Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56
Bob Toth | On 01, Feb 2018
While the offseason has been historically slow and the winter has crawled along at an even slower pace, we at Did The Tribe Win Last Night look ahead to the warmer days of the 2018 season by remembering Tribe players past and present.
Countdown to Opening Day – 56 days
The number 56 has seen plenty of usage in Cleveland Indians history, but oftentimes, it wound up on the backs of men who spent little time in town and bounced all around during their professional careers. Given that fact, it seems fitting that the first player to claim the digits as his own in both Indians and Major League history earned the moniker “Suitcase Bob” because of being a frequently relocated player in the golden days of baseball.
Bob Seeds, or “Suitcase Bob”, broke into the big leagues in 1930, appearing in 85 games in the Cleveland lineup while playing all three outfield spots. After playing sparingly in 1931 in a new number, he got four hitless plate appearances in 1932 before he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox with Johnny Hodapp for Bill Cissell and Jim Moore. He hit .290 for the Sox in 116 games, but he changed his Sox after the season, traded with Hodapp and others to the Boston Red Sox.
He played 82 games in 1933 for Boston and had logged six plate appearances in eight games in 1934 before he was on the move again, dealt back to Cleveland with Bob Weiland and cash for pitcher Wes Ferrell and outfielder Dick Porter. He would not make it a calendar year in Cleveland though, as he was purchased the following January by the Detroit Tigers. He never appeared with the big league Tigers, but was later traded to the New York Yankees in 1936 and would suit up for the neighboring Giants for three seasons from 1938 to 1940. He spent the next five years in the minors, including the 1942 season back in the Indians farm system.
It would be nearly 50 years before the number 56 would return to the diamond for the Indians. Right-handed pitcher Sandy Wihtol, who spent parts of three seasons in the Majors with Cleveland while working in 28 games total, wore 56 as one of three different numbers he would don in his Indians career.
Following his short professional career, he moved into real estate work in the San Francisco Bay area, according to Baseball Reference.
Outfielder Rod Craig became the next man in the number, taking it up in 1982 during a 49-game opportunity with the Tribe. He had been acquired the previous year from the Seattle Mariners after two seasons in the Pacific Northwest, but his playing time in Cleveland came mainly in the minors. He was released by the club prior to the 1986 season and he would spend parts of the next two years with the New York Mets and Chicago White Sox organizations.
Two different players would wear the number for Cleveland in 1991, as pitcher Mike York and catcher Ed Taubensee each claimed it as their own. York worked in 14 games, making four starts that year in his final appearances in the Majors just months after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Mitch Webster before the season. Taubensee played in 26 games after being picked up off of waivers from Oakland at the start of the season. He was part of the package that was sent to Houston in the offseason to bring Kenny Lofton to the Indians organization. He spent the majority of his 11-year career in the National League, eventually becoming a full-time catcher for the Cincinnati Reds (the team which originally drafted him), before returning to Cleveland in the number 16 for his final big league season in 2001.Alan Embree, who played 16 years in the Majors, got the number in 1992 when he made four starts for the Indians. He would not return to the Bigs until 1995 at the start of a two-year stint in the Indians bullpen. Like the man who wore the number before him (Taubensee), he was part of a Lofton trade too, going with the speedster to Atlanta in a spring trade in 1997. He bounced around the Majors after that, joining up with Arizona, San Francisco, the Chicago White Sox (twice), San Diego (twice), Boston (twice), the New York Yankees, Oakland, and Colorado.
Bruce Aven started his MLB career in Cleveland in 1997, playing in 13 games. He eventually saw time with the Florida Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Los Angeles Dodgers before returning to the Indians in 2002 in his final seven big league appearances.
Right-hander Sean DePaula spent his entire three-year career (1999-2000, 2002) with the Indians, taking the mound 29 times while posting a 1-1 record with a 6.75 ERA. He was a ninth round pick out of Wake Forest University in 1996 and debuted near the end of the 1999 season, but the full-time reliever never stuck in town, even after pitching in three separate games of the 1999 playoffs against Boston.
