February 2009

Lineups posted for Indians-Giants

And so it begins. And it begins at the brand-new Goodyear Ballpark. Here are today’s lineups:

GIANTS: RF Randy Winn, SS Edgar Renteria, 3B Pablo Sandoval, C Bengie Molina, 1B Travis Ishikawa, CF Aaron Rowand, LF Nate Schierholtz, 2B Emmanuel Buriss, DH Juan Uribe. RHP Tim Lincecum.

INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Mark DeRosa, SS Jhonny Peralta, C Victor Martinez, 1B Ryan Garko, LF Ben Francisco, 2B Jamey Carroll, DH Carlos Santana, RF Trevor Crowe. LHP Jeremy Sowers.

Also available for the Tribe: LHP Zach Jackson, LHP Rafael Perez, RHP Ed Mujica, RHP Vinnie Chulk, RHP Matt Herges, RHP Jack Cassel and RHP Tomo Ohka.

Familiar faces around me

Aside from today's shift in scenery from the complex to the ballpark, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the arrival of Rapid Robert Feller. It's an annual rite of spring.

 

As was the case in Winter Haven, Feller will be throwing out a ceremonial first pitch and signing autographs at each and every home game at the Goodyear Ballpark.

 

You might be surprised to hear Mr. Feller has an opinion on some things. Shocker, right? He came into the media workroom and said, "Are you guys going to write about steroids this season, or baseball?" Hopefully baseball, we responded. "I'm sure Bud and A-Rod hope that, too," he replied.

 

When told Jeremy Sowers is starting tomorrow's Cactus League opener, Feller said, "If he got some upper body strength, he could do it. He reminds me a lot of Scotty Bailes."

 

Feller also told us scribes, "The last thing I want to hear is that we have great players in the Minor Leagues. I don't care. How about some great ones, right now, winning a ballgame?"

 

I guess he's not all that interested in my Nick Weglarz feature.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • If you're in the Cleveland area, SportsTime Ohio will be broadcasting tomorrow's opener against the Giants, which begins at 3 p.m. ET. If you're not, fear not. MLB Network will be picking up and airing the STO live feed.
  • Feller was far from the only special guest at the complex today. This place has become a tourist trap. This morning, former closer Joe Borowski rolled in to take a tour and catch up with some old friends. Not only was Borowski, who lives in nearby Scottsdale, wearing the standard-issue Affliction T-shirt, he was also carrying his trademark cup of Starbucks. "I can drink as much as I want now," he joked. If you remember, Borowski's major complaint about Winter Haven was the lack of Starbucks availability.
  • Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Padres GM Kevin Towers also toured the complex this morning. And on Monday, Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd (a former Indians assistant GM) rolled through. The Rockies have to be considering a move from Tucson. Only two teams (the Rockies and Diamondbacks) remain there, so their travel schedule is brutal.
  • Not a great deal to report off the five-inning intrasquad, because, well, it's a five-inning intrasquad. But Josh Barfield started a double play on the only ball hit to him at third, and he also cranked out a three-run homer. So a nice day for him.
  • Bad day for Masa Kobayashi, who had a rough third inning in which he faced eight batters and gave up three runs on four hits with a walk and a strikeout. Trevor Crowe took him deep for a solo shot, and Beau Mills added an RBI triple to the left-field corner. Eric Wedge said Kobayashi was flying open on his delivery. After Carl Willis talked with him on the mound, he tightened it up and got better action on his breaking ball -- and got out of the inning, to boot.
  • Carlos Santana put on a display in batting practice during the morning workout, and he showed off his strong arm behind the plate in the intrasquad. Santana is catching (no pun intended) attention down here.
  • The real star of the intrasquad was the ballpark itself. The plaza beyond foul territory near right field contains a Wiffle Ball field for the kids. The 8-year-old inside me is just dying to try it out.
  • The park has an incredible sound system. Some of the players are already talking about starting a petition to have the system installed at Progressive Field (they hate the sound there).
  • Then again, the people operating the system here could stand to make some tweaks. You've no doubt heard a small sampling of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" played after strikeouts in many a ballpark, and Goodyear Ballpark is no exception. It's a tired act. And the lone time it was broken up, the replacement, bizarrely, was a short dose of Blessid Union of Souls' "I Believe" when Wes Hodges went down swinging in the fourth. I'm struggling to make the connection there.

