Near-Perfect Guardians Drub Giants

Near Perfect Guardians Drub Giants
(Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images)

SCOTTSDALE, AZ — Near-perfect pitching and thunderous hitting powered the Cleveland Guardians past the San Francisco Giants 10-0 Thursday night.

Cal Quantrill pitched perfect ball for 5 2/3 innings while Josh Bell, Oscar Gonzalez and Amed Rosario ripped long home runs for Cleveland.

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It was an overwhelming performance seldom seen on any level.

Quantrill was lifted after issuing a two-out walk in the sixth. The Giants remained hitless until Mike Yastrzemski lined a one-out single to right-center in the seventh off Enyel De Los Santos. Cleveland out-hit the Giants, 14-2

Launching Long Balls

Bell blasted a three-run homer in the first. Gonzalez lined a two-run shot the opposite way in the fourth and Rosario’s two-run poke made it 10-0 in the sixth. The trio each had one other hit and RBI, accounting for all of Cleveland’s scoring.

Steven Kwan opened the game with an opposite-field single to left and went to second on a one-out single to center by Jose Ramirez. Both moved up on a wild pitch by Anthony DeSclafani. The Giants starter then left a 1-2 pitch belt high over the center of the plate and Bell drove it high, deep and out of sight over the roof in right center.

That is precisely what the Guardians hope to get on a consistent basis from the switch-hitting slugger signed as a free agent.

Quantrill struck out five in his best performance by far this spring. The right-hander had been spotty while splitting time between the Cleveland camp and pitching for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

See You Soon, Kid

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Xzavion Curry was optioned to the minors before the game. That leaves rookie lefty Tim Herrin and right-handers Michael Kelly and Hunter Gaddis battling for one spot in the bullpen.

Herrin has the inside track. Manager Terry Francona currently has no lefties available at all with Sam Hentges sidelined. Hentges is back to throwing but will not be ready to start the season.

Kelly, signed as a non-roster free agent this winter, has been efficient in seven outings. He worked a handful of innings.

Francona told reporters he encouraged Curry to go to the minor league camp and get stretched out to work more innings. That would make the right-hander with the nice sinking fastball available to start or relieve should an opening occur at either spot in Cleveland.

Guardians’ Top 100 Countdown: 30 to 26 continues to count down our list of the Guardians’ top 100 prospects for 2023. This quintet features two pitchers picked a little later in the draft who have been impressive in the minor leagues. There’s also a power-packed outfielder starting to unlock his aw potential, a precocious infielder whose dad played in the majors, and a catcher trying to get back to the majors at age 24.

Here are the previous listings: 31-35 | 36-40 | 41-45 | 46-50 | 51-60 | 61 – 70 | 71 – 80 | 81 – 90 | 91 – 100

Nick’l Be Back

30. Nick Mikolajchak, RHP 11th-round pick (340 overall) in 2019 6’2” 215 B: R T: R 11/21/1997

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Just as he moved up to this spot last week in a readjustment of rankings, he got hurt on March 18. An examination revealed a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He’ll be out a while. This spring, he had a 1.93 ERA and one save in seven outings and was on the radar for a bullpen spot in Cleveland. In three years in the minors, he has 19 saves and a 2.50 ERA overall. In 115 innings, he allowed 86 hits and 41 walks, striking out 143. He was not as good at Triple-A Columbus in 2022 as he was at Double-A Akron in 2021. A 90-93 MPH fastball, low-80s curve, and mid-70s change with fade from an overhand delivery are his best pitches.

He is the second pitcher drafted by Cleveland out of Sam Houston State. Phil Hennigan was a fourth-rounder way back in 1966. By 1969, the right-hander was a key component of Cleveland’s bullpen. In four seasons (1969-72) he fashioned a 17-10 record and 23 saves. Too many walks kept the hard thrower from better numbers. Two others from the school pitched in Cleveland: RHP Fred Beene (1974-75) and LHP Jamie Easterly (1983-87).

Raw Skills Developing

29. Johnathan Rodriguez, OF 3rd-round pick (102 overall) in 2017 6’3” 220 B: R T: R 11/4/1999
2022 MiLB Headshot of Johnathan Rodriguez
2022 MiLB Headshot of Johnathan Rodriguez

Picked 10 spots behind current Cleveland reliever Trevor Stephan (New York Yankees), he was among the youngest players in the 2017 draft. The native of Puerto Rico who played high school ball in Florida signed for $450,000 and got rich praise in his first spring camp. “This kid can hit,” said one of the wisest instructors in the organization. “Sometimes he tries too hard, but I’ll take that. It is easier to work with a kid who wants it rather than think he already has it made.”

