The 2021 Cactus League has kicked off this week with 25% seating capacity, which frankly, for the ticketed few, has been great. Everyone is smiling and upbeat and feeling fortunate to be watching live baseball in person. COVID protocol has been very well organized and strict, but administered politely. Like I said, most people are more than happy to comply in exchange for some live baseball. Despite some high winds for several games, the weather has been sunny and warm. My only complaint in week one has been no tub dispensers of Bertman Mustard because of COVID....easily remedied by a trip to the Team Shop. Onto the players:
Owen Miller is the 2B/UT we received as part of the Mike Clevinger trade with San Diego. Building on Brian Hemminger's comments in a recent prospect podcast: don't sleep on this guy. He's hit at every level and is competing for the team's utility infielder job. What you don't see in the box score: this guy just carries himself like a big leaguer. He seems relaxed and comfortable. He's a decent-sized guy and has been taking some healthy cuts in his at bats. Not wild, swing for the fence cuts...just hard cuts and making a lot of contact. In the field he appears to assume an immediate leadership role albeit with the B team. I can't see him breaking camp with the big league club for service time reasons if nothing else, but it wouldn't surprise me to see him up at some point in 2021.
Yesterday's double against the Diamondbacks was the first time DJ appeared to relax a little. He definitely looks like a nervous guy on the bubble who wants to impress. He's been a little tentative on the field and his baserunning on the double yesterday still seemed nervous as he didn't pick up Sarbaugh at 3B until he was almost at 2nd base. Sarbaugh talked to him after the inning and my guess he was explaining that mistake. The Tribe is definitely giving him plenty of chances so far and my hopes are that yesterday's double and hard lineout relax him so he can focus and keep it going.
First base is wide open for the Indians this year with Jake Bauers, Josh Naylor and Bobby Bradley the likely candidates. Naylor has some of his eggs in the OF basket, so the pressure isn't as great for him and appears to be a shoe-in to make the team somewhere. Bobby Bradley arrived in camp slimmed down and looking strong. Some of the social media videos of him hitting the gym in the offseason were really encouraging. So far in the field he looks loose and focused. He's been a prospect so long he knows a lot of guys on the team which I think helps him. His HR on Monday was an absolute moon shot and was a no-doubter off the bat. We were behind home plate that day and we went wild at the crack of the bat. (You can hear us in the MLB replay as we were right below the radio booths, "OHHHHHHH"). In the field Bradley has been smooth and has made several good scoop picks on low throws. This one is tough, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Bradley break camp as the team's first baseman if he keeps this up. His pop would certainly be a welcome addition to the lineup.
That's it for now. We're taking a Cleveland break today and watching Pads at Rangers, then a rest day (see: resting livers) on Friday before we start back up with the visiting White Sox in Goodyear on Saturday. Go Tribe!