July 2009

It's gone, gone… it's all gone

ESPN announced today that its coverage of Monday’s Home Run Derby will include the use of “Ball Track” — a Doppler radar system that can track the distance the ball travels off the bat and inform the viewer whether or not a fly ball will result in a home run before it lands.

Really?

I know this is an instantaneous society we live in, but have the three or four seconds it’s taking to discover whether a fly ball clears the fence become too time-consuming for us? Have we really become that impatient? The ESPNification of the sporting world never ceases to confound me.

Then again, if this technology keeps us from having to listen to Chris Berman say, “Back back back back… gone,” well, then, I’m all for it.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Rafael Betancourt will likely be activated in advance of Thursday’s game, Eric Wedge said. Betancourt tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings for Triple-A Columbus last night. He needed just 10 pitches to get through the outing.
  • The Indians, as of this writing, have not announced their plans for Sunday’s start. That would be Jeremy Sowers’ day to pitch, but, as previously noted, he might be headed to the bullpen or the Minors because of his inability to get through the opponents’ order a third time. Tomo Ohka is in the bullpen, but he could take Sowers’ spot in the rotation.
  • Fausto Carmona, contrary to my previous speculation, will probably not be back immediately after the All-Star break. Wedge said that scenario is “possible, but not likely.” So, the Indians are not just considering what they should do about Sunday’s start but what they should do about the rotation coming out of the break. They have a four-game set at home against the Mariners to open the second half, followed by an off day, so they can skip the fifth spot in the rotation that first time through. Perhaps they’ll go without Carmona for the Mariners series, then work him back in the second time through.
  • I suppose we’ll know a little more about the Tribe’s plans when Betancourt is activated and we see who gets sent out.
  • Pitching coach Carl Willis said the reports on Carmona weren’t quite as positive after his last outing Sunday for Columbus. Carmona got out of his delivery a few times and didn’t have quite the same sinker that he had displayed with Akron and Lake County. There was a report floating out there about Carmona’s velocity being down, and Willis said that is a function of Carmona taking a little off in an effort to improve his command. “I think the velocity is still in there,” Willis said. “He’s trying to re-establish his delivery, then work the velocity back up.” Carmona will start for Columbus on Friday in Louisville.
  • B.J. Ryan was released by the Jays. Generally speaking, if a team is willing to pay a guy about $15 million to not pitch for them, it tells me a lot about the guy. It will be interesting to see what kind of market there is for Ryan. Any team that signs him gets him for the prorated portion of the Major League minimum, so he’s probably worth a shot, especially if you’re a team with the bullpen issues that the Indians have. But if there is a group of contending teams who make a play for Ryan as a left-handed specialist, one would assume he’d be more inclined to give himself a chance to win.
  • Regarding the questions about Andy Marte and the Indians’ ability to call him up, commenter “amseeley” had it right. Marte would have to be added to the 40-man, with his contract purchased from Columbus. If the Indians ultimately decided they wanted to send Marte back down, he would have to be designated again. And if he cleared waivers, he could only be outrighted to the Minors with his consent.
  • I have gotten no indication that the Indians have any intention of calling Marte up at the moment. And now that Wes Hodges is off the Columbus disabled list, Marte could see his playing time at third threatened. For now, Hodges is mainly playing DH.
  • Another 0-for-4 for Victor Martinez last night. He’s now 4-for-51. Wedge thought Martinez showed improvement in batting practice and his at-bats last night. Martinez was seen postgame studying video and then sitting in his uniform in front of his locker in some sort of meditative trance.
  • The Indians have lost 16 of 21, if you’re keeping track. The standings certainly are.
  • The Tribe’s 5.34 staff ERA is dead last in all of baseball.

~AC

7/8: Indians at White Sox

Tonight’s 8:11 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on STO and WTAM. It’s a rainy day in Chicago, and the tarp is on the field at U.S. Cellular. But it’s too early to tell if this game will get delayed.


cle4.gifINDIANS (33-51):
SS Asdrubal Cabrera, CF Grady Sizemore, C Victor Martinez, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Ryan Garko, 2B Luis Valbuena, LF Ben Francisco. LHP Aaron Laffey (3-1, 3.93).

