July 2009

Carmona staying in Columbus for now

The Garko trade threw the pregame minutia routine out of whack, but I wanted to pass along word that Fausto Carmona will make at least one more start for Triple-A Columbus before the Indians deem him ready to rejoin the big-league rotation.

Carmona took the 3-2 loss to Pawtucket on Sunday, giving up three runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts over seven innings. He is now 1-3 with a 3.55 ERA in five starts for Columbus, walking six and striking out 27 in 33 innings.

The Indians sent Carmona, their No. 2 starter at season’s outset, to rookie ball in early June, and they feel his progress in the Minors has been steady.

“The last thing we want is to cut it short at the end,” Eric Wedge said.

Wedge said Carmona has been a “total professional” while dealing with the demotion, and he understands that he is laying a foundation for the rest of his career.

UPDATE: Another reminder that the Twitter-literate can follow Tribe news here.

Garko traded to Giants for Class A lefty

First baseman Ryan Garko has been traded from the Indians to the Giants for Class A left-hander Scott Barnes.

Garko had been in the Tribe’s lineup at designated hitter but was yanked about an hour before the first pitch against the Angels at Angel Stadium.

Entering his first round of arbitration this winter, Garko was considered trade bait. He has gotten increased playing time the past month and had hit safely in 20 of his last 23 games, batting .349 with five homers and 11 RBIs and improving his stock. For the season, Garko is batting .285 with 11 homers and 39 RBIs in 78 games.

The 21-year-old Barnes is 12-3 with a 2.85 ERA in 18 starts for Class A San Jose in the California League. He leads the league in wins, is second in ERA and his 99 strikeouts are tied for ninth overall.

Barnes was an eight-round Draft pick in 2008 out of St. John’s University. He is listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds. Baseball America named him the ninth-best prospect in the Giants’ system before this season.

No word yet on whether this means Matt LaPorta will be joining the Tribe.

UPDATE: Contrary to a report floating around out there, there is no player to be named component in this deal.

UPDATE No. 2: Barnes will report to Class A Kinston.

UPDATE No. 3: Andy Marte will take Garko’s spot on the roster and likely get the bulk of his time at 1B. 

7/27: Indians at Angels

Tonight’s 10:05 p.m. ET game at Angel Stadium will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.

Grady Sizemore’s out for the second time in three games.

UPDATE: Sizemore is under the weather. His absence is not elbow-related.

UPDATE No. 2: Garko has been pulled from tonight’s lineup. I’m not sure, but something might be going down.

cle.gifINDIANS (41-58): SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B3B Jamey Carroll, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 1B Victor Martinez, 3BDH Jhonny Peralta, DH Ryan Garko, CF Ben Francisco, LF Chris Gimenez, 2B Luis Valbuena, C Kelly Shoppach. RHP Carl Pavano (8-8, 5.48).



ana.gifANGELS (58-39): 3B Chone Figgins, 2B Maicer Izturis, RF Bobby Abreu, DH Juan Rivera, 1B Kendry Morales, C Mike Napoli, SS Erick Aybar, CF Gary Matthews, LF Reggie Willits. LHP Joe Saunders (8-6, 4.94).


Abreu, Wedge suspended

Right-handed reliever Winston Abreu has been suspended three games and manager Eric Wedge one game by Major League Baseball for their actions in Saturday’s 10-3 victory over the Mariners.

Abreu and Wedge were immediately ejected in the ninth inning at Safeco Field after Abreu hit the Mariners’ Jack Hannahan with a pitch. The clubs had been warned earlier in the game, when the Mariners’ Chris Jakubauskas hit Ben Francisco with a fastball to the back after Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run homer.

Abreu, who has made just three appearances with the Tribe since his acquisition from the Rays earlier this month, has appealed his suspension, so it will not be served immediately can appeal his suspension, but it looks as though he will begin serving it tonight, when the Indians open a three-game set with the Angels. Wedge, on the other hand, did not have a chance to appeal and will serve his suspension here tonight. Bench coach Jeff Datz will manage for the night.

