August 2009

Todd called up, Veras designated

Following tonight’s game, the Indians informed right-hander Jose Veras he has been designated for assignment to make room for right-hander Jess Todd, who will be promoted from Triple-A Columbus tomorrow.

Todd was the player to be named in the Mark DeRosa trade with the Cardinals. He made three appearances for Columbus since his acquisition on July 26, tossing four shutout innings and allowing just one hit with seven strikeouts.

In 44 appearances this season between Memphis and Columbus, Todd is a combined 4-2 with a 2.04 ERA. He has 66 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 53 innings. This will be Todd’s second stint in the Major Leagues this season. He made one appearance with the Cards earlier this year.

Veras was acquired June 24 in a cash deal with the Yankees, who had also designated him for assignment. Veras made 12 appearances with the Tribe, compiling a 7.62 ERA. In his final appearance Saturday, he balked home what turned out to be the winning run in the Tribe’s extra-innings loss to the Tigers.

"We take out our drivers, we tee up and that ball goes sailing up into the sky, holds there for a moment and then… gulp!"

I might have to make this quick, as I’m trying to line up a search and rescue team to recover the half a dozen balls I lost during yesterday’s Cleveland Indians Charities Golf Outing.

The event itself was more successful than my particular group of duffers. More than $200,000 was raised for CIC.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • It appears Justin Masterson’s transition from the bullpen to the rotation will be a quick one. Eric Wedge said Masterson could join the rotation as early as the next run through, which would be next week. Masterson threw 46 pitches in his debut Saturday, and he threw on the side today. Wedge hopes to get Masterson three innings out of the bullpen in his next appearance. If not, Masterson will throw on the side after the appearance to make sure he reaches the adequate pitch count.
  • Masterson said he’s not worried about the toll this transition could take on his arm, because he started six games early this year and has, in his own opinion, a “rubber arm.” But he said he’ll have to be careful to communicate how he’s feeling at all times.
  • The Indians like the adjustments they’ve seen from Trevor Crowe since his latest callup. “He’s more under control,” Wedge said. “He’s doing a better job with his balance and overall approach. He’s always had a lot of ability and athleticism. He really went down there and got better.”
  • Press box assistant John Krepop points out the oddity in tonight’s lineups. In Orlando Cabrera and Asdrubal Cabrera, we have two players with the same last name, playing the same position and batting in the same spot in the lineup.
  • Jake Westbrook starts for Double-A Akron tonight against Connecticute. He’s scheduled to go three innings or 50 pitches and will be followed by the newly acquired Connor Graham.
  • Left-hander Scott Barnes, acquired in last week’s trade sending Ryan Garko to the Giants, made his second start for Class A Kinston last night and held Lynchburg and worked 4 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing four hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
  • The two Minor League pitchers acquired in the Victor Martinez trade will make their organizational debuts this week. Right-hander Bryan Price will make tonight’s start against Lynchburg for Kinston, and left-hander Nick Hagadone will start Thursday against Hagerstown for Class A Lake County.
  • Not sure what this was all about, but Kelly Shoppach flung his bat into the empty seats during batting practice today. Never seen that before.
  • Tribe starters are 7-5 with a 3.77 ERA in the second half, lowering their season ERA from 5.56 to 5.24. Tribe pitchers are now walking 2.85 batters per nine innings in the second half after walking 3.9 per nine in the first half.
  • Double-A left-hander Ryan Edell was named the Eastern league pitcher of the week after extending his scoreless streak to 13 innings on Sunday. Edell is 4-1 with a 2.32 ERA in 17 games, including 16 starts, this season.
  • Two RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) teams from Cleveland have advanced to the RBI World Series, which will be held in Jupiter, Fla., from Aug. 4-14. The junior boys team and girls softball team advanced, while the senior boys team lost in the regionals. The RBI program is run by the Cleveland Baseball Federation and supported by Cleveland Indians Charities.
  • The Moyer Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Phillies pitcher Jamie Moyer, will team of the Cornerstone of Hope Bereavement Center to open Camp Erin Cleveland, a special camp for children and teens ages 6-17 who have lost someone close to them. The camp will be held at Camp Y-Noah in Akron on Aug. 14-16. Local advocates for the camp will include Grady Sizemore and Kerry Wood. For more information, visit the Moyer Foundation’s Web site.

