Today is one of my favorite days on the sports calendar, offering a non-stop smorgasbord of fan delights. The sheer volume of excitement is unmatched, from the thrill of the underdog in perpetual struggle with the favorite to the beautifully stark contrast between game-winning heroics and heartbreaking defeat. I'm referring, of course, to Game 3 of the Spring Ohio Cup, between the Reds and Indians. With the series tied 1-1, we arrive at the crucial rubber match. Except, of course, that both teams play one more time before the spring is over. So they could end up tying the series.
The underdog Indians, out of the American Conference, are forced to play the Reds and their Tenth Man, the Goodyear Goons, at Goodyear Arena. Their once-great program has fallen on hard times, in part due to recruitment violations, which include not recruiting the right players to field a successful team. The Indians have played a tough non-conference schedule, highlighted by a critical March win against Milwaukee. Fortunately for the Indians, all of the Reds normal starters are being rested out of lack of respect for the opponent.
Today's position players are mostly soon-to-be Louisville Bats, with the exception of Cairo, and possible exceptions of Hermida and Chris Heisey. The team will be wearing the green caps, though Dusty must not be feeling entirely festive, having neglected to put the most Irish of current Reds, Ryan Hanigan, into the lineup. Mike Leake will hit for himself, in the first instance of no DH this spring. I'm not sure if there will be an effort to get any of the other pitchers ABs the rest of the way, but it certainly makes sense for Leake - even if he's starting out at Louisville. With all the talk of demotion, it's easy to forget he hit .333/.407/.354 in 60 major league PAs last season.
Leake is scheduled for 70 pitches, which could be anywhere from 5 innings down to 2 1/3. After that, we get a hard look at guys likely (or guaranteed) to see time in the bullpen this season: Nick Masset, Aroldis Chapman, Bill Bray, Jordan Smith and Dontrelle Willis.
It's a perfect storm of counter-programming today, with a full slate of first round games coinciding with our nation's favorite drinking holiday (other than Saturdays). Taken with the lack of star power in the lineup and the fact that today's tilt starts just as people are cutting out early to go to the pub, it should all ensure a FS-OH audience of approximately 17 people. And like half of those are Kris Negron's relatives.
A few roster projection updates: I'd mark Logan Ondrusek down with an ink pen. He'll join Cordero, Masset, Bray, and Chapman as locks. Arredondo is looking increasingly AAA-bound, if for no other reason than a little more rehab time, so I'm saying it's two of: Maloney, LeCure, Willis or Burton.
And here's your Thursday viewing guide:
|4:10 pm||Richmond (12)||Vanderbilt (5)||TBS|
|4:40 pm||Northern Colo. (15)||San Diego St. (2)||TNT|
I know it's a fashionable upset pick, but I've got Richmond in that second game.