INDIANAPOLIS - Seventeen days remain until Opening Night for the Indianapolis Indians, and it is also the number of home runs Danny Ortiz hit in an Indians uniform last season. This is significant because Ortiz will likely be back playing for the Tribe on April 6.
Ortiz has not made it to the major leagues yet, but he has hit the ball well in the minors. He began his career in the Minnesota Twins organization hitting .263 (724-for-2,747) with 74 home runs, 391 RBI and a .432 slugging percentage in seven years as a Twins farmhand. Ortiz signed a minor league contract with the Pirates in 2015 and played the entire 2016 season with the Indians.
With the Pirates outfield likely set for Opening Day and into 2017, Ortiz will be a big bat for the Indians this season. Last year, he was second on the team to Josh Bell in RBI (57) and total bases (181). With Bell playing in Pittsburgh in 2017, the Indians will look for more of the same from Ortiz this season.
Although he was the team leader in home runs in 2016, one look at Ortiz and you may not say "slugger." He stands at just 5-foot-11 and weighs 190 pounds, but uses his strong core and quick bat to hit the ball out of the ballpark. He seems to be no stranger to the long ball as he's registered double-digit home run seasons five times in his eight-year minor league career. A year before joining the Tribe, Ortiz clubbed 17 dingers with the Rochester Red Wings.
So far this spring, Ortiz has not launched a home run yet, but he has hit the ball well. In 15 games with the Pirates, the Puerto Rican outfielder is hitting .371 with three doubles and three RBI. With the entire Pittsburgh starting outfield playing in the World Baseball Classic, Ortiz made the most of his opportunities last week ripping six hits and driving in two runs in 14 at-bats.
Indians fans may also see Ortiz deliver in the clutch this season. He had six hits that delivered the winning run for the Tribe in 2016, and also hit six home runs with runners on base last season, which led the Tribe. Ortiz will be an essential spark in the Indians lineup for 2017.