March 2009

3/13: Indians vs. A's

Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game at the Big Chipotle is available exclusively on Indians.com through the Gameday Audio feature.

INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Jamey Carroll, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Victor Martinez, RF Ryan Garko, C Kelly Shoppach, LF David Dellucci, 2B Josh Barfield, SS Luis Valbuena. LHP Aaron Laffey.

Also available to pitch: LHP Zach Jackson, RHP Vinnie Chulk, RHP Masa Kobayashi, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Ed Mujica, RHP Tomo Ohka.

ATHLETICS: C Kurt Suzuki, CF Ryan Sweeney, DH Mark Ellis, RF Jack Cust, LF Chris Denorfia, 3B Bobby Crosby, 1B Sean Doolittle, 2B Jack Hannahan, SS Gregorio Petit. LHP Dana Eveland.

I just got a place in New York

The Indians have not one, not two but three versions of Opening Day this season. There’s the April 6 season opener in Arlington, the April 10 home opener at Progressive Field and, last but not least, the April 16 opener of the Yankees’ new $1.5 billion ballpark in the Bronx.

In New York, they’re working at a fevered pace to get Yankee Stadium ready for that opener, and it appears to be coming along quite well…

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The gigantic video boards are up and running, though I can find at least a couple mistakes in the purported Indians lineup. Can you?

 

 
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Finally, if the thought of Marte in the Opening Day lineup is unsettling, then what adjective do you use to describe this image?

 

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Let’s keep those submissions printable. This is a family blog.

"This is an astronaut pen. It writes upside down."

My pen ran out of ink the other day, and I pulled out a replacement from the Marriott Courtyard.

Now, any traveling sportswriter worth his credential can be seen at all times with a pen from some form of Marriott, because A. we like free pens and B. we like Marriott points.

What’s interesting — to me, at least — is that the longest-lasting, boldest Marriott pens, by far, come from Fairfield Inns (at the bottom of the totem pole, in terms of hotel quality), while the worst, by far, come from the Marriott or the Renaissance (which rank at the top). The Courtyard falls in the middle realm. This ranking seems a bit counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

Wow. We are one month into Spring Training camp, and I’m writing about pens. If this isn’t proof that the spring schedule is too long, I don’t know what is.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Let’s shift from pens to ‘pens. Kerry Wood looked excellent yesterday, and Jensen Lewis (no runs allowed, seven strikeouts in six innings) has looked terrific all spring. This bodes well for the Tribe bullpen, which today saw the debut of Joe Smith. He also looked good in tossing a scoreless fourth against the Rockies.
  • The battle for the last bullpen spot is wide open, now that Adam Miller is shut down with that finger soreness. In a perfect world, the Indians would go with a left-hander for that job (which could be sort of a long man position), because they’re expected to have three right-handed starters. But they will go with the best arm, regardless of which arm that happens to be.
  • Kirk Saarloos and Zach Jackson are in the mix for the last rotation job, but they’ll also be considered for the bullpen. Right now, the Indians are impressed with what they’ve seen from non-roster guys like Saarloos, Vinnie Chulk and Jack Cassel. They like Matt Herges but want to get to the point of extending him over two innings (we haven’t seen that from him yet). Juan Salas could join this mix of favorites once he’s built up to pitch two innings.
  • Ed Mujica, out of options, would probably be the favorite for that job if he didn’t look so terrible in Cactus games.
  • When it comes to the rotation battle, Jeremy Sowers had his best outing of the spring, to this point, today. He went three scoreless innings, allowing two hits and no walks with a strikeout. He appeared to have better command of his fastball, and that’s the key to his survival.
  • Cliff Lee labored again. “He got his work in,” as they say when a guy like that struggles in these games. Lee gave up four runs (three earned… though the error was his) on five hits with a walk and three strikeouts in three innings. He threw a lot of fastballs. “It’s good, especially early in the spring, for a starting pitcher to throw a lot of fastballs and work to find their release point,” Eric Wedge said.
  • Grady Sizemore (groin strain) returned to the field today without incident, and Travis Hafner played consecutive days for the first time. Pronk will continue to get ramped up over the next three and a half weeks.
  • Off day tomorrow. A new Inbox will be up on the site. Go Bobcats.

~AC

General Manager Minutia

shapiro.jpgMark Shapiro arrived to Goodyear one month ago today. This morning, he met with the media to talk about his impressions of the first month of camp and his thoughts with three and a half weeks remaining before the opener.

