Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 46
Bob Toth | On 09, Feb 2020
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 – 46 days
Jon Edwards was hoped to be a big part of the Indians bullpen in 2019, but it did not pan out that way. For the 31-year-old right-handed reliever, it marked yet another obstacle in his life.
The Indians’ resident #46 over the last two seasons, Edwards made his return to the Major League mound in nine games with Cleveland in 2018. It marked his first work at the big league level since 2015, when he split the season with Texas and San Diego in his second season of work in the Majors. In the years before and those that followed, Edwards has had his work cut out for him.
The 2019 season was hardly the first professional hurdle for Edwards to overcome. He began his career in 2010 as a 14th round draft pick by the St. Louis Cardinals, but after four years of toiling unsuccessfully as an outfielder stuck in the New York-Penn League, he was cut at the age of 22. Instead of hanging up the cleats, he moved on to independent ball in the seldom heard of North American League. His arm caught the eye of former Indians manager Doc Edwards, who had him relocate to the Pecos League to begin working as a pitcher. The converted outfielder pitched in a handful of games, got hurt, and walked away. It was a later conversation that he had with a minor league hitting coach in the Texas Rangers organization, who suggested the club send a scout to see him throw. Edwards was able to hit 95 on the radar gun and his professional career as a pitcher began in the Texas farm system.
He worked his way to the Majors with the Rangers in 2014 (working in nine games), only to find out after the season that he had testicular cancer. He had surgery the same week as the diagnosis, but he was given a clean bill of health and in the months that followed, his wife became pregnant with the couple’s first child.
Edwards opened 2015 in the minors for the Rangers, but he got the call-up and worked eleven times for Texas before he was traded to the San Diego Padres. He made eleven more appearances in his first work in the National League and looked to be in the mix for the club’s bullpen in 2016, but elbow issues eventually led to Tommy John surgery. The club released him nine months after the operation at the end of the 2017 spring training calendar.
Edwards did not pitch in 2017, instead getting his real estate license with his wife, who also gave birth to the pair’s second son. Edwards also earned some extra cash giving hitting and pitching lessons. The dream of returning to the Majors did not die for Edwards, who worked out at a facility where former Indians closer (and newly signed Texas Ranger) Cody Allen trained. Allen tipped the Indians off to Edwards and passed along video of his sessions. The club signed him nearly one full year from his release by the Padres, late in spring training.
The Indians brought Edwards up as one of the club’s September call-ups at the end of the 2018 season. He made a late debut for the organization at the end of May with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks, striking out 14 batters in his first nine outings (nine and two-thirds innings) while holding opposing hitters to a .176 average. After nearly a month with the ‘Ducks, he was promoted to Triple-A and spent the next two months with the Columbus Clippers, putting up good numbers overall. He earned two wins and four saves, held the opposition to a .204 average, and struck out 42 batters in 30 innings of work. He struck out all five outs retired in a June 27 loss to Louisville, but he walked one and the other two batters that he faced hit home runs. He struck out six of the seven men that he faced in a July 18 outing against Lehigh Valley. He struck out at least one batter in 21 of his 25 appearances with the Clippers.
Edwards’ return to the Majors was a little shaky, as there were likely some jitters for Edwards to combat while pitching in front of significantly larger crowds than he had over the previous couple of years. He walked a pair and gave up a hit in his first outing, and he gave up home runs in his second and third appearances with the Tribe. But he settled down from there, giving up just one hit and two walks in his final six appearances while striking out six in five and one-third innings, including all three batters that he faced against the Chicago White Sox on September 20.
Edwards won a spot in the Cleveland bullpen to open the 2019 season and vultured wins on March 30 and April 1. While his numbers may not have looked bad on the surface in his first six outings (two relief wins, a 1.80 ERA, and a .222 batting average against), command was an issue as he threw just 55% of his pitches for strikes and had walked five and hit two batters in five innings of work. On April 13 after walked two of the five batters that he faced in Kansas City, he was optioned back to Columbus. After two games there, he was recalled briefly on April 20, but did not appear during his day back.
He seemed to get the control issue in check some back in the minors, allowing a run on one hit with two walks in six and one-third innings for the Clippers. He was recalled again on May 3, making two appearances before being optioned, and he was recalled again a month later from June 5 to June 8, retiring both batters that he faced against the Minnesota Twins. He made another quick trip back to the big league roster on June 24, lasting a few days without an appearance.
