The Indians’ pitching plans for the spring opener are set.
Cleveland is expected to send Cal Quantrill, Triston McKenzie, James Karinchak, Bryan Shaw and Heath Hembree to the mound in the opener.
The Indians and Reds will play an eight-inning game (although they may extend it to 8 1/2 frames if Cincinnati wants to bat again, despite the score) at Goodyear Ballpark on Sunday.
The Tribe talked with the Reds about possibly having an exhibition game on Saturday before the Cactus League season got underway Sunday, but instead, the Indians will host their own three-inning intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday afternoon.
Cleveland will have Aaron Civale, Logan Allen, Kyle Nelson and Anthony Gose pitch in the scrimmage.
Indians expecting fans in stands for 2021
On Monday, Ohio governor Mike DeWine announced that Major League teams will be permitted to have up to 30 percent seating capacity beginning this spring. The Indians are still finalizing their plans with the Cleveland Clinic and other local and state officials, but the team has begun communicating with season ticket holders about proposed plans.
“I think it's going to be huge for the players,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I knew last year, when we went to play the Pirates that first exhibition game, I remember thinking to myself 'Uh-oh.' I know I made the smart-aleck comment that they weren't drawing very well, but it's different. It's a challenge. I think having any fans at all will be welcome for anybody.”
It’s the most anxiety-filled day of the year for Francona. Every spring, the Tribe’s skipper addresses all the players at big league camp and gives a speech to prepare everyone for the upcoming year. Although it looked a little different on Tuesday, having to follow COVID-19 protocols, Francona still thinks he was able to get his message across.
“I know how I feel about the game,” Francona said, “and you hope that you say that, and you don’t leave and you go, 10 minutes later, ‘God dangit, I forgot that, or I forgot that.’ I felt pretty good about it. I felt like I touched on pretty much everything I wanted to, and I wanted to keep it a little shorter this year, just because of the protocols, with respect to that. But I felt OK about it. What’s more important is how the players feel.”
While there was plenty of opportunity for the speech to focus on what the Tribe had lost over the offseason, Francona said it was important for him to zero in on the future.
“Well, I think I did allude to the fact that we’re younger and a little inexperienced,” Francona said. “Does that get in the way or do we just view it as another challenge? But other than that, no. We look forward. This is our team. That room in there, that’s what we have. Those are the guys who form that personality, the loyalty. We’re gonna rely on each other.”
NRI Parker eyes Opening Day roster
The Indians have been known for carrying at least one non-roster invitee on their Opening Day roster over the past few seasons, and Blake Parker will look to be in that conversation. The 35-year-old right-hander owns a career 10.3 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio and pitched to a 2.81 ERA with 25 strikeouts and nine walks in 16 innings with Philadelphia last year.
“I liked the opportunity this organization brings,” Parker said. “I like the reputation that Tito has about the way he runs a team. Obviously, he's a very highly-touted manager. I like the squad that they have. The hitters and the pitchers that we have, I think it's going to be a very competitive division and I'm ready to compete.”
Although the plan could change between now and Opening Day, Francona said that he believes the team will break camp with eight relievers instead of seven.
“Early on, we have a lot of days off and that would give us an extra arm,” Francona said. “Those are all things we take into consideration, but I think eight is a pretty good bet.”