Another injury to a young prospect put a damper on a third consecutive Cactus League victory for the Cleveland Indians.
The Tribe dominated the San Diego Padres 11-3 on Sunday afternoon in a game defined by a bizarre injury to Nellie Rodriguez, the 27th ranked prospect in the club's farm system according to MLB Pipeline. The first baseman suffered a sprained right ankle during infield warmups before the home half of the fourth inning, leading to his departure on a medical cart.
Four home runs in the span of four innings set the tone in the later stages of the contest as Ronny Rodriguez, Francisco Mejia, Wily Mo Pena and Eric Stamets each launched a missile over the wall at Peoria Stadium.
Kluber keeps Padres offense in check
Aside from allowing three base hits to the only three batters he faced in the fifth, Corey Kluber looked a lot like the elite pitcher fans have become accustomed to seeing over the last four years. Unlike his first outing, a six-run debacle in just 2.1 frames of work, Kluber kept San Diego off the base paths by only allowing two runners to reach on singles through four innings.
The lone damage off Kluber came on Carlos Asuaje's RBI double and an inherited run surrendered by Boone Logan on a Travis Jankowski RBI single in the aforementioned fifth inning.
Three two-run innings
Offense came at a premium until the minor league talents on the Indians roster entered the contest.
After Tyler Naquin's RBI double and Pena's RBI single in the sixth, the younger bats joined in on the scoring barrage including Erik Gonzalez with a double, Ronny Rodriguez with a two-run bomb and Mejia with a solo shot off the batters eye in center field.
In the eighth, Pena, now 35-years-old and the eldest player on the field, took advantage of the opportunity to play at the game's highest level again by hitting his first home run in a major league game since 2011.
Third grand slam of the spring
Eric Stamets joined Mejia and Adam Moore as the third Tribe player to hit a grand slam in the 2017 Cactus League.
A shortstop with only 22 games of experience above the Double-A level, Stamets made a lifelong memory by knocking in Todd Hankins, Dorssys Paulino and Mike Papi on the four-run bomb.
Rodriguez sprains right ankle
One day after losing Mark Mathias (separated left shoulder) to injury, Cleveland ran into more tough luck when Nellie Rodriguez took infield drills prior to the bottom of the fourth inning. The 22-year-old slugger was carted off the field and diagnosed with a sprained right ankle after landing awkwardly.
Rodriguez was a non-roster invitee to big league camp and belted 26 home runs and 85 RBIs with the Double-A Akron RubberDucks in 2016.
The Indians will round out their brief two-game road trip against the Chicago White Sox on Monday at 4:05 PM ET from the Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ.
Carlos Carrasco and Carson Fulmer are the probable pitchers for the matinee.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.