March 2009

Cannizaro reassigned

The Indians’ spring roster is down to 35, as non-roster invitee Andy Cannizaro was reassigned to Minor League camp this morning.

The 30-year-old Cannizaro had two starts at shortstop this spring. He batted .227 (5-for-16) with two walks and two strikeouts in 16 games total.

If you gotta go, go now, or else you gotta stay all night

Yesterday was the first official day of spring. But here in Goodyear, it's been spring for 39 days and counting.

 

Frankly, I'm ready for summer.

 

With that notion in mind, I'm going to recharge the batteries over the next few days, and that means the blog is getting a blow, as well. We'll meet back here on Thursday.

 

In the meantime...

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • The Indians, iffy in the rotation, have to be encouraged by Anthony Reyes' spring. Not only has he avoided any trouble with that right elbow, but his ERA is now a miniscule 0.75 after his fourth outing today. He went five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits with two strikeouts.
  • Kind of figured this all along, but I can't help but doubt Jeremy Sowers wins the fifth starting job. He's just far too inconsistent.
  • Mark DeRosa will start at first base for Team USA in Sunday's semifinal game against Japan. The game is at 8 p.m. ET.
  • DeRosa is 5-for-15 with a homer and seven RBIs in five Classic games. "I've played exceedingly more than I expected," DeRosa said. "I think I'm far ahead, as at-bats are concerned."
  • Shin-Soo Choo has flown all over the world to collect one hit thus far. He's 1-for-10 with a walk and two strikeouts in five games.
  • Nice to see a sellout at Goodyear Ballpark. Although, a good chunk of the crowd was clogging up the concourse for the majority of the game, because it was too hot to sit in the seats.
  • Words of wisdom from Bob Feller: "The easiest bet in Vegas is the winner of the Grapefruit League and Cactus League titles won't win the World Series. The St. Louis Browns used to always win [in Spring Training], and those were the only games they ever won."
  • More words of wisdom from Bob Feller: "What do you do when you can't hit a curveball? Get a typewriter." Yep, here I am.
  • OK, one last note from Rapid Robert. He told a story about long-ago Indians first baseman Lew Fonseca. Feller said Fonseca told him that in 1929 he held out all winter and all spring before finally signing his contract on Opening Day. Fonseca missed batting practice that day and had a nice game. The next day, he skipped it again and had another nice game. So Fonseca began skipping it every day, all year. He went on to hit .369 and win the AL batting title that season. "So much for Spring Training," Feller said. Amen to that.

~AC

3/21: Indians vs. Dodgers

Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game, which features the Indians’ first Casey Blake sighting of the spring, will be broadcast live on WMMS 100.7 FM back home and, of course, on Indians.com via the Gameday Audio feature.

INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, 2B Jamey Carroll, DH Travis Hafner, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Ben Francisco, C Kelly Shoppach, 3B Tony Graffanino, LF Matt LaPorta, 1B Chris Gimenez. RHP Anthony Reyes.

Also available to pitch: LHP Jeremy Sowers, RHP Kirk Saarloos, RHP Vinnie Chulk, RHP Greg Aquino.

DODGERS: SS Rafael Furcal, 2B Orlando Hudson, C Russell Martin, 3B Casey Blake, 1B Doug Mientkiewicz, CF Juan Pierre, DH Valentino Pascucci, LF Mitch Jones, RF Jason Repko. RHP James McDonald.

"'Cut to the chase'? Who are you, Joe Hollywood?"

I love the NCAA tournament, if for no other reason than it gives the national audience a glimpse at the talents of guys like Western Kentucky's Orlando Mendez-Valdez -- the man so nice, they named him twice.

 

But you know what I don't like? First halves. They're a bit of a tease, really, and they do nothing for me on the drama scale.

 

Perhaps the NCAA should consider just cutting to the chase and getting to the good stuff. How about starting the games at the second half, with a point spread based on seeding? So when a 16 plays a 1, the 1 seed has a 15-point lead with 20 minutes left.

 

This idea sounded so good in my head. In print, it looks pretty stupid. And I'm feeling too lazy to erase it and blog about something else, so let's just get to today's Tribe tidbits, shall we?

