The Indians had their last exhibition tune-up today as they traveled to Zebulon, North Carolina, to christen the new home for their high Class-A affiliate. Five County Stadium in Zebulon was previously home to a Double-A franchise; in a somewhat confusing series of events, the Double-A franchise was sold and moved to Pensacola, Florida, for the 2012 season and the Kinston Indians were sold to the former Mudcats owners and moved from Kinston to Zebulon. The Indians’ franchise in Kinston had a great deal of success in recent years; they will now be located in Wake County, close to Raleigh-Durham and a larger center of population.
The new manager for the Mudcats in 2012 is Edwin Rodriguez; the same Edwin Rodriguez that managed the (then) Florida Marlins from 2010-2011. So why would Rodriguez, who had the distinction of being the first Puerto-Rican born manager in major league history, end up coaching Class-A? Rodriguez resigned from the Marlins last season, but he did not do a terrible job with the team – he was 46-46 in 2010 and 32-39 in 2011 (he managed from June to June). The team was in the midst of a free-fall when his hitting coach John Mallee was fired about a week before Rodriguez stepped down. It’s also fair to mention that Rodriguez was the fifth manager in just 10 years for the Marlins. I’m not a fan of Jeffrey Loria, so I’ll just go ahead and blame him for this.
So how did he end up with the Mudcats, where he worked as hitting coach in 2004? Rodriguez seems to think highly of the Indians’ organization, and their Class-A club has had a great deal of success in recent years. The Indians probably like the fact that he can mentor their young players, and Rodriguez can hope to move up in the organization (or perhaps attract enough attention to get a job with a different organization). The former manager of the Kinston Indians, Aaron Holbert, left to manage the Braves’ Double-A team in Mississippi.
Today, Scott Barnes took the mound for the Mudcats and gave up 4 ER and 5 hits in 4 IP. Barnes will actually start the season at Triple-A Columbus, but the Indians probably wanted him to have a chance to pitch against major league hitters. It’s even a possibility that Barnes end up with the major league club at some point this year if he excels at Triple-A and/or there are injuries with the Indians. Derek Lowe pitched for the Tribe and gave up no runs and 1 hit in 3 IP. It sounds as if he feels good, which is good news after he had problems with back spasms recently.
On the offensive end, Jason Donald had a huge day for the Indians, going 2-3 with 5 RBI. Other players with RBI – Michael Brantley (1), Asdrubal Cabrera (1), Gregorio Petit (1), Chad Huffman (1), Lou Marson (1), Travis Hafner (1), Shelley Duncan (1) and Ryan Rohlinger (1). The Mudcats managed just three hits, even though Lowe was the only major leaguer that pitched for the Tribe – Giovanny Urshela, Ronny Rodriguez, and Delvi Cid each had one hit for Carolina.
Next stop – Cleveland and Opening Day!