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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | July 16, 2020

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Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 30

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 30

| On 25, 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 – 30 days

With a pile of outfielders in spring camp for the Indians, one of the players who could have the most significant effect on the jobs up for grabs is Tyler Naquin.

The 28-year-old and former first round pick (number 15 overall in 2012 out of Texas A&M) finally looked to be on track in 2019, putting up numbers that rivaled his breakout debut campaign of 2016, when he hit 18 doubles, 5 triples, 14 homers, and drove in 43 runs while posting a .296/.372/.514 slash on the way to a third place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. In the two seasons to follow, he worked in a combined 80 games of action (including 61 in 2018) as a return stint to Triple-A Columbus in 2017 and both a left hamstring and right hip strain in 2018 kept him off of the big league field much of the time.

Naquin opened the year a little slowly as the strikeout cut into his early numbers. In 22 games in March/April, he whiffed 21 times in 73 plate appearances, equal to the number of times that he reached base safely via hit or walk. He ran a hit streak to a season-high six games with back-to-back ninth inning pinch-hit knocks on May 1 and May 3, including his game-winning base hit in the latter against Seattle. But after a 2-for-5 performance in extra innings against Oakland on May 10, he was off to the injured list again with a left calf strain.

Naquin – Jason Miller/Getty Images

He was activated from the injured list on June 4 and appeared in 19 games over the rest of the month, showing some big pop (five homers in 63 plate appearances) compared to his normal going rate. The strikeouts were still an issue (14), and he drew just two walks in a month that saw him go .217/.238/.517 in the triple slash categories.

Naquin put up some plump numbers in July as he went on a multi-hit tear. He was in the lineup 18 times and had 24 hits in those contests (including eight doubles and three more homers) while driving in a season-high 12. He hit .387 with a .418 on-base percentage and a .661 slugging mark, adding up to an attention-seeking 1.079 OPS. After opening the month with four hits against Kansas City, he had two hits in five straight contests from July 7 to July 17 and added another two-hitter two days later after the streak ended. He had three more hits in a game with Kansas City on July 26 and had nine total multi-hit games out of the 12 in which he recorded a hit.

Naquin remained an on-base threat in August, recording 17 more hits in 22 games (.274 average), but the power was tapped some as just three were for extra bases while knocking in three. His season came to a premature close on August 30, when he made an impressive catch crashing into the wall in left field in Tampa Bay and came away from the play with a torn ACL in his right knee. Surgery was required and was tended to on September 12, setting him back with a seven-to-nine month time table for recovery (putting him on par for a return in the first three months of the coming season).

He finished the year with a .288/.325/.467 slash with 19 doubles, ten homers, and 34 RBI in 89 games.

The left-handed hitting Naquin showed some good growth in his splits. Having put up good numbers in his career against right-handers, he continued that showing with a .289/.324/.455 line with 17 doubles, six homers, and 24 RBI in 223 plate appearances. Lefties did not pose the threat that they had been assumed to be in the past, as he hit .286 with a .329 OBP and a .508 slugging mark (two doubles, four homers, ten RBI in 71 plate appearances), mirroring very well his production against righties.

According to reports, Naquin appears to be ahead of schedule, but rushing him out as part of the Opening Day roster is not typically the Indians’ modus operandi. A short injured list stint to give him time to get better into game shape may more likely be in the cards, granting one of the outfielders on the bubble the opportunity for an extended stay with Cleveland, even if just for a moment.

“He’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to,” manager Terry Francona said during the team’s Tribe Fest weekend at the beginning of the month. “I’ve already…not yelled at him…but gave him the speech sort of, and the trainers have. He’s doing tremendous. We don’t want to slow him down. That’s not the object. But you don’t want a guy to go too fast. Sometimes, these things have to heal. But he’s doing terrific.”

Francona has used Naquin in platoon roles in the past and may continue to do so just to keep the pressure off of Naquin’s patched-up knee once he returns to regular duty. In the meantime, the skipper has his work cut out for him regarding who will be manning the grass in 2020, both before and after Naquin’s return.

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One of the more highly touted players in the city over the last few decades to wear the number 30 was pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, whose acquisition came at a hefty cost, or so it seemed at the time.

Jimenez had spent more than ten years with the Colorado Rockies and was coming off of his best big league season when the Indians added him to the club in 2011 in a surprising midseason move.

Jimenez – Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The right-hander wrapped up his sixth Major League campaign with unheard of numbers at Coors Field in 2010, making the only All-Star appearance of his career. He finished the season with a 19-8 record while posting a 2.88 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP over 33 starts. He logged four complete games and twice threw shutouts. It earned him a third place finish in the National League Cy Young race.

