May 2008

"Greetings and salutations. What a beautiful day for a ball game. Let's play two!"

All right, the tarp is off the field, the Indians and Blue Jays are set to double-up, and the blog is back up and running. I’m sure you missed it.

As part of my two-day sabbatical, I was in attendance for that Cavs massacre of the Celtics on Saturday night at the Q. And every time I go to an NBA game, I’m reminded of why I go to so few. Between fire-breathing scoreboard, the obnoxious pregame announcements of the home team’s starting five and The Diff (a Q specialty), it’s all just too much for me to take. So I’m glad to be back in my element.

The players are allowed to use the pink bats and wristbands and whatnot for game one today, which is nice. In other news, Jake Westbrook will throw a simulated session tomorrow, and he’s still on target to return to the rotation later this month. Closer Joe Borowski threw a bullpen session today and is on track to be back in about a week and a half.

Here are the lineups for game one…

INDIANS (18-18): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, LF David Dellucci, C Victor Martinez, RF Ben Francisco, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Ryan Garko, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B Casey Blake. RHP Fausto Carmona on the mound.

BLUE JAYS (17-21): RF Brad Wilkerson, 2B Aaron Hill, CF Alex Rios, 3B Scott Rolen, DH Matt Stairs, 1B Lyle Overbay, SS Marco Scutaro, C Rod Barajas, LF Joe Inglett. RHP A.J. Burnett hurling.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Cliff Lee is going for his seventh win in as many starts later today. The last Tribe pitcher to achieve that feat was Duster Mails in 1920. According to the notes, that was during Tom Hamilton’s first season in the radio booth. Hammy must have rubbed somebody wrong in the PR department to earn this abuse.
  • Casey Blake has 15 RBIs in his last 15 games. His 25 RBIs are tied for seventh-most in the AL with Magglio Ordonez.
  • In the three previous traditional doubleheaders played in this building, the Indians own two sweeps and one split.
  • The Indians’ 3.41 ERA out of the starting rotation is the best in the league.
  • Tonight’s nightcap and Wednesday’s game will air on WMMS 100.7 FM because of the conflict with the Cavaliers on WTAM 1100. It’s a Joe Tait-Hamilton battle royale. Who’s your pick?

~AC

"That's the last time I open for a rodeo"

Last night’s activites at my favorite New York City establishment, combined with an early wake-up call for the cab ride to LaGuardia, have me dragging a bit for tonight’s opener of a four-game set between the Indians and Blue Jays. I appear to have come down with a case of what WTAM’s Mark Schwab just told me is called “Bar Throat” — i.e., the affliction brought on by talking too much in a loud bar.

I really don’t mind this illness, as it was caused by conversations with some friends about, among other things, the need for dental floss dispensers in restaurants, the need for a form of wet nap that can be used not only to clean your hands but also to swipe your tongue and thereby improve your breath, and the possibility that dropping a penny from the top of the Empire State Building can kill a guy on the street (that would be cents-less violence, if you ask me).

Important conversations all. And the important news on the Indians front today is that Victor Martinez is back in the starting lineup, which reads as follows…

INDIANS (16-18): CF Grady Sizemore, RF Franklin Gutierrez, LF David Dellucci, C Martinez, SS Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Ryan Garko, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, 3B Casey Blake. LHP C.C. Sabathia pitching.

BLUE JAYS (17-19): RF Alex Rios, 2B Aaron Hill, 3B Scott Rolen, CF Vernon Wells, DH Kevin Mench (just acquired from the Rangers today), 1B Lyle Overbay, C Rod Barajas, LF Brad Wilkerson, SS Marco Scutaro. RHP Roy Halladay hurling. 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Here’s an ugly stat for you: 91 players currently qualify for the AL batting title. The Indians have four guys in the bottom 20 spots – Peralta (.221) is 74th, Blake (.210) is 79th, Hafner (.209) is tied for 82nd, and Cabrera (.187) is 89th. Let me hear you say, “Ugh.”
  • On the bright side, the Tribe’s starter’s ERA of 3.59 is third in the bigs behind that of the A’s (3.30) and Blue Jays (3.44).
  • Grady Sizemore has logged 121 at-bats and has yet to ground into a double play. The Rays’ Akinori Iwamura (137 at-bats) is the only AL player with more at-bats and no GIDPs. 
  • Cabrera, Jamey Carroll, Garko, Gutierrez, Andy Marte, Martinez, Peralta and Sizemore will all have pink bats at their disposal on Mother’s Day. Players around the league will be using the bats to raise awareness about breast cancer.

