Indians Starting Slow in Arizona Fall League Play
Bob Toth | On 13, Oct 2018
The postseason hangover in Cleveland has extended all the way to Arizona for the Indians organization, as the team’s participants on the shared roster of the Glendale Desert Dogs have taken four straight losses to open the Arizona Fall League schedule.
Seven Indians prospects are members of the Desert Dogs club, joining representatives from the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees. Glendale is winless at 0-4 to start the season, which began Tuesday from the desert. They trail the first place Surprise Saguaros by three games in the AFL West Division.
The Indians have sent four pitchers – Justin Garza, Rob Kaminsky, Jared Robinson, and Dalbert Siri – and three position players – Yu Chang, Li-Jen Chu, and Connor Marabell – to Arizona for offseason work. Joining them in Glendale is Double-A Akron pitching coach Rigo Beltran.
Glendale lost on the road to Peoria in walk-off fashion in the season opener on Tuesday, 8-7. Marabell started the scoring with a two-run double in the first inning to put the Desert Dogs on top. He singled and later scored in the sixth and was stranded at second in the top of the ninth after a one-out single.
A four-run seventh gave Peoria a 7-4 win over Glendale in the second game of the week. Marabell (RF) and Chang (3B) each got starting nods and contributed to the Desert Dogs’ eleven hits on the day. Marabell went 2-for-5 with two singles (his second straight multi-hit game), while Chang went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in his debut. Robinson worked the fourth and fifth innings, allowing an unearned run on two hits with two strikeouts, while Kaminsky pitched the ninth, allowing a run on two hits while striking out a pair.
All three games in the league went to extra innings on Thursday, but Glendale dropped to 0-3 with a 10-9 loss to Surprise. Chang made his second straight start at third and went 1-for-5 with a single and a strikeout. Siri was tagged for three runs in an inning of work, giving up two hits and a walk after initially working out of a bases loaded jam with two outs in the seventh when he entered the ball game. He was hurt by a two-out, two-run double by Kansas City Royals backup catcher Meibrys Viloria in the eighth to lead to two of the three runs he was charged. Surprise scored twice in the tenth to take a 10-8 lead, but Glendale could only scratch across one in the bottom of the inning to take the loss.
On Friday, the Desert Dogs were held to one run in a 4-1 loss. Garza made his first appearance of the fall and struggled to find the strike zone. He allowed two runs on four hits with four walks and two strikeouts in just two and two-thirds innings. He threw only 23 of 51 pitches for strikes against 13 total hitters. Kaminsky retired the final out of the bottom of the eighth after giving up a hit and a walk. For the first time on the AFL slate, all three Indians position players were in the starting lineup. Marabell went 1-for-4 with a triple and an RBI, but he struck out three times in his other trips. Chang went 1-for-3 with a single, a walk, and a strikeout. Chu, making his first appearance of the schedule, went 1-for-3 with a single and a walk, but struck out in his other two trips on the afternoon. Former Indians pitcher Shawn Morimando (Toronto) pitched two and two-thirds innings of one-run relief with four strikeouts for Surprise.
Chang has posted three hits in 12 at bats (.250) in the early going with a walk and four strikeouts in three starts at third base for Glendale. A member of the Indians’ 40-man roster, Chang, 23, played the whole season at Triple-A Columbus in his fifth year of pro ball, working 94 times at short, 23 at third base, and nine at second. His power numbers took a hit in 2018, as his home run total dropped from 24 to 13, but he hit 36 points higher than the previous campaign and drove in runs at a similar clip to previous career marks. He was named a midseason All-Star for the third straight season, representing the home town Clippers for the International League.
Chu, 24, has made just one appearance thus far in the Arizona Fall League, going 1-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts. He spent much of the regular season behind the plate for the High-A Hillcats, slashing .278/.351/.434 in 81 games with 20 doubles, one triple, eight homers, and 45 RBI. He also hit .241 in 16 games for Akron and .250 in two games for Columbus.
