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New baseballs could be a reason for IL's offensive surge

Posted at 12:04 AM, Apr 19, 2019

INDIANAPOLIS — The first two weeks of the Indians season has seen a surge in balls leaving the ballpark.

All over Triple-A baseball, scoring is on the rise. It might be the baseballs themselves at the center of it all. This season, the International League began using the same baseballs as the big leagues.

There are two noticeable differences: they are wound a bit tighter, and more crucial, the outer leather is much smoother.

"We were fortunate to practice with them in spring training, which was nice, so we're ready for it," Indians pitcher Mitch Keller said. "But, I mean, it's 85-90 down there and it's 40 to 60 degrees here, so it's different."

Smoother ball, better aerodynamics. A harder ball goes further, faster.

"It's a bit of an adjustment," Indians pitcher Geoff Hartlieb said. "You have to make it out there. It's not like the ones you play catch with before the game, so it feels a little slick in the hand."

Across the IL, scoring is up more than two runs per game. The most ridiculous end of this: a 20-18 slugfest between Rochester and Scranton last weekend. There were 38 runs, 43 hits and 15 home runs. The wind was blowing out.

But let's give the hitters some credit, too. The Indians have a lineup full of young talent right now.

"You go up there and get a good pitch and you drive it, you know?" Indians manager Brian Esposito said. "We're not trying to steer balls, leave the ballpark. Just trying to impact the ball and see where it goes."

Some of the pitchers are starting to figure it out already. J.T. Brubaker has given up just three runs in his first 16 innings. Hartlieb is spotless in six relief innings.

"More than anything, it has to do with the cold weather," Hartlieb said. "Your hand feels like it wants to on the ball."

Baseball has a way of leveling off during a long season. We'll see if the scoreboard keeps getting a workout when the summer heats up.

"Getting more outings under your belt, just as you get used to it," Hartlieb said. "We'll have the warm weather back anyway."