Its Friday. A big weekend of sports is upon us with two of our teams. We have the Indians welcoming in the Minnesota Twins and the Browns travel to Indianapolis for the “dress rehearsal” preseason game Saturday night against the Colts.
It was an interesting week for our teams. The Tribe swept the Angels and thanks to losses by the teams in front of them, now sit just two and a half games back of the Wild Card and five games back in the AL Central. Brandon Weeden was officially named the Browns starting QB. Things are starting to come around. So what should we be looking for this weekend? Here are five things for you to ponder.
1. The Indians have a golden opportunity in front of them. The four teams that surround them in the Wild Card race all play each other. Oakland starts a series in Baltimore. The Yankees head to Tampa Bay to tangle with the Rays. Meanwhile, the Tribe comes home to meet up with the 56-70 Minnesota Twins. On top of that, the Twins will be without the services of all-time Tribe killer Joe Mauer. Even with Mauer in the lineup, Minnesota’s offense is not exactly Murderer’s Row.
At worst, the Indians must take two of three this weekend considering the brutal week they have ahead of them. This weekend home stand is just a respite from this big road trip they are on. They went 6-3 during phase one. After the Twins, the Indians head to Atlanta for three games, followed by a three game series in Detroit. Baltimore follows for three games at Progressive Field. You can see why taking down this Twins team is so critical this weekend. The good news is that they should be well rested with yesterday’s day off and the overworked pen should be back to full strength.
2. Nobody likes the attendance conversation. I know I don’t. While the attendance is essentially where it was last year, the television ratings for Tribe games on STO are up. Way up. The radio numbers are up as well. In the same number of games to date, the TV ratings have spiked over 30%. The biggest increase came among the 18-34 demographic – 50% in TV and 70% in radio. So while the attendance figures aren’t what the organization would like, there is certainly more interest. Obviously a winning team plays heavy into that expanded attention.
With that said, the Indians could REALLY use some big crowds at Progressive Field this weekend. I believe they have earned it. The weather is supposed to be beautiful. Tonight has fireworks and dollar dogs. Saturday the Tribe will celebrate the 40th year anniversary of one of our city treasures, John Adams, the Wahoo drummer. Sunday is one of the last kids fun days of the season. Oh, and did I mention the Indians are fighting for a playoff spot!
As the great David Puddy once said: “Gotta support the team.”
3. On the field, one thing that will be interesting to watch is how the Indians deal with rookie Danny Salazar. They seem to be sending out mixed signals on which way they will go with him, That was cleared up this morning when GM Chris Antonetti spoke with Les Levine and Andy Baskin on 92.3 the Fan, telling them duo that Salazar will remain in the rotation the rest of the way as long as he stays healthy. With three additional off days in September, manager Terry Francona will have the opportunity to move things around and pick his spots with the rookie fireballer.
Another option that is coming soon is Josh Tomlin. Remember him? Tomlin has been working his way back from 2012 Tommy John surgery and has been rehabbing at almost every level. Last night, he took the mound for the AAA Columbus Clippers one the one year anniversary of his surgery and pitched five innings, allowing three runs (one earned).
“He looked like the Tomlin of old to me,” Clippers manager Chris Tremie said. “Overall, it was five innings of pretty good work. It was just encouraging to see him throw the ball like that again.”
The Tribe now has him lined up essentially even with Salazar’s spot so if they choose to, they can push back Salazar to give him extra rest and go with Tomlin. Or, they can wait until rosters expand September 1st and move him where they would like.
Antonetti told Levine and Baskin that Tomlin is a legitimate option for the Indians down the stretch. I would expect him to make one more start in Columbus before rejoining the Tribe.
4. Brandon Weeden and the Browns offense will look to keep their momentum going tomorrow night in Indy. There has been some question of whether or not the Browns should use the suspended Josh Gordon with the first team for the dress rehearsal. I cannot understand the argument that some people have made that the Browns need to prepare for weeks one and two and make sure Weeden gets on the same page with Travis Benjamin, considering he more than likely will be starting in Gordon’s place. I didn’t realize the NFL played a two-game season. Aren’t there 14 more games to play? Do the first two games count more than games three and four? Of course not!
Gordon should be out there with the first team as long as Rob Chudzinski and Norv Turner want him to. Mix in Benjamin however you’d like with Weeden, but it is not as if this is the first time he has played with him. What, they don’t practice together? The argument to me is asinine.
5. The real concern shouldn’t be about how much Gordon plays with the first team, it should be how Garrett Gilkey and Oniel Cousins handle the open right guard spot. The injuries to Jason Pinkston and Shaun Lauvao and the voided trade for guard John Moffitt has really put the spotlight on the Browns seventh round pick Gilkey and the veteran Cousins who is moving over from Tackle. Cousins has been working with the first team in practice this week and will get the start.
“Oniel has more experience,” Chudzinski said. “Obviously, he has been back in practice and has done well. Gilkey will get opportunities as well with the first group. We will just see how the game goes and try to get them a lot of reps.”
Keeping heat off of Weeden obviously makes him a better QB. The knock on him coming in last year was that he wasn’t comfortable in the face of heavy pressure. That criticism didn’t go away after his rookie year and is still a work in progress. We will see how Cousins and Gilkey in keeping Weeden’s jersey clean.