 ~AC

Intrasquad lineups posted

I like the Indians’ chances today.

Away: RF Jamey Carroll, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, SS Jhonny Peralta, LF Ryan Garko, DH Kelly Shoppach, 3B Wes Hodges, CF Michael Brantley, C Chris Gimenez, 1B Jordan Brown. RHP Hector Rondon.

Home: CF Trevor Crowe, 3B Josh Barfield, DH Victor Martinez, 1B Beau Mills, LF Tony Graffanino, RF Stephen Head, 2B Luis Valbuena, C Wyatt Toregas, SS Jesus Merchan. LHP David Huff.

Take a good look around

Added a bunch of links to the right-hand side of this page, as I’m happy to report that all 30 club site reporters for MLB.com now have a blog of their own. I’ve grouped them by division, because that’s just the kind of guy I am. Should be a good way for you to keep track of what’s going on around baseball this season.

Also, upon request, I threw up a link to a Columbus Clippers blog by team broadcaster Scott Leo (no relation to Uncle Leo).

Enjoy!

Hey mister deejay, won't ya hear my last prayer

I really don't see how it's even remotely possible that anyone could or would need to listen to a radio station other than E Street Radio -- the all-Bruce Springsteen station on Sirius and XM.

 

Actually, I'm on my second rental car of the spring already, because the Sirius subscription in the first one ran out a day into my rental period. That wasn't going to cut it. I need access to the only station where it's standard practice to hear, on average, five versions of "Thunder Road" (the studio version, the live version from the Agora Ballroom in '78, the solo piano version from the live boxed set, the original version named "Wings for Wheels" from early '75 and the studio alternate version in which the woman he's singing to is named Chrissie, not Mary) a day.

 

To me, that's perfect radio. But for the rest of you, perfect radio involves the Indians broadcasts.

 

Unfortunately, not every game down here in the Cactus League will be carried by WTAM, WMMS and the Indians Radio Network. Tom Hamilton, who arrived to camp today, will be in the booth for Wednesday's opener and 20 other spring exhibitions.

 

The rest of the time, you can turn to the soothing sounds of Jim Rosenhaus right over in these parts at Indians.com. Those of you with a subscription to MLB.com's Gameday Audio feature can tune in at the site for every game, including the ones not carried on the radio. For the complete spring broadcast schedule, click here.

  

