February 2009

"I was in there for two minutes… touch this, feel that, 75 bucks"

Let's get physical(s).


A few players just headed out to the ballpark to take some early batting practice, and a few guys are playing catch. But the main thing shaking today at the Indians Player Development Complex are the annual physical examinations of pitchers and catchers.


It's the usual rundown of eye, ear, nose, throat exams. Turn your head and cough. Touch your toes. Step on this scale. All that good stuff.


One guy spared from a good portion of this was Kerry Wood, who, as you might remember, was subjected to an "all-inclusive" physical before his deal with the Tribe became official in December.


"I got a hall pass," Wood said with a smile. "I just had my physical not too long ago."




  • In addition to the physicals, players are having their annual sit-downs with manager Eric Wedge and general manager Mark Shapiro. They are told, essentially, where they stand in the organization, their odds of making the team and what's expected of them this year.
  • I don't know if Carl Pavano got a bad rap or if he's had a change of life or what, but the general consenus around here is that he is, for lack of a better term, a Grade A dude. I can back up this consensus based on my first encounter with Pavano, who not only was a fine interview but even offered up a local restaurant recommendation. He said he's not at all bitter about the way the media treated him in New York (where "American Idle" came to be his nickname), and we had a nice conversation about the type of "comes with the territory" uncomfortability that can sprout up between reporter and player. He knows we have a job to do, and he knows he didn't get the job done as a Yankee. And if he's at all upset with the way he was portrayed in Joe Torre's book, he's not showing it.
  • Jhonny Peralta played third base in all but one game in the Dominican this winter. He said he likes that the position doesn't require him to move around much (I'm sure more than a few Tribe fans just nodded their head in agreement), but he did have some trouble with his throws and fielding bunt plays. He said he has "no problem" with the concept of moving to third eventually in his career, but, for now, he views himself as a shortstop.
  • A few people have written in wondering what Kerry Wood's entrance music will be this season. He said he'll probably stick with the Guns N' Roses classic, "Welcome to the Jungle," which he used in Chicago. When I mentioned that some fans would prefer he go with "Wild Thing" (of "Major League" fame, of course), he said, "I'm trying to avoid being wild." The guy did strike out 84 and walk 18 last year, so Guns N' Roses it is.
  • You might remember last spring as the spring Masa Kobayashi made his first foray into American life and became instantly enamored with Wal-Mart. Yesterday I asked his interpreter, Toshi Nagahara, if Masa had made his way to the Goodyear Wal-Mart yet, and Nagahara said, "He was there the first day." Sure enough, I step into the local Supercenter after leaving the complex yesterday, and there's Masa at the express line.
  • I haven't seen every nook and cranny of the complex yet, but so far my favorite part has to be the gigantic photo of Brandon Phillips outside the Goodyear Ballpark.


Don't wear sandals, try to avoid scandals

Forget about pitchers and catchers reporting. Everybody’s here.

Well, OK, not everybody, exactly. I did see a few unoccupied lockers (I won’t name names here, becuase you never know who’s going to roll through that door next). But the basic gist of the story is that virtually the entire roster is already in-house here at the Cleveland Indians Player Development Complex (rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it?).

Not much news to report on Day 1. That’s what happens when you follow a team where the manager doesn’t write a book, the star players don’t become embroiled in steroids scandals and no one has plead guility to lying to Congress.

Pretty boring.

When it comes to that steroids talk, Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt said he feels cheated by players who doped up — A-Rod included. I asked Cliff Lee if he felt that way, and this was his very Cliff-like response:

“I personally don’t see it as bad as it’s made out to be. I like the fact that [Rodriguez] came out and apologized and was open about what he really did. I can respect that. I just have a problem with how they’re going so far in the past and bringing up old things. It’s 2009, and they’re talking about things that happened in ’01 through ’03. MLB has taken care of the steroid issue. We’re being tested. If you’re doing it now, you’re going to get caught. There’s no way around it. I have a problem with how people think it’s still an issue when it’s not anymore. It’s time to move on and just let the past be the past. It’s over with, as far as I’m concerned.”


With all due respect, Cliff, it’s not over. Just ask the other 103 guys on that list.


Some other bits of minutia from today…


  • Fausto Carmona and Rafael Betancourt will not be participating in the World Baseball Classic. Carmona is on the provisional roster for the Dominican and Betancourt is on for Venezuela, but both players have pulled out. Carmona obviously missed a lot of time last year with his hip injury, and the Indians didn’t want him missing more time in camp. Betancourt pitched in the Classic in 2006 and felt like he fell behind in his preseason conditioning.
  • Jhonny Peralta also might not make the Classic cut. He’s on the Dominican roster, but so are Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Tejada. Peralta said that even if he does go, he’s not sure how much he’d play, so it might not be worth it.
  • It’s kind of funny to see workers putting all the finishing touches on the complex as players step around them to go work out. I was told that last week, a worker was hanging a piece of artwork and drilled a hole into the wall, puncturing a water pipe. Chaos ensued. Water was everywhere. It’s all part of the initiation process, I suppose.
  • Speaking of the complex, team photographer Dan Mendlik is going to hook me up with some photos of the facility that I’ll post on here as soon as I get them.


