Nothing like driving two and a half hours to see a starting lineup featuring Damaso Espino, Wilson Valdez and Jose "Can't Stand Ya" Constanza.
Well, at least the game was played in a crisp two hours, 10 minutes.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...
David Dellucci was dealing with a tight left calf muscle before today's game against the Diamondbacks, and he never got loose. He was scratched just minutes before the game started. Doesn't sound all that serious, but he'll be monitored day to day.
If the battle for the last bullpen spot came down to today's action, then Vinnie Chulk is your winner. Stretched out to three innings for the first time this spring, he allowed just three hits, lowering his spring ERA to 1.72. Eric Wedge called Chulk "one of our most consistent guys" in camp.
But Wedge tried to make it sound as though the battle, which is clearly down to Jackson and Chulk, is still undecided. He was sure to point out that Jackson can give the Indians more length (even though Wedge has tried to make it clear he doesn't view this job as the "long man" role) and is left-handed, which is considered a plus because of the three right-handed starters.
Jackson, though, turned in a real clunker today -- five runs allowed on six hits over four innings. He locked in after his first two innings of work, but, you know, that's not exactly what you want to see from a reliever. His ERA is up to 6.87.
The Indians have the ability to option Jackson to Triple-A. They can also send Chulk there, but they'd have to decide if they want Chulk in the big leagues by May 15. He has an out clause at that time.
Josh Barfield over Trevor Crowe for that last bench spot. This might be one of those competitions you're better off losing. It's hard to envision Barfield getting a heck of a lot of playing time up here. Crowe, on the other hand, will be an everyday guy at Triple-A Columbus.
This is just my opinion, but if the Indians really felt Barfield is their second baseman of the future -- and they will probably need a second baseman in the not-too-distant future, if they shift Jhonny Peralta to third and Asdrubal Cabrera to second -- they'd have him playing every day in Columbus, and they wouldn't have acquired Luis Valbuena.
Shin-Soo Choo was pounding the ball in BP before he left for the World Baseball Classic. He's looked a little rusty since his return. He went 1-for-4 today, striking out three times.
I'm told that during a batting practice session back at the complex Friday, while most of us were in Scottsdale, Travis Hafner and Kerry Wood took to the field to man shortstop and second base. How's that for a double-play combo?
As expected, the Indians optioned OF Trevor Crowe and C Chris Gimenez to Triple-A Columbus today, leaving INFs Josh Barfield and Tony Graffanino as the lone remaining participants in the battle for the last position player spot.
We haven’t spoken to Eric Wedge about these moves, but I’d imagine Graffanino — along with Andy Marte and Wilson Valdez — is being kept around in these waning days of camp in case of an injury. Barfield has been the favorite for the job all along, and he might have already been told he’s won it. He’s in the starting lineup at second base today.
Crowe and Gimenez both had impressive camps. Crowe hit .289 (13-for-45) with a homer, a triple, a double and three RBIs. He went 6-for-6 in stolen-base attempts. He’ll be in the Columbus starting outfield alongside Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley. If the Indians decide to part ways with David Dellucci early this season, Crowe could get the call because of the athleticism he would bring off the bench.
Gimenez not only showed he is capable of being a big-league catcher; he also proved his worth in the outfield corners and first base. Along the way, he hit .357 (10-for-28) with two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs. He had a .679 slugging percentage and .486 on-base percentage.
UPDATE: Yep, Barfield’s on the club. Graffanino is expected to hang around another week and accept an assignment to Columbus.
UPDATE: David Dellucci was a last-minute scratch with a left calf tightness. He was replaced in the lineup by Jose “Can’t Stand Ya” Constanza.
Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game at Tucson Electric Park will be aired live on WTAM, the Indians Radio Network and Indians.com.
In addition to the lineups below, DH Travis Hafner will travel to Maryvale to play for Triple-A Columbus against Nashville, and RHP Matt Herges will pitch for Columbus.
