Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (31-44): 2B Jamey Carroll, CF Grady Sizemore, C Victor Martinez, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Ryan Garko, DH Travis Hafner, 3B Jhonny Peralta, SS Luis Valbuena, LF Ben Francisco. RHP Tomo Ohka (0-1, 4.70).
REDS (35-37): CF Chris Dickerson, 3B Jerry Hairston Jr., 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, LF Laynce Nix, DH Jonny Gomes, RF Jay Bruce, C Ryan Hanigan, SS Paul Janish. RHP Homer Bailey (0-0, 12.46).
The Indians will add right-hander Jose Veras to their bullpen in advance of Saturday’s game against the Reds, and Jensen Lewis will be optioned to Triple-A Columbus.
The final straw for Lewis came Friday night, when Lewis retired the side in the eighth, only to walk the first two batters he faced in the ninth.
“He’s gotten a lot of experience in a short time,” Wedge said of Lewis. “He has the heartbeat and the guts. But he needs to be more consistent controlling the baseball. He needs to drive the ball down where he’s trying to throw it more consistently.”
One move that won’t be made Saturday is the one activating infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the disabled list, where he’s been since June 3 with a sprained left shoulder joint. The Tribe had hoped to make that move, but, after watching Cabrera participate in pregame activities Friday, the Indians decided to send him back to his rehab assignment at Double-A Akron for at least one more game.
Wedge said Cabrera still has some mild soreness in his shoulder, but the hope is to have him back after one more game with the Aeros.
There was an episode of “The Simpsons” once in which Mr. Burns assembled a softball team of Major League All-Stars (after he came to realize the likes of Cap Anson and Mordecai “Three-Finger” Brown had passed on and the Negro Leagues were defunct).
At a pivotal point one game, Burns pointed to Darryl Strawberry and said, “You, Strawberry, hit a home run!”
So Strawberry, of course, hit a home run.
“I told him to do that,” Burns said proudly to his effeminate assistant, Waylon Smithers.
“Brilliant strategy, sir,” Smithers replied.
I bring up this anecdote with a purpose. Because as I continue to read the comments in the Internet stratosphere about Eric Wedge’s job security, it’s come to my attention that some of you out there really believe this is how managers operate.
Actually, maybe Burns is on to something. Wedge has tried everything else, so perhaps tonight he’ll just point at Rafael Perez and yell, “You, Perez! Throw a strike!”
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- General manager Mark Shapiro spoke to reporters about Wedge and the Tribe’s bullpen. The story on Wedge can be found right here. As for the bullpen, Shapiro said, “With an average bullpen, we’d still be in the mix right now. That’s why we’ve got to continue to look at things and examine how we do everything. From bullpen usage to how we acquire and build a bullpen to the way we develop relievers.”
- Asdrubal Cabrera took part in pregame activities today. He’s taking batting practice from both sides of the plate. Still dealing with some mild soreness in his sprained left shoulder, Cabrera wasn’t yet sure when he’ll be activated. It could be in time for Saturday’s game against the Reds, or the Indians might send Cabrera back to Double-A Akron for a couple more days.
- Aaron Laffey’s next rehab start will take place Sunday for Akron. He is scheduled to throw about 80 pitches. Laffey said he believes this will be his last rehab start, and then he’s expecting to join the rotation. Stay tuned on that, too.
- A lineup that includes Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner? You don’t see that every day.
- Matt LaPorta, getting consistent time at first base in Columbus, is on a tear of late. He is 7-for-13 with five runs scored, two doubles, a homer and five RBI. He’s batting .330 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in 23 games in June.
- Some fans and media were frustrated with LaPorta playing sporadically and getting just 42 at-bats from the time he was promoted to the big leagues on May 2 to the time he was optioned out on May 26. Shapiro talked a little bit about the use of LaPorta. He said when LaPorta was added in the wake of Travis Hafner going on the disabled list, Wedge was told to put what he felt was the best lineup on the field each day. There are times, Shapiro said, when prospects are called up and the manager is instructed to play them regularly, but this wasn’t one of those times.
- Right-hander Kyle Smith, the Tribe’s 20th round Draft pick out of Kent State, was on the field taking in batting practice today. It’s believed Smith and the Indians have agreed to terms.
- The Indians are 6-12 in games decided in the last at-bat.
- Infielder Eric Perlozzo was signed to a Minor League deal and assigned to Class A Kinston. Perlozzo is the son of former Orioles manager and current Phillies coach Sam Perlozzo. He was a 25thr-round choice by the Orioles in 2007.