Marabell is one of the top hitters in the league through the first week, tallying six hits in 14 at bats (.429) with a double, a triple, and three RBI in his three starts. He put up strong number at Akron in his second season with the club, batting .296 with a .341 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging mark with 23 doubles, four triples, eleven homers, and 64 RBI in 89 games while earning his first career midseason All-Star nod. He ended his season in the Clippers’ outfield in his second career stint at Triple-A, but struggled some in his 31 games there, hitting .214 with eight doubles, one triple, two homers, and nine RBI. The 24-year-old fourth year pro was a 25th round pick by Cleveland in the 2015 draft.
Garza, 24, has worked the second-most innings on the staff through four games with his two and two-thirds pitched in his start Friday. He started his 2018 season on the right foot, earning back-to-back Carolina League Pitcher of the Week awards in April, but injuries mid-year limited him to just 16 starts for Lynchburg as he missed half of July and August. He went 5-6 on the year with a 3.71 ERA for the Hillcats and he threw seven scoreless innings for short-season Mahoning Valley in two rehab starts in mid-August before returning to Lynchburg.
Kaminsky has worked twice for Glendale, allowing a run on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts. The 24-year-old southpaw spent his fourth season in the Indians farm system in 2018 and made 25 relief appearances (two at Lynchburg and 23 at Akron) after previously making just three relief appearances in his first five minor league campaigns. He went 1-1 as a full-time reliever this year with a 2.86 ERA, 23 strikeouts, and 19 walks in 28 1/3 innings.
Robinson was charged with an unearned run in his two-inning outing in his only work through the first four games. The 23-year-old righty spent his third straight season with the Hillcats, going 5-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 29 appearances. He also worked once for the RubberDucks, earning a win with two innings of one-run relief.
Siri gave up three runs on two hits and a walk while working a full inning split over two frames. The 23-year-old right-handed reliever, in his fourth season in the Indians organization, spent his year at Lynchburg, going 1-5 with a 2.45 ERA. He limited opposing hitters to a .182 average and struck out 71 in 47 2/3 innings. He was named a midseason All-Star in the Carolina League this season.
There are some rule differences for players in the AFL, in an effort to control the pace of play.
There is a 15-second pitch timer implemented for every pitch after the first one of an at bat. Pitchers must come set or begin their motion before the timer expires or they will be penalized an automatic “ball”. Similarly, if the batter is not in the batter’s box by the time the clock strikes five seconds remaining, he will be dealt an automatic “strike”.
A 30-second timer will run in between batters as soon as the previous play concludes. The hitter is expected to be in the box with at least 15 seconds left on the clock and the same five-second strike rule applies if he is not alert to the pitcher.
There is a two minute and 15 second break after every third out. In the event of televised games, that time frame could be extended to two minutes and 25 seconds or two minutes and 55 seconds.
Mound visits are restricted to 30 seconds and are timed. They begin when the coach or manager crosses over the foul line. Just as the Major League rules changed this season, the AFL will limit each team to six visits per nine innings, with one additional mound visit per extra inning played.
Minor league rules used throughout the 2018 season regarding a runner being placed on second base in extra innings are in effect as well. The “Robinson Rule” will not be used in the championship game on November 17. Games that have not declared a winner after eleven innings will end in a tie.
No games are scheduled for Saturday, October 13, but the league will conduct its Bowman Hitting Challenge. One player from each of the 30 teams will compete in the hitting skills challenge, with targets scattered across the playing surface to hit for points as well as credit being given for balls that clear the fence for a homer. Chang will represent the Indians as one of five players from the Desert Dogs. Former Indians’ AFL representative Bradley Zimmer won the event in 2016. (EDITOR’S NOTE: this year’s event from Mesa was postponed due to rain and will not be made up)
As is the case with the entire fall schedule, there will be no games on Sunday. Glendale and the other five teams of the AFL will get back to action on Monday, October 15, as the Desert Dogs host Mesa in an afternoon affair.
Photo: Mathew Carper/Columbus Clippers