It took a few years for that desire to become productive. Last year at High-A Lake County, he finally turned raw skills into success: .292, 21 homers. Moved up to Akron, he hit only .206 in 28 games with five homers. He still must develop better discipline and pitch recognition at the plate. When he lays off breaking balls away, he is a dangerous hitter, especially to the right-center gap. He still gets too anxious and pitchers can exploit that by delivering even more breaking stuff and changeups. Having such an aggressive nature is good to a point both at bat and in the field. Rodriguez has a very good arm and sometimes tries to show it off instead of making a shorter, wiser toss to keep runners from advancing. He’s learning, though.

Angel’s In The Infield

28. Angel Martinez, INF International free agent (Dominican Republic) 2018 6’0” 185 B: S T: R 1/27/2002

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Let’s see. He plays the infield in the Guardians’ organization. If he only hit from one side of the plate that would be a switch. The son of ex-MLB catcher Sandy Martinez (1995-04 with one game for Cleveland) received a $500,000 signing bonus. A veteran scout this spring insisted it was money wasted. “He’s too stiff to play short or second, his arm is erratic at third and he jumps at the ball at the plate,” he said. The Guardians still believe Martinez will be worth it, pointing out he reached Double-A last year at age 20. He hit .288 with 10 homers in 78 games at Lake County to earn the promotion.

Most of his power production was from the left side. He made more contact swinging the other way, hitting .295 against lefties. He also drove in 14 runs in 21 games against other top prospects in the 2020 Arizona Fall League. Martinez’s baseball instincts, reaped as a catcher’s son, and ability to adjust quickly in the field and at bat are good attributes. He has committed errors at both short (24) and second (14) across three pro seasons. Instructors maintain that with his quick hands and good arm, that can be cleaned up.

Leftwich Looks Alright

27. Jack Leftwich, RHP 7th-round pick (216 overall) in 2021 6’4” 220 B: R T: R 9/26/1998
2022 MiLB Headshot of Jack Leftwich
2022 MiLB Headshot

Cleveland scouts saw something that made them believe Leftwich had more ability than what he showed in three unspectacular years at Florida against top-notch competition. They ignored his 4.24 ERA on paper and focused on what they actually saw: raw athleticism and a touch of swagger. They were proven correct. In his first pro season in 2022, that all played out well. Working from a quick windup, he compiled an 8-2 record and fine 2.72 ERA between Lynchburg and Lake County. He fanned 140 and allowed only 24 walks and 76 hits across 109.1 innings. Those are sensational numbers.

The big guy has a confident, no-nonsense approach. He just rocks back and fires a 93-97 MPH fastball with sink to get groundballs and a good changeup that racks up strikeouts. He must improve an inconsistent breaking ball. When he throws it properly, it commands both outside corners. He experienced a slight elbow issue in September after throwing 40 more innings than he did his last year in college and was held back this spring.

Cleveland scouts go after Gators. Leftwich is the organization’s 19th draft pick out of Florida. The best to get to Cleveland was hard-hitting Herbert Perry (1994-96). The corner infielder missed all of 1997 with a knee injury. In 529 games with four MLB teams, he hit .272 with 55 homers. Current Cleveland catcher Mike Zunino went to Florida. Probably the best of 83 big-leaguers from the school was the last Cleveland player to win an MVP Award, 70 years ago! In 1953, third baseman Al Rosen rocked the AL with 43 homers, 145 RBI and a .336 average. It was his fourth of five straight years with 100+ RBI and 24+ homers.

Getting It Back Together

26. Bryan Lavastida, C 15th-round pick (463 overall) in 2019 6’0” 200 B: R T: R 11/27/1998

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Last year was a good news / bad news scenario for the converted infielder. It started great as he made the big-league club as the backup catcher. After getting on 12 at-bats, he was sent to Triple-A Columbus on April 26 and found it tough to knock off the rust. He batted .225 in 39 games and was dispatched down another level in July. He hit only .195 in 45 games for Double-A Akron. It was a disturbingly different scenario than 2021 when he hit .289 across three levels with nine homers, 51 RBI, and even 16 stolen bases. Those solid offensive numbers along with savvy instincts and athleticism behind the plate led to his quick rise.

All of those qualities remain, though he must make adjustments. Pitchers found a definite weak spot, making him flail away all too often at offerings that dove off the outside part of the zone. He must adjust, regain a confident plate approach, and handle Akron’s young pitchers in order to climb back up the very competitive ladder.

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