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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 4 – Bradley Zimmer

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 4 – Bradley Zimmer

| On 24, Mar 2019

In less than a week, the 2019 Major League Baseball season will formally kick off as all 30 teams take the field together. Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we continue our long countdown to Opening Day – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 4 days

Bradley Zimmer, resident number four on the Cleveland Indians roster, suffered the worst kind of sophomore slump in his second season with the Tribe a year ago.

At the age of 25, the former 2014 first round pick made the roster and slotted in as the team’s center fielder, but he got off to a rough start. Through his first eight games, he was hitting just .154 with more than a strikeout per every other trip to the plate (14 in 27 plate appearances), but the modest six-game hitting streak that followed boosted his average 123 points. Over his next ten games, he would get just five hits (with his strikeout rate improving slightly with 12 Ks in 29 plate appearances) and his average for the month settled in at the .240 mark.

Zimmer looked like he was beginning to find his groove when disaster struck on May 5. He extended his second hitting streak of the season to four games with a double, but a seventh inning collision with the wall at Yankee Stadium became a pressing issue. He sat out the next two games of the road trip before returning to the lineup on May 9 in Milwaukee, but he went 0-for-4 and disappeared from the lineup again. On May 15, after waiting for Zimmer’s left rib contusion to improve, the team placed him on the disabled list.

Zimmer – J. Miller/Getty Images

Less than two weeks later, Zimmer suited up on a rehab assignment with the Akron RubberDucks, appearing in a pair of games before joining the Columbus Clippers for two more before he was activated by the Indians. That stint was short lived, however, as just days after his activation, he was optioned to Columbus to make way for the return of Lonnie Chisenhall to the roster. A loaded outfield, a lack of regular playing time, and struggles with the K had the Indians hoping Zimmer would benefit from regular at bats in Triple-A.

“Offensively, it’s been a struggle for him. The strikeouts. We talked to him about that,” manager Terry Francona shared with the media on June 5, 2018, about optioning Zimmer and the conversation the pair had with team president Chris Antonetti. “We wanted to talk to him together. A lot of guys have gone back to Triple-A and worked on their game and then come back. We fully believe that will happen with Zim. We want that. He’s our best center fielder. Trying to make some of the adjustments at the Major League level can be hard.”

Zimmer played in four more games for the Clippers, hitting his first minor league homer of the season on June 7, but his final game came on June 10 against the Buffalo Bison. Zimmer then began experiencing discomfort in his right shoulder and, as pain persisted when throwing, he was placed on the seven-day disabled list on June 14. He went to the team’s Goodyear complex in Arizona to rehab, but the issue lingered and, on July 20, he underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair the labrum.

At the time of the procedure, he was given an eight- to 12-month timetable to return from the injury, putting him on target for a return at the earliest at the very end of spring training and at worst the July trade deadline. It ended his season with a .226/.281/.330 line in 34 games with just five doubles, two homers, four stolen bases, and nine runs batted in.

Earlier this month, Zimmer made his spring training debut, albeit in a Triple-A game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Zimmer was in the lineup at designated hitter.

“I told everybody I was going to be ready, and here I am,” said Zimmer in a story on MLB.com on March 13. “I’ve been working my [butt] off the whole offseason up to this point to be able to play and get going now. I’m ready.”

Zimmer debuted with the Indians the previous spring, getting a call-up in mid-May from Triple-A. He remained with the club through the rest of the season, appearing in 101 games while hitting .241 with a .307 on-base percentage and a .385 slugging mark and adding 15 doubles, two triples, eight homers, and 39 RBI. He stole 18 bases in 19 attempts.

The Indians have had a wide open mess of a battle to determine their new starting outfield after losing Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera, and Rajai Davis to free agency and declining the option on Brandon Guyer, leaving the club with deadline addition Leonys Martin, the returning Greg Allen and Tyler Naquin, and new faces Jake Bauers and Jordan Luplow as the primary candidates for jobs on the roster. Zimmer has shown himself capable of being an everyday player, but the team will need him healthy and with a better approach at the plate to serve as an improvement over the internal options. When on the bases, he has proven to be a threat, but his inconsistent ability to get there with ease has minimized his impact there thus far through his first 135 MLB games. He has stolen 22 bases in 24 attempts in his career, but he owns a career .237/.300/.370 slash line.

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Over this decade, the number four has found its way onto the backs of veteran players on the roster, including both Juan Uribe and Coco Crisp in 2016 and Mike Aviles for each of the three seasons before them, but it has rarely been used in recent years by a player making significant impacts on the outcomes of games on a nightly basis.

