Stand Up and Cheer
It takes a lot for a guy in Arizona in March to become jealous of a guy in Cleveland in March, but that's just what happened when my buddy Brad called me this morning from the Mid-American Conference tournament at the Q, where our beloved Ohio University Bobcats were taking on Western Michigan.
The MAC tourney was the sight of perhaps my greatest heartbreak. In 2001, an Ohio team loaded with such collegiate legends as Brandon Hunter and Steve Esterkamp was humbled in the MAC semifinals, when the unabashedly evil Miami of Ohio guard Jason Grunkemeyer -- the same guy who transferred from OU to J.Crew U. after his freshman year -- hit a game-winning three-pointer with 6.8 seconds left.
I'm still bitter.
The Bobcats won the MAC in 2005, but I was down in Florida for Spring Training. And today I was stuck in Arizona as OU began its glorious, improbable run to MAC glory with a 62-55 beating of the Broncos.
This is not a very good OU team, mind you. The Bobcats are a No. 9 seed in a tournament that probably shouldn't even have nine teams. They will go up against a heavily favored Bowling Green team in Thursday's second round and, contrary to my own grandiose predictions and expectations, will most likely get thumped.
But they attend OU. They live in the navel of the universe -- Athens, Ohio. They have the ability to drown any and all sorrows in the hallowed pubs of Court Street. So they are winners, through and through.
Here in Arizona, the Indians were taking on the Angels, so here's your daily rundown of all things Tribe.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...
Shin-Soo Choo, in between rounds of the World Baseball Classic, reported to the Player Development Complex this afternoon to get his left arm looked at by the Indians' trainers. The soreness he was experiencing in his triceps, just above his surgically repaired elbow, still isn't considered serious, but the Indians are taking advantage of the South Korean team training in Arizona to get their hands on him and determine if he should still be limited solely to DH duties. An update on Choo's condition is expected Wednesday, according to media relations director Bart Swain. Korea begins Round 2 of the Classic at San Diego's Petco Park on Sunday.
Kerry Wood had a breeze of a spring debut, striking out Howie Kendrick, getting Juan Rivera to fly out to right field (and a nice basket catch at the track by Ryan Garko on that one) and getting Brandon Wood to pop out -- all on nine pitches.
Speaking of Garko in right field, that's something we were told we wouldn't be seeing this spring. But Eric Wedge decided that because some parks have less space in right than in left, it makes sense to try Garko there, too. And the fact that Garko was in right today is inherent praise of what he's shown the Indians in left.
Starting at third base, Josh Barfield made a nice diving stop of a bouncer down the line to preserve a run. He made an error later in the game, when he dropped a ball after ranging to his left on a tough play.
Another note on Wood: In talking about the pitchers he grew up watching, he said he was in attendance for Nolan Ryan's seventh no-hitter against the Blue Jays on May 1, 1991. Wood got the tickets through a grocery store giveaway. After the game, he went around the concourse at Arlington Stadium, picking up ticket stubs. He said he still has about 30 of them.
A pair of singles for Travis Hafner in three at-bats, including a liner to right-center field that scored Trevor Crowe from second.
I thought this was a big day for Scott Lewis to potentially establish himself in the rather ho-hum starting rotation battle. He went out in the fifth inning and gave up four runs on three hits with two walks and two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings, largely against the Angels reserves, so that's obviously a concern. But both Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis nonetheless thought it was a good outing for Lewis. They felt he commanded his fastball well, for the most part. Lewis will get his first start of the spring when his next turn comes in five days.
The Indians have come to contractual agreements with all their pre-arbitration players, in advance of MLB's Wednesday deadline. Today the club announced the signings of Asdrubal Cabrera, Trevor Crowe, Ben Francisco, Ryan Garko, Chris Gimenez, Zach Jackson, Jensen Lewis, Scott Lewis, Andy Marte, Ed Mujica, Rafael Perez, Hector Rondon, Juan Salas, Carlos Santana, Joe Smith and Luis Valbuena.
Finally, I've got to throw out a quick plug for Maple Street Press' Indians Annual 2009. It's a 128-page, "by fans, for fans" compilation that includes player profiles rife with interesting statistical data (if you wondered what Garko hit against right-handed sliders last season, here's your opportunity to find out), an insightful, in-depth interview with assistant GM Chris Antonetti, several informative features (including the always excellent Joe Posnanski's touching remembrance of Herb Score) and much, much more. Edited by Jay Levin of the LetsGoTribe.com blog, it really is a professional, impressive piece of work. Look for it on newsstands in Northeast Ohio or buy it here.