Ex-Indians still remain a major presence for Major League teams
June 14, 2018 Updated Thu., June 14, 2018 at 12:58 p.m.
Since the Spokane Indians franchise returned to Class A short-season status in 1983, there have been 155 former Indians to play in the Major Leagues as of June 1. Of those, 30 have been on an active MLB roster this season.
Some of these players have gone on to make a big impact in the big leagues, others barely had a cup of coffee. The complete list is attached, but we’ll hand out superlatives to some of the notable or memorable – or completely anonymous, if the case may be.
Now that Carlos Beltran has ridden off into the sunset, the longest-tenured former Indian still in the big leagues also has one of the shortest stints of any MLBer to come through Spokane: Zack Greinke.
Greinke appeared in two games for the Indians in 2002, the last year the team was affiliated with the Royals. He gave up four runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings with Spokane.
The mercurial starting pitcher won the Cy Young in 2009 and is a three-time all-star. The 34-year old, 15-year MLB veteran is enjoying another good season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, his fifth big league team. Greinke is currently 4-4 with a 3.44 ERA for the Snakes with 78 strikeout sin 73 1/3 innings this season.
Isiah Kiner-Falefa made his MLB with the Texas Rangers debut earlier this season. In 47 games, the utility infielder has hit .243/.321/.343 with two homers and 17 RBIS in 195 plate appearances.
He spent most of 2014 with the Indians, hitting .260/.329/.314 with eight doubles, and 16 RBIs in 58 games.
Kiner-Falefa was part of MLB history earlier this season when he started at third base with Austin Bibens-Dirkx on the mound. It was the first time two players with hyphenated last names were in the starting lineup in big league history.
Later that week, when the Rangers played the Mariners, M’s broadcaster Ryan Rowland-Smith joined the two for a photo as the three players with hyphenated last names to play in the major leagues.
Kiner-Falefa’s teammate in Spokane, Nick Gardewine, also made his big league debut this season for the Rangers. He’s appeared in three games with Texas, striking out four in five innings. For Spokane in ’14 he went 6-3 with a 4.54 ERA in 15 games, all starts.
One and done
No MLB player appeared for the Indians in 2017. The last big leaguer to play in Spokane was veteran Colby Lewis, who made a rehab appearance for the squad in 2016. He pitched five innings and allowed four runs on eight hits, striking out three without a walk. Lewis made it back to the bigs that year, making 19 starts for the Rangers with a 6-5 record, but has been out of baseball since.
The 2011 Indians matched the 2007 team with 10 future major league players on the roster. The Indians in ’11 that went on to the show are: Rougned Odor, Nick Martinez, Phil Klein, Kyle Hendricks, Alex Claudio, Hanser Alberto, Jerad Eickhoff, Ryan Rua, Jorge Alfaro and Drew Robinson.
Jesse Chavez played for the Indians in 2003, the first season they were affiliated with the Texas Rangers. He has played in the bigs for 10 years but never did play for the Rangers, though he did for the Royals. Chavez made his MLB debut in 2008 with the Pittsburgh Pirates and has bounced around for six organizations.
Chris Davis played a full season for the Indians in 2006, smacking 15 homers in 69 games. He made his big league debut with the Rangers in 2008, hitting .285/.331/.549 with 17 homers and 55 RBIs. He blossomed into a fearsome power hitter with the Baltimore Orioles, leading the A.L. with 53 homers and 138 RBIs in 2013. Davis finished third in the MVP balloting that year. He has hit 254 homers in 10 big league seasons, but has really fallen off this season, slashing .153/.236/.237 with four homers in 53 games this season.
Three former Indians participated in this World Baseball Classic two seasons ago – Ian Kinsler of the Los Angeles Angels (then Detroit Tigers) for the U.S. squad; and for Puerto Rico, outfielder Carlos Beltran of the Houston Astros and pitcher Alex Claudio of the Texas Rangers. Kinsler was a 2003 draft pick of Texas and played for Spokane later that summer. He hit .277 with one homer and 11 steals. Claudio was a 27th round draft pick in 2010 and played one game for the Indians before promotion. Beltran was in Spokane for 59 games in 1996, hitting .270 with seven homers and 29 RBIs.
World Series heroes
Two members of the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs got their starts in Spokane. Starter Kyle Hendricks pitched in 20 games in relief for the Indians in 2011. He went 2-2 with a 1.93 ERA and three saves. Reliever Carl Edwards made 10 appearances for Spokane in 2012, going 2-3 with a 2.49 ERA.
Of the former Indians in the big leagues, six have been named to an All-Star team. Beltran is a nine-time all-star, Kinsler has been named four times and Greinke thrice. Davis, Neftali Feliz and Odubel Herrera have all been recognized as an all-star once in their big league careers.
It is a logical conclusion that most of the former Indians to make the big leagues have appeared for the Texas Rangers since Spokane has been affiliated with Texas since 2003. In fact, 19 of the 29 current Indians in the bigs at one point played for the Rangers. But former Indians have played across the big leagues – 24 of the 30 MLB teams at one point have employed an ex-Indian. The Cubs (Kyle Hendricks, Carl Edwards, Tommy Hunter and Neil Ramirez) and Orioles (Chris Davis, Richard Bleier, Alec Asher and Hunter), at four each, have had the next most Indians alumni. The Royals and Phillies have had three apiece.
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