February 2009

Marte designated as Tribe trades for Salas

Well, you knew the Andy Marte Era would come to an end sooner or later here in camp, and it didn’t take long.

The Indians traded for RHP Juan Salas today, sending Minor League INF Isaias Velasquez to the Rays.

Salas, 30, was designated for assignment by the Rays on Friday. He spent most of last season with Triple-A Durham, going 4-5 with a 2.62 ERA and one save in 28 appearances. He also made five appearances for the Rays, giving up five runs over 6 1/3 innings over two stints.

Salas has spent his entire career with the Rays. He’s made a total of 47 appearances over the last three years, going 1-1 with a 4.44 ERA in 52 2/3 innings.

To make room for Salas, the Indians designated Marte — their former “third baseman of the future.” Marte never got his bat going in the big leagues. The Tribe will have 10 days to trade him, release him or outright him. Perhaps this will be Marte’s opportunity to get another chance elsewhere. We shall see.

As for Velasquez, he was on the Indians’ short-season rookie ball squad in Mahoning Valley last year. He batted .281 with a homer, 10 doubles, a triple and 18 RBIs in 64 games for the Scrappers.

UPDATE: Salas, a converted third baseman, tested positive for performance-enhancers in 2007 and missed all of Spring Training last year because of visa issues in the Dominican. The Indians like his live arm and the fact that he has an option left. He’ll compete for the open bullpen spot. 

"It's a dog-eat-dog world, Woody, and I'm wearing Milk-Bone underwear"

cliff1.JPGIt appears we solved the mysteries and vagaries of time travel in yesterday's post, which was no small feat.

 

Now I pose to you a much simpler question: If you had a dog (and maybe you do), what would you name it?

 

I ask because it appears to me that many of you are absolutely obsessed with the Indians. You might even be as obsessed as my friend Megan, who wimped out with regard to a previously stated goal of getting a Chief Wahoo tattoo but did recently become the owner of a French bulldog puppy, named Cliff (that's him on the right... apparently he's named after some pitcher).


  

Anybody else have a Tribe-inspired pet name? An Italian greyhound named Fasano, perhaps?

 

I'll confess this post really just had two goals: Giving Cliff some blog love and working the above "Cheers" quote into a headline. Now that those are accomplished, let's talk about what's happening on this lovely Wednesday.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Really interesting story out of the Nationals' camp, where it's been revealed that one of the organization's top prospects, 19-year-old Esmailyn Gonzalez, is actually a 23-year-old named Carlos Alvarez Daniel Lugo. The Nats had signed "Gonzalez" in the summer of '06 and given him a $1.4 million bonus. He was supposed to represent a big piece of their future.
  • The Gonzalez story has the potential to impact, well, pretty much every team in baseball (the Indians included), because they use the same system to verify the age and identities of international players. The system was put in place by MLB in the last four or five years to put an end to the chaotic nature of the international scouting scene and do intensive background checks on potential prospects. Plenty of questions are no doubt being asked right now about what the heck happened with Gonzalez.
  • Today was the first day of live BP, which means Indians pitchers were throwing to Indians hitters. This is always pretty fun to watch. Fausto Carmona and Cliff Lee were among those on the mound today. And believe it or not, Ed Mujica looked pretty nasty, breaking the bats of Victor Martinez and Josh Barfield.
  • The Indians also spent a good part of the morning working on their bunt defense.
  • Eric Wedge was talking about the mental makeup it takes to be a good closer. He said we'll never know what it's like to be on the mound in the ninth inning with the game on the line, and a pitcher's potential for that role can never be known until he's tested. "It's like if you're stuck on an elevator between the 25th and 26th floor with three other people," Wedge said. "You're going to find out about people." 
  • Wedge said he's been particularly impressed with reliever Joe Smith in the early going. "He sticks out a little bit," Wedge said.
  • Representatives from the Phoenix police department came and spoke to the players this morning, making sure they are aware that the highways here have cameras that can and will catch you speeding and the rules regarding alcohol and marijuana are particularly strict.
  • Former Tribe catcher Eddie Taubensee was also in the clubhouse today, spreading the word about a ministry he's involved in that caters to professional athletes.
  • MLB.com has started up a new injuries page, so all of you preparing for your fantasy drafts might find it to be a good resource.
  • The next installment of the Indians Inbox will run on Indians.com tomorrow.

~AC 

I want you to show me the way

I don’t even like Peter Frampton. Not sure why I’m quoting him.

