May 2008

Aubrey's the guy

1B Mike Aubrey will join the team here in Cincy tomorrow, with Jeremy Sowers getting sent back down to Buffalo.

The Indians want another bat on the bench in this NL setting. Aubrey was recently promoted to Buffalo from Double-A Akron. He was hitting .341 with five RBIs in 11 games for the Bisons. And you have to feel good for the guy after all the injuries he’s battled since the Indians took him with a first-round pick in 2003.

She came down from Cincinnati, it took her three days on a train

I’m not even much of a Jimmy Buffet fan. I just don’t know any other Cincinnati lyrics off the top of my head.

Anyway, greetings from the Queen City. Having covered the Reds for MLB.com in 2005 (and a fine, fine team it was), I always enjoy the trip back to Great American Ball Park to see some old buddies. And it’s always nice to catch up with Ken Griffey Jr., who, rather quietly, is sitting at 597 career homers. I think the Reds might actually trade him to the Mariners while he’s rounding third after belting No. 600. But that’s merely speculation on my part.

As reported yesterday, Jason Tyner was DFA’d to make room for Jeremy Sowers, who gets the spot start tonight. Expect another move before Saturday’s game. The Indians won’t have any use for Sowers after tonight, and with two more NL games on their plate, I expect them to promote a position player. Mike Aubrey and Josh Barfield strike me as the top candidates. I guess we’ll know when we know (and not a minute sooner).

On to the lineups. Travis Hafner is absent for the Indians. Will be interesting to see if Pronk gets a start at first base at all this weekend. Keeping him in there during Interleague used to be a given, but Ryan Garko’s been swinging well of late.

INDIANS (22-19): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Jhonny Peralta, LF David Dellucci, C Victor Martinez, RF Ben Francisco (fresh off a strong appearance on “The Jungle” with Jim Rome), 1B Ryan Garko, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B Casey Blake, LHP Jeremy Sowers.

REDS (18-23): CF Ryan Freel, SS Jerry Hairston Jr., RF Ken Griffey Jr., 2B Brandon Phillips, 1B Joey Votto, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, LF Adam Dunn, C Paul Bako, RHP Johnny Cueto.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • The Indians’ rotation has gone 50 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. According to Elias, that’s the longest-ever stretch by Indians starters since the AL began computing earned runs back in 1913.
  • Great stat just passed along by PR legend Rob Butcher. According to Elias, if Edinson Volquez (6-1, 1.12 ERA) and Cliff Lee (6-0, 0.67) remain their respective leagues’ ERA leaders heading into their matchup Sunday, it will be just the third time in Interleague that such a matchup has occurred. The others were in 1998, when the Mets’ Al Leiter (1.60) faced the Yankees’ Hideki Irabu (2.19) and 2002, when Boston’s Derek Lowe (1.89) faced the Braves’ Tom Glavine (1.53). Pretty cool.
  • Indians starters have allowed just 38 earned runs in thier last 180 2/3 innings over hte last 25 games. That’s good for an ERA of 1.89.
  • Some strong pitching down on the farm, as well. RHP Adam Miller gave up just two runs on two hits over six innings in the first game of Buffalo’s doubleheader yesterday. His ERA is 2.28 in five starts. Down in Akron, LHP Dave Huff recorded a three-hit, seven-inning, complete-game shutout in Altoona. He is now 3-1 with a 2.14 ERA in eight games.
  • Also on the farm, OF Trevor Crowe has been activated off the DL in Akron. He had been out with a lower back problem.
  • Tonight’s game is on WMMS 100.7 FM in the Cleveland area, because of the conflict with the Cavaliers on WTAM. Here’s hoping for a Game 7.

~AC

Oh, and in case you care about such things, the former “Showdown of Ohio” is now known as the “Ohio Cup.” It’s sponsored by the Ohio Lottery. The winner gets a trophy. So… now you know. 

A couple things from postgame today…

First off, OF Jason Tyner will be designated for assignment tomorrow to make room for LHP Jeremy Sowers, who is needed for Friday’s spot start against the Reds. The happiest recipient of that news is Aaron Laffey, who pitched so well in place of Jake Westbrook that he’ll remain here for at least another week. Laffey will either start next Thursday in Chicago or Friday in Cleveland.

Also… Eric Wedge tends to do things by the book, which is what made his decision to pull Betancourt and insert Kobayashi in the ninth today so intriguing. But Wedge said he had not had time to ponder what that move means for the closer’s job. Still, it was pretty telling that he wasn’t willing to stick with Betancourt with the bases loaded there. As speculated yesterday, it appears Masa is pitching himself into that ninth-inning job.

