It’s officially Rock ‘N Blast weekend at the ballpark, which means a dazzling postgame fireworks display and, if we’re lucky, a lip-synched performance from Michael Stanley.
Again, if we’re lucky.
Personally, I’m a little worn out on the fireworks (and Michael Stanley, for that matter). Fireworks should be reserved for special circumstances. Like, the Fourth of July. Or an Andy Marte RBI.
Well, it doesn’t matter how I feel about the fireworks — or anything else, really. The kids love ‘em. Except my 4-year-old niece Caitlin, who can tolerate loud noises for roughly 3.5 seconds before she begins screaming and crying uncontrollably, thus, ironically, creating new loud noises.
What does all this have to do with tonight’s Indians game? Absolutely nothing. Although, Marte is playing for a third straight day. So cue the fireworks… and the lineups…
INDIANS (38-53): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, LF Ben Francisco, SS Jhonny Peralta, 1B Casey Blake, RF Shin-Soo Choo, C Kelly Shoppach, DH David Dellucci, 3B Andy Marte. LHP Cliff Lee (11-2, 2.43 ERA), making his tune-up for the All-Star Game, which he could very well be starting.
RAYS (55-36): 2B Akinori Iwamura, LF Carl Crawford, CF B.J. Upton, 1B Carlos Pena, 3B Evan Longoria, C Dioner Navarro, DH Willy Aybar, RF Jonny Gomes, SS Ben Zobrist. RHP James Shields (7-5, 3.64).
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Fausto Carmona (left hip strain) is ready to go out on a rehab assignment early next week. No other details have been announced, but Carmona will need at least two Minor League starts before he’s ready to rejoin the Indians’ rotation.
- All right, about this whole Marte thing. Ryan Garko has slumped himself out of regular playing time, it seems. He was DH’d in Detroit on Wednesday and has been out of the lineup altogether the last two days. Wedge said he still believes in Garko, but he’s sure that what we saw from Garko in ’06 was an aberration (and how could it not be? The guy averaged an RBI a game). As for what we saw in ’07, Wedge isn’t sure if Garko’s career norm will be better or worse than that. All Wedge knows is that “at-bats need to be earned.” Right now, Garko’s not earning them, so Marte is getting another shot at third, with Blake moving over to first. Should be interesting.
- Wedge also said he wants to get more playing time for Franklin Gutierrez, who, of course, is out of tonight’s lineup. Gutierrez hasn’t had a hit since June 15. Either Wedge wants to see Gutierrez’s misery prolonged or he thinks the youngster would benefit from more consistent playing time.
- Matt LaPorta is 5-for-11 since arriving in Akron.
- Akron third baseman Wes Hodges, who will be joining LaPorta at the Futures Game on Sunday, has an Eastern League-leading 72 RBIs.
- Here’s an utterly useless note you can pass along to your grandkids… The Indians snapped their 10-game losing streak with their 13-2 win last night. According to Elias, the last time a team ended a 10-game losing streak by scoring 11 or more runs was in 1955, when the Pirates snapped an 11-game skid wiht a 15-1 win over Brooklyn.
- Oh, and memorize this note to impress your girlfriends’ parents this weekend… The Indians are the first team to snap a 10-game losing streak against the team with the best record in the Majors since the Mariners ended a 14-game slide against the A’s in 1992.
- The Indians have 12 comeback wins. At this time last year, they already had 27 comeback wins.
This entry goes out to Marc Lancaster of the Tampa Tribune, who told me he enjoys this blog. This is a high compliment, as Marc’s Reds blog for the Cincinnati Post web site when we both covered that club in 2005 taught me everything I know about blogging. So, obviously, he doesn’t know much either.
Anyway, I mention Marc and that ’05 Reds team for another reason. That year, Sean Casey was included on a CD called “Oh Say, Can You Sing?” in which a bunch of Major Leaguers contributed cover songs. Casey did a delightfully embarrassing version of Toby Keith’s “How Do You Like Me Now?” Ryan Freel ended up using it as his at-bat music.
A reader in one of the comment sections below pointed out that Matt Ginter — Saturday’s probable starter — is also on that CD, and I had forgetten all about his inclusion. He plays the banjo on a song called “Dooley.” Unfortunately, it must not have been a memorable performance.
