If you have not paid attention to the results down in Columbus for the Cleveland Indians’ Triple-A farm club, the Clippers, you have missed out on an impressive stretch of baseball being played right now.
Since a four-game losing streak in the days following four postponements in a five-day span and a pair of early April doubleheaders, the Clippers have sailed away to an incredible start. Since ending their losing skid against Indianapolis on April 16, the club has gone 16-4.
They dropped just two more games in the second half of April, losing a series in Louisville against the Bats. The Clippers then ripped off eleven straight wins before losing the series opener and the rubber match in Charlotte against the Knights. They got back onto the winning path on Friday with a 9-2 victory in Toledo over the Mud Hens in a well-pitched game from Indians pitching prospect Mike Clevinger, who improved to 4-0 in six starts this season with a 3.03 ERA.
At 18-9, the Clippers have the top record in all of Triple-A baseball and lead Louisville by a game and a half in the International League West Division. All four Indians minor league clubs are in first place in their respective leagues (Akron is 18-9 as well and leads the Eastern League Western Division; Lynchburg is 19-7 despite a week of waterlogged fields in Virginia; and Lake County is 19-10 while sitting atop the Midwest League Eastern Division).
Ronny Rodriguez extended his team lead in batting average on Friday with a 4-for-5 day at the plate. He had a double and three singles on the game, scored twice, and knocked in two. He is now hitting .324 on the year.
Jesus Aguilar leads the Clippers in home runs with six, twice as many as his next closest teammate (Robbie Grossman, three). Aguilar is second on the roster in runs batted in for the season with 14. He and Grossman also have drawn more walks than strikeouts, the only two regular players in the Clippers lineup who can make that claim.
Giovanny Urshela’s improved play at the plate last week earned him a Player of the Week nod from the International League. He is now hitting .293 on the year with two homers and a club-leading 15 RBI.
Clevinger leads the Columbus pitching staff with four wins this season. His 3.03 ERA is second to Will Roberts, who has quietly posted a 2-1 record and a 2.25 ERA in five starts.
Six different relievers have earned saves for the Clippers. Austin Adams and Shawn Armstrong have two a piece, as does Toru Murata. Jeff Johnson and Nick Maronde have one each, as did Tommy Hunter while on rehab. Adams is tops on the current relief staff with a 1.64 ERA, while Felipe Paulino has earned a 0.45 WHIP in six games.
Columbus has been a bit of a revolving door so far in the first month of their season, with three different Indians (Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Hunter) spending time with the club while on rehab assignments. The Clippers have also been dealt some injuries of their own, as they returned outfielder Michael Choice and reserve catcher Alex Lavisky to the disabled list just days after activating both.
Choice had just returned from the DL on April 29, but returned on Friday with a right abductor strain. Lavisky was on the DL from April 16 to May 2, but landed back on the list on Friday with a sprained right ankle.
Infielder Ivan Castillo was promoted from High-A Lynchburg and Todd Hankins was assigned from Double-A Akron to the Clippers roster to fill the voids. Castillo has never appeared higher than Lynchburg in the Indians farm system, while Hankins had previously played two games for the Clippers in 2014. He was 3-for-5 in his Triple-A season debut, hitting two singles and a triple, scoring two runs, driving in two more, and stealing a base.
The Clippers have also made several other roster moves in conjunction with the needs of the Indians.
Pitcher Cody Anderson was placed on the reserve list on Friday in advance of his promotion to the Indians’ parent club for a start on Saturday. He had pitched in just one game with the Clippers after his temporary demotion from the Cleveland rotation.
Adam Moore, who was designated for assignment by the Indians to make room for catcher Chris Gimenez from the Texas Rangers, was outrighted by Cleveland to Columbus on Friday. He had started the season with the Clippers, but saw his contract purchased by the Indians last Sunday with the injury to their backup catcher, Roberto Perez. Ross Detwiler, the former Indians left-handed reliever, was outrighted last Sunday.
The Clippers will return home on Monday to play four against Lehigh Valley and three against Louisville next weekend before hitting the road for four against Indianapolis and three more in Louisville.
Photo: Adam Cairns/The Columbus Dispatch