The pair, part of a June youth movement to repair the defensive deficiencies plaguing the roster and, in particular, the left side of the infield, were fairly known commodities in the field. Any contributions that they may have been able to provide would also likely be upgrades over the early performances in 2015 of third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall and shortstop Jose Ramirez.
Urshela was not nearly as touted as Lindor, but as a young right-handed hitter in the organization, he was thought to at least be a potential platoon mate for Chisenhall at the hot corner while the inconsistent and sporadic Chisenhall dealt with the yearly ups and downs that have filled each chapter of his Major League career.
He got the call early in June and made his debut in Cleveland as the team hosted the Seattle Mariners. In the starting lineup for the first time on June 9th, he went hitless in three plate appearances as the Indians fell, 3-2. The next night, he drove in his first career run after coming into the game in the eighth inning, but it was a moot point as the Tribe fell 9-3.
Still hitless, he got the start on June 11th in a game that will undoubtedly be well remembered by the 24-year-old Columbian for many, many years to come.
After striking out looking in the second inning against Seattle starter J.A. Happ, he came to the plate with a big early opportunity in the bottom of the third. The Indians had three singles in the inning and a strikeout against Happ, knocking in their second run of the game and chasing the Mariners lefty from the game. Tom Wilhelmsen entered from the bullpen and on a 1-2 pitch, Urshela singled to left for his first career hit and second career RBI as he drove in Ryan Raburn to give the Indians a 3-0 lead. He would come around to score his first career run two batters later on a two-run single from catcher Roberto Perez.
The day of first would not stop there for the young righty. In his third at bat of the night in the bottom of the fifth, Urshela stepped into the batter’s box with two outs and reliever Vidal Nuno on the mound. Down 0-2, he cleared the tall green wall in left with his first career homer.
The Indians would go on to win the game by a 6-0 final as Shaun Marcum, Zach McAllister, and Cody Allen combined on a two-hit shutout. It was Marcum’s third win of the season while trying to answer the call for a reliable fifth starter in the rotation.
Lindor had to wait longer for his call to the Majors and longer for his first home run, but he would not let Urshela have bragging rights to the claim for long.
The then-21-year-old top prospect made his MLB debut on June 14th, entering a game in Detroit late. He notched a single in two at bats and may have had extra bases had the wheels not come off of him rounding first base.
Through his first nine games, he was hitting just .206 with seven hits (all singles) in 34 at bats. Despite the low average, he had hit successfully in five of the nine games with a pair of multi-hit games to his credit. He would replicate that feat on June 24th while also adding several firsts to his stat sheet.
The Tigers were in town and it was the final game of the series. The Indians had dropped the first two and Lindor had one hit to his name through his first seven at bats. Carlos Carrasco was on the mound for the Tribe, while the Tigers sent out Buck Farmer.
In the first, Lindor drew his first career walk. He would make it all the way to third base on another walk and a wild pitch, but he would be stranded there on a strikeout from Carlos Santana. In the third, he singled Jason Kipnis over to second, but was later thrown out at third. The Indians made up for his out by scoring three times to give Carrasco his first lead of the afternoon.
In the bottom of the fifth, Lindor faced Farmer for the third time. He wasted little time in the at bat, sending the second pitch from Farmer over the wall in right-center field for home run number one of his career. He would push a second run across an inning later, as his bases loaded walk scored Yan Gomes to give the Indians a 5-0 lead. He grounded out in the eighth in his final at bat of the day, but the Indians had more than enough on this day to pull out an 8-2 win to avoid a sweep by Detroit.
Urshela would add another five home runs over the course of the year, while Lindor would give the Indians a surprising eleven additional blasts. While their two seasons trended in opposite directions at the plate the rest of the season, the contributions in the field with their gloves and arms brought forth a much needed solution to a troubling defensive problem for the Indians.
Another rookie, starting pitcher Cody Anderson, also jumped in on the firsts in June when he made his first career start on June 21st and earned his first win in his next outing on June 29th.
The two planned to work together over the offseason to train in preparation for the 2016 season. Lindor’s role on the club is much more determined, while Urshela has something to prove at the plate to prove that he can be more than just a defensive weapon for the Tribe moving forward.
Photos: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer (top); Jamie Sabau/Getty Images (Urshela, middle); Jason Miller/Getty Images (Lindor, bottom)