Anyway, somebody asked for a little inside information on Goodyear, so here’s a link to the visitor’s guide that went live today.

I think I'm out of my mind, thinking about time

This is my first extended exposure to Mountain Time, which is, by far, the most interesting of the U.S. time zones (I mean, assuming time zones can, in fact, be interesting, which is completely debatable).

 clock.jpg

At present, we are two hours behind those of you back home in Cleveland. At some point in March, this will change, and we will be three hours behind. At this rate of progression, by December, the good people of Arizona will be 12 hours behind Cleveland. Craziness.

 

Those of you who saw my oversized picture posting yesterday know I struggle a bit with photos (that little problem has been corrected below, thanks to reader Casey W.). And it just so happens I struggle with numbers, too. As a result, there's a math problem I'm trying to get my head around, and I'm looking for your assistance:

 

My girlfriend's coming to town the weekend of the daylight savings change. When she leaves Cleveland on a Thursday evening and flies to Phoenix, she will gain two hours. The time will change in Cleveland on Saturday night, jumping ahead an hour, but it will remain the same here. She will fly back to Cleveland on Monday and lose three hours.

 

Where does all this change leave her internal clock? An hour ahead? An hour behind? Exactly the same? I wouldn't be so confused if it weren't for that wrinkle in which the time remains the same here but changes there. How does that figure?

 

And this leads to another, much more advanced question. Is it possible, over the course of a lifetime, to gain an entire extra day of internal clock time, simply by jumping around time zones? In other words, could you live for, say, 30,000 calendar days, but your body clock actually ticks for 30,001 days?

 

I think I just blew my own mind -- and hopefully yours.

 

Now, let's try to regroup and talk about the Indians' first full-squad workout day.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • A-Rod was, once again, the story of the day in baseball, but not necessarily here. I'm sure more guys would have watched A-Rod's press conference, but the huge televisions that hang in the clubhouse have already malfunctioned. A maintenance guy was working on them. "We forgot to pay our cable bill," one clubbie joked.
  • Cliff Lee, however, still managed to watch the presser in the lunch room, and he had some interesting things to say about the leaking of A-Rod's test results. Obviously, there's a lot of disappointment among the players that those results went public. I'll have a story on this on Indians.com shortly.
  • There is one quote I didn't use in that story, though. Lee said he and his teammates received a drug test when they took their physicals over the last few days, but they can be tested again at any time, without notice. "It's not like we can say, 'OK, that's over, let's go do some steroids now,'" Lee joked.
  • Today was the first full-squad workout... sort of. The last group of pitchers had to throw their final bullpen session, so they went to the back fields while the position players were on Fields 1 and 2, taking BP, working at their positions and running the bases. Tomorrow, the full squads will begin in earnest with some live BP, which is always fun to watch.
  • Wedge said the baserunning drills are a focus in camp this year, much in the same way controlling the running game became a focus a couple years ago. The Indians obviously don't have a great deal of team speed, so they hope to compensate for that by being smarter on the basepaths. Wedge wants them to be aggressive down here and find their comfort zone for straying off the bag without getting picked off.
  • Travis Hafner took batting practice in the cage, with Derek Shelton tossing to him and Wedge looking on. Still no word on when Pronk will join his teammates in live BP outdoors, but he's not considered to be too far behind the rest of the hitters.
  • Wedge said LHP David Huff has a legitimate chance of cracking the rotation, though he's obviously not seen much of him yet.
  • Not only did the TVs go out, but a fire alarm went off just as Wedge was about to meet with reporters. Hey, they're still working out the kinks here, all right?
  • The sun came out today. It was welcome.

 

~AC

(Clarence Clemons' saxophone solo in "Jungleland")

Today's blog headline goes out to the Indians' resident iTrac vision training specialist Jason Stein, also known in these parts as the "Master of Self-Promotion."

 

Stein and I don't see eye to eye on, well, anything, and not just because he's taller than me. One of our many arguments yesterday centered on music. He claimed that Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland" (referenced in yesterday's blog headline) has a superfluous saxophone solo, while I claim that the solo is the greatest saxophone solo in rock history (granted, it didn't have a heck of a lot of real competition for this honor, but it's an honor, nonetheless), and, therefore, integral to the song's beauty.


clemons.jpg 

Stein's contention was that he listens to music for the lyrics, and he said the simple fact that you can't "quote" a saxophone solo in my blog postings is proof enough that the musical interludes don't matter.