So long, Sal

In all the hubbub of packing/departing for Goodyear, I somehow missed this little tidbit from yesterday’s transactions: Sal Fasano has signed a Minor League deal with the Colorado Rockies.

I wish our buddy Sal nothing but the best in 2009. And now that it’s painfully clear he will have absolutely no affiliation with the Indians this season, I can no longer, in good conscience, refer to this as the Official Web Site of Sal Fasano.

And so I’m turning to you, my loyal readers, to come up with a new tagline for CastroTurf. Hit me with your best suggestion in the comments section, and I’ll pick out my favorite. Or I’ll ignore all of them and come up with my own. Either way.

Desert sky, dream beneath the desert sky

Greetings from Goodyear, Ariz., the new spring home of the Indians and, therefore, me.

A few first impressions and pieces of excruciating minutia…

  • It was 56 degrees here today. It was 61 in Cleveland. Way to steal our thunder, Mother Nature.
  • The facility is as awesome as advertised. I haven’t seen every nook and cranny just yet, but the clubhouse makes the one in Winter Haven look like a closet, the access to the practice fields and cages is much more streamline, and, on a completely selfish note, the media workroom does not induce existential thoughts such as, “How did I get here?” and “What did I do to deserve this?”
  • When you drive up to the ballpark, you almost wonder where it is. It’s dug out in a bowl, so the entrance is actually the “upper deck,” so to speak.
  • The city… Well, it’s definitely a work in progress. In one sense, it has all the modern acoutrements a person could need, be it the gargantuan Lifetime Fitness facility or the fact that there’s a Best Buy or Wal-Mart on seemingly every corner. In another, just-as-accurate sense, this town has no character or charm whatsoever. It’s nothing but chains. Mind you, this is merely a first impression, and I hope to be proven wrong very soon, but it looks like it’s going to be difficult to find a decent locally based restaurant or a good, stealth, shot-and-beer joint. If anyone knows of any, let me know. And remember… Goodyear is still growing.
  • Quite a few players already here. The happiest of the bunch is Zach Jackson, who had seats on the 20-yard line, 20 rows up, to watch his beloved Pittsburgh Steelers capture their sixth Super Bowl title a week and a half ago.
  • Plenty more observations in the coming days, and plenty of news to come, too. For now, the biggest news of the day is that former World Series MVP and Cy Young Award winner Frank Viola will be in camp as an instructor.
  • Be sure to check this blog and Indians.com frequently throughout the spring for all the latest on what’s shaking in camp. 

"The mail never stops!"

The people have spoken, and the Mailbag is returning to Indians.com.

Actually, strike that, because we’re changing the name of my regular dialogue with Tribe fans. It will now be known as the Indians Inbox (because, you know, that’s a little more hip… and the next one of you to actually mail me a question the old-fashioned way will be the first).

While the format will remain the same, the run date will be a little less regimented. The Mailbag, as you know, was a Monday fixture, but Inbox’s appearances will be based on what’s going on with the club in a given week. I expect it to run at least once a week during Spring Training, and we’ll see how it evolves in the season proper.

You can keep your questions coming in at tribemailbag@yahoo.com (might have to change that address eventually), and look for the first edition of Inbox on the team site next week. Thanks to all of you who helped keep the ‘bag alive and well here at CastroTurf during its brief absence from Indians.com.

He could throw that speedball by you…

Bob Feller turned 90 this past November, but he’s still got it.

The Indians recently wrapped up their Fantasy Camp at the new Goodyear complex, and Rapid Robert pitched to 20 batters. Tribe vice president of PR Bob DiBiasio reports the campers were a combined 0-for-20 off Feller, who admittedly had the benefit of a pretty strong infield (Brook Jacoby or Max Alvis at third, Pat Tabler at short, Carlos Baerga at second and Mike Hargrove at first) behind him.

The Feller legend goes on…

Mailbag: Wood's contract, Scott Lewis, team speed, The Boss at halftime and more

If you had told me a few years back that Bruce Springsteen would play halftime of the Super Bowl and would chop up his songs (leaving out the second verse to four of them and plugging some football-related lyrics into two of them) and would allow fireworks to go off during "Born to Run" and would call upon the talents of a gospel choir and would have an actor dressed up as a referee come up on stage and penalize him for a delay of game, I would have cringed. Actually, I'll go further and say a little part of me would have died. All these things appear to fly in the face of everything the Boss represents, from the standpoint of artistic integrity and the protection of his image.


And then this happened last night, and I absolutely loved every second of it. Even the ref.


No, it didn't take me to another place, the way U2 did with their 9/11 tribute in 2002. That halftime show will never be topped. But Bruce brought a 12-minute burst of energy to the proceedings. And really, as long as he didn't pull a Paul McCartney and say, "Hello, Super Bowl!" you knew he was going to blow the roof off the dump (I know there was no roof... it's just a figure of speech, people).


