Indians left-hander Ryan Merritt spent parts of six seasons in the Cleveland farm system, working almost exclusively as a starter. So of course, when he made his Major League debut back on May 30 against the Texas Rangers, he took center stage as a relief pitcher.
That was the expected life of a Triple-A starting pitcher in the Indians farm system this season with a stacked staff of options in Cleveland. Manager Terry Francona used every starting arm possible to shore up a struggling bullpen earlier in the season and now, with his starting rotation down its top three arms, the Tribe skipper is dipping back into the pool of young depth options to help out its ailing rotation.
A seventh inning grand slam by top prospect Bradley Zimmer broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the seventh and the Clippers held on as Columbus defeated the Gwinnett Braves, 6-4, on Thursday night from Huntington Park.
Gwinnett’s Rob Wooten took over for starter Aaron Blair in the bottom of the seventh and promptly walked Yandy Diaz. A single by Guillermo Quiroz put Diaz into scoring position, but Giovanny Urshela lined out to center and Jesus Aguilar struck out. Michael Choice walked, loading the bases for the young Clippers outfielder, who delivered the clutch two-out bases-clearing bomb to right to give Columbus a 6-2 lead.
Barring a very dramatic collapse, the Columbus Clippers are well on their way to another postseason appearance in 2016. With a 73-54 record after scoring ten unanswered runs in Friday night’s 11-5 win over the Toledo Mud Hens, the Clippers have a nine-game lead over the rival Indianapolis Indians in the International League’s West Division with 17 games left on the Columbus schedule.
Over the course of the previous seven days, the Clippers have remained a red hot team, taking two of three from Syracuse and sweeping Durham during the first two series of a three-team homestand from Huntington Park. After a day off on Thursday, they welcomed in Toledo for three games this weekend before taking the ClipShow on the road for three in Indianapolis and two more with the Mud Hens in Toledo.
In other Clippers news from the Ohio state capital:
Ryan Merritt followed up a strong effort during his time with the parent Cleveland Indians by combining with two relievers on a four-hit shutout on Friday night in the Clippers’ 1-0 win over the Syracuse Chiefs. The only run on the night came courtesy of a solo home run by Erik Gonzalez in the sixth inning off of Washington pitching prospect Lucas Giolito as the Clippers would be held to just three hits themselves on the night.
Columbus (68-53) has gotten hot at the right time, starting the month of August with an 8-4 record to push their lead in the International League’s West Division to eight games over the rival Indianapolis Indians and nine games over the third place Louisville Bats. Their record is good for the third-best mark across the IL landscape, trailing only the marks of the North Division’s Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (75-44) and Lehigh Valley IronPigs (71-48).
The Clippers wrapped up their series with Louisville by taking the final two games to go 3-1 against them, then took two of three in Toledo against the Mud Hens. They will finish their three-game set this weekend against Syracuse before continuing their homestand with three against Durham and three more with Toledo.
In other news and Clipnotes regarding the Clippers pitching staff:
A solid 11-2 win over the Charlotte Knights on Saturday gave the Columbus Clippers a series win with one more to play on Sunday evening. The Clippers put together a quality week, sweeping Pawtucket at home in four straight last weekend. A trip to Norfolk ended with a pair of losses, but the Clippers have guaranteed at least a 3-3 split on their six game road trip.
Columbus (60-48) is sitting in the top spot in the International League’s West Division with a four and a half game lead heading into Saturday’s late action. The Clippers will return home after Sunday’s game in Charlotte to host second place Indianapolis for four straight before bouncing back out on the road with four in Louisville and three more in Toledo.
In other ClipNotes…
After concluding their series against the Pawtucket Red Sox over the weekend, the Columbus Clippers got back to work within the division with International League West Division matchups against Toledo and Louisville.
Columbus split their final two games in Pawtucket, winning 7-2 last Saturday before a 16-inning 5-4 loss on Sunday. They took their series against Toledo during the week, winning the first and last games of the three-game set, before hitting the road for Louisville. A 6-3 loss to the Bats in the opener was followed by another extra inning loss, a 4-3 defeat in 13 innings.
The loss on Friday dropped the Clippers record to 47-42 on the season and 4-4 to start July. Combined with an Indianapolis win, Columbus is tied for the top spot in the West Division. The Clippers will play two on Saturday in Columbus against Indianapolis before closing out the unofficial first half with a 1:05 PM game on Sunday. After Tuesday’s Triple-A All-Star Game, play will resume on Thursday with four in Toledo.