The suspensions were handed down by Bob Watson, MLB’s vice president of on-field operations. Jakubauskas was fined an undisclosed amount of money for plunking Francisco.

UPDATE: Contrary to my previous report, Abreu has not appealed.

Betancourt traded to Rockies for Class A pitcher

Setup man Rafael Betancourt returned to the Indians’ bullpen just in time to become trade bait. And on Thursday, the Rockies bit.

The Indians have traded Betancourt, a fixture in their ‘pen since 2003, to the Rockies in exchange for Class A right-hander Connor Graham. It was the second swap of the summer for an Indians team that dealt Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals last month, and it could be a sign that the remaining week before the non-waiver Trade Deadline will be an active one.

The Indians held a $5.4 million option on the 34-year-old Betancourt for 2010 that they were not expected to exercise.

Graham, 23, is an Ohio product with a big body and intriguing numbers at the high-A level.

A native of Bowling Green and a Miami of Ohio alum, Graham is listed at 6-foot-7, 235 pounds and has spent all of ’09 with the Modesto Nuts of the California League. He is 7-4 with a 3.14 ERA, 87 strikeouts and 41 walks in 80 1/3 innings in 16 starts. His ERA is the sixth-best in the league, and he’s limited the opposition to a .225 average against, with just two homers allowed. He is 3-0 with a 0.59 ERA over his last three starts.

The Rockies had plucked Graham out of Miami with their fifth-round pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. In his first full professional season last year, he went 12-6 with a 2.26 ERA in 26 starts for Asheville in low-A ball. Following the ’08 season, Baseball America named him the 12th-best prospect in the Rockies’ organization.

Graham throws a fastball and slider and had been working on a changeup.

UPDATE: Graham is headed to Double-A Akron. Here’s Mark Shapiro: “Strike zone command is his area of development, clearly. But he's a guy who has power stuff. Pitching prospect depth is our greatest area of need."

Shapiro also said a lot of words that amount to nothing regarding the Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez rumors. He kept with the club's policy of not directly commenting on individual players.

Betancourt handled the news well, but he was obviously sad to be leaving. "All these years, to be able to pitch here, was very good," he said. "You see a lot of relievers go around a lot. To be here seven years makes me proud."

Finally, thanks to the reader who pointed out the inaccuracy on Graham's age. He's 23, not 24, as I had previously written.

More info on Indians.com in a bit.

UPDATE No. 2: In case you missed it, the Blue Jays designated David Dellucci for assignment today.

UPDATE No. 3: Got some use out of that new Twitter account today with the Betancourt news. If you’d like to follow along for future updates, you can find it here.

"There's a blurb about me in this magazine!"

Depending on what you read or believe, the Indians are either telling teams they are unlikely to move Cliff Lee before next week’s Trade Deadline or are engaged in increasingly serious discussions with the likes of the Phillies, Rays, Dodgers and Brewers about the reigning Cy Young winner.

lee.jpgWhen it comes to the latter reports, those are, by and large, generated from outside the organization, as the Indians are notoriously tight-lipped on such matters. It can certainly be frustrating for those of us on the beat when national reports surface quoting a “source” or a person “familiar with the Indians’ thinking” (which could be the guy cleaning the bathroom stalls at Progressive Field), but that’s just part of the job in this 24/7 news environment.

The latest, for what it’s worth, is a report from Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com, who cites a Major League source in reporting that the Indians and Rays have discussed a trade for Lee, with the Rays balking at the Indians’ wishes for right-handed prospect Wade Davis to be included.

Morosi is well-sourced and an excellent reporter, so I wouldn’t discount the validity of the report. But I’d encourage Indians fans to keep in mind that teams discuss many trade scenarios this time of year, very few of which actually amount to anything substantive. It’s possible this is just one such scenario that happened to leak, and it doesn’t mean anything is imminent.

I know you’d like to see in this space some reports you can really seek your teeth into. The fact of the matter, however, is that the Indians entered this summer trading season reluctant to deal Lee. Only recently, as the Roy Halladay sweepstakes drags on and teams get more desperate to add a No. 1 starter, have the rumblings that they might be swayed from that stance heated up, and there’s obviously confusion in the industry as to just how available Lee really is.

