GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Nick Swisher made his Cactus League debut after a week’s delay and converted catcher Carlos Santana made an error on the first ball hit to him at third base.
But thanks to shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor’s three-run home run, the Indians dispatched the visiting Seattle Mariners 6-3 Sunday afternoon at Goodyear Ballpark.
In the meantime, outfielder Michael Brantley went 3-for-3 and right-hander Trevor Bauer repeated his new delivery the best he has since tinkering with it all last year.
“That’s by far the best [he’s looked],” Indians manager Terry Francona said of the young pitching prospect. “That’s where spring training’s wonderful. He fell behind, he paid for it … But he looked like he had conviction with his fastball, he worked ahead, he threw some fastballs down and then he spun his breaking ball off of it. That was really exciting.”
After replacing veteran Aaron Harang to start the third inning, Bauer quickly retired the Mariners in order. But he ran into trouble in his second inning when Robinson Cano doubled and then scored on Dustin Ackley’s long two-run home run that gave Seattle a 3-0 lead.
After falling behind 3-1 to Ackley, Bauer grooved a fastball in and Ackley blasted it midway up the green batter’s eye beyond the 410-foot center field wall.
“He hit it, and I was like, ‘well, just give me a new ball,’ ” Bauer said. “I originally wasn’t gonna watch it. But I thought, that might go over and be impressive, so I turned around.”
But the Tribe tied the game with three runs in the fifth inning beginning with Swisher driving in a run on a fielder’s choice. Jason Kipnis followed by tripling home the second run and then scored when Santana reached on an error.
Two innings later, Lindor — the Indians’ No. 1 prospect according to Baseball America — supplied a three-run blast that landed with a high bounce in the right field picnic area for the margin of victory.
Sellers acquired for depth
In an effort to protect their depth at the utility spot, the Indians made a trade Sunday morning, acquiring infielder Justin Sellers from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for cash considerations.
To make room on the 40-man roster, infielder David Cooper was designated for assignment.
“[Jose] Ramirez has been slow to come back from [thumb injury] and we just want to make our organization better,” Francona said, noting he hasn’t seen Sellers play, but expects him to join the team today.
Adding to Ramirez’s slow recovery from offseason thumb surgery, the Tribe’s speedy utility infielder recently also recently twisted his ankle. However, Francona said Ramirez is still scheduled to play four innings in Tuesday’s “B” game.
“He had a little mishap on the treadmill the other day, so he’s kind of tweaked his ankle and was out a couple days,” Francona said.
A couple hours later, Sellers tweeted: “Thank you @Dodgers for everything, excited for what’s next @Indians #tribetown.” With a picture of him entering the Indians complex at Goodyear.
As the day went on, Sellers retweeted notes from Tribe fans welcoming him to Cleveland, many mentioning the “unfinished business” motto that Swisher established a few days earlier with official red team T-shirts.
Toward the end of Francona’s daily sit down with the media Sunday, a reporter pointed out that over his head on a media room TV, ESPN was in the middle of an Outside the Lines segment on the 10th anniversary of the death of former Cincinnati Reds owner Marge Schott.
That made Francona remember a crazy story from the 1987 season when he played for the eccentric Reds owner.
“I rode on that elephant at the team party,” Francona said. “If you weren’t good enough to tell her no, you had to ride the elephant.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com.