If you’re like me, you are eagerly anticipating the big-league promotion of Jose “Can’t Stand Ya” Constanza, who is currently at Double-A Akron.
The day that transaction takes place, we can say “Con-stanza!” in “By Mennen” cadence every time he comes to the plate. When he makes a mistake, we can say, “And you want to be my latex salesman?” And when he’s asked to bounce around between multiple spots in the outfield, we can say, “A Jose, divided against itself, cannot stand!”
But until that day, Constanza remains a prospect to watch. And he’s not the only one, as the Tribe’s farm system has been boosted considerably by last month’s trades.
With that in mind, let’s check in with the new guys, shall we?
RHP Carlos Carrasco (Cliff Lee trade): As mentioned yesterday, Carrasco tossed an eight-inning gem at Indy on Tuesday and is now 3-0 with a 4.29 ERA in three starts since the trade. He’s struck out 21 and walked three in 21 innings.
C Lou Marson (Lee trade): In nine games with Columbus, Marson is batting .333 (11-for-33) with a pair of RBIs, three walks and four strikeouts.
SS Jason Donald (Lee trade): Donald is about two months removed from knee surgery and still struggling at the plate. He’s 6-for-31 with 10 strikeouts and three walks at Triple-A Columbus.
LHP Scott Barnes (Ryan Garko trade): Barnes made his Double-A debut last night and tossed five innings, allowing a pair of runs on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts in a victory over Connecticut. Barnes is now 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in five starts since joining the organization. He made four starts with Class A Kinston.
RHP Connor Graham (Rafael Betancourt trade): Graham is 0-1 with a 4.38 ERA in three appearances, including two starts, at Akron. He’s struck out 14 and walked 11 in 12 1/3 innings.
RHP Bryan Price (Victor Martinez trade): Has made two starts at Class A Kinston, going 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA. He’s struck out nine and walked three in 12 innings.
LHP Nick Hagadone (Martinez trade): Made his second appearance for Class A Lake County last night, allowing a pair of runs on one hit with two walks and three strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. He’s still limited from a pitch count standpoint because he’s about 14 months removed from Tommy John surgery.
RHP Jason Knapp (Lee trade): Made his organizational debut Tuesday at Lake County, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit with two walks and two strikeouts over two innings. He missed about a month of action with arm fatigue.
And on the opposite end of the spectrum, what have the former members of the Tribe been up to?
Mark DeRosa, Cardinals: Is batting just .216 in 27 games with the Cards. Eight of his 21 hits have been homers, and he’s struck out 27 times.
Rafael Betancourt, Rockies: Has logged eight scoreless appearances covering 6 1/3 innings since the trade. He’s allowed just two hits and two walks.
Ryan Garko, Giants: Has tailed off at the plate, batting .225 (9-for-40) with a triple and three RBIs in 13 games.
Cliff Lee, Phillies: He gets the starting nod this afternoon at Wrigley Field. It will be his first start in seven days because of an off day and Pedro Martinez joining the Phillies’ rotation. Lee is 2-0 with a 1.12 ERA since the trade, striking out 15 and walking three in 16 innings.
Ben Francisco, Phillies: Has played nine games with his new club, batting .261 (6-for-23) with a pair of homers and four RBIs.
Victor Martinez, Red Sox: Had the five-hit, four-RBIs outburst against the Orioles on Aug. 2. On the whole, he’s 12-for-46 with two homers and eight RBIs.
Carl Pavano, Twins: Drove from Cleveland to Detroit to start for the Twins on Saturday and tossed a gem. Gave up no runs on five hits over seven innings to get the win over the Tigers, then drove back to Cleveland to pack up his belongings and move to Minnesota. He’s pitching today against the Royals.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- The Indians made another trade today, but this one shouldn’t require explanations to the fanbase from ownership and the front office. Infielder Andy Cannizaro, who was on the disabled list at Columbus, was sent to the White Sox for cash. He joins the Charlotte roster.