INDIANS: 3B Jamey Carroll, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Ryan Garko, LF
David Dellucci Jose Constanza, 2B Josh Barfield, C Damaso Espino, CF Wilson Valdez, LHP Zach Jackson.
Also available to pitch: RHPs Vinnie Chulk, Masa Kobayashi, Jensen Lewis, Ed Mujica, Scott Roehl and Steven Wright, LHP Heath Taylor.
DIAMONDBACKS: 2B Felipe Lopez, RF Eric Byrnes, CF Chris Young, LF Conor Jackson, 3B Mark Reynolds, 1B Chad Tracy, C Chris Snyder, SS Josh Wilson, RHP Max Scherzer.
Spring Training is six weeks old (and counting), and the upcoming regular season is six months long.
That's a lot of time for a ballclub and its fans to get emotionally off-track, so a little daily affirmation could be in order.
With this notion in mind, I submit to you a proposal that you all stock up on your copy of the "Cheers to You" CD now, while supplies are still in stock. You can do it! I believe in you!
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...
The Indians looked lethargic and in need of "Cheers to You" agains the Giants today. Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Barfield each made an error and, in general, guys were slow to get to balls and quick to make outs. "We're entering unchartered waters, in regard to the length of camp," Eric Wedge said. "We've got to sharpen ourselves and pick it up this final week, no doubt about it."
Cliff Lee was roughed up again -- eight runs (seven earned) on 12 hits with no walks and six strikeouts over five innings. He was much better late than early, and his defense didn't play well behind him, but it's still not the type of performance you expect from the reigning Cy Young winner in his penultimate spring tuneup. "It's definitely a little harder to get up for a game in Spring Training than it is in the regular season," Lee said. "It's a different intensity. But I've still go to work on locating my pitches and getting better at something each time I'm out there."
The rather uneventful battle to be the guy sitting on the bench, occasionally but not too frequently inserted into the lineup and a little-more-occasionally inserted as a pinch-runner will probably draw to its anticlimactic close tomorrow or Sunday. It's still expected to go to Barfield, who started in left field today.
Barfield still hasn't caught on at the plate. The Indians feel he has a better approach, but the results haven't been there. Barfield is an excellent athlete and a great guy, so you root for him to catch on in this utility role, because it's difficult to imagine him once again emerging as an everyday player... at least, in this organization.
There's only one spot open on the bench. David Dellucci is indeed on the club. Or at least, "as of today," as Wedge said. Obviously, Dellucci's roster spot (and Masa Kobayashi's, for that matter) is tenuous, but it looks like the Indians will at least give him the benefit of the doubt at the outset of the season. He's still not expected to play much as the fourth outfielder, especially with Mark DeRosa and, I'm assuming, Barfield in the outfield mix.
Trevor Crowe won't win the job. Wedge said Crowe is "still not exactly where he needs to be," and he's better off, in terms of development, getting regular starts in Triple-A.
Tony Graffanino won't win the job. He's had a nice camp and can bounce around the infield. But the Indians don't have a need for another veteran infielder in his mid-30s. They need speed off the bench, and it looks like Barfield will be the one to provide it.
Of course, we knew that in February, didn't we?
While the bench job announcement is impending, it will probably be a few days before we know the winner of that seventh bullpen spot. Though Wedge won't call it a "long man" role, for all intents and purposes that's what it is, which is why Zach Jackson is a favorite and Vinnie Chulk will be stretched out to pitch two or three innings Saturday in Tucson. Jackson, who is already stretched out as a result of his inclusion in the rotation battle, will start that game.
You have to figure Jackson is the favorite for that job. Though he has a fourth Minor League option available, he's already on the 40-man, whereas Chulk would have to be added. And the Indians would have about six weeks to look at Chulk in Triple-A before they have to act on him. He has an out clause in his contract that kicks in May 15.
Rafael Betancourt was relieved mid-inning by Joe Smith today. It had nothing to do with the neck kink that Betancourt suffered while on the mound yesterday. Betancourt (two runs on two hits in two-thirds of an inning) is fine physically. Wedge said he wanted an opportunity to get Smith into the middle of an inning.