But the most memorable performance of all, hands down, was Omar Vizquel’s take on The Goo Goo Dolls’ “Broadway.” If you’ve never heard it, seek it out. It will change your outlook on life (in that, when you hear it, you’ll no longer want to live).
Oh, there’s an Indians game tonight. Here are the lineups…
INDIANS (37-53): CF Rick Manning, 3B Toby Harrah, DH Bobby Bonds, 1B Andre Thornton, C Ron Hassey, LF Mike Hargrove…
Whoops, sorry, that’s the ’79 team…
INDIANS (37-53): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, LF Ben Francisco, SS Jhonny Peralta, 1B Casey Blake, RF Shin-Soo Choo, C Kelly Shoppach, DH David Dellucci, 3B Andy Marte. LHP Aaron Laffey (4-5, 3.49).
RAYS (55-35): 2B Akinori Iwamura, LF Carl Crawford, CF B.J. Upton, 1B Carlos Pena, 3B Evan Longoria, C Dioner Navarro, DH Willy Aybar, RF Jonny Gomes, SS Ben Zobrist. RHP Andy Sonanstine (10-3, 4.31), a Barberton native.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Travis Hafner met with the media before today’s game. He told us his right shoulder is at 50 percent the strength of his left. He’s been on DL since May 30, and progress has been slow as can be. He hopes to be in a position to begin swinging the bat in a couple weeks, which would lead to a rehab, which would lead to his return. But that return is obviously still a ways off.
- RHP Fausto Carmona threw a three-inning, 50-pitch simulated game today and felt fine. The Indians will evaluate how he feels Friday to determine if he’s ready to go out on a rehab assignment. All signs to point to yes at the moment.
- Speaking of rehabbing pitchers, remember RHP Brendan Donnelly? He made his second appearance for the Gulf Coast League club in Winter Haven on Wednesday and is expected to advance to Class A Kinston soon. Donnelly, a former All-Star reliever with the Angels, is working his way back from right elbow reconstruction.
- That road trip was the Tribe’s first 0-8 trip in club history. The previous worst was an 0-7 trip, which was done three times, most recently in 1972.
- The Indians have defeated the Rays nine times in a row at home, dating back to Sept. 29, 2005, but they’ve lost 10 in a row. So something’s got to give here tonight.
- The Indians claimed RHP Bryan Bullington off waivers from the Pirates today, added him to the 40-man and optioned him to Buffalo. Bullington was the Pirates’ first-round pick in 2002 out of Ball State University. The 27-year-old was 4-6 with a 5.52 ERA in 15 starts at Triple-A Indianapolis this year.
- Other transactions today: Joe Borowski was officially released, and Rick Bauer elected to become a free agent.
- Also, the Tribe signed their third-round pick, 2B Cord Phelps, who recently played in the College World Series in his junior season with Stanford. Phelps batted .351 with 16 doubles, 13 homers and 58 RBIs this year. He will report to the Gulf Coast League team to rehab a sprained ankle, and then head up to Mahoning Valley.
- After a little lull at the plate in Buffalo, Asdrubal Cabrera has batted .529 over his last four games.
UPDATE: One more transaction for you… The Indians just traded INF Ryan Mulhern and RHP Dan Reichert to the Pirates for cash. Both players were at Triple-A Buffalo and not considered part of the big-league picture (obviously). Mulhern was batting .250 with seven homers and 26 RBIs in 58 games, while Reichert was 1-3 with a 4.40 ERA in eight starts.
All you need to know about the Indians’ 2008 season is that Matt Ginter will be their starter Saturday against the Rays.
Van Morrison is performing at Fox Theater, across the street from Comerica Park, tonight. What do you say we blow this game off and check out Van the Man?
What’s that? You want to see the Indians snap/prolong their losing streak (depending on your level of optimism)? All right, fine.