- Asdrubal Cabrera’s .310 average, entering today, ranks 12th in the AL. He’s batting .344 with eight doubles, two triples, three homers and 10 RBIs over his last 20 games. Today marked his second start in the No. 3 spot of the order.
- Omar Vizquel has been impressed with what he’s seen from Cabrera this series. “Somebody with the kind of talent he has and who is from my country and wearing my number makes me proud,” Vizquel said.
- Cabrera and Luis Valbuena seem to get more comfortable playing alongside each other by the day. “They really fit well together,” Eric Wedge said. “And they’re two of the most vocal guys we have here. They’re not afraid to speak up. I like that.”
- Short-season Mahoning Valley has the best record (34-19) in the New York-Penn League and has placed five players on the league’s All-Star team. Three are Draft picks from this year (infielder Kyle Smith, outfielder Jordan Henry and right-hander Corey Burns), while two are Draft picks from ’08 (right-handers Marty Popham and Clayton Cook). Travis Fryman will manage the NYPL AL squad.
- Keep your eye on Class A Kinston OF Tim Fedroff, a seventh-round selection in last year’s Draft. Fedroff is riding a 12-game hitting streak and is batting .379 with seven doubles, a homer and 11 RBIs since July 3.
- The new Indians.com toolbar might be of interest to you.
- Same drill this weekend as last weekend, as the blog will be in shutdown mode. On the Indians.com site on Monday, Matt O’Donnell will have a profile of Justin Masterson that allows us to get to know the Indians’ newest starter, and I’ll have another edition of the Inbox.
Today’s 12:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (49-64): CF Grady Sizemore, 3B Jamey Carroll, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Jhonny Peralta, 2B Luis Valbuena, C Kelly Shoppach, LF Trevor Crowe, 1B Chris Gimenez. LHP Jeremy Sowers (4-7, 4.75).
RANGERS (63-49): 2B Esteban German, 3B Michael Young, CF Marlon Byrd, DH Andruw Jones, RF Josh Hamilton, 1B Hank Blalock, LF David Murphy, C Taylor Teagarden, SS Elvis Andrus. RHP Scott Feldman (11-4, 4.01).
The day it becomes possible to write for an Internet site without using a computer, sign me up. I’m sure to most the days of telegraph or Pony Express are not at all missed in this age of typing, texting and tweeting. But my lack of luck with computers has skewed all rational opinion on this front.
Yes, in an annual tradition, my company-issued laptop has decided to giga-byte the dust. This happens every year, and it often happens on deadline.
Baseball, though, is a game of adjustments, as is baseball writing. So I’ve adjusted well enough to provide you, better late than never, tonight’s news and notes. And if you’re scoring at home, credit Dan Mendlik of the Indians’ information systems department with the save, as he provided me with the loaner laptop on which I’m typing this entry. Thanks, Dan.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- I think we can safely call the Josh Barfield era, in the wake of his removal from the 40-man yesterday, a rousing disappointment. Barfield was a hyped acquisition in the winter of ’06. But when he was the Tribe’s everyday second baseman in 2007, he started poorly at the plate, and his troubles were exacerbated by Eric Wedge’s penchant for pulling him out of clutch situations. By mid-August, he had lost his job to Asdrubal Cabrera, and he never got on track. For some strange reason, the Indians spent all winter hyping Barfield as a utilityman in the making, and myself and the other scribes on this beat wasted thousands of precious words about his Spring Training progress in adapting to the outfield and third base. All this, just to see Barfield demoted to Triple-A a week into the season. And in a part-time role down there (with a couple big-league callus mixed in, for good measure), his numbers have been atrocious. Barfield has a .252 on-base percentage. He’s walked five times in 205 at-bats.
- Here’s what Wedge had to say about Barfield: “He’s a good kid and a hard worker, but he just struggled to put it all together. There’s always a period of time with a player, then you’ve got to move forward. He’s still young. Hopefully he figures it out and good things happen for him.”
- The Tribe took its team photo pregame today. It’s just too bad there wasn’t time to take one before each game this season. You could organize the photos in order from Opening Day on and make a flip book.