I’m getting benched Saturday and Sunday, so the blog will be on hiatus. On the site, Justice “The Thrill” Hill will fill in.

~AC

J-Mike to the Burgh

The Indians have found a taker for Jason Michaels, who was designated for assignment Tuesday. The Tribe is sending J-Mike and cash to the Pirates for a player to be named. Michaels is making $2.15 million this season. The Indians are on the hook for most of that contract. I don’t know the deadline yet for the player to be named.

New York City's like a friendly old ghost, you seem to pass right through

I needed several things to happen last night, and none of them occurred.

  1. I needed a monsoon to wash over the Bronx, wiping out Wednesday night’s game by, say, 5 p.m.
  2. I needed a car waiting for me, gassed-up and running, outside Yankee Stadium.
  3. I needed two items in the glove compartment of said car — a map to Red Bank, N.J., and an envelope filled with $2,000 in cash.

Had all of this actually happened, I could have been in attendance for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s benefit concert at the 1,500-seat Count Basie Theater last night, where the band did the entire Darkness on the Edge of Town and Born to Run albums, in sequence.

Sounds like an amazing night. Wish I could have been there. But I guess my hopes were unrealistic. The car, gas and cash thing was likely, but not the monsoon.

Anyway, it’s the last day in the Bronx. The weather forecast for today’s game looked grim last night, but we’re all right for now. Martinez is out again with that stiff neck (Wedge said Vic really “sucked it up” to play last night), and Travis Hafner is getting two days off in a row as his slump drags on.

INDIANS (16-17): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, DH David Dellucci, SS Jhonny Peralta, LF Ben Francisco, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 1B Ryan Garko, 3B Casey Blake, C Kelly Shoppach. RHP Paul Byrd hurling.

YANKEES (17-18): LF Johnny Damon, SS Derek Jeter, RF Bobby Abreu, DH Hideki Matsui, 1B Jason Giambi, CF Melky Cabrera, 2B Robinson Cano, 3B Wilson Betemit, C Jose Molina. RHP Mike Mussina on the mound. 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY… 

  • Every time Lee completes an outing, the good people at Elias come up with some ridiculous stat about how good his start to the season has been. Here’s today’s: Since the end of World War II, only three pitchers have won their first six starts while posting a lower ERA than Lee’s 0.81 mark. They are Feranando Valenzuela (0.33 in ’81), Roger Clemens (0.73 in ’91) and Pedro Martinez (0.79 in ’97). All three of those pitchers went on to win the Cy Young Award. 
  • Speaking of the Cy Young, C.C. Sabathia (AL Cy Young, ’07) will oppose the Blue Jays’ Roy Halladay (AL Cy Young, ’03) tomorrow night at Progressive Field. Between the two of them, the pitchers own 215 career wins and seven All-Star appearances.
  • The Indians have clinched their first outright season series victory against the Yanks since going 7-6 against them in 1992. The last time the Tribe won a series in Yankee Stadium, as they’ve done here, was June of 2001. Today, the club is going for its first sweep in the Bronx since April of 1989.
  • This needs to be said somewhere, so I’m saying it here… Hafner’s GIDP in the ninth inning was the most ridiculous double play I’ve ever seen. For those who didn’t see it, Hafner pinch-hit with the bases loaded. He swung weakly at a curveball, sending it into the dirt in front of home plate. Molina picked up the ball, stepped on home plate and threw to first for the easy DP. The ball didn’t even make it to the infield grass. Wow.

Lastly, a quick anecdote from last night’s postgame. Masa Kobayashi brought out a bottle of celebratory saki to share with his teammates, I guess it was pretty strong stuff. Hafner said it tasted like tequila. Dellucci took one sip, winced and said, “I could put this in my car and get 30 miles to the gallon.”

