GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Shelley Duncan has been viewed through most of his career as an all or nothing kind of hitter with lots of home runs but lots of strikeouts.
That began to change last year, when Duncan received more playing time.
For the first four months of the season, Duncan batted .230 in 100 at-bats. In August and September, injuries caused manager Manny Acta to use Duncan as a semi-regular. Duncan didn’t waste the chance to show that more reps at the plate would translate into increased production.
In the final two months of the schedule, Duncan batted .285, but it was in September that he stepped up his production, accumulating seven doubles, seven home runs and 23 RBI in 83 at-bats.
If not for a balky glove, Duncan might be a strong candidate to take over the everyday left-field job. However, defense counts, too, and that probably keeps him off the preferred list.
So does his late-season showing earn points with Acta?
“I think he made a case for himself just by the way he went about his business,” Acta said Tuesday. “But I don’t think one month is enough to draw conclusions. He took advantage of his opportunity, and that’s about it.”
If that doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement, don’t be fooled. Acta considers Duncan to be a vital cog in the offense, even if he comes off the bench.
“Shelley is a valuable part of the team,” Acta said. “He’s slated to be used at times as the DH against left-handers and in left field and now and then at first base. But one month is a very small sample to be talking about an everyday job.”
Last call in clubhouse?
The Boston Red Sox recently announced they were banning beer from the clubhouse. How about the Tribe?
“We’re not doing that; we have our own policy,” Acta said. “We’re fine. We have a pretty good system here.”
The Tribe provides 36 beers after games to be divided among all the players and coaches.
“If people want to drink, they can find a way,” Acta said. “Have you ever been to East Fourth Street? That’s in walking distance of the stadium.”
Putting it in perspective
Albert Belle’s visit to the Indians’ camp brought to mind his singular achievement: amassing 50 home runs and more than 50 doubles in the same season (1995).
Of the 42 times a player has hit 50 or more homers, only Babe Ruth hit as many as 44 doubles the same season. That happened in 1921, when Ruth went deep 59 times.
Several players had huge home run seasons, but doubles were hard to come by. In 1965, Willie Mays hit 52 homers but only 21 doubles. Ten years earlier, Mays hit 51 home runs and doubled only 18 times. In 1961, Mickey Mantle launched 54 homers but hit only 16 doubles.
Huff to start it off
David Huff will be the Tribe starter when the exhibition season opens with the Tribe playing the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday.
In today’s intrasquad game, each of eight pitchers will throw one inning. The list: Jeremy Accardo, Frank Herrmann, Nick Hagadone, Chen-Chang Lee, Chris Seddon, Tyler Sturdevant, Robinson Tejeda and Josh Tomlin.
Tribe owner Larry Dolan issued a statement in the wake of the shootings at Chardon High School that killed three students.
“On behalf of the Cleveland Indians baseball organization and specifically the Dolan Family whose roots are deep in the Chardon community, we offer our deepest sympathy to all involved in this senseless tragedy. We pray that the strength necessary to endure all the pain will come to the survivors. We hope for all of you peace and tranquility in due time.”
The Dolans live in nearby Chagrin Falls.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at https://ohio.com/tribematters. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.