The Clippers had a good week of baseball heading into the AAA All-Star break, going 7-3 against division rivals Toledo and Louisville. First the Clippers swept the Mudhens in a 3-game series at Toledo, and then took 3 of 4 against Louisville at home over the 4th of July weekend. The team is now 55-33 and they hold a commanding 11 lead in the International League West at the season’s midpoint.
Wojciechowski Out, Civale In as Clippers’ Ace – A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Asher Wojciechowski coming on as the Clippers’ ace and steadying hand on an inconsistent pitching staff this season. Last week, after he was deservedly named an International League All-Star, the Indians traded Wojciechowski to the Baltimore Orioles for cash considerations. As well as he was pitching this season (8-2, 3.61 ERA), the Indians likely did not see the 30-year old right-hander as part of their present or future. They continuously passed him up for younger pitching prospects as the injuries piled up at the major league level. Woj pitched well for Columbus this season, and we wish him the best with the Orioles organization. The Clippers may see him again this season if he pitches for the Norfolk Tides, Baltimore’s AAA affiliate.
Perhaps the rise of righty Aaron Civale led to the trade of Wojciechowski. Civale has slipped into the role of “ace” of the Clippers’ pitching staff. After his dominant spot start for the Indians a few weeks ago, he was optioned back to the Clippers where he has been excellent. In five starts with the Clippers, he is 3-0 with a 1.63 ERA. Last week at Toledo, he pitched 8 innings and gave up one earned run to earn the win. In that start he had seven strikeouts, no walks, and gave up just one hit. With his performance for Columbus, Civale seems to be signaling to the Indians that he is ready to be the next man up the next time Cleveland needs a pitcher.
Bullpen options dwindling with injury striking several top prospects It’s a good thing the Indians’ bullpen has pitched well during the first half of the season, because several of the young arms they were hoping might help this season have gone down to injury. Nick Sandlin, last year’s draft pick out of the University of Southern Mississippi, was rocketing through the Indians’ farm system and got his first taste of AAA with the Clippers a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, last week the Indians shut him down for the rest of the season with a forearm injury. That’s a blow to a pitcher who seemed destined for Cleveland sometime this season.
Meanwhile, righty James Karinchak would likely be in Cleveland by now as he was blowing the doors off of every minor league stop he made over the past few seasons. His 96-97 mph fastball would be a natural fit to set up closer Brad Hand in Cleveland. He remains down with a hamstring injury going into the All-Star break. But a hammy is not a shoulder, elbow or forearm, so with any luck he will get back to full health soon. Hopefully he’ll be back in time to assist a Clippers and/or Indians post-season run.
Ka’ai Tom gets the Call-Up– Outfielder Ka’ai Tom got the call-up from AA last week after Greg Allen was promoted to Cleveland and Mike Papi went on the IL.The 5’9″ 190 lb. Tom was drafted by the Indians in 2015 out of the University of Kentucky. He was considered a promising outfield prospect, but has played mostly mediocre baseball throughout his minor league career. That is until this season when he hit fire with the Akron Rubberducks. In 81 games with Akron Tom hit .285 with 14 HR, 12 2B, 6 3B, and 42 RBI. Tom got off to a hot start with Columbus over the weekend, hitting .455 (5-for-11) with an RBI and a run scored. Something seems to have clicked for Tom this season, and it will be fun to watch the Hawaiian-born outfielder continue to develop against AAA competition.
Congrats to the Clippers’ 2019 All-Stars: Brandon Barnes, Eric Haase, Josh Smith and Asher Wojciechowski – The Clippers are sending four players to the AAA All-Star game in El Paso, Texas this week. Catcher Eric Haase has really found his power stroke this season, clubbing 23 HR and hitting a very respectable .261, and playing really well behind the plate. Outfielder Brandon Barnes, who competed in the AAA Home Run Derby last night, is hitting .289 with 20 HR and 63 RBI on the season. Both Haase and Barnes are All-Stars for the second year in a row.
Josh Smith is a reliever who has had a cup of coffee with Cleveland this season. With the Clippers he is 6-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 26 games this season. In 34.2 IP, Smith has racked up 49 strikeouts, 14 walks, and given up 16 hits on his way to a well-deserved All-Star bid. Wojciechowski, as mentioned above, was just traded to Baltimore. He pitched well for the Clippers rotation in the first half of the season, and earned his All-Star bid. Wojciechowski is currently on the Baltimore’s 25-man roster, and has pitched in 2 games for the Orioles since being traded.
Carlos Carrasco, Mr. Cleveland – Before wrapping up this article and heading into the All-Star Break, I’d like to take a moment to wish Carlos Carrasco and his family the best. Carrasco is the longest-tenured player on the Indians roster, and widely considered one of the best people in the game, let alone one of the best pitchers. For the past 4 years, Carrasco has been the Indians’ nominee for MLB’s Roberto Clemente Award, which annually recognizes a player who best represents the game through character, community involvement, philanthropy and positive contributions on and off the field. Carrasco and his family’s efforts to help at-risk kids both in Cleveland and in his native Venezuela are well-documented. He is by all accounts a kind and good man, and one helluva pitcher. Last night, he arrived at the Home Run Derby in a Cleveland All-Star jersey, sporting the names of his four teammates named to the All-Star game this season. Needless to say, Cleveland and the entire baseball community is rooting for a quick recovery for Carrasco.