 

So, out of pure spite, I'm sticking it to Stein with The Big Man's solo today, in headline form. If you close your eyes, I swear you can hear it. Or you can just watch it here.

 

If you can't tell from the above post, it's another slow day in camp. And let's face it... this is what you might call a trend. The early days of camp are always rather mundane, but at least it gives us plenty of time to bicker over Bruce.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Pitching coach Carl Willis said Kerry Wood looked good yesterday -- too good, in fact. Wood's stuff is way ahead of where it needs to be this time of year. "He was impressive, to say the least," Willis said, shaking his head. "By no means was he out of control, but we might have to slow him down a tad."
     
  • In the clubhouse this morning, after PFPs had wrapped up, several of the pitchers were watching a show about Game 7 of the '97 World Series on the MLB Network. Jensen Lewis said he still remembers watching that game on his couch. "I rubbed my face raw with nerves," he said.
     
  • The position players took BP for the first time on Field No. 1 this morning. That's the one with the exact dimensions of Progressive Field.
     
  • The full-squad is in-house. In fact, the addition of Tony Graffanino means an even 60 players are in camp. So each and every one of the 60 lockers in the Indians' clubhouse is spoken for. Lots of elbow-bumping going on.
     
  • Position players took their physicals. Their two-on-one meetings with Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro have been pushed back because of Shapiro's absence due to a death in the family. When Shapiro returns this week, the meetings will be spread out over the course of three days.
     
  • One number change this year: Jamey Carroll has given up No. 7 to Mark DeRosa and taken No. 11. Carroll was hoping he might get something in return for the number (a nice steak dinner, perhaps?), but it hasn't happened yet. And Carroll is already justifying the situation by praising his new number. "It's a one for each kid," said Carroll, whose wife, Kim, gave birth to twins last year.
     
  • Josh Weir of the Canton Repository pointed out that Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo each have exactly 509 Major League at-bats under their belt. What are the odds of that? (Note: Please don't conjure up some scientific formula that proves the odds were actually quite good, thereby making me look like an idiot. Please.)
     
  • You knew this story was coming, and it's a shame. Winter Haven businesses will be hurt by the Indians' absence. One estimate is that Spring Training generated $25 million in economic impact for the city each year.
     
  • Finally, it just dawned on me that Richie Cannata's sax solo on Billy Joel's "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" is also quite good. Not "Jungleland" good, but still good.

~AC

 

UPDATE: Wedge said, in general, he was happy with the shape guys reported in. But without naming names, he said, "There's always a couple that don't look quite how you want them to." Then he added sarcastically, "It's not like you have anything to get in shape for."

 

UPDATE No. 2: Alto Reed. "Turn the Page." How did I forget that one? Yes, yes, that definitely needs consideration for top sax solo. I'm biased, of course, so I'd still list The Big Man at No. 1, but Alto's up there. And does anybody know his real name? It can't be Alto Reed, right? This has always bugged me, but I've never seen an original name. If his birth name really was Alto Reed, he had no choice but to become a saxophonist. It's the same as that old Seinfeld bit about naming your kid Jeeves and, thus, sealing his fate as a butler. Then again, if you're named Jeeves, you can also become the guy who answers everybody's questions on the Internet. OK, I'm rambling. 

I need a camera, to my eye

I present to you, courtesy of team photographer Dan Mendlik, an all-access journey through the Indians’ brand-spanking-new Spring Training facility in Goodyear, Ariz. Unfortunately, this journey does not involve pictures of such famous Goodyear landmarks as the new Red Lobster on McDowell Road or the YMCA on Litchfield Road, but that’s life.

(UPDATE: Thanks to reader Casey W. for reformatting the pictures below so that they don’t come out all stretched and distorted on your screen. Hey, I never claimed to be a picture guy. I’m a word guy. Stay with me. This multifaceted blog thing remains a work in progress.)

We begin with this exterior shot of the 10,000-seat Goodyear Ballpark, which the Indians will share with the Reds, beginning next spring. I already mentioned my favorite feature of the ballpark — the huge picture of Brandon Phillips on the exterior of the third-base side — but unfortunately that is not depicted here.

 

ballpark_1.jpg 

I can, however, provide you with a photo of this piece of … art? This sculpture is an attempt to incorporate baseball and flight, as the facility rests just west of the Phoenix Goodyear Airport.

