Baseball takes little time off in between seasons, so neither can we. Follow along at Did the Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to March 26, when the Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers for game one of the 2020 season. – BT
Countdown to Opening Day – 56 days
The number 56 has seen plenty of usage in Cleveland Indians history, but oftentimes, it showed up on the backs of men who spent little time in town and bounced all around during their professional careers. Given that fact, it seems fitting that the first player to claim the digits as his own in both Indians and Major League history earned the moniker “Suitcase Bob” because of being a frequently relocated player in the golden days of baseball.
Bob Seeds, or “Suitcase Bob”, broke into the big leagues in 1930, appearing in 85 games in the Cleveland lineup while playing all three outfield spots. After playing sparingly in 1931 in a new number, he got four hitless plate appearances in 1932 before he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox with Johnny Hodapp for Bill Cissell and Jim Moore. He hit .290 for the Sox in 116 games, but he changed his Sox after the season, traded with Hodapp and others to the Boston Red Sox.
He played 82 games in 1933 for Boston and had logged six plate appearances in eight games in 1934 before he was on the move again, dealt back to Cleveland with Bob Weiland and cash for pitcher Wes Ferrell and outfielder Dick Porter. He would not make it a calendar year in Cleveland though, as he was purchased the following January by the Detroit Tigers. He never appeared with the big league Tigers, but was later traded to the New York Yankees in 1936 and would suit up for the neighboring Giants for three seasons from 1938 to 1940. He spent the next five years in the minors, including the 1942 season back in the Indians farm system.
It would be nearly 50 years before the number 56 would return to the diamond for the Indians. Right-handed pitcher Sandy Wihtol, who spent parts of three seasons in the Majors with Cleveland while working in 28 games total, wore 56 as one of three different numbers he would don in his Indians career, doing so in 1979 and 1980. Outfielder Rod Craig was the next man in the number, taking it up in 1982 during an uneventful 49-game opportunity with the Tribe.
Two different players would wear the number for Cleveland in 1991, as pitcher Mike York and catcher Ed Taubensee each claimed it as their own. York worked in 14 games, making four starts that year in his final appearances in the Majors just months after being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates for outfielder Mitch Webster. Taubensee played in 26 games after being picked up off of waivers from Oakland at the start of the season. He later was dealt to Houston to bring Kenny Lofton to the Indians organization.
Alan Embree, who played 16 years in the Majors, got the number in 1992 when he made four starts for the Indians. He would not return to the Bigs until 1995 at the start of a two-year stint in the Indians bullpen. Bruce Aven started his MLB career in Cleveland in 1997, playing in 13 games for the club. He later played seven games for the Indians in 2002. Right-hander Sean DePaula spent his entire three-year career (1999-2000, 2002) with the Indians, taking the mound 29 times in the number 56 while posting a 1-1 record with a 6.75 ERA.
Both Angel Santos and Ricardo Rodriguez took on the number in 2003. Santos played in 32 games as a second and third baseman after being acquired midseason from Boston. Rodriguez, who was part of the Paul Shuey trade the previous year, opened the year in the Tribe’s rotation, but was on the move by the summer after going 3-9. He would be traded to Texas in a package for outfielder Ryan Ludwick.
Over the last decade and a half or so, the number 56 has tended to land on the backs of those on the Cleveland pitching staff, including Cliff Bartosh (34 games in 2004), Fernando Cabrera (2005-07), Matt Ginter (2008), and Rich Rundles (2008-09).
It was again in the bullpen in 2010 when Frank Herrmann reached the Majors. He spent parts of three seasons with the Tribe, appearing in 95 games in relief in that span before injuries derailed his career. Bryan Price made three appearances for the club in 2014 as the last man to make his Major League debut from the 2009 Victor Martinez trade with Boston (joining Justin Masterson and Nick Hagadone).
Cody Anderson has laid claim to the number over the last five years, but his time representing 56 for the Indians came to a close this past fall when Cleveland outrighted him to Triple-A and he declined the assignment, making him a free agent.
Anderson was once an intriguing starting pitching candidate for the Tribe, bursting onto the scene with a dynamite performance beginning in the middle of the 2015 season. Injuries began to mount, however, and the right-hander lost time in 2016 to right elbow issues that later were addressed by an arthroscopic debridement procedure. His 2017 season ended before it could get started when he had Tommy John surgery and his nearly two-year recovery kept him out for all but the last days of the minor league playing schedule in 2018.
The big right-hander avoided arbitration with the Indians last winter and came to spring camp hoping to fight for a spot on the pitching staff. He started the year down in Columbus and looked good in a brief three-inning start before the Indians brought him up in a move still surprising in hindsight. He worked out of the bullpen in three games, striking out five over five innings while giving up three runs on seven hits with two walks. He returned to Columbus at the end of the month and made another solid three inning start (with an identical stat line to his first start with the Clippers of one hit allowed and four strikeouts against ten batters).
With starting rotation needs after the injuries to Mike Clevinger and Corey Kluber, the Indians gave Anderson a shot to prove that he could stick some as a starter, but he did not impress. He lasted just two outs against Seattle on May 5, giving up four runs on two hits with three walks and a strikeout. In his next start on May 10, he survived three innings, but allowed two runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts. The Indians sent him back to Columbus on May 11.
Anderson started to stretch back out some at the Triple-A level, going four and two-thirds against Pawtucket on May 16 before throwing a season-high 89 pitches over five-plus innings in a loss to Toledo on May 22. He took a second straight loss in a home defeat against Indianapolis, when he completed a five-and-fly on 84 pitches. He lasted just three innings against Durham on June 2, giving up two runs on four hits, and two days later he was on the International League’s 7-day injured list with right elbow inflammation. Surgery on Anderson’s right flexor tendon in his pitching elbow followed on June 14, effectively ending his season and his Indians tenure.
With yet another season lost to ongoing elbow issues, the 29-year-old Anderson may be watching his baseball playing clock tick away the precious seconds remaining on his professional career.
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below!
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 99 (Daniel Robertson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90 (Adam Cimber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 88 (Phil Maton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 77 (Jack Armstrong)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 76 (Tom Magrann)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 75 (Mike Walker)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 73 (Ricardo Rincon)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 70 (James Karinchak, George Kontos)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 69 (Luis Medina)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 68 (Jefry Rodriguez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 67 (Aaron Civale, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 66 (Yasiel Puig, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 65 (Zach Plesac, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 64 (Tom Kramer, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 62 (Nick Wittgren, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 61 (Dan Otero, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 60 (Jhonny Peralta, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 59 (Carlos Carrasco)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 58 (Neil Ramirez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 57 (Shane Bieber)