Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58
Bob Toth | On 04, Feb 2017
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Countdown to Opening Day – 58 days
The number 58 may be a bit of a bad omen for its wearers, at least in Cleveland Indians history. Many have worn it, but few have parlayed that time and opportunity into an extended stay, either in an Indians uniform or among the remaining Major League options from which to choose.
The most recent to sport 58 on the field for the Tribe was T.J. House, a soft-tossing left-hander who impressed with a surprise effort in his debut season in 2014.
It was his sixth season in the organization when House got his opportunity to jump into the Indians rotation after starting the year at Triple-A Columbus. He put together an impressive run, going 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 19 games (18 starts) and placed his name right into the rotation mix for 2015.
He left spring training with a spot in the starting rotation, but didn’t last long as he was hit for 19 runs on 21 hits with 12 walks in 13 innings in his first four starts in April. He landed on the disabled list with a left shoulder injury and would never return to the Majors the rest of the season, limited to just five more minor league appearances. He worked in a pair of games in the Arizona Fall League for some additional action, but a big opportunity to give the Indians rotation a different look with a left-hander in the mix had gone to waste.
Cleveland’s starting rotation appeared to be overcrowded last season, so House was back to Triple-A Columbus to work in their starting rotation. But through his first dozen starts, he had a 4.82 ERA and a 1.89 WHIP and there were plenty of young options needing innings. House moved to the bullpen, which was a far greater area of need for the Indians.
He would eventually make his return to Cleveland in July, working in four games in relief before the All-Star break. By the middle of the month, he was back in Columbus, where he closed out his season in a variety of roles in the Clippers’ bullpen while posting an impressive 1.54 ERA, but an undesirable 1.97 WHIP as opposing hitters batted .340 against him. He did receive a brief recall back to Cleveland, but did not appear in that six-day stretch in August.
House was not brought back to Cleveland after the completion of the minor league schedule and on September 20, was designated for assignment. A week later, he was outrighted to Columbus and elected free agency in November.
In mid-December, an organization with some front office members quite familiar to him took a flyer on him, as the Toronto Blue Jays signed him to a minor league contract with a non-roster invitation to spring training.
He left Cleveland as one of just two players to represent the number 58 on the field for the club for more than one season.
Right-handed starter Jeanmar Gomez came up in the number 58 for Cleveland and made his Major League debut at the age of 22. His results were mixed over the course of his three seasons with the Indians from 2010 to 2012 as he failed to latch onto a spot in the starting rotation despite several opportunities. He won 14 games in his three seasons, but put together a 5.18 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP in over 200 innings of work, giving up 10.5 hits and 3.1 walks per nine innings.
The Indians opted to move on prior to the 2013 season, dealing him to Pittsburgh for a minor league outfielder. Gomez stuck around with the Pirates for a pair of seasons, making 70 of his 78 appearances out of the bullpen while putting up much more respectable numbers on the mound (3.28 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 142 2/3 innings). A free agent after the 2014 season, he moved across the state to Philadelphia and continued his much better results from the bullpen. He posted a 3.01 ERA in 65 games in 2015 and settled into the closer’s role for the club in 2016, saving 37 games in 43 opportunities despite a 4.85 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.
Many of the remaining names on the list of 58’s in Indians history are not only pitchers, but hard to remember individuals based on several short stays in the organization. Guys like Juan Lara, Chardon native Andrew Brown, Jason Anderson, Joey Dawley, Heath Murray, and Jamie Brewington all suited up in the digits in the first decade of the 21st century. David Huff has hung around the game for eight years after spending his first five big league seasons in Cleveland. Steve Farr was the first to wear it in 1984 during his first of two stints in Cleveland that came a decade apart during an eleven-year career.
Only catcher Omir Santos (one game in 2013), outfielder Brian Giles (six games in 1995), and first baseman Jim Wilson (four games in 1985) have worn the number as position players for the club. Giles may be the only one of the players on the list to be considered to have had what could be described as a quality Major League career.
Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images