~AC

8/4: Indians vs. Twins

Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WTAM and STO.


cle.gifINDIANS (44-61):
CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, C Chris Gimenez, 2B Luis Valbuena, 1B Andy Marte, LF Trevor Crowe. LHP David Huff (5-5, 6.39).

 

 


min.gifTWINS (52-53):
RF Denard Span, SS Orlando Cabrera, C Joe Mauer, 1B Justin Morneau, DH Jason Kubel, 3B Joe Crede, LF Delmon Young, CF Carlos Gomez, 2B Nick Punto. RHP Scott Baker (8-7, 4.86).

Sooner or later, it all comes down to money

The Indians’ $81.6 million payroll on Opening Day was the 14th-highest in all of baseball.

No, that’s not a Yankee-like ranking, or anything close to it, but it was a reasonable investment on the part of ownership in a team that the front office sold as a contender.

money.jpgProjected attendance for this season was around 2.2 million. And even if the Indians had met those projections, the Dolan family knew it had the potential to lose money, unless the team reached the postseason and generated additional attendance and revenue.

Well, you know what happened next. The Indians had their worst first half since 1991. What’s more, hardly anyone came to witness it. Attendance has declined about 18 percent from last year — and last year was hardly anything to get excited about, either. The Indians now hope to draw 1.8 million, when all is said and done, but don’t bet on it.

Now that the Indians have drastically slashed payroll for 2010, some fans are in an uproar. But as Joel Hammond of Crain’s Cleveland Business explains in a pretty rational take, in what other business are owners expected to spend freely, even as their customers and revenue sources stop supporting them?

This is a vicious cycle, and it’s going to be difficult for the Indians to overcome it in this market and in a sport without a salary cap.

A friend of mine recently wrote in, saying, “One reality is that this town can reasonably support about two and a half teams, not three. For whatever social reasons, the Browns are No. 1 and apparently always will be. The Cavs, because they have LeBron and are a contender, are No. 2. That leaves the ever-shrinking population with ever-shrinking disposable income to spend money on the Indians.”

Hard to argue that. This is a fair-weather baseball town (loyal readers of this blog are, of course, exempted from that statement, because, let’s face it, if you’re reading this at this point of the season, you’re no fair-weather follower of the Tribe).

Fans pack Progressive Field (yes, the naming rights were sold, because, in a market like this, you must chase every source of revenue available to you) when the team contends. But even if this club put together a sustained run of contention right now, the sellout streak of the 1990s will never come close to being matched. Ever. It’s a different economy and a different professional sports climate in this city.

The Dolans have given Mark Shapiro and his staff limited financial resources to work with in the pricey free-agent market (which, again, is made all the more challenging by the lack of a salary cap), and that has led to Shapiro and company getting involved with the David Delluccis and Carl Pavanos of the world, rather than the big names that make fans salivate.

That’s what the most vocal of fans tend to focus on when discussing (or simply ranting about) the Dolans. They pay no mind to the fact that ownership has invested heavily into the Minor League system, the Spring Training complex that the front office deemed pivotal to success and, above all else, the “championship core” recommended by their baseball people. In the first half of the 2007 season alone, the Dolans, upon recommendation from the front office, committed more than $100 million to Jake Westbrook and Travis Hafner. Over the winter, again upon recommendation from the front office, they committed more than $30 million to Kerry Wood (counting his 2011 option, which now doesn’t look likely to vest anytime soon). Even Masa Kobayashi somehow got his hands on $6 million.

So it’s not as if the Dolans didn’t spend. It’s that the money they’ve committed to payroll has too often either not been spent wisely or has gone to players who ended up injured or ineffective.

