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Indians drop spring opener to Reds, 8-3

Tribe offense manages just three hits as young pitching faulters

Indians drop spring opener to Reds, 8-3
February 26, 2014
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Player of the Game: Chris Heisey (2-for-3) with a double, home run and two RBI.

The Leadoff

It may not feel like it in Cleveland, but baseball is officially back.

The Indians dropped their first game of Cactus league action against their state rival Cincinnati Reds Wednesday afternoon, 8-3. Outscoring the Tribe 6-1 over the final four frames, Cincy cruised to the easy victory in the spring opener at Goodyear Ballpark.

Both the Tribe and Reds finished 2013 as wild card hopefuls, making the postseason only to be eliminated in a one-game playoff despite winning 90+ games during the regular season. Wednesday marked the first road to their redemption.

Rotation Battle Heats up Early

It was the young vs. the old in the first of many rotation battles this spring, as two of the five starting pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the Indians rotation took the mound Wednesday afternoon.

Tribe prospect Trevor Bauer started the game much of the same way he started the four games up in Cleveland last season. After a nine pitch walk to Reds leadoff man Billy Hamilton, Bauer walked former Indian Brandon Phillips on four straight to start the ballgame. The 23 year-old held tough and kept his composure though, striking out 2010 National League MVP Joey Votto one batter later. On the same pitch, Yan Gomes threw out Phillips trying to steal second before Bauer recorded the final out of the inning for a scoreless frame.

Yes, the walks were still present, but his new delivery which he worked on all offseason looked much more comfortable and fluid than one season ago. It should be interesting if Bauer can stay consistent in the weeks ahead, but don't count the phenom out by any means for the final rotation spot.

Now for the old, as veteran right-hander Aaron Harang followed Bauer's scoreless inning with one of his own. The 35 year-old looked very sharp in his Indians spring debut allowing just one hit to his former club while also striking out Cincinnati outfielder Ryan Ludwick. Signed to a minor league deal two weeks ago, Harang is a big name to watch this spring as he has always been durable during his career, having started 25 games or more in nine of the last 11 years.

Offense Cold as Winter

It was more runs than the Indians put up in October, but it's far from being anything to brag about.

Indians hitters managed just three runs on three hits in their first game action this spring, where two of the three hits came from players off the 40-man roster without any big league experience. It wasn't until the fifth inning that Tribe bats came to life, as Ryan Raburn lead off the inning with a double before scoring one batter later on a RBI base-hit by catching prospect Tony Wolters. An inning later, 22-year-old shortstop Erik Gonzalez singled before coming around to score on a sacrifice fly by former Giants infielder Ryan Rohlinger.

Young pitching faulters

Cincinnati scored twice off four different Tribe pitchers, but only two of them saw action in Cleveland last season. Southpaw T.J. House was one of those, as he surrendered two runs on three hits in two innings of work, walking one and striking out two. Believe it or not, House is the only left-handed starter in Indians camp and on the 40-man roster.

Lefty reliever Colt Hynes wasn't any better, giving up two runs in just 2/3 of an inning, and the same could be said for prospect C.C. Lee who gave up a two-run homer to Reds outfielder Chris Heisey in his inning of work. Lee is a dark horse candidate for a vacant spot in the Indians bullpen.

Other notables:

  • Left-handed reliever Nick Hagadone struck out one in a scoreless effort in the fifth inning. With two southpaws in Josh Outman and Marc Rzepczynski set to start the year in Cleveland (barring injury), Hagadone more than likely is on the outside looking in when it comes to making the big league club.
  • Outfielder Nyjer Morgan went 0-for-3 in his spring debut at the top of the Indians lineup. Signed to a minor league deal, Morgan like former Royals outfielder Jeff Francoeur are battling for what looks to be only one available bench spot.
  • Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera went a hitless 0-for-2 Wednesday, as he hopes to build on a dismal 2013. Having spent the last seven years with the Indians, Cabrera is a free agent at the end of the season.

Closing Time

Wins and losses mean everything, but that may not be the case when it comes to spring training games. Over the next four weeks, the focus should be on the development and consistency of individual player performances rather than final team records.

Last year the World Series champion Boston Red Sox finished with a 17-17 spring training record. Despite a 25-7 start by the Kansas City Royals, the team failed to qualify for the postseason at season's end. The same could be said for a few N.L. teams, as the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and L.A. Dodgers finished with the three worst spring records in the National League, yet all three teams went on to make the playoffs seven months later.

It's not how you start, it's how you finish.

Up next for the Indians: Spring training action continues Thursday afternoon as the Tribe battles Cincy once again at 3:05 p.m. All-Star Justin Masterson is slated to get the start against Reds right-hander Johnny Cueto. Other Cleveland pitchers scheduled to pitch include Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Tyler Cloyd, David Aardsma, Josh Outman, Blake Wood and Mike Zagurski.

On the offensive side, look for Michael Bourn to make his Cactus League season debut Thursday and Carlos Santana to get the start at third base.

The game can be seen live on SportsTime Ohio, or through Newsradio WTAM 1100.

Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at jberdysz27@gmail.com.

