We know what the experts say.
We know what I say (88-74, second place in the Central).
But with the 2009 season on the horizon, what do you have to say about the Indians’ chances this year? I’m calling on my vast congregation of 12 readers to share, for the record and in the comments section below, their prediction for what lies ahead.
If you nail the exact won-loss total, you’ll win a free autographed copy of my upcoming book, ‘Stache: The Sal Fasano Story.*
*book does not exist
The long, meandering road of meaninglessness comes to its long-awaited close with today’s 2:05 p.m. ET exhibition at Minute Maid Park. The game can be heard live on WTAM 1100, the Indians Radio Network and Indians.com.
INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Mark DeRosa, 1B Victor Martinez, DH Travis Hafner, SS Jhonny Peralta, LF Shin-Soo Choo, C Kelly Shoppach, RF Ben Francisco, 2B Jamey Carroll. RHP Carl Pavano.
Also available to pitch: RHPs Kerry Wood, Masa Kobayashi, Joe Smith and LHP Zach Jackson.
ASTROS: CF Michael Bourn, 3B Jeff Keppinger, DH Lance Berkman, SS Miguel Tejada, RF Hunter Pence, 1B Darin Erstad, LF Jason Michaels, 2B Jason Smith, C Humberto Quintero. LHP Mike Hampton.
I made it to Houston — on a flight shared by Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs, no less.
As for the Indians’ bats, they must have slept through their alarm and missed that flight. They were virtually non-existent in tonight’s five-hit effort.
Here’s the rest of the story:
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Don’t look for Fausto Carmona to come out of the bullpen on Opening Day (not that you were looking for that scenario anyway). Carmona’s suspension from last September’s brawl with Gary Sheffield and the Tigers carries into this season. He has one game remaining on the five-game suspension, so he’ll participate in the opening ceremonies, then he must get out of uniform and leave the clubhouse. He is allowed to watch from the stands — if he can get a ticket, that is. The game is sold out, after all.
- Carmona went five innings, giving up a pair of runs on six hits with no walks and five strikeouts. He got eight outs on grounders, two on fly balls. In all, he walked eight batters in 27 innings this spring, and he had a 2.67 ERA. You have to feel better about Carmona going into the season than you did going into camp.
- Wedge and the players all seemed happy to get into a big-league stadium tonight. “Getting out here, you’ve got a couple extra decks and a little different environment,” Wedge said. “You look at this spring and everything, the good and the bad of it, and I think it’s good we’ve got a couple games here before we fire it up for real.”
- Anthony Reyes’ last spring tuneup will come Tuesday in Class A Kinston’s exhibition against Mount Olive College. That’s a private liberal arts school. And you thought Cactus League lineups were inferior.
- Ryan Garko hosted a correspondent’s piece on Jim Rome’s “Rome is Burning” show on ESPN this afternoon. The segment was taped in Goodyear last month. It was pretty bland, except for the part when Jensen Lewis criticized Kerry Wood’s NCAA bracket pool. When Garko pressed Wood for a response, Wood responded, “Jensen Lewis is irrelevant.” The makings of a nickname, perhaps?
- Speaking of Garko, Wedge doesn’t seem to know how much he’ll use him in the outfield this season. “I can’t [say] right now, and I’m really not trying to withhold anything from you guys,” Wedge said. “I’m still trying to get [Trevor] Crowe in my head, and him being a part of this team was unexpected. That changes things a bit. I think [Garko] is going to be out there, but I can’t speak on how much.”
- Kelly Shoppach’s brother, Kyle, is the high school football coach at Westside High School, not far from here. Shoppach stopped over there today to see his brother and talk to some of the kids.
Eric Wedge confirms this is how it will look Monday against Kevin Millwood and the Rangers:
1. CF Grady Sizemore
2. 3B Mark DeRosa
3. 1B Victor Martinez
4. DH Travis Hafner
5. SS Jhonny Peralta
6. RF Shin-Soo Choo
7. C Kelly Shoppach
8. LF Ben Francisco
9. 2B Asdrubal Cabrera
LHP Cliff Lee
UPDATE: For Wedge’s thoughts on lineup construction, check out this story.
Tonight’s 8:05 p.m. ET exhibition game at Minute Maid Park will be broadcast live on WTAM 1100, the Indians Radio Network and Indians.com via the Gameday Audio feature.
INDIANS: CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Mark DeRosa, C Victor Martinez, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Ryan Garko, LF Ben Francisco, 2B Asdrubal Cabrera, RHP Fausto Carmona.
