September 2008

Take me to the hotel; Baggage gone, oh well

We are back to normal — or, at least, as normal as things get around here — after a hellish travel day Monday. A 7 a.m. thunder and lightning storm in Kansas City led to a missed connection in Cleveland, which led to the discovery of no other available flights to Baltimore, which led to an unexpected afternoon flight to D.C., which led to my presence on a MARC train that pulled up to Camden Yards just as the National Anthem was being sung before the Indians-Orioles game.

The things I’ll do to watch Andy Marte play baseball.

My thanks to Baltimore associate reporter Amanda Comak for bailing me out pregame yesterday. Here are tonight’s lineups, with Michael Aubrey getting a start over Ryan Garko.

INDIANS (69-73): CF Grady Sizemore, LF David Dellucci, RF Shin-Soo Choo, SS Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, C Kelly Shoppach, 1B Michael Aubrey, 3B Andy Marte, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. LHP Jeremy Sowers (2-8, 5.97).

ORIOLES (64-78): 2B Brian Roberts, CF Adam Jones, RF Nick Markakis, 3B Aubrey Huff, 1B Ramon Hernandez, DH Kevin Millar, LF Luke Scott, C Guillermo Quiroz, SS Juan Castro. RHP Radhames Liz (5-4, 7.91).

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • I received an e-mail informing me Travis Hafner was activated off the DL today. Scoop!
  • In case you missed it, Jeremy Guthrie, who was originally slated to start against the Tribe tonight, is being skipped because of the flu. Guthrie’s last scheduled start was also skipped because of a dead arm. So he’s having a rough month.
  • Juan Rincon and Brendan Donnelly were obviously goats in last night’s 14-3 debacle. But Eric Wedge still considers both veteran relievers, who will be free agents, options for next season. “I’ll forget about last night,” Wedge said. “That was a bad night for both of them. I want to see how they finish off the season. They’re very different, but there’s a lot to like about both of them.”
  • Anthony Reyes played catch today and will throw a bullpen session tomorrow. Thus far, he is on track to make his next turn in the rotation after getting skipped this week.
  • The Indians now have 34 active players, including 18 pitchers.
  • The Tribe hasn’t homered in the last five games, which is a new season-high drought.
  • If you’ve read the Indians.com site the last few days, you know there’s a brewing fantasy football feud between ex-commissioner Hafner and new commish Jamey Carroll. Hafner was miffed when he Carroll ruled that he didn’t pick up Kurt Warner off waivers at the appropriate time and didn’t let him play Warner in Week 1. Carroll also had T-shirts made up for all the league’s members, depicting a Chief Wahoo logo on a white football helmet. “It was a nice effort,” Hafner said, though Pronk hinted that Carroll only had the shirts made to cover up his poor job as commish. I think this is all in good fun, but who knows? 
  • And you know it’s September in a long and rough season when the previous item is noteworthy. 

~AC

Bullington joins the Tribe

The mystery man who will make an emergency spot start for the Tribe during Saturday’s day-night doubleheader against the Royals is none other than right-hander Bryan Bullington, the former No. 1 overall pick of the Pirates in the 2002 Draft and one of many reclamation projects the Indians had going at Triple-A Buffalo.

Because Buffalo’s season ended a week ago, the Indians weren’t expected to call on any of the Bisons for this start. But Bullington, who was on the 40-man roster already, started that final game on Labor Day and he played catch the other day. He has joined the club in Baltimore and was expected to throw a bullpen session today.

Bullington, 27, was 1-3 with a save and a  4.75 ERA in 10 games, including eight starts, for Buffalo. While with the Pirates’ Triple-A club in Indianapolis earlier this year, he was 4-6 with a 5.52 ERA in 15 starts before he was designated for assignment on July 3.

Bullington, like David Letterman, went to Ball State. He missed all of 2006 due to right shoulder surgery, just one of many disappointments from his tenure with the Bucs.

