Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 53

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 – 53 days

Logan Allen, now number 54 for the Cleveland Indians but wearer of the number 53 during his one-game debut with the club in 2019, could have an interesting future on the shores of Lake Erie.

The young left-hander, who will not turn 23 until May 23 of the coming season, came to the Indians organization just ahead of the trade deadline last July after making a quick eight-game debut with the San Diego Padres organization. A former eighth round pick by the Boston Red Sox in the 2015 draft out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, Allen has now been part of two big trades in his career. The first one, which initially sent him to southern California, was a blockbuster deal that sent him with three other players to the Padres as the haul for All-Star reliever Craig Kimbrel in November of 2015. Last season, he relocated for a second time in his first four professional seasons when he was one of five players acquired by the Indians in the three-team trade that revolved around Trevor Bauer, Yasiel Puig, and Franmil Reyes.

Logan Allen – David Maxwell/Getty Images

Allen opened the season as one of ten different Padres on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 Prospects while also coming in on prospect top 100 ranking boards in Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. The young southpaw was in spring camp with the Padres, but he reported to Triple-A El Paso to open the season in his second season of work at the Triple-A level (after going 4-0 in five starts with a 1.63 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP in the Pacific Coast League in 2018). He was in the running for a rotation spot down to the final days of spring, but he was hit hard in his final outing of Cactus League play.

His second glimpse of Triple-A play was not as kind. Some command issues and problems with the long ball left him with some uneven numbers on the stat sheet, which included a 4-3 record with a 5.15 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP, a .269 batting average against, 3.43 walks per nine innings, and 9.83 strikeouts per nine. But despite the mixed results over the first two months of the season, the 22-year-old southpaw got the call to the Majors as the team’s number five overall prospect and MLB’s number 61 at the time, joining what was already the youngest starting rotation in baseball.

“We like the four-pitch mix he brings and we feel like, in the last few starts especially, he’s trending in the right direction,” Padres manager Andy Green said at the time of Allen’s promotion to the Show. “We’re in a place of need right now. We need somebody to step up and step up big for us to help us.”

While it was thought that Allen’s stay might be short the first time around, he did not go anywhere. In his big league debut against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 18, he fired seven shutout innings of three-hit baseball to earn his first win. He made another quality start his next time out a week later in Baltimore against the Orioles. He was roughed up by San Francisco on July 1 and against Miami on July 16 (with a relief appearance in between against the Los Angeles Dodgers). He continued to work in relief, with the Padres’ depth there thin with ample options available to start games, but after pitching five innings over three games from July 23 to July 26, he was optioned to the minors for the first time in his career.

Less than a week later, he joined Reyes and Padres minor league infielder Victor Nova, plus Cincinnati’s Puig and minor league pitcher Scott Moss, in relocating to the Indians organization in the three-team trade.

Allen reported to Triple-A Columbus and made a pair of shorter starts there, allowing three runs in two and one-third innings against Indianapolis and three more in four innings at home against Buffalo. He got the call back to the Bigs on August 14 and worked two and one-third scoreless innings of relief against Boston in his Indians debut, allowing three hits and striking out three in a no-decision. He was optioned back to Columbus and closed out his season there, allowing four runs in five and two-thirds against Louisville, nine runs (eight earned) in four and one-third innings in a loss to Toledo, and a stronger effort to close out the minor league slate when he allowed a run on five hits with six strikeouts in six innings in a win at Louisville.

The lefty was 7-6 in 22 starts with a 6.07 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP across all levels and 0-1 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.80 WHIP in five relief appearances (all in the Majors).

The addition of Allen was an under-the-radar type of pick up for the Indians. A young and controllable hurler, Allen does one thing that none of the top pitchers already in the Indians starting rotation or at the top levels of the minors already does – throw left-handed. That key variable will make the inexperienced pitcher a unique player to watch over the coming years as he could give the Cleveland rotation a level of balance it has not seen consistently since T.J. House made 18 starts for the club back in 2014.

Regardless of the lack of southpaws over the years, the Indians’ rotation has been able to rank up well against same-sided hitters, but having a strong young arm capable of giving teams a completely different look would not hurt. While the starting rotation is already crowded with the likes of the established Mike Clevinger, Carlos Carrasco, and Shane Bieber and the lesser-proven Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Adam Plutko, and Jefry Rodriguez, if the Indians learned one thing from their 2019 season it was that you can never, ever have enough starting pitching. The four-pitch Allen should factor in right there, serving the club at Columbus until his number gets called again to return to Cleveland.

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The number 53 has been a mainstay on the diamond for the Indians for more than 30 years, but it took a long time to get it there. It has gone unused in just two seasons – 1985 and 1988 – since debuting on the field for Cleveland in 1984.

Catcher Jerry Willard, who broke into the Bigs in 1984 while wearing it for parts of his 87 games in his debut season, became the first Indians player to wear 53 in a game. Right-handed reliever Reggie Ritter was next in 1986, wearing it in parts of each of his only two seasons in the Majors, both in the Indians organization. The late Sammy Stewart also wore it in his only season in Cleveland in 1987 while wrapping up his ten-year MLB career. Pitcher Kevin Wickander wore it over four seasons in Cleveland from 1989 to 1993 and handed it off later to Jeremy Hernandez, who took the mound 49 times in relief in 1993 for the Tribe in his lone season with the club.

Paul Shuey is the longest tenured 53 in club history, debuting less than two years after the club selected him with the second overall pick in the 1992 draft out of the University of North Carolina. He had arguably the most big league success of any of the former Tribesmen in the number, appearing in 361 games and posting a 34-21 record with 21 saves, a 3.60 ERA, and a 1.40 WHIP over nine seasons with the club before his trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002.

The number bounced around on the backs of relievers like Carl Sadler, Jeriome Robertson, Jeremy Guthrie, and 20-year vet Arthur Rhodes before it found a more permanent home on the jersey of left-hander Rafael Perez.

Perez - Ed Zurga/Getty Images
Perez – Ed Zurga/Getty Images

“Raffy Left”, part of the bullpen matchup tandem with Rafael Betancourt, wore the number from 2006 to 2012 and become one of the more heavily used arms on the club’s relief staff, appearing in 73 games in 2008, 70 games in 2010, and 71 games in 2011. Early strong strikeout rates did not continue throughout his career, however, as he struggled during his middle and later years in Cleveland with higher hits and walks rates. Being a left-hander with some success at the Major League level earned him several additional opportunities along the way, as he signed free agent deals with Minnesota (2013), Boston (2013), Texas (2014), Pittsburgh (2014), and Seattle (2015), but he never once returned to the Majors. He has appeared in the Mexican League and in the Dominican Winter League since.

Following Perez, southpaw reliever Rich Hill wore it for Cleveland in 2013 with minimal success before reviving his career elsewhere after being converted back into a starting pitching role. Catchers Chris Gimenez and George Kottaras both represented it on the field during the 2014 season before Jeff Manship brought the number back to the mound in 2015 and 2016. Current Indians outfielder Greg Allen opened his Major League career in 2017 in the number and gave it up during the 2018 season, when veteran outfielder Melky Cabrera wore it during each of his stays with the club.


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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)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 56 (Cody Anderson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 55 (Roberto Perez)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 54 (Hunter Wood)

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