February 2010

"Oooh, three-under-par. That's what the professionals shoot, isn't it?"

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com 

wm-phoenix-open.jpgI had the pleasure of checking out the Waste Management Phoenix Open in Scottsdale on Thursday afternoon.

Normally, I wouldn’t necessarily note the sponsor name, but… Waste Management? That sticks with you. Wasn’t that Tony Soprano’s “business”? All I know is that the next time I have my choice of port-o-potty provider (perhaps at my next summer BBQ), I will definitely be using Waste Management and not its competitors, whose names I am not familiar with in the first place.

Anyway, what makes the Phoenix Open so special is the raucous atmosphere that is not prevalent at other PGA events. The 16th hole, which is completely enclosed by stadium seating, has to be the most unique hole on the tour. When local favorite Phil Mickelson landed his tee shot on the green, the crowd erupted at a rock concert level. Then he missed his birdie putt, and everybody booed him. Phoenicians are fickle that way.

Well, this morning it was back to baseball — a sport where “raking” takes on more positive connotations than it does in golf. When you’re raking in golf, you’re in the bunker.


  • There wasn’t any “raking” going on at the Goodyear facility this morning. I mentioned yesterday that the hitters would be standing in for live batting practice against the pitchers, but that turned out to be a bit of a head fake. Because all they did was stand in. No swings were taken. The Indians called this “tracking.” This being the first full-squad workout of camp, the hitters aren’t exactly eager to take swings off guys who have a couple bullpen sessions under their belts. And the pitchers themselves don’t like pitching from behind a screen, anyway, as it can mess with their mechanics. So today and tomorrow, the hitters will be tracking pitches. On Sunday, they’ll begin taking swings. First you track ’em, then you smack ’em.
  • Before this morning’s workout began, Manny Acta gave his first rah-rah speech as Tribe skipper. By all accounts, it went well, and that’s no surprise, as Acta, much like his predecessor, is clearly an effective public speaker.
  • But let’s talk about the little ways in which Acta differs from Eric Wedge. They’ve been apparent in these early days of camp. Wedge was more of a delegator. His camps were run with military-like precision and discipline. (I’m not saying this was a bad thing; it’s just the truth). It’s a looser atmosphere here with Acta at the helm.
  • What’s interesting to note in the Acta vs. Wedge comparison is just how active Acta is. Before the workouts began, he was a regular in the indoor cages. And in the last couple days, he’s been seen shagging balls in the outfield and hitting grounders to the infielders. How much does this activity affect the bottom line? Hard to say. But it’s clear Acta approaches his camp from a more participatory perspective than Wedge did. Heck, he even helped pick up balls at the end of the morning drills. Acta said he’ll be throwing BP once his shoulder recovers from labrum surgery he had last September.
  • Some heavy hitters from the Tribe’s front office arrived here today, including executive vice president of business operations Dennis Lehman, senior vice president of finance Ken Stefanov and senior vice president of sales and marketing Vic Gregovits. They were set to have a high-level financial meeting with general manager and team president-to-be Mark Shapiro this afternoon. I’d imagine that’s one of the many steps toward Shapiro taking over new responsibilities this fall.
  • Is Matt LaPorta an outfielder or a first baseman? “I haven’t known my whole life,” he said with a laugh. “Even in college, people would ask me, and I’d just say, ‘I’m a hitter.'” LaPorta will take the majority of his reps at first base this spring, because the outfield is his more natural position. But with Russell Branyan here, he’s expected to be the left fielder on Opening Day. More on LaPorta on Indians.com in a little bit.
  • Acta said the second base job is Luis Valbuena’s to lose.
  • The fan access here is wonderful and, in some ways, better than it was in Winter Haven, Fla., which I didn’t think was possible. This year, the Indians opened up a fan access area by the back fields that allows fans up-close-and-personal access to three of the fields. And the access area near the main field – Field 1, directly north of the Player Development Complex – is also improved and should be a great place for autograph-hunting once the position players begin taking batting practice there regularly next week.
  • Carlos Baerga made an appearance at this morning’s workout. He’s still living in Puerto Rico and doing some work for ESPN Deportes. He seemed happy to see former teammates Charles Nagy and Sandy Alomar Jr., and he asked about the whereabouts of the likes of Kenny Lofton and Albert Belle. Baerga said he wouldn’t mind getting into coaching next year, though it was hard to tell how serious he was about that.
  • Barring breaking news or a pileup of minutiae, I’m going to give the blog a rest this weekend. We’ll pick back up on Monday.