In other news and Clipnotes:
Despite a three-run ninth inning of their own on Saturday, similar to that done by the parent Cleveland Indians in Anaheim, the Columbus Clippers fell short in a 15-12 slugfest loss to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Huntington Park.
The Clippers saw three-hit games from Ronny Rodriguez, Jesus Aguilar, and Collin Cowgill and had 16 hits as a team, but the New York Yankees affiliate tagged Ross Detwiler for eight runs and reliever Austin Adams for six. Former Indians player Nick Swisher was a leading charge in the RailRiders offense, going 3-for-4 with a homer, three RBI, and four runs scored in the two hole.
Columbus is now an even 6-6 for the month of June, but has lost three straight. They took three of four last weekend from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and won three of five against the Indianapolis Indians during the week, including a split in their doubleheader on June 9. The RailRiders have bested the Clippers in the first two games of their weekend set to drop Columbus to 35-28. They still hold a two and a half game lead on Indianapolis in the International League West.
In other Clippers news from Columbus:
Unlike the other two big professional sports, grading a Major League Baseball draft class cannot happen definitively for years. With many prospects coming into the professional circuit straight out of high school or from time overseas, players need time to grow and develop and to learn how to play the game at the highest level imaginable. Even college players, after playing against a higher talent base in the NCAA ranks, need time to adapt to the professional game.
Earlier this week, MLB.com columnist Jim Callis took a look back at the 2011 draft and redrafted players, based on needs and now having a better understanding of how those players selected have performed after five years of time in the pro game. In his mock-up, Francisco Lindor would have gone second to Seattle, with the Indians taking Anthony Rendon eighth and current Indians pitchers Cody Allen and Trevor Bauer each earning selections before the first round was up.
It was an interesting perspective and piece of revisionist history.
After four and one-third innings of scoreless, one-hit relief in his Major League debut on Monday, the Cleveland Indians rewarded rookie Ryan Merritt by optioning the left-hander to Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday.
In reality, the move had nothing to do with Merritt’s performance and everything to do with keeping the Indians bullpen fresh after the club used the southpaw heavily to prevent excessive wear on their relief corps after getting just three and one-third innings in Josh Tomlin’s start in the series opener against the Texas Rangers.
In a corresponding move, the Indians recalled right-hander Shawn Armstrong from Columbus to fill Merritt’s spot in the ‘pen.
Everything continues to be bigger for Texas as the Rangers pounded Indians starter Josh Tomlin for eight early runs on the way to an easy 9-2 win in Cleveland on Monday night.
The Rangers scored early and they scored often in pacing starter Derek Holland to a big lead. Just two batters into the game, they had the lead as Jurickson Profar singled to left off of Tomlin and Ian Desmond homered the same direction.
Texas added another in the second after a single from Elvis Andrus and a double from northeast Ohio native Ryan Rua put two in scoring position with one out. Bryan Holaday lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Andrus, giving the Rangers a 3-0 lead.
A five-run seventh inning fell too short for Columbus on Thursday afternoon as the club dropped a 13-10 decision to Buffalo. It gave the Bisons a three-game sweep of the Clippers and is the second longest losing streak of the year for the Indians’ Triple-A affiliate.
Despite the series sweep, the Clippers remain in the top spot in the International League West Division at 26-20, two and a half games in front of Indianapolis and Louisville, prior to Louisville’s night game on Thursday.
The Clippers will continue their homestand this weekend with a three-game series against the Durham Bulls before hitting the road for three in Buffalo and four against the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. They will return the following Monday for an eight-game home stretch in seven days.
In other Clippers news from the state capital:
On Monday afternoon, the Cleveland Indians made a dream come true for another pitching prospect in their farm system, as they recalled left-handed starter Ryan Merritt from Triple-A Columbus.
The move was made possible after Joba Chamberlain landed on the 15-day disabled list with a left intercostal strain.
With no voids to fill on the Indians starting staff currently, Merritt will get his chance to impact the big league club from the bullpen, something that he has done just five times in his minor league career. Four of those outings came in his rookie league appearance as a 19-year-old in his first action in the Indians organization after he was selected in the 16th round of the 2011 draft, and the other outing came in 2013 while with the Lake County Captains.