 

Ballpark_2.jpg

Moving away from the ballpark and the confounding concept of modern art, we make the half-mile trek to the Cleveland Indians Player Development Complex…

 

Goodyear_complex_2.jpg

After a quick stop in the media workroom, where we swipe a Peanut Butter cookie from PR guru Bart Swain’s office, we head to the low-Minors clubhouse…

 

 
Minor_Clubhouse_Low.jpg 

 

…and then the high-Minors clubhouse…

 

Minor_Clubhouse_High.jpg

Feeling the need to work off that cookie, we head into the 3,900 square foot weight room…

fitness_3.jpg 

…and jump on the treadmill.

 

 

Fitness_2.jpg

Now we’re feeling energized. So let’s pop outside for a little Home Run Derby on Practice Field No. 1, which has the exact dimensions of Progressive Field. Think you can hit one over the 19-foot wall in left? 

 

Practice_Field_2.jpg

By now, our feet are getting a little tired. So let’s head into the Major League training room for a quick rub down.

 

Major_Training_Room.jpg

And we’ll end our tour here, in the 2,450 square foot Major League clubhouse. The elliptical shape is supposed to encourage teammates to congregate freely amongst one another, and the four large flat-screen televisions in the center are supposed to encourage the high-def viewing of old episodes of “Family Matters.” OK, I might have made that last part up.

 

Major_Clubhouse.jpg

Obviously, there’s a lot more where those shots came from. Actually, the real point of this post is to point you to Mr. Mendlik’s daily photo galleries on Indians.com. Here is the link to yesterday’s gallery. 

It’s a beautiful facility. I hope you enjoyed the quick tour. That’ll be 20 bucks.

~AC

Classic picture clearing

The World Baseball Classic situation is a fluid one, but right now it looks like these guys are definites to represent their respective countries:

Grady Sizemore and Mark DeRosa (USA), Rafael Perez (Dominican), Shin-Soo Choo (Korea), Nick Weglarz (Canada) and Damaso Espino (Panama).

From the churches to the jails, tonight all is silence in the world

It's a low-key Sunday at the PDC.

 

Oh, for the record, I'm taking the advice of one reader and, from this point forward, referring to the Cleveland Indians Player Development Complex as the PDC. I figure over the course of a seven-week spring camp, this little abbreviation will save me two minutes and one second of typing time, and I plan to spend that 2:01 doing something much more productive - like, say, watching this.

 

(Quick digression: Did you know they've sold more than four million Snuggies? Recession? What recession?)

 

(Quick digression No. 2: My buddy Tobin, however, rails against the Snuggie as a blatant ripoff of the Slanket, which he purchased about four years ago... for $70! When I teased him about the price, he made the astute comment that the first guy to buy a CD player probably didn't care about the price, either. He simply had the foresight to know a great product when he saw it. Hard to dispute that.)

 

Anyway, position players officially reported today -- even though virtually all of them were already here. On the back fields, pitchers and catchers held their second workout.

 

Now, I know some of you might someday visit the PDC, so I've been trying to look at this new place from a fan's perspective. Anyone who visited Chain of Lakes Park knows what a special spot that was to get up close and personal with the team. You could hang out by the weight room, you could walk amongst players headed to the practice fields and you could wait by the Tribe's bullpen during and after games to get easy access for autographs.

 

The Goodyear facility, as expected, isn't nearly as accommodating. But there is an area to the side of Field No. 6 where fans can meander freely. A few of them were hanging out there yesterday, and several players stopped to sign between drills. I'm not sure what kind of access fans will have at the ballpark. We'll see when the games start.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • More PFPs and bullpen sessions today. I get paid to watch baseball, and, believe me, I know this is a privilege. But the list of things I'd rather watch than PFPs includes a wide variety of eye-sores, including but not limited to "Weekend at Bernie's II" (I did that just to satisfy the handful of you who still e-mail me about "Weekend at Bernie's II," three years after the joke went cold... not that it was ever warm.)
     
  • As for the bullpens, 13 guys threw this morning, including Kerry Wood and Carl Pavano, who made what I'd guess you'd call their first official appearances in front of the Tribe brass. Wood is listed at 6-foot-5, 211 pounds, while Pavano is listed at 6-foot-5, 240. Sometimes the media guide listings are exaggerations, but not here. They both look healthy and strong. "You put Wood and Pavano together," Eric Wedge said, "and you've got two big-league bodies right there."
     
  • Speaking of healthy and strong, Adam Miller threw today, and he also looked good. He said the only restriction he'll probably have in camp is throwing on back-to-back days at the outset.
     