The people have the power

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

grammar.jpgThere are times in this job when you feel like a lone voice in the wilderness, your words lost somewhere in the vast technological trophosphere of the Internet, never to be absorbed or reflected upon. You slave over what you regard as a particularly well-articulated piece of prose, only to check the Indians.com comments section and see it has drawn nothing more than the usual negativity about Jhonny Peralta grounding into double plays.

For that reason, I should note, I am thankful for the CastroTurf community we have built up over the last few years and the loyal legion (however small) of self-proclaimed “Castronauts” who use this space for thoughtful banter about all things Indians.

And yet never have I felt the potential impact of this little corner of the World Wide Web quite like I did this morning, when I walked down the main hallway of the Indians’ Player Development Complex, looked under that photo of Kelly Shoppach crossing home plate as his gleeful teammates waited to greet him, and saw the most heartening of hyphens.

“Three-run homerun,” the caption read.

Could it be?

Yes, the caption that just two days earlier had erroneously read “three run homerun” had been 50 percent fixed (“home run” should still be two words, but I’m not going to nitpick and lose these warm and fuzzy feelings).

I took a few steps back, looked at the caption under the photo of Satchel Paige and was pleased by punctuation yet again.

“African-American pitcher,” it read in the place where, two days earlier, the unhyphenated, “African American” once stood.

My Tuesday blog entry, written somewhat tongue-in-cheek but nonetheless with a backbone of grammatical conviction, had been noted by a prominent figure in the Indians’ front office and immediately addressed. The power of the press, it would appear, still exists, even on such a miniscule scale.

Two hyphens, in a guarded hallway at a baseball complex in the Arizona desert, 20 miles west of Phoenix. This, friends, is my journalistic legacy.


  • A scintillating morning at the PDC today. Guys stretched, guys played catch, guys took some groundballs, and a few guys even got up on the mound and threw the baseball into the glove of a catcher. It was pretty cool. Wish you could have been there.
  • Things will begin to pick up considerably tomorrow, when the position players join the pitchers and catchers for the first full-squad workout of camp. Manny Acta will address the players beforehand with his first major pep talk as Tribe skipper. He said he’s been saving his best “Vincente Lombardo” material for Friday. Mainly, Acta will stress the importance of getting off to a strong start and try to instill a winning mentality in this young club. “We want to make these guys believe we can win,” he said.
  • You might have seen White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on Twitter (@ozzieguillen). You won’t be seeing Acta in the same capacity. “I’m not a Facebook guy, I’m not a Twitter guy, I’m not a MySpace guy,” he said. Vincente Lombardo… err… Vince Lombardi probably would have been the same way.
  • Friday will also mark the initiation of live batting practice. It’s always a treat to watch a guy like Grady Sizemore stand in against a teammate like Fausto Carmona and see how he fares, especially when you consider how far ahead of the hitters the pitchers are at this point.
  • Russell Branyan was in camp today and spoke to reporters about his decision to sign with the Tribe, rather than the Rays. He admitted it was a tough choice, but, in the end, decided the Indians were the better fit. He’s not sure if he’ll have the same guarantees to be the everyday guy at first base, as he was in Seattle, but he’s comfortable with the opportunities he will have here. "I've spoken to Mark [Shapiro] and Manny, and the way they want to handle it is to do whatever's best for the ballclub," Branyan said. "They're trying to create a winner in Cleveland, and whatever it takes is what's going to happen." I'll have more on Branyan on Indians.com in a little bit. 
  • As you might expect, the Indians are expecting to carry 12 pitchers at the outset of the season, so it’ll be the standard seven-man bullpen. It’s possible the Tribe will carry two lefties in the ‘pen in Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp. Acta said he’s not hung up on the need to have two lefties. “It’s only important if the guys are usable and you can have confidence in them,” Acta said. “We don’t need to have a certain amount of lefties or righties.”
  • What the Indians do need to do this spring is get a read on Rule 5 Draft pickup Hector Ambriz. If he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, he must be offered back to the Diamondbacks. “Obviously, we have to give the guy an opportunity,” Acta said. He said getting a good look at Ambriz will be more important than gauging veterans like Jamey Wright or Jason Grilli, who have more of a track record that can be counted on.
  • Acta feels Carlos Santana’s English has progressed to the point of usability, when it comes to working with a pitching staff. “He’s not an introverted type of kid,” Acta said of Santana. “He’s not afraid to speak, he’s not shy. His English is going to continue to improve. He knows how important it is, and he’s going to put as much effort as possible into that.”
  • Sipp says he isn’t overly superstitious when it comes to jersey numbers, and that’s a good thing. Last season, you may recall, Sipp was No. 49. But he lost that number to new pitching coach Tim Belcher (seniority reigns supreme in these matters). So Sipp took over No. 33, which he lost Wednesday when the Indians signed Russell Branyan. Now, Sipp is wearing No. 46, for who knows how long. “Scott Lewis told me that’s his old number,” Sipp said. “So if he comes back, I’ll probably lose it again.”
  • David Huff changed his number to 28, which was worn recently by former bench coach Jeff Datz and not-so-recently by STO broadcaster Rick Manning and the legendary Cory Snyder, among others.
  • The Indians will have two intrasquad games leading up to the March 5 Cactus League opener against the Reds. Those games will take place next Wednesday and Thursday. Smart money’s on the Tribe.
  • Finally, from the alumni department, the top two headlines on MLB.com last night linked to a story on CC Sabathia feeling right at home with the world champion Yankees and a story on Cliff Lee tossing his first bullpen for a Mariners team giddy to have him in the fold. Those two guys, uh, used to pitch for the Indians.


