After a good start to their season, the Columbus Clippers have entered a tough stretch of play on the field. Their lineup has been a revolving door with players heading back and forth to Cleveland, Akron, and the disabled list. They have lost two-fifths of their starting rotation to stretches on the Indians roster and have played without third baseman Giovanny Urshela and outfielder Michael Choice for long stretches.
After hitting ten games above the .500 mark on May 11, the team has slumped, playing at a 9-12 pace in the last 21 games. They have also been shut out five different times since May 16. They have split a pair of series in the last week, taking two of three in a low scoring series last weekend against Durham, outscoring the Bulls 5-3 with two games decided by shutouts. They followed it by dropping two of three against Buffalo, who has now won five of their last six against the Clippers. Columbus entered the weekend with a 10-3 loss on Friday against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to drop to 30-24 on the season, but remains a game and a half in front of the Indianapolis Indians for first place in the International League West Division.
In other Clippers news from the Ohio state capital:
Gonzalez had four singles and a bases loaded, bases clearing second inning double, the eleventh of the season for the Clippers shortstop. His three RBI in the game were a team-high. Rodriguez had a similar effort, with four singles and a double, his tenth, in his six trips. He did not drive in a run, but scored twice in the game.
Columbus had 14 hits in the 12-inning game, with ten coming from those two players. Five players in the Clippers lineup were held hitless, with Adam Moore and Tyler Naquin each adding a pair of hits for Columbus.
ANDERSON MAY HAVE FOUND SOMETHING
Right-hander Cody Anderson, getting his first extended look this season in the Columbus rotation after being optioned out of the Indians starting rotation, may just have worked out whatever flaws were affecting him for the majority of the first two months of the season.
The big right-hander, who returned two Mondays ago after a strong spot start in the second game of a doubleheader in Chicago, threw four no-hit innings in Columbus against Durham on May 28. He struck out six in the start while walking one, throwing 32 of 48 pitches for strikes. In his next start on June 2 at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he allowed just one unearned run on seven hits over six innings in a no-decision. He walked one, hit a batter, and struck out seven.
Hard-throwing right-handed reliever Ben Heller earned his first win at the Triple-A level on Thursday. He gave the Clippers two innings of perfect relief, striking out a pair, to earn his first win at Columbus and second of the season overall.
He is a combined 2-1 in 20 relief appearances this season between Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus with a 1.21 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, .093 batting average against, and is a perfect 8-for-8 in save opportunities. He joined the Clippers on May 21 from Akron.
GORZELANNY AND NAQUIN HEAD TO CLEVELAND
Left-handed reliever Tom Gorzelanny and rookie outfielder Naquin returned to the Majors on Wednesday when the parent Indians made a slew of roster moves. Both moves were made possible after Marlon Byrd was suspended 162 games for testing positive for performance enhancing substances.
Gorzelanny’s contract was purchased from the Clippers as he took Byrd’s spot on the 40-man roster and replaced Shawn Armstrong in the bullpen (Armstrong was returned to Columbus). Naquin will fill Byrd’s void in the outfield in Cleveland.
Jesus Aguilar, the big first baseman for the Clippers, is struggling at the plate, hitting .081 over his last ten games. He has reached base safely just five times in 39 plate appearances in that span, with single hits in all three games of a series against Durham from May 27 through May 29 before falling into his current 0-for-18 spell at the plate.
For the season, Aguilar is hitting .207 with a .294 on-base percentage with seven doubles, nine home runs, and 24 RBI.
COLON BACK FROM SUSPENSION
Right-hander Joseph Colon returned to the Clippers roster from the restricted list on May 31.
Colon was re-signed by the Indians in the offseason and invited to Major League camp with the club on a non-roster invite. His suspension was one of the first two handed down by the Commissioner’s Office in 2016 and was for 50 games without pay for testing positive for banned drugs. Both he and Chicago Cubs minor league pitcher P. J. Francescon tested positive a second time for a drug of abuse, with suspensions effective at the start of the 2016 season.
Colon was 3-0 in 33 games between Akron and Columbus last season. He has made two appearances for Columbus so far this season, working a perfect inning on May 31 against Buffalo and working one and one-third scoreless against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 3. He walked three in the latter outing.
Columbus has been a busy travel destination for members of the Cleveland Indians organization in the last week. On Thursday, the Clippers added Mike Clevinger back to their starting rotation after he was optioned from Cleveland to make room for Carlos Carrasco’s return from the disabled list.
On Wednesday, reliever Cole Sulser returned to Double-A Akron after his brief three-day stay with the Clippers when the team added Armstrong back to the club after his even less lengthy stay in Cleveland.
Jordan Smith returned to Columbus on Wednesday as well after a short reassignment at Akron.
GRUBE TO THE DL
Jarrett Grube was placed on the seven-day disabled list on Friday with a blister on a finger on his right (throwing) hand. The move was made retroactive to Wednesday.
Photo: Kyle Robertson/The Columbus Dispatch