May 2008

Carmona DL'd, Lewis down, Elarton and Mujica up

Slew of moves today…

Fausto Carmona’s going on the 15-day DL with a left hip strain suffered Friday night. So Aaron Laffey will remain in the rotation a little longer than expected.

The Indians have made a couple moves in their bullpen, optioning Jensen Lewis to Triple-A Buffalo, calling up RHP Ed Mujica and purchasing the contract of veteran RHP Scott Elarton.

Certainly good news for Elarton, who came into Spring Training camp with this club seemingly auditioning for other clubs. I don’t think the Indians seriously considered him an option in their ‘pen until they saw how well he was throwing in camp. He was one of the final cuts. At Buffalo, he was 1-2 with a 2.45 ERA in 15 appearances. 

As for Lewis, it’s no secret his velocity has been down since Spring Training. He kept insisting it was normal for him to start slow in that regard, and the velocity did begin to pick up by the end of April. But he’s still not where he was in his dominant ’07. He was 0-2 with a 3.58 ERA in 20 appearances, and he had given up four earned runs over his last four outings.

Mujica? There’s a surprise. He was 0-2 with a 4.15 ERA in 18 appearances for Buffalo. Rick Bauer, with a 1.18 ERA and 12 saves, has much, much better numbers but is not on the 40-man.

Also interesting that the Indians are making a move with Lewis and not Jorge Julio, who has simply been dreadful lately (six earned runs over his last three innings). Just a week ago, Lewis was considered a closing candidate and he’s been one of Wedge’s go-to options all season, while Julio has been used sparingly, at best. Of course, they’ve got an option on Lewis and not on Julio, so that plays into it.

Anyway, I’ll have more on the site a little later.

Bye Bye, Breslow

The Indians will cut ties with a player Friday to make room for Joe Borowski. It won’t be Michael Aubrey, and it won’t be Andy Marte. It will be seldom-used lefty reliever Craig Breslow, who made just seven appearances and went 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in 8 1/3 innings of work.

Breslow was informed after Thursday night’s loss that he will be designated for assignment. The Indians will have 10 days to trade him, release him or outright him to the Minors.

“I would have liked to have played a more prominent role here,” Breslow said. “I don’t feel I was able to showcase my abilities. Hopefully things will work out somewhere else or here or whatever the case may be.”

So… the Indians are sticking with six relievers for the time being. Aubrey made a strong case for staying with the club by smacking two homers in his first two big-league starts. Marte? He’s, uh, still hanging around.

The blog will be out of service Friday. I’ll catch back up with you Saturday.

 

"George, I am really gonna make some changes."

Let's talk a little about this offense.

 

Aside from the occasional random outburst, we've seen the bats struggle to get hot all season. The Indians have only had 13 games in which they've scored more than four runs. They've scored 108 runs in those games and only 186 for the season. So 58.1 percent of their runs have come in 13 stinkin' games.

 

Obviously, the offense has been a concern all year. But this road trip has taken matters to new levels. What we're seeing now is an utterly lifeless approach. For all the Tribe's struggles early on, the club was batting a somewhat respectable (given the circumstances) .275 with runners in scoring position, heading into this trip. But in the last five games (all losses, as you know), they've hit .108 (4-for-37) with RISP, lowering the season mark to .259.

 

In other words, things are getting worse, not better. And we're 46 games into the season. The Tribe has the best starters' ERA in the big leagues, and it's going to waste.

 

Clearly, it's time for changes, but what do you change?

 

Do you fire hitting coach Derek Shelton? If you're one of the dozens of angry e-mailers writing into my inbox on a daily basis, you do. Personally, I'm not convinced that's the answer. As I wrote in this week's mailbag, it's difficult to discern how much credit to give a hitting coach when things are going well and how much blame to give him when they're going poorly.

 

Being around this team on a daily basis, I see the way Shelton works with the hitters, how he goes over the scouting report on that day's pitcher with each guy before each game and has them recite their expected approach, and I've seen how he generally has a good working relationship with the members of this lineup, as well as the other coaches.

 

Dismissing Shelton -- while a possibility, of course -- would seem to me to be more of a message-sender than anything else. And if these guys don't get the message by now, when will they ever? They see the standings. They've seen quality start after quality start wasted. And they've seen one of the more popular guys in the clubhouse sent packing for Pittsburgh.

