Cleveland Indians: The Potential Platoon in Left Field


The Cleveland Indians are expecting Michael Brantley to return in 2017, but that doesn’t mean Brandon Guyer will be on the bench all season. The Cleveland Indians enter the 2017 season with a loaded roster, which includes the returning Michael Brantley. He has not been fully cleared to return just yet, but all current signs point […]

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Indians Purchase Frias from LA, Designate Recently Acquired Shaffer


Richie Shaffer must be feeling either really wanted or really unwanted. Regardless, the utility man was designated for assignment for the third time this offseason when the Cleveland Indians purchased right-handed reliever Carlos Frias from the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday.

Frias, who has appeared in parts of the last three seasons for the Dodgers and has been a member of their organization since 2007, is expected to contend for a spot in the Indians bullpen for the 2017 season. Shaffer’s fate is yet to be determined as the Indians will face the prospect of trying to trade the 25-year-old former first round pick or expose him to the waivers process once again.

Frias - Norm Hall/Getty Images

Frias – Norm Hall/Getty Images

Frias had been designated for assignment by the Dodgers last Wednesday to create room on the 40-man roster for outfielder Brett Eibner, who had been acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.

The 27-year-old hard-throwing right-hander had a bit of a lost season last year as lower back tightness and a right oblique impingement slowed down his season twice. After nearly winning the fifth starter spot in spring, the start to his 2016 season was delayed when he landed on the disabled list at Triple- A Oklahoma City with an oblique injury before making his first start there. He returned in May, when he made a pair of short starts at Double-A with Tulsa before transferring back to Oklahoma City. He made four starts and four multi-inning relief appearances there, going 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP over 36 1/3 innings.

He was recalled to the Major League club in June without making an appearance and was optioned back to OKC when Yasiel Puig returned from the disabled list. He got the call again in July and made one strong relief appearance, throwing four innings of scoreless two-hit ball with a walk and three strikeouts against the San Diego Padres on July 7 in what would be his final outing of the year as he was placed on the disabled list after the start with lower back tightness. He would later be transferred to the 60-day disabled list, helping the Dodgers surpass the record for DL stints in a season at 28.

He showed much more success when entering the game in relief as opposed to starting last season, going 0-2 with a 5.04 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in six starts, while posting a 3-1 record with a 2.01 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in five relief appearances. His strikeout rate in relief was nearly half the figure from his results while starting, but he also walked batters in relief at nearly half his starting rate.

Some of those statistical trends have persisted throughout his Major League career. Frias had previously worked 15 games (two starts) for the Dodgers in 2014 and 17 more in 2015 (13 starts). He owns a 4-6 record in 15 career MLB starts with a 4.96 ERA, a 1.54 WHIP, a 5.08 strikeout per nine rate, and a 2.77 walks per nine rate. In relief work, he is 2-0 in 18 appearances with a 3.50 ERA, a 1.03 WHIP, 7.8 strikeouts per nine, and 2.50 walks per nine.

The tenth-year pro has sported a fastball mix in the mid-90s, a changeup, and a curveball throughout his big league career.

Shaffer joined the Indians last Thursday, when Cleveland claimed him off of waivers from the Cincinnati Reds. His stay in the Queen City was just a touch over one month in length after the Reds selected him off of waivers on December 23 from the Philadelphia Phillies, who had picked him up on waivers nine days prior from the Seattle Mariners. The M’s had not even had the rights to Shaffer for a month at the time that they designated him for assignment after previously acquiring him in a five-player swap with the Tampa Bay Rays in mid-November.

Prior to his five-city tour in just over the past two months, Shaffer had spent his entire career with the Rays, who had selected him with the 25th pick overall in the 2012 June amateur draft. In 51 games over two Major League seasons, the corner infielder and corner outfielder has a .213/.310/.410 batting line with nine doubles, five homers, and ten RBI.