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Fausto Carmona seems fine after suffering that bruised forearm in a Minor League intrasquad yesterday. Pitching coach Carl Willis said Carmona should be able to throw his bullpen session Saturday and should be good to go when his regular turn in the rotation comes up Tuesday.
  • Strong and deserved praise from Eric Wedge for left-hander Scott Lewis after Lewis went five scoreless innings of relief against the A's today, allowing just four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Is Lewis now the frontrunner for that last rotation spot? "He's right in the middle of everything," Wedge said. "I'll tell you that much. He's had as good a camp as any starting pitcher we have here. Today was definitely a positive step for him."
  • Aaron Laffey came into camp as the favorite for the job, as evidenced by the fact that he's started each of his five appearances. But Laffey's inconsistency has led to a 6.92 ERA. Lewis now has a 3.52 ERA in five appearances, but he's made only one start, so he hasn't gotten a full taste of real lineups. Still, you have to be impressed with what he's displayed here, picking up where he left off at the end of last season. Today he did a nice job pitching himself out of trouble.
  • It was an ugly start for Carl Pavano, who gave up six runs on seven hits with three walks in four innings. Five of the hits went for extra bases, including Cliff Pennington's three-run triple in the second and Aaron Cunningham's two-run homer in the fourth.
  • The second inning got away from Pavano after a Daric Barton chopper up the middle kicked off his glove for a single. "I lost it in the sun," Pavano said. "In hindsight, I should have let it fall and let [Asdrubal Cabrera] get it."
  • Pavano, as tends to be the case when a guy gets roughed up in Spring Training, said he felt good. He said he was working on using his legs more to push off the mound and get a better finishing action on his pitches. He said he's left camps before with worse stuff than he has now, so he's encouraged. I guess we'll see.
  • Ryan Garko was in left field today, and he did a nice job running down a Jack Cust fly ball in foul territory near the wall in the fourth inning.
  • Wilson Valdez put down a squeeze bunt with two outs in the eighth. You won't see that too often, if ever, especially on a Wedge team. Valdez was acting on his own there, and he nearly beat out the throw. Nearly.
  • The weekend crowds have been good here. Today's game drew 7,571 to Goodyear Ballpark, and the Big Chipotle will be jam-packed tomorrow, when the Dodgers arrive. Not sure if Manny Ramirez will be on-hand, but I do know that sellout crowd of nearly 10,000 fans will be. Fans are encouraged to arrive early. Gates will open at 11 a.m. PT in advance of the 1:05 p.m. PT first pitch.

~AC

3/20: Indians vs. A's

Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game, better known as the Andy Marte Showcase, can be heard live on the Indians Radio Network and on tape delay at 7 p.m. ET on WTAM 1100. There is no TV.

INDIANS: 3B Jamey Carroll, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, LF Ryan Garko, CF Josh Barfield, RF Trevor Crowe, 1B Andy Marte, SS Wilson Valdez. RHP Carl Pavano.

Also available to pitch: LHP Scott Lewis, RHPs Matt Herges, Ed Mujica and Greg Aquino. RHPs Joe Smith, Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and Masa Kobayashi will pitch in a Minor League game.

ATHLETICS: CF Rajai Davis, RF Jack Cust, 3B Nomar Garciaparra, DH Jason Giambi, C Landon Powell, 1B Daric Barton, SS Bobby Crosby, LF Aaron Cunningham, 2B Cliff Pennington. LHP Brett Anderson.

Also of note today: Fausto Carmona said his bruised right forearm is fine. “Just a little pain,” he said.

Pitching coach Carl Willis said Carmona will play catch today and is still scheduled to throw a bullpen session tomorrow.

Carmona has bruised forearm, is day to day

Fausto Carmona is listed as day to day with a bruised right forearm suffered in an intrasquad game today.

A liner off the bat of Damaso Espino pegged Carmona square in the forearm. Carmona immediately came out of the game.

According to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, X-rays on the arm were negative, so it appears nothing is broken. But Carmona’s condition will be monitored closely in the coming days.

You might remember CC Sabathia had a similar scare in his last exhibition start before the ’07 season, when a Reed Johnson liner hit him in the forearm. Sabathia recovered and was ready for Opening Day.

The Indians, obviously, are hoping Carmona recovers just as quickly, as they’ll be relying on him as their No. 2 starter.

I got my finger on the trigger, but I don't know who to trust

One question I keep getting in the wake of yesterday's Adam Miller news is: How is this a career-threatening situation? Even if Miller has to have the surgery, he can still return next year, right?

 

My first reaction is an emotional one: You obviously aren't familiar with Adam Miller's luck, are you?

