Baseball's Back, But Not For Several Minor-League Former Hoosiers

Tom Brew

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There are 22 former Indiana baseball players in the professional ranks these days, and most of them suddenly were out of work Wednesday when it was announced that there will be no minor-league baseball season.

The COVID-19 pandemic has blown up the baseball season so far, shutting it down in mid-March just as spring training was coming to a close. There was no Opening Day, and no daily grind. 

That's all starting to change now, but minor-league baseball is the first casualty of that. The major-league season will start later this month, and teams began workouts Wednesday with expanded 60-man rosters. They'll start the season with 30-man rosters and a taxi squad, just in case teams lose several players to the virus.

Five Hoosiers are on major-league rosters at the moment. Kyle Schwarber and Josh Phegley with the Chicago Cubs, Alex Dickerson of the San Francisco Giants, Kyle Hart of the Boston Red Sox, and Aaron Slegers of the Tampa Bay Rays.

The 17 others are done, at last for now. A few more might get called up to taxi squads because most teams announced rosters in the mid-50s for now.

"It stinks,'' former Hoosier Craig Dedelow said by text on Wednesday. "They told us that something might happen in the fall for us, but we'll have to wait and see.''

It's worth starting the major-league season safely because there's so much television revenue involves. That's certainly not the case with minor-league teams around the country, who rely almost solely on ticket revenue to make any money. Playing games without fans wouldn't have been cost effective.

Most minor-leaguers have been getting paid $400 a week through the shutdown, Some teams have stopped paying their players, and other surely will follow. It's not much money anyway, but it's better than nothing.

Schwarber, the fourth-overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, is Indiana's most high-profile big-leaguer. He's been a star with the Chicago Cubs, and a World Series hero in 2016. Of the five players currently on those 60-man rosters, he's the only one guaranteed to get a lot of playing time.

Not known for his defensive prowess, Schwarber will benefit during this 60-game shortened season because the National League will be using the designated hitter for the first time. 

‘‘I think we’re on the same page,’’ said new Cubs manager David Ross, a former teammate of Schwarber's. ‘‘He’s ready to do whatever I ask and (play) wherever I put him. 

‘‘He’s comfortable in the DH spot. He has told me that. And I told him it’s not going to be strictly a DH role for him. I will balance that lineup and try to play who’s giving us the best at-bats and [exploit] some matchup things we may find to put guys in the right situations.’’

Hoosiers in the Pros

  • Major Leaguers
  • Alex Dickerson, San Francisco Giants
  • Kyle Hart, Boston Red Sox
  • Josh Phegley, Chicago Cubs
  • Kyle Schwarber, Chicago Cubs
  • Aaron Slegers, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Minor Leaguers
  • Caleb Baragar, Giants organization
  • Cam Beauchamp, Phillies organization
  • Scotty Bradley, Blue Jays organization
  • Cade Bunnell, Braves organization
  • Craig Dedelow, White Sox organization
  • Elijah Dunham, Yankees organization
  • Scott Effross, Cubs organization
  • Tanner Gordon, Braves organization
  • Matt Gorski, Pirates organization
  • Ryan Halsted, Giants organization
  • Tim Herron, Indians organization
  • Matt Lloyd, Reds organization
  • Luke Miller, Phillies organization
  • Pauly Milto, White Sox organization
  • Andrew Saalfrank, Diamondbacks organization
  • Jonathan Stiever, White Sox organization
  • Sam Travis, Rangers organization