With less than three weeks to go until the start of the Major League Baseball regular season schedule, the Indians have started to trim away at the long list of camp candidates in Goodyear, Arizona, looking for a job with Cleveland.
The Indians optioned infielders Willi Castro and Yu-Cheng Chang to Double-A Akron on Friday prior to the team’s action against the Colorado Rockies. Right-handed pitcher Cole Sulser, left-hander Robert Zarate, and first baseman Nellie Rodriguez were also re-assigned to minor league camp.
The first weekend of Cactus League play is in the books and the Cleveland Indians had, as expected, some good and some bad to show for it. After opening the spring training calendar with a home loss to the Cincinnati Reds, 6-4, on Friday from their shared complex at Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona, the Tribe notched its first win of the exhibition season with an 11-2 win on Saturday from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick against the Arizona Diamondbacks. They returned home to Goodyear, this time playing as the visitors on Sunday, playing to a 2-2 tie against a split-squad Reds team.
Now, a look at how some of the temporary residents of Arizona fared in their first weekend back out in the sun…
The Cleveland Indians announced on Thursday morning that the team had come to terms on a minor league contract with left-handed pitcher Robert Zarate, who last pitched professionally in 2015. He will join seven other Indians minor leaguers who were extended non-roster invitations to spring training next month.
In addition to Zarate, the Indians have invited position players Bobby Bradley, Nellie Rodriguez, and Richie Shaffer and right-handed pitchers Louis Head, Cameron Hill, Josh Martin, and Cole Sulser to play with the team during the spring.
The Indians now have 17 non-roster players scheduled to participate during spring camp in Goodyear, Arizona.
The Columbus Clippers’ most recent road trip did not go as planned as the club dropped a pair of series in Lehigh Valley and Buffalo and is marred in a five-game losing streak. The skid is their second streak of three games lost or more already this season.
A rough and heavy road schedule to start the year has put the Clippers (7-10) in the loss column much more frequently than the win one. Already 17 games into the season, they have hosted just one four-game home series this season and they dropped that series in the middle of the month three games to one to Louisville. After going 5-2 in a seven-game trip to start the season, their most recent roadie was far less productive as the club won its opener against the IronPigs last Tuesday before dropping the next two in Lehigh Valley and all three in Buffalo as the Bisons outscored the Clippers by a 19-7 tally in the sweep.
The Columbus Clippers ended a three-game losing streak on Sunday with their best complete team outing of the season in an 8-0 victory over the Louisville Bats.
Mike Clevinger is keeping himself primed and ready in the Columbus rotation with back-to-back wins to start his season. His last pushed the team back over the .500 mark and ended Columbus’ longest losing skid of the young season. The Clippers (6-5) have won all three of his starts this season, but when anyone else has taken the mound, they are just 3-5.
The early season schedule has not provided a lot of variety for the Clippers, who have played the Louisville Bats eight times and the Indianapolis Indians three times. The first seven games of the season came on the road before hosting for the first time this season, but they will be back on the road for another week, heading to Lehigh Valley for three beginning Tuesday night and to Buffalo on Friday night for a three-game weekend set before returning home for the final six games of the month.
In other Clippers news and notes:
Columbus is going to be at the center of the excitement in the International League this season as the Triple-A Clippers return an experienced roster to the field before hosting both the Triple-A All-Star Game on July 11 and the Triple-A National Championship Game between the International League and the Pacific Coast League on September 18.
The Clippers raced to an 82-62 record in 2016, capturing the West Division with the third best record in the IL overall while earning a first round playoff series against the Gwinnett Braves. The series ended in a disappointing 3-1 series loss to the 65-78 Braves, spelling a quick postseason end for the young Columbus team.
The Cleveland Indians announced on Friday afternoon that the guest list for Spring Training at their Goodyear, Arizona, complex beginning in February has grown by eight.
The Tribe will welcome minor league pitchers Josh Martin and Tyler Olson, infielders Nellie Rodriguez, Ronny Rodriguez, and Eric Stamets, outfielders Greg Allen and Bradley Zimmer, and utility man Yandy Diaz to their spring camp on non-roster invites.
