CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – It’s the time of year where baseball purists have a renewed interest in their flailing team.
As the calendar page turns from August to September, chances are given, dreams are fulfilled and opportunities are seized in the baseball world.
It’s time for September call-ups.
While the Cleveland Indians went nearly the entire season without an every day legitimate left-fielder or right-handed bat, fans were left thinking, “there has to be someone better than what they have”.
The Johnny Damon experience failed. Shelley Duncan proved he really is just a pinch hitter (and a shaky one at that). Ezequiel Carrera may never be able to remember to wear his shades when trying to track down a fly ball in the sun.
It’s time for the Indians to give their young minor leaguers a shot… Their first batch of call-ups includes a someone you probably didn’t expect.
Outfielder Thomas Neal joined the Indians on Saturday, in his first call up to the big leagues. He has quietly made a name for himself this season with the team’s Double-A affiliate, the Akron Aeros.
Why Neal, you ask?
“Because he deserves it.” Indians manager Manny Acta said before Saturday’s game.
“We’re very happy with the way he went about his business in the minor leagues. We took him off the (40-man) roster (at the beginning of the season), and sent him down from Triple-A to Double-A just to get him at-bats because we had a lot of outfielders in Columbus,” Acta said.
“He had the right attitude when he went to Double-A, he had a very good season and he looks so much better than when we saw him in spring training. He’s going to get an opportunity, he’s a right-handed bat, a good athlete, and it’s the right time to see guys like him.”
Neal, 25, came to the Indians last season in a trade with the San Francisco Giants for infielder Orlando Cabrera. While Neal had success at Triple-A Fresno, a shoulder injury sidelined him for the rest of the season after only 10 games with the Columbus Clippers.
After getting off to a slow start in April, Neal has hit .314 with 25 doubles, one triple, 12 homeruns and 51 RBI in 117 games. He was also voted to the Eastern League All-Star team this season.
On Thursday night, the Aeros were two games away from clinching a playoff berth, when Neal was taken out of the lineup without a reason. The same thing happened on Friday, and his teammates speculated he might be traded, or possibly promoted to Triple-A.
After he watched his team clinch a playoff spot with a victory Friday night, Neal learned that he had more than one reason to celebrate. He was getting called up to the big leagues.
“It’s exciting. This is something we all strive for, especially as a little kid. To hear your manager and your team tell you that you’re going to the big leagues, it’s an amazing feeling.” Neal said before Saturday’s game.
Neal will make his Major League Debut during Sunday’s series finale against the Texas Rangers. He will wear number 36.