The 2018 season ended with the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats going down to defeat under the bats, gloves, and arms of division rival Potomac. It was the fourth time in four years as a Cleveland Indians affiliate that the Hillcats went to the playoffs. In that span, the club has achieved only a single League title, in 2017, when they split the Mills Cup Championship with the Down East Wood Ducks due to cancellation of finals because of an impending hurricane.
To open the season the club is marked by a veteran presence, including first-year Hillcats manager Jim Pankovits. Nine of the 13-member pitching staff toed the rubber in a Hillcats uniform last year. Reliever Jared Robinson heads up the list of veteran arms, having spent parts of the three previous seasons in the Carolina League. In addition, newcomer to the Cleveland organization, Yapson Gomez, pitched ten games for Myrtle Beach in the 2018 season, adding yet another league veteran to the pitching staff.
“We have quite a few kids back from last year that have a couple of years under their belt,” said Pankovits before the season’s first game. “I think the strength of the Indians’ organization is causing a little bit of logjam.”
The postseason hangover in Cleveland has extended all the way to Arizona for the Indians organization, as the team’s participants on the shared roster of the Glendale Desert Dogs have taken four straight losses to open the Arizona Fall League schedule.
Seven Indians prospects are members of the Desert Dogs club, joining representatives from the Baltimore Orioles, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees. Glendale is winless at 0-4 to start the season, which began Tuesday from the desert. They trail the first place Surprise Saguaros by three games in the AFL West Division.
The Indians have sent four pitchers – Justin Garza, Rob Kaminsky, Jared Robinson, and Dalbert Siri – and three position players – Yu Chang, Li-Jen Chu, and Connor Marabell – to Arizona for offseason work. Joining them in Glendale is Double-A Akron pitching coach Rigo Beltran.
Jared Robinson is a Carolina League veteran. A member of the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats for all or part of the past three seasons, he understands the challenge and demands of professional baseball. With experience comes established success and a chance to climb the organizational ladder towards the Major Leagues.
Hailing from West Covina, the 23-year-old right-handed pitcher is a southern California native. Robinson’s interest in baseball began when he was very young, watching his older brothers play.
“I liked watching their games,” he said. “I think that’s where it all started, visualizing being out on the field in front of all the fans.”
Lynchburg’s bats were silenced again on Tuesday night as the Hillcats were blanked 7-0 by the visiting Myrtle Beach Pelicans in Game 3 of the best-of-five Mills Cup Championship.
Myrtle Beach used a pair of doubles from its first three batters to take an early 1-0 lead off of Lynchburg lefty Luis Lugo. Charcer Burks doubled to right and after a strikeout from Donnie Dewees, David Bote doubled to center to put the Pelicans on the board. He was erased at third by catcher Francisco Mejia to defuse the rally, and Cubs top prospect Eloy Jimenez grounded to short to end the inning.