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • It will be David Huff opposing Hector Rondon in the first inning of tomorrow's 1 p.m. intrasquad game. The game will last five innings in all. Rafael Betancourt, Kirk Saarloos, Adam Miller, Greg Aquino, Jensen Lewis, Masa Kobayashi, John Meloan and Ryan Edell will all get an inning of work.
  • Also of note for the intrasquad is that Ryan Garko and Jamey Carroll will both play in the outfield, while Josh Barfield will be at third base. Eric Wedge said he’s seen enough of Garko to determine it’s worth a shot, particularly in such a meaningless game.
  • At the end of this morning’s workout, the position players took part in an interesting situational hitting drill. They were divided into two teams. When a player would step into the cage, the players from the opposing team would call out a situation — for example, bases loaded with the infield in and one out — and the hitter would have to respond with the appropriate at-bat. Get it right, get a point. Get it wrong, lose a point. The team with the fewest points at the end had to pick up all the balls sprayed around the field. Some funny moments came out of this, and you can read about them on Indians.com in a little bit. But the highlight was when Shin-Soo Choo’s situation was basically “don’t hit a homer.” He hit a towering shot off the center-field wall, about a foot and a half short of going out. Big League Choo, ladies and gentlemen.
  • Nick Weglarz is a beast at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds. He was one of the early arrivals to Minor League camp this year, because he's due to leave to represent Canada in the World Baseball Classic this week. He took batting practice with the members of big-league camp this morning. I'll write up Weglarz in the coming days, but the main things you need to know about him is that he's got the body of a Travis Hafner with enough athleticism, the Indians believe, to remain in left field. He's not your typical power hitter. At Class A Kinston last year, he had a .396 on-base percentage, drawing 71 walks and striking out 78 times.
  • Another Andy Marte sighting today. He was working out at the complex and changing in the Minor League locker room. The Indians weren't able to work out a trade involving Marte, and he was officially exposed to waivers this morning. Teams have until Wednesday to claim him. I'll have Marte's take on his situation in a story on Indians.com this afternoon.
  • Jhonny Peralta will see some time at third this spring, but it won’t be a “steady diet,” Wedge said. It will be just enough to ensure Peralta is ready to jump over there from time to time during the season, if the need arises.
  • Former big-league player and hitting coach Mickey Brantley will be here tomorrow to see his son, Michael, in action.

 ~AC

"You were making out during 'Schindler's List'?"

The Oscars take place tonight, and the whole world is wondering: When will Winslet win one?*

 

*I don't usually explain references, but I don't think enough people have seen "Extras" to appreciate that joke. There's an episode in which Kate Winslet is doing a movie about the Holocaust only because she believes that every movie about the Holocaust wins an Oscar. So now, tonight, Winslet is nominated for an actual Oscar about an actual movie about the Holocaust, and that's simply awesome.


oscar.jpg 

Where was I? Ah, yes, the Oscars. I thought I'd assist some of my movie-loving readers with three-word reviews of the nominees for "Best Picture":

 

Frost/Nixon: Haven't seen it.

 

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Heard it's awful.

 

Milk: Only drink skim.

 

Slumdog Millionaire: Heard it's great.

 

The Reader: Thought-provokingly adequate.

 

All right, so I've only actually seen one of the nominees. That could be part of the reason I wasn't asked to be a member of the Academy. But I can tell you what's going on with the Indians, so let's just go with what we know, all right?

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • The big news of the day was that Travis Hafner took BP outdoors with his teammates this morning. He was on Field No. 1, which is the one designed with Progressive Field's exact dimensions. One of his first swings was a shot off the 19-foot wall. He also hit a couple out to right -- not quite to "Pronkville" but close enough.
  • Hafner said he still feels some soreness in the mornings, but, all in all, the shoulder hasn't given him any major issues. He'll likely begin facing live pitchers the first week of March or so, then progress to the Cactus League games from there.
  • How troublesome was that shoulder last year? Hafner said it would sometimes hurt to eat. And no, that's not how he lost all that weight. Anyway, more on Hafner on the Indians.com site in a little bit.
  • Shin-Soo Choo had to leave the field early in today's workout after he collided with Grady Sizemore during a pop-up drill. Sizemore's knee struck and bruised Choo's right knee. Choo wasn't gone long. He came back about 20 minutes later after getting quick treatment in the trainer's room, and he wasn't walking with a limp.
  • Choo, for the record, will leave here Tuesday for the World Baseball Classic. Team Korea will practice in Korea for three days, then head off to Japan.
  • Looking like Grady Sizemore, Mark DeRosa, Choo and Rafael Perez will be the Indians' only big-league participants in the World Baseball Classic
  • The Indians have signed off on the contracts for nine of their pre-arbitration players - Josh Barfield, Shin-Soo Choo, Aaron Laffey, John Meloan, Adam Miller, Anthony Reyes, Tony Sipp, Jeremy Sowers and Wyatt Toregas. There are 14 remaining pre-arb players on the roster, and it's expected three or four more signings will be made in the next few days.
  • If you're in the area and are interested in attending, the Indians' intrasquad game is at 1 p.m. local time Tuesday.