 

The only messages that absolutely should be sent should come in the form of playing time -- or lack thereof. I liked Plain Dealer columnist Terry Pluto's suggestion that Michael Aubrey should be stealing some starts against right-handed pitching away from Travis Hafner (.193 against righties) and Ryan Garko (.214). Aubrey's spot on this roster is considered tenuous, but there's no reason it should be at the moment. He's a fine defender, he's homered in his first two starts and he's done nothing but hit when he's healthy in the Minors. Give him a shot.

 

On the other side of the infield, I am past the point of believing Eric Wedge has any intention of giving Andy Marte another legitimate shot at third base, so it's time to cut bait. When Joe Borowski returns from the disabled list tomorrow, try to sneak Marte through waivers, rather than dumping Aubrey.

 

Up the middle, Asdrubal Cabrera simply has to go to Buffalo for a little while to get his bat straightened out. I know he adds quite a bit to this club defensively, but he takes away quite a bit offensively, especially against lefties. Bring up Josh Barfield and have him share the second-base starts with Jamey Carroll for a while. Let's see how much Barfield has matured as a hitter in the past year, and let's give Asdrubal a little time to right himself.

 

Cabrera, if he hits, is this team's starting shortstop of the future. So start dangling Jhonny Peralta. See what kind of interest is out there. He's been around too long to have the mental lapses he shows at the plate and in the field. His contract would be attractive to some teams.

 

Speaking of trades, as the market heats up in the coming weeks, I would hope the Indians would explore interest for Paul Byrd, Aaron Laffey and Jeremy Sowers, as well. Byrd, of course, wouldn't have much value at this point, and Sowers is still something of a project, so Laffey is the most appealing trade bait of the three. You hate to part with starting depth, and you have to like the way Laffey has handled himself at the big-league level, but the Indians need help -- particularly in the middle infield and at third base -- and Laffey would have to be attractive to other teams right about now.

 

I appreciate the Indians' respect for the length of the season, but this division is utterly winnable. And with the starting pitching the Tribe is getting this year, there is no reason for this club to be patient to a fault.

 

Those are some of my suggestions. Feel free to share yours.

 

And here are the lineups for tonight's series and road trip finale with the Sox...

 

INDIANS (22-24): CF Grady Sizemore, LF Ben Francisco, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, 1B Ryan Garko, 3B Casey Blake, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. LHP Laffey on the mound. 

 

WHITE SOX (25-20): SS Orlando Cabrera, 2B Alexei Ramirez, LF Carlos Quentin, RF Jermaine Dye, DH Jim Thome, 1B Paul Konerko, 3B Joe Crede, CF Nick Swisher, C Toby Hall. LHP Mark Buehrle on the mound. 

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Twenty-five percent of Peralta’s hits (32) are home runs (8). Now, if he had 60 or 70 hits, that would really be impressive.
  • If the Indians are swept in Chicago today, it would be the first time since Sept. 2003.
  • How about LHP David Huff? A day afer being named the Eastern League Player of the Week, he gives up a run over seven innings in a 4-1 win over Altoona last night. He’s now 4-1 with an Eastern League-best 2.03 ERA. He has a 1.01 ERA over his last seven starts.
  • Gutierrez is batting .128 (5-for-39) in 13 May games.
  • Martinez is 3-for-his-last-25. And homerless. Still.
  • Don’t forget that strikeout promotion from the other night. If you’re buying tickets online at Indians.com for the June 10 Dollar Dog game against the Twins, you can save $9 on lower reserved, upper box, mezzanine and bleacher seats. You can enter the promo code STRIKEOUT through midnight, Sunday, May 25.

~AC 

Joe Bo update…

Closer Joe Borowski made what is expected to be his last rehab appearance tonight at Double-A Akron, against Altoona. He went one inning, giving up one hit and striking out a batter. He threw 21 pitches, 12 of which were strikes.

Joe Bo was topping out around 85-86 mph.

This is my second time throwing to hitters,” Borowski told the Akron Beacon Journal. “Each time you throw, your muscles become memory again and you get that free-and-easy feeling. I felt a big improvement just from the other day.”

