"There's nothing more satisfying than looking down after lunch and seeing nothing but a table."
Manny Acta had lunch with the Indians’ beat reporters this afternoon, and the first piece of news to come out of it is that this guy loves the margherita pizza at Pickwick and Frolic.
“I had an eight-hour interview [for the job with the Tribe],” Acta said, “and the thing I remember most was that pizza.”
He was joking. Kind of. I mean, that pizza is pretty good.
The topic of the pizza led to the broader discussion of the psychological stresses of having a job interview that involves pizza. If you go for the last slice, does that preclude you from getting the job? It’s a tough call, but, for the record, Acta didn’t grab the last slice in front of Mark Shapiro, and look where he is today. That’s a lesson for you kids out there.
Anyway, here are the non-pizza notes to come out of the interview session.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- Acta voiced the importance of the Indians adding a veteran starter in free agency. But he stressed that is has to be “the right guy” and not just someone who’s going to come in and block the progress of the Indians’ young arms. When I asked Acta if the Indians will still look for a starter if Westbrook proves he’s healthy and ready to come back, he replied, “We might still [get a pitcher], because you have to cover yourself. You can never go into Spring Training short on pitching.”
- Will the Indians add anyone to the bullpen? “We’re very happy with what we have,” Acta said. “That being said, there’s going to be about 200 players out there.”
- What else might the Indians look for in free agency? Acta said a utility infielder (as expected) and possibly a right-handed bat who can help out at first base, if Matt LaPorta isn’t completely up to speed by Opening Day. Acta said the Indians have also discussed the possibility of bringing in a veteran catcher to handle their young arms, though they also saw last year that having two veterans in Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach on the staff didn’t exactly cure what was ailing the pitching staff. Acta said that Shoppach is still in the Indians’ plans at this moment. Obviously — and these aren’t Acta’s words — that has the potential to change by the non-tender deadline.
- I’ll caution you that none of the above translates into the Indians’ suddenly becoming major players in the free agent market. This is merely Acta’s wish list, and he admitted that, if asked, he could come up with a list longer than anything you’d submit to Santa Claus. The Indians won’t have the resources to fulfill every need.
- Internal candidates Jon Nunnally and Dave Hudgens are the only remaining candidates for the hitting coach position. Acta will visit with them in Venezuela the first week of December and make his decision at that time.
- The only other two positions on Acta’s staff will be of the bullpen catcher variety. Those will go to in-house candidates as a way for them to get their feet wet for future coaching or managerial assignments. Similar to Dave Wallace’s experience last year.
- In mid-January, Acta will assemble his complete coaching staff in Goodyear, Ariz., so that they can discuss the players and also get acclimated to each other.
- Acta has already had some in-depth conversations with several players, including face-to-face meetings here in Cleveland with Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner in the last few days. Acta said he expressed to Peralta how much the Indians will be counting on him next year. “I think, and he admitted, that the switch of positions affected him last year.”
- Though Fausto Carmona was not on the initial list of players participating in winter ball, he will, in fact, be suiting up in the Dominican in December. Carmona had made it clear to the Indians that he preferred to pitch this winter, and they eventually decided to allow him to do so. “He felt it helped him in the past,” Acta said. Acta also said he doesn’t expect Carmona to long more than 30 innings of work.
- Jake Westbrook will make his Puerto Rican winter ball debut in about 10 days. For now, he’s still at the Goodyear complex getting stretched out, with pitching coach Tim Belcher on hand to make sure Westbrook’s mechanics are in line before he pitches in games. Westbrook is slated to make five starts in Puerto Rico, and Acta will be on-hand to see him pitch in mid-December.
- Acta said he will likely play his regulars for the last 10 days to two weeks of Cactus League play. “You can’t lose your last eight or nine games of Spring Training, then show up in Chicago on opening night and just turn on the switch,” he said.
- Acta said LaPorta, once healthy, is likely to play more at first base than left field, and he implied that Michael Brantley will be on the big-league club. But don’t expect Brantley to bat leadoff right away.
- Grady Sizemore is progressing well in his rehab from groin and elbow surgery. He is doing running and agility drills at the Goodyear complex.
- Acta is not opposed to Kerry Wood logging some four-out saves.
- The bullpen roles, aside from closer, are wide open, in Acta’s mind. “We need to convey the message that roles have to be earned,” he said. “[The ‘pen] was not a strength of this ballclub last year, so we can’t go into Spring Training with roles.”
- Acta knows he’s inherited a challenge, given the Tribe’s payroll constraints. But he seems genuinely excited about this opportunity. “In baseball, you never know,” he said. “On any given day, Aaron Laffey can beat Roy Halladay.”