Tribe and Reds Open Cactus League Play with a Tie
Bob Toth | On 23, Feb 2019
On a cool and rainy day in northeast Ohio, there was something comforting about seeing the Cleveland Indians back on the ball diamond once again.
A new look Tribe, returning one familiar face in Carlos Santana after purging several others in the offseason (including the loved-or-hated Chief Wahoo), will get its work in from Arizona this spring, with many roster spots up for grabs. In addition to a wide open battle for bullpen spots around closer Brad Hand, the Indians have a wildly uncertain outfield picture as well as a need to crown a utility man to start the season.
Cactus League play for the Indians and Cincinnati Reds kicked off from their mutual complex at Goodyear on Saturday afternoon, when Cincinnati hosted the Tribe. Adam Plutko received the spring opener starting nod as he looks to stay stretched out working starters’ innings in case the Indians need a sixth starter or an injury replacement along the way.
Few regulars from a season ago were in the Indians’ starting nine for the day, with Greg Allen leading off in center, Jose Ramirez hitting third at third, and Roberto Perez batting seventh while drawing the catching duties. Offseason trade acquisition Jake Bauers hit second and got the start at first base. Tyler Naquin slotted in at the cleanup spot while playing right field. Matt Joyce, a non-roster invitee with a chance to break through the roster void in the outfield, hit fifth. Jordan Luplow, picked up from Pittsburgh as part of the Erik Gonzalez trade, played in left while hitting sixth. Ryan Flaherty played short and hit eighth, looking to take advantage of extra playing time in the absence of the injured Francisco Lindor to turn his minor league pact into a Major League one as the team’s utility man. Prospect and 40-man roster member Eric Stamets hit ninth.
The first game of the tenth year of play at Goodyear Ballpark had some excitement along the way as the two clubs played to a 3-3 tie. After a scoreless first frame, Naquin opened the spring scoring with a leadoff homer in the second inning. Perez singled with two outs and came in to score on a double by Flaherty to give the Indians the early 2-0 lead.
The Reds tied things up in the bottom of the fourth with a pair of extra base hits. Tucker Barnhart doubled to lead off and he scored easily one out later on a homer by offseason addition Matt Kemp. Cincinnati took its first lead of the spring the following inning, when Tribe pitching loaded the bases after a one-out double by Jose Siri. Two walks and a sacrifice fly from Kyle Farmer off of Indians’ pitching prospect James Karinchak put the Reds up, 3-2.
The Indians responded quickly in the next half inning to tie the game with a manufactured run. Daniel Johnson, one of the players acquired in the Yan Gomes trade with Washington, drew a leadoff walk. After a flyout by Trayce Thompson, he stole second and moved to third on a hard hit single through the right side by Mike Papi. A sacrifice fly from Eric Haase tied the game at three. That score remained until the game was called after nine full frames.
Seven different Indians pitchers combined to allow just four hits – with three of them coming in a rough debut for right-hander and spring invitee Asher Wojciechowski. The 30-year-old was charged with all three runs on three hits, despite striking out three, in an inning and one-third. Jefry Rodriguez, Josh Smith, and Henry Martinez worked the final four innings, allowing just two base runners while striking out a pair. Plutko worked two perfect innings, striking out one, and Adam Cimber pitched a perfect third inning in his debut.
Flaherty, the 32-year-old seven-year veteran who spent last season with the Atlanta Braves, had a good day on the field in his first attempts to win a spot on the roster. He went 2-for-2 with a single, a double, and an RBI in two trips before being replaced by Yu Chang.
The Indians will be back in action on Sunday as they host the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks in a 3:05 PM ET start. The D-backs will send left-hander Robbie Ray to the mound for his first outing of the spring, while the Indians will call on reliever Chih-Wei Hu, who is one of many arms in the race for a relief spot on the roster after being picked up in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays in the offseason.