Adam Raised a Cain

Some people think children are a window into the grace and innocence of the world.

Other people just think they are a great way to score autographs.

Some overzealous dad was using his kid as autograph bait by the dugout a few minutes ago. This happens often, but this guy really had a gameplan going.

With his kid — who I’m guessing was about 5 years old — by his side, this guy stood at the side of the Tribe dugout with a huge sign that read, “Mr. Hafner, Can I Please Have Your Autograph?” But here’s the genius part… the top half of the sign was changeable. It was like the signs they use to advertise gas prices. When Grady Sizemore walked by, the guy flipped the sign to read, “Mr. Sizemore, Can I Please Have Your Autograph?” And a close inspection revealed that a third alternative was written out for Jermaine Dye.

The kid covered his bases, too. He wore a White Sox hat and a Hafner T-shirt. When Grady walked by, he quickly threw on a Sizemore jersey. In fact, now that I think about it, this might not have been a kid at all. It’s possible it was a midget memorabilia hound.

Let’s get to the lineups. Mike Aubrey’s in there again, as Garko continues to struggle.

INDIANS (22-23): CF Grady Sizemore, RF Ben Francisco, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, LF David Dellucci, SS Jhonny Peralta, 1B Mike Aubrey, 3B Casey Blake, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. RHP Paul Byrd on the mound, gunning for his 100th career victory.

WHITE SOX (24-20): SS Orlando Cabrera, C A.J. Pierzynski, LF Carlos Quentin, RF Jermaine Dye, DH Jim Thome, 1B Paul Konerko, 3B Joe Crede, CF Nick Swisher, 2B Alexei Ramirez. RHP Javier Vazquez on the mound.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Shin-Soo “Big League” Choo is hot at Triple-A Buffalo. He went 3-for-5 with a homer in the Bisons’ 6-5 loss to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs last night. He’s hit safely in three straight (6-for-11 in that span) and is now hitting .353 (6-for-17) in five games on his rehab assignment. Choo, coming back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow, will join the Indians when the assignment is up on June 3.
  • Right-hander Adam Miller is also on fire. He gave up just two hits with three walks and four strikeouts in five scoreless innings in that Bisons’ loss. Over his last three starts, he is 0-1 with a 1.13 ERA. I say bring him up and toss him in the bullpen, but what do I know? (Don’t answer that).
  • There was an error in the notes yesterday that led to an error in my game story. The Indians have had 24 games (or 53 percent of the season) with three runs or less, not 25. They are 6-18 in those games.
  • On the injury front, strength and conditioning coach Tim Maxey isn’t on this trip. He just had his knee scoped back home. Apparently it’s an old high school football injury. Here’s wishing him a quick recovery.
  • The Tribe’s team OPS of .676 is the worst in the AL.

~AC 

Leyland goes off…

If you need a break from watching the Indians’ offense flailing away, perhaps you’ll enjoy the train wreck that is the 2008 Detroit Tigers. Jim Leyland had a beautiful rant to reporters today, which WXYT has posted on its Web site.

Here’s my buddy Jason Beck’s story on the circus.

"Rock flies right through paper… Nothing beats rock."

Greetings from Chicago. I love Chicago. And I could use this blog entry to write all the reasons I love Chicago, but that would be counterproductive, because chances are you either A. Have been to Chicago and don’t need to hear how great it is, because you already know, or B. Have never been to Chicago but have already heard how great it is and don’t need it rubbed in. Everybody loves Chicago, except my boss, but he is what we refer to as the “exception that proves the rule.”

A trip to Chicago just so happens to be the grand prize at my local watering hole’s Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament, which will take place in August. I was never very good at Rock, Paper, Scissors because of that age-old, over-reliance on Rock. It’s just too tempting to use Rock. It’s like having a 97 mph fastball with no life on it, and a devastating changeup, but you keep going with the fastball, because it’s just too tempting. (Not that I know what it’s like to have a 97 mph fastball … or even a changeup, for that matter.)

If you’re a true Rock, Paper, Scissors master, and a little tournament at an East Side Cleveland Irish joint isn’t enticing enough, might I recommend the World RPS Society? Or the USARPS League? Or maybe I’ll just recommend that you get a girlfriend.

