International League Champion Clippers Will Try Again to Open 2016 Season

The Indians were not the only team in the organization to see its season and Home Opener spoiled by the weather in the region. The same thing happened to the Columbus Clippers on Thursday night as they tried to usher in the 2016 Triple-A season at Huntington Park.

The Clippers will try again on Friday to host the Indianapolis Indians, their playoff competition in the International League Finals in 2015. The Clippers defeated them in that series to claim the Governors’ Cup, only to lose in the Triple-A National Championship to the Fresno Grizzlies, affiliate of the Houston Astros, in the winner-take-all game.

Postponed home openers are not unfamiliar to those in the state capital. It is the third time in the last four years that it has happened to the Clippers. With the cancellation on Thursday, the team has revised their tentative schedule for the weekend.

On Friday, April 8, the new Home Opener will start at 4:05 PM, a change from the originally scheduled 7:15 PM first pitch for the game. Saturday’s 7:15 PM evening start will now be a 1:05 PM start, and the Clippers and Indy Indians will double it up on Sunday with a pair of seven-inning games, starting at 1:05 PM. Game two will start approximately 30 minutes after the completion of the first contest.

The Clippers are always an interesting team to watch because of the Interstate 71 shuttle that exists between Columbus and Cleveland throughout the season. If things are going right, those trips will be much less frequent than in previous years, when the Tribe had to send regular slumping starters back to Triple-A to get back on track.

Several potential options for the Indians rotation, in the event of such an emergency, will be ready to roll from the Clippers pitching staff.

T.J. House, who lost almost all of his 2015 season while dealing with a shoulder injury, would be one of the more likely candidates to head to Cleveland. The lefty was 0-4 with a 13.15 ERA in four starts with Cleveland and 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in four games for the Clippers last season. He was 5-3 in 19 games for the Indians in 2014.

Mike Clevinger, who provided an incredible spark to the Columbus rotation in the playoffs after spending the regular season at Double-A Akron, was added to the Indians’ 40-man roster following the season and is second in line in the rotation. He was 9-8 with the RubberDucks with a 2.73 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in 27 games (26 starts).

Left-hander Ryan Merritt, another 40-man add in the offseason, spent most of his year in Akron, going 10-7 with a 3.51 ERA in 22 games with a pair of complete game shutouts. He also pitched five games in the regular season for Columbus, going 2-0 with a 4.20 ERA.

Right-handers Will Roberts and Jarrett Grube are also part of the Clippers rotation. The 25-year-old Roberts split last season between Akron and Columbus and was a combined 9-6 in the two stops with a 3.45 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Grube, 34, spent the first half of last season with Los Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican League before joining the Clippers, where he went an impressive 9-0 in 15 games with a 2.26 ERA and 1.10 WHIP.

The bullpen may see the most traffic back and forth between Cleveland and Columbus with several guys on the staff already on the 40-man roster and with options remaining. Right-handers Austin Adams and Shawn Armstrong would presumably head that bunch and would be joined by left-hander Kyle Crockett. A second southpaw, Tom Gorzelanny, will start the season there but could get a quick call to Cleveland if Ross Detwiler struggles in relief. Jeff Johnson joins the bullpen in Columbus after going 1-2 with 27 saves in 28 opportunities last season with Akron. Nick Maronde, Toru Murata, and Felipe Paulino will round out the ‘pen and all have extensive starting experience in their pasts.

The Clippers have four catchers residing on their roster at present, including 34-year-old Guillermo Quiroz, 32-year-old Anthony Recker, and 31-year-old Adam Moore, who all have Major League experience. Alex Lavisky, a 25-year-old backstop from Lakewood, Ohio, is also on the roster after playing 29 games at Akron and 15 games in Columbus last season.

Jesus Aguilar, Michael Martinez, Erik Gonzalez, Giovanny Urshela, and Ronny Rodriguez round out the infield options. Aguilar, Martinez, and Urshela have MLB playing time under their belt.

Aguilar has hit .192 in limited action with the Indians in the last two seasons and owns a .275 lifetime average in the Minors. His average dropped off to .267 last season, but he hit 29 doubles, 19 homers, and drove in 93 runs.

Urshela got the tough demotion back to Columbus after spending the second half of last season with Cleveland. He played through some injuries and showcased the defensive skills that give him an edge over others at his position, but he hit just .225 at the plate with eight doubles, a triple, six homers, and 21 RBI, which led the Indians to sign free agent third baseman Juan Uribe. Urshela is seen as the future at the position and performed well despite the circumstances in Goodyear this spring.

Gonzalez is trapped behind Francisco Lindor in the organization, but is a member of the 40-man roster. Martinez is well-traveled at 32, but gives the club versatility in the field.

The outfield is composed of quite a few guys who have had a taste of life in the Bigs. Joey Butler, Michael Choice, and Robbie Grossman, who were all in camp with the Indians on minor league deals with invites to spring training, are expected to start the season as the Clippers outfielders. James Ramsey and Zach Walters, who both spent time in the Columbus outfield last season, were designated for assignment earlier in the week by the Indians to create space on the 40-man roster.

Butler still holds a spot on the 40-man. He has hit .295 over his minor league career that started in 2008 and hit .333 in 31 games with nine doubles, six homers, and 24 RBI with Durham and .276 in 88 games with 12 doubles, eight homers, and 30 RBI with the Tampa Bay Rays last season. Choice joined the Clippers late last season from the Texas Rangers, but won MVP honors in the Governors’ Cup championship series with a 9-for-14 effort, three homers, and six RBI. He has played in the Majors with the Rangers and, previously, the Oakland A’s. Grossman had spent parts of the last three seasons on the Major League roster of the Astros, but hit just .143 in 24 games of action there last year and .254 with Fresno. He is a switch-hitter with experience at all three outfield spots.

In addition, the Clippers have outfielder Anthony Gallas and pitchers Craig Stammen and Enosil Tejeda on the 7-day disabled list. Joseph Colon and Bryan Price are on the Restricted List. Tommy Hunter and Lonnie Chisenhall are listed as rehab participants with the club, with Chisenhall expected to start in right field for the Clippers when they do get to open their season.

The Clippers are led by Chris Tremie, a former MLB catcher who will begin his fourth season at the helm of the ship. Joining him on his coaching staff are former Clippers catcher Omir Santos, hitting coach Rouglas Odor, and longtime MLB pitcher Steve Karsay as Tremie’s pitching coach.

Photo: Columbus Clippers Twitter page

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. As a lifelong Indians fan and more recently a Columbus area resident, I urge all Tribe fans to consider a trip down I-71 to visit the Clippers and their beautiful Huntington Park. You’ll find it fun to see Indians hopefuls and possibly parent club players taking re-hab. Ticket prices are much less than big league as are parking costs. The park is first rate with several options in seating. The food is great too, from a variety of locations in the left field plaza to occasional specials, such as “dime a dog night”, that’s right, only ten cents for a hot dog on these special nights–makes dollar a dog seem like a fortune. So, see what fun and entertainment AAA baseball is all about without hurting the wallet and discover what a jewel the Capital City of Ohio is all about.

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