If the Cleveland Indians think that they have had it bad with the weather in the first week of the season, one can only wonder how their Columbus Clippers affiliate feels after trying repeatedly to open their 2016 Triple-A schedule with a four-game series with the Indianapolis Indians.
The Clippers were set to host the Indianapolis club, their International League West rivals and opponent last season in the battle for the Governors’ Cup, one ultimately won in five games by Columbus. The team planned a championship ring ceremony prior to first pitch, but the problem was determining not what time, but what day, that the first pitch of the season was going to occur for the two clubs.
Thursday’s contest was postponed by inclement weather and the organization adjusted the schedule for the weekend to accommodate the addition of a doubleheader to Sunday’s slate of games. Friday’s and Saturday’s cancellations only further complicated things, but the Clippers and Indians were able to play two seven-inning contests on Sunday in the coldest opening day in the history of Huntington Park.
Game one went the way of the Clippers as new Indians’ 40-man addition Mike Clevinger made his Triple-A regular season debut. A hero for the club in the postseason last year after being called up for the International League playoffs from Double-A Akron, Clevinger threw 81 pitches over five scoreless innings, allowing three singles and a walk while striking out six.
His offense gave him all of the support he would need with two outs in the first as Jesus Aguilar homered to the bleachers in left field off of Tyler Glasnow. It would be the only run in the ball game for either side, as Glasnow would work five innings and allowed just that one run on three hits while walking three and striking out six himself. Former Clippers pitcher Trey Haley (2015) pitched a scoreless inning for the Pittsburgh affiliate.
Shawn Armstrong worked a perfect sixth inning in relief of Clevinger, striking out the side. Austin Adams, in his return to Columbus, allowed a hit but struck out two in a scoreless seventh for his first save of the season.
Lonnie Chisenhall finally made his first rehab appearance, hitting fourth and playing right field in game one. He was 0-for-3 at the plate.
The second game of the day’s double dip was not as favorable for the hometown Clippers, who could not take advantage of the Indians’ loss of starter Trevor Williams after just one-third of an inning to an arm injury.
Cleveland’s Tommy Hunter made his first rehab appearance to start the game for the Clippers and went one scoreless inning with a strikeout. Toru Murata relieved in the second and lasted one and two-thirds innings and was on the mound when Indy struck for four runs after two quick outs in the third.
After groundouts by Mel Rojas Jr. and Gift Ngoepe, leadoff hitter Adam Frazier walked and stole second. Max Moroff walked and both runners would score on a line drive single to right by Josh Bell. Michael Choice could not handle the ball, enabling both the runners to advance and Bell to move to third. He scored on a two-run homer to left by Jason Rogers, which ended Murata’s afternoon and gave the game its final 4-0 tally.
Seven different Indianapolis pitchers took the mound, none working more than an inning except Kelvin Marte, who was credited the win in the combined five-hit shutout. Tom Gorzelanny worked an inning and one-third for the Clippers, giving up a pair of hits and striking out one. Nick Maronde worked two and one-third innings of long relief, walking four and allowing a hit but preventing no further damage to the run column. Felipe Paulino worked the final two-thirds.
Erik Gonzalez was the offensive star of the second game, if it can be called that, with a pair of singles. Michael Martinez singled in the second game with a walk after getting a double in the opener. Catcher Anthony Recker singled and walked in the second game, and Ronny Rodriguez played at first and had a single in three trips.
Giovanny Urshela was 0-for-2 with a walk in game two and was 0-for-5 for the day.
The Clippers will stay home and hope for better weather this week as they host the Louisville Bats for three games starting Monday before beginning their first road series of the season with a trip to Indianapolis to rematch the Indians. Monday night is the first of the popular Sugardale Dime-A-Dog Nights at Huntington Park this season.
Photo: Eric Albrecht/The Columbus Dispatch