Covering the Bases: March 17

Kluber2Final: Reds 5, Indians 4

FIRST: There are setbacks that are easier to accept in Spring Training than during the regular season. Monday’s second-inning showing by Indians righty Corey Kluber is a fine example.

Cincinnati rocked Kluber for three runs on five hits and loaded the bases before the starter escaped with a strikeout to Joey Votto. In the regular season, Tribe manager Terry Francona may have been more tempted to turn to his bullpen early. To a point, it’s easier to let a pitcher work through things in the spring.

Francona stuck with Kluber, who got out of second, breezed through the third and fourth, and pitched into the fifth.

“The second inning, he gave up some hits and some balls were hit pretty hard,” Francona said. “But he came back in the third and fourth and, in the third inning, he threw six pitches, all strikes. Fourth inning, seven pitches, all strikes. And got them out. I thought that was really impressive. In a Spring Training game, you can kind of hang your hat on that.

“It was a long second inning, and you’re almost getting to the point where you almost take him out, and then he ends up getting deep enough where it ends up being a really productive outing.”

Overall, Kluber said he was pleased with how his pitches were working.

“I felt really good,” Kluber said. “I felt like for the most part my stuff was right where I needed it to be. There was a decent amount of soft contact, broken bats and things like that. In that second inning, I left a few balls up and there was also some fly balls that got caught in the wind. That’s bound to happen.”

Was Kluber working on any specific pitch or approach in this outing?

“No. I’m just trying to go out there and get ready at this point,” Kluber said. “I think now is kind of the time to start trying to lock in and get ready to go — for me, at least. I’m at the point now where I feel my stuff is where I need it to be. So it’s just a matter of going out there and getting to a point where you can consistently execute all your pitches.”

In all, Kluber was charged with three runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, in which he struck out five and walked two. Those two walks are his only free passes of the spring in 14 1/3 innings. Kluber has 15 strikeouts. The ERA (5.02) leaves something to be desired, but the last thing anyone with Cleveland is doing is basing evaluations on Cactus League stats. Stuff-wise, Francona has been impressed with Kluber, who will open as the team’s No. 2 starter.

“I think he looks really good, I really do,” Francona said. “He’s got such late action on all his pitches, and he’s aggressive. Again, I think the more he pitches, the more people are going to realize how good this kid is.”

SECOND: Francona has been conservative to this point when it comes to the instant-replay challenges he’s had the chance to use in a select number of games this spring. Monday’s game marked another chance for a review, and it was the Reds who used that ability this afternoon.

In the fifth inning, Brandon Phillips was called out on a stolen-base attempt of third. The throw beat him to the bag, but Phillips appeared to get his hand on the base ahead of Lonnie Chisenhall’s tag. Reds manager Bryan Price saw it that way, so he challenged the ruling by umpire Alan Porter.

Cincinnati asked the play to b reviewed and, following a one-minute delay, the call was overturned.

“I didn’t think it was bad,” Francona said of the timing. “I think everybody seems to be working together to get the play right.”

Kluber said the replay review timing was OK from his perspective as well.

“I thought it worked fine,” Kluber said. “I don’t exactly know what their protocols are and stuff, but it didn’t seem to me like it took too long. It seemed like a pretty speedy process and didn’t really interupt the flow of the game too much. I thought it was fine.”

THIRD: In the fourth inning, Indians first baseman Nick Swisher yanked the first pitch from Cincy’s Mike Leake down the right-field line for a solo home run. It marked the second day in a row that Swisher went yard for the Tribe. Over his past four games, Swisher has gone 4-for-11 at the plate, following a 2-for-16 showing earlier this spring. With two weeks until the season opener, Cleveland can only hope that Swisher is getting his bat revved up.

“We kind of said it a couple weeks ago,” Francona said, “as guys start playing back to back games, and they string some at-bats together, you’ll start to see them get their timing. That’s kind of the normal course of Spring Training.”

HOME: During Cincinnati’s hectic second inning — the Reds’ offensive outburst included two doubles, one triple and a hit-by-pitch, among other things — infield umpire Brad Myers was the unfortunate recipient of a line drive off the bat of Phillips. Myers fell to the ground in obvious pain and, well, let’s just say he was carted off the field in a three-ball count.

Did Kluber see where Myers got hit?

“I heard him say where he got hit. I didn’t see it,” Kluber said with a smirk. “I’ll leave that to your imagination.”

Myers was replaced in the field by umpire John Trumpane (he had been in the replay truck), who was later drilled in the rump by a throw from Indians Minor League first baseman Joe Sever. Not a great day for Team Blue.

Francona said he had never seen an umpire get drilled in the field like Myers did on Wednesday.

“Never. Never,” Francona said. “Man, I’ll tell you, I don’t think I’d even watch a game without wearing a cup. That’s dangerous, man. He got smoked.”

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Catch up on Cleveland’s camp with these links…

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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