Anyone stuck in denial over the Cleveland Indians' swift demise from contention received a powerful reality check Sunday, September 2 when Tribe skipper Manny Acta revealed his batting order for the day. If I didn't know better, I would've conferred with my calendar to check the month. Only two season regulars, catcher/first baseman Carlos Santana and second baseman Jason Kipnis started. Reserve players and September call ups filled out the rest of Acta's lineup card.
Considering southpaw Derek Holland started for the opposing Texas Rangers, Manny Acta decided to rest his usual left-handed heavy batting order. A sore wrist prevented switch hitting shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera from playing. Ironically the spring training-like lineup fared equally as well as the Indians' A-squad of late, putting together three runs in an 8-3 loss to Texas. In 13 games between Sunday, August 19 and Saturday, September 1 the Tribe scored three runs or more just six times, pretty unimpressive.
Granted the Indians' reserve/September call up batting order won't become the everyday lineup till season end, September 2's starting nine still sent a clear message. That message, September will serve as early 2013 spring training. While I expect right fielder Shin-Soo Choo and center fielder Michael Brantley to continually play mostly every day, I could see first baseman Casey Kotchman and third baseman Jack Hannahan experiencing reduced playing time.
The Plain Dealer's Cleveland Indians beat reporter Paul Hoynes notes in his article "Spring Training Starts Now for Indians: MLB Insider," Kotchman and Hannahan's time as Indians could soon come to an end. Regarding Kotchman Hoynes writes, "Kotchman, the Indians' best free agent signing last winter, and that's far from a ringing endorsement, will be a free agent again this winter."
Referring to Jack Hannahan Hoynes scribes, "He (Hannahan) is eligible for arbitration. Combine that with Hannahan's .194 (18-for-93) batting average since the All-Star break, and this could be his last season in Cleveland." Youngster Lonnie Chisenhall offers a logical successor to Hannahan. Chisenhall batted .278 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 24 games this season before a broken bone in his right arm landed him on the DL. Cleveland does believe Chisenhall will return before the current campaign ends.
Personally, I'm most intrigued to see how manager Manny Acta divides up time out in left field. Ezequiel Carrera has played the bulk of the time out there since early August when the Indians designated veteran Johnny Damon for assignment. With September call ups, will new big leaguer Thomas Neal receive regular playing time out there? If he does and enjoys success too, would chances of the Indians trading Shin-Soo Choo this offseason increase?
Shin-Soo Choo becomes a free agent after the 2013 campaign and he will likely exceed Cleveland's small market budget. Yet as of today no right field replacement has emerged. Neal can play right so perhaps he can destine himself as Choo's successor.
Overall despite their free fall through the AL Central standings, the Cleveland Indians possess several storylines to follow as the disappointing 2012 season wraps up.
Zachary Fenell fell in love with the Cleveland Indians during the 1995 season when the Tribe powered their way to the organization's first World Series appearance since 1954. While the Indians lost some allure since the 1990s you will still find Zachary watching the games on TV, listening to them on the radio, or best yet taking in a game from the stands at Progressive Field.
More from This Contributor:
- Sports & Recreation
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- Manny Acta
- Jack Hannahan
- Casey Kotchman