On an unrelated note, Travis Hafner will, as expected, be officially activated Tuesday.

UPDATE (7:55 p.m.): Sharp-minded associate Andrew “The Scribble” Gribble has suggested a nickname for Bullington, should he be dealing Saturday. “Bullington K Factory.”

If you don’t get the reference, you’re not alone. I didn’t get it at first, either. It’s a take on Burlington Coat Factory.

So, who’s with the Scribble on this one?

Crickets? 

It's just a fantasy, it's not the real thing

Twelve weeks of fantasy frustration begin in earnest today.

Actually, I shouldn’t put it that way. This is not fantasy frustration. This is real frustration, brought on by the admitted ridulousness of having a fantasy football team.

My dad and I have shared ownership of the Marinara Mudslingers in the Euclid Fantasy Football League since 2001. My brother, Bill, was also once a co-owner, until he was fired in the historic Mudslinger shakeup of 2005. My dad’s shout of “You’re out!” when my brother made the ill-fated decision to rip our draft performance in front of the rest of the league’s owners is still reverberating within the walls of Skinny’s Bar and Grill.

The Mudslingers are the Kansas City Royals of the EFFL. We are perpetual losers, though we did finish with the league’s highest winning percentage in 2006, only to fall in the semifinals when Tom Brady mysteriously passed for just 70 yards in Week 15 against the Dolphins. I still haven’t forgiven him.

This year is going to be an uphill battle. Even by the standards of a 14-team league, our squad is weak (thanks, in no small part, to my absence at the draft… though I missed it to attend a Bruce Springsteen concert in St. Louis, so you can hardly blame me). Let’s just say we’ll be counting on Peyton Manning to throw eight touchdowns a game, even on his bye week. Otherwise, we have no shot whatsoever.

So here’s to my fellow frustrated fantasy participants. It’s time for a new season of making gut-wrenching decisions such as whether to start James Hardy or Dwayne Bowe.

People really shouldn’t have to live like this.

Here are today’s lineups…

INDIANS (68-72): CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Jamey Carroll, LF Shin-Soo Choo, SS Jhonny Peralta, DH Victor Martinez, 1B Ryan Garko, C Kelly Shoppach, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. LHP Cliff Lee (20-2, 2.32).

ROYALS (61-80): RF David DeJesus, SS Mike Aviles, DH Jose Guillen, 1B Billy Butler, 3B Mark Teahen, C John Buck, 2B Alberto Callaspo, LF Esteban German, CF Joey Gathright. RHP Zack Greinke (10-9, 3.67).

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Travis Hafner hit another home run to help propel Akron to the next round of the playoffs on Saturday, and Bowie manager (and former Aeros manager) Brad Komminsk wasn’t particularly pleased with Pronk’s presence.  But the Indians are pleased, because they believe Hafner is ready to be activated. He will meet the team in Baltimore tonight, work out Monday and probably be activated Tuesday, according to Eric Wedge.
  • As expected, Scott Lewis has been promoted from Akron to make Wednesday’s start in place of Anthony Reyes. Lewis has joined the team here in K.C., but his luggage is missing.
  • The Aeros will move on to face the Trenton Thunder (and, by the way, how bad a name is the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder? Terrible) in the Eastern League Championship Series, which begins Tuesday at Canal Park. It’s a best-of-five series, and the Aeros have been in it five of the last six years and four consecutive years.
  • The club record for wins by a left-hander is 23, set by Vean Gregg in 1911. Lee has it in his sights.
  • Wedge is really happy with the recent performance of Juan Rincon, who has a 1.74 ERA over his last seven appearances.
  • Class A Lake County’s season ended with a loss to West Virginia in game three of the South Atlantic League’s North Division playoffs Saturday.
  • Fantasy football fever has also swept the Tribe clubhouse. New league commish Jamey Carroll had T-shirts made for the league’s participants. The shirts have a white football helmet with a Chief Wahoo logo on it. I hope he doesn’t get sued for copyright infringement.