Now, the payroll is getting scaled back, drastically. Call it a rebuild. Call it a reload (that’s the term Shapiro is using). Call it whatever you want. But it’s definitely a step back. The players brought in via trade and the core that is now made up of the likes of Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera will determine how far back a step that is. Crazy things happen in baseball, and a run at contention in 2010 is not out of the question. Again, though, don’t bet on it.

What you can bet on is this vicious cycle continuing. Unless the Indians field a contender (or are somehow able to schedule 81 Friday fireworks nights each season), the crowds will be small. Unless the fans show up, the Indians will never possess anything more than a middle-of-the-pack payroll, at best.

That’s why last week’s purge took place. With its financial hands tied, the front office sold off some of its most valuable assets in exchange for some younger, more affordable commodities that may or may not pan out in the seasons to come.

Meanwhile, in Berea yesterday, Cleveland’s NFL entry began training camp in preparation for a 6-10 season in which the fans will come out in droves.

That’s life in Browns Town.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • CC Sabathia on the Tribe’s recent moves: “I think it’s sad. It’s just one of those things. We all came up together, and it’s kind of like our era of that team is gone. It’s just crazy.”
  • Tigers manager Jim Leyland on the current Tribe: “I think the Indians are going to be a nightmare for a lot of teams in the second half of the season. I think they’re going to be a nightmare for people because they’re going to be looking at arms like [Justin] Masterson, and I think they’re going to get some hungry guys that are going to get a chance to play that are going to want to make a good impression. They’re going to be busting their tail. I think they have a chance to be a nightmare for people in the second half.”
  • Jhonny Peralta has 15 RBIs over his last seven games and is first in the AL in second-half RBIs, with 17. He’s batting .400 (18-for-47) with nine runs scored, three homers and 17 RBIs over his last 10 games.
  • Obviously, Peralta has been a target of Eric Wedge’s criticism quite a bit in the past, including earlier this season. Peralta was asked what he thinks about playing for Wedge. “I don’t try to say nothing wrong about him,” Peralta said. “He manages how he manages, and I play how I play. Maybe we’re different. More than anything, he wants to help. When he sees I don’t do good, he gets frustrated with me. But there’s nothing bad I can say about him.”
  • I’ve got a Juan Lara update for you. About 21 months removed from a life-threatening car accident, he’s made nine appearances thus far for the Indians’ rookie-level team in Arizona, posting a 4.50 ERA in 12 innings. He’s struck out 17 and walked a pair. “He ebbs and flows with his ability to maintain that velocity,” farm director Ross Atkins said. “He’s coming back from a very intense transition, and his body is not completely his yet. But he’s really been competitive. He’s still a longshot [to one day return to the big leagues], but he’s legitimately making us believe there is a chance.”
  • Keep in mind that Lara is playing alongside a bunch of 18 year olds who really have no idea who he is. But in his first appearance, he received a standing ovation from both the Indians’ team and the opposition.
  • Today is Grady Sizemore’s 27th birthday. Even when you take into account his injury affected 2009 season, what Sizemore has done by the age of 27 is impressive. He’s a three-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove winner, one-time Silver Slugger winner who has averaged an .849 OPS, 39 doubles, eight triples, 27 homers, 85 RBIs and 27 stolen bases per season.
  • I loved this quote from Wyatt Toregas about his first Major League hit last night: “My legs were shaking, and I couldn’t even feel myself at the plate. Somehow, I got a hit. I don’t know how I did it.”
  • Get used to those “first Major League experience” quotes. We’ll have plenty of them the next couple years.
  • Cliff Lee is gone, but right-handed reliever Chen Chang Lee has been pitching well lately at Class A Kinston. Lee hasn’t allowed a run over his last five outings, covering 10 2/3 innings of work. He’s allowed five hits with two walks and 11 strikeouts in that span. Lee is 3-4-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 34 games this season. He was signed out of Taiwan last year.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, Zach Jackson somehow gave up 10 runs in 1 1/3 innings in Columbus’ 15-4 loss to Gwinnett last night.
  • Follow the Twitter version of CastroTurf here.
  • Finally, remember the “Kick It” campaign I told you about earlier this season? Well, it begins in earnest today, as the first of five charity kickball games benefitting pediatric, adolescent and young adult cancer research will take place at Progressive Field following the game against the Tigers. Kids can register their kickball teams at Indians.com and kick-it.org to hold games in their communities to raise money from July until September. And select teams will be chosen to play games here at the ballpark following the remaining Sunday home games. This endeavor will continue next season, as well.