 

 


cws3.gifWHITE SOX (43-40):
LF Scott Podsednik, SS Alexei Ramirez, RF Jermaine Dye, DH Paul Konerko, 2B Jayson Nix, 3B Gordon Beckham, C Ramon Castro, CF Brian Anderson, 1B Josh Fields. RHP Jose Contreras (3-7, 4.84).

Rafael Perez is gone again

When the Indians officially activate Aaron Laffey off the DL to make Wednesday’s start in Chicago, they’ll option left-hander Rafael Perez back to Triple-A Columbus.

Perez is 1-2 with an 8.88 ERA on the season. He had a 3.95 ERA since his recall from Columbus on May 29. His telltale moment of the season was allowing the game-winning grand slam to Prince Fielder in the Brewers’ comeback win over the Tribe on June 15.

In somewhat-related news, the Indians’ starter for Sunday’s first half finale is TBD. I say this is related because it appears likely that Jeremy Sowers is either headed to the bullpen or Triple-A (bullpen seems more likely). It’s conceivable that Tomo Ohka could take that last start before the break.

Long may you run

One year ago today, the Indians announced the trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers. (Actually, they sent C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers, where he was immediately renamed CC Sabathia.)

It will be years before we can assess the returns on that trade. For now, Matt LaPorta and his .919 OPS at Triple-A Columbus are looking mighty strong.

C_C_-Sabathia-200x200.jpgOutfielder Michael Brantley got off to a slow start in his first exposure to Triple-A this season, but he’s just 22 years old and still developing, and some in the organization think he’ll end up being the best player acquired in the trade.

Low-level reliever Rob Bryson blew out his shoulder shortly after the trade and had rotator cuff surgery. He has yet to appear in a game this season.

And then there was left-hander Zach Jackson, who was billed as a “throw-in” on the day of the trade, and, in spite of his decent stuff, has put up the numbers of one.

LaPorta and Brantley were obviously the keys to the deal, from the Tribe’s perspective, and they both appear to have a high ceiling. On the day of the trade, GM Mark Shapiro said the Indians targeted outfield bats as the center piece of the deal. I remember him saying there was at least one offer on the table that centered on a pitcher.

This got me thinking: Did the Indians seek out the right return for the reigning Cy Young winner? Knowing what we know now about this organization’s outlook (and what we knew then, especially given the injuries to Jake Westbrook and Adam Miller and the injuries and ineffectiveness of Fausto Carmona in the first half of ’08), should the Tribe have been targeting pitching, not outfield bats?

Thinking back to the trade market at the time of the deal, however, it doesn’t appear that target would have had much fruit to bear.

The Phillies were said to be dangling right-hander Carlos Carrasco, and that might have been the offer Shapiro was referring to. But the Indians reportedly didn’t have much interest. Carrasco is currently 5-7 with a 4.70 ERA in 16 starts at Triple-A this season.

It’s believed the Indians talked to the Yankees about Phil Hughes, but the Yankees were not among the final contenders for Sabathia’s services, either because of their hesitancy to deal Hughes or their inability to work out a sign-and-trade in which Sabathia was guaranteed to them beyond 2008.

Other than that, I’m not sure the Indians had any offers or conversations that centered on pitching. Most likely, their focus on outfield depth was as much a function of what was available in the market as it was an address of the organization’s needs.

If the trade were made today, the Indians would be looking for pitching, pitching and more pitching. That’s certainly what it would take to unseat them from their position of keeping Cliff Lee and his $9 million option for 2009.

As for the one-year-later assessment of the CC trade, it would sure be nice to see what LaPorta has to offer at the big-league level, wouldn’t it?

