Spring Fever in Cleveland Squelched by Cold Front Before First Spring Game

For northeast Ohioans, temperatures far above normal for late February have given Cleveland Indians fans a case of spring fever, as people flocked outdoors to enjoy the unpredictable weather of the region while dreaming of their return to Progressive Field to cheer on their defending American League champion ball club.

The timing for the temperature spike seemed almost perfect, as it coincided with the start of regular spring training contests in Arizona for the Tribe. The Indians open up their Cactus League schedule on Saturday afternoon with a 3:00 PM ET contest against their Goodyear roommates, the Cincinnati Reds.

Unfortunately for Clevelanders unable to take in the game from warm Arizona and Goodyear Ball Park, they were dealt a harsh reminder from Mother Nature that spring, summer, and regular season baseball were still a long ways away as strong overnight thunderstorms brought with them a return of cooler weather with threats of that dreaded white stuff.

Merritt Vaughn Ridley Getty Images
Merritt – Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Indians will send left-hander Ryan Merritt to the mound to start the spring season. The young southpaw will make his first appearance since his memorable outing in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, when he shut down the Blue Jays in Toronto behind four and one-third innings of two-hit, 49-pitch baseball, striking out three in the process. He was 1-0 in four regular season appearances (one start) with a 1.64 ERA and 0.55 WHIP in his first taste of the Major Leagues.

The game will also mark the Indians’ debut for their big purchase of the offseason, free agent slugger Edwin Encarnacion, who will make his return to the state of Ohio after spending the early portion of his MLB career in Cincinnati with the Reds. He developed into a dangerous middle-of-the-order threat during his time with the Blue Jays, hitting 42 homers last season with a league-leading 127 RBI. The 34-year-old has averaged 35 homers and 101 RBI over each of his last six seasons and has been named to the American League All-Star team three times in that span.

A pair of top minor league outfielders will also make their spring debuts in the Saturday opener as number one prospect Bradley Zimmer will start in right field and hit sixth, while the speedy Greg Allen will start in center and hit eighth.

The Reds will start left-hander Amir Garrett in their second spring contest, having fallen to the San Francisco Giants in their opener on Friday, 6-4.

Cleveland’s lineup for the spring opener: Carlos Santana (DH), Jose Ramirez (3B), Francisco Lindor (SS), Edwin Encarnacion (1B), Yan Gomes (C), Bradley Zimmer (RF), Daniel Robertson (LF), Greg Allen (CF), and Michael Martinez (2B).

The Indians are expected to use pitchers Merritt, Mike Clevinger, Andrew Miller, Shawn Armstrong, Joseph Colon, Steve Delabar, Perci Garner, and James Russell in the game’s action.

Cincinnati’s lineup: Billy Hamilton (CF), Arismendy Alcantara (SS), Joey Votto (1B), Eugenio Suarez (3B), Jesse Winker (LF), Dilson Herrera (DH), Tucker Barnhart (C), Desmond Jennings (RF), and Hernan Iribarren (2B).

Photo: goodyearbp.com

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