 

My second is more of a medical one. "Career-threatening" was the grim term used by head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff. In the four years I've been covering this team, I don't believe I've heard Soloff use those words about any injury or any surgery. That's because there is generally a documented precedent for each injury and each surgery, and, therefore, a clearer idea of the chance of recovery.

 

There is no precedent for the surgery Miller would have performed. It's a complicated one, using a tendon from the wrist to replace and act as a ligament in the middle finger. There is no guarantee that it would work. Miller might still not be able to bend the tip of his finger. And if he's not able to pitch with that predicament now, there's no reason to believe he'd be able to pitch with it a year from now.

 

If the surgery does work, and Miller can again bend his finger, you're talking about the loss of another year of development. This kid is a prospect, not a proven Major Leaguer. We have seen him face "Major League" competition once -- and that was back in 2007, before all this finger stuff began to get in the way. And though the results were positive, that was in an exhibition environment, where you take the results with a grain of salt. Miller has great stuff, but so did Fernando Cabrera. There are no guarantees in this sport, even for a player with Miller's talent. And the more time he spends in rehab, the less time he has to develop into a quality Major League pitcher. Additionally, Miller would be at risk for more setbacks such as the ones he's endured here in camp, because the finger is such a narrow and sensitive space.

 

Can Miller's finger, with proper treatment, once again begin bending on its own, without surgery? It doesn't look that way, based on what Soloff told us. He made it sound as though Miller was fortunate to progress as well as he did following surgery last May 27. The stress of Spring Training preparation on Miller's finger caused another breakdown of that pulley system, and surgery appears to be the only way to correct the problem.

 

So, is it definitely career-ending surgery? No. Is it career-threatening? Most definitely. We're talking about unchartered waters and a great risk -- a risk the Indians hope to avoid as Miller attempts to reinvent himself on the mound over the course of the next week.

 

In an unrelated, programming note, that's it for me today. I'll get you caught up on all the "excruciating minutia" from Tribe camp on Friday.

The second cut is the deepest

The Indians trimmed their spring roster by 15 players this morning, sending out several top prospects, a few contenders for the last spot in the big league bullpen and a contender for the last rotation spot.

RHPs John Meloan, Adam Miller and Juan Salas, LHP Tony Sipp and 2B Luis Valbuena were optioned to Triple-A Columbus. RHP Hector Rondon and C Carlos Santana were optioned to Double-A Columbus.

RHP Jack Cassel, LHP David Huff, C Armando Camacaro, 1B Jordan Brown, 3B Wes Hodges, INF Jesus Merchan, 1B Beau Mills and OF Stephen Head were reassigned to Minor League camp.

So strike Huff from the mix for the fifth starting job, which will likely go to Aaron Laffey, with Jeremy Sowers and Scott Lewis also strong in the running. Huff only had two appearances in Cactus League play and seemed to press.

Strike Meloan, Salas and Cassel from the bullpen competition. Zach Jackson, Kirl Saarloos, Vinnie Chulk and Matt Herges are the leading candidates for that job. 

And say goodbye to Santana and Valbuena, who made a strong first impression after their acquisitions in 2008.

There are now 44 players remaining in camp.

UPDATE: Was given incorrect info earlier. Rondon and Santana to Akron, not Columbus.

Adam Miller's career on the line

Adam Miller’s career is very much in jeopardy as a result of decreased range of motion and strength in his right middle finger.

After seeing two hand specialists on Monday and Tuesday, Miller was cleared to attempt to pitch at the Player Development Complex this morning. According to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, Miller is experiencing no pain in the finger and he has his normal velocity. But because of his inability to fully bend the tip of the finger, he has none of his customary command of his pitches.

Miller now has a week to 10 days to prove he can adjust to what is essentially a change in anatomy and gain enough command to compete as a professional pitcher. If he doesn’t do so, the Indians will recommend that he has surgery to replace two pulley ligaments in his finger with a tendon from his wrist. If he has the surgery, he will be out of commission for six to nine months, and there is, of course, no guarantee that he’d be able to return to a competitive level.

So it’s not overly dramatic to say the next week to 10 days could decide whether Miller ever pitches for the Cleveland Indians — or anyone else, for that matter.

Why the 7-10 day deadline? Well, from the moment Miller experienced soreness in the finger on Feb. 27, the clock was ticking on the potential effectiveness of the surgical procedure. The longer he waits to have it, the less likely it is that it would be successful.