But speaking of concerts, MLB announced today that Sheryl Crow, 3 Doors Down and Josh Groban will be performing as part of next week’s All-Star Game festivities at Yankee Stadium. And Bon Jovi will be playing an All-Star show in Central Park. Absolutely none of this excites me. Although my buddy Hoinski and I once got free tickets to a Bon Jovi show and found it tolerable. Of course, the Budweisers helped immensely.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. The Indians. Here are tonight’s lineups…
INDIANS (37-52): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, LF Ben Francisco, SS Jhonny Peralta, 1B Casey Blake, RF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Ryan Garko, 3B Andy Marte, C Sal Fasano. RHP Paul Byrd (2-9, 5.26), who hasn’t won a game since his last start here on June 6.
TIGERS (45-44): CF Curtis Granderson, LF Clete Thomas, 3B Carlos Guillen, 1B Miguel Cabrera, RF Matt Joyce, DH Gary Sheffield, SS Edgar Renteria, 2B Ramon Santiago, C Dane Sardinha. RHP Eddie Bonine (2-1, 4.30).
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Franklin Gutierrez hasn’t notched a hit since June 15. He is 0-for-his-last-32.
- Ryan Garko is 5-for-his-last-38 and has just nine hits in his last 56 at-bats. And four extra-base hits since May 16.
- Ben Francisco, thrust into the No. 3 spot of the lineup, is batting .175 (11-for-63) over his last 17 games.
- David Dellucci is batting .167 (10-for-60) over his last 21 games.
- Grady Sizemore now has 100 career homers and 100 career steals with the Indians. He’s the second Tribe player to achieve that feat. Joe Carter (pictured with my boy Cory Snyder in everybody’s favorite magazine cover) was the first.
- Oh, speaking of the Sizemore-Carter connection, Grady is on pace for 40 homers and 38 stolen bases. Carter is the only Indinas player to have a 30/30 season. He did it in 1987. Overall, the feat has been accomplished 13 times in MLB history, with Alfonso Soriano the last to do it in 2005. Only four players — Alex Rodriguez, Jose Canseco, Alfonso Soriano and Barry Bonds — have achieved 40/40.
- The Indians’ 15-30 road record is the worst in the AL.
- Oh, and here’s something to start thinking about — the Indians are in danger of grabbing the AL’s worst record. They are 2 1/2 games ahead of Seattle (35-55) in that race.
- The Tribe’s team ERA since June 1 is a ghastly 5.61.
- A guy I know from Milwaukee was at CC’s debut with the Brewers last night and compared it to the Beatles at Shea Stadium. The crowd gave Big C a rousing welcome, and he, as I’m sure you know, delivered the win. But perhaps that should be no surprise. All three Cy Young winners who have been dealt the season after winning the award — Frank Viola, David Cone and Sabathia — won their debut with their new club.
Note: A special thanks to thomefan27 for saving me on the previously erroneous 40/40 note. You are the wind beneath my wings.
Greetings from the Motor City, which, one month after our last visit here, remains a dump.
Sat in on Jim Leyland’s pregame meeting with reporters, and that’s always a study in how two human beings who have the exact same job can approach it in different ways. I’m talking, of course, about how much different Leyland is than Wedge. Leyland smokes, he cusses, he speaks his mind without pretense or much care what you think. He is the anti-Wedge.
Case in point: Leyland was talking about Sunday’s 15-inning, 2-1 win in Seattle.
“That was a boring game,” Leyland said (though, in truth, another word that I can’t print here snuck into the mix). “I would have rather watched the Perrysburg water tower rust.”
Now that’s color.
Here are tonight’s lineups for the first game of the post-CC Sabathia Era…
INDIANS (37-51): CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, 3B Casey Blake, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Shin-Soo Choo, C Kelly Shoppach, DH David Dellucci, 1B Ryan Garko, LF Franklin Gutierrez. On the mound is LHP Jeremy Sowers (0-4, 7.53), who now has an opportunity to stick around the rotation for a while.
TIGERS (44-44): CF Curtis Granderson, 2B Placido Polanco, LF Marcus Thames, 1B Miguel Cabrera, DH Gary Sheffield, C Ivan Rodriguez, SS Edgar Renteria, RF Clete Thomas, 3B Ryan Raburn. RHP Justin Verlander (5-9, 4.34).
