Despite a rare desert rain, the Indians got off a strong start to the 2014 Spring season, going 5-1 in the first week of play. Despite an 8-3 loss on Opening Day to the Reds, the pitching has been stellar the rest of the way, posting a team ERA of 3.67 the first week (in the Cactus League, only the Angels, Diamondbacks and Mariners are better). After the day one loss, the Indians rattled off five wins in a row, beating the Reds 12-3 and 4-0 in their next two games. They were then rained out in Glendale against the White Sox before knocking off the Mariners 6-3, winning 6-5 on the road against the Rangers, and walking off 4-3 at home against the White Sox yesterday.
At this point, pitchers are still only throwing one to two innings per appearance, so their team success in keeping others from scoring is even more impressive. Rather than the results of one or two good starters, the results have come from the use of 27 different pitchers. Of those, 12 have yet to allow a run, including Zach McAllister, Nick Hagadone, Preston Guilmet and Josh Outman who have done so over multiple innings.
Not included in that group is a pitcher of great interest this Spring, Trevor Bauer. Bauer has pitched three innings in two games (including the Opening Day start) and met mixed results. On Opening Day he walked the first batter (speedster Billy Hamilton), who proceeded to take second on a steal and third on a Yan Gomes error. Despite another walk, Bauer got out of the jam without the run scoring, a small microcosm of his career so far. Currently, he leads the team in strike outs (3), walks (2), innings (3) and runs allowed (2), showing already his extreme highs and lows.
There is little to report on the offensive front, including in the battles for the final roster spots. The outfield has been the most productive to this point with Michael Brantley (.429 AVG, .929 OPS) and Ryan Raburn (.500 AVG, 1.738 OPS) leading the way. Of course, in addition to Spring Training stats not really mattering at all, these are completely unqualified as well. To prove this fact even more, soon to be AAA catcher Jake Lowery leads the team in RBI while just receiving one at bat. Against the Reds in game two, he provided the early lead with a huge grand slam and his four RBI have stood up to this point.
Probably the most interesting storyline to this point in Spring, Carlos Santana has already played three games and thirteen innings at third base. In just four total chances, he has already committed an error, but again, this needs to be qualified. The Indians defense as a whole has been questionable with McAllister making an error on his only defensive play and Mike Aviles also going one for two. This has generally been the weakest part of the team to this point, but since two of the culprits, Yan Gomes and Aviles, were two of the Indians strongest defenders in 2013, these numbers should not be taken too seriously either.
As the Spring advances, everything will become more important until the team finally leaves for California at the end of the month, but for now, the most important news out of camp is that there have been no major injuries. Some arm issues from Matt Capps (who has no chance at making the team anyway) and a twisted ankle that has already healed from Jose Ramirez have been the only pains worth noting.
Some unexpected clouds darkened the skies in this Mariners-Indians game.