Whatever it takes to make the dirt stick

 By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com


CI_022301-199.jpgNothing like watching a morning round of PFPs. That is, after all, why I went to J-school.


But there is, of course, more going on at Indians' camp than just the tedious drill of fielding slow-rolling grounders and the signing of Russell the Muscle. Allow me to lay it all out for you.




  • Fausto Carmona threw a bullpen session this morning, and Manny Acta and pitching coach Tim Belcher both seemed impressed with the results. They're also happy with Carmona's conditioning. You might remember that Carmona came to camp last year with a spare tire, but he looks better this time around. "He's been working hard with a personal trainer he has in the Dominican," Acta said.
  • Assuming he stays healthy, right-hander Mitch Talbot, the guy acquired in the December trade that sent Kelly Shoppach to the Rays, will be on the Opening Day roster in some capacity, most likely in the rotation. He is, after all, out of Minor League options, and the Indians didn't acquire him just to discard him.
  • Talbot, who threw his first bullpen session this morning, said he's excited to be in the rotation mix here. "I knew Tampa wasn't sure what to do with me," he said. "To come over here, where they seem to have a plan for me, is encouraging. With [David] Price and [Wade] Davis, [the Rays'] golden boys, I knew it wasn't looking too good for me, as far as being a starter, and that's what I want to be. I was not really looking forward to being a long reliever and pitching once every two weeks or so. I'm really happy to be here where I can actually compete for a starting spot."
  • I mentioned Tuesday that Alex White, last year's No. 1 Draft pick, looked poised in his first bullpen session for the Major League coaching staff. White, predictably, said he's enjoying big-league camp. "I'm just trying not to stand out, except when I'm on the mound," he said. "You just mimic the veterans and do what they do." White will begin this season as a starter - most likely at Class A Lake County or Kinston - but he knows a bullpen move is a possibility. "It could change any day," he said of his role. "Right now, I'm going to build up to get a bunch of innings in and be ready as a starter. But if need be, I'd go to the bullpen without any questions."
  • The Indians have five players on Baseball America's Top 100 Prospects list. They are: C Carlos Santana (10), 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (31), LHP Nick Hagadone (44), RHP Jason Knapp (64) and White (65). The Rays led all clubs with seven representatives on the list, while the Indians and Cubs tied for second place.
  • If you're wondering, the early report date for Minor Leaguers is March 2. They'll all be here by March 8.
  • Trevor Crowe was kind enough to point out to me that I was mistaken when I recently wrote that Mike Redmond is the only member of the Tribe's roster who possesses a World Series ring. I had forgotten that Lou Marson, by virtue of his four plate appearances with the '08 Phillies, also has one. Isn't it a bit strange that the catching spot -- probably the flimsiest non-pitching position on this club -- is the only spot where the Indians have World Series winners?
  • Daniel Fields, the son of Minor League hitting coordinator Bruce Fields, has been soaking up big-league camp and taking some BP here the last few days. Daniel was a Michigan prep star who was taken by the Tigers (for whom Bruce served as an outfielder in the 1980s and a hitting coach from 2003-05) in the sixth round of last year's Draft. He's a highly touted shortstop who signed for $1.6 million, and he'll report to Tigers' camp in Lakeland, Fla., in early March. Seems like a nice kid, too.