~AC

I know what I'm needing, and I don't want to waste more time

When you spend a day in New York City, you can traverse the concrete jungle and get lost in the claustrophobic convention that is Times Square. You are sure to run into some interesting people – like the Naked Cowboy singer, or the one-armed man I saw today, wearing a placard promoting a local barber shop. (Now, I’m no marketing guru, but if your business revolves around the wielding of sharp objects, I don’t think sending a one-armed man out to do your advertising makes a heck of a lot of business sense.)

But today I opted to stay away from the hustle and bustle of the city, for the most part, and instead take a nice jog through Central Park. It’s a fine place to get a run in, provided you can handle the occassional whiff of manure from one of the buggy horses fresh off a heaping helping of Beefarino. And if you’re lucky enough to get a mugger on your tail, your 5k time will improve dramatically.

Back here in the Bronx, the Indians have offered up another surprising lineup. Andy Marte is playing for a second consecutive day, Victor Martinez (still nursing that stiff neck) is in at DH, giving Travis Hafner a day off, and Casey Blake is at first. Ben Francisco is the latest winner of the “Bat in the No. 2 spot for a day” contest, sponsored by Pepto Bismol.

Two special guests in the Tribe clubhouse before today’s game. Former first baseman Eduardo Perez, now a “Baseball Tonight” analyst on ESPN, stopped in to say hello to his old teammates. Perez is beloved in this clubhouse, even if his tenure on the team was brief. ESPN’s Erin Andrews stopped by. She’s also very popular. I’ll let you discern the reasons. Oh, and former big-league manager turned Indians advisor turned ESPN analyst Buck Showalter is sitting next to me in the press box as I type this. Always good to see Buck.

On to the lineups…  

INDIANS (15-17): CF Grady Sizemore, RF Ben Francisco, LF David Dellucci, DH Martinez, SS Jhonny Peralta, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, 1B Casey Blake, C Kelly Shoppach, 3B Andy Marte. LHP Cliff Lee faces his toughest opponent to date. His stuff has been so good this season that you’d expect it to translate, but he’ll be challenged tonight.

YANKEES (17-17): LF Johnny Damon, SS Derek Jeter, RF Bobby Abreu, 1B Shelley Duncan, DH Hideki Matsui, CF Melky Cabrera, 2B Robinson Cano, 3B Morgan Ensberg, C Jose Molina. RHP Chien-Ming Wang pitching. 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Cliff Lee has not walked a batter in his last 21 innings pitched and his 74 consecutive batters faced without a walk is the longest active streak in MLB.
  • Triple-A Buffalo LHP Jeremy Sowers turned in seven shutout innings at Syracuse last night. He allowed just three hits, walking two and striking out two. Sowers is now 2-2 with a 2.21 ERA in six starts. 
  • Last Friday’s rained-out game against the Royals has been rescheduled for Saturday, September 13, at 1 p.m. It will now be part of a day-night doubleheader.
  • The High School Hardball Classic games rained out at Progressive Field on April 30 have been rescheduled for Sunday, May 18. St. Edward will face Solon at 3:30 p.m., Aurora will face Kenston at 6 p.m. and Hudson will face Avon Lake at 8:30 p.m. Get your tickets on indians.com.
  • Derek Jeter is batting .349 in his career against the Tribe. That’s his highest average against a single team.

Lastly, be sure to check out the latest issue of Game Face Magazine, which went live today.

~AC

So he gave it a name

Congrats(?) to reader Kevin N. from Endwell, N.Y., for coming up with the new name for the blog. “CastroTurf.” It’s short, it’s witty, it has a baseball tie-in. It’s a definitely step-up from “Castrovince’s Corner.” My only complaint is that I didn’t come up with it myself.

Kevin, if you’re reading this, e-mail me your address and I’ll be sure to send you a small token of my appreciation. I hope you like Spaghetti O’s!

Runner-up in the blog-naming contest was Mike P. from Colorado Springs, who submitted, “Nice Game, Pretty Boy.” A solid, solid Seinfeld reference (which is what I was looking for). But more than half the people I ran it by gave me a puzzled look, and there’s no need to puzzle the masses.

