December 20, 2014

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Indians Notes: Tribe signs 4 draft picks

CLEVELAND — While the Indians were expected to introduce first-round draft pick Justus Sheffield, who signed with the team Monday night, the Tuesday news conference turned into a party as three other top prospects signed with the team and filed into the interview room.

Sitting next to Sheffield — the 31st overall pick and a left-handed pitcher — was the team’s top pick, outfielder Bradley Zimmer, who was selected 21st overall. The other two signees were right-handed pitcher Grant Hockin (second round, 61st overall) and first baseman Bobby Bradley (third round, 97th overall).

“We’re excited to have these four guys in the fold,” Indians director of amateur scouting Brad Grant said. “Now it’s just learning to play every day, and (for Sheffield and Hockin) learning how to pitch every fifth day.”

Zimmer will be sent to Mahoning Valley to begin playing for the Single-A Scrappers in the New York-Penn League, while the other three will begin play in the Arizona Rookie League on Friday.

“It’s obviously a dream come true,” Zimmer said. “Walking in here, putting on the hat for the first time … it’s something you look forward to from the first day you play baseball.”

The draft picks talked about their major league idols, the colleges they chose not to attend in order to play pro baseball and even shared some humorous scouting stories.

“(Bradley) hit batting practice for me before his (high school senior) prom,” Grant said. “So he ended up being late to his prom. I tried to get him to go, but he just wanted to keep hitting.”

Doctor still hurting

Michael Brantley was nearly a go for Tuesday night’s game against the Los Angeles Angels.

The left fielder suffered an injury while sliding into second base during the fourth inning Monday night and was removed from the game. Brantley passed initial concussion tests after the game, but still had a stiff neck Tuesday.

“He came in today feeling really good,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He started to ramp up, but it didn’t feel perfect. We immediately took him out of the lineup.”

Brantley had just extended his hitting streak to eight games with an RBI single, then took Los Angeles shortstop John McDonald’s knee to his head while trying to break up a double play at second.

“We’re just going to err on the side of caution,” Francona said. “If you have a head injury, and you play with it and something happens, it could turn into something serious.”

A rare performance

Right-handed reliever Carlos Carrasco became the first Indians pitcher to record a save of seven or more outs in a one-run game since Rod Nichols, who pitched four innings in a 4-3 win on June 19, 1991, on the road against the Chicago White Sox.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, only two other major league pitchers have accomplished the feat in the last decade — Los Angeles Dodgers’ Ramon Troncoso in 2009 and Toronto Blue Jays’ Casey Janssen in 2011.

“His confidence is rising rapidly in this role, which is what we hoped for,” Francona said. “He has been (playing a big bullpen role) more than people realize. He’s the guy out there that can give you length. So sometimes we go to someone else, knowing Carlos can give us those extra innings we might need later in the game.”

Veteran stuff

On Monday, Trevor Bauer snapped a streak of eight games in which Indians starters failed to pitch six complete innings, going 6⅔ innings and throwing 119 pitches.

“His arm is conditioned for that kind of work,” Francona said. “He’s thrown more than most guys who’ve gotten to this point. We try to monitor workload, but we don’t do it a ton with him.”

Francona said Bauer was still throwing well late in the game, but the manager noticed the pitches were up a little higher in the zone.

“When it’s a one-run game, you hate to see a guy lose it when they’ve thrown that much,” Francona said.

Minor details

  • The Lake County Captains sent three players to the Midwest League All-Star Game this week — RHP Robbie Aviles, C Eric Haase and RHP Jordan Milbrath. Haase leads the Midwest League with 12 home runs and Aviles has the second-best ERA (2.16) in the Indians’ organization.
  • The Carolina Mudcats matched the Captains by sending three players to tonight’s Carolina League All-Star Game — INF Erik Gonzalez, OF Anthony Gallas and LHP Ryan Merritt.
  • Merritt was named the starter for his All-Star team after leading the Carolina League in wins (six) and ERA (1.66).

Roundin’ third

  • The Indians matched their 2013 record of 36-35 with a win over the Angels on Monday night. Cleveland remained above .500 for the rest of the 2013 season.
  • Lonnie Chisenhall’s .365 batting average is the major league’s highest among players with at least 175 plate appearances. With 205 plate appearances, Chisenhall is just 15 away from qualifying for the league-leader lists.
  • While the attendance at Progressive Field continues to lag, the Indians’ ratings on SportsTime Ohio are up 14 percent compared to last season at this point.

Contact Shaun Bennett at 329-7137 or sbennett@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @ShaunBennettct.

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