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Sports >  Spokane Indians

Back at the helm: Spokane Indians manager Scott Little excited to return for second season

Spokane Indians manager Scott Little, right, talks with a player during a game in 2021.  (James Snook/Spokane Indians)
Spokane Indians manager Scott Little, right, talks with a player during a game in 2021. (James Snook/Spokane Indians)

It was a tale of two halves for the Spokane Indians last year. Maybe more specifically, two streaks.

There was the one that defined the start of the season and put the club squarely behind the eight ball, as it lost 10 of its first 12 games. Then the clubs’ two best hitters were promoted.

No could have faulted the players – or manager Scott Little – if they had thrown in the towel.

But the exact opposite happened.

The Indians won 10 in a row in August, erased a 14½-game deficit and finished the season winning 37 of its final 49 games to end up in second place in the High-A West, clinching one of the two postseason berths.

They were swept in the championship series by Eugene, but getting there was the bigger point.

One classification down in the Colorado Rockies’ farm system, the Fresno Grizzlies enjoyed a terrific season and qualified for the postseason as well.

All that winning has Little looking forward to the 2022 campaign.

“We just start from day one,” Little said on Tuesday, his tanned face from Arizona’s spring training mocking the 45-degree temperatures and 25 miles per hour winds that day.

“Spring training was good,” he said. “We were trying to prepare ourselves to be ready for April and I think we got better toward the end, so hopefully, we’re ready.”

He said the organization puts a premium on winning, pointing to the success the two lowest classifications had last summer.

“You get to a point where you become a winner, you expect to win and you don’t settle for anything less,” he said. “I think it does breed success. I mean, I didn’t make that up. People have said that forever. And I think it’s true.”

Now that MLB has eliminated the short-season level of baseball, younger players make up more of the rosters at Low-A and High-A. Recent draft picks, who until this point in their careers were the dominant forces on their college or high school teams, are now “one of the guys.”

Little said it’s a balancing act, with the burden lightened by the maturity of the players being drafted into the system.

“I think with the quality of people that we’ve been drafting, everything is gonna work out really well,” he said. “I mean, they’re winners – they expect to win. They exude winning, they’re leaders.”

He’s fired up to have the Rockies’ top two prospects, outfielder Zac Veen and catcher Drew Romo, on the squad this season.

“They’re very good baseball players,” he said. “Very good competitors and people. We did a very good job scouting on these guys.”

MLB implemented a few more rules changes in the minor leagues this season, including a pitch clock, limiting defensive shifts and making the bases slightly bigger in order to try to avoid injuries.

Little’s all for the changes.

“I mean, I’m OK with it,” he said. “I like to move the game along myself. (Players) wasting too much time (fidgeting with batting gloves) instead of getting in there and get moving the game along.

“The bases? No big deal. Shift – one way or another. To me it was always ridiculous to shift anyway – if you were good hitter you could just beat the shift and don’t have to worry about it. We always played two guys on each side of the field most time anyway, I never really did that too much myself. So it’s not gonna really affect us.”

Asked if a player stood out to him that might surprise fans this year, Little picked Wednesday’s home run derby winner, catcher and utility player Colin Simpson.

“He’s going to be important for us for some stability in our lineup somewhere down the line,” Little said. “He might watch for a little bit, then get put in the mix, somebody gets hurt … he’ll be a big player for us, even though you might not see him until the third game of the year or something.

“We’re lucky enough to have some guys deemed prospects this year, but I think (Simpson) is gonna be a guy that can really carry a load for us.”

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