User Comments

pathofkindness
February 27, 2014 - 9:40 PM EST
I agree w Shy. Bauer looked good. I thought there was a big improvement in his delivery. Less violent action, smoother than last year, looked to be throwing free and easy, even as the ball sailed up and out of the strike zone... 8--)
Tony
February 27, 2014 - 1:43 PM EST
Herrmann would be up there as a 40-man casualty possibility. He's just depth. He has options, but if they need a spot, he's one of the best options to remove.
Walter
February 27, 2014 - 1:42 PM EST
Your right its David Adams not Austin.
Hermie13
February 27, 2014 - 1:37 PM EST
Assuming you mean David Adams I agree (at first I read that thinking Austin Adams). Think Wood could be let go as well if he struggles this spring and fails to make the big league club.
Walter
February 27, 2014 - 1:26 PM EST
First candidates to be taken of the 40 man roster could be Hynes,Barnes and Adams.
Hermie13
February 27, 2014 - 12:35 PM EST
Agree with Tony's last remarks.

Mentioned this in the other article...but wonder if the yanks and Tribe couldn't have a match for a catcher. Yanks don't have a lot in the minors but are pretty stacked at catcher. Cervelli is out of options I believe and while he could end up McCann's backup has some guys that could easily bump him out. Decent OBP skills especially against lefties. Small sample but has a .305 BA, .402 OBP vs lefties in career. Yanks could use another infielder...

I know Cabrera is the one we have talked about dealing most, but if Elliot Johnson has a good spring wonder if Aviles couldn't be moved in a smaller deal? If Santana shows he's able to play 3B at least agianst lefties then Aviles may not see much time there...AC should start at SS (Johnson can backup) and Kip obviously is the starter at 2B (and Raburn can backup there). If AC goes down with injury you could turn to Jose Ramirez too and Lindor could even be ready in July/August. Not saying we need to trade Aviles but could be expendable.

Do think that bringing in another catcher (still not calling it a 3rd catcher) probably depends on how much Santana plays at 3B. However...I do think one scenario that hasn't been talked about (at least much) is finding a catcher that can platoon with Chiz (Gomes can DH and rest on those days).
Alex
February 27, 2014 - 12:30 PM EST
Joseph, if you are SO DOWN on the Tribe, why do you waste your time watching them? Your outlook is so negative and depressing!! Dude, for your own sake, smile a little bit. Yesterday was just one game!!!!
Dennis
February 27, 2014 - 11:44 AM EST
I thought TJ House looked much better in his second inning of work. maybe it was just first inning of work first game jitters. Lee did ok. He got three pretty quick outs, including a strike out to end the previous inning then gave up a walk and homer before being removed. He needs to stretch it out it out so he can go an inning plus. Chisehall not only missed the ole play but also missed an arguable double play opportunity (Billy Hamilton was the batter). The next batter ground out to short and TJ would have had a one two three inning. I understand pitchers need to pick up there up their defense and TJ did not do that. I was impressed by Erik Gonzalez . Montcrief needs to work on his routes to the ball - I understand he has only been an outfielder for a few years so that is understandable. He did catch everything that I think was catchable so he did get the job done in the end. Neither Naquin or Montcreif exhibited their arm, but again it is early in the season. I was impressed by Aquillar patients at the plate should have paid more attention to his defense,
but do not recall seeing anything bad. He did have a 3-1 (Hynes) play that he handled well. I was pleasantly surprise by Harang inning of work maybe the Indians have a keeper there.
shy
February 27, 2014 - 11:25 AM EST
Bauer looked more like a good pitcher out there. Looser delivery, more leg drive, better follow through. There was good velocity and movement no question. But he didn't have the command- Clayton Kershaw didn't have it either yesterday, but he's won 3 Cy Youngs so we won't worry about him. The only thing Trevor has won is the top spot in the rotation over Gerrit Cole at UCLA, no mean feat, but he can't live off that accolade indefinitely. He is going to have to have to be able to work in and out up and down and change speeds and miss by a couple inches when he misses, not a couple feet. First day of ST, let's see if he can dial it in a little more next time... Yes and nice to see the likes of Moncrief and Aguilar out there. Every team needs a guy that makes the earth shake a little when he walks.
Tony
February 27, 2014 - 11:03 AM EST
I think there is a chance they have a third catcher - obviously only is Santana is the everyday guy at third. But if they do that it won't be anyone on the roster currently. There is no one in camp that is worthy of keeping on as a major league option. It would be like batting the pitcher when they play. So if they do go the third catcher route I would have to think they make a trade at the end of camp or a waiver claim. Who knows, maybe they already have a deal on the backburner depending on what Santana does. Would explain the lack of any activity in the offseason with adding any true ML catching options if they in fact wanted a third catcher on the roster.
Matthew
February 27, 2014 - 10:02 AM EST
Can we limit Hermie to only 12 comments per day about whether Santana will be the backup catcher? It would help un-clutter the comments section if he could keep it to a dozen per day instead of the 33 he currently averages.
Tony
February 27, 2014 - 9:20 AM EST
Wolters has done an amazing job in his transition to a catcher. I mean think about it....at this time last year he was not even a catcher. He's been at the position for basically 10 months....yet he is out there catching the last half of a ML spring game. Amazing. And he looks good back there with his actions, framing, movement, etc. If he can stay consistent with that bat and the catching continues to come, the Indians might have them an interesting utility catcher who can catch and play almost anywhere in the infield. That's a pretty sick bench guy, and something very rare to have. If all goes well, he should be added to the 40-man in the offseason and would be an option sometime in 2015.
Hawk1228
February 27, 2014 - 9:15 AM EST
Walter you took the words right out of my mouth, I forgot to include him with my post. Hard to take much from one at bat and a few innings behind the plate, but he sure didn't embarrass himself.
Walter
February 27, 2014 - 9:06 AM EST
If Wolters continues to improve at being catcher how far away is he from being an option for the Indians?
Hermie13
February 27, 2014 - 9:03 AM EST
One thing I found interesting from yesterday's STO broadcast...