Photo: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images



Cleveland Indians Have Several Left-Handed Relief Options To Consider


The Cleveland Indians are interested in adding a left-handed reliever and there’s no shortage of options for the club on the free agent and trade markets. According to veteran baseball insider Ken Rosenthal, the Cleveland Indians are still looking to add a reliever this winter and are likely to be focusing on southpaws. They, of course, have […]

Cleveland Indians Have Several Left-Handed Relief Options To ConsiderWahoo's on FirstWahoo's on First – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 62 – Jim Poole


Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to Opening Day!

Countdown to Opening Day – 62 days

The Cleveland Indians broke out the number 62 in the strike-shortened 1995 season when they signed free agent relief pitcher Jim Poole in mid-March. While he is easily the longest tenured and most successful Tribe player to sport the number, his claim to baseball immortality comes instead courtesy of one unfortunate pitch late in October in 1995.

Indians fans can remember it well, because it ultimately spelled the end of the first postseason run by the club since 1954.

Poole was one of two lefty options for manager Mike Hargrove out of his bullpen that season, teaming with southpaw Paul Assenmacher in the Tribe’s efforts to shut down left-handed hitters. He appeared in the first game of the American League Division Series that season, entering the game at Jacobs Field in the 11th inning while set to face two lefties (Mike Greenwell and Lee Tinsley) and the right-hander sandwiched in between them, Tim Naehring. The righty made Poole pay, homering to left to break a 3-3 tie. Albert Belle would knot it back up against Rick Aguilera to lead off the bottom of the 11th, getting Poole off of the hook, and Tony Pena would win it in the bottom of the 13th with his memorable and majestic blast to the bleachers.

Poole’s work in his second appearance, the fourth game of the American League Championship Series versus Seattle, was far less stressful despite his opposition. The Tribe was up 7-0 in the top of the eighth, and Poole retired Ken Griffey Jr. with a groundout before striking out Edgar Martinez and Tino Martinez.

Poole worked a perfect seventh in the 4-3 loss in Atlanta in Game 2 of the World Series, but would not have that same postseason success in Game 6 in a move that Hargrove probably still regrets to this day.

The Indians had forced a sixth game in the championship bout with a win two days earlier in the finale at Jacobs Field for the season. Dennis Martinez gave Cleveland four and two-thirds innings of scoreless baseball, but four hits and five walks had made it a difficult 82 pitches for the veteran right-hander. Poole was called upon by Grover in the fifth with runners on first and second and two outs for dangerous left-hander Fred McGriff.

Poole sat McGriff down swinging on three pitches.

In the top of the sixth, Poole’s spot in the lineup was set to bat second. The catcher and eight hitter Pena singled to center to lead off the inning and Hargrove left Poole in to sacrifice the runner to second, despite having just one plate appearance (1990 – Double-A San Antonio) to that point on his stat sheet for his entire professional career. On the 0-2 pitch, he popped up his bunt attempt in foul territory to the first baseman. A fielder’s choice and a second pop out in foul territory ended the threat.

It would be their last.

Poole, having not been lifted in the top half of the inning, remained in to face the left-handed hitting David Justice and Ryan Klesko to lead off the home half of the sixth. Justice had hit .241 with more walks than strikeouts against southpaws in 1995, with seven of his 24 homers and 23 of his 78 RBI for the year coming against them. He saw a 1-1 pitch to his liking, and the rest was history as the ball exited the playing field and gave the Braves the only run that they would need. The tandem of Tom Glavine and Mark Wohlers limited the Indians to just the one Pena hit, and the series and season were over.

After his sacrifice gone wrong on the biggest stage of all, Poole would get eleven more plate appearances in his career. He went 1-for-8, with three sacrifices successfully completed, two strikeouts, and a double for the Giants in 1998.

The lefty Poole entered the pro ranks after his selection by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1988 draft. Just two years and six days after signing with the club, he was already suited up for the Dodgers, making his debut on June 15, 1990, a memorable one by striking out the first and only batter he would see on the night, San Diego Padres future Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn.

