Admittedly, some Spokane Indians fans are concerned about the way the team has played in the last 2 1/2 weeks. Spokane owns the worst record (3-7) in the Northwest League during the early stages of the second half. The Indians have also lost 12 of their last 18 games overall and won just enough games during the end of the first half to qualify for the playoffs as North Division first-half champions. Seen another way, however, and it's not that strange that the Indians' fortunes have taken a turn. Read story
Once the Indians captured the NWL North's first-half title, they set about to make a few changes.
For one, they knew outfielder Zach Cone and his league-leading eight homers would not be sticking around. Cone came to Spokane to rediscover his swing, so he was promoted to Hickory, North Carolina, once he found his groove.
For another, Indians coaches knew they needed to rest position players who had been in the lineup for most of the 38 games of the first half. Outfielder Luke Tendler, a strong candidate for team Most Valuable Player, didn't play the final two games of the recently completed home series with Vancouver.
Marcus Greene, Spokane's stalwart catcher and one of the best in the league for on-base percentage, hasn't played the first two games of the Hillsboro series. Manager Tim Hulett said the Indians wanted Greene to rest his back.
"Other than that, we’re healthy," Hulett said. "I want to stay healthy until the end of the year."
The Indians have given more playing time to catcher/first baseman Chuck Moorman, outfielder/first baseman Diego Cedeno and new outfield addition Jose Cardona. Outfielder Saquan Johnson has also been a fairly regular player as his average jumped above .200 (and is now at .224).
The starting rotation is being shuffled slightly as Austin Pettibone (1-2, 6.10 ERA), scheduled to start Friday night, is taking the place of Reid Garrett (4-1, 4.60, 45 innings).
"(Garrett) had a high inning count during his college season so we moved him out of the rotation," Hulett said. "We’ll back him down, but we could put him back in the rotation for the playoffs. It’s still up in the air right now."
Relievers with relative few innings pitched this season will get more time as starters will be cut short before the sixth or seventh innings.
Reliever Shane McCain (0.42 ERA for 21 2/3 innings) worked three scoreless innings on Thursday.
"I was a starter in college and I’m getting used to this bullpen role," McCain said. "I’m really starting to like it, but I’m more used to extended outings."
"He’s been a pleasant surprise," Hulett said of McCain. "He’s done a great job out of the pen for us. He comes in, pounds the zone and gets outs. He keeps hitters off-balance. He’s done a fantastic job for us this year."