Here’s a sampling of what he had to say, with a full story to come on Indians.com this afternoon…

  • General thoughts: “I’ve been very happy with most of what’s happened in camp. But if you had to point to one area of concern, it would still be the rotation.”
  • Shapiro likes the way Fausto Carmona is leveraging the ball, he believes Carl Pavano is on track to be a veteran, stabilizing starter, and he’s encouraged by Anthony Reyes’ stuff and health. But Shapiro, like everybody else, is waiting for somebody to step up and take the No. 5 job.
  • At this stage, he puts very little stock in spring numbers, especially in the Arizona conditions. He pointed to Scott Lewis’ outing yesterday (2 1/3 innings, 4R, 3H, 2BB, 2K) as a prime example of an impressive appearance thrown awry by one or two bad pitches.
  • Trevor Crowe, Wes Hodges, Carlos Santana, Hector Rondon, Chris Gimenez, Luis Valbuena, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley have all made a very favorable impression, and Shapiro expects this team to rely on that depth. “This is the best layer of talent we’ve had here in a long, long time.”
  • Crowe is not only battling for the final bench spot but also the fourth outfield spot. But that latter spot is still David Dellucci’s to lose, and Shapiro likes what he’s seen from Dellucci (3-for-8, a homer, a double and two walks) since his return from the thumb injury.
  • The extended camp has been nice from the standpoint of getting young players more looks, but it’s made evaluation difficult. He said it’s tough to know when to start cutting guys — a process that ordinarily would have begun by now.
  • Another downside to the long camp: “We already went through a bunch of nicks and bruises and scrapes that kept a bunch of guys off the field. Now we’re almost completely back to full health, but there’s enough time to go through it again. That’s how long we’re here for.”
  • Speaking of health, he was really happy to see Victor Martinez hit back-to-back home runs on Feb. 27 and really happy to see Travis Hafner “nearly decapitate” Jered Weaver with a liner up the middle yesterday. “When you don’t see those things for a long time, it affects you emotionally.” 
  • On that front, he talked about defense, and he said fans and writers are often so emotionally affected by Jhonny Peralta’s inability to get to the occassional grounder up the middle that we ignore his ability to field every routine ball. Our response? Hey, we were emotionally affected long before Jhonny Peralta came into our lives.
  • The Indians use four metrics to evaluate defense. One of them is John Dewan’s Fielding Bible, which I’ve often referenced here, another is internal, and he wouldn’t reveal the two others. But he noted that objective analysis of defensive play is always imperfect.
  • He’s been impressed with Ryan Garko in the outfield and beyond. “[Garko] deserves some credit. He was the first guy through the doors of this place in October and the most consistent guy here all winter long. He clearly has worked with a sense of determination."

~AC

Choo's fine, will remain in Classic

GM Mark Shapiro called Shin-Soo Choo’s triceps soreness a “non-issue.” Choo underwent a full physical examination at the Indians’ Player Development Complex on Tuesday and checked out fine. He will remain with South Korea in the World Baseball Classic.

Shapiro would not say whether or not Choo will still have restrictions, in terms of playing time and position. He was limited to DH duties in the first round and had a mandatory day off. Shapiro said he still has to have some conversations with the South Korean team about Choo’s status.

South Korea begins Round 2 play in San Diego’s Petco Park on Sunday. In the meantime, the Koreans are training in nearby Peoria.

3/11: Indians vs. Rockies

Bring on The ‘Stache. Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game is available exclusively on Indians.com through the Gameday Audio feature…

INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, DH Travis Hafner, RF Ben Francisco, C Kelly Shoppach, LF Tony Graffanino, 1B Chris Gimenez, 3B Wes Hodges, 2B Luis Valbuena. LHP Cliff Lee.

Also available to pitch: RHP Joe Smith, LHP Jeremy Sowers, RHP Jensen Lewis, RHP Rafael Betancourt, RHP Masa Kobayashi, LHP Rich Rundles, RHP Matt Herges, RHP Jack Cassel. 

ROCKIES: CF Dexter Fowler, DH Ryan Spilborghs, SS Troy Tulowitzki, RF Matt Murton, LF Matt Miller, 1B Daniel Ortmeier, 3B Christian Colonel, C Sal Fasano, 2B Jonathan Herrera. RHP Aaron Cook.

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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.

