March 1st, 2016.
Sports Time Ohio.
For the first time in one hundred and forty-nine days….
Your 2016 Cleveland Indians will lace up their cleats and take the field for the first time this afternoon against the Cincinnati Reds. On the first of March, it is indeed a day of firsts. We get our first look at the new uniforms. We get our first look at newcomers Rajai Davis and Joey Butler. But most importantly, we get our first look at that round white thing with red strings spinning through the air, and our first listen of the sound it makes when it meets lumber:
Sure, Josh Tomlin vs Jon Moscot isn’t quite the Corey Kluber vs David Price matchup we’ll get on April 4th in Cleveland. And yeah, that’s Michael Martinez out at second base and Erik Gonzalez at short, not Jason Kipnis and Frankie Lindor. But if, for some reason, you need more reasons to watch this afternoon other than the fact that freaking baseball is back, there’s plenty of those too:
- Other Indians pitchers scheduled to throw on Tuesday: TJ House, Jarrett Grube, Felipe Paulino, Austin Adams, Shawn Morimando, Ross Detwiler and Adam Plutko.
- House is the oft-forgotten caboose of our major-league ready starting pitching. His 2015 was hampered by a shoulder injury, but he’s apparently healthy after rehabbing in Goodyear and throwing in the Arizona Fall League. He’ll complete for the 5th spot in the rotation, although it seems like a lock he’ll start the season in Columbus.
- I got a thing for hard throwers, so I got a thing for Austin Adams. His fastball sits in the upper 90’s and touched 100 multiple times last season in 28 appearances with the big club. He seems more likely than not to break camp and head to Cleveland.
- Morimando and Plutko are talked about in the same group as Michael Clevinger and Ryan Merritt, young guys with big arms and pretty damn good minor league numbers. They have a combined 60.1 innings above AA Akron, all coming from Merritt and Clevinger. This paragraph of guys will be some of the main reinforcements for our big league staff until teenagers like Brady Aiken, Triston McKenzie and Justus Sheffield are ready down the road.
- Detwiler is a southpaw who started seven games for the Rangers last season before a trip to the DL led to a demotion to the bullpen, an ERA above 7 and a designation for assignment. He’s only 29 years old though, and considering the alternatives when it comes to lefties in the pen (young, unproven Kyle Crockett and Giovanny Soto, veterans with spotty track records in Joe Thatcher and Tom Gorzelanny), he’s certainly in the mix of guys battling for a spot with the big league club.
- Grube (34 years old) and Paulino (32) are journeymen veterans brought in for bullpen depth. Feel free to grab snacks and pee during these two innings.
- Given Terry Francona’s traditional reluctance to play young guys over veterans with (perceived) similar talent levels in the past, Tyler Naquin may have been the odd man out of the Indians outfield…five days ago. Abraham Almonte getting popped with an 80-burger for PED use last Friday blew the center field church doors clean off the hinges. All bets are off at this point. Naquin was sniffing the big leagues last season, and probably would have been called up had it not been for an unfortunately-placed outfield wall & subsequent concussion. It’s basically him, Davis, Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler for the center and left field spots (barring a Jose Ramirez sighting in center, which I’m totally for.) You pretty much know what you’re going to get out of the last 3. Most baseball people a whole lot smarter than I am set Naquin’s ceiling at a big league 4th outfielder. That doesn’t sound so bad when there’s so many 5th and 6th’s around him. He’s probably the player I’ll be watching the closest all spring.
And for the first time on and Indians game day in 2016…
KEEP THE CHIEF