Though the weather from February seems to have stuck around, April is here and that means the return of professional baseball. It can be argued that both of Ohio’s teams, the Cleveland Indians and the Cincinnati Reds, are coming into the 2018 season with things to prove.
The Indians are coming off a 102-60 season, placing first in the American League (AL) Central division. Though they were World Series favorites throughout the regular season, the Indians’s playoff run was stopped in the divisional round by the New York Yankees. In a mediocre division like the AL Central, seeing the Indians on top at the end of the summer is a safe prediction.
Outfielder Bradley Zimmer has recovered from the injury that kept him out of Cleveland’s 2017 playoff run, which adds both hitting power and defensive skill to the team. Though first baseman Carlos Santana signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in the off season, the Indians picked up Yonder Alonso from the San Diego Padres to fill the hole left by Santana’s departure. Less than one week into the season, Alonso has already recorded a grand slam. So far, Alonso is a good fit.
Pitching has carried the Indians in recent years, and it will be what makes or breaks them in 2018. Several familiar faces make up the starting rotation, with former Cy Young winner Corey Kluber leading the way. Though Kluber had a rough opening day start, he can be trusted with a heavy regular season workload.
Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger, and Josh Tomlin round out the starting rotation. Although Tomlin got fairly well destroyed in an April 3 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, Cleveland should expect good things from their pitching. Combine this rotation with reliable closer Cody Allen and the solid relief work of Andrew Miller, and the Indians have a recipe for success.
The Cincinnati Reds did not have quite as good of a season as the Indians, but are set to improve. The Reds finished the 2017 season 68-94 and finished last in the National League (NL) Central Division. Though the Reds were not a great team, the NL Central was a competitive division throughout 2017.
In addition to another underwhelming season, shortstop Zack Cozart left the team during the offseason and signed a three-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels. Despite the seemingly never-ending stream of bad news coming from the Reds, Joey Votto had a career year at first base. Returning veterans include Votto, catcher Tucker Barnhart, and outfielder Billy Hamilton.
Longtime starting pitcher Homer Bailey leads the rotation, followed by a host of younger athletes including Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, and Cody Reed. Though Cincinnati has a 1-3 record as of April 4, improvement is at hand for the young team. Although they are a mediocre club in a competitive division, Reds fans should stay optimistic. Although unpredictable, the team is a few pieces away from being a serious contender.
With the Indians gearing up for another division title and the Reds seeking to improve, fans of either team have many things to look forward to in the 2018 season.