~AC

3/10: Indians at Angels

Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast exclusively on Indians.com via the Gameday Audio feature. On the “fine art of self-promotion” front, I’ll be on with Jim Rosenhaus in the third inning.

Kerry Wood will make his spring debut today, and it will be interesting to see Ryan Garko in right field and Josh Barfield at third.

INDIANS: 2B Jamey Carroll, LF David Dellucci, DH Travis Hafner, C Victor Martinez, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Ryan Garko, 3B Josh Barfield, 1B Michael Aubrey, CF Trevor Crowe. RHP Carl Pavano.

Also available to pitch: RHP Kerry Wood, LHP Scott Lewis, RHP Jack Cassel, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP John Meloan, LHP Ryan Edell.

ANGELS: 3B Chone Figgins, SS Erick Aybar, CF Torii Hunter, 1B Kendry Morales, 2B Howie Kendrick, LF Juan Rivera, DH Brandon Wood, C Jeff Mathis, RF Reggie Willits. RHP Jered Weaver.

Don't let 'em take me to the Cadillac Ranch

...but you can take me to the Camelback Ranch, spring home of the White Sox and Dodgers. It's another beautiful ballpark, with a unique sandstone exterior.

 

But an afternoon at the Camelback is in no way worth the $90 the Dodgers have the audacity to charge to sit in the Home Plate Club ($100 for "premium" spring games, as if such a thing even exists). Manny or no Manny, that's just nuts.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Grady Sizemore started at DH for the second straight day and went 3-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs against the White Sox. He'll play again Wednesday and will return to the field. He said his groin's feeling good -- no issues running the bases in-game or shagging fly balls during the morning workouts.
  • I have to say... There's nothing I enjoy less about this job than occasionally having to ask guys about the state of their groin.
  • Not only did South Korea advance to the second round of the World Baseball Classic, but the Koreans won Pool A. They defeated Japan, 1-0, this morning. It was Shin-Soo Choo's day off. Part of the agreement between the Indians and South Korea is that Choo will get one day off per pool. The Koreans move on to San Diego for Round 2, which begins March 15. They will train in Arizona, so the Indians' trainers will get a look at Choo's sore left triceps. He's expected to be here tomorrow, according to Eric Wedge.
  • Speaking of the Classic, in case you missed it, Mark DeRosa had four RBIs in Team USA's rout of Venezuela yesterday. He played both left field and third base.
  • Anthony Reyes looked really good today -- three scoreless innings, one walk, three strikeouts. He said this is the best he's felt since 2005, so that's encouraging for an Indians team that could really use a boost in the back end of the rotation.
  • David Huff threw two innings in a simulated game on one of the back fields this morning. He'll be in a Cactus game later this week. It will be just his second appearance in a "real" exhibition game. "We extended him last year, innings-wise, so we wanted to make sure we handled him appropriately this spring," Wedge said.
  • Ed Mujica also threw two innings in the sim game. "He looked good," Wedge said. "You know, he was really throwing the ball well early in camp in his bullpens. He's been trying to do a little too much in games. So we wanted to pull him back and let him relax a little bit and just let the ball go a little more free and easy." The ball certainly went off the bat of Wes Hodges, who took Mujica deep.
  • Kerry Wood will appear against the Angels in Tempe tomorrow, and Joe Smith will appear against the Rockies on Wednesday.
  • According to date in John Dewan's new "The Fielding Bible -- Volume II," the Indians ranked eighth in baseball last year in defensive runs saved, with 29. Dewan points out that Ben Francisco saved 12, while Franklin Gutierrez saved 24. With Gutierrez gone and Choo -- rated by Dewan as "average" in defensive runs saved -- starting in right, Dewan is speculating that the Tribe's defensive ranking may drop this year.
  • Minor League right-hander Neil Wagner has begun blogging. Check it out right here.

~AC

3/9: Indians at White Sox

Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game is broadcast exlusively on Indians.com via the Gameday Audio feature.

INDIANS: DH Grady Sizemore, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, CF Ben Francisco, C Victor Martinez, 1B Beau Mills, 3B Tony Graffanino, RF Matt LaPorta, LF Michael Brantley, SS Andy Cannizaro. RHP Fausto Carmona.

Also available to pitch: RHPs Anthony Reyes, Vinnie Chulk, Greg Aquino, Matt Herges, Juan Salas, Scott Roehl*, LHP Christopher Jones*.

*Brought up from Minor League camp.

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