Also available to pitch: RHPs Jensen Lewis, Rafael Betancourt and LHP Rafael Perez.
ASTROS: 2B Kazuo Matsui, C Ivan Rodriguez, 1B Lance Berkman, LF Carlos Lee, SS Miguel Tejada, 3B Geoff Blum, RF Hunter Pence, CF Michael Bourn, RHP Brian Moehler.
Note: The DH will obviously not be used tonight, but it will be used tomorrow afternoon. So Travis Hafner will be in tomorrow’s lineup.
Having been here long enough to run for Goodyear City Council, I’d say today was a welcomed day on the spring calendar. It’s getaway day, and never has the prospect of flying to Houston for a pair of exhibition games sounded so good.
Ah, but Arizona will be missed on some levels. Goodyear itself and the rest of the Phoenix area grew on me — from the beautiful mountain scenery in Sedona to the sizzling chicken fajitas at Raul and Theresa’s Mexican restaurant near the ballpark, there were plenty of stimulating sights to take in.
Not everybody had the best of times, of course. Jhonny Peralta’s wife was bitten by a scorpion, Bart Swain’s 2-year-old son grabbed a cactus, and Andy Marte didn’t find any takers.
As for the rest of us, we’ll always have the memories of the Affliction T-shirts, the Goodyear Ballpark scoreboard and its inaccurate ball and strike counts and the unsold packets of Dippin’ Dots.
Now, let’s carry on…
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- In a stark contrast to previous spring wrap-ups, Eric Wedge did not have glowing things to say about this Arizona camp. “There was some good, some bad,” he said. “It was unusual. It was a tough camp to read, because of the World Baseball Classic and [the fact that] we had so many players in competition [for rotation and bullpen spots]. It was a camp like no other we’ve been a part of.”
- Wedge admitted his analysis was affected by what’s transpired the last few days, which have been particularly brutal pitching displays.
- In general, the Indians played very lethargic baseball the last couple weeks. Not the way you want to “ramp up” (a Wedgeism if ever there was one) just before the start of the season proper. Wedge said he’s hoping the move to Houston and a big-league ballpark will be a shot in the arm for this club. He thinks the seven-week grind has gotten to them, and it’s time for a needed change of scenery.
- The bottom 11 ERAs in MLB this spring all belong to Arizona-based teams, while 16 of the top 19 team ERAs belong to Florida-based teams.
- As far as Anthony Reyes’ performance today, this was the first time all spring that he hasn’t looked very sharp. Reyes admitted he just didn’t have it this afternoon. He gave up seven runs, six of which were earned, on five hits over two innings. He’ll have one last tuneup on Tuesday, when he starts for Class A Kinston in North Carolina.
- Scott Lewis will also stay behind. He’ll start a Minor League game in Goodyear on Sunday before joining the Tribe in Texas.
- While Lewis will start the home opener on April 10, Reyes, the No. 5 starter, won’t follow him on the 11th. That start will go to Cliff Lee, who will be kept on four days’ rest (there’s an off day Tuesday, in case you lost track). Reyes will start on Sunday, the 12th.
- Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said the Indians are in the process of working out the upcoming schedule for Adam Miller, who threw another bullpen this morning. At some point in the near future, Miller should progress to facing live hitters.
- David Dellucci said he strained his left calf rounding first base in a game on March 26. He tried to loosen it up before the game two days later, and it did not cooperate. That’s when he was scratched. He’s not anticipating a long rehab, though he admitted he has some “much-needed at-bats” in store in extended spring and Triple-A before he’ll be ready to join the Indians. Dellucci missed time this spring not just with the calf and thumb injuries but also with pink eye and a cortisone shot to the hamstring (which he said is a standard part of his spring each year).
- The latest version of the Indians Inbox is up and running. If you’d like to submit a question for the next one, you can do so at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you do, don’t forget to include your name and hometown.
- Lots of Journey and other ’80s classic rock blaring in the clubhouse this morning as players packed. These guys are ready.
One of my favorite annual rites of spring is raiding PR guru Bart Swain’s CD collection. And with spring winding down and my ears still ringing, I thought I’d bring you another scintillating installment of The Three-Word Music Review:
Blitzen Trapper: “Furr” — I support PETA.
“Heading West” (Starbucks compilation) — Good driving tunes.
Mark Knopfler: “Shangri-La” — I’m rah-rah (Does that count as three words, or two? I don’t even know.).
Randy Newman: “Harps and Angels” — Yawns and boredom.