UPDATE: Here's the link to today's photo gallery, courtesy of team photographer Dan Mendlik (who, by the way, is responsible for all the Spring Training pics posted on this blog).

Branyan passes, Gimenez dropped

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

As expected, the Indians have made the Russell Branyan signing official. They were happy enough with the results of his physical examination to sign him to a one-year, $2 million deal with up to $1 million more in potential incentives. There’s also a mutual option for 2011 worth $5 million.

To make room for Branyan on the 40-man roster, utilityman Chris Gimenez was outrighted to Triple-A Columbus and reassigned to Major League camp as a non-roster invitee.

Here’s the full story on Indians.com.

UPDATE: The Indians also purchased the contract of Anthony Reyes from Triple-A Columbus and placed him on the 60-day disabled list.

UPDATE No. 2: What essentially happened is Gimenez was designated (and cleared waivers) to make room for Reyes, who was then placed on the DL to make room for Branyan. The reason the Indians did this was because Reyes (who is, as you recall, recovering from Tommy John) has an out in his contract at the end of camp, and the Indians wants to keep him around should he recover in time to help them in the second half.

Also, Shapiro and Manny Acta confirmed our expectations that Branyan will be the regular at first base, though they stopped short of saying that confirms that Matt LaPorta will be a regular in left. They said both LaPorta and Brantley will be playing every day “somewhere.”

I’d still expect LaPorta in left and Brantley in Columbus on Opening Day.

UPDATE No. 3: I neglected to mention that while Branyan is viewed as a potential option at third base, Acta does not plan to use him in the outfield.


You can't change it, can't rearrange it

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

If there’s one thing I can’t tolerate (other than Nickelback), it’s bad grammar. And it’s especially disappointing when it appears on permanent objects that have no hope of being edited.fluid_main.gif

Today, I was standing in the main hallway of the Indians’ Player Development Complex, waiting to interview a coach and perusing the pictures that are hung on the wall. The presentation itself is wonderful. Black-and-white images depicting some of the greatest players and moments in club history are encased in glass are augmented by shades of red. And beneath each photo is an etched-in, written explanation.

This is all well and good, until you take the time to read what’s written below. What caught my eye on this particular day was a photo of members of the 2007 team waiting happily at home plate for Kelly Shoppach to cross after hitting what the caption described as a “three run homerun” against the A’s.

“Three run homerun”? Come on. Even if you want to operate on the faulty premise that “home run” is one word, the least you could do is hyphenate the “three-run” modifier.

And it only got worse when I noticed that on one side of the hallway, Frank Robinson is described as MLB’s first “African-American” manager, while, on the other, Satchel Paige is described as the AL’s first “African American” pitcher. If you’re going to get something wrong, at least get it wrong consistently.

Somebody get me some Wite-Out. (Or as the designer of these displays calls it, “Wite Out.”)

UPDATE: Well, I knew when I wrote about my grammar pet peeve, I was opening myself up to criticism for the typos that sometimes sneak into my copy. And I’d like to say that I do appreciate someone like “shizzo666″ not only reading but reading carefully enough to note the mistakes I let slip by. I’ll admit there are times I could give this material a closer eye, but, unfortunately, the lure of getting a lot of content up here quickly sometimes gets in the way. And of course I’m also appreciative of “losangelesclevelandfan” sticking up for me and echoing my sentiment that, when it comes to the need to closely proofread, a hastily written blog entry is a heck of a lot different than an engraved display hung on the wall for posterity.

