Akron’s Ka’ai Tom received an early birthday present from the Eastern League on Monday when he was announced as the league’s Player of the Week for games played between May 20 and May 26.
Tom, who turns 25 on Wednesday, put up a .450 week at the plate last week with a .542 on-base percentage to earn the league’s top weekly honor, doing so for the second time in his career (he previously took home the New York-Penn League’s honor in August of 2015).
The Akron RubberDucks opened the 2019 slate with a 5-0 loss to the Altoona Curve on Thursday night.
The ‘Ducks were limited to just two hits in a tough start to the season, with 25-year-old second baseman Tyler Krieger accounting for both hits. He was stranded at third after a first inning one-out single, reached safely in the third on an error, struck out in the sixth, and singled in the ninth before being forced out at second.
Opening Day starter Sam Hentges was charged with all five runs scored by the Curve (four of which were earned). The left-hander allowed six hits and walked four while striking out six over four and one-third innings in his first start since being added to Cleveland’s 40-man roster.
Cleveland prospects getting a little extra time in the sun in the desert of Arizona saw their offseason activity come to a close last Thursday with the completion of the Arizona Fall League regular season schedule.
Tribe players teamed with those from the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates to form the Glendale Desert Dogs roster. Glendale finished with a winning record at 16-14, but landed two games in back of the Peoria Javelinas (18-12) for the top mark in the AFL West Division.
Arizona Fall League play is under way as some of the top prospects around the minor league landscape pair up for competition in the annual six-team offseason league.
Hopeful prospects are a week into the six-week schedule as players work to hone their craft against a collection of some of the best up-and-coming names working their way through the levels of professional baseball. The Indians are well represented in their home-away-from-home in Arizona, where eight of their minor leaguers help make up the roster of the Glendale Desert Dogs.
Those eight Indians prospects have teamed up with representatives from the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, Philadelphia Phillies, and Pittsburgh Pirates for league action in Glendale this year, after Cleveland players worked with different clubs while playing for the Mesa Solar Sox last October and November.
After a couple of tough patches earlier in the month, the Lynchburg Hillcats have found that winning recipe in Carolina League play.
Winners of six of their last seven contests, the Indians’ High-A affiliate have charged back into the race in the Carolina League’s Northern Division. At 24-19, they trail the rival Salem Red Sox by three and a half games in the standings.
The Hillcats will play eleven of their next 15 games on the road, which could help them gain even more ground in the division. The ‘Cats have had a tough time at City Stadium this season, going just 11-13 on their home field, but are 13-6 on the road, a mark trailing only Salem’s 14-6 road record for best in High-A.
The Lynchburg Hillcats are staring up at a three-game deficit in the Carolina League’s Northern Division heading into play on Saturday, a game below the .500 mark at 9-10 on the season.
It was a quiet week for the ‘Cats, who were once again slowed by rains throughout the Carolina League playing region. Last Saturday’s game in Lynchburg against Potomac was waterlogged before the P’Nats won the series with a 4-3 win on Sunday. After an off day on Monday, the Hillcats travelled to Salem and dropped the series opener, 6-2, before the offense erupted for 13 runs in a 13-7 win on Wednesday night. Rains swooped in again on Thursday to wash out the finale of the series, sending the Hillcats back to Lynchburg, where they lost a 9-6 decision to Myrtle Beach on Friday night.
The Cleveland Indians made Ka’ai Tom a 5th round selection in 2015. He is one of two native Hawaiians on the 2017 High-A Lynchburg Hillcats roster, along with fellow Hawaiian outfielder Connor Marabell.
Baseball in Hawaii has a long tradition. Over 40 players from Hawaii have donned a Major League uniform – names that include Charlie Hough, Mike Lum, Kolten Wong, and Shane Victorino. Tom hopes to join that list of players someday. Like many players he got his love of baseball through his family.
“My dad, my grandpa, my uncle, all played baseball,” said Tom, “so it was kind of born into me, to carry on the family tradition of playing baseball.”
With a 6-3 victory on Sunday afternoon, the Lake County Captains (23-14) split their series with the Bowling Green Hot Rods and reclaimed first place in the Midwest League’s Eastern Division. They head into Monday’s off day with a one-game lead over South Bend and a two-game edge over Bowling Green.
The Captains will return to the field at 6:30 PM ET on Tuesday night as they begin a seven-game home stand, starting with a three-game series against the Dayton Dragons. They will play four with South Bend over the weekend before heading to Dayton for three more against the Dragons.
In other Captains notes: