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Lake County Sentinel
Akron fans get a glimpse into Cleveland Crystal Ball
Minor league baseball is all about fan experience. The owners and GMs running minor league baseball teams don’t control which players are on the roster and who plays where or who hits where in the lineup.

The Akron RubberDucks do a good job with creating fan experience outside of what happens between the lines. That and good weather brought plenty of fans to Canal Park on the first two games of the team’s first home stand of the season, including a sellout of the home opener.

Through the first two games, the fans have been treated to quite the show by the team.

Michael Brantley continued his rehab on Thursday and took Friday to recover after notching a hit in his rehab appearance recovering from offseason right shoulder surgery. As Brantley headed to Cleveland to work out with his teammates as they came home for six game home stand, Lonnie Chisenhall moved into the lineup and right field in Akron next to Bradley Zimmer in centerfield and Clint Frazier in left field.

The combination of the Indians two first round picks from 2013 and 2014 have helped Akron put a hurt on the Eastern League’s pitching staff early in the season. Other teams affiliates pitching staffs are getting great experience against the lineup and fans might be sitting right in a time machine to the possibly not-so-distant future of the Indians outfield.

In the first two games, the hype machine was well oiled and ran smoothly.

In the 8-5 win over Bowie, Frazier, Zimmer and Chisenhall looked like quite the productive trio that followed up Thursday’s nice performance from the former two and Brantley.

Bat on the mend

Chisenhall played the entire game in right field. He had an RBI double to score Frazier in the third inning and sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. He made a nice catch for the second out in the ninth inning in front of the wall after taking a few awkward steps.

Chisenhall on his rehab so far - 

Chisenhall’s third inning double - 

Complete game Clint

Frazier didn’t hit a homer but put on a show and proving he’s starting to round out his game from being more than just a power hitter with a big swing.

He attempted a bunt and eventually was hit by a pitch in his first plate appearance, hit a quick-twitch double to right field in his second at bat and scored from second on a double from Chisenhall.

His third plate appearance and subsequent result showcased a mature, impact player. He kept his swing simple and hit a soft liner to centerfield for a single. He stole second, which drew an errant throw from Bowie’s catcher and he skated to third with no problem. Chisenhall hit a tweener flyball to right field that wasn’t a gimme for a sac fly, but Frazier scored well ahead of the throw.

Frazier’s third inning double  

Frazier scores on a sac fly from Chisenhall

Locked in

It’s only been seven games thus far, but Frazier is off to his best start to a season as a pro. In 2014 at Low-A Lake County he hit .224/.339/.327 in 13 April games with three homers and eight RBI. In 2015 at High-A Lynchburg, he hit .247/.317/.301 with no homers and five RBI in 19 April games.

So far, Frazier is at .323/.382/.645 with two homers only six strikeouts and three walks.

Sticking to what works and his hard work from the offseason has allowed him to start off so well this year.

“I feel good. It’s a testament to our whole team. We have a good atmosphere going right now. It’s good to be around these guys and learn from them each day. It’s helping me be able to impact the
Game. Started slow, early in the last two seasons. This year I feel like I’ve grown up. I’ve made some adjustments as a player. Not saying that I’ve figured it out by any means. I’m sticking with what’s working right now and trusting the work I’ve put in in the offseason.”

On what’s helped him round out his game - “I think it’s both. Mental and maturing, realizing the player I am. With the players on the field with me, I’m not the best every time I step on the field. I have to go out there every time and stick within myself and not fill someone else’s shoes. I’ve got to trust the work I’ve put in in the offseason and the training is something I’m going to stick to this year.”

On playing with two major leaguers at the start of the season - “It’s awesome to hit in front of Brantley last night and Chisenhall tonight. It’s a cool feeling. It’s something I want to do in the future. I want to be in the same lineup as those two guys and help impact the game with them. For them to be in our locker room and help us win ball games is something that’s great for everybody. I’m glad they’re both here.”

On the impact Brantley and Chisenhall are having on him - “It’s not pressure. I feel like it’s more motivation. They’re going to get out of here and go to the big leagues and contribute to that team. That’s something I want to do in the future. I’m continuing to work towards that every day.”

Some of Zim some of that

Zimmer saved his performance for some late game heroics. He hit a line-drive triple to dead center that zipped over the centerfielder’s head and scored three runs to the game at 5-5 in the seventh. In the top half of eighth he tracked down a flyball that was about 15-20 steps over his head. He never took his eye of the ball and had a small pop-up slide at the end to secure it.

Zimmer’s triple 

Laser show

Both Zimmer and Frazier squared up a few balls. But catcher Jeremy Lucas chased a ball into the canal for a two-run bomb in the seventh inning that put the game out of reach.

RubberDucks Manager Dave Wallace on Chisenhall and having Brantley around

“Looks good to me. Feels good. He’ll play again tomorrow. It’s a matter of getting him in back to back games. I don’t think he’s too far off.”

“Good news bad news. I love how close we are to Cleveland. When guys are on their trek back to Cleveland that usually there’s a stop here. I would much rather see Lonnie and Michael in an Indians uniform than RubberDucks one, but it’s part of the game and happens. I love the fact that when they are there, our guys to see how they prepare, see how they play the game and just

Wallace on the win - “Lineup just a matter of time where they’re going to erupt. It’s too deep and too talented. I’m not saying there’s not going to be nights where we don’t score runs, but we always have a chance every game. The way the guys are approaching their at bats in a professional way. Just setting it up for the next guy is something that’s going to help us out a lot.

More attractions

The weather looks to be pretty good all weekend whether you choose to watch baseball in Cleveland, Akron or Lake County. In Akron, both Brantley and Chisenhall are slated to start in the outfield.. 
jlada@lakecountysentinel.com or follow Justin on Twitter @JL_Baseball Check out our IndiansNation fan page
​POSTED 04/17/2016 18:52