Covering the Bases: Game 16

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers

Some notes and quotes from Sunday’s 6-3 win over the Tigers.

FIRST: In our daily pregame meeting with Indians manager Terry Francona, we discussed the challenges of the pending activation of left fielder Michael Brantley from the disabled list. In this case, there really wasn’t that clear-cut, this-is-definitely-the-move-that’s-coming decision.

Tyler Naquin has Minor League options, but is a true center fielder and he’s hitting well. If he were back in Triple-A, you’re talking about Jose Ramirez and Lonnie Chisenhall being backups for center field. Cody Anderson has options, but it’s way too early to jump ship after a rough start to the year. In the bullpen, a lack of Minor League options for a couple guys complicates things, too.

“Things work out,” Francona said. “They have a way of working out.”

I don’t think Sunday’s development was what Tito had in mind.

In the third inning, Carlos Carrasco ran to cover first base on a chopper from Andrew Romine. Right before he stepped on the bag with his right foot for the out, you could see the pitcher pull up awkwardly. After hitting the base, he hit the ground hard, rolling over in clear pain. When Carrasco attempted to stand up, he grabbed the back of his left leg and then dropped to his knees.

The Indians did not need this.

Carrasco sustained a left hamstring injury and was en route to Cleveland after the game to undergo an MRI exam. All the Indians have said it what is hurt. The extent of the injury won’t be public until Monday. Francona did allow himself to say that Carrasco will be going on the disabled list.

So, a transaction will be coming Monday. As it happens, Brantley was flying to Minnesota on Sunday ahead of the upcoming series with the Twins. And, while Francona would not go as far as saying the left fielder will be activated, the manager noted that he and the medical staff will meet with Brantley to discuss the situation. It is very possible that Brantley is activated on Monday ahead of the game with the Twins.

If that is indeed the move, it can delay whatever the other roster move would have been. It buys more time for Anderson. It allows Cleveland to keep its outfield and bullpen intact. If needed, Trevor Bauer can slide out of the ‘pen and back into the rotation. Adding a position player for a pitcher would be OK, because the Tribe is carrying an extra reliever right now.

It helps, too, that the Indians do not technically need a fifth starter until their May 7 game against the Royals. Off-days on on Thursday and Monday (May 2) — on either side of the road series in Philadelphia — create a situation where Cleveland could run with a four-man staff for a while.

SECOND: Throughout his season-opening stay in the bullpen, Bauer has insisted that he can pitch whenever, wherever and for however long Cleveland needs. He’s had a pretty detailed preparation schedule in the past, but he has shown a knack lately for being able to get ready in a hurry.

That was definitely put to the test on Sunday.

After the injury to Carrasco, Bauer was summoned from the bullpen with two outs in the third inning. The rubber-armed righty then spun 3.1 innings, logging 64 pitches and giving up two runs on four hits with four strikeouts and a walk. It was an admirable pitching performance under the circumstances.

“Trevor came in and really did a good job,” Francona said. “It’s easy for us to say, ‘Hey, stay ready, because you’re going to get an opportunity.’ But, to his credit, he has really stayed ready. For him to be able to throw 64 pitches and really keep the game right in check is a tribute to him. He’s kept himself in shape and his arm, he didn’t lose anything the whole time he was in there.”

After Bauer struck out Anthony Gose to end the third inning, he said he headed inside to check on Carrasco.

“It was unexpected, with what happened,” Bauer said. “Cookie was cruising right along and it was very unfortunate with what went down. Hopefully, he’s OK. That’s what was on my mind was, ‘I hope he’s OK.’ I came up in the clubhouse to check on him after I got out of that inning. I think that’s the biggest thing. The team played really well today
and hopefully Carlos is OK.”

THIRD: Tigers’ starter Shane Greene also made an early exit, leaving due to a blister on his right middle finger after walking Francisco Lindor to open the fourth inning. Cleveland had no runs on two hits to that point, so it was a great chance to jump on the Tigers’ bullpen.

