Hendricks County Flyer
— The back-to-back International League West Division champion Indianapolis Indians have announced their Opening Day roster for the 2014 season. Managed by the 11th-winningest skipper in the Tribe’s 100-plus year history, Dean Treanor, the Indians boast 17 players with major league experience, including 11 who reached the big leagues last season, as well as the Pirates top-ranked prospect Gregory Polanco.
As the Indians chase history in matching the franchise record of three straight division titles, the team will rely on its impressive talent around the diamond, as six of 11 players in the infield and outfield are included on the Pirates 40-man roster.
Beginning in the outfield, the Indians Opening Day roster includes 40-man players Polanco and Jaff Decker, both of whom impressed at big league spring training with Pittsburgh this year. Polanco, rated as the No. 10 overall prospect in all of the minors (by Baseball America), is riding an outstanding offseason which featured recognition as both the Dominican Winter League’s Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year. The “five-tool” farmhand played across three levels of Pittsburgh’s system last season and combined to hit .285 with 30 doubles, two triples, 12 homers, 71 RBI and 38 stolen bases. Decker, on the other hand, played in two stints at the Major League level with the San Diego Padres, where he homered off Jhoulys Chacin for his first MLB hit.
Roaming the outfield alongside Polanco and Decker will be major league veteran Chris Dickerson and organizational standout Adalberto Santos. The pair of newcomer outfielders joins the Indians with Dickerson boasting 314 appearances at the big league level and Santos having led Altoona in runs (62) walks (59) and stolen bases (21) last season.
Among the Tribe’s infielders, 40-man players Andrew Lambo, Chris McGuiness and Brent Morel each spent part of the 2013 season at the Major League level, with Lambo suiting up for Pittsburgh (18 games), McGuiness for Texas (10 games) and Morel for the Chicago White Sox (12 games). Lambo, who may split time between the infield and outfield, is returning to the Indians after earning recognition as Pittsburgh’s 2013 Minor League Player of the Year, while McGuiness, who knocked a career-high 29 doubles with Round Rock last year, and Morel, who led Charlotte in RBI (54) doubles (30) and runs (54) in 2013, are both newcomers to the Tribe’s locker room.
In addition to that trio, Indianapolis’ infield will also likely feature two-time Tribe Most Valuable Player Matt Hague. The IL’s hits leader from 2011 and 2013, Hague will enter his fourth season with the Indians as the Club’s Victory Field era record holder for career games (374), at-bats (1437), hits (422), doubles (87), RBI (198), walks (144) and total bases (591).
Hague will also be joined by fellow infielders Robert Andino, Chase d’Arnaud and Michael Martinez.
Behind the dish for the Tribe is a duo of IL veteran Nevin Ashley and returning catcher Carlos Paulino. Indians fans may be familiar with both backstops from the 2013 season as Ashley hit six homers with 28 RBI in 80 games with the Louisville Bats, and Paulino went 3 for 5 with an 11th-inning, game-winning RBI single in his Triple-A debut with Indianapolis on Aug. 29 at Toledo. Ashley and Paulino also excelled defensively for their Clubs last year, cutting down 26.2 and 36.4 percent of runners attempting to steal, respectively.
The catching duo will be receiving pitches from a talented mix of both familiar faces and newly acquired arms for the upcoming season, including rotation candidates Brandon Cumpton, Andy Oliver, Adam Wilk, Jacob Brigham and Casey Sadler.
Headlining the list of returning players is the Tribe’s Game 1 starter from the 2013 IL playoffs is Cumpton. The starting right-hander tossed a complete game in his most recent appearance with the Indians, blanking eventual IL champion Durham through 7.0 innings before he allowed two runs in the eighth. Cumpton, who also made his MLB debut with Pittsburgh last season, enters the 2014 season ranked by Baseball America as the No. 11 overall prospect in the Pirates organization.
The Tribe’s rotation is also likely to feature another returning face in southpaw Oliver. The left-hander features impressive strikeout potential after leading the IL with 138 whiffs last year, a total which ties former Indianapolis lefty Justin Wilson for the most strikeouts in a single season since the team moved to Victory Field in 1996. Oliver made the Opening Day start for the Indians in 2013 and concluded the year having led the Tribe to a 16-8 record (.667) during his 25 starts.
Fellow southpaw Wilk will also potentially work in Indianapolis’ rotation in 2014 after spending last season pitching in Korea. The former Detroit Tiger saw action at the Major League level in the Motor City from 2010-11, and is coming off a strong showing overseas in which he racked up 70 strikeouts in 17 games (16 starts) for the NC Dinos. Wilk has been ranked as high as the No. 10 prospect in the Tigers system (2013), and also as boasting the “Best Changeup” among Detroit farmhands following the 2013 season.
A third possible member of the starting rotation is Brigham, a 6-3, 210-pound right-hander who boasts 638 strikeouts through his seven-season minor league career. Entering his first season as a Pirates farmhand, Brigham will look to continue his success from the Rangers Triple-A affiliate in Round Rock in 2013, where he registered a 2.13 ERA through 10 games (five starts) at home in the offensively-favored Pacific Coast League. The right-hander’s career as a starter also features an impressive 9.0-inning complete-game, two-hit shutout with a career-high 12 strikeouts for Lo-A Hickory during the 2010 campaign.
Rounding out the potential rotation is returning right-hander Sadler, a 23-year-old hurler that made his Triple-A debut with Indianapolis in 2013. While his quality start in his first action with the Tribe was certainly impressive, Sadler’s 2013 campaign was truly highlighted by “Pitcher of the Year” honors for Double-A Altoona. The up-and-coming prospect earned the prestigious honor after pacing the staff and ranking fourth in the Eastern League in both ERA (3.31) and WHIP (1.21) and tying for fourth in the league in wins (11) last season.
Also included on the Indians pitching staff are right-handers Jared Hughes, Phil Irwin, Jay Jackson, Josh Kinney, Zack Thornton and Duke Welker, and the lone remaining southpaw Daniel Schlereth.
The Tribe will officially kick off the 2014 season on April 3, with a four-game road series at the Columbus Clippers. The Indians will then travel to Toledo for a three-game set before returning to Indianapolis for their 2014 Home Opener on April 10 at 7:05 p.m.
Tickets for the Tribe's 2014 season are currently available online at IndyIndians.com, through the Indians' single-game ticket hotline at 269-2282 or by visiting the Victory Field Box Office on Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.