- If you had to plot out the Tribe’s 2010 rotation right now, the only guys guaranteed a spot would be a healthy Jake Westbrook, Fausto Carmona and Justin Masterson. But Aaron Laffey is looking more and more like a favorite for the fourth spot, as he’s 5-2 with a 3.17 ERA in 10 starts this season and 3-1 with a 1.40 ERA in his last four starts. His season ERA of 3.25 would rank eighth in the AL, if he weren’t 40 innings short of qualifying.
- Don’t throw out your Jose Veras jersey just yet. He accepted his assignment to Triple-A Columbus after clearing waivers.
- Speaking of 2010 rotation candidates, how about the start turned in by right-hander Carlos Carrasco last night for Columbus? Carrasco went eight innings in the Clippers’ 4-2 win at Indianapolis, allowing a run on four hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts. He’s now 3-0 with a 4.29 ERA since coming over in the Cilff Lee trade. You’re likely to see him in September.
- Speaking of acquisitions in the Lee trade, right-hander Jason Knapp made his organizational debut at Class A Lake County last night. After missing about a month with arm fatigue, Knapp was limited to two innings in which he gave up two runs (one earned) on one hit with two walks and two strikeouts. The Indians are impressed with the 18-year-old Knapp’s maturity.
- While we’re on the subject of the Minors, Baseball America released its 2009 Midseason Best Tools lists, and the Indians are well-represented. According to BA, Triple-A outfielder Michael Brantley has the best strike zone judgment (43 strikeouts in 477 plate appearances) in the International League, Jess Todd was the best reliever and Torey Lovullo was the best manager prospect.
- At the Double-A level, BA says Carlos Santana has the best strike zone judgment (68 strikeouts in 432 plate appearances ) in the Eastern League, Jose “Can’t Stand Ya” Costanza is the fastest baserunner, Vinnie Pestano is the best reliever and Mike Sarbaugh is the best manager prospect.
- And finally, in the Class A Carolina League, BA says Lonnie Chisenhall, freshly promoted to Akron, was the best batting prospect, Cord Phelps had the best strike zone judgment and Phelps was the best defensive second baseman, while, in the South Atlantic League, Knapp has the best fastball.
- Speaking of “bests,” Huntington Park has been named Ballpark of the Year by baseballparks.com. The parks in the running for this honor were all those in professional baseball that were either newly built or essentially rebuilt this year. So Huntington Park beat out the likes of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
- I sat here in the press box without a laptop for about an hour. I felt naked. Then Matt Whewell of the Indians media relations department struck up a conversation with me. I learned that Matt has lived in 15 cities in his young life, including stops in Greece and England. And he has a Hungarian girlfriend. This conversation might not have happened, had I been distracted by the computer. So consider this a modest victory over modern technology.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (49-63): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 2B Luis Valbuena, LF Trevor Crowe, C Wyatt Toregas, 1B Andy Marte. RHP Fausto Carmona (2-6, 6.66).
RANGERS (62-49): LF Julio Borbon, 3B Michael Young, DH David Murphy, CF Marlon Byrd, RF Josh Hamilton, 1B Hank Blalock, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 2B Omar Vizquel, SS Elvis Andrus. RHP Tommy Hunter (4-2, 2.62).
The Indians claimed left-hander R.J. Swindle off waivers from the Rays today and optioned him to Triple-A Columbus, bringing the 40-man roster total to 34.
The 26-year-old Swindle wasn’t with the Rays long. He was plucked off waivers by Tampa Bay from the Brewers on Aug. 7, only to be designated for assignment the following day. While in the Brewers’ organization this season, Swindle split his time between Triple-A Nashville and the big-league club. He went 3-1 with two saves and a 1.03 ERA in 31 relief appearances for Nashville, walking 13 and striking out 41 in 43 2/3 innings. In six appearances with the Brewers, he gave up 12 runs on 12 hits in 6 2/3 innings of work for a 16.20 ERA.
Before I write another word today, I must first pay tribute to my friend Hal McCoy.