- The Tribe’s Major League-leading 302 walks are 29 more than the number logged by the Tigers, who are second in the AL.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (30-44): 2B Jamey Carroll, CF Grady Sizemore, C Victor Martinez, RF Shin-Soo Choo, LF Mark DeRosa, DH Travis Hafner, 3B Jhonny Peralta, 1B Ryan Garko, SS Luis Valbuena. LHP Jeremy Sowers (1-5, 5.95).
REDS (35-36): CF Willy Taveras, 3B Jerry Hairston Jr., 2B Brandon Phillips, 1B Joey Votto, DH Jonny Gomes, C Ramon Hernandez, RF Jay Bruce, SS Paul Janish, LF Chris Dickerson. RHP Aaron Harang (5-7, 3.66).
Having grown up in a house in which my older brother, Joe, owned a red leather jacket with a high proliferation of zippers, as well as a white sequined glove, count me among those sad to hear the news about Michael Jackson’s death at the age of 50.
While he’ll no doubt be remembered for all the tabloid fodder he provided, particularly in the last 20 years, I’m taking this moment to remember the King of Pop for his music contributions.
Top 5 Michael Jackson Songs:
5. “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” – its appearance in the “Seinfeld Chronicles” cemented its legendary status
4. “I Want You Back” (Jackson 5) – back when MJ was a boy, rather than just an old guy hanging out with boys
3. “Beat It” – bonus points for inspiring Weird Al Yankovic’s “Eat It”
2. “The Way You Make Me Feel” – barely edging “Smooth Criminal” as the “Bad” album’s entry on this list
1. “Billie Jean” — I’m not sure there was a more significant pop culture moment in the 80s than MJ’s iconic performance of this song at the “Motown 25” special in 1983
Honorable mention goes to “Thriller,” not because of its transcendent music video experience but because my Uncle Jim still plays it – on vinyl – roughly 572 times straight each Halloween, as trick-or-treaters arrive at his door.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Eric Wedge addressed his job security. You can read about that right here.
- The news of the day was that RHP Fausto Carmona was expected to get the start for Class A Lake County tonight in Eastlake, Ohio. This would be Carmona’s first start since his demotion to the rookie-level Arizona League earlier this month. As of this writing, however, associate reporter Matt O’Donnell informs me inclement weather back home is threatening Carmona’s start. Stay tuned.
- The Indians still don’t have a deadline or timetable for Carmona getting back to the Majors. “We’re just taking it step by step, really,” Wedge said. “There are certain things we want to see when he’s out there pitching. If he proves to himself and us that he’s getting beyond some of these things, then we’ll continue to move him [up].”
- RHP Jose Veras will join the Indians either Friday or Saturday. Still no word on a corresponding roster move, but you’d have to figure it will involve someone in the bullpen, as a position player would go when Cabrera is activated.
- SS Asdrubal Cabrera (sprained left shoulder joint) played DH today for Akron and went 2-for-5 with two runs scored. He’ll join the Indians in Cleveland on Friday and take part in pregame work. If all goes well, he’ll probably be activated Saturday. Wedge said he probably won’t be activated Friday, because he’s coming off playing three days in a row with the Aeros.
- RHP Rafael Betancourt (strained right groin) threw his second bullpen session today. Still no word on when he’ll go out on a rehab assignment, but Wedge said the Indians hope to have him back by the middle of July.
- Obviously, DH Travis Hafner hasn’t played in a week, with the club playing in NL parks. But he did “get hot,” as Wedge put it, before today’s game, taking BP, and he’ll play two games in a row when the club returns home to face the Reds this weekend. Wedge views this as progress toward Pronk playing three games in a row in the near future.
- Victor Martinez will be happy when the Indians get back to AL-only play. Entering tonight’s game, he was batting .182 (10-for-55) against NL teams this season, including a 1-for-33 performance in NL parks.
- Grady Sizemore was out of the lineup tonight, as the Indians will be careful with him in this first week back after the three-week DL stint. But he said his left elbow is feeling fine and continues to respond well to treatment and game activity.
- C Carlos Santana and OF Nick Weglarz were selected to represent the Tribe at the XM All-Star Futures Game in St. Louis on July 12, playing for the World team. Triple-A manager Torey Lovullo will serve as a coach for the U.S. team.
- The big story back home is the Cavaliers’ acquisition of Shaq. I asked one of the Indians’ resident NBA gurus, Josh Barfield (a Rockets fan), what he thought of the deal, and here’s what he had to say: “It’s a good deal for the Cavs, but I don’t know if it’s enough to get them over the hump. They didn’t give up much to get him, that’s for sure. But I still think they need a big guard, like a Shane Battier, to take some of the pressure off LeBron on defense.”