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Rafael Betancourt (strained right groin) will make his third and potentially last Minor League rehab appearance with Columbus tonight against Indianapolis. If all goes well, Betancourt will probably be activated by the end of the week, Eric Wedge said.
  • Fausto Carmona is getting at least one more start with Columbus before he rejoins the big-league rotation. He’s slated to get the ball Friday at Louisville.
  • The Indians will reshuffle their rotation out of the All-Star break, and it’s possible Carmona will be a part of that shuffle. For now, the Tribe has four lefties in the mix in Cliff Lee, Jeremy Sowers, Aaron Laffey (who will be activated in advance of tomorrow’s start against the Sox) and David Huff. With Sowers, Laffey and Huff pitching this series, this is the fifth time this year the Tribe has started at least three lefties in a row but the first time that lefties have started each game of a series. “It’s fine,” Wedge said. “It can be a plus or a minus, depending on who you’re playing. We’re just looking for quality starts.”
  • At the moment, the Tribe is carrying eight relievers. That doesn’t figure to change before the All-Star break. “There’s so much uncertainty with our starters and our bullpen,” Wedge said. “We’re trying to get a feel for guys to get roles established, one way or another.”
  • The Indians made a pair of Minor League acquisitions today. Left-hander Mike Tejera was plucked out of the Mexican League to round out the Double-A Akron rotation. He was 5-1 with a 3.57 ERA in 15 appearances, including 13 starts, for Quintana Roo and Monterrey. The 32-year-old Tejara has 111 Major League appearances under his belt with the Marlins and Rangers.
  • The Tribe also signed infielder Justin Toole as a non-drafted Minors free agent. He finished his three-year collegiate career at Iowa with a .360 average. He’s headed to Mahoning Valley.
  • Shin-Soo Choo is 13-for-13 in stolen-base attempts. He is the only player in the Majors to have at least 10 steals without getting caught once.
  • With Hector Rondon promoted to Triple-A, right-hander Jeanmar Gomez is taking his place on the Southern Team for the Eastern League All-Star Game next week.
  • Andy Marte was named the International League’s batter of the week for the second straight week. He hit .458 with two homers, six RBIs and eight extra-base hits last week. Marte is tied for second in the International League with a .322 average.

~AC

7/7: Indians at White Sox

Tonight’s 8:11 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on STO and WTAM.

UPDATE: My unnatural and mysterious bias against writing Jermaine Dye’s name into the Sox lineup continues. It has been corrected.


cle6.gifINDIANS (33-50):
SS Asdrubal Cabrera, CF Grady Sizemore, C Victor Martinez, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Ryan Garko, 2B Jamey Carroll, LF Ben Francisco. LHP Jeremy Sowers (2-6, 5.68).

 

 


cws.gifWHITE SOX (42-40):
LF Scott Podsednik, SS Alexei Ramirez, RF Jermaine Dye, DH Jim Thome, 1B Paul Konerko, C A.J. Pierzynski, 2B Jayson Nix, 3B Gordon Beckham, CF Brian Anderson. LHP Mark Buehrle (8-2, 3.09).

Martinez is an All-Star

No surprise here. Victor Martinez is the Tribe’s lone representative on the American League All-Star roster.

This will be Martinez’s third trip to the Midsummer Classic. He also made it in 2004 and ’07.

The full rosters are available here.

It's Independence Day for me this time

Indians iTrac vision trainer Jason Stein — known in this and many circles as the “Master of Self-Promotion” — poses what I consider to be an interesting holiday query.

How did Independence Day come to be known more commonly as the Fourth of July, rather than its proper title? And why doesn’t this treatment extend to other holidays? I’ve never been approached by somebody in a ghost costume who said, “Boo! It’s the 31st of October!” And I’ve never seen a guy in a Santa Claus suit say, “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry 25th of December!”

The only other day in the Fourth of July camp is Cinco de Mayo. But that’s just because people love to say “cinco.”

