With all available hands on deck Sunday, the Aeros lineup resembled one of those B Games often found on the back fields at Goodyear, Ariz., midway through a long Indians spring training.
A majority of the young players are up-and-comers in the Tribe’s minor league system, but haven’t become household names yet. They’re just guys wearing their teams’ jerseys looking to make a name for themselves.
So with starting pitchers Drew Pomeranz and Joe Gardner and major league rehabber Alex White as well as catcher/first baseman/outfielder Matt McBride unavailable after Saturday’s block buster deal with Colorado for Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez, the Aeros played short-handed in an uninspired 5-1 loss to Erie Sunday at Canal Park.
Add to the already sticky situation the fact that outfielder Nick Weglarz was placed on the disabled list before Sunday’s contest with a left elbow injury. That meant Michel Hernandez had to be recalled from Triple-A Columbus to fill in with McBride’s absence and with starting catcher Chun Chen having been limited to DH duty while nursing a left thumb injury.
If not for the veteran Hernandez, who went 2-for-3 with a walk and RBI as only one of two Aeros players to record two hits along with shortstop Juan Diaz - another shutout seemed eminent.
But in the big picture, what mattered most Sunday was getting through the day without anything crazy happening. Without anybody getting hurt and further depleting the bench and certainly staying away from extra innings after the Aeros’ bullpen had to pitch all nine Saturday with starter Pomeranz suddenly scratched.
“Yesterday was crazy,” Weglarz said. “Especially when the starting pitcher gets scratched as he’s warming up and the bullpen had to go the whole game. But I guess baseball’s a business and that was the business side of things.
“Hopefully, it’s a good opportunity for them. It was just a little unusual to have three guys off the same team in one day go. That’s tough.”
So what the Aeros needed Sunday afternoon was an uneventful contest that allowed them to get by until reinforcements join the squad to get the team back to full strength following Monday’s scheduled day off.
That was about the only thing that went the Aeros way Sunday.
Although Aeros starting pitcher T.J. McFarland kept the SeaWolves off the board for four innings, he ran into trouble in the fifth. Erie catcher John Murrian sparked a two-out rally with a single, center fielder Jamie Johnson followed with one of his own and second baseman Brandon Douglas walked to load the bases.
That set the table for first baseman Rawley Bishop, whose full-count walk off the left-handed McFarland forced home the first run of the game. Before McFarland could get the final out, a two-run double by third baseman Bryan Pounds emptied the bases and handed the Sea Wolves a 3-0 lead.
McFarland went on to give up four runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five over six innings.
“He threw the ball well and kept it down all but the one inning,” Aeros manager Chris Tremie said. “He got two outs in the fifth and kind of got up in the zone a little bit and walked a couple guys. Then left that pitch up that ended up going for a double. Other than those couple sequences, I thought he threw the ball really well.”
Meanwhile, in a spot-start for Erie, right-handed reliever Rob Waite shut out the Aeros for five innings on two hits.
With Akron’s sputtering offense entering Sunday’s game riding a 19-inning scoreless streak that dated back to the eighth inning Friday, it wasn’t until the Aeros reached 26 scoreless innings until two SeaWolves’ errors in the eighth inning aided their lone run driven in by Hernandez.
“We’re in a little bit of an offensive slump,” Tremie said of the Aeros three-game skid. “Our at-bats aren’t real good the last couple nights…You have peaks and valleys in the season and the last three games weren’t really good for us.”