UPDATE: A scoring change has been made from Friday’s game at Wrigley. Jhonny Peralta’s triple has been changed to a three-base error on center fielder Reed Johnson. The Cubs had the play overturned through the MLB scoring review committee. So, Peralta is now 1-for-5 with a run scored in the game. Rich Harden lost a hit and earned run allowed. The Indians’ hit total went from eight to seven.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at PNC Park will be broadcast on STO and WTAM.
INDIANS (30-43): 2B Jamey Carroll, RF Mark DeRosa, 1B Victor Martinez, LF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, CF Ben Francisco, SS Luis Valbuena, C Kelly Shoppach, LHP Cliff Lee (4-6, 2.94).
PIRATES (32-39): CF Andrew McCutchen, LF Nyjer Morgan, 2B Freddy Sanchez, 1B Adam LaRoche, 3B Andy LaRoche, RF Brandon Moss, C Jason Jaramillo, SS Jack Wilson, RHP Ross Ohlendorf (6-6, 4.94).
Continuing the conversation from yesterday, many of you have taken to pointing at what’s gone on in Colorado as an example of why Eric Wedge should be dismissed.
The Rockies had reportedly tuned out Clint Hurdle and were motivated by his ousting.
They were 18-28 under Hurdle this season. Since Jim Tracy replaced him, they are 19-6.
And that’s great, for a 25-game stretch. It will be interesting to see if it lasts and if Tracy is a long-term solution.
I’m reminded of covering the Reds in ’05. Cincinnati ousted manager Dave Miley in mid-June and replaced him with Jerry Narron. Instantly, the club played better, going .500 down the stretch (which doesn’t sound all that great, but it was major, major improvement on what had come before) and earning Narron an extension for 2006 with an option for ’07.
The players, who had never shown much respect for Miley, remarked about the improved communication and leadership Narron provided. He brought them a change in direction and a new voice in the clubhouse.
What a difference a manager makes, huh?
Alas, the Reds finished under .500 yet again in 2006, and, midway through ’07, Narron himself was ousted — the fall guy for a 31-51 record. The team needed another change in direction, another new voice in the clubhouse.
Fact is, the Reds were a flawed organization. They had no pitching in the upper levels of their system, and their draft, trade and free-agent acquisitions in the years leading up to Narron taking over were horrendous. No manager inheriting that club was going to have sustained success.
I’m not saying the Indians are as flawed from top to bottom, but the Tribe’s pitching staff at present (and looking ahead) has some glaring holes that aren’t going to be fixed by a managerial substitution.
It’s become popular to accuse Wedge of mismanaging the ‘pen, but can a bullpen this bad really be mismanaged? No matter what move you make, it’s going to be the wrong one. That’s what Wedge is experiencing this season. You simply can’t win with starting and relief pitching this erratic.
Major League manager is not only one of the worst jobs in professional sports, it’s also one of the most overrated. Little to nothing is in your control as a manager, aside from filling out the lineups. Many of Wedge’s lineups have been a disaster this season, but the Indians are fourth in the league in runs scored and, really, that should be enough to get you more than 30 wins at this juncture, shouldn’t it?
It’s the pitching. It’s the walks. It’s the crippling home runs allowed. It’s the starters struggling to give you more than five quality innings. Those are the factors that have had the Indians in last place for all but three games this year.
Look, I’m not writing all this to say that keeping Wedge, who has enjoyed a rare amount of job security, is the answer. I’m open to the possibility that it’s the first of many steps to right the ship.
But those of you lashing out at Wedge and his staff need to be prepared for the possibility that if that day comes where the Indians go in a new managerial direction — and, again, that day could very well come at any point this year — don’t expect it to be the move that turns this organization around after two highly disappointing seasons. I’d go so far as to say removing Wedge might not be as significant as, say, moving a Mark DeRosa or a Carl Pavano in exchange for some young, quality pitching. Because that’s what this team really needs.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- No word on who will go when Jose Veras arrives. If it’s a straight reliever-for-reliever move, then the only two guys who strike me as safe are Kerry Wood and Matt Herges. Perhaps the three-lefty situation in the ‘pen is short-lived. We shall see.
- Veras will be the 24th pitcher used by the Tribe this year, which is the most in the Majors. And he’ll be the 42nd player used overall, which, at present, would put the Indians in a tie with the Padres for most in the Majors.
- The above, by the way, is quickly becoming my favorite bit of statistical minutia from this season.
- Ryan Garko, who has been nursing a sprained left wrist, was available off the bench Wednesday. He remained out of the starting lineup, as Wedge opted to stick with the Kelly Shoppach-Carl Pavano tandem.
- A reporter mentioned to Wedge that Jensen Lewis, who has logged scoreless appearances in six of his last eight outings, has showed improvement. Wedge didn’t seem to buy into that notion. “We need to see some consistency from these guys,” Wedge said. “One good, one bad doesn’t get it done. You’ve got to have an idea of what you’re going to get. Jensen’s very capable of helping us out of the bullpen, but he needs to be more consistent in throwing the ball where he wants to throw it.”
