2013 Spring Training Game #5: Indians 14, Athletics 10
Bourn - CF (Hunter)
Raburn - 3B (Spears - later moved to LF)
Brantley - LF (Hermida, Francisco, Antonelli - 3B)
Giambi - DH (Gomes)
McGuiness - 1B (McDade)
Phelps - 2B (Rohlinger)
Carrera - RF (Carson)
Diaz - SS (Hernandez)
Marson - C (Jeroloman)
Masterson - 2 IP
Jimenez - 2 IP
Pestano - 1 IP
Capps - 1 IP
Herrmann - 1 IP
Langwell - 1 IP
Nieve - 1 IP
The Tribe's win over Oakland and continued solid play combined with a few flashes of brilliance (detailed below) hardly came as a surprise to me. Besides the positive track record that the small sample size of the first four preseason games has provided us, there was also a good omen late last night. As I was getting ready to go to sleep, I heard Jackson Browne's "Running on Empty" playing on the radio. For those unfamiliar with or too young to remember, (hard to believe that there are Indians fans too young to remember Casey Coleman, makes me feel old) the late Casey Coleman's tenure as the host of the local Indians radio pregame show (the one that airs before the Indians Radio Network comes on) would end the show with the closing guitar riff from that song. I have always taken coming across the song on the radio as a good omen for all things Tribe-related.
Today's game indeed held many good signs for the upcoming Tribe season, especially in the pitching department. Justin Masterson shut down six straight batters in his two innings of work to open the game. Ubaldo Jimenez followed suit in the third and, while shakier in the fourth (two hits, including a ball lost in the sun that was negated when Athletics second baseman Jed Lowrie got greedy and tried to stretch it into a double, and a walk), came out unscathed in terms of the one pitching stat that really matters: runs given up. This was followed by a one-hit shutout fifth inning by setup man Vinnie Pestano (USA! USA! USA!). More on the final four innings' pitching performances later in this report.
On the batting end of things, two players on the bubble for roster spots made Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona's decisions that much harder today. Chris McGuiness started the game at first base and, while held hitless in three at-bats (although he did score in the sixth after reaching on a fielder's choice), he impressed in the field, including a specatcular play to set up a 3-1 ground out of Jed Lowrie in the first. While this normally would not be enough to propel a player into the discussion re: a major league roster spot, keep in mind that McGuiness is a Rule 5 Draft selection and thus must stay on the Indians 25-man roster (or disabled list if injured) or be offered back to the Texas Rangers for $25,000 (half of the $50,000 the Indians paid to draft him). If he keeps showing the type of promise that led the Indians to draft him and that he has shown thus far in Spring Training, it will become very difficult for them to leave him off the Opening Day 25-man roster. Yan Gomes already comes into camp with one thing going for him: Versatility. He can play either corner infield spot and serve as a third catcher. This latter fact is especially important as it would allow the Indians to "rest" Carlos Santana at designated hitter without having to worry about losing the designated hitter by moving him to catcher should regular backup Lou Marson have to leave the game. Gomes helped further his cause today with a 2-for-2 performance with a double, a home run and five RBIs in relief of Jason Giambi today. If he keeps up anything close to today's performance, he will be another player that the Franconetti decision-making axis will have trouble keeping off the Big Club.
While the tone of the day was generally positive, the pitching in the last four innings did provide a reason for concern, especially that of Major League hopeful Matt Capps and Frank Herrmann. Capps gave up two earned runs on three hits (including a home run) while walking one in the sixth inning. Herrmann's day went even worse as he allowed four earned runs on five hits (including another homer) in the seventh. Further exacerbating the poor quality of these performances is the fact that they occurred after the Athletics had made a significant number of substitutions, meaning that they occurred mostly against a mix of backups and minor leaguers. While it is still extremely early (Capps' first and Herrmann's second outing) and both men have plenty of time to turn their spring around, continued performances of this nature may make it difficult for them to make the Columbus roster, let alone Cleveland's.
In conclusion, although it is early in the preseason (and a World Baseball Classic-hastened preseason, at that), the Tribe is 5-0, the vast majority of indications are looking good and it is an exciting time to be a Tribe fan!
To paraphrase Mr. Coleman, this is Arthur Kinney, roundin' third and headin' home.
Quick postscript to today in Wahoo-land: The most amazing part regarding today's Home Opener sellout isn't that it happened in six minutes (I had actually assumed that the game had sold out during the various presales), but that it's not even the fastest MLB Home Opener sellout in Ohio (I believe this year's Cincinnati Reds Home Opener sold out sometime in the Twentieth Century).
Seriously, for those unfamiliar with the insanity that is ticket sales for the Reds opener, public onsale of tickets consists of an online lottery (like those used for postseason and All-Star Week tickets) and a sale of Standing Room Only tickets at the city's St. Patrick's Day Parade. The Reds' home opener is almost certainly the toughest regular season ticket in Ohio that doesn't involve the words "Ohio State Buckeyes".