GOODYEAR, Arizona – Major League Baseball exhibition games began here this week for both the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds. Though not yet seeing action, North Star native and Versailles High School product Craig Stammen is in Cleveland uniform No. 40 as he hopes to see game action later in the month.
The righty reliever has been healing and rehabbing a right forearm injury since early in the 2015 regular season. Over the winter, Stammen left the Washington Nationals as a free agent and found many suitors for his services, provided he could pitch well enough to make a major league roster. He had to demonstrate that he could throw with velocity and without pain to earn an opportunity to report to spring training by mid-February.
He went through five separate throwing auditions in late January, resulting in the decision to accept an invitation from the Cleveland Indians. After Tuesday’s game between the two Ohio entries, Stammen and I headed just north of Goodyear Ballpark to have dinner and watch University of Dayton basketball. We are both UD grads.
During the sluggish first half of an eventual Dayton win, we had plenty of time to discuss the pitcher’s current situation.
“Throwing for those five teams within a week caused my arm to ‘bark.’ No damage but definite fatigue,” he began. “The Indians were satisfied that I’m healthy and laid out a program for spring training. They need a guy who can do what I did in Washington.
“We began with no throwing for the first week. Now I’m throwing and feeling good. By next week I’ll be throwing all of my pitches including breaking balls off the mound. I’ll throw to hitters shortly after that, and then we’ll figure when I can get into some games.”
Will Stammen be ready for opening day of the regular season?
“Probably not but we’ll have to see. Remember, I have to earn a roster spot to pitch for the big club,” he continued. “So far I’m thrilled to be a Cleveland Indian. The staff, medical care, and level of organization are impressive.”
While with Washington he trained in Florida but now is enjoying the Cactus League of metro-Phoenix.
“The weather and baseball facilities here are awesome,” he opined as the basketball game headed to intermission.
Hoying & Luebke
Fort Loramie product Jared Hoying is training just north of here as a seventh year outfield prospect with the top farm team of the Texas Rangers and is getting some work with the big league squad including last Monday’s intra-squad game.
“My mission is simple,” he said on Monday night. “Stay healthy, play well, and get a chance with somebody. Scouts from other organizations always see us play.”
Not in western spring training for the first time in his career is Marion Local’s Cory Luebke. The former San Diego lefty is trying to bounce back from two major pitching elbow surgeries with the Pittsburgh Pirates, who train in Bradenton, Florida. He was recently held back by a hamstring strain. Early returns on the elbow were favorable.
Dave Ross began covering spring training for the SDN in 1991. His Friday columns continue next week as he reports on a chance meeting with former Reds manager Lou Piniella.