Major League Baseball’s regular season has returned and in a strange situation, the Cleveland Indians will pair up against the last team that they faced in 2015, the Boston Red Sox, and will do so again on their own home field at the renovated Progressive Field.
After an unexpectedly mild winter, it is little surprise that as the Indians arrived to town, ice, snow, and cold temperatures struck the northeast Ohio region, once again leading many to question the logic of games in Cleveland in early April. And no, a dome is not part of any rumored future renovations to the city’s gem on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
The Indians, 81-80 last season, made several significant and underrated moves in the offseason, bringing in first baseman Mike Napoli, third baseman Juan Uribe, and outfielders Rajai Davis and Marlon Byrd, all of whom will see regular time in the lineup as starters. Star in the making Francisco Lindor begins his first full season on the roster and will tandem up the middle with All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis. Rookie Tyler Naquin captured an outfield spot in camp when the center field position opened up after the suspension of Abraham Almonte. The Cleveland pitching staff is being touted as one of the best in the game and their bullpen has received an offseason face lift.
The Red Sox finished last in the American League East with a 78-84 record in a disappointing season for the club after breaking out the check book for Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. The pair both hit below .250 and combined to hit 29 homers and 100 RBI. Sandoval finds himself out of a position and Ramirez in a new position as a partial youth movement, highlighted by Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts, is taking over key spots in the field for the Sox. David Ortiz, the elder statesman of the roster now entering his 20th season in the Majors, will begin his retirement tour in Cleveland, one that will undoubtedly garner plenty of attention for the popular and successful slugger and face of the Red Sox franchise. He hit 37 homers and drove in 108 runs last season.
PITCHING PROBABLES and GAME NOTES
Monday, 4/4, 4:10 PM ET – LHP David Price (18-5, 2.45 ERA, 1.08 WHIP) vs. RHP Corey Kluber (9-16, 3.49, 1.05)
Wednesday, 4/6, 6:10 PM ET – RHP Clay Buchholz (7-7, 3.26, 1.21)vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (14-12, 3.63, 1.07)
Thursday, 4/7, 6:10 PM ET – RHP Joe Kelly (10-6, 4.82, 1.44) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (14-10, 3.45, 1.13)
TV – Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio (all games); WKYC-3 Cleveland (4/4); NESN (all games)
Radio – Cleveland Indians Radio Network; WEEI 93.7, WCEC 1490 AM
The Indians own a 1,034-973 lead over the Red Sox in 2,015 contests all-time. This mark includes a decisive 556-445 mark when playing in Cleveland.
The Red Sox took two of three from the Tribe last year at Fenway Park, but were swept in three straight in Cleveland to close out the 2015 season.
Michael Brantley (LF) – 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 25) – recovery from right shoulder surgery
Marlon Byrd (OF) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (April 3)
Lonnie Chisenhall (RF) – 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 28) – left wrist impingement
Ross Detwiler (P) – contract purchased from Triple-A Columbus (April 3)
Tommy Hunter (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 4) – recovery from offseason core muscle surgery
Eduardo Rodriguez (SP) – 15-day disabled list (April 2) – right knee injury
Carson Smith (RP) – 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 25) – right elbow strain
Christian Vazquez (C) – 15-day disabled list (retroactive to March 25) – recovery from April 2015 Tommy John surgery
Brandon Workman (RP) – 15-day disabled list (April 2) – recovery from June 2015 Tommy John surgery
INDIANS OPENER LINEUP
The projected, but still subject to change, lineup for the Tribe as they face the left-hander Price in Monday’s opener is as follows:
Lindor, a surprise to some in the three hole to start the season, is a career .458 hitter in that spot in six career games with two doubles, a triple, one home run, and five RBI. His primary spot in 2015 was the second spot in the order, where he was inserted into the lineup 85 times.
Price is the obvious new face in Boston red this season after his record-breaking seven-year, $217 million contract he received in the offseason. The 30-year-old southpaw jumps over to Boston after splitting last season with the Detroit Tigers and Toronto Blue Jays. Now with the fourth organization of his career, he has already played with three of the five teams in the AL East. He is a five-time All-Star, including each of the last two seasons, and led baseball with a 2.45 ERA on the way to a second place finish in the AL Cy Young voting. He was 18-5 in 32 starts with a 1.08 WHIP and 225 strikeouts in 220 1/3 innings in 2015, including a 9-1 mark in eleven games for the Blue Jays with a 2.30 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He should help a starting rotation that struggled last season.
The bullpen was also an area of focus for the new front office in Boston, as the club acquired Craig Kimbrel in a trade with the San Diego Padres and Smith in a deal with the Seattle Mariners. The two should pair up to provide the Red Sox with more stability in the back end of the bullpen, once Smith returns to health. Kimbrel is a four-time All-Star and joins his third team in as many years, but is under Red Sox control until at least the end of the 2017 season. He saved 39 games in 43 opportunities in 2015, the first time he failed to lead the National League in saves since his debut year in 2010.
Boston manager John Farrell returns to the dugout after stepping away with health concerns during last season. A former Indians pitcher himself, he also employs several past Cleveland residents on his coaching staff.
Carl Willis, who left the Indians organization last season to assume the pitching coach position for the Red Sox during the 2015 campaign, spent 2003 through 2009 as the Indians’ pitching coach. Former Tribe outfielder Ruben Amaro Jr. will begin his first season as Boston’s first base coach after his long tenure as Philadelphia’s general manager and senior vice president came to an end last September. Torey Lovullo played with the Indians in 1998 and began a career in their farm system as a coach and roving coordinator from 2001 to 2009.
It will be a short stay in Cleveland for the Tribe as they begin their first road trip of the year this weekend when they head to US Cellular Field in Chicago to play three with the White Sox before an off day on Monday. Boston will fly north of the border to begin their AL East play against the Toronto Blue Jays in three straight starting Friday.
Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer