Kuwata Makes His North American Debut

boxscore (photos by NancyZ )
Masumi  Kuwata  -- photo by NancyZ
more background information on Kuwata
Masumi Kuwata has seen the start of his dream: to pitch in the US. It wasn’t the major leagues, but it was the US, and it was baseball, and he went off the field with a big smile on his face.
Kuwata (photo ) pitched one inning, the 4th, in the Indianapolis Indians’ 9-5 win over the Charlotte Knights at Victory Field on Saturday night. John Wasdin, on a rehab assignment from the Pittsburgh Pirates after spraining his right thumb, started the game for the Indians. Wasdin pitched three innings, throwing 51 pitches. He started off with two scoreless innings, and gave up a lone double to former Pirate Craig Wilson in the second inning. There was a little trouble in the 3rd inning. With one out, Knights’ C Gustavo Molina blooped a single into short right field that fell in when there seemed to be some communication difficulties between the middle infielders and the outfielders. 2B Jason Bourgeois followed with a line drive double to center field, which moved Molina to third. A ground out to second base by SS Tomas Perez scored Molina. 3B Josh Fields smacked a single to left field to score Bourgeois. Wasdin ended the inning by striking out LF Craig Wilson, leaving the Knights with two runs, and a tied score.
Masumi Kuwata -- photo by  NancyZ
Masumi Kuwata (photo ) had been warming up in the bullpen as Wasdin was pitching in the third inning. His bullpen throws were quick, one right after another with very little pause between them. He strolled to the mound after the end of the 3rd inning, as if he were trying to be inconspicuous, and since the between-inning entertainment, a menagerie of team and corporate ‘mascots’, were dancing around on the dugouts and in the foul territories around home plate, many people in the park probably didn’t even see the change in pitchers. But when the mascots got out of the way, and the players were on the field, the stadium announcer, made sure everyone heard: this is Masumi Kuwata, and he’s a very big deal in Japan, and now he’s HERE, with our Indians.

Ministral and Jewett examine Kuwata's hand  --- photo by NancyZ
Kuwata threw 10 pitches. His first was a ball, then a called strike on Knights’ CF Ryan Sweeney. Sweeney hit the third pitch, a comebacker that bounced off Kuwata’s glove hand and rolled over towards second base, where no one could reach it, for an infield hit. Manager Trent Jewett and trainer Jose Ministral joined C David Parrish and Kuwata on the mound, to examine Kuwata’s left hand. Kuwata kept nodding — presumably saying that he was ok — and he was given the opportunity to throw a few pitches to see if he was going to have a problem. After just one pitch, he nodded again: yes, he was fine. Then he proved that he was indeed fine, by striking out DH Ernie Young, and then throwing to first base to catch Ryan Sweeney off base. 1B Casey Rogowski flied out to center field to end the inning.
Bixler congratulates Hernandez on his home run  -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo — Jose Hernandez is congratulated after his home run.)
Meanwhile, the Indians were working against Charlotte’s knuckleball starter, Charlie Haeger. The Indians’ hitters had looked at a few knuckleballs from manager Trent Jewett during batting practice before the game. So, despite the waggles and drops and shifts of Haeger’s pitches, they were able to get 5 hits and 5 runs, plus 4 walks from Haeger in his 5 innings. Jose Hernadez led the attack, getting on base 5 times in 5 at-bats, with a single, a double, a home run, a walk, and being hit by a pitch.
Luis Matos on first base, with Bam Bam Meulens  -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians got two runs in the second inning, when CF Luis Matos (photo ) singled to center field, and advanced to second on SS Luis Ordaz’s walk. C David Parrish smoked a double into center field, scoring Matos, and moving Ordaz to third. LF Rajai Davis’s grounder to shortstop plated Ordaz. With the score tied going into the bottom of the third, 1B Brad Eldred led off with a single up the middle. He advanced to second on a walk to Jose Hernandez, and took third after the tag when 3B Russ Johnson flied out to the base of the wall in deep center field — just a couple of feet from being a home run. RF Nick Green’s sacrifice fly scored Eldred easily. The Tribe added two more in the 5th inning. 2B Brian Bixler walked and stole second base, and when Knights C Gustavo Molina’s throw sailed into center field, Bixler took third (photo below ). Minutes later, Hernandez launched a two-run homer into right-center field.