Mr. Perfect

Well, the Tribe starters’ scoreless streak has come to an end at 44 1/3, thanks to the unearned run coughed up by Aaron Laffey in the second inning today.

And speaking of marvelous pitching displays, it’s just been brought to my attention that today is the 27th anniversary of one of the most famous evenings in Indians’ lore — Len Barker’s perfect game against the Blue Jays.

Two years ago, I rounded up memories from some folks who were in attendance for that game, as well as some fans. I figured I’d bring those links to your attention, if you’re so inclined.

If you’d like to read Barker’s memories of the perfect game, check out this link. If you’d like to listen to the original broadcast, check this out.

Tribal Writes

I’m sending today’s blog entry out to Andy “Hawk” Call, the Indians’ beat writer for the Canton Repository. Today is Andy’s last day on the job. He’s headed off to a new role in life, where he’ll be a hireling in the haughty world of higher education — in Wisconsin, no less. I wish him and his family nothing but the best in this new endeavor, for Andy is that rarest of rare breeds — a sportswriter who is 100 percent pleasant to be around. Amazing.

It’s Weather Education Day at the ballpark, which means about 6,000 screaming kids will be in attendance. I love these games. Every fly ball is met with a high-pitched shriek as if it might escape the yard. It’s kind of like going to games with my brother Bill, who pronounces every fly ball “Gone” the second it jumps off the bat, only to watch said ball turn into a high pop-up to shallow right field.

This stretch by the Indians’ starters is truly amazing stuff. If you’re like me, and are a fan of well-pitched ballgames, this past week has been a treat. But if you work for Elias Sports Bureau, it’s been a nightmare. The Indians have made those guys work overtime. Here’s what they’ve come up with…

  • The last Major League team to have a scoreless streak of at least 41 1/3 innings was the 1974 Baltimore Orioles (Jim Palmer, Mike Cuellar, Dave McNally and Ross Grimsley threw 54 scoreless innings in September of that season).
  • The Indians are the first Major League team to record four shutouts in five games since the Orioles of 1995 ended the season with five in a row. This is the firth time in the Tribe’s history that the pitchers have had four shutouts in a five-game span. The Indians also did it in 1903, 1913, 1948 and 1965.
  • As reported yesterday, this is the longest scoreless streak by Indians starters since 1948, when Bob Lemon, Gene Bearden, Sam Zoldak and Satchel Paige all threw complete-game shutouts in succession (47 innings).

Let’s see if Aaron Laffey can keep it going today…

INDIANS (21-19): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Jhonny Peralta, LF Ben Francisco, 1B Ryan Garko, DH Travis Hafner, RF Franklin Gutierrez, C Kelly Shoppach, 2B Jamey Carroll, 3B Andy Marte. LHP Laffey gets the start. Will be interesting to see if he’s the odd man out when Sowers is promoted for tomorrow’s game in Cincy.

A’S (23-18): CF Rajai Davis, 1B Daric Barton, RF Emil Brown, DH Frank Thomas, LF Jack Cust, SS Bobby Crosby, 3B Jack Hannahan, 2B Donnie Murphy, C Rob Bowen. LHP Greg Smith on the mound.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • The Indians’ ERA on this homestand is 0.65.
  • The Indians’ rotational ERA is 2.96, which is the best in baseball.
  • Tribe pitchers have allowed runs in just one inning in their last 49 innings pitched.
  • With just 17 errors thus far, the Indians are on pace for 70 for the season, which would break a club record set in 2000.
  • The Indians are batting just .199 this month, but that’s countered by the 1.64 ERA the pitchers have sported.

~AC

Masa Mania

I’ve been asked if anything should be read into Kobayashi getting the save last night, and the answer, in the immediate sense, is no, because it was a two-inning save. Had the Indians not put up that three-spot in the eighth, Raffy Betancourt was warming and would have come out for the save situation in the ninth.

But I’m getting a growing sense that we’ll see Kobayashi get some opportunities to close this season. Betancourt has been shaky. Opponents are really cluing in on his outside fastball, and he’s yet to prove he can work inside. As for Borowski, it’s tough to know what we’re going to see from him when he gets back. Was that lack of velocity a product of the triceps strain, or is he simply showing his age after a lot of use the last two years? Time will tell.

Kobayashi, though, has only gotten better as this season has progressed. He’s gotten more and more confident with his slider and more and more comfortable in his surroundings.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, last night, Kobayashi, who had 227 saves in the Japanese Pacific League, was asked if his first Major League save will be a big news story in Japan, and he shook his head.

