The Cleveland Indians opened their 2010 Cactus League season Friday against the interstate rival Cincinnati Reds; beating the Red’s 9-2 behind 15 hits and solid pitching. Indians pitchers held Cincinnati to just five hits while striking out nine and walking just one.
It’s very early; but there are some potentially valuable nuggets to take from this game.First, Cleveland’s pitchers are going to have to throw strikes this season. 2009 was brutal for Cleveland pitching.The Indians finished the season 2nd worst in ERA (5.07), 5th in BB/9 (3.75), 28th in K/BB (1.65) and 6th in HR/9 (1.15). By the numbers, Cleveland’s staff was the 2nd to Baltimore as the worst staff in baseball. If they are going to be competitive, they are going to have to rely on an average or above-average pitching staff. In order for this staff to do that, they cannot afford to give too much away. Suffice it to say, the Indians are going to need to control the ball a little more and hit the zone, especially to stay ahead in the count and keep opposing runners off base. In Friday’s game, three pitchers critical to Cleveland’s success this season retired every batter faced. Those pitchers are Aaron Laffey, Rafael Perez and Chris Perez, who combined for 4 IP, 3 K’s, and 0 BB. Another player who will be relied on heavily is starter Justin Masterson who faced seven batters in 2 IP with 3 K’s and 0 BB’s while throwing only 13 pitches, all strikes. I for one am extremely high on Masterson who looked stellar in his final outing of last season 9 IP, 12 K’s and 2 BB’s while giving up only one earned run; Friday’s performance was in a similar vein.
On the offensive side, the Tribe just plain hit the ball, with 11 of their 20 batters collecting hits including three doubles, a triple, and three homers while going 5 for 14 with runners in scoring position. Also, 4 of the 11 players had multiple hits. Cleveland also showed some patience accumulating five walks while striking out six times. Newly appointed leadoff man Asdrubal Cabrera lead the game off with a homer, going 2 for 3 and up and coming left fielder Nick Weglarz hit a mammoth opposite field home run and walked in his only other plate appearance.
There’s not a lot to analyze from this as it is only one game, but I liked what I saw on both sides of the ball. I think that Cleveland will put up runs. If we get some pitching support, things could get interesting, especially playing in the AL Central. It’s truly hard to project what will happen this season, but it’s good to come out of the gate with such a strong, encouraging performance.I really hope that Indians’ pitchers throw strikes this season, if for no other reason than for me to keep my sanity. Today was definitely a step in the right direction.