His stay was not long in L.A., as he appeared in 16 games without a decision and was traded in the offseason to Texas with cash for a pair of minor leaguers. While his stay in L.A. was short, his stay with the Rangers was even shorter. After five games and his first Major League save, the Baltimore Orioles claimed him off waivers.

He had some ups and downs with the Orioles over the next few seasons, remaining in Maryland through the strike-shortened 1994 season while posting one of his better career seasons for the O’s in 1993.

The 1994 season treated him poorly before the strike, as he had a 6.64 ERA and a 2.12 WHIP through 38 games. Following the season, he became a free agent and joined the Indians in March while becoming a big contributor to the relief pitching staff, going 3-3 that season with a 3.75 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 42 games. He was dealt in early July of 1996 with cash to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder/first baseman Mark Carreon but after two seasons back on the west coast, he was released by the Giants on July 15, 1998, and re-signed with the Indians a week later. His numbers were not great over a dozen appearances, but he appeared in six games in the postseason, striking out two Red Sox in one inning over two games in the ALDS and striking out two more Yankees in one and one-third innings over four games in the ALCS loss.

In the offseason, he signed with the Phillies, but was released late in August of 1999 and once again returned to the Indians days later. He started the 2000 season with the Detroit Tigers and moved on to the Montreal Expos in May before re-signing one final time with the Indians after his release in June. He did not appear at the big league level, however, as he made just ten appearances at Triple-A Buffalo to conclude his professional career.

Poole has not left the game of baseball in the rearview mirror after his playing career came to a close in 2000. He has spent time working as an instructor with Grand Slam Sports Center in Johns Creek, Georgia, and has been an assistant varsity baseball coach and pitching coach for the Johns Creek High School Gladiators since the program began in 2009.

Photo: MLB Photo file



Today in Tribe History: January 31, 1977


A pair of former Indians gain entrance to the Baseball Hall of Fame as the Special Veterans Committee selects Joe Sewell and Al Lopez to join Amos Rusie as part of the Class of ’77.

Sewell spent his first eleven Major League seasons in an Indians uniform, starting as a late season call-up with Cleveland in 1920 to replace Ray Chapman at shortstop after his tragic death. He was a model of consistency with the club, playing in 152 games or more in each of the next nine seasons before playing in 109 in his final season in Cleveland in 1930.

He was released by the team in 1931 and signed on with the New York Yankees for three more seasons.

Lopez spent 19 years in the Majors, including his final 61 games in 1947 with the Indians. His bigger claim to fame was his success in the dugout as manager, where he won a pair of American League pennants and finished with a .584 career winning percentage. He led the Indians for six seasons from 1951 to 1956 and never won fewer than 88 games. Under his leadership, the Indians finished first in 1954 and in second in the other five years.

He joined the Chicago White Sox in 1957 and spent nine years at the helm there, winning one pennant, finishing in second five other times, and never having a losing season. He later rejoined the dugout with the Sox for parts of the 1968 and 1969 seasons on a limited basis.



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Cleveland Indians: Michael Brantley Saying All the Right Things


Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley is remaining patient as he prepares to return to being a full-time member of the team in 2017. The Cleveland Indians are in great shape heading into the 2017 season. The lone remaining question is the health of Michael Brantley. Brantley was in attendance at Tribe Fest this weekend, and […]

Cleveland Indians: Michael Brantley Saying All the Right ThingsWahoo's on FirstWahoo's on First – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Countdown to Indians’ Opening Day – 63 – Masty and Raffy Right


Join Did The Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to Opening Day!

Countdown to Opening Day – 63 days

According to the fantastic resource that is, 140 players have worn the number 63 in a Major League game during their careers. The Cleveland Indians have had five players from that list use wear the number, with two of them providing some of the best career statistics of a number 63 to date.

