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Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 17

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 17

| On 09, Mar 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 – 17 days

A pair of utility men donned the number 17 for the Indians during the 2019 season. Both were new faces to the ball club last year looking for a chance to stick, but both whiffed and are no longer with the organization.

Brad Miller made his one-month Indians’ stint interesting by taking a parting jab at the front office and other team leadership. Signed at the tail end of spring training after being cut loose by the Los Angeles Dodgers, Miller was added to the roster to help fill the voids created by the spring injuries suffered by Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis. At 29 years of age and with a 30-homer season to his credit back in 2016, Miller looked like he could hold down the team’s vacancy at utility man (filled at the time by rookie Eric Stamets and the unproven Max Moroff), but after a 13-game sample size, he was designated for assignment on April 15 and outrighted to Triple-A Columbus two days later.

Miller declined the outright and elected free agency. He signed with the New York Yankees days later and worked in their farm system for a month and a half before he was traded to the Philadelphia Phillies, who used him on the left side of the infield and both corner outfield spots. In 13 games with the Indians, he hit .250 with a homer and four RBI, while in 66 games for the Phillies, he hit .263 with 12 homers and 21 RBI. His lasting impact with the Indians came after his designation for assignment, when he called into question his release from the roster by stating “obviously, they don’t want the best players up here.”

Midyear, the Indians acquired Andrew Velazquez in a minor trade with the Tampa Bay Rays, exchanging international bonus pool money for the 24-year-old second-year player.

Velazquez made good on a 13-game trial with the Rays in 2018, going 3-for-10 in 12 trips to the plate while working defensively at six different positions. He opened last year in Triple-A Durham and was back and forth between the Rays and the Bulls, but had little success at the Major League level in the early going, striking out six times in his first 12 plate appearances with just one hit (a double against the Indians). June ailments landed him on the seven-day injured list twice in the month, but it did not prevent the Indians from acquiring him with the Rays in need of 40-man roster spots at the beginning of July.

Velazquez worked through a rehab assignment in Arizona before heading to Columbus, but a third trip to the IL slowed him down some. He rejoined the roster before the end of the minor league season and was a surprise call-up by the Indians on September 17. He made it into the lineup in just five games over the last two weeks of the season, getting one hit (another double) in 12 plate appearances while striking out another seven times (giving him 13 in 24 plate appearances on the year).

Velazquez was a roster casualty for the Indians in February, despite the need for an additional utility man type of player on the 26-man roster. After being designated for assignment and placed on waivers to make room for outfielder Domingo Santana, he was claimed by the Baltimore Orioles.

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In the last few decades, the number 17 has tended to find its way to new faces around the organization, with most being veterans on the back ends of their careers.

Choo - Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Choo – Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

While that was a norm for a stretch and may be a returning trend, that was not the case from 2007 to 2012, when outfielder Shin-Soo Choo put up some good seasons during some lean years for the Tribe.

The Indians took a flier on Choo after appearing in just 14 games with Seattle over the 2005 and 2006 seasons, acquiring him just before the trade deadline in 2006 with minor leaguer Shawn Nottingham for Ben Broussard and cash. The move paid off for the Indians, who slotted Choo into the right field corner, making good use of a strong throwing arm. In his early years with the Tribe, he also worked in left and center field.

He appeared in 45 games for the club in 2006 and just six in 2007 while missing much of the season with injury (including Tommy John surgery in September). He would return to his old form in 94 games in 2008, hitting .309 with 28 doubles, 14 homers, and 66 RBI.

He was a staple of the Tribe’s lineup in 2009, making it into 156 games of action and hitting an even .300 with 38 doubles and 20 homers while stealing 21 bases and driving in 86 runs. He would mirror the production the following season, hitting 31 doubles and 22 homers, stealing 22 bases, and knocking in 90 while again hitting .300 over 144 games. The effort earned him some MVP votes, as he finished 14th among vote-getters.

Injuries sapped him of his 2011 campaign, as he hit just .259 over 85 games. He bounced back the following season, however, hitting .283 with a career-high 43 doubles while appearing in 155 games. With free agency set to follow after the 2013 season, the Indians sent him to the Reds, receiving outfielder Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati and pitchers Matt Albers, Trevor Bauer, and Bryan Shaw from Arizona. The Indians also sent Jason Donald to the Reds and Lars Anderson and Tony Sipp to the Diamondbacks, while Arizona sent shortstop Didi Gregorius to Cincinnati.

Fryman - Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

Fryman – Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

Aaron Boone wore it for two seasons before Choo when he signed as a free agent following a knee injury that kept him out of all of the 2004 season. He worked regularly for the club at third base, hitting .243 in his first season and .251 in his last, but his power dwindled from 16 homers to just seven over the two seasons. He would bounce around with Florida, Washington, and Houston before calling it a career. He is now back on the diamond as the manager of the New York Yankees.

Travis Fryman was a four-time All-Star for Detroit when the Indians acquired him following the 1997 season. He had been traded two weeks earlier to the Diamondbacks, who in turn sent him to Cleveland with reliever Tom Martin for third baseman Matt Williams.

Fryman would be named an All-Star with the Indians in 2000 in his best season of five with the club, establishing new career bests with 38 doubles and 106 RBI while adding 22 homers and winning a Gold Glove Award. But much of the rest of his time was shortened by injury, as he played in just 85 games in 1999, 98 games in 2001, and 118 games in 2002. He retired following the 2002 season at the age of 33 after hitting a career-worst .217, but has remained with the organization for stretches of the time since, including working four years as the manager at short-season Mahoning Valley from 2008-2010 and again in 2015. He is currently a special assistant for the club.

