If it feels like it has been awhile since the Cleveland Indians won on Opening Day, that's because it has. From last year's blown save, to the debacle against the White Sox, the Indians haven't won the first game of the season in a few years. Not that it dramatically impacts the season or anything.
But it sure is nice to have one in the books already.
The fun part is that someone was going to be spoiled. With two teams who've changed radically since last year, there was a lot of anticipation for both squads and probably a whole heck of a lot more up north since it was opening at their park. Oh and yeah, because they expect to be in the playoffs with the moves they made.
Too bad the Indians spoiled it.
INDIANS - 4 | BLUE JAYS - 1
W: Justin Masterson (1-0)
L: R.A. Dickey (0-1)
S: Chris Perez (1)
Could you feel a little sense of, "oh wait we've been here before, only, we were actually in Cleveland"? I don't know if that is something you often feel, but it felt eerily similar to last year's Opening Day. That's because Chris Perez was once again on the mound in a ninth inning save situation against the Blue Jays, for the second straight year
I think Perez would have been damned if he let the Blue Jays get him again, and especially after last year in how it went down and how it blew a certain win for Justin Masterson. That was another reason to go out and blow them all away, which he certainly did in his ninth frame, giving up a hit, but striking out Colby Rasmus to end the game.
But other than that, it seemed different. Even though it was the same situation, it was much different. Perhaps it was the guy in the dugout.
"I've been doing this for a long time," Francona said. "I was so nervous the whole game -- it surprised me. I think I kind of came to realize early in the game how much I care about these guys already. It hit me like a ton of bricks."
And if you think I'm just saying that, look at what Chris Perez had to say in regards to the feeling. It may be just him subtly taking another shot at Acta, but you also have to believe that is the tried and true feeling among everyone.
"It's great to get one for Tito," said closer Chris Perez, referring to Francona, "but it's great getting one for our team, too, and the city. There's a lot better feeling after Opening Day this time than last year. He's going to get a lot more wins here, but it's good to get the first one out of the way."
Of course, Perez may have not been able to face Masterson if he gacked it up again for the second straight year. Especially after the way Masterson closed out his outing, certainly Perez could have closed the game out.
"C.P. had the same stuff he had last year," Masterson said with a smirk, "and he came in and was able to slice and dice this year. It was nice."
Perez had an issue with just one hitter after he collected two outs, where as Masty struggled early on. He did not have his sharpness, ended up walking four on the evening and hitting a batter, but only surrendering three hits, which helped. But the thing that helped the most was the double plays he was able to get off some really great plays made by his defense. In the first it was a line-out double play that Cabrera got Reyes hung up on. And in the third after loading the bases (two of them walks), Masterson got an incredible play made by Asdrubal yet again to start that one.
So Masterson works out of that and goes on to retire the next 10 hitters in order with no issues.
"We were just battling," Masterson said. "It was probably a little excitement, a little bit of everything. Then we were able to slowly make some stuff happen, and we were able to get through some balls, and then the last couple innings we finished off really, really good."
Go figure. Hopefully Masty bought Asdrubal dinner after the game though, considering he saved him on more than one occasion. To the point Toronto's manager John Gibbons called it the Asdrubal Cabrera show. And heck, with the plays, the home run, everything, it really was.
The Indians put their runs up early in the second. At first it was nothing special with a Lonnie Chisenhall groundout to score a run, but then Drew Stubbs ignited some fun with a solid hit to knock home Mark Reynolds.
And then in the fifth inning, Cabrera made R.A. Dickey's night even worse with the two-run shot to right field. And that was it friends, that's win number one in the books on day number one.
Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith absolutely spotless in the seventh and eighth inning, just as you drew it up. Jon from WFNY found an incredible stat. Vinnie Pestano has struck out 44 percent of the right-handed hitters he's faced in his career. That's nearly a coin flip. Uh-maz-ing.
Michael Bourn had two hits, Drew Stubbs had one, and Michael Brantley was on base three times with a pair of walks and a hit. None of them stole a base, which everyone was kind of waiting for against the knuckleballer. It just never came into play though, especially with Cabrera hitting the home run. It also wasn't needed.
And never mind the fact that Dickey had a wild pitch and Arencibia had three passed balls. Dickey is good, but there are two things to the knuckleball. A) There are days it is just isn't very good because it is very unpredictable, even for the pitcher and B) The catcher may or may not be comfortable catching it. Arencibia did not look comfortable back there.
Kipnis and Swisher were the only guys who struggled, both going 0-for-4. Mark Reynolds was the other hitless dude in the lineup, but he walked and scored a run.