Frankly, I’m honored to call McCoy a friend. He is, as many of you know, the Hall of Fame beat writer covering the Cincinnati Reds for the Dayton Daily News. But not for much longer.
The 68-year-old McCoy is the latest victim of a recession that has hit newspapers particularly hard. That McCoy is retiring from the business at season’s end after 37 years on the beat is significant, in and of itself. That the Dayton Daily News, a paper with a vaunted tradition of churning out Hall of Fame writers, will no longer cover the nearby Reds next season is another sad commentary on the state of journalistic affairs.
But the point of this post isn’t to bemoan a dying business or speculate about the future of sportswriting, as it pertains to Major League Baseball. It’s to use this modest forum to voice public appreciation for a man who deserves every accolade being thrown his way in the wake of his announcement last week that he’s leaving the beat.
When I took over the Reds beat for MLB.com in 2005, the thought of working alongside McCoy was intimidating. I wasn’t sure how he’d treat the 23-year-old punk who was new to the scene. Most guys in Hal’s position wouldn’t have given me the time of day.
But Hal, in many ways, took me under his wing. He introduced me to players. He shared insight. He pointed me to the best Italian restaurants in the league (and even picked up the tab at a few of them). And when I left that beat after one season to take over this one, he sent me an e-mail in which he called me a “real pro.” It was about as high a compliment as I could have possibly received.
Somehow, I get the feeling this isn’t the bottom of the ninth inning of Hal’s career. I’m sure some other opportunities will present themselves, and I hope I’m right. But whatever his future holds, my personal past in this profession was better for having Hal in it.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Sorry to hear the news on Jake Westbrook getting shut down, as I know how much it would have meant to him to make it back this season. It’s too soon to tell what this means for Westbrook and the rotation in 2010. The Indians had hoped a healthy Westbrook would front the rotation. That might still happen. But the recovery time from Tommy John surgery is billed as 12-18 months, and Westbrook, who will soon turn 32, will fall on the latter end of that timetable.
- With Westbrook out of the picture, the Indians will have more room to get a feel for the younger arms in the system. Carlos Carrasco and Hector Rondon are both in line for exposure to this level in September, with Carrasco further along and more likely to get a start.
- Brad Grant, the Indians’ director of amateur scouting, said the Indians continue to have consistent dialogue with Alex White, the No. 15 overall pick in the Draft. The club is still optimistic that it will sign White before Monday’s midnight deadline. But 19 players from the first round remain unsigned, and everybody is waiting for the dominoes to start falling in earnest.
- In case you missed it, here’s the link to my video interview with Mark Shapiro about the recent trades and the current state of affairs. Not sure when I’ll receive my local Emmy. The people in charge of such things have not yet responded to my phone calls and e-mails.
- LHP Scott Lewis, who has been told to pitch through elbow soreness, pitched four innings and threw 50 pitches in Goodyear, Ariz., on Sunday. He’ll make his next start in four days.
- RHP Anthony Reyes, about 10 weeks removed from Tommy John surgery, has regained motion in his arm and is in Cleveland rehabbing. He won’t be ready to return to action until midseason 2010, at the earliest.
- Eric Wedge said he views lefty Tony Sipp and right-hander Joe Smith as his setup men, and he feels they complement each other well. Chris Perez is also slipping into more of a setup role. As for Jensen Lewis and Rafael Perez, Wedge said the Indians are just trying to “pick their spots” with when to use those guys to try to eke out some semblance of consistent effectiveness from them before season’s end.
- Wedge said Chris Gimenez could become an everyday player at this level if his bat comes. But if in case it wasn’t already apparent, Wedge said Gimenez’s best chance of sticking up here initially is as a versatile utilityman.
- Always good to see Omar Vizquel, and he had these dates circled on his calendar when he signed with the Rangers. Nice of Ron Washington to give him the start in the leadoff spot tonight.
- The Indians haven’t signed White, but they did sign 32nd-round selection Matt Packer, a left-hander from the University of Virginia. The Tribe has now signed 27 of its 50 picks.
