The Spokane Indians will have to shuffle and tweak their roster if they hope to remain in the postseason chase.
Chase Johnson and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes already have a spot locked up in the postseason.
Johnson (2-1) pitched five innings of four-hit ball on Thursday night and exited before persistent rain hit as the Volcanoes breezed past the hobbled and shorthanded Indians 9-3 at Avista Stadium.
The five-game Northwest League series is tied at 1. The Volcanoes lead the season series 4-3.
Johnson left with a 4-1 lead that grew to 9-1 when S-K sent 11 batters to the plate during its five-run sixth inning. The Volcanoes had four singles and one double during the long inning, which coincided with the start of rain that continued for the rest of the game.
“The conditions seem bad, but the field really isn’t in bad shape now,” Indians manager Tim Hulett said. “We just made some bad plays. We made some bad pitches. Everything we’ve been doing good, we didn’t do good tonight.”
Hulett’s job becomes trickier each day. The Indians’ top two offensive threats, center fielder Chris Garia and first baseman/catcher Kevin Torres, have been promoted to Hickory (N.C.) this week. Slick right fielder Ryan Cordell has a wrist injury that will sideline him another week, until after the All-Star break. Pitcher Yohander Mendez, who typically would have started Thursday, has a strained nerve in his elbow and is lost for the season.
“We have to patch another spot, but you know what, that’s professional baseball,” Hulett said of losing Torres. “That’s how teams are. They change throughout the year.”
Johnson, a third-round draft selection this year out of Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo), started his season at the Arizona Rookie League. He joined the Volcanoes in early July and pitched four shutout innings against the Indians in his debut.
The Volcanoes clinched the South Division’s first-half title soon after Johnson’s arrival.
“It’s not going to affect how I pitch,” Johnson said. “I’m always out there to get a win, but it’s good knowing we’ve clinched already.”
North Division first-half champ Everett is off to a quick start in the second half, so the Indians’ playoff chances may hinge on having a better overall season record than Vancouver and Tri-City. Vancouver (26-22) is two games up on the Indians (24-24) in that category.
Torres’ roster spot was filled by catcher Steven Teschner, who signed a free-agent contract in late June after playing for Columbus (Ga.) State University. Teschner arrived in Spokane on Thursday.