~AC

Stand Up and Cheer

I was a young, impressionable freshman at Ohio University in the fall of 1999, when my beloved Bobcats ventured north to Columbus and, against all conceivable odds, were tied with the Buckeyes at halftime of a game that was supposed to be a blowout. And a blowout it was, eventually, as OSU righted itself and won, 40-16.

Still, the 10-10 tie at the half would have been thrilling, if not for the general consensus of the students on Court Street that this was an annoyance. Sure, they were OU students, but they were OSU fans. And pride in OU athletics was something of a rare condition.

Now, this trend was not without its merits, of course. OU is not exactly known for its great football tradition. My junior year, the Bobcats were the consensus pick to win the MAC East. They proceeded to go 1-10.

My senior year, the season opener was against Division I-AA Northeastern, and the Bobcats were beaten, 28-0. That game will forever be etched in my memory as the night OU unveiled a cannon at Peden Stadium. They were so anxious to use this cannon for the first time that, following the game, it fired a ring of smoke into the sky. I can still see that circle hovering in the atmosphere, and I’m still not sure if it was an “O” for Ohio or a zero to represent the Bobcats’ final score.

Oh, that was also the year we lost 72-21 at Bowling Green. Good times.

Somewhere along the line, in the midst of covering all this nonsense for the Athens Messenger, I befriended a guy named Dan Lowe who convinced me that some students did, indeed, care about what was going on in OU sports. Dan was a gentle giant, a good Christian and the ultimate Bobcats fan. He wore face paint. He started chants in the student section at The Convo during basketball games and was the heart, soul and inspiration for the “O Zone” student section that started up my junior year and is still going strong today. No matter the sport, no matter the season, he recognized that while we weren’t vying for national championships, we did matter

Today, the Bobcats went back into The Shoe and gave the Buckeyes a scare. A real scare. It was 7-6 OU at halftime, and it was 14-12 OU at the end of the third quarter. For 23 minutes and 24 seconds of game time, the Bobcats, outmanned but unbowed, held a lead.

Sometimes the end result — in this case, a 26-14 win for the bad guys — doesn’t really matter in sports. Sometimes the thrill of the chase is just as fun. This was one of those days — for me, at least (though I certainly wouldn’t have minded it much if Taylor Price had hauled in Boo Jackson’s perfect pass on 3rd-and-nine in the fourth quarter).  

As is the case whenever OU rises to sporting prominence (the two or three times it’s actually happened), I received a number of texts from fellow alums today. I didn’t hear from Dan. He passed away in 2005, the victim of a heart condition no one knew he had. Those who knew him know his heart was probably just too big.

Still, I think about Dan every time the Bobcats give us OU alums a reason to stand up and cheer, and I know he was up there smiling today. 

If you made it this far, thanks for allowing me the digression. We now return to your regularly scheduled baseball season…

INDIANS (68-71): CF Grady Sizemore, DH David Dellucci, LF Ben Francisco, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Ryan Garko, C Kelly Shoppach, 3B Andy Marte, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. LHP Zach Jackson (0-1, 6.17).

ROYALS (60-80): CF David DeJesus, SS Mike Aviles, RF Jose Guillen, DH Billy Butler, 1B Ryan Shealy, C Miguel Olivo, 3B Mark Teahen, 2B Alberto Callaspo, LF Esteban German. RHP Gil Meche (10-10, 4.07).

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Travis Hafner is expected to get another four at-bats at Double-A Akron tonight. The Indians will evaluate him afterward and determine where to go from here. His rehab assignment expires after today’s action, so they’ll either have to leave him on the DL and do work behind the scenes or activate him.
  • How low has Josh Barfield fallen on the totem pole? When asked if Barfield will get a start this month, Wedge said, “I don’t know. Right now, we’re just kind of working through everything.” Translation: Barfield might get a token start, but Asdrubal Cabrera is the guy at second.
  • Speaking of Cabrera, he’s batting .333 with a homer and 12 RBIs over his last 23 games.
  • The Indians’ 10-game road winning streak is tied for the fourth-longest in club history. It is their longest streak since winning 11 straight road games April 17-May 16, 2001.
  • According to Elias, the Indians are only the third-ever AL team to win 10 straight road games, with all the wins coming while the team was below .500. The Indians also did it in 1922, and hte Orioles did it in 1999.