What I did not anticipate was people on the Facebook comments section connecting these grammatical miscues to some sort of organizational trend of oversight. That’s a bit of a stretch. This Goodyear facility is top of the line in every sense of the word, and the planning that went behind its layout and its functionality as a place for players to prepare and rehab was meticulous. That’s why the admittedly minor grammar issues stood out to this journalism junkie. And I’d venture to say I’m the only one who has noticed them… and I only noticed them because I stood in that hallway for 20 minutes waiting for a coach to finish his lunch.

Anyway, that’s plenty about that. We now return you to your regularly scheduled baseball blog.


  • Russell Branyan arrived to camp today to take the physical exam that would finalize his one-year, $2 million contract. Expect an announcement, one way or another, on Wednesday.
  • Manny Acta can’t (or won’t) say a word about Branyan until the deal is complete. So when his daily media session wrapped up today, Acta told us, “Save some room for tomorrow!”west1.jpg
  • Pitchers and catchers held their first official workout this morning. I suppose the biggest news of the day was Jake Westbrook participating in this workout for the first time in two years. He was pretty excited, and pitching coach Tim Belcher had to encourage him to slow down in his 10-minute bullpen session. “I felt like a standard-bred horse driver trying to pull the reins back,” Belcher said. “But Jake’s a rapid-fire kind of guy. He’s always been that way. Even in 10 minutes today, he probably threw five or six or eight more pitches than anybody else.” And Westbrook felt good doing it. I’ll have more on him in an Indians.com story in a little bit.
  • Jeremy Sowers (left shoulder inflammation) was also up on the mound today. He threw about 25 pitches, mainly fastballs and a few changeups. He said he was pain-free, but he’s frustrated to be at a point in his preparation that he usually reaches in January.
  • You might have read on this blog last fall that Travis Hafner became a daddy in October, when his wife, Amy, gave birth to a son, Blake Lee. I asked Pronk if he’s changing diapers, and he said, “Oh, yeah. The whole nine yards. I do everything but breast-feed.” I’d say that’s a good place to draw the line.
  • As you know (or should know), Lou Marson and Wyatt Toregas are the two candidates for the Tribe’s starting catching duties, with veteran Mike Redmond on-hand to serve as the backup. Acta said the Indians won’t have a situation where one of those young guys splits time with Redmond. Whoever wins the job has the job. “We’re not bringing Mike over here to split time,” Acta said. “He’s not going to get 400 at-bats, by any means.” Marson is the front-runner for the position.
  • Toregas also became a father this offseason. His wife, Holly, gave birth to a son, Alexander, just last week in Akron.
  • Acta continues to talk about potentially using Kerry Wood in four-out save situations.
  • Two guys who stood out to me during this morning’s bullpen sessions were right-hander Jeanmar Gomez and left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz. Gomez, who tossed a perfect game and won Eastern League pitcher of the year honors at Akron last year, has a very compact delivery and good control. “He hides the ball well,” Acta said. “He put himself on the map with the season he had last year.” De La Cruz, meanwhile, looks like a left-handed Carmona, in terms of his size. “He has a nice, clean delivery,” Belcher said. “He gets it downhill.”
  • Belcher said he’s impressed with the way No. 1 Draft pick Alex White, who also threw today, carries himself. “I know he came from a D-1 program [North Carolina],” Belcher said. “But for his first professional camp, he has a good heartbeat and threw under control.”
  • Matt LaPorta was summoned by media relations director Bart Swain today to do an interview and still photo shoot for SportsTime Ohio. Swain told LaPorta to bring his glove for the shoot. “My outfielder’s glove or first baseman’s glove?” LaPorta asked. Great question, Matt. Great question.
  • Tony Graffanino, who played with the Tribe and Triple-A Columbus last season, was at the complex this morning. He’s working for Unlimited Potential Inc., a Christian group that reaches out to baseball players.
  • The kids in the Indians’ farm system aren’t the only kids Mike Sarbaugh is entrusted with in a given year. Sarbaugh, who managed at Double-A Akron last year and will move up to Triple-A Columbus this season, spends his winters working as a substitute teacher at Governor Mifflin Middle School in Shillington, Pa. “I show up every day, and they tell me where to go,” he said. “One day I’m doing French, the next Spanish, the next science.” Sarbaugh, 42, has been in the Indians’ organization as a player, coach or manager since 1990. He was Eastern League manager of the year last season.
  • The official report date for position players is Wednesday. But the only guy who’s not here already is infielder Niuman Romero, who is coming up from Venezuela.