~AC

8/2: Indians vs. Tigers

Today’s 1:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WTAM and WKYC Channel 3.

cle3.gifINDIANS (43-61): CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 2B Luis Valbuena, 1B Andy Marte, LF Trevor Crowe, C Kelly Shoppach. RHP Carl Pavano (8-8, 5.66).

 

 

det3.gifTIGERS (54-48): CF Curtis Granderson, 2B Ramon Santiago, RF Clete Thomas, 1B Miguel Cabrera, DH Carlos Guillen, LF Ryan Raburn, 3B Brandon Inge, C Gerald Laird, SS Adam Everett. RHP Armando Galarraga (5-9, 4.84).

 

Rolling off your tongue like dirt

It’s Aug. 1, and not a moment too soon.

The Trade Deadline season has long brought about its share of bogus rumors. That is, for better or worse, part of the game and part of the fun for fans of contending teams who are salivating for some information.

rumor.gifBut the age of instantaneous news and so-called “analysis” has made the trading season a ridiculous spectacle of flimsy reporting and irresponsible journalism — and that’s making the bold assumption that everyone involved in the rumor mill is, in fact, a journalist. Sadly, that’s not the case.

It can be frustrating to be an active participant in this circus. I’ve voiced these frustrations on this blog before, and pardon me for doing so again, but consider it a pet peeve.

In the past week alone, we saw a noted national insider post a major trade rumor regarding the Indians, only to refute his own report an hour or so later. Had he not jumped the gun to report this information (which other reporters then had to scramble to confirm) and get a precious scoop (these scoops, for the record, last all of about 15 seconds), he wouldn’t have had to backtrack in the first place.

And even more frustrating was the trouble we saw with the Twitter fad, as some individual with too much time on his or her hands created a fake account and pretended to be a Boston radio station reporter, simply to spread erroneous information about Cliff Lee going to the Red Sox. An Internet community hungry for trade updates bought it hook, line and sinker.

The lesson, as always, is don’t believe everything you read, and try not to get too emotionally invested in anything you read in July. But if things are this bad now, I’d hate to see it, say, 10 years from now.