~AC

Reyes might get skipped

Nothing is determined yet, but it doesn’t look like Anthony Reyes is making the start Wednesday in Baltimore.

“There’s a pretty good chance we’ll skip his next start,” Eric Wedge said.

Reyes showed up to the park today and said his elbow felt better than it did last night, but the Indians will likely err on the side of caution.

Looks like left-hander Scott Lewis will get the nod, as he’s on the 40-man roster and still active in the postseason for Double-A Akron. Lewis was 6-2 with a 2.33 ERA in 13 starts at Akron and he was 2-2 with a 2.63 ERA in four starts at Buffalo earlier this year.

The Indians will probably make their decision Sunday.

He's a ringer.

Travis Hafner’s grand slam capped a five-run rally in the bottom of the second inning, as Double-A Akron went on to a 6-2 win over Bowie in game three of the best-of-five Southern Division Championship Series. The Aeros now lead the series, 2-1.

Hafner went 1-for-3 with the grand slam and a walk.

Pronk will be back in the Akron lineup for game four, which takes place at 6:05 p.m. ET Saturday. Hafner’s rehab assignment expires after Saturday, so expect to see him back with the Indians next week.

Not good.

Anthony Reyes left tonight’s start after three innings with right elbow soreness.

Reyes was on the DL with the Cardinals from June 16 to July 5 with a strained elbow.

I’ll have more info on the Indians.com site postgame.

UPDATE (11:50 p.m. ET): Reyes says he’s confident he’ll make his next start and plans on skipping his next bullpen session and changing his lifting routine. Wedge said the Indians will have to evaluate Reyes again Saturday and Sunday and see how he feels, and he stressed several times the need to be careful with Reyes at this juncture of the season.

Wedge said the Tribe had not yet discussed possible replacements, should Reyes need to be shut down.

Triple-A Buffalo’s season ended Monday, so I’m not sure the Indians would want to turn to a cold arm from there. Scott Lewis might be an option at Double-A Akron. He pitched Wednesday.

For now, pencil Reyes in for Wednesday in Baltimore. But definitely use a pencil and have some White-out handy, should it be one of those pencils that, for whatever reason, is difficult to erase. You know what I’m saying.

We tore it apart and put it together again

Kauffman Stadium is tore up from the floor up, as the kids say.

As part of the ballpark’s ongoing renovation project, the capacity has shrunk from about 39,000 to 27,000. Seats have been ripped out to accomodate the expansion of the concourse. And let’s face it, the Royals didn’t need those seats, anyway.

The project has been kicked into a new gear so that the renovations will be 90-95 percent complete in time for Opening Day 2009, when the rejuvenated Royals make their push to get out of the AL Central basement. Again.

At present, this looks more like the setting for an episode of Bob the Builder than a ballgame. But it will all be worth it in the end.

Here are tonight’s lineups…

INDIANS (67-71): CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Jamey Carroll, DH David Dellucci, SS Jhonny Peralta, C Victor Martinez, LF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Ryan Garko, RF Franklin Gutierrez, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. RHP Anthony Reyes (2-1, 2.01).