On to the lineups. Jhonny Peralta looked so bad in the field Saturday that Wedge opted to give him a second straight (well, third, if you count the off day) day off, with a .180 hitter filling in for him. That’s bad….

INDIANS (22-22): CF Grady Sizemore, RF Ben Francisco, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, 1B Ryan Garko, LF David Dellucci, 3B Casey Blake, 2B Jamey Carroll, SS Asdrubal Cabrera. LHP C.C. Sabathia on the mound, looking to save you some money (read below).

WHITE SOX (23-20): SS Orlando Cabrera, C A.J. Pierzynski, LF Carlos Quentin, RF Jermaine Dye, DH Jim Thome, 1B Paul Konerko, 3B Joe Crede, CF Nick Swisher, 2B Alexei Ramirez. RHP Jose Contreras.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • OF Jason Tyner, designated for assignment last week, went unclaimed on waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Buffalo.
  • Joe Borowski used 10 pitches to retire the side in his one-inning rehab outing for Class A Lake County last night. He’ll work out of the Double-A Akron bullpen on Wednesday and is expected back after that outing, assuming it goes well.
  • Every strikeout logged by a Tribe pitcher tonight saves you $1 on lower reserved, upper box, mezzanine, or bleacher tickets for the June 10 Dollar Dog Night game against the Twins. Just enter the password STRIKEOUT when buying tickets for that game on Indians.com from 10 minutes after the conclusion of tonight’s game until midnight Sunday, May 25. The minimum ticket price is $1.
  • Casey Blake’s 27 RBIs tie for 12th in the AL.
  • The opposition has only attempted 26 stolen bases against the Indians this year, with 54 percent of those attempts ending successfully. That’s an average of .59 stolen base attempts per game and the second-lowest total in the AL behind the Royals’ 21. Last year, opponents were attempting 1.0 steals per game and successful 79 percent of the time.
  • LHP David Huff was named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week. Huff, the Tribe’s first pick in the ’06 draft, is 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA at Akron this season. He has a 0.96 ERA over his last six starts. Outstanding.

~AC

Westbrook in Eastlake…

Jake went 3 2/3 innings for the Class A Lake County Captains on Sunday against Lexington. He allowed one run on three hits with one walk and four strikeouts.

This was Westbrook’s first rehab outing since landing on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left intercostal muscle last month. The Indians will evaluate how he feels and determine if another outing is in order before he’s ready to return to the big-league rotation.

"Why don't you just give up?"

Hillary Clinton gave a campaign speech near my Covington, Ky., hotel last night, which brings up an interesting question: Why is Hillary Clinton still giving campaign speeches?

As if we haven’t been hammered with enough of the Obama-Clinton battle this year, Hillary, driven purely by ego at this point, is still pushing ahead as if she has any chance of securing her party’s nomination. She’s saying things like, “You don’t walk off the court before the buzzer sounds, because you never know if you’ll hit a three-point shot.” But a three-point shot at the buzzer doesn’t do you much good when you’re down by four points.

At last night’s speech, Clinton compared herself to the Reds, who had that bottom of the ninth comeback against the Tribe yesterday. Now, if comparing yourself to the Reds isn’t a sure sign that you’re headed for disaster, I don’t know what is.

(Note: The preceding rant was more a matter of common sense than politics. I would hope the pro-Clinton contingent would recognize that and spare me the hateful e-mails. My inbox thanks you.)

All right, it’s the last day of the first installment of the Ohio Cup. Of course, we’ll still have three more games in this scintillating series at Progressive Field next month. The winner of this annual series gets a trophy. I’ve yet to have it explained to me who gets the trophy if the series is split. Does it go to the team that scores the most runs? The team that draws the most fans? The team that issues the fewest balks? How does this work, exactly? Perhaps somebody from the Ohio Lottery could explain.

Mike Aubrey is getting his first Major League start today, and he’s batting sixth, no less. Opportunities abound in the Indians’ lineup these days. If you can hit, you can secure yourself a job in the big leagues. Maybe ol’ Hillary should show up to batting practice and get herself a job.

INDIANS (22-21): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, LF David Dellucci, C Victor Martinez, RF Ben Francisco, 1B Michael Aubrey, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B Casey Blake, LHP Cliff Lee.

