Down on the farm: Weekly checkin on Cleveland Indians affiliates

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Editor’s Note: We have not given enough love to our affiliates all season, and given the number of top-level players we have at our various affiliates, we’ll begin doing so each week throughout the second half. Look for these updates every Saturday or Sunday. All numbers are through games played Thursday, July 21.

While the Indians are sitting atop the American League, let’s take a moment to recognize the talent the Tribe still has waiting in the wings.

– Columbus has come out of the All-Star break swinging, going 5-3 with a pair of walk-off wins since July 14. The first-place Clippers own a 4.0 game lead in the International League West division with a 54-46 record.

Infielder/outfielder Yandy Diaz owns an 11-game hitting streak, which is tied for the 4th-longest active streak in the IL. Diaz is batting .435 with five RBI, seven runs scored, eight walks and just five strikeouts during the streak.

The 24-ear-old Cuban has made 27 starts in the outfield for Columbus this season after playing the infield exclusively in his first two professional seasons. He has made just two errors in 68 total chances with five outfield assists.

Third baseman Giovanny Urshela has also been on a tear since the break, batting .361 (13-for-36) in his last eight games. The 24-year-old has hit safely in each of his last five games, going 11-for-24 (.429) with two homers, three RBI and five runs scored.

– Akron followed a three-game skid with a three-game streak to go 4-3 this past week. At 54-45, the RubberDucks are in a de facto tie for first place in the Eastern League’s Western division, trailing the Harrisburg Senators (53-44) by .001 percentage points.

Outfielder Bradley Zimmer came on strong this week, going 9-for-19 (.474) with three multi-hit games in his last five. Although he has struck out the fourth-most times in the EL this season (112), he leads the league in walks (55), is second in stolen bases (31) and has racked up the fourth-most extra-base hits (40).

The Ducks have also gotten some great performances from their bullpen of late. Right-hander Grant Sides has not allowed an earned run since June 5 (20.1IP) and has not allowed a run of any kind since July 2 (7.1IP). Righty J.P. Feyereisen has not surrendered an earned run since June 16 (12.0IP), and owns a streak of eight straight scoreless appearances (10.2IP).

– Lynchburg extended its winning streak to eight games with a 5-0 week. The Hillcats are 17-8 in the second half (62-33 overall) with a one-game lead over the second-place Potomac Nationals.

The Hillcats capped the week with a trio of shutouts, all started by southpaws, as Lynchburg allowed 11 combined hits over those three games. Luis Lugo started things off Monday as he fanned 10 and allowed just three hits over 7.0 innings, Justus Sheffield allowed four hits and three walks while fanning eight over 6.2 innings on Wednesday and Thomas Pannone held the Carolina Muscats to one hit and one walk with three strikeouts over 7.0 innings on Thursday.

Not to be outdone by their pitching staff, Lynchburg hitters batted .348 with 40 runs scored this week. Anthony Santander hit .391 (9-for-23) with four home runs, five runs scored and 10 RBI in five games. The 21-year-old Venezuelan outfielder leads Lynchburg with 21 RBI in 17 games in July.

– Lake County went 3-2 in an odd week that featured a doubleheader, consecutive off days and a postponed game. The Captains are currently fifth in the Midwest League Eastern division with a 10-15 second-half record (50-45 overall), 6.5 games out of first place.

Outfielder Nathan Lukes was arguably Lake County’s most effective hitter last week, going 7-for-20 with four RBI, four runs scored, one triple and three home runs in five games. A seventh round pick by the Indians in last year’s draft, Lukes is 13th in the ML with a .302 average.

Right-hander Matt Esparza turned in the outing of the week for Lake County hurlers, as he held Quad Cities scoreless on four hits and no walks with seven strikeouts over 6.0 innings of work on Sunday in Iowa. His 3.09 ERA (33ER/96.0IP) this season ranks fifth among Midwest League pitchers that have thrown at least 90.0 innings.

