Stephanie Storm’s 12 final thoughts on the Indians doubleheader split with the San Diego Padres Wednesday at Progressive Field:
1) It’s impossible not to be encouraged by the pitching of a pair of the Tribe’s young right-handers Wednesday in Zach McAllister and Trevor Bauer. Probably more so Bauer, given his inconsistent track record in his first season with the Indians last year. McAllister tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings and struck out seven in the Indians 2-0 Game One victory.
2) Bauer, called up from Triple-A to make the spot start in Game 2, followed suit with six solid innings in which he struck out a major-league career-best eight batters in the Tribe’s 2-1 defeat. Considering how bad the team’s starting pitching was after ace Justin Masterson’s start during the first time through the rotation, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway ought to sleep better tonight.
3) Francona denied it in the post game presser, but instead of going to the bullpen when Bauer got in trouble via a bases-loaded jam in the sixth inning, he left Bauer in as veteran reliever Bryan Shaw warmed in the pen, no doubt in part to gauge how the kid would handle himself. Last year, Bauer’s frustration in such situations was obvious and resulted in a multitude of walks.
4) Wednesday, Bauer emitted an air of confidence from the start, as he was able to shake off a miscue by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera that allowed the leadoff batter to reach on a two-base error. Things quickly went from bad to worse when the second batter reached on a controversial play, but Bauer remained unwaverable.
“With his stuff and the way he’s trying to attack the zone, his progress is gonna come quick,” Francona ventured afterwards.
5) Back to the controversial play of the day. Indians outfielder Elliot Johnson made a nice play to catch Chris Denorfia’s shot to right field at the wall, but then dropped the ball on the transfer a couple seconds later. The play was initially ruled a no catch by the umpire, causing Francona to challenge the ruling. After a review, the ruling was shockingly upheld. Hours later, Johnson was still fired up about what he deemed a blatant miscall.
“I just think it lacks common sense,” Johnson said, practically pleading. “I caught the ball. I hit the wall with possession of the ball. I took six or seven steps…it was a catch. It was an out.”
6) OK, so “six or seven steps” is a bit of a stretch. It was more like two or three, but you get the point. Francona backed Johnson by joking he “could have been called for traveling” with as many steps as he made after catching the ball at the wall and before losing it in the transfer after it had been secured for the out.
7) Johnson reiterated his stance a couple more times to the throng of media gathered around his locker before calming down enough to make a joke similar to Francona’s – albeit with reference to a different sport.
“I made a good baseball move with two feet in and possession of the ball, so I felt like it was a catch,” Johnson said sacastically, opting to compare it to football rules.
8) Back to the first game for a minute. Indians fans could no doubt do without new closer John Axford doing his best impersonation of former closer, the often-embattled and always outspoken Chris Perez, before nailing down his fourth save. Axford allowed two base runners – giving up a single to the first batter he faced and later, a one-out walk. Then he finally got around to getting to business and retired the next two batters he faced via a strikeout and fly out instead giving the Tribe faithful a collective heart attack like Perez often did during his tenure in Tribe Town.
9) All kidding aside, Axford has quietly gone about the business of turning around a career that was headed nowhere after he lost his closer’s role in Milwaukee and was traded to St. Louis last year. That revival was the start of a rebirth that has continued with the Indians and makes for a heck of a feel-good story.
10) Indians center fielder Michael Bourn was in the clubhouse after the game and talked about his desire to join his major-league teammates soon. Bourn, on the DL with a left hamstring strain since the end of spring training, has targeted Sunday for his return. That date, however, is contingent on him playing without symptoms in back-to-back games at Double-A Akron Thursday and Friday. His rehab started earlier in the week at Triple-A Columbus.
11) When Bourn is ready to be activated, the Tribe brass will have a tough decision to make. His replacement, the fun-loving Nyjer Morgan, was played well in every aspect in Bourn’s absence and may have even played himself on the Indians roster for an even longer period of time. But in order to keep Morgan, the Indians would likely have to give up a reliever, and we all know how much Francona loves himself relievers. Stay tuned to see how the team handles the tough upcoming roster decision.
12) In addition to Bourn, another Indians rehabber – designated hitter Jason Giambi (rib fracture) is set to rehab with the RubberDucks on Friday. The Tribe’s Double-A team opens its home season Thursday. Now, in addition to the changes that have been made to spruce up Canal Park, the team now might also lure fans to come out by having two major-league players playing with a handful of the organization’s top young talent.