When the Spokane Indians host a playoff game in September, their roster will look different from the one that clinched a postseason berth by winning the Northwest League first-half title.
But that doesn’t worry manager Tim Hulett.
“We lost what would seem like a few key guys in (Xavier) Turner, (Tyler) Ferguson, (Nick) Green and (Luke) Lanphere. Those were pretty quality guys that we had to replace,” Hulett said. “But we added some guys that are going to help us in (Anderson) Tejeda and (Leody) Taveras. They are very toolsy guys that can really help us out. It’s going to be really fun to watch those guys play. They fit in really well here.”
The young, highly-touted prospects were added to the roster on Aug. 8 and have immediately taken on prominent roles. Taveras, 17, has been hitting leadoff and Tejeda, 18, has traded off between shortstop and third base.
Having Taveras, the Rangers' fourth-ranked prospect according to MLB.com is helpful, according to Hulett, because of his hitting ability combined with his elite speed. It provides the team a consistent presence in the No. 1 spot of the lineup and in centerfield.
“He’s got great tools. He can run, he can field, he can hit,” Hulett said. “We’ve kind of thrown him into the fire, right into the leadoff spot and it gives us a legitimate, switch-hitting leadoff guy.”
With Taveras’ callup, outfielders Travis Bolin and Josh Merrigan were sent down to the AZL Rangers to get more repetitions. Chad Smith, Preston Scott and Darius Day, who were on the team’s opening day roster, were in line to see most of the starts in the corner outfield spots (or Day in centerfield when Taveras has an off day).
Third base roulette
With Turner moving on to Hickory, the Indians were left with a hole to fill at third base, and have primarily experimented with Tejeda and Charles LeBlanc at the hot corner, despite both of them playing primarily at shortstop this season.
It hasn’t been tough for either of them to adapt, according to Hulett.
Tejeda has missed the last three games with an sore throwing shoulder, something Hulett said they are being “overly cautious” with.
Stephen Lohr and Brallan Perez have also seen time at third base and can fill in when needed.
Evans bolsters turbulent starting rotation
Since being promoted from the AZL Rangers, right-handed pitcher Demarcus Evans has posted a 1.04 ERA and two starts, including a no-hit performance through five innings against Tri-City on Wednesday.
He’s provided aid for a rotation that lost three members — Green, Lanphere and Jacob Shortslef — after the Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline.
“That young man since when I had him in Arizona last year has really matured,” Indians pitching coach Seaver said. “He’s going to be alright for us.”
Seaver said he has a heavy fastball, one that is very tough for hitters to square up.
“It’s like a bowling ball coming in there,” said Seaver, who mentioned Evans uses his curveball and changeup, in addition to his fastball.
Hulett said he saw Evans pitch in extended spring training, so his arm isn’t a surprise. But his fielding ability is.
“You think sometimes with a big guy ‘oh, maybe this guy isn’t a very good defender,’ ” Hulett said of the 240-pound Evans. “But he’s really made some nice plays and helped himself out.”
Daniele promoted to starting role, Indians sticking with six-man rotation
Alex Daniele, who is 0-3 with a 3.31 ERA, made his first start of the season against Tri-City on Tuesday. It’s a permanent move, indicating the team will stick with the six-man rotation they’ve had all year long.
Rest is key for a pitcher like Kyle Cody, who pitched 83 1/3 innings for the University of Kentucky last season. Having a six-man rotation ensures an extra day of rest
“We’re just trying to protect those guys down the road here,” Hulett said.
Bullpen still “pretty good” without Ferguson
Tyler Ferguson was a big arm in the Spokane Indians bullpen, with a knack for punching out batters. He had 40 in 30 1/3 innings pitched.
“We’ll miss Ferguson because you got that big arm that comes out of the pen that can go three innings for you or do whatever you need,” Hulett said. “His was a well-deserved promotion.”
But the Indians coaching staff isn’t losing sleep over Ferguson’s departure. Because of the defined roles within the pitching staff, it’s in a great spot, according to Seaver.
Kaleb Fontenot and Johan Juan have appeared mostly in closing situations. Mark Vasquez, Kevin Lenik, Tyler Stubblefield and Steven Bruce can be relied upon in long relief.
“It’s about routine,” Seaver said. “Everyone’s done a really nice good job of accepting their roles.”
The bullpen has been stripped of C.D. Pelham — who was moved to the starting rotation, Ferguson and other quality arms this season, but it’s not time to panic, according to Seaver. There is still a lot in the cupboard.
“I think we’re in a good place right now,” Seaver said.
Every Indians roster move since the All-Star Break (Aug. 1-3) is included here.
Last night: C.D. Pelham was dominant at times in his first quality start of the season since being converted into a starter. Read story.
Standings: Spokane is 8-7 in the league's second half, and three games behind Everett.
Tonight: The Indians takes on Eugene in the second game of a five-game series. Follow @joshhorton22 on twitter for live updates.