Why didn’t Miller have this surgery last year? If you remember, at the time, Miller had a hole in the finger that was leaking fluid. The surgery performed by Dr. Tom Graham sealed that hole and repaired one of the pulleys. But Graham could not do the reconstruction because of the risk of infection brought about by the hole.

Obviously, this is a very complicated issue — one I’ll do my best to explain in a story on Indians.com in a little bit. But the gist of it is that Miller threw a bullpen session this morning that was so wild that the Indians’ training and coaching staffs have reason to question whether he will be able to adjust enought to be a competitive professional pitcher. It’s a sad — and I’m sure frustrating — state of affairs for the 24-year-old once known as one of baseball’s top prospects.

The Irish been coming here for years, acting like they own the place

St. Patrick's Day is a really divisive holiday for me. When I'm not working, it is, without question, one of the best days of the year. And when I am working, it is, without question, one of the most obnoxious days of the year.


fourleafclover.jpg 

If you're neither Irish nor inebriated, this holiday does nothing for you. If you're not a fan of corned beef or soda bread, all you've got is a bunch of goofs wearing T-shirts with ridiculous expressions like "Erin Go Braless" or saying annoying things like "Top o' the mornin' to ya!"

 

Ah, maybe I'm just jealous. Pass the Tullamore Dew. I need to get in the holiday spirit.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Wow. Cliff Lee took quite a lump today -- 10 runs (nine earned) on 11 hits with a walk and two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. It reads as bad as it looked, and it looked heinous. Lee said he was just trying to locate his fastballs today. And I could definitely locate them. There was one that landed near the warning track in right, there was one off the center-field wall, there was one that cruised past his left ear on a liner up the middle.... well, you get the idea.
  • That being said, Lee had a point. He was basically throwing nothing but fastballs. Only five or six of his 60-some pitches were offspeed. He was throwing fastballs in counts he'd never throw them in-season, and he said he also took into account the fact that he'll be facing this Rangers team in less than three weeks, when the games count.
  • By the way, Lee had a 5.68 ERA and a .342 average against last spring -- and that's when he was competing for a job. I know those numbers aren't as bad as the 18.90 ERA he's carrying now, but it's just another demonstration that we shouldn't put too much weight into what happens out here. So don't panic yet.
  • Well, unless you were counting on Masa Kobayashi to be a go-to setup man. In that case, yes, now would be a good time to panic. But Eric Wedge thought he looked better today.
  • Travis Hafner will begin to see some action in Minor League games in the coming weeks, for a couple reasons. It gives him extra repetitions, for one. But after Wednesday's off day, nine of the Indians' remaining 10 exhibition road games will be against National League teams. Thus far, the Indians haven't had a single road game in which the DH wasn't utilized, but that's sure to change as we get closer to the regular season.
  • Let's talk about the batting order. We know, of course, that Grady Sizemore is going to lead off. We know Mark DeRosa is batting second. We know Wedge prefers to have Hafner at No. 3 and Victor Martinez at cleanup. But Wedge said today he puts Hafner, Martinez and Jhonny Peralta (who was excellent at No. 4 last year) in those Nos. 3-5 spots, and he's still not sure of the order or even if it will be static.
  • Moving down the order, Wedge said Asdrubal Cabrera will remain in the Nos. 8 or 9 spots. He likes the protection that affords the young Cabrera, though he still sees him potentially working his way back up to No. 2 (where he thrived at the end of '07) someday. That leaves Shin-Soo Choo, Ben Francisco and Kelly Shoppach/Ryan Garko somewhere in the Nos. 6-9 mix, with the order depending on the day and opposing pitcher.
  • How would you organize the lineup? I'd go with Choo at No. 3, Peralta at No. 4, Martinez at No. 5 and Hafner at No. 6 at the outset. It's too early to know what the Indians will get out of Pronk, so I would bump him down and ease the pressure on him.
  • Peralta started at third today. That's his second appearance there this spring. "We just want to give him some repetitions," Wedge said, "so that if we do need him [at third], he's been there." Cabrera started at short.
  • Kirk Saarloos came on in emergency relief of Lee in the third inning and held the Rangers scoreless for 1 1/3 innings. It was a nice audition for that long relief role.
  • A guy dressed in costume as a gigantic Dunkin' Donuts coffee cup came into the PDC this morning with about four or five dozen free donuts for all the players. Well, it's 2009. The coffee cup should have known that the modern athlete is prohibited (at work and under the supervision of a team of athletic trainers, anyway) from eating such garbage.
  • So, guess who got all the donuts? Yes, media membership has its privileges.

~AC

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