Brian Bixler slides into second as the throw goes wide -- photo by NancyZ
That was the end of knuckleballer Haeger. Reliever Paulino Reynoso entered the game in the 6th inning. With two out, C David Parrish (photo below ) lifted one over the left field wall for a homer, his second in his month with the Tribe. Reynoso also gave up singles to Rajai Davis and Brian Bixler, but they were left stranded on base.
David Parrish -- photo by NancyZ
The 7th inning did not start well for Reynoso. Jose Hernandez led off with a double into the right-center field gap. After a fly out to Russ Johnson, Nick Green, Luis Matos, and Luis Ordaz hit consecutive singles. Green’s scored Hernandez, and Ordaz’s scored Green. Reynoso was sent to the showers, and left-hander Carlos Vasquez was brought in. He got David Parrish to ground out, but then walked Rajai Davis on 4 pitches to load the bases. A wild pitch to Brian Bixler allowed Matos to score easily, as it took a few seconds for Knight’s C Molina to find the ball after it got past him. Bixler grounded out to end the scoring there, with the Indians ahead 9-2. Vasquez did not have an easy 9th inning either, as he hit Hernandez and walked Russ Johnson, but he kept the Indians from scoring any further runs.
While the Indians’ batters were busy scoring runs, pitcher Michael Tejera was busy keeping the Knights from scoring any of their own. Tejera pitched 4 scoreless innings, scattering 3 hits and striking out two. He was aided by some excellent fielding by middle infielders Brian Bixler and Luis Ordaz, who had swapped their usual positions for this game: Bixler, who is usually the shortstop, was playing second base, and Ordaz left his usual second base to play shortstop. The swap didn’t seem to bother either one, as both ranged easily to either side and covered second base flawlessly.
teammates congratulate David Parrish on his homer -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo — Indians congratulate teammate David Parrish on his home run. )
The Knights attempted a come-back in the 9th inning, but fell short. With reliever Dan Kolb pitching, the first 3 batters reached base. Ryan Sweeney singled, Ernie Young was hit by a pitch, and 1B Casey Rogowski also singled to load the bases. Kolb struck out LF Kenny Kelly, but then Gustavo Molina looped a single to center, which scored Sweeney. Jason Bourgeois also singled, and Young scored. Tomas Perez’s fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop scored Rogowski, and moved Molina to third, but got Bourgeois out at second. Josh Fields then hit an easy grounder to shortstop Luis Ordaz for the quick flip to Brian Bixler covering second for the final out.
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Jose Hernandez, going 3 for 3, and getting on base in all 5 at-bats, with a homer, a double, and a single.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Middle Infielders Brian Bixler and Luis Ordaz. In the 6th, with Craig Wilson at the plate, and a defensive overshift on, there were three infielders between second and third bases. Bixler, playing second, was positioned behind and to the left field side of the second base bag. Wilson grounded a ball to the right side of second base, close to where Bixler would normally play. No problem — Bixler just zoomed over behind second base, scooped the ball bare-handed, and fired to first in time for the out. In the 8th inning, Ordaz hustled around to scoop up a slow hit, to get the toss off to Bixler covering second. They did the same thing twice more in the 9th inning. And, in the 8th, Bixler ran over behind first base to catch a short pop fly there.
Brad Eldred leads off third  -- photo by NancyZ
(Photo — Brad Eldred leads off third base in the 3rd inning. )
NOTES:
Streaking:
Rajai Davis’s single in the 6th inning pushed his hitting streak to 20 games. This is the longest hitting streak of Davis’s career and the second-longest hitting streak currently running in the International League. Brandon Watson of the Columbus Clippers has a 30-game hitting streak.
Other fun stats, part I:
Russ Johnson has reach base safely, with either a hit or a walk, in all but 3 of the 44 games he has played in for the Tribe.
Other fun stats, part II:
The Indians have hit 10 home runs in this homestand (6 games so far ), and they put up only 9 homers in the entire month of April.
Other fun stats, part III:
Brian Bixler stole second base twice in the game, for his 9th and 10th of the season. He still has not been caught stealing this season.
