Indians exemplifying “next man up” thus far

Mike Aviles

Mike Aviles

Once upon a time, nagging injuries were analogous to death knell in Cleveland. When Grady Sizemore started finding his name on the disabled list more often than not, the Indians were forced to replace him with Ezequiel Carerra. When Shin–Soo Choo was shelved in 2011, right field would subsequently be occupied by the likes of Austin Kearns. Chris Giminez, Jerad Head, Travis Buck, Jayson Nix…all potentially wonderful human beings, but men who did not exactly led to many wins when wearing Wahoo on their hat.

Fast forward to 2013 and the Cleveland Indians have finally been able to field a roster where days off for core players, be they due to day games or scheduled rest, does not lead to moans and groans when the batting order is tweeted ad nauseum roughly 90 minutes before the first pitch. The Indians are in first place in the AL Central despite having seen Carlos Santana, Michael Bourn, and Vinnie Pestano each deal with injuries that forced them to miss mulitple games. When Ubaldo Jiménez was forced to take additional days in between starts to work on mechanics, general manager Chris Antonetti has had no issues making calls to Columbus to fill in as needed. Sure, he had done this many times in the past, but starts that had previously been given to Aaron Laffey and Justin Germano are now being handed to high-end prospects like Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer.

Ryan Raburn was the hero—one of the league’s best hitters over a multiple-game stretch—just a few weeks ago. He has since cooled down in his reserve role, but this has not stopped Mike Aviles from playing lights out in a variety of positions. It was Aviles who channeled his inner Kenny Lofton by scoring from second base on a ball that was hit just a few feet in front of home plate; it was the same veteran who racked up putout after putout despite playing left field for just the third time in 502 big league games. Jason Giambi and Yan Gomes have both had their moments. Rich Hill has found a way to turn his once-promising career into a key role as a lefty with a lethal slider out of the bullpen.

During his rookie season, Carlos Santana was forced to bat third or fourth in 45 of his 46 games. This season, Santana has batted third or fourth just five times. Michael Brantley, last season’s lead-off hitter, is typically slotted in the seventh spot but has shown that he can hit third when needed. Drew Stubbs has batted ninth more often than not, but has shown no qualms about leading off. Lonnie Chisenhall gets off to a slow start? To Columbus he goes. The depth takes over while the third baseman works on his swing. It’s a level of versatility that is commonly found among championship contenders. It’s the versatility within the Indians line-up that is merely just another characteristic of  a team that continues to show that something special might be happening within the confines of Progressive Field.

Last season, the Indians actually put out a lineup where Russ Canzler hit fifth. Two days later, he hit clean-up. The Indians lost by a combined score of 20-0 over those two games. It’s been a very long time since the Indians could field a line-up with reserves that still allow fans to be comfortable. It’s also been a very long time since we have gone into every game expecting to win rather than being simply relieved when they do. After years of trying to find utility relief in the bargain bin, the Indians appear to have found the perfect combination of bodies to help trudge through the 162-game marathon.

The Indians will take to the field this afternoon with Santana and Stubbs both getting the day off as Gomes and Raburn get the call. Last year, this would be enough to turn fans away at the gate. Today, your seventh, eighth and ninth hitters are hitting .301, .298 and .271, respectively and it would surprise absoltutely no one if the Tribe completes the four-game sweep despite one of the American League’s best pitchers taking to the hill.

(AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

  • Harv 21

    THANK YOU FOR NOT MENTIONING ATTENDANCE!!!!! THAT’S ALL ANYONE DOESN’T TALK ABOUT ANYMORE IS THE ATTENDANCE! ATTENDANCE … JUST SO SO SICK OF HEARING ABOUT ATTENDANCE!!!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    I was displeased the mighty BoSox didn’t bring Mike Aviles back eventhough they really didn’t have room but glad the Indians got him. His presence along with Raburn only adds to the tremendous flexibility that the 2013 roster possesses. Giambi too although he’s more like Obi-Wan for the team. You can’t discount his presence.

  • Harv 21

    also, aviles looks like the kind of guy who gets jazzed playing for a big crowd on a perfect, no-excuse day. Kind of guy who wouldn’t let outrageous shoreway and street closures – just so a few caterers and parking lot owners could temporarily make some extra cash and Costner would deign to grace The Jake – be an excuse not to pay some of the league’s most reasonable prices on a perfect day. Perfect.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    IS TODAY SOLD OUT? ;-)

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Mike Aviles loves jazz!

  • mgbode

    have to admit that as long as this pitching continues to hold, it was the absolutely correct decision to go all-in on position players in the offseason. i was worried about it, but the strategy is working out perfectly so far.

  • Garry_Owen

    “Last year, this would be enough to turn fans away at the gate.”

    So true. This year, I actually want to see Aviles, Raburn, and Gomes play. It’s a selling point.

  • Jaker

    As I read this, Raburn and Gomes go back-to-back. Love this team right now. This is the first time since ’07 that when I wish they would do something, like a Kip walk off HR, it may actually happen. Roll Tribe!

  • Jaker

    Also, would anyone else like to see Brantley batting 3rd more often? Maybe not against lefties, but at least while Cabrera is struggling and often going with his classic 1 pitch outs with a man on base. When it comes to the best hitters on the team, I think Brantley might be right there with Carlos and Bourn.

    That is why we love this team so much. the ability to change things around and still perform well.

  • Steve

    Bourn-Swisher-Kipnis-Santana-Brantley-Cabrera-Reynolds-Giambi-Stubbs against RHP

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    The Yanimal attacks to complete the 4 game sweep of Seattle!!!

  • nj0

    We got Yan and Aviles for Esmil Rogers? Seriously?

  • Garry_Owen

    Speaking of “next man up,” Mr. Gomes . . .

  • Harv 21

    as I mentioned last week, they really have to plug Gomes in at catcher and as often as they can to figure out what they have here. Possible they may have stumbled upon the rare young catcher with both a real presence behind the plate and some hitting ability. It’s only been a few weeks, but this trade could be like the Lofton steal.

  • nj0

    The knock on Yan, and it seems legit, is that he is a hacker who doesn’t have the plate discipline to make it in the majors. The numbers have shown that to be a legit concern.

    That said, this could be a case where obsessing over OBP makes people ignore the simple fact that this guy can straight up hit and, at catcher, he doesn’t have to hit that much to be a valuable guy.

  • Harv 21

    and I’m not claiming he’d stay hot – it’s more likely that pitchers have no book on him yet and any poor discipline will soon be outed with a little more playing time. That happens to all young hitters and it becomes a matter of adjustments and counteradjustments (Cord Phelps also had a couple of hot weeks before they found the holes in his swing). I’d just like to see Gomes get that chance, because the defensive presence is already clearly superior to Santana already.