Carlos Santana's double was... hit... hard.
Drew Stubbs got an error on a Melky Cabrera single, which was hit even harder than Santana's double. Like really, he hit it hard. Just a bad hop to try and handle. He more than made up for it though with a stellar play later in the game. A lot of people remarked that "Choo would have never made that play." Let's not worry about whether or not Choo would make it or not, it does not matter at this juncture. Stubbs would, and Stubbs did.
So about that Opening Day roster... It couldn't even go one day without something going wrong and it turns out that not only are the Indians going to be one down in the bench, but they'll also be one down in the bullpen. So much for that extra arm, right? Now they don't even have that or another bench player.
Why you ask? Because there is some Scott Kazmir issues. The Indians fifth starter has come down with some abdominal injury. So the Indians made their move with him early, and could place him on the disabled list if it turns out he'll miss his first start. To do that, they optioned down Nick Hagadone to Triple-A.
Hagadone will be back. If the Indians put Kazmir on the DL, he can come right back up. If they don't, then that becomes a little more complicated. Even though they'd just option down Carlos Carrasco, Hagadone can't be recalled unless there's an injury. So there's that bit of complicated mess.
But don't let me cloud the real story here.
"The hope is that he'll go out and throw his side [session] tomorrow and pitch Saturday," manager Terry Francona said on Tuesday. "In case that isn't the case, we have contingency plans."
What is that contingency plan? Oh who knows. After watching this all spring, it may be Corey Kluber making the fifth start on Saturday. Oh boy. Hopefully this is just a minor hiccup and Kazmir is okay, because it would be a really head hanging moment if Kazmir couldn't at least a chance.
Just so you know, it is unlikely Daisuke Matsuzaka who would replace him, as he is not quite at the innings he needs, and it won't be Trevor Bauer. You know why right? Because when the Indians call him up, they call him up for good. Not to make a spot start.
So-long to Ezequiel Carrera who is off to Philadelphia after the Phillies claimed him on waivers.
"You know what? I'm glad for him," manager Terry Francona said. "That's one of those where, yeah, selfishly [you'd like to still have him], but I'm glad he got a big league job. It's hard not to be happy for somebody."
Right and Zeke is a good player. He has some tools, and in the National League where he can probably play every day in some capacity, he should have a nice little niche to carve out for himself as a speed/defensive reserve. He will get some good playing time and he should get a nice opportunity to play a little more with the Phillies. It was real Zeke.
David Huff meanwhile cleared waivers, as you all should have expected. He is off to Columbus to likely be a part of the bullpen, or perhaps the rotation if a starter is needed for Cleveland this Saturday. I think eventually he plays into the rotation, but they might have eased him into it if they had the opportunity considering Huff had been pitching out of the bullpen.
Incredible to see Cody Allen go from Lake County's Opening Day to the Indians Opening Day in just a year. That's a huge jump, but Allen is here and ready to go.
"I'm super excited," Allen said. "It'd be nice if it was at home, but being here in Toronto, there's a lot of buzz with them with their offseason acquisition, and with us with our offseason acquisitions. It's here in the dome. It's going to be loud. It's going to be fun."
Oh look, Cody Allen is excited too. Everyone is excited!
Tony Wolters, one of the Indians top prospects in the system, is being moved. After sharing shortstop and second last year in Carolina, the Indians are moving him to catcher. Wait, what? Yes they are moving him to catcher. Wolters has experience having played there in high school, but this is a big switch for him.
A lot of people think he can do it because of the intangibles and fire he has and how he's a born leader. Certainly hard work can go a long way. The big reason the Indians are doing this though is because of that log jam in the infield at the upper levels. Wolters could have gone to Akron but the Indians have chosen to go with Jose Ramirez there. Lindor will be at Carolina and with Dorssys Paulino behind him, it is getting kind of crowded. You have to imagine that the Indians also feel pretty set at second, so, why not? Especially if he can have a bat that translates well over there.
And finally, there was some chatter before the game over the Indians removing Chief Wahoo (with the red bill) from their batting helmet. The Indians will go with Block C for both home and road this year as the MLB has asked teams to use just one batting helmet. So all blue with the Block C it is.
And that "Awesome Amazingness" t-shirt Swish was wearing before the game? Something he made up. Too late, bro, I've already got a monthly award named after you. Nice try, bro.
Nino is in full baseball mode here and on The Tribe Daily, his own Indians blog. Don't miss all the fun, photoshopped Indians players, and LOLTribe ridiciulousness.