I'm sending a shout-out to my buddy Big Bob Petriella, who was in attendance today. We used to work as sports clerks together at the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, in our youth. Until today, he had no idea I had this blog, so perhaps I can use this space to rip him.
The Indians had low expectations for Adam Miller pitching with decreased range of motion and strength in his right middle finger. It had seemed as though Miller was headed for season-ending and career-threatening surgery to repair the problem.
But after nine throwing sessions, including three bullpens, Miller has had no pain, no inflammation and no further decreases in range of motion, and he’s made enough incremental gains in command and velocity that the Indians now believe he might be able to avoid surgery.
“He’s proven us wrong on all three fronts,” head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said.
And the Indians, of course, are happy to be wrong, because this means that Miller might once again be able to pitch himself back into their plans.
First things first, though, he must be able to show he can throw and command his slider with the finger predicament. Thus far, he’s thrown nothing but fastballs and changeups. He’ll begin throwing the slider off flat ground Saturday and Sunday before his next bullpen session on Monday.
Miller is far from out of the woods. Because he has altered his release point and his mechanics to compensate for the finger issue (he’s now pushing the ball off his right index finger, whereas he used to push off the middle finger), he is certainly at risk for other injuries. But for now, this is good news on Miller, and the right-hander is apparently pleased with his progress. Soloff said Miller’s demeanor is “night and day” from 10 days ago.
“I think he clearly understands the non-surgical route is an option,” Soloff said, “and it’s becoming more and more of an option each day.”
More info on Indians.com in a little bit.
I’m expecting to get an update on the Adam Miller situation during today’s game, but it sounds like he’s going to continue to stay the course and pitch with decreased range of motion and strength in his right middle finger, rather than undergo season-ending (and career-threatening) surgery.
A full update from head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff to come soon, but that’s what I’m hearing for now.
Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game is available exlusively on MLB.com and Indians.com via the Gameday Audio feature.
INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Mark DeRosa, 1B Victor Martinez, SS Jhonny Peralta, C Kelly Shoppach, RF Ben Francisco, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, LF Josh Barfield. LHP Cliff Lee.
Also available to pitch: RHPs Rafael Betancourt, Joe Smith, Jensen Lewis.
GIANTS: CF Andres Torres, LF Eugenio Velez, RF Nate Schierholtz, 3B Pablo Sandoval, 1B Rich Aurilia, SS Juan Uribe, C Buster Posey, 2B Kevin Frandsen. RHP Jonathan Sanchez.
I am back in the Spring Training saddle after a few days back in the Cleveland tropics. And it's worth noting that my Continental flight from Phoenix to Cleveland was overbooked, as was every other flight between the two destinations that day.
As is the case with, well, most things in life, this puzzles me. What does an airline gain by overbooking a flight? Those who were left without a seat -- or those who were willing to give up their seat -- were put up in hotels, placed in first class on another flight and given vouchers for free meals. This can't be a money-making proposition for the airline, can it?
I know this much: It's certainly not an inviting scenario for the passenger. You buy a ticket to one flight and end up on another flight on another day. In what other business does this sort of thing occur?
I have never bought Bruce Springsteen concert tickets, shown up to the arena and been told, "I'm sorry, but someone else is in your seat. But we'd be happy to give you front-row seats for tomorrow night's Nickelback show." I have never gone to McDonald's, ordered a cheeseburger, paid for it, then been told that they are currently out of cheeseburgers but I can come back the next day for a free one.
Well, not yet, anyway.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...
Naturally, the rotation battle was settled in my absence. As much as the word "competition" is thrown around, so much of these supposed spring battles are decided upon long before the team even arrives at camp. So it was refreshing to see a guy like Lewis come into camp and win a job the old-fashioned way. Back in January, Lewis' name was something of an afterthought. I remember Mark Shapiro listing the candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation and almost forgetting to include him.