ROYALS (60-79): CF David DeJesus, SS Mike Aviles, RF Jose Guillen, DH Billy Butler, 3B Mark Teahen, C Miguel Olivo, LF Ross Gload, 2B Alberto Callaspo, 1B Kila Ka’aihue.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • The Indians have won nine straight road games. It’s their longest road winning streak since winning nine straight July 7-Aug. 23, 2005.
  • Tribe batters have been hit by a pitch 91 times this year, which blows away the club record of 80 set last season. The Indians lead the Majors (the Yankees are second with 69) and are just one shy of equaling the AL mark of 92, set by the Blue Jays in 1996. The Major League record is 100, set by Houston in 1997.
  • Shin-Soo Choo has reached base safely in 24 straight games since Aug. 5. He has an RBI in eight of his last 10 games (11 RBIs total).
  • Reyes’ 2.01 ERA in August was the third-best among AL pitchers with at least 30 innings of work. He only trailed Francisco Liriano (1.23) and Cliff Lee (1.86).
  • As mentioned below, Travis Hafner is rehabbing at Double-A Akron tonight. The Aeros’ best-of-five series with Bowie is knotted up at one game apiece. Game 3 is at 7:05 p.m. ET tonight (though rain is in the forecast), and Game 4 is at 6:05 p.m. Saturday.
  • Triple-A manager Torey Lovullo has joined the Indians for the homestretch. Pitching coach Scott Radinsky is on the way.

Also, good news to report on Mitch Maier, the Royals center fielder who was hit in the face by Zach Jackson last month and suffered three facial fractures. Maier returned to baseball activities today and will begin taking BP in the next few days, with an eye on returning to the Royals’ lineup by the time the club comes back to Cleveland next weekend. 

~AC

UPDATE (7:42 p.m. ET): Manute Bol, all 7 feet, 7 inches of him, is in the house tonight. But you probably expected Manute Bol to be at a Royals-Indians game, right? Apparently, he owns a farm near here.

How’d you like to be the poor jerk stuck sitting behind Manute tonight? 

Westbrook/Hafner updates

Jake Westbrook will have arthroscopic surgery on his right hip in Nashville today. More info on the site tonight.

Travis Hafner is expected to play DH in the Minors today and tomorrow. He is playing in Double-A Akron’s playoff game against Bowie at 7:05 p.m. ET tonight.

Get a haircut and get a real job. Get it together like your big brother Bob.

Love the noon games. Eating breakfast. Dodging traffic. Banker’s hours. I feel like such a grown-up.

Here are today’s lineups…

INDIANS (67-70): CF Grady Sizemore, DH David Dellucci, LF Ben Francisco, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Ryan Garko, C Sal Fasano, 3B Andy Marte, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera. LHP Jeremy Sowers (2-7, 5.92).

WHITE SOX (77-61): SS Orlando Cabrera, CF Brian Anderson, RF Jermaine Dye, 1B Paul Konerko, 2B Alexei Ramirez, LF Nick Swisher, 3B Juan Uribe, DH Josh Fields, C Toby Hall. RHP Javier Vazquez (10-12, 4.38).

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Interesting note on Victor Martinez, from Elias Sports Bureau. Martinez, who hit 25 homers last season, hit his first homer of ’08 in his 208th at-bat of the season. Only two other players in the modern era who were coming off a season of 25 homers or more failed to hit a homer in their first 200 at-bats: Earl Averill in 1933 and Morgan Ensberg in 2004.
  • The Indians have reached a two-year extension of their player development contract with short-season Mahoning Valley of the New York-Penn League. The Scrappers have been a Tribe affiliate since 1999.
  • The Indians last swept a three-game series at home against the White Sox in May of 2003.
  • Since Aug. 5, Shin-Soo Choo is batting .351 with 11 doubles, a triple, five homers and 19 RBIs, and he’s reached base safely in all 23 games.
  • Rafael Betancourt has allowed just one earned run over his last 10 appearances — a span of 12 1/3 innings. He’s given up six hits, walked five and struck out 10. “He’s really settled in,” Eric Wedge said. “He’s using all his pitches. He’s not a one-dimensional pitcher anymore.”

Oh, and I just noticed in the comments a question about John Meloan. Yes, he has an H in his first name. He had previously been listed as “Jon” but asked the Indians to change it when he was traded here. CC dropped the periods, John added an H. It was mass hysteria at the trading deadline.

~AC

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