Eric Bell was the first Cleveland Indians player to wear 63 when he took the mound for the Tribe as a reliever in 1991 and 1992, working in 17 games (making just one start) and posting a 4-2 record with a 3.78 ERA in those two years. Andrew Lorraine brought the number back to begin the next decade during his ten-game stay as a reliever for the club in 2000. Once Victor Martinez debuted the number in his first dozen Major League games in 2002, he set the trend for excellence for the number in Indians history.

Martinez, the Venezuelan-born catching prospect, was a September call-up that season after being signed as an amateur free agent by the team in 1996. He would sport the number just that season, later switching to 20 for the 2003 season before settling into the 41 that he has worn every year and every stop of his career since. He is the WAR leader of all 129 players to ever wear the number at some point in their professional action.

Another Venezuelan, this time a pitcher, would make the number memorable midway through the 2003 season.

Right-hander Rafael Betancourt was signed by the Boston Red Sox as an amateur free agent late in the 1993 season. He joined the Sox not as a pitcher, but as a light-hitting infielder, spending parts of three seasons in Rookie and A-ball playing at second, short, and third base.

Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

The problem for Betancourt was that he couldn’t hit well and he couldn’t play without errors in the field, both fairly important parts of being a professional infielder. After three years on the farm, he hit a combined .195 and in those years, he committed four errors in 27 games at third base, six errors in 36 games at second, and 22 errors in 79 games at short. So, in 1997, the club converted him to pitcher to capitalize on an otherwise strong arm.

He spent three seasons pitching for the Red Sox, climbing to Double-A, but went overseas to Yokohama of the Japan Central League in 2000. He returned in 2001 to the Red Sox, but became a free agent after the season.

The Indians found their diamond in the rough when they signed him as a free agent early in 2003. His results were far better than those while in the Boston organization. He earned 16 saves in 31 games for Double-A Akron, posting a 1.99 ERA and striking out 75 batters in 45 1/3 innings before being promoted to Triple-A Buffalo. After four games there, he was promoted to Cleveland, never to return to the minors for reason other than rehab assignments.

Betancourt became the bridge in the Indians bullpen, setting the stage for setup man David Riske and closer Danys Baez in 2003. He continued to excel as a late inning reliever for manager Eric Wedge to set up Riske and closer Bob Wickman when he returned in July. During the 2005 season when coming in during the seventh inning, he struck out 22 of 89 batters while walking just one. The next season, he struggled some and was used a lot by Wedge in games in which the club was trailing, so he earned just seven holds that season.

“For three years [1998-2000], I pitched in pain,” said Betancourt in a story in the August 11, 2003, edition of The Plain Dealer. “All I was hoping for after the surgery was to get another chance. It took 16 months of rehabilitation to come back after the surgery. I didn’t know if I would come back healthy enough to ever pitch in the big leagues. For three years before the surgery, I was not able to throw a breaking ball because of the pain. I’d go into games not only having to think about the batter, but about the pain. My mind was going crazy.

“Now, I am able to worry only about the batter.”

The 2007 season thrust him onto the map. He appeared in a career-high tying 68 games and earned three saves while posting a 5-1 record and 1.47 ERA. He struck out 80 batters, a personal single-season best at the time, in 79 1/3 innings and limited the opposition with a 0.76 WHIP. More importantly, in addition to matching four years of holds in one season with 31, he allowed just 9% of inherited runners to score as just three of 33 touched home plate with him on the mound. His strong setup work allowed Joe Borowski to save 45 games and helped the Indians reach the American League Championship Series.

The numbers for “Raffy Right” bloated in 2008, as he went 3-4 with four saves and had a 5.07 ERA while continuing to team with “Raffy Left”, Rafael Perez, out of the bullpen. Prior to the trade deadline in 2009, a restructuring Indians team sent the 34-year-old reliever with a steadily climbing contract to the Colorado Rockies for minor leaguer Connor Graham. Betancourt left Cleveland as the club’s single-season leader for holds with 31 (broken by Vinnie Pestano in 2012) and all-time leader in the stat with 84 (broken by Joe Smith in 2013).