“He doesn’t think so,” said Toshi Nagahara, his interpreter, “but I do.” 

"You've selected… Brown Eyed Girl? If this is correct, press one now."

Tonight’s headline goes out to former Indians.com intern David Briggs, who was just watching the above “Seinfeld” episode and felt the need to text me about it. I had no other quotes on my mind to tie into today’s blog, so that’s your headline of the day. Way to go, Briggsy.

It’s an ugly day at Progressive Field. The rain is blowing around, the gates just opened and about five people strolled in, and it’s looking a bit doubtful they’ll start the game on time. Press box attendant John Krepop was just kind enough to show me the Doppler forecast, as if I have any idea what I’m looking at. I don’t like conversations about the weather, I don’t like looking at weather forecasts and I don’t like phrases like “low-pressure system” and “adiabatic process.”

Oh, but it’s Channel 3 Weather Day at the ballpark tomorrow afternoon, so… sorry if I offended anyone.

Let’s just get to the lineups, shall we? In the three minutes I’ve been writing this blog entry, the grounds crew pulled back the tarp a bit to begin drawing the base lines. So that’s a good sign.

INDIANS (20-19): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Jhonny Peralta, LF David Dellucci, C Victor Martinez, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Ryan Garko, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Ben Francisco, 3B Casey Blake. LHP C.C. Sabathia pitching.

A’s (23-17): CF Rajai Davis, 1B Mike Sweeney, LF Jack Cust, DH Frank Thomas, RF Emil Brown, SS Bobby Crosby, 3B Jack Hannahan, C Kurt Suzuki, 2B Donnie Murphy. RHP Joe Blanton on the mound.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Total combined (listed) weight of tonight’s starting pitchers: 545 pounds.
  • The six shutouts tossed by Tribe pitchers this season is a Major League-best. The Indians last led the AL in shutouts in 1996.
  • Four of the six shutouts have occurred in the last seven games. How rare is that? Well, according to Elias, the last time the Indians had has many shutouts over a seven-game period was May 3-10, 1968 (also known as “The Year of the Pitcher”).
  • The Indians now have the lowest starters’ ERA in MLB at 3.06. The starters have a 2.08 ERA over the last 23 games.
  • As reported the other day, Shin-Soo Choo’s rehab assignment begins tonight in Triple-A Buffalo. The assignment can last a maximum of 20 days before Choo must be added to the 25-man roster or exposed to waivers (and he’ll join the club).
  • The Indians are four wins away from 8,500 in their history.

~AC

"Believe it or not, George isn't at home…"

I don't have the best luck with technology. In fact, I'm typing this blog entry on a laptop that has required technical support about five times in the last four months and, just for good measure, is missing a Tab key.

 

But where my luck really runs dry is with cell phones. This afternoon, my latest phone decided it was done with me. I say "latest," because I am 26 years old, and am already on my ninth cell phone. Allow me to provide you with the rundown...

 

  1. Black Motorola (2002-03): This was a decent phone, aside from the fact that it was rather large. Not quite to Zach Morris standards, but still a little hefty. Still , this phone lived a full and productive life.
  2. Silver Motorola (2003-05): Now this was a great phone. It lasted two years, which would prove to be a record. And the backlight was green, which, at the time I bought this phone, was a major technological advancement.
  3. Silver Samsung #1 (2005-05): This phone lasted all of three months before I left it in a pair of jeans and ran said jeans through the wash cycle. Silver Samsung #1 never stood a chance.
  4. Silver Samsung #2 (2005-05): Dropped this one in the toilet.
  5. Silver Samsung #3 (2005-06): Dropped this one on the ground. It shattered into two pieces.
  6. Silver Samsung #4 (2006-07): Not sure what happened with this one, but one day it just stopped allowing you to see the screen when you flipped it open. You could only see it if you jiggled it just right. Some people would be frustrated by this phone, but I respected it. It only rewarded patience and dedication.
  7. Silver Samsung #5 (2007): Surprisingly no complaints about this one.
  8. Silver Blackberry #1 (2007-08): It will be difficult for me to discuss this phone without sounding like a bitter, spurned ex-lover. I gave this phone the best six months of my life. I kept it clean, hardly ever dropped it, bought it a protective rubberized cover and introduced it to my family. And today I got dumped without warning.
  9. Silver Blackberry #2 (2008-?): Long may you run, Silver Blackberry #2, long may you run...