– Mahoning Valley has struggled this season, sitting in fifth place and 10.0 games back in the New York-Penn League Pinckney division, but has turned it on in the last two weeks, winning seven of their last 11 games.

The Scrappers have been carried by their stellar starting rotation. Right-hander Triston McKenzie, the 42nd overall pick in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, is 3-2 with a 0.48 ERA through seven starts as he has allowed just two earned runs with 42 strikeouts in 37.2 innings this season. The 6-foot-5, 18-year-old leads the league in ERA, is second in strikeouts and sixth in innings pitched.

Cleveland’s second-round pick in last year’s draft, left-hander Juan Hillman, has also impressed, going 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA (7ER/33.1IP) through seven starts. The 19-year-old southpaw owned a 0.89 ERA through his first six starts before allowing six runs, four earned, on six hits and two walks over 3.0 innings in his last start on Thursday.

– The AZL Indians are off to a hot start in the desert as they lead the AZL Central division at 17-8. The Indians went 5-1 this week as they have won 10 of their last 12 games.

Infielder Jorma Rodriguez is third in the AZL with a .383 average, and is reaching base at the fourth-highest rate (.451). Nolan Jones, Cleveland’s second round pick in this year’s draft, has also performed well in his first professional setting. The 18-year-old third baseman is batting .333 (9-for-27) with eight walks and 11 strikeouts in his first eight games.

–TribeVibe contributor Robert Davidson

 

Antonetti headlines PCA’s ‘Breakfast with the Indians’; nominations for area baseball/softball coaches of the year now open

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The Positive Coaching Alliance’s Cleveland Chapter will host a Breakfast with the Indians event at Progressive Field on August 16 with the Cleveland Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti headlining an all-star panel.

Other panelists include the Indians director of player development Carter Hawkins and former big leaguer and manager of youth baseball development initiatives Matt Kata with Fox Sports Ohio broadcaster Jeff Phelps moderating the discussions. Panel discussions will help local sports coaches learn how to unleash the power of positive coaching at the youth level with topics including performance benefits derived from positive coaching techniques and how the Indians evaluate and develop talent.

Tickets for the PCA’s Breakfast with the Indians fundraising event can be purchased here – those interested are encouraged to purchase tickets early.

Additionally, the Baseball/Softball Coach of the Year award nominations is open! The award recognizes a dedicated baseball or softball coach who has demonstrated commitment to a positive approach on and off the field. Make your nominations here!

Mike Napoli wins 2016 Cleveland Indians Heart and Hustle Award

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The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) is pleased to announce Mike Napoli as the Cleveland Indians 2016 Heart and Hustle Award winner. This esteemed award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.

The Heart and Hustle Award is also the only award in Major League Baseball that is voted on by former players.

“Mike is always focused on all aspects of the game,” said Indians hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo. “He looks to take the extra base or advance on a ball in the dirt. He is a winning player.”

HOUSTON, TX - MAY 11:  Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians receives congratulations from third base coach Mike Sarbaugh #16 after hitting a home run in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: Mike Napoli #26 of the Cleveland Indians receives congratulations from third base coach Mike Sarbaugh #16 after hitting a home run in the fourth inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on May 11, 2016 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The MLBPAA formed 30 committees, comprised of Alumni players with established relationships to each team. One player from each Major League team is chosen by the committees based on their passion, desire and work ethic demonstrated both on and off the field. These players will be recognized prior to an upcoming home game. As the season draws to a close, fans, all Alumni and active players will vote to select the final winner from the 30 team winners.

The previous overall winners are David Eckstein (2005), Craig Biggio (2006, 2007), Grady Sizemore (2008), Albert Pujols (2009), Roy Halladay (2010), Torii Hunter (2011), Mike Trout (2012), Dustin Pedroia (2013), Josh Harrison (2014) and Anthony Rizzo (2015).

The final winner will be announced on November 15, 2016 at the 17th Annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York City. This event is the primary fundraiser for the series of free Legends for Youth Baseball Clinics. These clinics impact more than 15,000 children each year at 150 clinics, allowing them the unique opportunity to interact with and learn from players who have left a lasting impact on the game of baseball.