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: “Cardinology” — Has its moments.
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: “Raising Sand” — Worthy of Grammy.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- A telling postgame from Eric Wedge today. After a 14-14 tie that clearly was a “hitters’ day,” in the skipper’s words, Wedge showed no concern over Cliff Lee (seven runs on nine hits, including three homers, over five innings). “I thought the ball came out of Cliff’s hand pretty good,” Wedge said. “He had a real good breaking ball. His changeup was a little firm at times, but he had good fastball command.”
- So Wedge was asked if it was the same deal with Masa Kobayashi (five runs on five hits, including a homer, in one inning). “No, Masa was a little flat,” Wedge quickly countered. “He was up and flat and threw a few too many fastballs.”
- Wedge said Kobayashi pitched better after Carl Willis visited him on the mound and told him to work in his split-fingered fastball and slider a little more. It appears Kobayashi’s been a little stubborn with a fastball that clearly isn’t working for him.
- Ken Griffey Jr., who could be 76 and probably still have the sweetest swing in baseball, torched Kobayashi for a two-run homer in the seventh. I was stunned to see that was only the second homer allowed by Kobayashi this spring. It feels like more than that, probably because he’s given up 20 hits in 11 innings.
- I hate to be overly negative, but this would be a good time to start up a “Kobayashi optioned/released” office pool. If you do, sign me up for April 27 (and that’s being really generous).
- I’ll reiterate that it was a hitters’ day, but this was nonetheless Travis Hafner’s strongest showing of the spring. He went 3-for-6 with a homer and two RBIs. Unlike his blast the other day – when the Padres’ Kevin Correia hung him a breaking ball that any Major League hitter worth his pine tar would have hit out — this one was impressive. Pronk scooped out a slider and pulled it out to right.
- Franklin Gutierrez had two strong days against his former team in this home-and-home series. Today he went 3-for-5 with a double, triple and three runs scored out of the leadoff spot. He has a nice opportunity in Seattle.
- Wedge on Ed Mujica, dealt to the Padres: “I feel like he’s had a strong progression here. Just for us, it’s more of a timing thing and what we needed out of that final [bullpen] spot.”
The padres.com headline says, “Padres enhance bullpen with Mujica.” If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the Padres and their bullpen, nothing will.
- Kerry Wood talked about the Arizona elements and their affect on pitchers. He said he always leaves here feeling like his slider is much worse than it actually is. Oh, and Wood worked another perfect inning today. His spring ERA is a sparkling 0.00 in six innings, and his arm action and raw stuff are nothing short of impressive.
- For what it’s worth, Wood has grown out a full goatee. He said he won’t shave it until he gives up some runs.
- Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s “Working on a Dream” tour kicks off tonight in San Jose. Be excited, and celebrate accordingly.
Today’s 4:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast live on the Indians Radio Network and Indians.com and on tape delay at 8 p.m. on WTAM 1100.
Here’s the Tribe’s lineup. I haven’t seen a Seattle lineup.
INDIANS: LF Ben Francisco, 3B Mark DeRosa, 1B Victor Martinez, DH Travis Hafner, SS Jhonny Peralta, RF Ryan Garko, C Kelly Shoppach, CF Trevor Crowe, 2B Josh Barfield. LHP Cliff Lee.
Also available to pitch: RHPs Kerry Wood, Masa Kobayashi, Matt Herges, LHP Rafael Perez.
The Indians have found a taker for Ed Mujica. The Padres are set to announce this morning that they have acquired the right-hander from the Tribe. The Indians will receive a player to be named or cash.
Mujica is out of Minor League options and did not win a spot in the Indians’ bullpen this spring. He has an 8.10 ERA in nine Cactus appearances, though he has improved a bit recently.
In 33 career appearances with the Tribe, Mujica, who turns 25 in May, went 3-3 with a 6.04 ERA. Mujica has a live fastball that he’s never really been able to get consistency out of at the Major League level. He has a career 3.35 ERA in the Minors, with just 60 walks in 231 1/3 innings.
UPDATE: And here’s an interesting twist. Right-hander Jae Kuk Ryu is going back to the Padres, less than a week after the Indians claimed him off waivers. That waiver claim was voided by Major League Baseball. Not sure what that’s all about, but I’ll look into it.
Also this morning, Vinnie Chulk was reassigned to Minor League camp.
UPDATE No. 2: Sounds like the Ryu situation involves either a medical problem (he did have arthroscopic surgery performed on his elbow last summer) or some other technicality. No official word from the Indians.