 ~AC

There's a little town just beneath the floodline that needs a local hero

When I was a kid, Cory Snyder came to The Palace at Euclid High School (it was and is, simply, a high school baseball field, but it was referred to as "The Palace" because it had such posh amenities as a working scoreboard and covered dugouts).

 


snyder1.JPGSnyder put on a little clinic for us Euclid Boys League players. He taught us the finer points that made him, inarguably, the game's greatest player to ever hit 149 homers and notch 992 strikeouts.

 

Then, Snyder put on a Home Run Derby display that drew oohs, ahhs and gasps. And understand: This was my favorite player, in my town, on one of my fields. I was so mesmerized by the sheer magnitude of the moment that I didn't even notice when my dad took off to chase down a foul ball for me. Snyder later signed the ball. It still holds a special place in my heart -- and a box in my basement.

 

I can only imagine the way I felt that spring day in 1988 is similar to the way the kids of Goodyear, Ariz., felt this morning, when the Indians held an open house at the new Goodyear Ballpark. The players did their fundamental drills and took BP on the field, then walked down the first-base line signing autographs for (seemingly) one and all. Grady Sizemore was there. Victor Martinez was there. Jhonny Peralta was there. It was good to see the guys interacting with the locals and the fans who made the trek from Cleveland.

 

Of course, it would have been a lot cooler if Cory Snyder was there.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Jeremy Sowers has been named the Indians' Opening Day starter. Opening Day of the Cactus League schedule, that is. He'll get the ball Wednesday at the Goodyear Ballpark opener against the Giants.
  • Today marked the historic debut of the shuttle system that will bring the players to and from the stadium from the complex. There are three shuttles working on a rotation.
  • A little controversy erupted when one of the shuttles took off without Eric Wedge and several players, even though they were in striking distance of the doors. Josh Barfield was absolutely buried by his teammates, because he was apparently the last guy on the bus before it took off. But it was all in good fun.
  • Ed Mujica has looked as good as you can look in two live batting practice sessions. He's out of options, and, if all things are equal with the relief candidates, he'd get the job because of that contract status. But it's early. Let's see how he looks in the games.
  • The more I see of Luis Valbuena, the more I like. He looks quite polished in the field, and he has a smooth swing. One line on Valbuena when the Indians acquired him this winter was that he's a bit on the stocky side, but he looks to be in pretty good shape to me.
  • Fausto Carmona, on the other hand, must be a regular at the Andy Marte Buffet.
  • Speaking of which, there was a Marte sighting at camp here today. He came here to workout, as he is, technically, still with the organization. He got out of here before reporters could shake him down for a few thoughts on the move the other day. 
  • Travis Hafner is still not hitting outside. He's taking BP in the cages every other day and still feels fine. No word on when he'll progress to the next step, but it can't be too far off.
  • The new ballpark is absolutely beautiful. Then again, I guess you wouldn't expect the centerpiece of a $108 million complex to be a dump, right?
  • There are a lot of great jobs in baseball, but wouldn't you just love to be a team's Australia and Europe scouting supervisor? I know I would.
  • For the 90 seconds in which it lived in my notebook, I totally bought David Dellucci's story about saving a little boy from an alligator and having his thumb bit in the process. I guess after 10 days of a rather dull existence here in Goodyear, I was just so excited to finally have a great story to latch on to. At least I wasn't the only one buying it.
  • Some fibs have made it to print over the years. In the early '80s, pitcher Ross Grimsley had reporters believing he had an armadillo farm. In the '90s, Brian Giles had some bite marks on his leg and explained that they were from a yellow-tailed scorpion.
  • My MLB.com colleague Tom Singer had some interesting data on this winter's signings, noting that it was actually, on average, more beneficial to be a young player in arbitration than it was to be a free agent on the open market.