A new Tribe fan is born:
Marty McLeary and his wife welcomed their newborn son this weekend. Mom and baby are doing well.
Lou Collier, former Indianapolis Indian (2000 – 2001 ), who we saw a few weeks ago playing with the Ottawa Lynx, has announced his retirement after 14 years in baseball.
INF Brent Lillibridge, a former Pirates’ farmhand who was traded to the Atlanta Braves’ organization in the Pirates’ deal for Adam LaRoche, has been promoted from the AA Mississippi Braves to the AAA Richmond Braves. The Richmond Braves will be in Indianapolis at the end of June.
Go Tribe!

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Kuwata Arrives; Indians Lose to Knights

boxscore (photos by NancyZ )
Masumi Kuwata  -- photo by NancyZ
Masumi Kuwata (photo ), the legendary Japanese pitcher, formerly of the Yomiuri Giants, has arrived in Indianapolis. He brought with him an entourage of fans and media personnel, who are just as excited as he is. Kuwata has dreamed of pitching in the US for many years, and his dream will come true in the next few days. Manager Trent Jewett said in the pre-game press conference that Kuwata was not likely going to get into Friday night’s game, because he needed time to get acclimated. But Kuwata seemed very happy to greet his fans, sign autographs, and talk with media. There was a pre-game press conference, in Japanese and English, and a post-game press conference, almost entirely in Japanese. Kuwata is excited to be here, a little nervous, misses his family, and feels his ankle is ready for him to pitch. He expects to start by pitching a little bit, maybe one inning, and then gradually building up to two innings, maybe three innings.
His fans and the media gathered around the end of the Indians’ dugout before the game, where Kuwata signed many autographs. After the game started, when he and the other relievers went down to the bullpen area, fans and media trooped down there too, where they could sit behind him. Fans had big posters and signs, which they held up even though Kuwata didn’t get into the game.
To read the Indians’ story about Kuwata, go here. Look on the right for the place to click to view the pre-game press conference. Part I of the press conference is Kuwata talking. He speaks to the Japanese reporters first. Skip ahead to time stamp 9:00 to get to the English questions and answers. Part II of the press conference is manager Trent Jewett and pitching coach Jeff Andrews (who Jewett refers to as “Andy” ).
Oh, and the Indians played a game, too.
Craig Wilson  -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians lost to the Charlotte Knights, in the first game of the 4-game series, by a score of 7-6. The Knights got started in the top of the first inning, when Tribe starter Shane Youman gave up a double to Knights’ 1B Josh Fields with two out. Former Pittsburgh Pirate, RF Craig Wilson (photo ) blasted a home run over the 418 mark on the left-centerfield wall, to put two runs on the board for the Knights. Charlotte added another run in the 3rd inning, when 2B Jason Bourgeois singled to left and moved to second on a ground out. He stole third base, and the throw from Tribe C Einar Diaz was low and 3B Russ Johnson appeared to slip and fall as he reached for it, though he probably wouldn’t have gotten to it anyway. SS Brian Bixler was backing up Johnson, and while he stopped the ball from going further into the outfield, he didn’t catch it cleanly and couldn’t make a throw back to home, where Bourgeois scored.

Einar Diaz crosses home on his second HR of the year  -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians came right back at them, scoring one run each in the 3rd and 4th innings. C Einar Diaz (photo ) smashed his second home of the season, and second in two nights in the bottom of the 3rd inning. He went after the first pitch he saw, and it landed in the berm above the left field wall, very close to the spot where his first homer fell. “It was just a case of ‘see the ball, hit the ball’ “, said Diaz after the game. “The pitch was a fastball over the middle of the plate, and I got a good piece of it.”
In the bottom of the 4th, DH Brad Eldred also took the first pitch he saw over the wall, and he also hit it close to the area where he deposited last night’s homer — though he didn’t hit the flag pole this time. That brought the Tribe to within one run of the Knights.