Obviously, I've got Bruce on the brain. But you've got the Indians on yours, so let's see what's up this week...


Do you think that, in retrospect, Mark Shapiro regrets signing Kerry Wood for $10 million a year? I can’t blame him for it, but with the way that market’s taken shape since, it seems we vastly overpaid. Instead of signing Wood, they might have been able to sign both Ben Sheets and Juan Cruz for the same kind of money, or, depending on how much his price falls, they might have even been able to make a play for Manny, if they were inclined to.

— Seth P., Philadelphia


Interesting, Seth. I doubt Shapiro regrets it, given how highly he regarded Wood in this winter's closing market. He viewed Wood as an elite arm, and he didn't want to risk losing him to another club (namely, the Tigers).


Yes, the Indians could have saved money by waiting for the market to develop further, but, in doing so, they likely would have had to settle for a closer they don't regard as highly. Would you rather have Wood at $10 million a year or Brian Fuentes at $8.75 million a year? Personally, I'd side with Wood (and, obviously, so would the Indians), but some might disagree.


I don't see the point in bringing up Cruz's name. He's not a proven closer, and whoever signs him will have to forfeit a top Draft pick. And Manny was never going to happen. Finding a closer was the Indians' No. 1 offseason priority. They picked their favorite arm in the lot, they were aggressive in their pursuit of him and they left themselves enough room in the budget to address their other concerns.  


Every article I read lists Dave Huff or Aaron Laffey as the likely fifth starter for the Tribe. I like both pitchers a lot, but I thought Scott Lewis did a tremendous job for the Tribe at three levels last year. How does he fit into the Indians’ plans for 2009 and the future?

— Elia F., Hillsboro, Ore.

No doubt, Lewis did a tremendous job. Of course, sometimes teams don’t put as much weight in September performance because it’s a time when rosters are expanded and many teams are out of the race. But what Lewis did was nothing to scoff at.


Still, I don’t think the Indians are on high on Lewis, at this juncture, as they are on Laffey and Huff. That’s merely the perception I’m getting, and Lewis obviously is considered to be in the mix for that fifth spot. But I think he’s more likely to start the season at Triple-A Columbus. He’s only pitched 24 innings at that level, and I’m sure there’s some thinking that he still has a lot to prove before landing a full-time role in the big leagues.


I saw a picture of Juan Rincon pitching for his Venezuelan Winter League team. Any word on how he’s doing down there and if the Tribe is possibly going to throw him a Minor League contract and an invite to Spring Training?

— Cody S., Scranton, Pa.


Rincon signed a Minor League deal with the Tigers. Apparently he's going to try out every team in the AL Central before all is said and done. The Indians never showed any interest in bringing him or Brendan Donnelly back.


When the Tribe traded Jason Michaels, it was announced -- as well as written by you -- that Michaels was traded along with cash considerations to the Pirates for a player to be named later. After doing a net search, I could not discover any player having been named. Is it possible that the amount of the cash consideration was subsequently adjusted in lieu of the PTBNL? -- Jennifer, no location given


Yes, that turned out to be a cash deal.


One concern of mine — or perhaps more of a slight irritation — is that our beloved Tribe is one of the slower teams in baseball (save Mr. Sizemore). This fact was strengthened when we traded Franklin Gutierrez, who had base running potential. I think Ben Francisco has the potential to do so as well. He did a bit of base stealing in Triple-A, with much success. Will we see a more nimble Tribe in ’09? More importantly, with Garko discovering his new versatility with a chance in the outfield, maybe we can see him extend this versatility a bit further with some base stealing. (Tongue inserted firmly in cheek.)

— Jacob K., Claremore, Okla.


You can’t teach speed, and you can’t miraculously inherit it over the winter, either. The Indians haven’t done anything to improve on that front, unless Francisco inproves his on-base percentage.


I think it’s certainly an area worthy of concern, and it would have been nice if the Indians could have addressed it while simultaneously filling their infield hole. Brian Roberts would have been a perfect fit, but the Orioles’ asking price was too high.


Shapiro has said that speed is perhaps the easiest area of the game to overpay for. Clearly, he has not made the acquisition of speed a priority in his free-agent and trade acquisitions.


With the Tribe’s Triple-A team moving to the great state of Ohio, any chance they’ll get TV time on SportsTime Ohio?

— Adam S., Wadsworth, Ohio


That is reportedly in the works, though I have not heard anything concrete on how many games will be broadcast.


And finally...


I wanted to let you know about a Spring Training/”Major League” party that is going to take place at Stampers Bar and Grille in Fairview Park on Thursday, Feb. 12th, starting at 4 p.m. This party was started years ago at a place called Jerry’s, where they gathered at the start of Spring Training as they watched Major League and hoped that this was our year. I am trying to get the word out, so if we could get your help it would be greatly appreciated. 

— John C., no location given

Thanks for the heads up, John. Hopefully some of the readers of the Mailbag will take interest in this event.


If you have a question for the ‘bag, send it in to tribemailbag@yahoo.com and be sure to include your name and hometown.