The Indians, clearly, would be looking for top-end pitching in return for Lee, and it’s a difficult equation for both sides. Few teams can fulfill the Tribe’s wishes for a substantial return in exchange for the ace of the staff (the Rays, for example, don’t have much to offer beyond Davis). And those that could have to ask themselves if less than a year and a half of Lee is worth such demands in a time when prospects are more highly prized than ever, given the economic climate.

On the other side of the equation, the Indians have to know that trading Lee now would be an advertisement to the fan base that not only have the 2008 and ’09 seasons been disappointments, but another year out of contention is on the horizon in 2010. That wouldn’t be the cheeriest winter Press Tour you’ve ever seen.

The Indians are in a really difficult spot here, because you don’t have to be a Baseball America guru to know the farm system has very little to offer in the way of top-flight starting rotation help. It’s Hector Rondon, and then a bunch of question marks. If you keep Lee, you might be able to piece together a quality rotation for 2010 if Rondon is for real, if Jake Westbrook rebounds from Tommy John and if the Fausto Carmona experiment is successful. From a marketing and immediate contention standpoint, keeping Lee for his affordable $9 million option is a no-brainer.

Looking beyond 2010, however, keeping Lee only to lose him in free agency doesn’t make a lick of sense. If you trade Lee now, you have no ace for 2010, but you might get some arms that make 2011 (when Lee will undoubtedly be long gone) and beyond much more encouraging.

Toss in the Victor Martinez trade speculation, and you’ve got an intriguing basis for debate in the Tribe front office. Keep Lee and Martinez for 2010, and you’re giving your best effort to contend but embracing the possibility of losing one or both players to free agency at season’s end. Trade one or both of them now or over the winter, and you’re essentially announcing a rebuild, however short-term it may be.

I think some fans would understand the latter scenario, but the most vocal fans would undoubtedly rant and rave over a club trading Cy Young winners in consecutive years and/or dealing away the closest thing this club has to a captain. It’s times like these when I’m thankful that I just write about the Indians, rather than making the decisions for them.


  • Chris Gimenez is collecting big-league service time, but he’s not seeing much in the way of playing time. Gimenez, however, is in the lineup today, for the second straight day. And his sixth start since his May 31 promotion to the Majors is his first behind the plate, catching David Huff. “It’s exciting,” he said. “I haven’t been back there in a while. I think I’ve caught three innings since I’ve been here, but we’ve had no shortage of simulated games.”
  • You might assume Gimenez would be better off playing on an everyday basis at the Triple-A level, rather than getting all this bench time up here. But Wedge, for one, doesn’t think this is time wasted for Gimenez. “He’s the type of person who’s going to get better by watching the baseball game,” Wedge said. “He’s always getting better, always learning. If I didn’t think that, we wouldn’t have him up here.” Wedge thinks Gimenez has the potential to be a backup catcher in the big leagues, “and more than that.”
  • Chris Perez has held the opponent scoreless in his last four appearances, tossing four innings and allowing no hits with one walk and four strikeouts. That’s the guy the Indians traded for.
  • Who’s going to go when the Indians recall Jeremy Sowers on Saturday? With Tomo Ohka headed to the bullpen, one of these Hall of Famers on the relief corps will have to step aside. The recently acquired Winston Abreu (six runs allowed in 1 1/3 innings over two appearances) and Jose Veras (eight runs allowed in eight innings over eight appearances) are the most obvious candidates.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera is batting .317 (13-for-41) with three doubles and three RBIs in his last 11 games.
  • Trade bait Ryan Garko has hit in 15 of his last 17 games, batting .367 (22-for-60) with two homers and five RBIs.
  • The trip to the Great White North always presents some travel complications, and one Tribe player somehow lost his U.S. passport in the three days since the Indians arrived here. He was in straight panic mode pregame today and is likely to endure extra scrutiny before boarding the team charter to Seattle tonight. Perhaps he should just bring the Indians’ media guide with him and show the customs officials his bio page.
  • Our old friend Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News is in attendance this afternoon. He’s still covering the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons, who are now an affiliate of the Mets. And the Bisons are flailing with a 35-58 record and dwindling attendance in the wake of the Indians’ era. An average of about 1,700 fewer fans are attending each game at Dunn Tire Park, compared to last year, according to Harrington. The Bisons, therefore, are on pace for their lowest attendance mark in the history of the ballpark.
  • Speaking of the Mets’ Minor League system, former Indians player Tony Bernazard, now the Mets’ vice president of player development, is in the news, for all the wrong reasons. The Mets are investigating Bernazard’s conduct in the wake of reports that he challenged the entire Double-A Binghamton team to a fight.
  • When the Indians get to Seattle on Friday, it will be Franklin Gutierrez bobblehead night. Gutierrez is still a little wobbly after slamming into the wall at Comerica Park on Tuesday night.
  • Lastly, it’s our last day in Toronto, and I can’t leave without wishing the best of luck to MLB.com Blue Jays scribe, Jordan Bastian, and his wife, Kelly, who is set to give birth to the couple’s first child sometime in the next five or six weeks. The Bastians are Chicago natives, and they have a doctor here in Toronto and another in the States. The American doctor gave them an Aug. 31 due date, while the Canadian doctor is predicting it will arrive Sept. 9. Must have something to do with the exchange rate.