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- RHP Scott Elarton has been transferred from the restricted list to the 15-day disabled list with a non-baseball medical condition. Elarton is dealing with some personal issues and is out indefinitely. The Indians now have six players on the DL.
- Do you want the good news or the bad news on Double-A outfielder Trevor Crowe? He was named the Eastern League Player of the Month after batting .400 with 32 runs scored, four homers and 24 RBIs in 25 games. And now the bad news… he’s been placed on the DL with a a left intercostal strain. Not sure of his timetable at the moment.
- Akron’s game against Bowie was rained out tonight, so Matt LaPorta’s debut will have to be pushed back a night.
- The Indians currently have a 24-man roster, but that will change when reliever Juan Rincon is called up from Buffalo tomorrow.
- Sizemore is going to use bench coach Jeff Datz as his pitcher for next week’s Home Run Derby. So, please, save your jokes about him using Paul Byrd.
- With Sabathia gone, Cliff Lee is now the longest-tenured Indian on the active roster. He joined the club in 2002.
- The current eight-game losing streak is the Indians’ longest since August of 2004, when they lost nine in a row at one point.
One last note: Casey Blake, when told of Sabathia’s newly discovered preference for “CC” over “C.C.”: “Is he going to be like Ichiro now and just have ‘CC’ on the back of his jersey?”
Blake also joked that he’d like to be referred to as “KC” instead of “Casey” from this point forward.
It had been speculated that veteran Jeff Weaver would be the Indians’ starter Saturday against the Rays, but that won’t be the case. Weaver has pitched in a game since June 11, when he was cut by the Brewers after putting up underwhelming numbers at Triple-A Nashville. And the Indians want him to get some outings under his belt before he’s considered as a depth option.
It won’t be left-hander Dave Huff, either. Huff, the 39th overall pick in the 2006 Draft, dominated at Double-A Akron earlier this year and has pitched well at Buffalo. The Indians basically don’t feel he’s ready, and they don’t want to rush him. Especially considering his innings must be closely monitored this year.
So who’s it going to be? Right-handers Matt Ginter (6-6, 4.27) and Dan Reichert (1-3, 4.40) and left-hander John Halama (4-2, 5.66) are the other options at Buffalo. It will be one of those guys.
The Indians won’t pull another one of those deals where they use a bunch of relievers, as they did in Texas last month.
UPDATE: Ginter was pulled after three scoreless innings in the first game of Buffalo’s doubleheader with Syracuse today. I’d say he’s the guy.
Oh, and newly acquired lefty Zach Jackson pitched two innings of relief and got the win in that game.
You can please all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you'll hardly ever please a sports fan.
Such is life, and such is the situation with the Indians' decision to trade homegrown ace and reigning American League Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia.
In the wake of the Tribe's swap with the Brewers, my inbox was flooded with questions, rants, vents and even the occasional thumbs-up. Let's grab a few submissions and see what's on your mind.
Everyone in Cleveland seems to be down on the trade. People are saying that we could have gotten more if we would have waited a little longer. What is your take on the deal, and what else can we look for in the future? -- Aaron H., Bloomingdale, Ohio
As I wrote in last week's mailbag, trading Sabathia was absolutely, positively the right move for this club at this juncture. The Indians had no hope of re-signing Sabathia, no hope of contending in the AL Central and no desire to roll the dice on two compensatory Draft picks.
By all accounts, Matt LaPorta (owner of a .978 OPS at Double-A Huntsville) is a stud. But those are just accounts. I've never seen him play, and, for that matter, neither has Mark Shapiro, though that will change at 7:05 p.m. ET Tuesday, when LaPorta makes his Double-A Akron debut.
And even if we knew LaPorta can and will live up to his potential at the plate, we can't fully analyze whether this was a good trade for the Indians until we find out A. who the mysterious player to be named is and B. if he's going to be a viable big-league candidate. Time will tell, as it always tends to do.
Regarding potential future deals, Shapiro said he has no active conversations going on, but Casey Blake's name could come up in the next three weeks, as he'd be a valuable utilityman to a contender. Paul Byrd would have been an obvious deadline-deal candidate had he not racked up 10 losses already. The Indians might also get creative and test the market for less-obvious candidates like Rafael Betancourt, Franklin Gutierrez or Ryan Garko.