Well, Lewis won the job yesterday, then proceeded to go out and get rocked today. He allowed five runs on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts in three innings against the Angels. Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter went back-to-back-to-back with solo shots off him in the third. And though it was a windy day at the Big Chipotle, none of these were what you'd call wind-assisted. "He wasn't able to get a feel for the baseball," Eric Wedge said of Lewis. "You look at the way he's pitched, and he was probably due for one of those days."
Adam Miller will throw a bullpen session Friday. It will be his third bullpen since being cleared to throw with decreased range of motion and strength in his right middle finger, and it will be his last bullpen before the Indians decide whether to let Miller pitch with the problem or to have him undergo season-ending surgery. Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff will update the media on the situation, but that update might not come until Saturday. We shall see. For what it's worth, Miller is telling people that he feels pretty good.
Masa Kobayashi is showing improvement and not a moment too soon. He worked two perfect innings today, striking out four batters. He's mixing up his pitches better, working in his split-finger fastball more often.
Rafael Betancourt stepped off the mound and got looked at by the trainer in the midst of his inning of work. Still not sure what that was all about, but he went on to finish the inning without any problems.
For those wondering if the talk about the "dry heat" affecting the flight of the ball in Arizona, PR guru Bart Swain passed along some stats comparing Grapefruit League ERAs to Cactus League ERAs, and there's a discernible difference. The bottom line is that, through yesterday's games, the overall ERA was 4.42 in Florida and 5.68 in Arizona. Also, 10 of the lowest 13 qualifying ERAs among pitchers belonged to guys in the Grapefruit League.
Progressive Field press box attendant Joe Corrado is retiring. Corrado spent 59 years with the club at old Cleveland Stadium and the ballpark formerly known as The Jake. He started out as an usher in 1949. He's a good man, and he'll be missed.
It's a busy night in the Phoenix area. You've got the Billy Joel-Elton John show at the U.S. Airways Center downtown and the Sweet 16 going on at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale. I just hope nobody gets confused and shows up to the concert in their Mizzou gear or the West Regional in their tattered "Storm Front" tour T-shirt.
The Indians have claimed right-hander Jae Kuk Ryu off waivers from the Padres and optioned him to Triple-A Columbus. He will go directly to Minor league camp.
To make room for Ryu, Jake Westbrook has been placed on the 60-day disabled list, so there are now 34 players remaining in big-league camp.
Ryu, a 25-year-old native of South Korea, appeared in just six games in the Rays’ organization last year, because he had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow in July. He made five starts for Triple-A Durham and went 1-2 with a 4.38 ERA. He allowed 12 runs on 26 hits with 19 strikeouts in 24 w/e innings. He also made one relief appearance for the Rays, working 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
The Padres had claimed Ryu off waivers in January and gave him a shot at their bullpen. He went 0-1 with a 10.61 ERA in eight appearances this spring, surrendering 12 runs (11 earned) on 16 hits in 9 1/3 innings. He gave up eight earned runs in one-third of an inning in an appearance against the Giants on March 21.
Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game will be televised live on SportsTime Ohio and the MLB Network. It will air live on the Indians Radio Network and be played on tape delay at 7 p.m. ET on WTAM 1100.
INDIANS: 2B Jamey Carroll, 3B Mark DeRosa, C Victor Martinez, DH Travis Hafner, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Ryan Garko, LF David Dellucci, CF Ben Francisco, SS Wilson Valdez. LHP Scott Lewis.
Also available to pitch: LHP Rafael Perez, RHPs Rafael Betancourt, Masa Kobayashi, Vinnie Chulk, Ed Mujica, Frank Herrmann.
ANGELS: 3B Chone Figgins, 2B Howie Kendrick, LF Bobby Abreu, DH Vladimir Guerrero, CF Torii Hunter, 1B Kendry Morales, RF Gary Matthews Jr., C Jeff Mathis, SS Maicer Izturis. RHP Nick Adenhart.