~AC

Czech it out

The Indians have signed amateur catcher Martin Cervenka, a native of the Czech Republic, to a Minor League contract. The 16-year-old from Prague was signed by Peter Gahan, the Tribe’s Australia and Europe scouting supervisor.

Because he’s still a high school kid, the Indians will have Cervenka continue to play for his club team, Kotlarka, during the ’09 season.He will then report to Goodyear for extended Spring Training during his school breaks and spend the ’09 and ’10 summers at the MLB Academy in Australia. This will be the plan until he finishes high school at the age of 19.

And, yes, this is the Tribe’s first signee from the Czech Republic.

Also today, David Dellucci informed reporters that he is about a week behind his teammates because he had to have three stitches placed in his left thumb. He slammed the tailgate of his truck on the thumb on Feb. 1.

Dellucci initially told us the injury occurred when he saved a little boy who had his leg caught in the teeth of an alligator. More on that tall tale on Indians.com in a little bit.

Come together right now over me

I'd like to think I had a pretty diverse lunch table in high school.

 

You know how it is in the movies. The jocks sit with jocks. The nerds sit with nerds. The cheerleaders all sit together and, presumably, talk about how attractive the members of the school paper's reporting staff are. Pretty basic stuff.

 

That's not how it was at my table. We had a pretty eclectic mix. We had a lineman from the football team, a member of the show choir, a couple weird guys, a couple smart guys, a couple funny guys. We were bonded, I believe, by the air hockey table in the break room. We'd take on various freshmen in the room and usually beat them (except for this one extremely talented kid whose real name we never came to learn. We simply referred to him as "God").

 

And the air hockey precedent holds true. Sports (yes, I'm using that term quite loosely) can bring a diverse group of individuals together.

 

I mention this because someone asked about clubhouse cliques, and I am trying to come up with the best way to describe the Indians' clubhouse. There are certainly cliques involved. Latin guys will always tend to congregate with other Latin guys, for instance. Young Minor Leaguers congregate with other young Minor Leaguers. And without naming names, every once in a while a guy like Jason Johnson comes along and doesn't really make friends with anybody (I guess I did name names). But those are the exceptions that prove the rule.

 

My point is that it always strikes me how well guys brought into this organization mesh with other guys. You wouldn't know, for example, that Mark DeRosa, Kerry Wood, Joe Smith and Carl Pavano just got here. They have fit in very well.

 

Players who come over here - and Joe Borowski used to say this all the time -- tend to remark that this is a rather unique environment in which players check their egos at the door. Those who don't get called out or, worse, ostracized entirely.

 

So it's a lot like my lunch table, minus the air hockey (which is a shame, for the record) and plus the Affliction t-shirts (which is even more of a shame).

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Victor Martinez won't talk much about how much pain he was in when playing through that elbow soreness last season, but he will talk about how painful it was to be away from the game for two and a half months. He had some real nice things to say about his love for the game. "You look around, and we're blessed to be here, wearing a big-league uniform with nice shoes, nice batting gloves, looking good," he said. "What else can you ask for? You just need to go out and enjoy it."

 

  • The Indians will move part of their workout to the Goodyear Ballpark tomorrow, as part of a Fan Fest in which the locals can get a look at the new park. The gates open at 10 a.m. local time, and the Tribe will hold fundamental drills beginning at 10:30 a.m. The live batting practice sessions, however, will remain on the back fields.

 

  • Josh Barfield looked pretty good moving around at third base today. Wedge, for one, was impressed. "Better than what I'd expect to see for the first time over there," Wedge said.

 

  • Luis Valbuena has made a fine first impression here, at the plate and in the field. He's been taking some grounders at shortstop, but Wedge said he'll only look at him at second base when the games start.

 

  • Wedge said the bullpen battle goes a lot further than just that one open spot on the Opening Day roster. "It's also who's going to be the first guy we call or the second guy, depending on what happens," Wedge said. "They're pitching to make an impression with regard to this year."