For more information regarding the Heart and Hustle Award, please contact Nikki Warner, Director of Communications, by e-mail at Nikki@MLBPAA.com or by calling (719) 477-1870, ext. 105.

For Mayfield native Mitch Longo and his father, Mark, being drafted by the Cleveland Indians is a dream come true

Ohio Bobcats outfielder Mitch Longo (10) (Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics)

Ohio Bobcats outfielder Mitch Longo (10) (Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics)

It’s the call all young baseball players dream of their whole lives. All the work, hours, training, batting practice — Everything you’ve ever worked for, and you finally get your chance.

For Ohio University outfielder Mitch Longo, that chance came on June 11 — the third day and in the 14th round of the 2016 MLB Draft.

That Saturday in June was one Mitch’s father, Mark, remembers all too well.

Mitch (left) and Mark (right) Longo donning their Cleveland Indians cap after Mitch made it official. From Twitter: @MitchLongo10

Mitch (left) and Mark (right) Longo donning their Cleveland Indians cap after Mitch made it official. From Twitter: @MitchLongo10

“We were anxious as the draft began,” Mark said, “Mitch had been receiving a lot of feedback from teams leading up to the draft, but the Indians weren’t really one of them.”

He paused for a moment. “Actually,” he said, “He did have an interview with a scout from the Indians at OU in the fall, said it was one of the toughest interviews he’d ever had. But, he never heard anything else, so we just figured they weren’t interested.”

Mark and Mitch had met in Columbus to watch Mitch’s brother play in an All-Star game at Ohio State, but Mark just knew what was on Mitch’s mind. So, he suggested the two head to the Easton Town Center in Columbus to pass some time.

“I knew it was weighing heavily on him,” Mark said, “I had to do something to get his mind off the draft. So, why not hit the mall?”

But in the time it took the two, driving in separate cars, to get to Easton — Mitch received a phone call that would change his life.

“We were driving in separate cars,” Mark Longo recalls. “I was driving behind him, and we were talking on the phone. Then, all of a sudden, he cut me off: ‘Dad, hold on, I’ve got a phone call coming in!’ I was so excited.”

Just like that, a few minutes later, Mark knew it was good news on the other line.

“Oh we were driving on the highway, and I see Mitch roll down his window and start fist pumping,” Mark said, “He was pointing me off the exit, so we met at the BP station right off the highway.”

Mitch was still on the phone, but that didn’t stop proud papa Mark from interrupting.

“I jumped out of my car immediately” Mark recalls, “I was all the way across the parking lot, but I shouted out to him: WHO IS IT?!”

To which Mitch, grinning ear-to-ear shouted back, “INDIANS!”

Mark ran across the parking lot and hugged him, a moment so special the scout on the other end of the line later told the Longos he had goosebumps just hearing the exchange.

See, for Mitch, a native of Mayfield Heights, Ohio, the Cleveland Indians were the team he had forever been a fan of. He grew up admiring former Indians second baseman and Hall of Famer Robbie Alomar, a man who really inspired Mitch’s love of baseball at an early age.

Ohio Bobcats outfielder Mitch Longo (10) (Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics)

Ohio Bobcats outfielder Mitch Longo (10) (Calvin Mattheis | Ohio Athletics)

Mark, a former Tribe fantasy camp participant, was asked to sum up his emotions when Mitch got the call.

“One word? Surreal. You know, you always dream of your kid going to the next level, but having it be for the team you know he’s always wanted to play for? Well, that’s just surreal,” he said.

As a father, Mark describes seeing Mitch begin his journey to the bigs with his hometown team is really special, but selfishly, the first thing that crossed his mind?

“Oh this is excellent,” Mark laughed, “Now I don’t need to buy new gear — I can keep and even more proudly wear all my Indians gear!”