REDS (20-23): CF Ryan Freel, SS Paul Janish, RF Ken Griffey Jr., 2B Brandon Phillips, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, LF Adam Dunn, C David Ross, 1B Javier Valentin, RHP Edinson Volquez.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • On Saturday, Jeff Datz filled in for Joel Skinner as third-base coach, as Skinner was at his daughter’s college graduation. Today, Datz is filling in for Luis Rivera at first, as Rivera is at his son Yan’s graduation in Puerto Rico.
  • The Indians have never been swept in a three-game series against Cincinnati, but they run the risk of doing so today.
  • If you want to know why the Tribe is dangerously close to being swept, look no further than the club’s 0-for-16 performance with runners in scoring position this series.
  • OF Shin-Soo Choo went 2-for-4 with an RBI double for Triple-A Buffalo yesterday against Lehigh Valley. It was his third game in a 20-day rehab stint. Choo, who had Tommy John surgery last fall, is expected to join the Indians at the end of the rehab assignment.
  • Indians starters have gone at least five innings in 28 straight games, dating back to April 16. The team’s starters’ ERA has been lowered from 3.59 to 2.88 over the last nine games.
  • Here’s an interesting promotion. For every strikeout notched by a Tribe pitcher Tuesday in Chicago, fans will receive $1 off lower reserved, upper box, mezzanine or bleacher tickets for the June 10 Dollar Dog Night game against the Twins. Tickets can be purchased on Indians.com 10 minutes after the conclusion of Tuesday’s game through midnight Sunday, May 25, be entering the password “STRIKEOUT.” The minimum ticket price is $1. And here’s the best part… Team strikeout leader C.C. Sabathia gets the start Tuesday.
  • Cliff Lee is 10-1 all-time in Interleague play. That .909 win percentage is the best in the history of Interleague among pitchers with at least 10 starts.

~AC

One Durbin, One Scott, One Deer…

Just had lunch with my buddy Jeremy Martin, a former PR intern with the Indians. Back in ’04, Jeremy and I were sitting at a Tribe game and Chad Durbin was pitching a gem. Scott Stewart was still in the Indians’ bullpen at the time, and Jeremy and I decided it would be amazing if Durbin went eight scoreless innings, Rob Deer came out of retirement to hit a solo home run, and Stewart closed it out to get the save. The above headline would have perfectly captured the win and simultaneously made George Thorogood proud. I’m still rooting for this scenario to somehow happen.

So, I don’t know how I wasn’t assigned to write this article on the MLB.com homepage. But anyway, it’s a nice rundown of the link between “Seinfeld” and baseball. Hard to believe the last episode of “Seinfeld” — possibly the worst finale of any show ever — aired 10 years ago this week.

All right, I’m on a bit of a time crunch here today, so let’s just get right to the lineups, shall we?

INDIANS (22-20): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Jhonny Peralta, LF David Dellucci, C Victor Martinez, RF Ben Francisco, 1B Ryan Garko, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B Casey Blake, RHP Fausto Carmona. Can’t wait to watch Fausto bat. Should be entertaining.

REDS (19-23): CF Corey Patterson, SS Jerry Hairston Jr., RF Ken Griffey Jr., 2B Brandon Phillips, 1B Joey Votto, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, LF Adam Dunn, C Paul Bako, RHP Aaron Harang.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Third-base coach Joel Skinner is away from today’s game, attending his daughter, Kate’s graduation from Grove City College. Bench coach Jeff Datz is filling in at third.
  • Jake Westbrook’s rehab start with Class A Lake County is scheduled to last four innings tomorrow. The game against Lexington begins at 1:05 p.m. ET at Classic Park. Closer Joe Borowski will pitch one inning for Lake County on Monday. He will most likely make a second rehab appearance Wednesday.
  • The Indians’ starting rotation sports the lowest ERA in MLB at 2.93.
  • The Tribe’s team ERA over the last eight games is 1.13, while the starters’ ERA is 0.60.
  • The Indians are two wins away from 8,500 all-time.
  • Don’t forget about the rescheduled Hardball Classic games, taking place at Progressive Field tomorrow. Solon and St. Ed’s will play at 3:30 p.m. ET, and Hudson and Avon Lake will play at 8:30 p.m.

~AC

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