UPDATE: Should the Indians make a trade in the next few days, the blog will be up and running. But I won’t be with the club in Seattle. We’ll continue with the lineups and minutia in Anaheim on Monday.

UPDATE No. 2: OK, it was Chris Gimenez who lost his passport. I feel more comfortable telling you this now that he announced it when talking to reporters postgame. Maybe the Indians can smuggle him into Seattle with the luggage.

7/23: Indians at Blue Jays

Today’s 12:37 p.m. ET rubber match at Rogers Centre will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.

cle3.gifINDIANS (37-58):
CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Victor Martinez, 3B Jhonny Peralta, 1B Ryan Garko, LF Ben Francisco, 2B Jamey Carroll, C Chris Gimenez. LHP David Huff (4-4, 6.60).



tor3.gifBLUE JAYS (47-48):
DH Marco Scutaro, 2B Aaron Hill, LF Adam Lind, 1B Kevin Millar, CF Vernon Wells, RF Alex Rios, 3B Jose Bautista, C Rod Barajas, SS John McDonald. LHP Marc Rzepczynski (1-1, 2.50).

"That guy can't even go to the bathroom in South America!"

Many of you have voiced either anger or confusion or some combination of the two over Eric Wedge’s lineups this season.

Well, how do you think the Korean population of Toronto feels?

Entering tonight, Choo had started 91 of the Indians’ 94 games this season. He hadn’t been out of the starting lineup since way back on May 29.

Tonight, the Rogers Centre is celebrating Korean Heritage Night. Presumably, there will be quite a few Koreans on-hand. If nothing else, there are a handful of Korean media members here.

No one told Wedge. Because, naturally, Choo has the night off.

You can’t make stuff like this up.