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • The debate will rage as to whether the right decision has been made, but, no matter what your feelings are on Eric Wedge, perhaps you’ll agree that if the Indians are indeed going to stick with him, then Mark Shapiro did the right thing today by definitively addressing his job security for the remainder of the season. Letting this thing fester doesn’t help matters on any front. And if anything, such an announcement should have been made when this speculation began to get out of control two weeks ago. But, obviously, Shapiro needed ownership’s backing.
  • I have to wonder if the announcement was delayed to be made at a point when the Indians were playing better baseball. It certainly would be more difficult to make that announcement with the Tribe in the midst of losing 14 of 17 games.
  • Anyway, contracts aside, it’s obvious that nothing is guaranteed to Wedge or his staff beyond 2009, so this will be an interesting second half. What does Shapiro want to see in the second half? “I want to see some development,” he said. “We have some young players that we need to get back on track to ensure the team is in a position to do what we want to do next year.” Shapiro listed Fausto Carmona, Rafael Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Luis Valbuena, in particular. “There are a lot of young players we need to see develop so that we have a better base for making evaluations going into the offseason,” he said.
  • Regarding trades, Shapiro didn’t reveal anything earth-shattering. He continues to have active conversations and continues to search for young pitching. Nothing appears imminent, but imminent is a relative term when you get into July.
  • Down on the farm, the big move today was right-hander Hector Rondon’s promotion to Triple-A Columbus. Rondon was 7-5 with a 2.75 ERA at Double-A Akron. His ERA was the fifth-best in the Eastern League, and he was tied for fifth in the league with 73 strikeouts in just 72 innings.
  • The Tribe entered today having won six straight against the A’s, dating back to last year.
  • C Carlos Santana has three homers and seven RBIs over his last three games at Double-A Akron.

~AC

You ain't goin' nowhere

Eric Wedge and his coaching staff are sticking around through the season, at least.

General manager Mark Shapiro announced Sunday morning that Wedge and his staff are not in danger of losing their jobs during the 2009 season.

“As I’ve said all along, the responsibility for the disappointments this season doesn’t rest with one person,” Shapiro said. “The responsibility is spread equally throughout the players, the front office, Eric and his staff. And I felt it’s important for the remainder of the second half to remove the potential distraction that exists from that speculation.”

Shapiro said today’s announcement is the result not of a specific meeting with Larry and Paul Dolan but rather the next step in a continuing conversation with ownership about the direction of the club. All parties involved felt it important to remove all clouds of doubt about Wedge’s security and make the most of the second half, from a player development standpoint.

You can read more about this right here.

7/5: Indians vs. A's

Today’s 1:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.

cle.gifINDIANS (33-49): SS Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B Jamey Carroll, DH Grady Sizemore, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, 1B Ryan Garko, CF Ben Francisco, LF Chris Gimenez, C Kelly Shoppach. LHP Cliff Lee (4-7, 3.39).

 

 

oak3.gifATHLETICS (33-45): 3B Adam Kennedy, SS Orlando Cabrera, DH Kurt Suzuki, LF Matt Holliday, RF Jack Cust, 2B Mark Ellis, C Landon Powell, 1B Bobby Crosby, CF Rajai Davis. LHP Gio Gonzalez (0-2, 7.27).

Forcin' a light into all those stoned-out faces left stranded on this Fourth of July

fireworks.jpgHere’s hoping everybody had, or is in the process of having, a wonderful Fourth of July. And to the Canadian readers of CastroTurf, here’s wishing you a wonderful, uh, Saturday.