 

  • Speaking of the bullpen mix, Juan Salas gets here Saturday night and should be in camp on Sunday for his physical.

 

  • Reader Jim D. points out that the Indians have had four players whose last name is a palindrome -- Toby Harrah, Dave Otto, Mark Salas and, now, the new Salas. Jim claims that is a Major League record, though I don't have that confirmed. Granted, none of these names are as complex as my all-time favorite palindrome, "so many dynamos," but it's still pretty cool. I've done a quick look through the all-time roster to see if there are any others we're missing, but I don't see any. Let me know if you discover otherwise.

 

  • Speaking of last names, I've decided the only reason I didn't become a pro ballplayer is because of my 11-letter last name. It's at least one -- and probably two -- letters too long to look presentable on the back of a jersey. Rafael Betancourt, for example, is at the 10-letter mark, and his name is in danger of becoming a half-circle on the back of his jersey. Just doesn't look right. 

~AC

"I happen to dress based on mood… This is Morning Mist."

These must already be the dog days of camp if yesterday's discussion centered around dog names.

 

(I particularly liked the idea of getting nine fish and naming them all after the members of the starting lineup. However, that might be difficult to pull off with the Tribe. You might need a few versatile, utility fish to fill in when the other fish are in a slump or need a break from ... I don't know ... swimming laps, I guess.)

 

Today's topic: Clothing.

 

Now, I don't claim to have an admirable wardrobe. Far from it, in fact. Sportswriters technically aren't allowed to wear anything but sweatpants and polo shirts featuring the logo of some event from 1996. Also, I hate to sound like a cranky old man. But seriously... what's with these Affliction shirts?

 

You know what shirts I'm talking about, right? They usually have some sort of skull on them. Or maybe it's not a skull. I guess I haven't really taken the time to examine them closely. (Edit: After I started writing this entry, I went into the clubhouse and did examine one of them closely. It featured a sword going through an empty rib cage, surrounded by flowers. Reminds me of prom night.) But I do know that they're always form-fitting (I would love, just once, to see a guy wearing an Affliction shirt three sizes too big for him), and they are a hit among ballplayers. I'm starting to think they serve as a secondary uniform for this particular team.

 

I don't get it. I don't want to get it. And if you can't tell by this post, I'm really ready for the games to start down here, because I have nothing better to do than write up the unceremonious end of Andy Marte's reign and rant about T-shirts.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • GM Mark Shapiro is back in camp after leaving for Baltimore due to the death of his grandmother. With Shapiro back, he and Eric Wedge began holding their two-on-one meetings with position players.
  • Another rather uneventful morning on the back fields. The players did some work at their individual positions, and the second round of live BP was held.
  • It can be somewhat telling to see who's getting work at which position and what group they are in. For example, Luis Valbuena, Josh Barfield and Beau Mills all got work this morning in what could be considered the Major League infield group (Mark DeRosa at third, Jhonny Peralta at short, Asdrubal Cabrera at second and Ryan Garko at first). Barfield was at second base and Valbuena was taking grounders at short. Jamey Carroll worked with DeRosa at third base.
  • The plan this season is for Carroll to serve as, essentially, the backup third baseman. With DeRosa expected to see some time in the outfield, Carroll can step in at the hot corner. Barfield will probably make this team and serve as Cabrera's backup at second base. So much of Carroll's time on the field, to this point, has been spent at third.
  • Wedge's first impression of third baseman Wes Hodges: "For a young player, he does a nice job staying in the middle of the diamond [in BP]."
  • Someone asked whatever happened with Edward Salcedo, the prospect to end all prospects who the Indians reportedly made a run at last year in the Dominican and were even rumored to have signed for $2.9 million (obviously, that wasn't the case). Last I heard, there was an investigation into Salcedo's age and doubts that he was really 16. The talk about Salcedo coming out of the Dominican quieted in a hurry when that investigation began. 

~AC

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