  • Spread the word around your neighborhood. The Indians have settled on a starter for Saturday’s game in Seattle, and it’s left-hander Jeremy Sowers. It was, then, a brief demotion to Triple-A for Sowers, who was sent down just two weeks ago and made exactly one start for the Clippers, giving up five runs in 6 1/3 innings in a loss to Syracuse on Sunday. The Indians could have stuck it out with Tomo Ohka. Instead, they’ll move him to the bullpen. Someone else from that ‘pen will have to go, and I don’t think the Indians will struggle to find candidates.
  • The rotation is bound to go through multiple changes in the coming weeks. The Indians are still deciding what to do with Fausto Carmona with his next start, but you have to assume he’s on the horizon after making four starts with Triple-A Columbus — the last two of which have been solid. Carmona allowed a pair of runs on five hits with a walk and eight strikeouts in seven innings in a loss to Scranton last night. Jake Westbrook also figures to be back soon. He’s throwing a second simulated session Friday, and that could be his last step before going out on a rehab assignment. And there is, of course, the possibility the Indians could trade Cliff Lee or Carl Pavano.
  • Regarding the trade talk, Wedge said much of it is “more bark than bite.” But Wedge did say it’s possible that the Indians will make a deal before the July 31 Trade Deadline. “I don’t think anything’s imminent,” Wedge said, “just that it’s possible.”
  • Obviously, with regard to the Tribe’s trading chips, Lee and Victor Martinez are the focal points of the national media right now. But if you had to rank the Indians players perhaps most likely to be shipped out, given the club’s composition and 2010 outlook, Ryan Garko and Rafael Betancourt would have to be high on the list. Garko is nearing arbitration, and the Indians have Matt LaPorta in the pipeline and getting regular time at first base. Betancourt has a $5.4 million option for next season that is not likely to be exercised.
  • Regarding Choo’s day off, Wedge said the right fielder is in need of a mental and physical break. Choo is 5-for-his-last-37. He’ll be back in the lineup tomorrow.
  • Here’s an interesting note regarding the most highly coveted starting pitchers at the deadline. Over the last two seasons, the lowest ERAs in the American League belong to Roy Halladay (2.76) and Cliff Lee (2.79).
  • Following his third complete game, Lee is now sixth in the AL in ERA (3.17), first in innings pitched (145) and ninth in strikeouts (103). His ERA is the lowest among AL pitchers with a losing record. Lee became the first Tribe pitcher to pitch consecutive complete games without walking a batter since CC Sabathia in July 2006.
  • Indians pitchers walked 3.9 batters per nine innings in the first half. In the second half so far, that number is down to 2.2.
  • How about Garko legging out an infield single in the ninth last night? “I never thought I’d say those two things in the same sentence,” Wedge joked.
  • Akron infielder/outfielder Matt McBride is now tied for eighth in all the Minors with 74 RBIs and tied for second in doubles with 32.
  • Because he just said this to me as I happened to be finishing this post, I’ll put it on the record right now that Tribe PR director Bart Swain loves “O Canada,” the Canadian national anthem. I’m more partial to “Oh Sherry” by Journey frontman Steve Perry, but to each his own.


7/22: Indians at Blue Jays

Tonight’s 7:07 p.m. ET game at the Rogers Centre will be cle7.gifbroadcast on WTAM and STO.

INDIANS (37-57): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, C Victor Martinez, DH Travis Hafner, 3B Jhonny Peralta, 1B Ryan Garko, LF Ben Francisco, 2B Luis Valbuena, RF Chris Gimenez. RHP Carl Pavano (8-7, 5.13).



tor2.gifBLUE JAYS (46-48):
SS Marco Scutaro, 2B Aaron Hill, DH Adam Lind, 3B Scott Rolen, 1B Lyle Overbay, CF Vernon Wells, RF Alex Rios, LF David Dellucci, C Raul Chavez. LHP Ricky Romero (7-4, 3.25).

Desperation is a tender trap

The Indians, staying true to company form, are mum on whether or not Cliff Lee is on the block. But if what Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi said today is true, and Roy Halladay is, indeed, “unlikely” to be traded, that would only serve to make Lee all the more valuable to contending clubs.

Several of those clubs, including the Phillies and Dodgers, had scouts at tonight’s game at the Rogers Centre to watch Lee, and they saw the reigning AL Cy Young winner turn in a complete-game gem against the Blue Jays. Lee improved to 6-9 with a 3.17 ERA in a season in which his record is no indication of how well he’s pitched.

The contenders know this, and the Indians have to know their odds of keeping Lee beyond his 2010 option year, in which he’d make $9 million, are slim to none. Trading Lee in advance of that option year, with no top-of-the-rotation starters in the system or on the horizon, would surely be a major blow to any hopes of the Tribe contending next season. But trading Lee with a little less than a year and a half left on his contract would allow the Indians to pull in maximum value for the left-hander.

Teams get desperate for starting help this time of year, and it’s not every day that a club can land a bona fide No. 1 of Lee’s ilk. If Halladay is pulled from the block, as Ricciardi hints, then the desperation to land Lee only rises — and with it rises the temptation for the Tribe to pull the trigger on a trade.