On to the lineups. Peralta and Pronk both moved up tonight…

INDIANS (19-19): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Jhonny Peralta, LF David Dellucci, C Victor Martinez, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Ryan Garko, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 3B Casey Blake. RHP Paul Byrd hurling.

A’S (23-16): C Kurt Suzuki, 1B Daric Barton, LF Jack Cust, DH Frank Thomas, RF Emil Brown, 3B Jack Hannahan, SS Bobby Crosby, CF Ryan Sweeney, 2B Donnie Murphy. RHP Justin Duchscherer on the mound.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • In case you missed it, Fausto and Lee each threw nine scoreless in the doubleheader yesterday. According to Elias, the last time a team had both starting pitchers throw nine shutout innings in a doubleheader was the Red Sox on Sept. 5, 1977, at Toronto (Don Aese and Reggie Cleveland). The last time the Indians did it was Sept. 30, 1964 at Boston (Luis Tiant and Sam McDowell).
  • In the last 60 years, only two pitchers had an ERA through their first seven starts lower than Cliff Lee’s 0.67 mark, according to Elias. Fernando Valenzuela had a 0.29 mark in 1981 and Mike Norris had a 0.45 mark in 1980.
  • Class A Lake County right-hander Ryan Miller is 6-0 with a 1.15 ERA in seven starts.
  • Indians starters have a 2.17 ERA over their last 22 games.

~AC

Which is more unbelievable…

Cabrera’s unassisted triple play? Or the fact that the Wikipedia entry for “unassisted triple play” included mention of Cabrera’s play literally within five minutes of its completion?

This Internet thing is catching on.

Mailing it in…

It’s a non-mailbag Monday, but let’s take a few questions, because, in the words of that great unknown 20th Century poet, Newman,…

“THE MAIL NEVER STOPS!”

With Jake Westbrook looking to come off of the DL soon, and with Aaron Laffey’s strong numbers, what is the plan for the rotation? Does Laffey have a shot of staying with the big team? — Chris R., Joplin, Mo.

 

Forget about Westbrook for a moment, because the Indians are first going to have a decision to make with their rotation later this week. As a result of Sunday's rainout and the lack of an off day until the 19th, Jeremy Sowers will be called up to make the start Friday in Cincinnati. But because of that off day, Laffey wouldn't be needed until the 24th. It's possible the Indians will stick with Sowers and send Laffey back down, depending on how things shake out. Eric Wedge said he'd have more of an idea on how this will work in about two days.

 

The Indians hope to have Westbrook back by the end of the month. If that's the case, the fifth guy -- Laffey or Sowers -- would presumably be bumped. But I can't help but wonder if Paul Byrd, who has struggled to keep the ball in the park this season, might find himself on the trading block at some point, given that his contract will be up at year's end and Laffey and Sowers have both given reason to believe they can be successful up here. Just a thought.

 

Why is it that since the name change, it’s as if Jacobs Field never existed? For example, the article about Jason Tyner’s call-up references that he hit his first career home run at Progressive Field last year with the Twins, and I’ve seen a few other examples of this on STO this year, as well. I’m pretty sure that it was still Jacobs Field when all this stuff happened. — Joe M., Akron, Ohio

 

I'm with you, Joe. This bugs me, too. I personally don't see anything wrong with saying "at Jacobs Field," because that was, after all, the ballpark's name at the time. But in an effort to honor the spirit of the name change, in my articles, I've tried to address the problem by referring to it as "the ballpark formerly known as Jacobs Field" when referencing a pre-2008 event. But that runs the risk of being overly wordy (like most of what I write). I guess the safest bet would be to say "in Cleveland." Anyway, this is just one of life's many small annoyances.

 

Why don’t we get the daily Tribe notes this season? I miss the reports on the Minor Leagues. — Mitch S., Monsey, N.Y

 

Glad you asked, Mitch, because I've been meaning to address this. This season, MLB.com did away with the notebooks as we once knew them. Instead of filing one pregame notebook that rounds up the daily happenings with the club, our writers are doing separate stories, each of which get a headline, thus making it easier for you to follow what's going on.

 

Of course, some of the daily minutia of what transpires with the team isn't necessarily worthy of separate headlines, which is a big part of the reason I started this blog.

 

And as for the Minor League roundups that I used to put in my daily notes, those have actually improved. Our milb.com crew has begun posting daily team-by-team roundups, which are easily accessible from the team home page. If you check out the "News and Notes" section of the site, under "Features," there's a link to this roundup. Here is today's, as an example.

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