Both Angel Santos and Ricardo Rodriguez took on the number in 2003. Santos played in 32 games as a second and third baseman after being acquired midseason from Boston. Rodriguez, who was part of the Paul Shuey trade the previous year, opened the year in the Tribe’s rotation, but was on the move by the summer after going 3-9. He would be traded to Texas in a package for outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
Until the last few years, the number had tended to land on the backs of those in the Cleveland bullpen, including Cliff Bartosh (34 games in 2004), Fernando Cabrera (2005-07), and Rich Rundles (2008-09). Matt Ginter (four starts in 2008) was the lone exception in the latter half of the first decade of the 21st century.
It was back in the bullpen when Frank Herrmann reached the Majors in 2010. He spent parts of three seasons with the Tribe, appearing in 95 games out of the bullpen in that span before injuries derailed his career. Bryan Price would take it in 2014, making three appearances for the club as the last man to make it to the Majors from the 2009 Victor Martinez trade with Boston (joining Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone).Since then, the number has belonged to Cody Anderson. Like many of his predecessors in the digit, injuries have become the pressing concern for the big right-hander, who debuted with the club in impressive fashion in 2015. The strong start to his career (7-3 record, 3.05 ERA in 15 starts) was not replicated the next season (2-5, 6.68 ERA in 19 games and nine starts) as he lost his starting job and wound up working in relief. Elbow injuries flared up and Tommy John was on the horizon for him. He missed all of 2017 as a result.
Anderson was drafted by the Indians in the 14th round of the 2011 draft out of Feather River College in his native Quincy, California. He spent that season at short-season Mahoning Valley and the next year at Class-A Lake County before spending time at two levels for the first time in 2013 when he made 23 starts (9-4, 2.34 ERA, 1.10 WHIP) for High-A Carolina and three starts for Double-A Akron (0-0, 5.68 ERA, 1.97 WHIP). He returned to the RubberDucks rotation for 2014 and made 25 starts in a difficult year, going 4-11 with a 5.44 ERA and 1.48 WHIP, leading him to return to the club for a third year to start 2015.
That season, he seemed to figure out whatever had derailed him the previous year as he was 3-2 with a 1.73 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in ten starts at Akron and got the promotion to Triple-A Columbus. His stay there was short, as he made three quick starts before being promoted to Cleveland.
He started the 2016 season back with Cleveland and earned a quality start against the Chicago White Sox, but allowed five runs in each of his next three starts to wrap up April with concerns mounting about his abilities as a total of six balls left the yard in his 20 innings of work. He was optioned to Columbus at the end of the month, but with another hole in the starting rotation with the injury to Carlos Carrasco, he returned on May 7. He would head back to Columbus again ten days later, only to return on May 23 for a spot start in a doubleheader. Despite better results, he was optioned again to Triple-A, where he remained until yet another one-day recall in early June. In the middle of June and back in the minors again, the Clippers placed him on the seven-day disabled list with right elbow tightness. He remained shelved until July 5, but he would get three more trips to the Indians roster before the regular season was completed.
His role in the second half of the season for the Indians was a different one as he worked out of the bullpen in primarily a multi-inning role. He was not necessarily dominant in the role, but his time in relief provided a better 4.11 ERA and 1.50 WHIP over those nine outings with an 8.80 strikeout per nine rate. The ball also stopped jumping out of the yard, as he allowed just two homers over his final ten appearances after giving up homers in eight of his first nine games of the year.
The length and versatility that Anderson provided the Indians earned him spots on the American League Division Series and American League Championship Series rosters, but he was replaced on the World Series roster. Despite being included for two of the team’s three postseason series, he did not appear on the mound during game action.
That elbow injury in-season altered the course of his 2017. The same elbow was looked at after the 2016 season and on November 9, he underwent an arthroscopic debridement of his pitching arm to address an impingement in the back of the elbow joint. The procedure was expected to sideline him for a period of eight weeks, which would have put him in position to begin preparations for the 2017 season in January, but the diagnosis of a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in that right elbow on March 10 led to Tommy John surgery less than three weeks later. That procedure cost him the season and put his role on the Indians’ present roster into one of mystery.
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images