The short starts the Tribe received from Zach Plesac and Logan Allen in a three-game span this week created an opportunity for No. 25 prospect Sam Hentges to get his first promotion to the Major Leagues, costing outfielder Ben Gamel his spot on the active roster.
Hentges was summoned from the alternate site prior to Saturday’s game in Cincinnati, and Gamel, who finally notched his first hit with the Tribe on Friday night, was optioned out.
A fourth-round pick in the 2014 Draft, the left-handed Hentges’ pro progression was slowed by Tommy John surgery in 2016 and a difficult year in Double-A in 2019. But he garnered attention with his performance at the alt site last year and is stretched out to 85 pitches to provide length in the big league ‘pen, if need be.
“His curveball has been really good,” manager Terry Francona said. “His fastball velocity has been as advertised. If he throws strikes, he’s probably going to give himself a pretty good chance just because of his stuff.”
Though Gamel had a strong spring for Cleveland to earn an outfield spot, it didn’t carry over to the start of the season. He was 0-for-13 before ripping a double in Friday’s 10-3 loss.
“I think things are always magnified at the beginning of the year,” Francona said. “If you look up in the middle of July, an [0-for-13] is just part of a three-day [slump], you know? He’s a pro. He can play all three outfield positions, he knows what he’s doing, and he’s a tough kid. His last two at-bats were the best he’s swung. I told him, ‘We know you can hit. Twelve at-bats does not make a career or a year. We just got in a bind where we needed to get an arm.”
Naylor still adjusting in right
With Franmil Reyes getting a rare start in right field due to the lack of the DH spot, Josh Naylor was at his natural position at first base Saturday. But Naylor has spent the bulk of his big league career, to date, in left field, and he is still adjusting to the right field spot, where the team needs him most.
“I think he’s a little bit of a work in progress [in right],” Francona said. “I think that’s fair. He’s a tough kid, and he’s a good worker. I’ve actually talked to him about making sure you move your feet every time you throw so you don’t get an error you’re not supposed to. But he gets after it pretty good. That’s what you ask.”
Speaking of getting after it, Naylor still thinks he was safe when trying to leg out an infield single in the ninth inning of Carlos Rodón’s no-hitter on Wednesday in Chicago. Naylor dove head-first on the bang-bang play,
“Personally, I thought I was [safe],” Naylor said. “I’m not the kind of person to argue, or yell or get excited if I wasn’t. If I’m out, I’m out. I felt I was safe, but it didn’t go our way. We came back the next day and got a W, and that’s all that mattered.”
Stephan sticking so far
Rule 5 picks are a low-risk gamble on the part of the acquiring club, and the Tribe took a chance on right-hander Trevor Stephan when plucking him from the Yankees’ system in December. Stephan landed an Opening Day spot in the Cleveland bullpen and must remain in the bigs all year, or else be offered back to the Yanks.
Though the results have been mixed, the 25-year-old has been able to give Francona multiple innings out of the ‘pen twice this week. He allowed a run on four hits in two innings in Friday’s game but also struck out four batters.
“There’s a lot to like with this kid,” Francona said. “He’s still learning, obviously, but you’ve got a fastball you can get into the upper 90s, and you can spin it. That gives you a couple weapons. We try to pitch him when we’re down a little bit to give him some room. But when he’s able to pitch multiple innings, it’s good for him, because repetition is really good for him.”