He was off to a shaky start in 2011, earning a 6-9 record with a 4.46 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP in 21 starts before the deadline when the Indians made the call to acquire the 27-year-old. It came at a perceived high cost at the time, as the team sent 2009 first rounder Alex White and 2010 fifth overall pick Drew Pomeranz to Denver, along with a third pitcher, Joe Gardner, and catcher/first baseman/outfielder Matt McBride for two and a half years of Jimenez.

He struggled a bit in his first American League action, going 4-4 with a 5.10 ERA in eleven starts as the Indians succumbed to injuries down the stretch. The following season was even worse, as he went 9-17 with a 5.40 ERA and a 1.61 WHIP (the worst still of his 12-year career), but under new coaching leadership in manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway, he put together a 13-9 showing in 2013 with a 3.30 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP while averaging a career-best 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings for the Indians’ AL Wild Card contending team.

He cashed in on the turnaround, signing a four-year, $50 million deal with the Baltimore Orioles. That hefty price tag bought the O’s 117 games of Jimenez, who went 32-42 with a 5.22 ERA while several times spending stretches out of the team’s rotation. The rest of the league’s opinion of Jimenez and his grasp of the game was clear after his contract ended following the 2017 season – he went unsigned and failed to pitch professionally in 2018 and 2019 – but he was surprisingly in the news earlier this month when it was announced that he had signed a minor league contract with the Rockies at the age of 36 (after pitching for Licey in the Dominican Winter League).

Unlike Jimenez, who cost the Indians a significant prospect haul, one of the best to wear number 30 for the Indians instead provided the Tribe with a notable return when he was sent out of town ahead of the final year of his contract in town.

Joe Carter hit the pro circuit in 1981 when the Chicago Cubs took him with the second overall pick in the June draft out of Wichita State University. But, despite reaching the Majors in 1983, the Cubs packaged him up just three months and one day after the ink dried on his first pro contract to acquire pitchers Rick Sutcliffe and George Frazier and battery mate Ron Hassey. The Indians, in return, rebuilt their outfield. Joining Carter in the trade was pitcher Don Schulze and outfielder Mel Hall, who would team with Carter for much of the rest of the decade in the outfield at Cleveland Municipal Stadium.

Carter – Getty Images

Carter blossomed into a dangerous threat in the lineup for the Tribe. After hitting 13 homers in 1984 and 15 homers in 1985, he exceeded that combined production in 1986, when he became a 20-20 man for the first time in his career. He hit .302, stolen 29 bases, and recorded 200 hits (including 36 doubles, a career-best nine triples, and 29 homers). His 121 RBI were tops in baseball.

He followed it up with a 30-30 season, hitting 32 homers and stealing 31 bases in 1987 to become the first player in franchise history to accomplish the feat. He had 36 doubles, 27 homers, and 98 RBI in 1988 and appeared in all 162 games in 1989, giving the club 32 doubles, 35 homers, and 105 RBI.

Set to become a free agent after the 1990 season and appearing ready to explore the free agent market for top dollars, the Indians sent him to San Diego in December of 1989 for a three-player package that included veteran Chris James, top catching prospect Sandy Alomar Jr., and Carlos Baerga.

Carter would go on to play nine more seasons (spending just one in San Diego) and would be a five-time All-Star and a World Series hero for the Toronto Blue Jays along the way before splitting his final big league season in 1998 with Baltimore and San Francisco. The move paid off in its own ways for the Indians, however, as Alomar would spend eleven years behind the plate for the club, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1990 and being named to six All-Star teams. The Tribe also got the best years of Baerga’s career, which included back-to-back 200-hit seasons in 1992 and 1993 (the first two of three career All-Star appearances for the second baseman).

Other notable 30s in Tribe history (50 in total): Thornton Lee (the first in 1933), Jim Hegan (1941), Red Embree (1944-45), Pat Seerey (1947-48), Gene Bearden (1948-50), Hoot Evers (1955-56), Dick Donovan (1963-65), Wil Cordero (2001-02), Brian Tallet (2003-05), Andy Marte (2007), Lou Marson (2009-10).

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’ 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)
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)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 46 (Jon Edwards, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 45 (Adam Plutko)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 44 (Nick Goody, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 43 (Josh Tomlin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 42 (Mike Jackson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 41 (Carlos Santana, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 40 (Bobby Bradley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 39 (Oliver Perez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 38 (Eric Haase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 37 (Cody Allen, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 36 (Tyler Clippard, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 35 (Oscar Mercado, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 34 (A.J. Cole, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 33 (Brad Hand, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 32 (Franmil Reyes, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 31 (Danny Salazar, others)

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