-TribeVibe contributor Missy Perez

PHOTO GALLERY: Cleveland Indians wallop New York Yankees behind five homers, Kluber

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The Indians hit five homers, including an epic 460footer by Mike Napoli that hit the scoreboard on a bounce, in a 10-2 win over the Yankees on Friday night in front of a sellout crowd of 34,045. The Indians have won 17 of 21 overall and 14 of 16 at home.

The Tribe hit three homers in the first inning, by Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. After Napoli’s mammoth homer made it 6-0, Francisco Lindor had an RBI double and Napoli an RBI single. Later, Kipnis hit his second homer of the game after Yan Gomes chipped in with an RBI groundout.

Lost in the offensive explosion was a dominant outing by All-Star Corey Kluber, who allowed a run in eight innings to improve to 9-8 and lowered his ERA to 3.61.

Notes

  • The Indians are 40-10 when scoring first
  • Indians starters have an AL high 23 games of eight or more strikeouts
  • Kipnis registered his third career two-homer game
  • Santana is the first Indians player to hit 20 or more homers before the All-Star break since Grazy Sizemore in 2008
  • Napoli’s 13 homers at home are the most in the AL
  • The Tribe’s three-homer first was the team’s first inning of three or more since they hit four on June 26 in Detroit
  • Young pitcher Joe Colon made his big-league debut in relief of Kluber in the ninth

Tips for Friday’s near-sellout Cleveland Indians tilt with the New York Yankees

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The Indians continue their final series before the All-Star Break with a near-sellout crowd Friday at Progressive Field against the Yankees.

The first-place Tribe will look to continue its recent run of dominance at home; through games played Wednesday, the Indians had won 13 of their past 15 at Progressive Field.

Here is some important information to make your experience as enjoyable as possible:

  • All gates open at 5PM: Due to a near-sellout crowd, we’ve changed our gate time procedures to all gates opening at 5PM.
  • Arrive early: To ensure your best chance at obtaining an Indians banner courtesy of McDonald’s – available to 10,000 fans on Friday – we encourage fans to arrive early. Additionally, due to preparations for the Republican National Convention, the area around the ballpark will be more crowded than normal and we encourage fans to allow extra time to arrive and get situated before first pitch.
  • KeyBank Hassle-Free Weekend: KeyBank will be providing fans with exclusive experiences and giveaways all weekend, including seat upgrades, hot dogs, popcorn and ice cream, all courtesy of the bank’s “Hassle-Free” checking account. Plus, stop by Key’s booth on Gateway Plaza to exchange your old Tribe hat for a new one, while supplies last.
  • Other pregame activities: Arrive early to enjoy $2 Miller Lite from 5-7PM in the Right Field District, plus Sugardale Dollar Dog night all evening. All fans will enjoy post-game fireworks (Summer Anthem theme) courtesy of Wayside Furniture.
  • Parking: Due to RNC prep, the Gateway East parking garage will be passes only.

GALLERY: Cleveland Indians pitchers Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw donate a turf wiffle ball field to Providence House

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Cody and Mallory Allen, Bryan and Kristen Shaw, and the Cleveland Indians have donated a turf wiffle ball field to the Providence House, a crisis nursery located in Cleveland’s Ohio City neighborhood, with an official unveiling this morning.

Allen, Shaw and the Indians have partnered with The Motz Group to build the wiffle ball field, which will be located in Providence House’s back yard. Additionally, wiffle balls, bats and other equipment will be donated along with the field. Allen and Shaw spent time this morning playing wiffle ball and visiting with kids during the field unveiling!

Providence House is a nonprofit organization that strives to end child abuse and neglect by protecting at-risk children, empowering families in crisis and by building safer communities. Cleveland Indians players and the Wives Association are long-time volunteers and supporters of Providence House.

PHOTO GALLERY: Cleveland Indians win 13th straight home game by beating Detroit Tigers

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The Indians beat the Tigers, 12-1, on Tuesday night, the club’s 13th straight win at home and 11th straight win over the Tigers in 2016.

