Indians honor late staffer with spring cap patch

Minor Leaguers paying tribute to influential clubhouse manager Pruzinsky

February 20th, 2018

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- For the past decade, the late Matt Pruzinsky was a part of Cleveland's spring environment, and the team is now honoring his memory. There's a patch on the right side of all the hats belonging to Indians Minor League staffers and players, and will remain a part of their Spring Training uniform. The white rectangle with red trim has "MATTI P 26" written on it.

For the many players who crossed paths with Pruzinsky, a beloved clubhouse manager for Triple-A Columbus, he was very much the 26th man on the roster. The patch was the idea of Fletcher Wilkes, the home clubhouse manager at the club's Arizona facility.

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"He affected just about everyone's life who's come up through the Minor Leagues," Indians outfielder said. "He actually turned into a really good friend, getting to know him, spending a lot of time in Columbus. ... I wish we could wear it on our hats, but we'll keep him in our hearts."

Pruzinsky, who worked for the Lake County Captains prior to Columbus, also spent the past 10 years assisting with the Minor League clubhouses at the Indians' complex in Goodyear. Pruzinsky died unexpectedly on Dec. 10 at the age of 32, leaving behind his wife, who is expecting twin boys this spring. After his death, players, staff members, umpires and others swiftly contributed more than $100,000 in a fund for Pruzinksy's family.

"It goes to show you the impact he had on a lot of people," Indians pitcher said. "As a clubbie, he respected all the players, and all the players respected him. He did a great job. But he did an even better job at just being a good guy and a good friend. It was amazing to see how many people stepped up and were honoring his family, and how much they cared about him. It's a sad deal, but I think it maybe brought a lot of people together."

Gonzalez, Urshela battling for spot

was at second base during infield drills on Tuesday morning, while gloved grounders at shortstop. One day earlier, they were in the opposite positions. Expect the pair of infielders to get work all around the infield this spring, as they compete for a utility role on Cleveland's bench.

"He and Gonzy are going to move all around," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Barring something unexpected, though, there will probably be only one spot on the Opening Day roster for Gonzalez or Urshela. Complicating matters for the Indians is the fact that both players are out of Minor League options -- meaning they would be exposed to waivers if they are not added to the 25-man roster.

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"We're very aware that one of them can probably make the team," Francona said. "Now, again, things change. With a hamstring pull or something, things change. But, if we're healthy, we're going to have to make a decision and we know that. And we're also aware that we'll probably lose the other guy. They're pretty good players and we know that, and we have some anxiety about that."

Worth noting

• Relief ace missed the workouts on Monday and Tuesday due to the flu, according to Francona. The manager noted that outfielder was also sent home on Tuesday due to illness. Quipped Francona: "We talk so much about teamwork, but this is the one thing we'd like not to pass around and share."

• The Indians began live batting practice sessions on Tuesday morning. , , Mike Clevinger, Dan Otero, Merritt and Zach McAllister were among the pitchers who threw to batters for the first time this spring.

• Clevinger is the scheduled starter for Friday's 3:05 p.m. ET Cactus League opener against the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Merritt will follow Clevinger out of the bullpen. Francona said the rest of the pitching schedule is still being sorted out.

• Joe Torre, MLB's chief baseball officer, visited the Indians' camp on Tuesday to discuss the recent pace-of-play changes and other issues.