If you’re navigating this page by operating the mouse with your only remaining hand after a fireworks mishap, I truly appreciate the extra effort.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Aaron Laffey (strained right oblique) was roughed up for seven runs on 10 hits with two walks and three strikeouts in just four innings of work for Triple-A Columbus in his fourth Minor League rehab start Friday. Six of the runs came in the first inning. Laffey said he was throwing nothing but four-seam fastballs that inning in an attempt to get the pitch working for him, so he shrugged off the results. “I was going to throw that four-seamer until I got one in there,” he said. “If I gave up six hits or six runs, so be it. I was being stubborn and throwing it until I got it right.”
  • Eric Wedge said Laffey the reports on Laffey were better than what the line would indicate. But the Indians had not yet decided what the next step with Laffey will be. They have an off day Monday, and the All-Star break is looming. Wednesday’s spot in the rotation is to be determined. The Indians are essentially choosing between Laffey and Tomo Ohka for that spot.
  • Fausto Carmona is moving on up to Triple-A. He’ll start for Columbus tomorrow.
  • Rafael Betancourt (strained right groin) gave up one walk with one strikeout in one inning for Columbus in that 8-2 loss to Toledo on Friday. I’d expect him to get at least one more outing before the Indians activate him.
  • No, your computer does not have some weird virus. That lineup posted below is the exact same as the one from last night’s 15-run outburst. “It wasn’t by choice that we had lineups all over the place [earlier in the year],” Wedge said. “With the performance issues we had, it was by necessity.”
  • On Friday night, Shin-Soo Choo became the first Indians player to notch seven or more RBIs and four or more runs scored in the same game in more than 57 years. The last to do so was Al Rosen on April 29, 1952, when he had the same totals against the Philadelphia A’s.
  • Choo was just the third player since 1945 to record four runs, seven RBIs and a steal in the same game. The others were the Pirates’ Willie Stargell, who did it on May 22, 1968, against the Cubs, and the Red Sox’s Ted Williams, who did it in June 1949 against the St. Louis Browns. That’s good company.
  • Also worth noting that Choo is now 13-for-13 in stolen base attempts. “It’s a combination of him getting comfortable and making good decisions,” Wedge said.
  • The Indians and Rays are the only teams to score 15 or more runs in two different games this season.
  • Travis Hafner leads all active Major Leaguers in career home runs on the Fourth of July, with six. Hall of Famer Duke Snider holds the all-time record, with nine.
  • Tough to see Matt Herges sent packing after he pitched so well for the Tribe for several weeks, but that’s the nature of the bullpen beast. Wedge said Herges’ pitches had begun to catch too much of the plate. “He did a good job for us,” Wedge said, “but with all the transition in our bullpen, we’re bringing some guys in here to give them a look.”
  • Regarding the new guy, Winston Abreu, if you take note of such things, he’s wearing No. 59, not the No. 36 listed in the July 2 press release.
  • The Indians signed left-hander Bobby Livingston to round out the Double-A Akron rotation. Livingston, 26, had spent the ’09 season between Double-A Bowie (6-2, 3.62 ERA in 12 starts) and Triple-A Norfolk (1-0, 1.80 ERA in three starts) in the Orioles’ organization. He appeared in 13 games with the Mariners and Reds from 2006-07, compiling a 3-3 record and 6.31 ERA. He’ll start Sunday at Harrisburg for the Aeros.
  • MLB is honoring the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech at Yankee Stadium by raising awareness about Lou Gehrig’s Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis). Fred Mourey, who is battling ALS and representing the ALS Association, Gary Twardzik, who is representing the ALS Therapy Development Institute and whose best friend Chad Blooming lost his battle with ALS, and Brian Webb, who is reprsenting the Musculat Dystrophy Association and a fellow firefighter from Cleveland Fire/Local 93 who has ALS, were all filmed reading Gehrig’s “luckest man” speech. It was set to air on the scoreboard before the game. 
  • Condolences to Ryo Shinkawa of the media relations department, who was rooting for his compatriot, Takeru Kobayashi, in the Nathan’s 4th of July Hot Dog eating contest, only to see him burned again by Joey Chestnut. The pride of the U.S., Chestnut set a new world record with 68 dogs consumed in 10 minutes, while Kobayashi disappointed millions by consuming a paltry 64 1/2.
  • Finally, I’d like to use the blog to welcome into the world my newborn nephew, Liam, who I somehow doubt is reading this.

~AC

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