The rain's pouring down on our roof

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

Absolutely nothing happened at Indians camp today, and that’s good news for you, the reader.

CI_022201-119.jpgBecause as the rain poured down upon the Player Development Complex and manager Manny Acta and GM Mark Shapiro held meetings with the pitchers and catchers, I had plenty of time to catch up with various members of the Tribe roster.

Here, then, is all the latest.


  • As you may have seen on the Indians.com site, Jeremy Sowers’ rotation hopes will probably take a hit because of the left shoulder inflammation he’s dealing with. He said the shoulder gave him some trouble off an on throughout the ’09 season, and he came here a month early to get treatment for it. Sowers estimated that he’ll be “a couple weeks” behind his teammates in camp, which has to hurt his chances of a starting job. Acta estimated that Sowers will be “a week to 10 days” behind.
  • Even if he doesn’t make the rotation, Sowers, who is out of Minor League options, might have a chance of landing in the bullpen, though his stuff is hardly suited for the role. Still, given the expected problems in the rotation this season, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Indians carrying a guy like Sowers as a long man.
  • Shin-Soo Choo says he hopes to participate in the 2010 Asian Games in November. If the South Korean baseball team wins the gold medal in that event, its members would likely receive an exemption from their two-year obligation to the Korean military. Obviously, that’s something that appeals to Choo. He’s spoken about this situation with the Indians, and it will likely be revisted at season’s end. He’d like to get their permission to participate. Here’s the full story on Choo.  
  • Top prospect Carlos Santana, who had surgery to remove a broken hamate bone in his right hand in December, said he has no restrictions and should be ready to play when the Cactus League season opens next week. It will be interesting to see if Santana’s power is affected by that surgery this season.
  • Jhonny Peralta’s been around here long enough to know that players often get moved in the final guaranteed year of their contracts. And given Peralta, who is due to make $4.6 million this year, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, he’s curious to see what happens. “I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said, “but I want to be here. I don’t know what’s on their mind. There’s nothing I can do about it. I’ll just try to play how I play.”
  • Peralta became a father over the winter. His wife Molly gave birth to a daughter, Analise, in October. “It’s a great experience,” he said of fatherhood.
  • Peralta still sounds a bit mystified over how the third base situation played out last year. “In Spring Training, they didn’t say to me that I’d be playing third base [during the season],” he said. “Then one day in the middle of the season, they say I’m playing third base.”
  • Anthony Reyes, who had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and an ulnar nerve transposition surgery last June, said his arm feels stable and strong. He’s throwing long toss right now. He’s not sure when he’ll start throwing off a mound. Reyes probably won’t be a big league option until July, at the absolute earliest.
  • Chris Gimenez raved about his Venezuelan winter ball experience. He left for Venezuela in November, just eight days after he and his wife, Kelly, were married. “I told my wife [going to winter ball] was our honeymoon,” he said. “She probably loved that. … I was a little worried about here down there, a tall, skinny white girl walking around. But everything went great.” Gimenez admitted he needed the winter ball grooming time because he found his offensive performance in the second half last year to be “embarrassing.”
  • Gimenez is still being groomed as a super utility type. He’s probably one of the guys on the bubble when/if the Indians have to clear a spot on the 40-man for Russell Branyan.
  • Speaking of Branyan, I’d expect that deal to be made official on Wednesday, if he passes Tuesday’s physical exam. It usually takes a day to process the results of those tests.
  • Jamey Wright is roughly 9 feet tall, give or take a few feet.
  • The pre-camp meetings the began today serve to let a player know where he stands coming into the season. Acta said he didn’t have these meetings in Washington, but he loves the idea. “It’s tremendous,” he said. “It’s a step toward building communication and making things clear to every one of the guys.”
  • The pitchers and catchers will hold their first official workout Tuesday morning. Position players officially report Wednesday, even though they all seem to be here already.