After being optioned out again, he remained with the Clippers to close out the Triple-A regular season. In his final 23 games, he went 3-1 with three saves, a 4.44 ERA, a 1.44 WHIP, and a .222 batting average against. Instead of getting another September call-up by Cleveland, he was designated for assignment on September 1 and was outrighted to the minors, ending his season. Between Columbus and Cleveland, Edwards went 8-1 with three saves, a 3.95 ERA, and a 1.40 WHIP with 67 strikeouts and 32 walks in 57 innings of work over 50 games.
In December, Edwards signed overseas with the Hanshin Tigers of Nippon Professional Baseball on a one-year, $800,000 contract. There were reports in the weeks that followed that he had come to terms on a minor league contract with the Houston Astros (according to Baseball America), but Edwards has remained with Hanshin.
Edwards was one of three different players to wear the number 46 for the Tribe in 2018, with all of them showing up on the mound. Veterans Matt Belisle and Oliver Drake were the other two, with the latter doing so with his second of five different clubs pitched for during the 2018 campaign. His suitcase lifestyle continued into that offseason, as he was claimed by Tampa Bay from Minnesota on waivers, then claimed by Toronto, then sold back to the Rays.
The number, not exactly the most popular number in baseball lore, had been absent from the diamond in Cleveland for quite a few years. It was last worn by utility man Cord Phelps during his time with the Indians from 2011 to 2013. As it bounced around the infield in his 53 games with the club, it marked a rare deviation from its usual home on the pitcher’s mound.
The number made its debut in the outfield in 1942, however, when Fabian Gaffke broke it in for the first time for the Tribe in what would be the final season of his career. Akron native Gene Woodling wore it the following season in eight games before he joined the war effort with the Navy. He would return to the Indians in 1946 and after time in Pittsburgh, New York, and Baltimore, he rejoined the Tribe for three more seasons from 1955 to 1957. He played his final big league games in 1962 and later worked as a scout for the club.
Dale Mitchell kept the number in the outfield when he debuted for the club in 1946 in eleven games. He would later wear 33, 34, and 3 for the Tribe into 1956 before joining the Brooklyn Dodgers to close out his eleven-year Major League career.
The number disappeared from use for 20 years before hitting the mound for the first time on the back of Dick Radatz, a former two-time American League All-Star with the Boston Red Sox. Radatz spent just two years in Cleveland, failing to earn a win in 42 relief appearances with a 4.68 ERA before moving on to the Chicago Cubs organization.
Forty-six continued to make appearances solely on the mound for the Indians, being shared by the likes of Steve Dunning, Mike Stanton, Mike Jeffcoat, Jim Kern, Doug Jones, and Jeff Kaiser until it made its triumphant return to the outfield under the use of Ryan Thompson, an outfielder in his fifth Major League season after four years with the New York Mets. The Indians had acquired him just prior to the start of the 1996 season as part of the Mark Clark trade, but his impact in Cleveland was minimal as he appeared in just eight games in a mid-September call-up, hitting .318 with six singles, a homer, and five RBI. He would sign with the Kansas City Royals in the offseason, but did return to Cleveland in 1997, spending a month and a half with the team before he was traded back to the club that drafted him in 1987, the Toronto Blue Jays, for Jeff Manto.
The number was back to the mound for the next four years (Jason Jacome, Jeff Tam, Paul Rigdon) before Marty Cordova sported it in 2001 while working in the Tribe outfield. A former 1995 American League Rookie of the Year while with the Minnesota Twins, he put up his best numbers since that debut season while in his lone season with the Indians, hitting .301 with 20 homers and 69 RBI at the age of 31.
After Cordova, seven men wore the 46 before Phelps – all pitchers. Ricardo Rodriguez and Jason Bere took it for much of the first half of the first decade of the 21st century before reliever Bob Howry’s impressive second year with the Indians during the 2005 season when he went 7-4 in 79 relief appearances with a 2.47 ERA and a 0.89 WHIP in, at the time, the most bullpen outings by a pitcher in club history.
The last of the pitchers to have it prior to the 2018 season was Tony Sipp, who bounced back and forth between the numbers 46 and 49 during his four seasons in an Indians uniform. He was 11-7 with a 3.68 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP during his time with the Tribe, but was part of the three-team trade involving Cincinnati and Arizona following the 2012 season that brought pitchers Trevor Bauer and Bryan Shaw and outfielder Drew Stubbs to Cleveland and notably sent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to the Reds in the final year of his contract.
Photo: Icon SportsWire (via 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)
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Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
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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)
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Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
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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)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 53 (Logan Allen)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 52 (Mike Clevinger)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 51 (numerous)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 50 (James Hoyt, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 49 (Tyler Olson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 48 (Emmanuel Clase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 47 (Trevor Bauer)