Marquis Grissom spent one season in Cleveland with the awkward task of replacing one of the better center fielders in the game in Kenny Lofton, who was traded prior to the 1997 season in the same deal that brought the new number 17 to town.

Grissom was once a two-time All-Star for Montreal and had twice led all of baseball in steals with 76 in 1991 and 78 in 1992, but speed was less a part of his game when the Indians acquired him from the Atlanta Braves with David Justice for Lofton and reliever Alan Embree. Grissom would hit .262 in 144 games for the Tribe during the season, but his postseason numbers were instrumental in getting the Indians to their second World Series in three seasons. He hit .261 against the Baltimore Orioles in the ALCS with a homer, three stolen bases, and four RBI and was named the series MVP. He hit .360 with a .448 OBP in seven games against the Florida Marlins in the World Series defeat.

After the season, he was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers with pitcher Jeff Juden for three arms – Mike Fetters, Ben McDonald, and Ron Villone. The Indians announced the same day the free agent addition of Lofton.

Pena - Boston Globe

Pena – Boston Globe

The number 17 graced the back of another Indians’ postseason hero just before Grissom. Catcher Tony Pena signed with the club prior to the 1994 season to serve as a backup to Sandy Alomar, but would see extensive playing with Alomar’s health always in question. He hit .295 in 40 games in 1994 before the strike and re-signed with the club for the 1995 season. He appeared in 91 games that season, hitting .262, and will forever be remembered in Indians lore for hitting the game-winning solo homer off of his former Red Sox club and Boston reliever Zane Smith in the bottom of the 13th inning in the first playoff game in Cleveland since 1954.

He returned to the Indians roster for one more year at the age of 38 in 1996, working in 67 games while hitting .195 backing up Alomar again before splitting his final big league season between the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros in 1997.

Yonder Alonso wore the number 17 in 145 contests in what proved to be his lone season as a member of the Indians in 2018.

The Tribe got solid and steady production out of the 31-year-old slugger, who was looking to build upon a career season in 2017 when he made his first career All-Star team and set personal bests across the stat sheet while splitting time in the American League West with the Oakland Athletics and the Seattle Mariners. His contract with the Indians allowed him to call Ohio home for the second time in his career, following his stint with the Cincinnati Reds to begin his Major League service time in 2010 and 2011.

Alonso joined the Indians in December of 2017, just over a week before the end of the year. He inked a two-year, $16 million deal ($7 million for 2018 and $8 million for 2019) with a $9 million team/vesting option for 2020 with a $1 million buyout. He was served with the task of replacing long-time Indian Carlos Santana, who cashed in just days before Alonso during the free agency period on a three-year, $60 million deal with a fourth-year team option from the Philadelphia Phillies.

Alonso – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Alonso started out the season with a bang, from a power perspective, hitting eight homers over the first month of play. That would mark a single-month high for him for 2018, as he would hit just four over the next two months combined. He had his best overall month of the season in July, when in 23 games, he hit .302 with a .367 on-base percentage and a .558 slugging mark with four doubles, six homers, and 21 RBI while also drawing ten walks. But after striking out a season-low 17 times in 98 plate appearances that month, he put up his worst effort of the year in August, hitting .194 with a .250 OBP with 28 strikeouts in 108 trips. His power production dipped considerably in the final month of the campaign, when he hit just one double and one homer (out of 21 total hits) while driving in seven over 85 plate appearances to close out the year.

While it was a nice season for Alonso and a successful follow-up overall to his offensive breakout season of the previous year, his time in Cleveland came to a quick end. Santana’s time away from the Tribe was curiously short-lived, as the Indians reacquired the ninth-year pro in his second trade in a two-week span. The Phillies moved him on December 3 with shortstop J.P. Crawford to the Seattle Mariners for shortstop Jean Segura and pitchers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos. Santana returned to Cleveland on December 13 as part of a three-team trade, with the Mariners receiving DH/1B Edwin Encarnacion and a 2019 competitive balance pick. The Indians acquired cash considerations in the deal from the Mariners, while also sending third baseman Yandy Diaz and pitching prospect Cole Sulser to the Tampa Bay Rays for first baseman Jake Bauers.

Alonso’s contract was purged two days after the Santana deal when he was shipped to the Chicago White Sox for minor leaguer Alex Call. It marked the third salary-related move for the Indians that offseason, after previously dealing catcher Yan Gomes to Washington before the Encarnacion/Santana swap.

Alonso split 2019 with Chicago and the Colorado Rockies and signed with the Atlanta Braves this offseason.

Other notable 17s in Tribe history (51 in total): Jim Bagby (1941-44), Al Rosen (1947), Gene Bearden (1947), Dave Philley (1954-55), Chico Carrasquel (1956-58), Sam McDowell (1961-62), Chico Salmon (1964-68), Dave LaRoche (1975-77), Wayne Garland (1977-81), Keith Hernandez (1990), Bob Ojeda (1993)

Photo: Duane Burleson/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)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 30 (Tyler Naquin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 29 (Andre Thornton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 28 (Corey Kluber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 27 (Kevin Plawecki, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 26 (Max Moroff, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 25 (Jim Thome)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 24 (Carlos Gonzalez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 23 (Michael Brantley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 22 (Jason Kipnis)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 21 (Bob Lemon, Rocky Colavito, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 20 (Frank Robinson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 19 (Bob Feller)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 18 (Mel Harder)

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