Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 65
Bob Toth | On 22, Jan 2019
Major League Baseball will kick off the 2019 season with its earliest start ever (excluding international openers) as all 30 teams will take the field on March 28. Follow along with Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down the days until Opening Day 2019. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 65
There must be something to a number.
The number 65 has been worn by just four players in the 118-year history of the Cleveland Indians organization and in all four occurrences, it was donned by a pitcher. Twice it came on the backs of young starting pitchers trying to catch on at the Major League level. In the two other and more recent times, it has come on former starting pitchers who were converted to relief work late in their minor league careers and got a brief chance to catch on in the Tribe’s bullpen.
Colon appeared in eleven games for the Indians over the course of that season, which included a trip to the disabled list and a return trip to the minors. He went 1-3 for Cleveland with a 7.20 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP in his first season in the Bigs after spending parts of the six previous seasons in the minors for the club. While his numbers in the Majors left something to be desired, he had strong numbers in the minors, putting up a 0.82 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP in 20 games with the Columbus Clippers after returning from a suspension to start his season.
The Puerto Rican right-hander climbed his way through the farm system after being taken in the 12th round of the 2009 draft. Previously a starter and the owner of a no-hitter while with Akron, he converted to a relief role in 2015. He lost much of his 2017 campaign to suspension and signed with the St. Louis Cardinals last offseason, but he did not pitch for the club. Instead, he pitched out of Mexico.
Soto was also selected in the 2009 draft, but was taken by the Detroit Tigers in the 21st round out of Carolina, Puerto Rico. He joined the Indians organization in 2010 as the return in the Jhonny Peralta trade. Primarily a starter in the early years of his professional career, he moved into relief work in 2013.
After making his way through the minors, the left-hander made a brief six-game appearance for the Indians in September of 2015, working three and one-third innings of scoreless baseball while allowing three hits. He did not make the club’s bullpen at the end of spring training in 2016 and he was purchased by the Chicago Cubs, spending his entire year at Triple-A Iowa.
Following the 2016 season, he bounced around as he was claimed off of waivers by the Oakland Athletics and then by the Chicago White Sox less than two weeks later. He went to camp with the Sox and started the season in the minors before his release mid-year. He pitched with Aguilas during Dominican Winter League play after the completion of the regular season that year and took the mound in the Atlantic League during 2018. He has pitched well in the Puerto Rican Winter League this offseason, which could give his professional career some extra life.
Before Colon and Soto wore the number 65 in Cleveland, a well-known and successful southpaw claimed it as his own during his first two seasons in the Majors on the way to a 13-year career that included a Cy Young Award with the Indians.
Cliff Lee was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the fourth round of the 2000 draft, but by 2002, the 23-year-old was a member of the Cleveland Indians as he joined Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens in relocating to the Tribe organization midseason in exchange for Bartolo Colon and Tim Drew.
Lee made eleven starts over his first two seasons in the Majors with the Indians before becoming a full-time member of their starting rotation. He wore 65 in his debut season in 2002 and again for part of the 2003 season before swapping it for the number 34. He later settled in to his more familiar 31 and remained a representative of numbers in the 30’s for the rest of his career.
He would receive his first of four total All-Star nods in 2008, when he won the Cy Young Award and went 22-3 with a 2.54 ERA for the Indians. He was dealt the following July to the Philadelphia Phillies and later spent time with the Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers before returning to Philly.
The first to wear 65 for the Indians and the fourth to wear it in baseball history (according to Baseball Reference) was Jose Roman, a young right-hander out of the Dominican Republic who made his debut with the Indians at the age of 21 in 1984. He pitched in three games that season (making two starts) and lost a pair of games. He would return in each of the next two seasons for a handful of appearances, but was dealt to the New York Mets early in the 1987 season and spent that season and the following in the minors for the club before calling it a career.
Seventeen big leaguers sported the number during the 2018 campaign.
Photo (Colon): Andy King/Getty Images
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 66