As for the notion that the Indians could have gotten more by waiting for this deal, that's absurd. Sabathia's trade value diminished by the day.
What are the chances that the Indians try to re-sign Sabathia during free agency at the end of this season, essentially charging a renters' fee to the Brewers for his services in the second half? -- Kipp H., Stow, Ohio
Their chances of trying are good. Their chances of landing him are beyond poor.
Sabathia wants a six-year guarantee, beyond this season. The Indians offered him four and would have gone to five. Sabathia didn't budge, nor did he wish to talk contract in-season. The Indians were so far apart from Sabathia and so convinced he didn't want to talk that they didn't even bother approaching him about an extension before the trade was made, contrary to prior reports.
We have no reason to believe Sabathia will be any more willing to negotiate a shorter deal with the Indians this winter than he was last winter. I suppose the only thing that could work in the Tribe's favor is if CC truly misses playing for the Indians in the remaining months of '08. But it's much more likely he'll enjoy stepping up to the plate in the NL every fifth day.
With LaPorta being a natural first baseman, could this be a potential red flag for Garko? -- Andrew Z., Struthers, Ohio
The Indians have already raised the white flag. The red flags come next, followed by the pink slips.
Garko has no reason to feel particularly secure, especially now that this deal has been made. As of this writing, Garko has four extra-base hits since May 16. That's, uh, not many.
For now, the Indians plan to move the 23-year-old LaPorta from right field, his primary position at Double-A Huntsville, to left field, while also having him take grounders at first base. The Indians believe LaPorta is a better defender but -- for now, at least -- they are open to the possibility of him remaining in the corner outfield.
The performances of Shin-Soo Choo, Ben Francisco, Gutierrez and Garko will go a long way toward determining LaPorta's eventual destination.
Speaking of which, it's possible LaPorta will miss much of the second half, as he is one of 60 finalists for the U.S. Olympic team. If he remains stateside, he could get the call to Triple-A Buffalo by the end of the year.
Is it possible that one of the players to be named later in the CC trade could include SS shortstop prospect Alicedes Escobar, so that someday we could look forward to a Alicedes and Asdrubal double-play combo? -- Andrew N., Denver
It is my understanding that the Brewers consider Escobar, who is billed as an incredibly smooth defender, to be untouchable, so his inclusion in the deal would be a shock. It is believed Class A third baseman Taylor Green (who could potentially be moved to second base) is one of the two players the Indians are considering as the "player to be named." Double-A outfielder Michael Brantley might be the other, though his agent refuted that notion.
The Indians have until the end of the Minor League season to make a call. And no, before you ask, Sabathia's performance for the Brewers has no bearing on who the player will be. The Indians are choosing from a list of two, predetermined candidates.
Jeremy Sowers is filling in for CC on Tuesday, so is Jeff Weaver the guy for Saturday, or will someone else get the call? -- Chris W., Columbus, Ohio
Weaver, signed to a Minor League deal a few days ago, is the most obvious candidate for that Saturday start. Shapiro said Dave Huff, the next-most viable option at Buffalo, is not being considered. It is the Indians' hope that they'll only need this fifth starter once or, at most, twice, as Fausto Carmona (left hip strain) could be ready to come off the disabled list shortly after the All-Star break.
And if you think Weaver is some sort of long-term solution for this injury and contractually ravaged rotation, don't.
Since CC didn't want the Indians' $72 Million, will the Indians use the money to go after another starting pitcher this winter? Or will the free-agent pool continue to give the Indians shrinkage. -- Joel, Cleveland
The Indians are saving in excess of $5 million by dealing Sabathia when they did. Shapiro said he expects some of the money that would have gone to Sabathia to be used to build next year's club.
I guess the simplest answer to your question is the Indians will spend some of that money if they feel there are free agents worth pursuing. Generally, that has not been the case the last two winters. But the Indians, by the look of things, will have far more holes to fill this coming offseason than they did in those previous two. At least one of those holes is in the starting rotation.
I will NOT allow this kid to tell me to no longer put periods after each initial. Shame on you C.............C.......... Sabathia! (The extra periods added in defiance!) -- Earl, Cape Coral, Fla.
