GOODYEAR, Ariz. — It was Opening Day exhibition style Saturday at Goodyear Ballpark and the Indians came out on top, beating intrastate rival Cincinnati 8-2.
A number of Cleveland’s high-profile players, including first baseman Edwin Encarnacion, shortstop Francisco Lindor and left-hander Andrew Miller, made appearances.
Miller, who will be leaving camp to pitch for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic (March 6-22), allowed three hits and struck out a batter in a scoreless fourth inning.
“I was throwing strikes. That’s the only thing you can hope for at this point,” he said. “I felt good, felt like the ball was coming out crisp. You just want to see how your stuff plays against live batters. I know they’re behind, they haven’t seen live pitching. It’s a process for everybody. The biggest thing for me is to go out there, make adjustments and get the ball over the plate the majority of the time.”
Left-hander Ryan Merritt picked up where he left off in last year’s ALCS, retiring the side in order in the opening inning, but he allowed three straight hits and hit a batter, as the Reds took a 2-1 lead in the second.
It’s been an unlucky start to training camp for catcher Yan Gomes, who is coming off an injury-filled and unproductive season. Gomes was hit on the leg by a pitch from Miller during a live batting practice session this week and was plunked again on the left shoulder Saturday by Jumbo Diaz in the third inning. Gomes joked that he was a baseball magnet.
Bradley Zimmer, who is likely to begin the season at Triple-A Columbus, hit an opposite-field three-run home run to left in the seventh to put the Indians in front 7-2.
His grandmother and father were in attendance to see the California native’s big game — 2-for-5 with five RBIs.
“She’s been, alongside my mom and my dad, my biggest supporter since Day 1,” Zimmer said. “So, having her out here with my dad, it’s awesome. Having that much support, it’s great.
“It was a lot of fun. It was a good atmosphere. The fans were into it. It was a good time.”
Second baseman Jason Kipnis was not in the lineup Saturday and is expected to make his first few exhibition appearances at DH, as he continues on what Francona called a preventative throwing program for his right shoulder.
“While he’s kind of on the throwing program, having him do the morning work and then sit and then get loose again, I don’t know that that’s in his best interests, especially on Feb. 25,” Francona said. “There’s plenty of time to get him ready.”
Early in camp, the Indians want to limit the throwing for Kipnis, who missed time in 2015 with right shoulder inflammation.
Francona said right-hander Mike Clevinger will begin the season as a starter and is not a candidate to win a roster spot in the bullpen. He pitched in both roles for the Indians last year, making 10 starts and seven relief appearances.
Clevinger, who went 11-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 17 starts at Triple-A Columbus last year, made four relief appearances — three in the World Series — during the postseason.
“You don’t know how things are going to go during the year, but having him start, one, you need depth starters,” Francona said. “Two, having him develop, throwing multiple innings using all his pitches is really in his best interest. The other thing is you can always bring him back to the bullpen. If you put a guy in a bullpen role, it’s really hard to stretch him out. Just for a number of reasons, I don’t think it makes sense.”
Clevenger pitched a scoreless third inning Saturday, striking out two and getting the win.
The sprinkler system on the infield at Goodyear Ballpark inadvertently went off during the eighth inning. The water was turned off moments later but provided a light moment for the crowd and a refreshing one for Francona, who caught some of the spray.
“A little bit. It felt good,” he said.
- It’s a World Series rematch today, with the Indians traveling to Mesa’s Sloan Park to take on the Cubs at 3:05 p.m. Right-hander Danny Salazar will start for Cleveland against RHP Jake Buchanan. The game will be televised by SportsTime Ohio and aired on WEOL 930-AM and WTAM 1100-AM.
- Right-hander Trevor Bauer was scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday, with ace Corey Kluber scheduled to throw one today.