Two batters later, Jose Ramirez delivered an RBI double. Marlon Byrd then added an RBI single. Naquin brought him home with a triple. In the fifth, Ramirez and Byrd came through again, and Juan Uribe added an RBI hit of his own to push Cleveland’s lead to 6-2 at the time.

“We knew we needed to [score there],” Francona said. “You’re kidding yourself if you think [the Tigers] are not going to come back. The whole day, I kept thinking I don’t want Miggy to come up with the tying run, and you just knew it was going to happen.”

HOME: That brings us to the eighth inning. Setup man Bryan Shaw allowed one run on two hits and, following a bizarre exchange with Tigers manager Brad Ausmus (more on that in a second), the righty walked two batters to load the bases with two outs.

At that juncture, Ausmus summoned slugger Miguel Cabrera of the bench as a pinch-hitter. To counter, Francona headed to the mound and called reliever Jeff Manship from the bullpen.

Manship has not allowed a run this season and now has a Major League-leading 0.82 relief ERA, dating back to last season (min. 40 innings). Prior to last year, the righty had a 6.46 ERA in 72 games across the 2009-14 seasons.

He was asked if he could imagine being called into that same situation one year ago.

“Absolutely not,” he said with a smile. “That’s why I definitely enjoyed it today.”

What’s funny is Manship did not even realize he was going to face Miggy when he began entering the game. The right-hander had been warming up and knew that Mike Aviles was the scheduled hitter for Detroit. It wasn’t until Manship heard Biggie’s “Hypnotize” blaring through the ballpark that he knew Miggy was looming.

“I didn’t know really who was up to bat until half-way in,” Manship said. “I thought Aviles was still in the game and then I could heard Miguel’s song playing. The fans were going insane.”

Manship engaged in a six-pitch battle with Miggy.

ManshipMigyy

All six pitches were sliders and Manship stayed away with the first five. The fifth breaking ball, which tailed low and far out of the strike zone, pulled the count full. It was then that Manship finally opted to go inside with another 83-mph slider. Cabrera popped it up into foul territory, where first baseman Carlos Santana made the inning-ending catch.

“[Pitching coach Mickey Callaway] and I had talked about it the whole series,” Francona said, “that if we were in a predicament, that we would be comfortable having Manny face him, just with the breaking ball.

“You’re never comfortable facing him, but Manny’s got such good deception with that breaking ball and he’s not scared of the situation. And it showed.”

EXTRAS: During J.D. Martinez’s at-bat against Shaw in the eighth inning, Ausmus complained about something to the umpires. It led to all four umps meeting near the mound before motioning for Francona to join them on the field.

“Shoot, that’s not a good feeling,” Francona said. “When there’s four umpires calling you to the principal’s office, I’m thinking, ‘What’d I do?'”

Francona didn’t do anything. It turns out that Ausmus was complaining about a white rubber wedding band that Shaw wears on his left ring finger under his glove. Between pitches, though, the reliever often removes the glove and rubs the ball. The Tigers manager wanted to be sure he wasn’t scuffing the ball.

“He had his wedding on, which is great — I’m glad he’s happily married,” Ausmus said. “And I personally don’t think he was trying to do anything to doctor the ball. But, when he got the ball from the umpire, a new ball, he would rub it up with that hand, with the ring on it. I just wanted it off, just in case, to just kind of protect our players.”

After the umps said the ring was fine, Shaw kept it on and took the mound to continue to the game. Ausmus then returned to the field, insisting that the rubber ring be removed. At that point, Shaw stuffed the ring in his back pocket and waved his left hand at the manager.

“It’s like, ‘Look, I’ll take it off to make you happy,'” Shaw said. “I told him to go back to the dugout. I’ll take it off, we’ll finish the game and I’ll wear it the next time I pitch, just like I always have for the past couple years. I’m not going to change anything. Obviously, nobody else has said anything. It hasn’t affected anything.”

Shaw joked that he’ll wear his camouflage ring next time he faces Detroit.

“Obviously, they’ve been scuffling a little bit,” Shaw said. “They were losing the last couple games, so I think he was trying to nitpick and try to find something to maybe throw
us off a little bit or something. Whatever.”

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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