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The Carolina Mudcats certainly are a different team in 2014. While many of the prospects, including former first-round draft picks Francisco Lindor and Tyler Naquin, along with the coaching staff have progressed to Double-A Akron, there was not the level of anticipation going into the campaign.
The Muddies have started the season 6-5 heading into Wednesday’s home doubleheader versus Salem at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C. and are one game out of first place in Carolina League play as they enter the third week in April.
A dozen years ago, the Indians were just starting a new era of Tribe baseball. Long gone were Albert Belle, Carlos Baerga and Manny Ramirez, but it was just prior to the 2002 season that Cleveland said goodbye to Roberto Alomar, Kenny Lofton, Dave Burba, Marty Cordova and Juan Gonzalez. The long-dominant Indians were a team in transition and were picked by most to finish in third place in the American League Central Division.
“I wish everybody would have picked us to finish last,” newcomer Matt Lawton said in a Plain Dealer article by Dennis Manoloff. “It’s fun when nobody expects anything out of you and you go out and prove people wrong.”
Just about two weeks into the season, the Indians were doing just that. After ace pitcher Bartolo Colon fired a complete game shutout at Edison Field in Anaheim on Opening Day, the Tribe dropped their first game of the season two days later. After that, the new-look team went on a tear, winning their next 10 ballgames to run their record to an outstanding 11-1. The Tribe was in first place after Saturday April 13; four games up on both of the division favorites in the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins. Like the surprised fans, the Indians clubhouse was all smiles after their amazing start—a start that equaled the greatest through 12 games in franchise history.
With no disrespect to Jackie Robinson and Jackie Robinson Day today, we should all be reminded of Cleveland’s own barrier breaker. He’s the one who took the second step; the one who baseball history often seems to forget. He’s the man who doesn’t get the credit that he deserves and is one of America’s true heroes. He is Larry Doby.
Doby is baseball’s version of Buzz Aldrin—the man who climbed down the ladder right after Neil Armstrong’s historic first walk on the moon. Doby climbed down baseball’s color barrier ladder a mere six weeks after Jackie Robinson did, as he became the second black player in baseball history. Outside of Cleveland, however, Doby is mostly a forgotten man.
Besides having movies made about him, Robinson was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 1962 and his number was retired throughout the Major Leagues in 1997; the only ballplayer to ever receive this honor. Since 2004, April 15 will forever be known as Jackie Robinson Day. It is a day when baseball players across the league don #42 on their backs, in respect to baseball’s ultimate pioneer. Robinson absolutely deserves all of the recognition and celebrations that he receives…but it’s a shame that Doby got nothing for almost 50 years.
One of the brightest stars in the Indians system is not too far away from seeing his first moment in The Show. The prospect in question is none other than minor league All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor.
Lindor, 20 years-old, is in his fourth season with the Cleveland Indians minor league system, originally drafted in the first round of the 2011 First Year Player Draft by the Indians. Since then, he’s played in two All-Star Future Games and is now enjoying time with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks.
Through nine games with the RubberDucks, Lindor is batting a modest .250/.302/.777. Overall, Lindor’s offense has not caught up with him as he’s off to a bit of a slow start. This doesn’t affect him at all though. With the impending departure of incumbent Cleveland shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, Lindor may be the next in line to take over the shortstop role. He’ll only inherit this role if he’s absolutely ready though. For Lindor, rushing to the big league club isn’t something that he’s worried about.
If Indians fans remember Jackie Price at all, it’s for the stunt that got him thrown off the team in 1947.
Price, a fan of snakes to the point where he would use a live one as a belt, turned loose a snake in the dining car of a train headed from Indians training camp in Arizona to an exhibition game in California. The ensuing ruckus led Lou Boudreau to send Price home.
But Price, in his own way, was a gifted man. He was one of people who used his skills in baseball as a sideshow for the game. But Indians owner Bill Veeck (who knew a little something about entertainment and real talent), said Price wasn’t a clown; he was an artist.
The Clippers have a secret weapon on their roster, who, believe it or not, was a MLB All-Star in 2012; his name is Bryan LaHair.
LaHair signed a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians in February after returning from a season playing with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League in 2013.
Before taking his talents to Japan for one season, LaHair was a starter for the Chicago Cubs and made the National League All-Star team in 2012 after a hot start in the first half of the season with 14 home runs, 30 RBIs and a .286 batting average. Unlike his Cubs All-Star counterpart, shortstop Starlin Castro, LaHair began seeing less and less playing time when Cubs first base prospect Anthony Rizzo was called up after the All-Star Break.
It’s still early in the season, but for Carlos Carrasco it seems to be getting late quick.
After Friday’s start in Chicago, where he allowed five runs in four and two-third innings, Indians manager Terry Francona announced the next day that Carrasco would be moving to the bullpen, in the short term. The Indians have an off day today, allowing the Carrasco’s start to be skipped until Saturday. Francona was clear that Carrasco would make his scheduled start on Saturday, at home, against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Fifth starters are skipped in the rotation all the time. That’s nothing to raise an eyebrow about, however, for Carrasco, this isn’t the beginning of his struggles. Likely, it could be the beginning of the end. Carrasco has fought for a place in the Indians’ rotation dating back to 2011. He’s constantly worked through control problems, injuries and confidence issues. All the while, the Indians have stuck by Carrasco, his electric arm and potential always seeming to be close to putting it all together.
Despite rain delays and a rally in the top of the ninth, the Indians suffered a walk-off loss at the hands of Alexei Ramirez and fell to the Chicago White Sox 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Following an hour and fifteen minute rain delay, the Indians took the field against the Chicago White Sox at 3:25 at U.S. Cellular Field to conclude their four-game series.
The game matched Corey Kluber (1-1, 7.71 ERA) against Jose Quintana (1-0, 2.77 ERA). Quintana retired the side in order to begin the game, and Kluber retaliated with the same result to end the first inning.