- LHP Scott Barnes, acquired in the Ryan Garko trade with the Giants, has been promoted to Double-A Akron, where he’ll make his debut Wednesday at Connecticut. Barnes was 0-0 with a 2.13 ERA in three starts for Class A Kinston.
- In other acquisition news, right-hander Jason Knapp, considered by some to be the most high-upside pickup in the Cliff Lee trade, will make his organizational debut tonight for Class A Lake County. Knapp had been shut down about a month with right biceps tenderness.
- You’ve probably seen this note by now, but it bears repeating. In the wake of the Carl Pavano trade, the Indians are down to just four players who have been here all year without any trips to the DL or the Minors. They are Jhonny Peralta, Shin-Soo Choo, Kerry Wood and Kelly Shoppach.
- The Indians have won five of their last six series and 12 of 18 games overall. During that stretch, their offense is averaging 6.17 runs per game and the pitching staff has a 3.93 ERA. It’s all coming together… and only two months too late.
UPDATE: Just got word that the Indians have outrighted Josh Barfield off the 40-man and onto the Columbus roster. It’s a housecleaning move, and Barfield cleared waivers to make it happen. Quite a fall from grace for the guy once viewed as the long-term answer at 2B.
In other roster news, the recently designated Jose Veras cleared waivers and was outrighted to Columbus. He had not yet decided whether or not to accept the assignment.
The 40-man is now at 33 players.
Jake Westbrook’s visit with Dr. Lewis Yocum in Los Angeles resulted in some good news and bad news.
The good news is Westbrook has no structural damage in his surgically repaired right elbow.
The bad news is that Westbrook is still experiencing soreness as a result of scar tissue in the elbow and will be shut down for the next six weeks, according to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff.
That pretty much kills any chance of Westbrook pitching for the Tribe this season. As for next year, the Indians are in the process of determining whether or not Westbrook will pitch winter ball to build up his arm strength for Spring Training 2010.
More info on Indians.com in a little bit.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (48-63): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 2B Luis Valbuena, C Kelly Shoppach, LF Trevor Crowe, 1B Andy Marte. LHP Aaron Laffey (5-3, 3.58).
RANGERS (62-48): 2B Omar Vizquel, 3B Michael Young, CF Marlon Byrd, DH Andruw Jones, RF Josh Hamilton, 1B Hank Blalock, LF David Murphy, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Elvis Andrus. RHP Dustin Nippert (3-0, 2.73).
The Indians narrowly missed the postseason in 2005.
They went into 2006 with high expectations but finished a six games below .500.
They won the AL Central and finished one win shy of a World Series berth in 2007.
And they finished at .500 in a disappointing 2008.
That four-year period I just described to you has come up in conversation in two interviews I’ve been a part of the last two days. One was an exclusive video interview with general manager Mark Shapiro, and the other was a group session president Paul Dolan conducted with the beat reporters this morning. Here’s the story on that.
And this is the gist, which some fans will no doubt have a hard time swallowing: The Indians’ ownership and front office are viewing that four-year period as a success in this market. It was a four-year period with one playoff appearance, no World Series titles and two subpar seasons, and it’s considered a success.
The Indians, now more than ever, seem resigned to the realities of baseball’s unbalanced arrangement in which the big-market clubs operate without a salary cap, the amateur Draft is held without anything firmer than a recommended slotting system and the international free agent market has no limits on spending.
We’ve discussed last week’s trades ad nauseam, and we’ve discussed the financial outlook for the Indians’ organization, but it bears repeating that perhaps the most significant end result of last month’s activity is the acknowledgement of this Tribe team, existing in a market with a shrinking population and rising unemployment, that it can only compete with the big boys in short spurts.
“What’s happened here in the general economy over the last 10 years,” Dolan said, “is we’ve been in recession of some form or another since early 2000, really since we bought the team. Jobs have been lost. Populations have declined. And there is more competition in the marketplace than there was in the ’90s. That’s our reality, and we understand it.”
