It's finally time. The first day of fake games before the real games is here. After two weeks of PFP, batting and fielding practice, it is time to put everything together and see how it fits on a baseball field against another team. This is a great time as there is no focus on winning, instead working on team-work (getting that Cabrera to Kipnis double play in order) and fundamentals. Stats will be essentially thrown out from this first week of games while coaches and management look at how players play, not necessarily what the results are.
For this first game (and the second and third) the Tribe will take on the Cincinnati Reds, their Goodyear and Ohio rivals with Cleveland playing the home team on the first and third games with the Reds being home on Thursday. Last season, both teams came in second in their division and went on to lose their Wild Card game, but with internal improvements for all around, either teams could easily take over the division lead.
For Tribe fans, this game will hold a little extra excitement as it will be the debut of Trevor Bauer's new and more consistent delivery. He is currently on the outside of the competition for the fifth starter spot, but he still has a chance to blow everyone away this Spring and it starts today. Again, while the stats don't particularly matter, Terry Francona and Mickey Calloway will be taking careful note of Bauer's consistency and command of the strike zone. Velocity is unimportant at this point, as is endurance since he is only scheduled for a single inning.
In addition to Bauer, the Indians will be starting the other competitions early as well, with many borderline players taking a starting role in Opening Day. The tentative lineup includes Nyjer Morgan, David Cooper, David Adams and Jeff Francoeur, all players who will be working hard for any kind of role on the 2014 roster. Also looking to make their Indians debuts will be Aaron Harang (scheduled to pitch after Bauer) and J.C. Ramirez. This will be the first chance to see these players in action with the Tribe.
For the Indians coaching staff and upper management, watching this game and the next two weeks will go a long way into making these decisions. They will need to concentrate on each individual player while the games are happening, making decisions that will affect the lives of multiple people. The fans, on the other hand, can just enjoy the game. Finally, the Indians are playing baseball again. For those who have made it to Goodyear, enjoy the beautiful weather and sit in the sun while watching live baseball for the first time since October. For those still stuck in Cleveland, watch on STO or listen to WTAM and you can picture what it would be like if the world wasn't covered in a blanket of snow.
No more PFP, no more pop up drills…It's time for exhibition games!