The no-period thing is ridiculous. Sabathia himself said he really has no preference between "CC" and "C.C." One of his representatives contacted the Brewers and asked that they honor the request for a change, so CC it is, I suppose. At least he's not insisting we refer to him as "Maestro."
Shapiro mentioned that one of the things that made the deal difficult was the short time left on Sabathia's contract. How much better would the package of prospects have been if Sabathia had been traded as soon as he declined the Tribe's offer and halted negotiations before the season began? -- Ernie, Charlotte, N.C.
The closest comparable is the package the Twins pulled in for Johan Santana. That package included center fielder and leadoff man Carlos Gomez, who has been spotty offensively and adventurous in the outfield in his first full season, and three pitching prospects -- Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey and Deolis Guerra.
The Indians' higher-ups were underwhelmed by the Twins' haul in that deal. And they had no intention of dealing Sabathia at that juncture, anyway, given that they expected to contend this season. But it's obvious they would have pulled in a stronger package -- no doubt including at least one Major League-ready player -- had they swapped Sabathia in February, instead of July. Contenders making deadline deals give up prospects, not prime-time talents.
Do you think if/when Sabathia ever does return to pitch at Jacobs Field (personally, I will never refer to it as the P-word) he will receive a Manny Ramirez/Jim Thome chorus of boos or an Omar Vizquel standing ovation? -- Rob D., Ames, Iowa
That's up to you guys. Sabathia said he had every hope of staying here, but, like Thome and Ramirez, he left a lot of money on the table for, presumably, a bigger payday elsewhere. It's my belief that the fans shouldn't begrudge CC, a class act who emerged as a true leader for the Tribe, that opportunity to seek out his worth, but I'm not the one buying a ticket.
The Indians, by the way, hope to never find out the answer to your question. They dealt Sabathia to the NL for a reason.
The mailbag won't run in its usual Monday slot next week, because of our All-Star Game coverage. Look for the next edition after the break, and, in the meantime, keep those questions coming at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't forget to include your name and hometown.
In case you missed it in all the CC hoopla, Grady Sizemore has committed to doing the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium next Monday. Here’s a link to the story.
Thought you might be interested to know one of Carsten Charles Sabathia’s representatives called the Brewers to inform them that, from this point forward, he is to be referred to as CC, not C.C.
So if you’re wondering why my stories and the other stories written about Sabathia for MLB.com now read CC, that’s why. I guess when you get to a point in your career where you’re turning down $72 million contract extensions, the fate of your name is firmly in your hands, as well.
Anyway, the silliness of the name change aside, I wish Sabathia the best with the Brewers. He truly was a class act to deal with, day in and day out. He’ll be missed.
On an unrelated note, I’ll have an all-Sabathia mailbag posted either here or on the Indians.com site sometime in the next day or so. If you have a question about this trade, feel free to send it to email@example.com
The Indians will hold a press conference at 12:30 p.m. ET today to announce the Sabathia trade.
Sabathia, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, is headed to a Milwaukee team looking to make a playoff push, while the last-place Indians will receive a batch of Minor Leaguers -- outfielder/first baseman Matt LaPorta, right-hander Rob Bryson, left-hander Zach Jackson and a player to be named -- they hope will help them retool for the future.
It is believed the player to be named will either be Class A third baseman Taylor Green or Double-A outfielder Michael Brantley, both of whom are considered prime prospects.
LaPorta is the key to the deal, from the Indians' perspective. Bryson is only 20 years old. He's a power relief arm, so he's intriguing. Jackson is a throw-in simply to provide depth on a thin Buffalo pitching staff.
We'll have a slew of stuff on the site as the day progresses.
UPDATE (2:22 p.m. ET): Shapiro confirmed that the Indians are choosing between two players for the PTBN, and they have until the end of the Minor League season to do so. He said the PTBN is indeed a key part of the deal.
The agent for Brantley and Green posted in a blog that Brantley is not part of this deal in any way, shape or form. If that's true, it's a shame for the Indians, because Brantley is a pretty highly touted prospect. Green, who could be part of the deal, is not as high on the totem pole.