Set to kick off a four-game series in Chicago with the White Sox on Monday night, the Cleveland Indians have added their top prospect to the club to provide, for the time being at least, a little extra protection to the roster.
In the wake of a painful hit-by-pitch suffered by backup catcher Roberto Perez in Sunday’s 9-2 win over the Detroit Tigers, the Indians have recalled catcher/outfielder Francisco Mejia from Triple-A Columbus. To make room on the 25-man roster for the backstop, the Indians optioned reliever Evan Marshall to their top farm affiliate.
In an unrelated move, the Indians also announced via a press release that the organization has released veteran reliever Matt Belisle from his minor league contract so that he could pursue other professional opportunities.
Perez was hit by a pitch in the top of the sixth inning on Sunday, taking an offering from Detroit reliever Drew VerHagen off of the right hand/wrist area. Manager Terry Francona shared after the game that the club was going to have to consider some options and were waiting on further results from the x-rays, also noting that Perez had already started to show discoloration in the area by the time Francona got onto the field to chat with his catcher.
The Indians have not yet placed Perez on the disabled list, so the addition of Mejia means that the bullpen will run a man light (11 pitchers and 14 position players on the roster for Monday’s game) until the team determines if Perez is going to need a trip to the disabled list or if the team dodged a bullet.
This will mark the second time that the Indians have added the 22-year-old Mejia to their roster, following his call-up last September. He appeared in eleven games with minimal action, going 2-for-13 (.154) at the plate with two singles, a walk, and one RBI.
Mejia has spent his time this season in Columbus rotating between catcher and left field (primarily), with additional time hitting in the designated hitter’s spot. The Indians had hoped to find a way to make Mejia a more versatile option for the organization to increase his chances of contributing at the Major League level sooner. His work in left field is worth noting, as the Indians will have both corner outfield spots to fill this offseason when Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall become free agents. Mejia got a brief trial run at third base in the Arizona Fall League following last season, but that experiment seems to have ended.
Currently, Mejia is roadblocked by a pair of veterans praised for their defensive work behind the plate in Perez and Yan Gomes, but Mejia brings a much more intriguing bat with him to the yard.
That bat has been an issue for Mejia for much of this season, however, as he began his first full year of action at the Triple-A level after leapfrogging Columbus for Cleveland late last season. He ended April slashing just .187/.229/.286 in 21 games with three doubles, two homers, and ten RBI for the Clippers, and still could not get going in May, putting up a .192/.291/.301 line in 22 games that month with three more doubles, a triple, one homer, and seven RBI.
June has been far more favorable, as in his first seven games of action, he has slashed .357/.357/.571, already tying his previous single-month efforts with three doubles while adding a homer and eight RBI. He ended May and opened June with a ten-game hitting streak, hitting .368 with a .419 on-base percentage in that span before going 0-for-2 in the first game (seven innings) of a doubleheader on Sunday afternoon in Columbus.
If Perez avoids the DL stint, Mejia would likely return to Columbus quickly. He has shown an ability to handle minor league pitching consistently in his career, putting up a lifetime .284/.340/.434 slash in 449 minor league games.
Marshall was the odd man out Monday as a player with options, which could have been his fate anyways come Tuesday when the club needed to add starting pitcher Adam Plutko back to the roster to make the start against the White Sox. The 28-year-old right-hander Marshall has appeared in nine games for Cleveland this season, posting a 6.75 ERA and a 2.10 WHIP on the year with eight strikeouts and four walks in six and two-thirds innings. He allowed two runs on three hits with three walks and just two strikeouts in two and two-thirds innings in his first four games during his first promotion to the Majors this season and he gave up three more runs in his first game back on May 27 against Houston, when he was hit with a blown save.
Since that poor showing against the Astros, he has worked four innings over four outings and has not allowed a run while giving up four hits and a walk with six strikeouts of the 16 batters that he has faced, earning a pair of holds in the process.
This is the fifth season in the Majors and first with Cleveland for Marshall, who was a fourth round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2011 draft.
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