The eight will audition for jobs with the Indians while getting a good opportunity to warm up for the 2017 season against other Major League caliber competition.
While the focus right now may be on the Cleveland Indians’ Major League roster, things are going well throughout the Tribe’s farm system as well.
The importance on drafting strong and developing stronger is no more apparent than at the Major League level for the Indians. The current playoff roster is well-balanced between guys drafted/signed internationally and developed solely by the club (Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Cody Allen to name a few), others acquired via trades and developed on the farm (Corey Kluber, Carlos Santana, and other absentee names like Carlos Carrasco, Michael Brantley, and Yan Gomes), and other veterans still who were added via big trades or free agent moves (Andrew Miller, Mike Napoli, Rajai Davis, Brandon Guyer, and Coco Crisp).
The names that compose the roster now all worked their way up through the minor league system, whether in the Indians organization or elsewhere. The names of the future are doing the same and some standout performers were recognized this week when MILB.com announced its picks for Cleveland’s organizational All-Stars.
Home field was advantageous one last time for the RubberDucks on Wednesday as Akron used a three-run third inning to defeat the Trenton Thunder 4-2 in Game 2 of the Eastern League Championship Series.
Rob Kaminsky started for the ‘Ducks and retired eight straight to start the night before two-out singles from Sebastian Valle and Tyler Wade. Kaminsky buckled down, striking out his fourth batter of the night as the scoreless game moved to the bottom of the third.
Four straight hits from Akron in the bottom half off of Will Carter opened up the game for the ‘Ducks. Singles from Greg Allen and Yan Gomes to start the frame set up a run-scoring opportunity for Jordan Smith, who got his second hit of the game with a double to right, scoring Allen for the early lead. Nellie Rodriguez followed with the game-changing hit, scoring a pair with a single to center to give Akron a 3-0 lead.
It’s playoff time in the minor leagues and three Indians affiliates will begin their chases for postseason crowns on Wednesday night.
The Triple-A Columbus Clippers, Double-A Akron RubberDucks, and High-A Lynchburg Hillcats all punched tickets in their respective leagues behind solid 2016 seasons. The Clippers won the International League’s West Division with an eleven-game lead at year’s end. The RubberDucks clinched a playoff berth on Sunday and won the Western Division title outright on Monday. The Hillcats won the Carolina League Northern Division first-half crown and tied the Potomac Nationals for the division’s second-half title with a 39-31 finish.
The Akron RubberDucks are making their postseason push and have done so behind another impressive winning streak.
A ten-game winning streak came to an end on Thursday night with a 7-4 loss at Canal Park to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. Earlier in the week, they completed a pair of sweeps, knocking off Bowie twice last Friday and Saturday before Sunday’s game was preempted by rain. They outscored Reading 13-6 during the week, winning 5-2, 4-1, and 4-3 to push the streak to ten before another the loss to start the four-game set with Richmond.
Akron is now just 2.5 games out of first place, trailing the Altoona Curve (Pittsburgh Pirates affiliate), who won 5-3 on Thursday. The ‘Ducks will finish their series this weekend against the Flying Squirrels before taking their final road trip of the season to Erie for four straight. They will conclude the regular season with five against Bowie, including the completion of the suspended game.
In other RubberDucks news and notes…
After a lengthy adjustment period while losing several of the more productive contributors on the club to promotions, the Akron RubberDucks have won seven of their last eight games.
It has been a strong and needed turnaround for the Indians’ Double-A affiliate, who started the month with losses in five of their first six August contests and were 2-14 dating back to July 22 at the start of a seven-game losing streak. The self-destruction appeared as though it may have been enough to knock Akron (63-60) out of the playoff race, but their five-game winning streak and better play in the middle weeks of August have pulled the club within five games of first place Altoona in the Eastern League’s Western Division with 18 games to go. The only thing to stand in their way of late has been a pair of rainouts.
In other tales from the Rubber City…