He continued wearing 63 with the Rockies, where he remained after the trade while working for stretches as the team’s closer. He returned for a final MLB season in 2015 and struggled after Tommy John surgery limited him to just 21 minor league appearances the season before.

The number 63 did not go unused by the Indians for long, as just over a week after the trade, the Indians acquired relief pitcher Justin Masterson and he claimed the number for his own.

Masterson came to Cleveland eight days after Betancourt departed in the trade that sent Martinez to Boston. He had worn 63 in his first two campaigns for the Red Sox and continued the trend with the Indians, even while struggling to adapt as a full-time starter who would go 1-7 with a 4.55 ERA in eleven games.

The big right-hander went 6-13 with a 4.70 ERA in 34 games in 2010, but turned it around in 2011, posting his first winning season since his rookie year with a 12-10 record and a much better 3.21 ERA in 34 games. In 2012, he was 11-15 with a 4.93 ERA, but led the league with 34 starts and was the team’s Opening Day starter.

Like Betancourt, Masterson made his mark on a team headed to the postseason. In 2013, he made the All-Star team for the first time in his career. He was the team’s Opening Day starter again and was 10-7 at the break with a 3.72 ERA and had 137 strikeouts in 135 1/3 innings. He threw a five-hit shutout in April, a four-hit shutout in May, and a six-hit shutout in June.

With the Indians trying to stay in contention in the playoff race in September, Masterson was bit by the injury bug. He strained his left oblique muscle during his September 2 start and was gone by the second inning and would be shelved for several starts. He returned for three relief appearances to close out the year as the Indians ran off ten straight wins to head to the AL Wild Card play-in game that they hosted and lost against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Masterson was again the lead pitcher on the Indians staff to start the 2014 season, but was ineffective and later took a trip to the disabled list. A pending free agent, he was dealt to the St. Louis Cardinals at the trade deadline, where he continued to struggle as a starter and was used in the final month of the season solely in relief. He returned to Boston for the 2015 season, but was released in August and later had surgery after struggling there. He spent 2016 in the minors with the Pittsburgh Pirates, working in 26 games (six starts).

The number 63 is not currently assigned to an active roster member of the Indians, but whomever wears it next will have big shoes to fill.

Photo: Joy R. Absalon/USA TODAY Sports



Cleveland Indians: Tribe Fest a Great Offseason Experience


Even in January, the Cleveland Indians were able to stir up excitement about the upcoming 2017 MLB season by holding Tribe Fest. Cleveland may be covered in snow, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to start getting exciting about the 2017 Cleveland Indians. I was lucky enough to attend Tribe Fest this weekend, along […]

Cleveland Indians: Tribe Fest a Great Offseason ExperienceWahoo's on FirstWahoo's on First – A Cleveland Indians Fan Site – News, Blogs, Opinion and More

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Today in Tribe History: January 30, 1978


Addie Joss is elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame through selection by the Special Veterans Committee. He is joined by longtime baseball executive Larry MacPhail.

Joss is a rare exception to the other players he joined in the Hall, as he spent just nine seasons in the Majors after meningitis quickly claimed his life just prior to the 1911 season. He spent his entire pitching career in Cleveland with the Bronchos and later the Naps, never winning fewer than 14 games in a season until an elbow injury limited him to 13 games pitched in 1910. He had winning percentages of .500 or better in all nine of his seasons, twice led baseball in ERA, and had a Major League-best 27 wins in 1907.

His impressive 1908 campaign was highlighted by a 74-pitch perfect game on October 2 against the Chicago White Sox while in the thick of a pennant chase. He finished that season with a 24-11 record, a 1.16 ERA, and a WHIP of 0.81, thanks in large part to issuing just 30 walks in 325 innings pitched on the year.

He would throw a second no-hitter against the White Sox in 1910.