It was short-lived, however. In the 5th inning, 1B Casey Rogowski led off with a double that bounced off the center field wall. C Gustavo Molina put down a sacrifice bunt to move Rogowski to third. Jason Bourgeois walked, putting runners on the corners. A single to right field by SS Tomas Perez scored Rogowski, and moved Bourgeois to second base. Josh Fields’ double to right-center scored Bourgeois easily, and a throwing error by Tribe CF Rajai Davis allowed Perez to score from first base.
Michael Ryan congratulates Brad Eldred on his homer -- photo by NancyZ
Starter Shane Youman went 6 innings and made 76 pitches. He gave up 6 runs (5 were earned ) on 8 hits, with one walk and 4 strikeouts. His record is not 1-5, and his ERA increased to 5.26. Jesse Chavez took over for the 7th inning. He gave up one hit, a single by Tomas Perez that dropped into short right field, just behind first base where neither 1B Jose Hernandez, 2B Nick Green, or RF Michael Ryan could reach it. But Perez was stranded on base, when 3B Russ Johnson made a charging barehand scoop of a short bloop into the infield and fired to first just in time to get Josh Fields, and then Craig Wilson grounded out to shortstop.
Rajai Davis gets back to first -- photo by NancyZ
The Indians rallied in the 7th inning, and scored 3 runs on only one hit. Knights’ starter Lance Broadway pitched 6 innings, giving up 5 hits, two of which were Diaz’s and Eldred’s home runs. He was relieved for the 7th inning by Ehren Wassermann. Wasserman pitched to three batters before he was removed: he hit Einar Diaz with a pitch, then walked both CF Rajai Davis (photo — Davis dives back to first in time )and SS Brian Bixler. Former Indianapolis Indian and now Charlotte reliever Jason Childers came in with the bases loaded, and gave up a single to right field to 1B Jose Hernandez to score Diaz and Davis. Brad Eldred then hit a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Bixler, to bring the Tribe within one run of the Knights.
The Knights added an insurance run in the top of the 8th. Reliever Brian Rogers entered the game in relief of Jesse Chavez. He started by walking DH Ernie Young, and Young was replaced by a pinch runner, Kenny Kelly, who stole second base. LF Ryan Sweeney also walked. After CF Brian Rogers hit a pop fly to right field for the first out, Rogers was relieved, in favor of left-hander Juan Perez, to set up the lefty-lefty match-up with Knight’s 1B Casey Rogowski. Perez struck out Rogowski on three pitches, but then walked C Gustavo Molina to load the bases. That brought up the top of the order and Jason Bourgeois. Bourgeios struck out swinging, but the third strike went wild and Einar Diaz couldn’t stop it. As the pitch went to the backstop, Kenny Kelly scored, and Sweeney went to third base and Molina went to second base. Tomas Perez hit a fly ball to very short center field, which Rajai Davis caught at the end of a long, long run to end the inning.
Russ Johnson looks on as Trent Jewett argues  -- photo by NancyZ
Photo — Russ Johnson looks on as Trent Jewett argues with the umpire.
Shane Youman took the loss for the Tribe, while Lance Broadway got the win. Reliever Ryan Bukvich got the save for the Knights. The Indians put up 7 hits, including the homers by Diaz and Eldred, but none of the Tribe hitters had more than one hit.
NOTES:
Streaks:
Rajai Davis increased his hitting streak to 19 games.
Einar Diaz now has a 7 game hitting streak. “I can’t really say that I’ve been doing anything different,” says Diaz. “I’ve been looking to have a good at-bat each time I go to the plate, and fortunately, things have worked out for me.”
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Home runs by Einar Diaz and Brad Eldred, both of whom have hit homers in back-to-back games.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Rajai Davis’s long run and last-second catch of Tomas Perez’s fly ball in the 8th inning, which ended the inning and kept at least 2 more runs from scoring.
Roster Moves:
Masumi Kuwata has been added to the roster, as above.
RHP Chris Hernandez was returned to Altoona. He had been with the Indians for about 3 weeks, and made 10 appearances, with 3 saves and a 5.54 ERA.
Sean Burnett’s move to the DL is listed as being due to elbow tenderness.
Vote for your Indians to be on the International League All-Star team! Fan votes will count for 1/3 of the total vote. Media votes will also count for 1/3, and team managers, coaches, and general managers will have a 1/3 vote. You may vote a maximum of 25 times between now and June 22nd.
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