In those 16 games, the Indians have outscored the Tigers (77-24); the 11 straight wins over the Tigers are the most by the Indians in a single season against Detroit since Cleveland went 12-0 against the Tigers in 1996.

Scoring summary:

  • Second: Rajai Davis doubled home Jose Ramirez and Tyler Naquin got Lonnie Chisenhall home with a groundout
  • Fourth: Chisenhall doubled in Mike Napoli and Davis followed with a sac fly to score Ramirez
  • Fifth: Francisco Lindor doubled home Jason Kipnis, Ramirez got Lindor home with a groundout and Chisenhall doubled Napoli home
  • Sixth: Naquin hit his seventh homer, while Napoli followed with an RBI single and Ramirez an RBI fielder’s choice for a 10-1 lead
  • Eighth: Carlos Santana hit an opposite-field homer, his 19th; he led the team with 19 in the entire 2015 season
    • Chisenhall added his fourth hit of the night, an RBI single to score Kipnis

–Photos by Dan Mendlik/Maureen MacGregor

Cleveland Indians SS Francisco Lindor swaps signed batting gloves with a young fan

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When Makhi Williams and his mom came to Progressive Field on Tuesday night, they had one goal in mind, one person they just desperately wanted to meet.

“My favorite player is by far Francisco Lindor,” said the 9-year-old from Garfield Heights, Ohio.

So much his favorite, in fact, that Makhi had a plan if he were given the chance to meet his hero. He even came prepared.

Makhi plays on the Parma Warriors Youth Baseball team, so, a ballplayer himself, his plan was to ask his favorite player if he wanted to swap batting gloves.

Makhi and his mom got to the ballpark early and lined up along the third base line where they hoped Lindor would come, as he often did, to sign some autographs pregame.

And that he did.

Makhi excitedly explained this situation to Frankie, handled him his gloves and, without hesitation, Frankie called over a bat boy. He whispered something quickly to the bat boy, and continued signing for fans on the third base line.

Minutes later, the bat boy reemerged with a fresh pair of Francisco’s white gloves — emblazoned, as all of his equipment is, with “B.C.” for “be consistent”, something Lindor hopes to be reminded of each time he looks down.

He signed the batting gloves for Makhi, as Makhi exclaimed “You just made my life, you’re the best player EVER!”

frankie signing batting gloves

Frankie then posed for photos and safely tucked Makhi’s batting gloves into his back pocket right aside his own pair of “B.C.” batting gloves, and he went back to warm up along the third-base line.

As he ran out, he made a gesture back to Makhi, who, as you could imagine was clutching onto his fresh new batting gloves and showing off his best Francisco Lindor impression.

No, not making ridiculous web-gem caliber plays, but instead, grinning from ear-to-ear.

-TribeVibe Contributor Missy Perez

PHOTO GALLERY: Cleveland Indians beat Tigers on Mike Napoli homer

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Mike Napoli hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the seventh to help the Indians beat the Tigers, 5-3, in front of a sellout crowd of 34,163 at Progressive Field on Monday night/Tuesday morning.

With their 10th straight win over the Tigers to start the season, the Indians now lead the AL Central by 6.5 games. The Tribe also is only one game behind the Texas Rangers for best record in the American League.

Cleveland has already clinched the season series against Detroit, and the club’s current 12-game home winning streak is the longest by any American League team since Cleveland won 14 straight games at Progressive Field April 3-May 10, 2011.

Carlos Santana drove in Napoli in the second with an RBI single, and Francisco Lindor followed with two sacrifice flies. Steven Moya homered for the Tigers in the fifth, and Nick Castellanos followed with a two-run shot in the sixth.

Danny Salazar got a no-decision, allowing three runs in 5.2 innings while striking out six. His AL-best ERA climbed to 2.36.

Napoli is second on the team in homers, behind Carlos Santana’s 18. Napoli hit 18 homers in 2015 and 17 in 2014, in nearly double the amount of games. Twelve of his homers this year have come at Progressive Field.

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