Despite being a low number and typically a digit that most would assume would be in more frequent use, the number four has gone through some droughts in Cleveland history. The number was in heavy rotation from the first moment it appeared on the diamond in 1929 all the way through 1962 before disappearing for more than ten years. It would return for four years, but again was off the market for seven more years from 1977 to 1983. Its brief comeback was short, as after appearances in two seasons at Jacobs Field in 1995 and 1996, it vanished for another dozen years before Niuman Romero (ten games) and Tony Graffanino (seven games) briefly brought it out of pseudo-retirement in 2009.

While many have suited up in the four for Cleveland, few did so with the level of success that Joe Gordon did during his stint in the city beginning in 1947.

Gordon - ootpdevelopments.com

Gordon – ootpdevelopments.com

Acquired in the days following the completion of the 1946 season from the New York Yankees for pitcher Allie Reynolds, Gordon joined the club after spending his first seven seasons in pinstripes, wrapped around his World War II military commitments. He was an All-Star in each of his last six seasons when relocating to the shores of Lake Erie, but was coming off of a career-worst .210 season with eleven homers, 15 doubles, and 47 RBI in a season decimated by injuries that started with hand surgery during spring training and later included a pair of torn leg muscles and a fractured thumb during the season.

With Gordon in his first season out of Gotham, he gave the Indians plenty to like. He brought five World Series trips’ worth of experience to the club (and four world championships to his credit), something unfamiliar to most members of the squad. At 32 and once again healthy, he was plenty productive at the plate for the Tribe, hitting .272 with 27 doubles, six triples, 29 homers, and 93 RBI over 155 games while making yet another trip to the Midsummer Classic.

The next year, Gordon put up some career numbers as the Indians shocked the American League and the world by taking the pennant and the title. Gordon’s contribution was easy to see – in 144 games, he hit .280 with a .371 on-base percentage with 21 doubles, four triples, and new career-highs (and team highs) in homers (32) and RBI (124). He was an All-Star for the eighth straight season and a world’s champion for the fifth time in six trips to the Fall Classic.

While the Indians were unable to adequately defend their title the following season, Gordon still found his way into the lineup regularly for the club, hitting .251 with a .355 OBP with 18 doubles, three triples, 20 homers, and 84 RBI over 148 games. He was an All-Star for the ninth straight campaign and the final time in his career.

He would suit up for one more season in 1950, appearing in 119 games while hitting .236 with 12 doubles, a triple, 19 homers, and 57 RBI. He would be released after the season by the club and would play in the minors for a couple of years before beginning his baseball life away from playing. He would be back in Cleveland at the other end of the decade, serving the team as its manager from 1958 to 1960 before a bizarre trade with Detroit, when general manager Frank Lane opted to swap his manager with Tigers skipper Jimmy Dykes.

The 1942 AL MVP Gordon would later manage with the Kansas City Athletics and the expansion Kansas City Royals before his career in baseball ended. His baseball jersey was hung up for good in 1978 when he died after suffering a heart attack.

He was named one of the top 100 players in Indians history in 2001 and was elected into the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame in 2008. At the end of that year, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee as part of the class of 2009.

Other notable 4s in Tribe history (38 in total): Joe Sewell (the first in 1929), Lew Fonseca (1930), Johnny Hodapp (1931-32), Bill Knickerbocker (1934-36), Odell Hale (1937-40), Jim Hegan (1951-57), Tony Bernazard (1984-87), Joel Skinner (1990-91).

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below.

Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 99
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 90 – Adam Cimber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 88
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 62
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 61 – Dan Otero
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 60
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 59 – Carlos Carrasco
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 58 – Neil Ramirez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 57 – Shane Bieber
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 56 – Cody Anderson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 55 – Roberto Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 54
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 53
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 52 – Mike Clevinger
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 51
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 50
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 49 – Tyler Olson
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 48
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 47 – Trevor Bauer
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 46 – Jon Edwards
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 45 – Adam Plutko
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 44 – Nick Goody
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 43
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 42
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 41 – Carlos Santana
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 40
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 39 – Oliver Perez
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 38 – Eric Haase
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 37
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 36
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 35 – Ben Taylor
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 34
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 33 – Brad Hand
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 32
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 31 – Danny Salazar
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 30 – Tyler Naquin
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 29
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 28 – Corey Kluber
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 26
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 25
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 23
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 22 – Jason Kipnis
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 15
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 14
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 13 – Leonys Martin
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 12 – Francisco Lindor
Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 11 – Jose Ramirez
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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 9
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