July 6th, 2015 Arizona League Indians
In addition to giving newly signed and drafted players their first glimpse at the professional ranks, one of the primary uses of the Arizona Rookie League is to get in easy rehab appearances for Major Leaguers who need help getting caught up to speed. This game featured both and it worked out perfectly.
Charles Brewer hit the big leagues with the Diamondbacks in 2013, then was sold to Cleveland at the end of the 2014 season. Before he made his debut for Columbus, however, he hurt his elbow, was released and resigned as a minor league free agent by the Indians. This roller coaster of a year brought Brewer to the AZL Indians on July 6th, 2015 for his second and final rehab start. This start pushed the probable starter, Sam Hentges, to the back half of the game.
Brewer started the game as a AAAA quality player should with no runs allowed through three innings and no base runners allowed after the first. Miguel Eladio used some nice defense to save him from a run in the first, then he struck out three of his next six batters faced. Of course, we’re not looking at this game because it was a successful rehab start. There are tons of those to pick from.
Trevor Frank (pictured at top) jumped into the fray with a 1-2-3 fourth inning before giving way to the originally planned starter, Sam Hentges. Hentges came out throwing fire, striking out three in a row to begin his outing. In the bottom half of five, the Indians also finally got on a board to break the scoreless tie. Gabriel Mejia hit a two out double, then scored on an Eladio double.
Now with a lead, Hentges got back to work, striking out two more in a perfect sixth. With the Indians going down quietly in the bottom half, Hentges repeated his performance in the seventh, striking out his first two batters giving him seven strike outs out of eight batters faced.
The bottom half of the inning looked to be more of the same for the Indians, but Erlin Cerda managed to reach on an error, then scored on a Mejia single. Needing to do everything himself, Mejia then stole second and third, then came home on an Eladio single. Eladio also stole second and went to third on a passed ball. Since the inning had been extended by the error, Eladio was able to score on a wild pitch following a Jorma Rodriguez strike out. Jose Medina then walked and scored on an error by the short stop.
Back to Hentges in the eighth, he allowed his first base runner on a walk, but struck out the next two and, despite a steal and a wild pitch, he got a fly out to end the inning. Anthony Miller would help him add to his lead with a double in the bottom half. He then took third on a wild pitch (a common theme in the AZL) and scored on a Juan Gomes sac fly (this was during the short experiment with the younger brother of Yan Gomes at catcher).
Now armed with a six run lead, Hentges struck out two of the first three hitters with a single allowed in between, his first hit allowed and the first by the Dodgers since the first inning. After one more single, Hentges put away the final batter of the game to maintain the team shut out. Overall, he struck out 11 in five innings with two hits and a walk allowed. This was one of just two relief appearances for Hentges in 2015 as he went on to finish the year with a 3.10 ERA and 59 strike outs in 49.1 innings.
The other hero of the game, Mejia was also in the midst of a fantastic season as his two hits and two steals added to his incredible numbers including 34 steals and .357/.438/.417 batting line.
What may be most interesting about this game is, despite it taking place five years ago and featuring two rehabbing players (Trevor Frank was in from Lynchburg), no player from the Indians side reached the big leagues after this point, including Brewer. In fact, only Hentges and Jorma Rodriguez remain in the system at all.