'Ducks Report: Lugo Impresses In First Start

On a night celebrating the 20-year heritage of minor league baseball in downtown Akron, the RubberDucks soundly defeated the visiting Trenton Thunder 7-3. The IBI's Jake Dungan recaps some key performances from their victory.


Lugo Solid in Double-A Debut

The RubberDucks finally got a full, team victory on Monday with timely hitting, strong defense and some impressive pitching. A large part of that success on the mound came courtesy of left-hander Luis Lugo, who made his Double-A debut against the Trenton Thunder and put forth a solid effort pitching into the sixth inning while allowing only two runs on four hits.

"Having great players behind you gives you so much confidence on the mound," explained Lugo, "It felt great today and I know the guys felt good, too. They put up a great game out there, so they give you confidence as a pitcher."

Signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Indians in 2011, Lugo has put together five seasons of mixed results, but overall serviceable numbers as a professional as he owns a career 29-38 mark with a 4.10 ERA in 115 appearances (106 starts). The 23-year-old has spent the last three seasons in Lynchburg posting comparable numbers to his career totals, but has had the chance to stick with manager Mark Budzinski then and now as they both have had the chance to move up to Double-A in 2017.

"He threw the ball great," Budzinski noted on Lugo's outing, "He had a good breaking ball working, he kept guys off-balance with his changeup every now and then and, for the most part, he threw the ball to the bottom of the zone. He got hit a couple times when his ball was up, but other than that a very good outing for him."

Lugo also attributed his strong outing to his fastball being able to induce some groundballs and having a good feel for his slider. His groundball-to-flyball rate was split at five apiece, but his four strikeouts in 5.2 innings of work are evidence of his go-to pitch working on Monday.

He got his Double-A career off to a good start, so what does the big picture look like for Lugo in 2017?

"Just work on my mechanics, keep doing my thing and get out there and compete every time I can." the left-hander said.

Lugo: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R/ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 77 pitches (45 strikes), W.

Pitch Speeds

Luis Lugo 2nd inning: 85 89 88 69 89 82 90 90 87 82 90 76 79

Luis Lugo 3rd inning: 88 82 82 90 83 78 76 88 91 90 76 88 77 81 78 78 89 90 91 90

Kipnis Back at Second Base in Latest Rehab Appearance

The former All-Star took another step forward in his rehab process by not only playing in his second consecutive rehab game, but also seeing his first live game action at second base of 2017. After being sidelined for most of spring training and now the first portion of the regular season with a shoulder strain/inflammation, Jason Kipnis is well underway to getting back to Cleveland to rejoin his teammates and the defending American League champions in their World Series quest.

Unfortunately, the results did not come along with the other positives from his appearance in Akron on Monday as the Illinois native went 0-for-3 at the plate with three strikeouts, all swinging.

"I'll worry about the results as I get closer to getting back up," said Kipnis, "Right now the big picture is the shoulder and heating it up, cooling it down and heating it back up between innings."

So far in two rehab games with the RubberDucks, the 30-year-old has gone 1-for-6 overall with a single and four punchouts. While he's trying to get back into the rhythm and flow of live-game action, however, his presence has definitely made an impression with the younger minor league players on the roster.

"It's great for the players and us, obviously, to see the way he goes about his business," Mark Budzinski admitted, "And it's fun for the guys to pick his brain on what happens in the big leagues to prepare them for their time there."

Last season, Kipnis hit .275 with a career-high 23 home runs along with 41 doubles, four triples and 82 RBI's in 156 games en route to the Indians' first pennant in nearly two decades. Additionally, he had arguably his best defensive season with career best marks in DRS (4) and UZR (7.3) at second base. So getting him healthy without any setbacks and getting his bat back in the lineup and his glove back in the field is most certainly a top priority for the team this spring.

Kipnis will have a day off on Tuesday to participate in the Indians' home opener, but will return to Akron on Wednesday for another rehab appearance at second base with the RubberDucks.

Kipnis: 0-for-3, 3 K

Jake Dungan is the Managing Editor for IBI and a podcast host on the Smoke Signals Network. Email him at jdungan@indiansbaseballinsider.com or follow him on Twitter @JakeDBaseball.

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