Fans need to understand it, too. Those calling for the Dolans to sell the team need to understand that roughly half (Dolan estimated it as a little less than half) of this club’s revenue is generated by ticket sales, and sales have been slow the past two years, even in the wake of (and during) that ’07 run. (They also need to understand that no one’s exactly lining up to buy this team in its current state.) Revenue sharing and the profit generated by STO are supplemental sources of income for the organization, but ticket sales provide the largest portion of the revenue stream.
The Dolans are prepared to lose $16 million this season, and they’ll lose more money next year, especially as attendance dwindles further in the wake of the Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez trades. But the club made the moves it did because the outlook beyond 2010, when Lee and Martinez would have likely left in free agency with no immediate returns coming back, because it wanted to shore up the seasons beyond 2010 and not have a drastic drop off the cliff (no pun intended).
This is the message Shapiro and Dolan are trying to spread in the wake of the trades, and you can read it all (and, in the case of the Shapiro interview, view it all) on Indians.com. In the Shapiro interview, I took some of your questions from this blog and my Inbox directly to Mark. Several topics are covered in that content, including Eric Wedge’s future, Matt LaPorta’s status, the big-league catching picture and how it will shake out over the course of the next year and more, so be sure to check it out Friday morning.
And that’s not all that’s going on with the Tribe, of course…
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…
- Eric Wedge will not be in attendance for Friday’s game in Chicago, as he will attend the funeral of his mother-in-law, Carol Kulniszewski, who passed away earlier this week in Lancaster, N.Y. Bench coach Jeff Datz will serve as manager in Wedge’s absence. Wedge will rejoin the team Saturday.
- Both Mike Gosling and Winston Abreu cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Columbus. Gosling accepted the assignment, while Abreu opted to become a free agent. He was signed by the Rays, the very team who traded him for John Meloan last month.
- Regarding that big market vs. small market stuff addressed above, Sports Illustrated’s Joe Posnanski had a column you should check out.
- Trevor Crowe, who had the game-winning RBI double today, is now 9-for-24 since his latest recall from Triple-A Columbus. “He’s much more under control with his body at home plate, which allows his hands to free up a clearer path to the baseball,” Wedge said. “Since his return, he’s been in the middle of a lot, in regard to us winning games. Not just at home plate but in left field, too.”
- With his appearance Wednesday night, Jess Todd became the 28th pitcher used by the Indians this season, placing them just four shy of the American League and club record set in 2000. Todd is the 48th player used overall. The club record is 59 in 2002. The Indians have used more pitchers than any other team this season. They’ve used the second-most players overall, ranking behind the Padres’ 49.
- Asdrubal Cabrera is batting .343 with eight doubles, two triples, three homers, nine RBIs and 14 runs scored over hias last 15 games. He’s had multi-hit efforts in five of his last six games.
- Only five members of the Opening Day roster have remained with the Tribe all season.
- Aaron Laffey is now 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA since his July 8 return from the DL. As a starter this season, he is 4-2 with a 3.57 ERA in nine starts.
- Laffey pitched well Wednesday night, and so did right-hander Paolo Espino at Class A Kinston. Espino took a no-hitter into the eigth inning of a 2-1 victory over Lynchburg. He gave up one run over 7 1/3 innings, striking out six.
- Our old friend Paul Byrd came out of semi-retirement to sign a Minor League deal with the Red Sox. He does realize that it was Victor Martinez and not his old personal catcher Kelly Shoppach who was traded to Boston, right?
- I won’t be with the club in Chicago this weekend, but we’ll have a new edition of the Indians Inbox up on the site Monday.
Today’s 12:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (45-62): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Chris Gimenez, 2B Luis Valbuena, LF Trevor Crowe, C Wyatt Toregas. RHP Fausto Carmona (2-6, 7.13).
TWINS (53-54): CF Denard Span, SS Orlando Cabrera, DH Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau, LF Jason Kubel, RF Michael Cuddyer, 3B Joe Crede, C MIke Redmond, 2B Alexi Casilla. RHP Nick Blackburn (8-5, 3.83).