Opening Day of the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season schedule is less than one week away! We at Did The Tribe Win Last Night continue our march to first pitch by looking back at Tribe players past and present.
Countdown to Opening Day – 6 days
The present roster construction of the Cleveland Indians is heavily tied to its current number six, Brandon Guyer, and his health.
The 32-year-old outfielder, with six big league seasons under his belt, came to Goodyear this spring still recovering from offseason left wrist surgery on his extensor tendon and finding his way into the lineup has been difficult. As of March 22, he had yet to appear in a Cactus League game while dealing with a setback in his rehab last month.
[Cleveland.com’s Paul Hoynes reported that Guyer will make his spring training debut on Saturday, March 24]
Guyer was cleared a week ago to begin batting work, which was a good sign for manager Terry Francona and his staff. The veteran outfielder, who lost much of his season last year while dealing with problems with the same wrist, is an important part of the team’s bench and outfield picture (one muddied by the absences throughout camp by both Guyer and Michael Brantley). Problems resurfaced early in camp, but he had been able to get into some minor league action as he prepared for the season.
“I don’t think we have to slow [Guyer] down, but I think we want to be aware that we are trying to get him ready for the long haul,” shared Francona last week. “I know [Opening Day] is a big day and guys shoot for it, but we’d like to get him back and keep him back healthy. We have talked to him about that a little bit. We don’t want to slow guys down just to slow them down.’
It was an ongoing issue with his wrist that left him with just 70 games of work last season in his shortest season since his first two campaigns in the Majors with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011 and 2012. It was a disappointing season for Guyer as his injury, coupled with a steady flow of bumps, bruises, and breaks among the options on the roster, led to a lot of shuffling in the outfield. The right-handed hitting platoon partner of Lonnie Chisenhall made just 192 plate appearances, slashing .236/.326/.327 with seven doubles, one triple, two homers, and 20 RBI.
Guyer struggled to start last season, hitting just .182 at the time that the injury first flared up in the middle of May. It sent him to the disabled list until the final week of June. His bat started to perk up a little in July (.250/.400/.344 with seven RBI) and August (.273/.359/.364 with five RBI), but halfway through September, the injury flared up (just days after Bradley Zimmer was lost for the season and with Brantley already sidelined with an ankle issue and Chisenhall a calf problem), leaving him unable to play the rest of September and in the team’s brief appearance in the postseason.
The season before, the Indians acquired Guyer at the trade deadline in a very overlooked and underrated move at the time. After being hit by pitch an absurd 23 times in 249 plate appearances with the Rays in his first 63 games of the year, he came to Cleveland and hit .333 with a .438 on-base percentage in his 38 games for the club. He drove in 14 runs on 27 hits and he was hit by pitches (8) more frequently than he drew walks (7). He would end the season as the big league’s leader with 31 plunks on the year.
Guyer was big for the club in the postseason in 2016, seeing just three games of action in the ALDS and ALCS with three hits in eight plate appearances. He continued to show good production in the World Series against his former club, the Chicago Cubs, and played in all seven games, hitting .300 with three hits, four walks, and a pair of HBPs while scoring four runs and driving in a pair for the Tribe.
His big contributions remain what he can provide the club as a platoon partner in right field. He owns a .282/.379/.449 slash in his career against left-handed pitching, compared to a .233/.308/.329 mark against right-handers. He has drawn nearly twice as many hit by pitches against southpaws and has hit three times as many homers off of them.
With questions already heavily focused about the Tribe’s outfield picture already, the team could use a healthy Guyer to clear up some of the uncertainty. But with the long grind of a season, slowing Guyer down until he is ready to contribute fully is hardly a bad thing.
Other notable 6s in Tribe history (37 in total): Lew Fonseca (the first in 1929), Johnny Hodapp (1930), Joe Vosmik (1931-36), Ray Mack (1939-43), Bob Lemon (1946), Ken Keltner (1947-49), Minnie Minoso (1951), Larry Doby (1953), Rocky Colavito (1958-59), Harvey Kuenn (1960), Joe Azcue (1963-69), Jim Thome (1991), Lou Marson (2011-13).
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images