"Spring. Rejuvenation! Rebirth! Everything's blooming! All that junk."
Greetings 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.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- 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. The 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.