"Spring. Rejuvenation! Rebirth! Everything's blooming! All that junk."

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

AZ.jpgGreetings from not-so-sunny (but certainly not snowy) Goodyear, Ariz., where, for the next six weeks, I will be providing you every thrilling tidbit and mundane piece of minutia from the Indians’ 2010 Spring Training camp.

Aboard my Continental flight to Phoenix this morning were two heavyweights in the Indians’ organization: team president-to-be Mark Shapiro and Progressive Field umpire’s room attendant/special assistant to the media relations director Jack Efta, who was gracious enough to let Shapiro ride along with him in his chauffeured town car.

It was 59 degrees and raining when I landed today. Normally, I wouldn’t work in such uncomfortable conditions. But since this is such a momentous day on the baseball calendar, I’ll give it a shot.


  • Russell Branyan will be here Tuesday to take the physical examination that would complete his one-year, $2 million deal with the Indians. It’s no slam dunk, of course, as the Indians are rigorous in their demands for such an exam and Branyan dealt with a back problem that sidelined him the last month of the ’09 season in Seattle. But all reports indicate that Branyan has made significant progress with the back.
  • How are the Indians planning to use Branyan? That’s a bit of a mystery, and Manny Acta wasn’t coughing up any clues. “Let’s wait until everything becomes official,” Acta said. “Then we’ll answer all those questions.”
  • It could be that the left-handed Branyan and the right-handed Matt LaPorta share first base. Or LaPorta could go back to left field and bump Michael Brantley, who might be due for a little more seasoning at Triple-A Columbus. Or maybe Branyan bounces around between first base, third base and left field (though he hasn’t played third since 2008 and the outfield since 2007, so that seems a bit doubtful).
  • Acta has indicated all winter that LaPorta will see the bulk of his time this season at first base, because that’s where his big league future lies. However, every time I asked Mark Shapiro about LaPorta, Shapiro said left field remains a possibility for him, depending on what the Indians do this winter. Keep in mind that LaPorta hadn’t played first in his professional career prior to last season, and he was still a work in progress at the position at season’s end.
  • In a perfect world, who would be Acta’s first baseman? “In a perfect world,” he said, “Albert Pujols.”
  • Regarding second base, Acta said Luis Valbuena enters camp as the everyday starter at the spot, and he’s interested in seeing how Valbuena fares against left-handed pitching in Cactus League play. “We’re not in the business of developing platoon players at 24 years old,” Acta said. “We’re going to give him opportunities [against lefties].”
  • Acta said Jake Westbrook, nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, should have no restrictions this spring.
  • Nearly every member of the 59-player spring roster (Branyan would make 60) is already here, even though position players aren’t due to report until Wednesday and the first full-squad workout won’t take place until Friday. “I’m excited,” Acta said. “For me to show up a week before pitchers and catchers report and to see [Travis] Hafner, [Grady] Sizemore, [Shin-Soo] Choo and [Asdrubal] Cabrera on the field one week before pitchers and catchers are supposed to be on the field excites me.”
  • By the time I arrived at the complex around noon local time today, virtually all of the players had shuffled out. I’m told it was a light workout day, with much more activity on Saturday. cap.jpgThe big league coaching staff went into a meeting at 2 p.m. that was expected to last several hours.
  • The Indians are wearing new batting practice caps this year. No Chief Wahoo. No script “I.” These blue caps feature the old-school, block “C” in red lettering, with a red brim.
  • Speaking of uniforms, if you’re looking to run out and buy an Acta jersey, he’s wearing No. 11. The No. 14 he wore in Washington is spoken for in these parts. It’s Larry Doby’s retired number.


Branyan, Tribe come to terms

ESPN.com is reporting that Russell Branyan has accepted the Indians’ offer of a one-year contract with a $2 million base and up to $1 million more in incentives. The contract reportedly includes a mutual option for 2011 worth $5 million.