They said that Queens could stay, they blew the Bronx away and sank Manhattan out at sea

First things first, Victor Martinez was a late scratch from tonight’s lineup because of a stiff neck. He is day to day. He’ll be replaced by Kelly Shoppach — the only other member of the roster with a batting average over .300.

So here we are in the Bronx for one last series at The House that Ruth Built and George Steinbrenner Gutted and Renovated. Perhaps this will be viewed as sacrilegious, but I don’t feel a sense of palpable history at this place the way I do at Fenway and Wrigley. For all intents and purposes, this place is “only” 33 years old, given the renovations of the mid-70s. But that’s not to say a lot of baseball history hasn’t been made here since then.

Anyway, the new Yankee Stadium going up across the street looks, from the outside, at least, like it would be ready for action by the All-Star break. They’ve made dramatic progress on that place since last fall’s ALDS. The exterior is quite impressive. I took a picture of it on my phone, and if I ever find out how to get said picture onto the computer and then on this blog, I’ll do it.

Let’s get to tonight’s lineups…

INDIANS (14-17): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, SS Jhonny Peralta, 1B Ryan Garko, RF Franklin Gutierrez, DH Travis Hafner, LF Ben Francisco, C Kelly Shoppach, 3B Andy Marte. RHP Fausto Carmona on the mound.

YANKEES (17-16): LF Johnny Damon, SS Derek Jeter, RF Bobby Abreu, DH Hideki Matsui, 1B Jason Giambi, CF Melky Cabrera, 2B Robinson Cano, 3B Wilson Betemit, C Jose Molina. LHP Andy Pettitte pitching.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • The Indians are batting .165 over their last three games.
  • The Tribe last won a regular-season series in Yankee Stadium in June of 2001. Since 2002, the Indians are 3-17 in the Bronx in the regular season. 
  • Tonight’s game and the games on May 10 and May 12 will all be broadcast on WMMS 100.7 FM, because of the conflict with the Cavaliers’ playoff games on WTAM.
  • OF Bronson Sardinha has been signed to a Minor League contract and will report to Triple-A Buffalo, which needed another body in the outfield now that Ben Francisco has been promoted.
  • Jason Michaels was officially designated for assignment two days after his 32nd birthday. Ouch.

Lastly, two quick blog-related updates. For one, my friend Kate pointed out a major error on my part, as I neglected to list “Rivalry Week” among the things you can’t say without sounding drunk. Actually, “Rivalry Week” might be on the list of things you can’t say, period. Anyway, my apologies for the omission. 

Also, I plan to make not-so-long-anticipated blog name change sometime during this series, so be on the lookout for that.

~AC

 

Michaels to be designated

As just announced by Mark Shapiro on a conference call with reporters. J-Mike will be designated for assignment Tuesday to make room for Ben Francisco. The Tribe will have 10 days to trade or release Michaels.

Big (League) Ben

Ben Francisco is eligible to join the Indians on Tuesday (10 days after his demotion back to Buffalo), and that’s just what he’ll be doing. Francisco was pulled out of the second game of Buffalo’s doubleheader today and told he’ll be coming back to the big leagues.

“I don’t know what their plans are, but Torey [Lovullo] told me to be ready to play,” Francisco told The Buffalo News. “‘ll be there Tuesday ready to be in the lineup if they want me to be. It’s definitely a little boost to be in the big leagues. I was trying to stay positive down here and work on things. It was tough but that’s the way it goes. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’m ready to be in Cleveland so I’m ready to run with it.”

Jason Michaels and Andy Marte are the two most likely candidates for displacement as a result of this development. The Indians won’t announce anything until Tuesday. The safe money might be on Michaels, who, obviously, is off to a slow start and doesn’t have a guaranteed contract after this season. Perhaps the Tribe will try to find a way to trade him.

Will Francisco save this struggling offense? Please. But the time for patience with the current lineup has obviously passed.

 

 

Tonight's game postponed

No makeup date set yet, as far as I've heard. More info will be posted on the site.

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