as since the final week of May, they have put up six runs or more in eight of the 15 games played.
The Columbus Clippers have now lost five straight series, dating back to their three-game sweep of Indianapolis from April 10-12, and have fallen to 9-14 on the 2017 season.
Despite the rough opening month of the season, the Clippers are just three and a half games behind the Toledo Mud Hens in the International League West Division. The division has struggled as a whole, as only the Mud Hens are above the .500 mark to start the season. The Clippers are tied with the Louisville Bats and are a game and a half in front of the last place Indians, who are 7-15 to start the season.
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.
With more than a full week of spring training action now under their belts, baseball season is in full go in Arizona and Florida as Major League squads look to prepare for the pending 2017 regular season grind.
In addition to watching the handful of camp battles resolve themselves over the rest of March, the focus around baseball will be on the returns to health of a handful of rehabbing players and an emphasis on not adding too many additional new names to the injury report.
The Cleveland Indians have been able to avoid anything significant in the early going, but eyes have been trained on a handful of veterans who had yet to make their spring debuts.
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Will the second half cool down from Cleveland Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin lead to a pronounced sophomore slump in 2017?
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.
Tyler Naquin capitalized on a disastrous outfield situation last spring in Goodyear, Arizona, and helped the Cleveland Indians fill a desperate need with his surprise breakout during camp to win a spot on the 25-man roster to open the season.
Despite several return trips to Triple-A Columbus to fine tune some things in his game both offensively and defensively, the 25-year-old left-handed hitter worked for large stretches of the Major League portion of his season as a platoon center fielder with veteran Rajai Davis and put together a solid and largely impressive season during his rookie campaign.
With Davis officially relocating on a free agent contract with the Oakland Athletics, it will be that much more important for Naquin to now prove to the Indians brass during spring training that he can handle the grind of regular playing time in center field, against both right-handers and left-handers.
Michael Brantley is supposed to be ready in the first two months of the season, but his timetable is not at all set. His replacements include a mix of veterans and inconsistent younger players who can’t play defense. A top prospect waits unready in the minors, while a converted infielder with basically zero Major League experience is hoping that he gets his first full taste of the Majors in the outfield.
Does this situation sound familiar? It’s the exact same one the Tribe was facing a year ago at this time. There are just as many questions as there are possible candidates for playing time. There’s hit-by-pitch machine Brandon Guyer, righty-killer Lonnie Chisenhall, Rookie of the Year finalist Tyler Naquin, switch-hitter Abraham Almonte, utility guy Michael Martinez, prospects Bradley Zimmer and Yandy Diaz, and, of course, Brantley. Each player has his own question marks, but the Tribe will carry at least three of them on the roster next season.
History has shown that Cleveland Indians players who are named the league’s Rookie of the Year do not always go on to have the most productive and injury-free careers on the field, so maybe, just maybe, the results of the American League Rookie of the Year voting this season will have positive results on the career of outfielder Tyler Naquin.
The Baseball Writers’ Association of America announced its Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winners from both leagues on Monday, with the Tribe rookie outfielder finishing a distant third in the annual award voting.
Major League Baseball announced its finalists for its top seasonal awards on Monday, with three members of the Cleveland Indians’ organization finding their names among the candidates for some end of the year hardware.
Three candidates were announced from each league for Rookie of the Year, Cy Young, Manager of the Year, and Most Valuable Player by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
They say all good things must come to an end, and such was the case on Tuesday afternoon as the Cleveland Indians saw their franchise-record six-game postseason winning streak conclude behind a strong pitching performance from the Toronto staff and the reemergence of their bats in a 5-1 win by the Blue Jays in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series.
The Indians had no answer for 24-year-old right-hander Aaron Sanchez, one of the Jays’ All-Stars this season in his third year in the Majors. Coming off of a 15-win regular season and a tidy 3.00 ERA, he kept the Jays in the ball game by keeping the Cleveland bats at bay and his offense provided its first burst of runs against the Indians in the series and did so against their ace, Corey Kluber.