The biggest news in Clipper baseball during the last week was a ripple from the Major League squad needing a little help. As Adam Plutko was needed in Cleveland, Akron’s top pitcher, Shane Bieber, was promoted to Columbus. In his debut on May 3 against Charlotte, Bieber continued the dominance he has shown all year with one run allowed in six innings, striking out five and walking two. In addition to Plutko, Clippers’ starter Alexi Ogando was also promoted to the Indians bullpen and Shawn Morimando hit the disabled list, leaving open rotation spots for not only Bieber, but for Plutko to come back and Ryan Merritt to be added on a rehab assignment.
Merritt made his first rehab start outside of Arizona (officially beginning his 20 day rehab period) last Friday, allowing four runs over 4.1 innings while striking out two. Uncharacteristically, he allowed three home runs, but this was an issue that also plagued him when he made starts in Extended Spring Training.
Continuing with the subject of rehab assignments, Melky Cabrera also jumped directly from Extended Spring to Columbus, making his AAA debut on Monday. That game was less than exciting as he went 0 for 4 with two strike outs, but he had his first hit Tuesday morning. In both games, Cabrera has played left field as it appears the Indians would like him to take Lonnie Chisenhall‘s place in the line-up while he remains on the disabled list. Whether or not that is really necessary with the Indians outfield currently exceeding expectations is another matter.
Speaking of outfielders exceeding expectations, 31 year old journeyman Brandon Barnes has hits in eight of his last nine games including a three double game on May 3rd. He has crushed left handers this season to the tune of a .375/.448/.625, but he has been good all around as well, hitting .319/.356/.527 overall. If Cabrera isn’t able to return to his 2017 form, Barnes could be a good short term option if one is needed. He also has the bonus of being able to play all three outfield positions while Cabrera would likely be an albatross in the outfield.
Things haven’t been looking so positive around the rest of the offense. Top prospect Francisco Mejia did have his best game of the season this week, but is still just hitting .202/.254/.325 on the season with 26 strike outs to just six walks. The good news for the Indians is that he’s only 22 years old and both Roberto Perez and Yan Gomes are healthy, so they can be patient. As expected prior to the season starting, if the Indians do need an emergency catcher, it will likely be Erik Haase, who is having a very Haase’y season with three doubles, two triples and two home runs already, all while hitting .267.
Much worse off is Nellie Rodriguez, who has continued almost exactly where he left off in 2017, hitting .186/.230/.300 in 2018 after a .170/.271/.342 line last year. He has made the vast majority of the starts at 1B for the Clippers this year, but hopefully they will move on soon. Of those playing first base for the Clippers this year, Rodriguez is having a terrible season, Giovanny Urshela has been designated for assignment and Mike Napoli is out for the season. Mike Papi is having a promising season, but is better suited for the outfield while Richie Shaffer is also a better option for 3B or the outfield and may be on his last leg with a batting line very similar to Rodriguez’s.
The answer to all this could be Bobby Bradley. The Clippers will likely keep things the way they are for awhile, but while Bradley started the year weakly, he has three home runs, a triple and a double in the last week, raising his line from .103/.184/.235 on April 27th to .173/.256/.375 on May 7th. Like Mejia, he’s a near certain thing to continue this turn around and he should join the Indians other top three prospect in Columbus without too long of a wait.