The Indians have not yet confirmed this report.

The left-handed-hitting Branyan would likely share time at first base with Matt LaPorta, who is recovering from offseason hip and toe surgeries. He could also help out at third base and in the corner outfield, and he’d provide an insurance policy should Travis Hafner’s surgically repaired right shoulder continue to give him trouble.

I’ll let you know more as I hear it.


UPDATE: The Indians still have not confirmed this agreement, and it’s doubtful they would until a physical examination is passed. As you probably know, Branyan had a bad back that prevented him from playing the last month of the ’09 season in Seattle. And concerns about the back made it difficult for him to land the multiyear deal he was looking for this winter.

The physical would be conducted at the Tribe’s Goodyear, Ariz., complex. Branyan, I’m told, is not there today.

Shapiro to become Tribe prez, Antonetti to become GM following 2010 season

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
The Indians are making a big announcement today that is of little surprise.
In a front-office shakeup set to take place upon the conclusion of the 2010 season, GM Mark Shapiro will be promoted to team president, while his assistant, Chris Antonetti, will assume the GM role. Current president Paul Dolan, meanwhile, will become the club’s chairman and CEO.
The moves will be officially announced at a 1:30 p.m. ET press conference at Progressive Field.
Why is this of little surprise?


Well, for one, it has long been assumed that Antonetti is Shapiro’s successor, and that assumption was all but confirmed when Antonetti turned down the Cardinals’ GM job following the ’07 season. At that point, Tribe ownership encouraged Antonetti to stay with “GM-type money,” for lack of a better term, and Antonetti’s role has increased incrementally ever since. In the past year, especially, he has assumed more and more of the day-to-day GM responsibilities, including player acquisition and contract negotiations.


As for Shapiro, he’s entering his ninth season as this club’s GM, and he’s been in the organization for 19 years. His current contract was to run through 2012. At the time he signed his contract extension in 2007, he made it pretty clear that he didn’t envision himself remaining a GM beyond the length of that deal. Well-respected in the industry (witness his inclusion in Bud Selig’s recently created Special Committee for On-Field Matters) his ascension to the role of president seems the next logical step in his career. 
So when it comes to the Indians’ baseball operations, it figures to be business as usual on the corner of Carnegie and Ontario when Antonetti officially takes over. However, it remains to be seen how Shapiro will approach the club president responsibilities, which include overseeing the organization’s business operations. I’m sure he’ll give his initial thoughts on that at today’s presser.
More info to come at Indians.com.
UPDATE: Here’s the full story on today’s news.

Russell the Muscle rumblings, and more

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

A few items of note this morning…

1. The Indians are still talking and have an offer on the table to Russell Branyan. On the one hand, he makes some sense as a left-handed bat to take some of the pressure off Matt LaPorta (who, by the way, was cleared to resume baseball activities following October hip and toe surgeries) at first.
On the other hand, Branyan would be, well, yet another left-handed bat on a roster full of them, and his defense at third base and in the corner outfield (where he’d presumably also be asked to help out) is suspect. FOXSports.com reported that the Rays and Red Sox also have interest in Branyan in these late stages before spring camps open.
2. Obviously, there hasn’t been much Hot Stove activity to discuss, where the Indians are concerned, this winter. But I’ll discuss the moves, non-moves and outlook for 2010 at 2:30 p.m. ET today on hotstove.com, so be sure to check it out.


3. Speaking of things worth checking out, Tony Lastoria, of IndiansProspectInsider.com, has released the 2010 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More book, which is available at his site for $19.95 plus shipping and handling. Among other things, the 214-page book includes detailed scouting reports on more than 165 players in the system. Should be a good resource to get to know what’s coming up the pipeline in this transitional period for the Tribe.
4. Over at the Indians Off the Field blog, you can check out the 2009 Indians Community Report video.
That’s all for now, though we’re just days away from spring camp opening in Goodyear, where I will, of course, be hitting you with more Indians info than you know what to do with.
If you’re not doing so already, be sure to follow me on Twitter, which has become, for better or worse, an important tool for keeping up our conversation on all things Tribe.