  • I'm no scout, but I know a sweet swing when I see one, and Carlos Santana has got one.
     
  • Left-hander Ryan Edell threw today. He's a guy who has flown under the radar a bit, but he spent all of last season in the Double-A Akron rotation and went 7-8 with a 3.80 ERA in 26 starts. What's most impressive is that he struck out 99 and walked just 21 in 144 1/3 innings. His ability to paint the plate with strikes is considered his greatest strength, and he can work it in to right-handers. He'll remain in a starting role, but if he has a big-league future, it's probably in the 'pen.

 

~AC

Graffanino coming to camp

The Indians have signed infielder Tony Graffanino to a Minor League contract and invited him to spring camp. He’ll be here Monday.

 

Graffanino, 36, has played 12 big-league seasons with six teams, batting a combined .267 with 58 homers and 302 RBIs. He was batting .238 with nine homers and 30 RBIs in 86 games for the Brewers in 2007 before suffering a season-ending right knee injury in August.

 

Last year, coming off the knee rehabilitation, Graffanino signed a Minor League deal with the Tribe and played in 25 games at Triple-A Buffalo. He hit .315 with seven doubles, a triple and six RBIs, playing all four infield spots.

 

Graffanino is the 20th non-roster player invited to camp.

We're born again, there's new grass on the field

It's remarkably trite to quote John Fogerty's "Centerfield," but, well, that's how it feels the first morning pitchers and catchers work out at Spring Training. The sun came out today, and there really is new grass on the field... because the field itself is new.

 

Lots of excitement in the air here this Valentine's Day morning, as camp got underway in earnest. Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith were among those throwing bullpen sessions in front of the coaching and front-office staff. There was also some batting practice held on Field No. 6. And let's not forget the always enthralling round of PFPs (pitchers' fielding practice).

 

How'd they look? They looked like they always look the first day of camp. World Series-bound, of course! And don't even try to bunt on these hurlers. They'll make you look silly.

 

I'm not exactly sure if the players felt extra incentive to finish early today, because when they stepped outside this morning they were greeted with a nice whiff of mesquite chicken cooking on a wood-fired grill out back. The inimitable Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer and I wondered if that might be "media chicken." (It wasn't, but the chicken served up in the media workroom was also quite good.)

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Travis Hafner has taken three days of batting practice this week, including today. Every other day, he's taking soft toss. He said he's had no endurance or strength issues. It's still expected he'll be about a week behind in exhibition action, but that program might be sped up.
     
  • Josh Barfield, who spent all winter here in the Phoenix area and worked out regularly at the Player Development Complex, said he has no problem trying out new positions in camp. He even said playing the outfield is no big deal. "You just run and catch the ball," he said with a shrug. Sounds easy enough. Barfield said he played some shortstop in the Minors and in high school, so he's up for that challenge. He thinks -- and I agree -- that he has a good shot at making this club.

  • Jake Westbrook is throwing off a five-inch mound. He wasn't sure when, exactly, he'll progress to the full, 10-inch mound, but he's still expected to begin throwing in simulated games in April. Westbrook said he's feeling the expected soreness in his elbow. He said his hip, which, you might remember, was also surgically addressed last year, feels great.
     

  • Tony Sipp had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and joined Double-A Akron in the second half last season, but he suffered shoulder tendinitis in the Fall Instructional League. He's been rehabbing the injury and, as a result, is about a week behind the other pitchers. But he's throwing off a mound and used all his pitches for the first time today.
     
  • As far as quotes summing up the move to the Goodyear facility go, you won't find a better, more succinct one than this one from Barfield: "They should have done this a long time ago."
     
  • GM Mark Shapiro has left camp for a few days, due to a death in the family.
     
  • The intensity of the Japanese media never ceases to amaze me. When I walked into the complex this morning, there was a pool of about seven or eight Japanese journalists in the players' parking lot, waiting, presumably, to get a shot of Masa Kobayashi or Tomo Ohka pulling in.
  • The Indians have added names to the backs of their Spring Training jerseys. Clubhouse manager Tony Amato said the names were added for television. More and more spring games are broadcast these days.
     
  • Did you know the Dodgers are charging up to $100 for tickets to their exhibition games? And in a related story, their sales are hurting. Shocker.

  • Be sure to check out CastroTurf on Monday morning, when I'll provide you with an all-access tour of the new facility. I'll have photos and everything. It will be awesome*.

     *awesomeness not guaranteed.

 

~AC

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