Here's my 10 final thoughts on Friday’s 4-0 Indians victory over the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark:
1) With free agents Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez gone, the Indians will head into the season relaying heavily on young starting pitchers like Zach McAllister. The right-hander didn’t give manager Terry Francona any reason to believe he’s not ready to step up and help do his part for the departed veterans in his first spring start Friday.
McAllister tossed two scoreless innings. In the first, he got a little help from second baseman Jason Kipnisand right fielder Ryan Raburn, who both made nice defensive plays. In the second inning, McAllister pitched himself out of a one out jam with a runner at third base.
2)The Tribe got an early offesesive jump on the Reds when Raburn hit a two-run home run off starting pitcher Homer Bailey in the second inning. The homerun could mark another fast spring start by Rayburn, who now has 19 home runs over the last five springs – and that’s including the fact that we’re only three games into this season’s spring training camp.
3) Last spring with the Tribe, Raburn hit for a .341 batting average with five home runs. In 2012 with the Detroit Tigers, he batted .268 with six homers. In ’11 he hit .316 with four home runs and in ’10, his numbers were .370 with three homers. That’s a spring span of 213 at-bats in which Raburn averages one home run per 12.2 plate appearances.
“He doesn’t do too bad during the season, either,” Francona said, referring to Raburn’s 16 home runs for the Tribe last year. “But that was a good swing, a nice swing.”
4) Like McAllister, who already has a spot in the starting rotation thanks to his success last season, Josh Tomlin pitched two strong innings for the Indians Friday. Unlike McAllister, the right-hander doesn’t have a job locked up as he makes his way back from Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and is battling for the vacant fifth starter’s spot.
Tomlin, who tip-toed out of a fourth-inning jam with the aid of a diving catch by outfielder Nyjer Morgan, allowed two hits, walked two and struck out two.
“He pretty much just (did) what he does – he stayed down in the zone, commanded his pitches, was quick to the plate and was kind of as advertised,” Francona said. “I’m sure as the spring goes, (Tomlin will) get sharper.”
5) New closer John Axford issued a walk and struck out two batters in his Indians and spring training debut Friday.
“Thought he looked pretty good,” Francona said. “Thought his ball had a lot of life to it.”
Axford said that while it was good to get some work in during the fifth inning in his first outing in camp, he’ll be ready for ninth-inning pressure cooker situations soon.
6) A young minor league shortstop recorded his third hit in as many days and games Friday and his name wasn’t Francisco Lindor. Tall and lanky Erik Gonzalez is the young minor leaguer who many are whispering about early in camp after coming up with another nice defensive play at short and recording an eighth-inning hit.
7) Seems to me that in addition to proving those wrong who say a catcher can’t move over to third base so quickly, Carlos Santana is also starting to show a softer, more approachable side. Francona said he saw that side and more last season of the usually-keep-to-himself Santana.
“You saw all sides of hime last year,” Francona said. “The enthusiastic side. The fun-loving side. The side that maybe wasn't too happy about DHing. During the course of a season, you see everything in everybody. It's pretty hard for something to slip by. This is probably as consistent as I've seen him, though.”
8) When the Indians travel to nearby Glendale Saturday to face the host Chichago White Sox, Nick Swisherstill isn’t expected to be in the lineup. However, Francona said he expected the first baseman to finally make his spring debut Sunday.
9) Francona insists there’s nothing physically wrong with Swisher, who signed a four-year, $56 million contract with the Indians before last season and struggled through the first half of the year with a nagging left shoulder injury. Instead, the second-year manager shared that Swisher told him he “pushed too hard too early” last spring and asked to be eased a litle more into Cactus League play this season.
10) If it’s true that there’s much to be said about one’s name – or nickname in this case - then maybe there’s a lot to be said for having the right motto as well. In addition to left fielder Michael Brantley rocking his “Dr. Smooth” nickname T-shirt in the clubhouse the last two weeks, Swisher spent time Friday morning passing out red T-shirts with the slogan “Unfinished Business” across the front, no doubt referring to the Tribe’s loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in a one-game wild card playoff that ended last year’s brief playoff run.