Anyway, the good news is that I can vouch for the accuracy of everything below, so, by all means, proceed without hesitation.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • No way he’s reading this, but congrats to Sandy Alomar Jr. on his induction into the Indians Hall of Fame tonight. He enters with Wes Ferrell, Dick Jacobs and Bill Veeck, who are inducted posthumously. It’s a well-deserved honor for Alomar, who was the heart and soul of the Tribe in those 1990s glory days. Matt O’Donnell will profile Alomar in a story for Indians.com tonight.
  • A couple transactions today. There was the expected addition of Justin Masterson to the active roster, but the Indians also called up Jensen Lewis from Triple-A Columbus, where he didn’t allow a run over 12 appearances covering 18 2/3 innings since June 26. Lewis struck out 28 batters and walked seven. Eric Wedge said Lewis is “still not where he needs to be,” but the Indians felt it was time to call him back up.
  • To make room for this pair in the ‘pen, the Tribe designated Winston Abreu and Mike Gosling for assignment. The Abreu pickup was puzzling. John Meloan was having a rough year at Triple-A Columbus, but it’s simply not like the Indians to ditch the guy with upside for the guy who hasn’t panned out with 10 other organizations. Especially not in a lost season. Anyway, Abreu ended up suspended for as many games (three), as he appeared in. And had he been suspended for the others, it would have been an improvement.
  • Meloan, in case you’re wondering, has a 3.18 ERA in eight appearances for Triple-A Durham. He’s given up four runs on 12 hits with two homers, seven walks and 13 strikeouts over 11 1/3 innings.
  • The plan with Jake Westbrook, who threw a simulated session here Thursday, is to get him three innings or 50 pitches at Double-A Akron on Tuesday. That would initiate the second rehab stint for Westbrook, who had a setback in his recovery from Tommy John surgery in June.
  • With Victor Martinez gone, the Indians basically don’t have a No. 1 catcher, in Wedge’s eyes. That was evident when Chris Gimenez started last night and Wyatt Toregas was penciled in tonight. Kelly Shoppach, who may or may not fit in with the Tribe’s plans next year because of his salary, isn’t sliding right into the starting role. Wedge said he was “anxious” to get a look at Toregas, who impressed him in spring camp and has made strides offensively this season.
  • From a media standpoint, you want your team to have guys who are pleasant to deal with. And when I covered the ALDS between the Red Sox and Angels last October, Justin Masterson really stood out, in that department. So, it’s good to have him aboard. He met with the Cleveland media today and said he doesn’t have a preference between starting and relief work, but he’s ready for the challenge of starting. “They’re two different things,” he said. “There are a lot of great things about both. Whatever the opportunity is, I just want to pitch well.”
  • Pitching coach Carl Willis said Masterson’s transition to starting work will be done with a rotation of appearances out of the ‘pen and work on the side. Masterson got up to about 35 pitches in his last outing with Boston on Wednesday, and he was stretched out as a starter early this season. So Willis doesn’t anticipate the transition to take long. He said he could get up to 80 pitches within two weeks.
  • Regarding Fausto Carmona last night, his line wasn’t dazzling (101 pitches, 57 strikes, two runs on four hits with one strikeout and four walks in five innings). But Willis felt Carmona did a good job controlling his emotions on a day that, between the Martinez trade and his own return, was an certainly an emotional one.
  • There has been talk about Carmona reinventing himself as a pitcher and no longer relying on that sinking, 97 mph fastball. And that certainly appeared to be true last night. Though Carmona did hit 97 on occasion, he more frequently sat at 93-95, which is still a quality Major League fastball but is not the dominating pitch he used so frequently in 2007. The Indians are making more of a pitcher out of Carmona. They want him using his four-seamer to lefties, throwing his slider for strikes and basically working both sides of the plate, rather than relying almost entirely on the power sink.
  • Infielder/outfielder Matt McBride went 3-for-4 with a double, two homers and eight RBIs in Akron’s 16-3 win over Binghamton last night. He now has 82 RBIs on the season between Class A Kinston and Akron, which are the seventh-most in the Minors.

~AC

8/1: Indians vs. Tigers

It’s a Victor-less Victor Martinez bobblehead night. I’ve got mine, and I’m planning to make a Pat Catan’s run to get an oil painting set so I can cover Chief Wahoo with the dreaded “Hanging Sox.”

But first, the lineups. Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field will be broadcoast on WTAM and STO.


cle4.gifINDIANS (43-60):
CF Grady Sizemore, SS Asdrubal Cabrera, RF Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, DH Travis Hafner, 1B Chris Gimenez, 2B Jamey Carroll, LF Trevor Crowe, C Wyatt Toregas. LHP Jeremy Sowers (3-7, 5.15).

 

 


det2.gifTIGERS (53-48):
CF Curtis Granderson, 2B Placido Polanco, RF Magglio Ordonez, 1B Miguel Cabrera, DH Marcus Thames, LF Ryan Raburn, 3B Brandon Inge, C Dusty Ryan, SS Adam Everett. RHP Rick Porcello (9-7, 4.62).

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