When asked about the roster construction and decisions to be made, Francona said something to the effect "can Santana catch" as if it's still not a done deal he'll be the backup catcher.

As people know I'm against Santana catching in 2014 but with how they went about this off-season I'd have thought they were set on him backing up (didn't add any catcher of note despite numerous options this winter). Can't imagine they are really considering Treanor or Carlin....at least I hope not.


Agree on Hags looking good. Would love to have a legit 3rd lefty option. As good as Scrabble was for us last year, can't ignore how much he struggled in St. Louis. He's no sure thing IMO.

Know I'll catch flack for this...but as far as Moncrief's defense...meh. Made a decent play on that first liner to him but that 2nd fly ball, while it looked nice was more a product of him turning the wrong way and taking an bad route to the ball. I'm sure getting used to that Arizona sky isn't easy but that was not a good play at all....he simply just made it look tough. Not saying he's bad out there, could be a great defender, but he didn't show it yesterday.
Walter
February 27, 2014 - 9:02 AM EST
I know its first game but CC Lee did not help his chances of being part of the bullpen coming out spring training. If Hagadone does what he did in yesterday game he should be part of the bullpen.

If Moncrief gains any plate discipline he could the future starting in RF by 15. If there is any injuries to OF he could get call up this year.
Hawk1228
February 27, 2014 - 8:48 AM EST
Not sure if I saw that much of Bauer's change in wind up He only used in during the Hamilton AB He looked comfortable in it and appeared he tried to get Hamilton to chase on a high fastball that was too high. Hamilton wasted some really good pitches. It was his first start and it will be interesting to see if he throws more strikes and reduces his pitch count this Spring. Players who know they are with the club played liked they were getting work in and did not appear to be competing But that's what Spring is all about getting ready for the season. The two players who caught my eye were Moncrief and Aquilar. Its been a long time since I have seen young players in our system with that body type. I have always felt what we are missing in our lineup is the guy who strikes fear in opposing pitchers, that guy who walks up to the plate and you just know that player could crush a ball to the parking deck in left field. Those two guys look the part, middle of order type bodies with some beef. We have too many of the lean Tyler Naquin types, these two guys stroll to the plate with some bulk. Unfortunately they only batted once, Moncrief jumped on the first pitch he saw and Aquilar didn't get a ball to hit. Its going to be interesting to see how those two play this season in Columbus. If they continue to improve they could make for some very interesting decisions very very soon.
Tony
February 27, 2014 - 8:05 AM EST
Tough to take anything good or bad away from the first game. Half the guys pitching won't even be on the team, and same with half the guys hitting. Not to mention position players only played 4-5 innings. It was one outing, but for all the talk about this revised delivery with Bauer.....I did not see much difference. Still lacking in command and everything up in the zone....but obviously it was his first outing. Hope to see good things from him the rest of camp. Harang and Hagadone looked great for their first time out....and Moncrief was very good defensively.
GSon
February 27, 2014 - 7:59 AM EST
Danny DeVito has Short Man Disease.....

Nice mechanics by Bauer in the first outing. Strong velocity (even without a gun to know the 'number'). Aaron Harang is definitely ahead of a normal schedule.. His baseball life is on the line, so, that's not unusual..

Francisco Lindor looks like the real deal. Chasing a ball in the dirt reminds him that he's still not old enough to buy a drink. Good things to come..

Carlos Moncrief showed he can "go get em" in the field.. Cohort Jesus Aguilar looked more than comfortable at the plate, good eye..

Lonnie let a ground ball go by (Ole') without getting leather on it.. followed it up with getting in front of a smash that he recovered to throw out Billy Hamilton.. Not a bad day in the field.

CC Lee was unimpressive..

First spring game in the books..30 more to go..
Joseph Devito
February 27, 2014 - 5:25 AM EST
Just as expected. Bauer will not make the rotation. The Bauer trade was a bust. He cannot get the ball over the plate. I said this several weeks ago so it is not just about this first game. This is what they get and what they can expect from losing two good starters and replacing them with castoffs,retreads and injured arms. It is just the beginning but it is a definite forerunner of things to come. And also look for the hitting to be just like this...ANEMIC

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