- Bizarre outing for Kerry Wood in the ninth last night. I might be wrong, but the RBI double to Jack Wilson might have been a foul ball, had it not nicked Jhonny Peralta’s glove. And the RBI single to Andrew McCutchen was about a 97-bounce dribbler up the middle. So you cut Wood some slack for those. But walking Nyjer Morgan and Freddy Sanchez was a problem, and Wood nearly walked Adam LaRoche. Wood said he’s struggling to find his cutter and fastball right now. Wedge gave him credit today for getting that last out.
- Getting Wood consistent work this season has been a problem, especially given the Indians’ reluctance to use him for multiple innings because of his injury history. “It’s particularly hard on the road,” Wedge said. “Because in a close game, you need to save him for that ninth inning. If you use him in the eighth and need him in the ninth, that’s not good.”
- So, yes, this is what people meant when they talked about the risk associated with signing Wood to a two-year, $20.5 million deal. I know one thing — the chances of him reaching 55 games finished for his vesting option for 2011 aren’t looking likely this year.
- Three more Draft picks have signed with the Tribe. They are: outfielder Jordan Henry (seventh round, University of Mississippi), infielder Casey Frawley (17th round, Stetson) and infielder Greg Folgia (40th round, Missouria Columbia).
- In last night’s Class A Carolina/California League All-Star Game, Lonnie Chisenhall went 1-for-3, Cord Phelps went 0-for-2 with the Carolinas only RBI and left-hander Eric Berger threw a scoreless inning. Also of note, Chisenhall won the Home Run Derby before the game, beating five other participants.
- Nick Weglarz got off to a horrid start this season, but he’s been torrid since the beginning of May. He drove in four runs against Trenton last night and is now tied for third in the Eastern League with 47 RBIs.
- It is roughly 132 degrees in the PNC Park press box. Where the White Sox cut back on printing costs in their press box, the Pirates cut back on air-conditioning costs. Either way, the media ends up hot and bothered.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at PNC Park will be broadcast on STO and WTAM.
INDIANS (30-42): 2B Jamey Carroll, CF Grady Sizemore, 1B Victor Martinez, LF Shin-Soo Choo, RF Mark DeRosa, 3B Jhonny Peralta, SS Luis Valbuena, C Kelly Shoppach, RHP Carl Pavano (6-5, 5.73).
PIRATES (31-39): CF Andrew McCutchen, LF Nyjer Morgan, 2B Freddy Sanchez, 1B Adam LaRoche, 3B Andy LaRoche, RF Brandon Moss, C Jason Jaramillo, SS Jack Wilson, LHP Zach Duke (7-5, 3.18).
The Indians acquired right-hander Jose Veras from the Yankees for cash considerations on Wednesday. The right-handed Veras had been designated for assignment by the Yanks last week.
Veras is expected to join the Indians’ bullen this week, most likely when the club returns home Friday to face the Reds.
In 25 appearances out of the New York ‘pen this season, the 28-year-old Veras was 3-1 with a 5.96 ERA. He walked 14 and struck out 18 in 25 2/3 innings of work. He did not exactly endear himself to Yankee fans on April 16, when he gave up three runs without recording an out against the Tribe to take the loss in the first game at the new Yankee Stadium.
The outlook was much brighter for Veras last season. He went 5-3 with a 3.59 ERA in 60 appearances, walking 29 and striking out 63 in 57 2/3 innings. He became a primary setup option for the Yanks when they traded Kyle Farnsworth to the Tigers.
It is not yet known who will be removed from the active roster to make way for Veras, but the Tribe’s always evolving bullpen is no stranger to tweaking.
Michael Aubrey entered the Indians’ organization in 2003 with all the tout and talent that comes with an advanced college bat taken 11th overall in the First-Year Player Draft.
Injuries robbed Aubrey, a Tulane product, of the ability to make good on all the lofty projections placed before him. And on Wednesday, he left the organization for a new start elsewhere. The Indians traded the 27-year-old Aubrey to the Orioles for a player to be named.
Dropped from the 40-man roster over the winter, Aubrey cleared waivers and has played the entire ’09 season to date with Triple-A Columbus. He was hitting .292 with 16 doubles, a triple, five homers and 29 RBIs in 57 games for the Clippers.
Aubrey has remained healthy for the better part of the last two years, but various ailments, including hamstring, back and knee woes, relegated him to just 107 games played in the Minors from 2003-07. He finally made his Major League debut with the Tribe last year, appearing in 15 games and batting .200 (9-for-45) with home runs in each of his first two starts.