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.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • 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.

~AC

14 Comments

Okay, I’m just going to toss out my Russell Branyan joke now to get it out of my system. The Tribe signed Branyan because after trading Shoppach, they needed someone to make up the strikeout numbers.
Hey-oh! Thank you, I’ll be here all week, enjoy the veal!
So 12 pitchers leaves us 13 spot. Take away Hafner, Redmond, and Branyan, that leave us with 10. We know Choo, Sizemore, Peralta, and Cabrera, which takes us down to six. Two of those spots will presumably go to Valbuena (unless he loses out to Donald) and Marson (unless he loses out to Toregas). Now we’re down to four with, it would seem, an open spot in the outfield, a 4th outfielder, a utility infielder, and one more person. At this point, regardless of where he plays, you have to guess that LaPorta gets a spot.
So who are the last three? It would seem a waste to make Donald a utility infielder as opposed to getting him regular time in AAA, so does that mean Gruds? And Crowe aka AM as the perpetual 4th infielder? And if that’s the case, who gets that final roster spot? Does Andy Marte get the nod if he has a good spring because a) he’s out of options and b) there’s a chance Peralta is on the block come mid-season?

AC just know that your combination of writing talent, sense of humor, and Tribe banter do not go unappreciated. I’ve seen recently that I and a few others have been bashing the haters and curmudgeons who fill your columns with comments that have nothing to do with what you have just written about.

I know Matt LaPorta and Jensen Lewis are on Twitter but I’d like to see a few more Featherheads keeping me updated on Spring Training 140 characters at a time.

LACF, for those last three spots I would expect Marte, Crowe, and either Mark Grudzelanik or Brian Bixler for the middle infield back up.

since we’re on the position players then let me throw my 1 and 1/2 cents into the mix. Marson, Branyan, Valbuena, Peralta, Cabrera, Kearns, Sizemore, Choo, Hafner, with the reserves as Redmond, Grudz, me… err I mean Crowe and Marte. Brantley goes to Columbus, LaPorta starts the year on the 15-day DL and Duncan loses out b/c of Branyan. That is what I think will happen, not what I want(ed) to have happen.

My libertarian heart is soaring. Grassroots man, grassroots.

While I am not one to nitpick (yes I am), catchers technically use mitts, not gloves. I really only point this out because you take these things in stride and are so accepting of your fans’ feedback, AC. Regardless, I do wish I could have been there.

Grady standing in on Carmona, well lets hope Carmona has found his control again.

I love this time of year. Watching the Tribe get ready for the new season. Thanks so much for providing your insight on all matters Indians.

Don’t really understand the Branyan pickup. To me this means that Jordan Brown will not even get a chance to show if he could help us. I can see him going somewhere else and becoming a Ryan Church kind of player.

Ryan Church… good reference and potential comparison

It has just occurred to me (okay, it happened last night, but I was too tired to post) that perhaps assuming Crowe/AM gets the 4th OF job might be jumping the gun. I wonder if Kearns might make a run at it, sending Crowe back to AAA, which might actually be a good thing for him, as far as increasing his stock is concerned.

I’d guess that there’s not going to be much legitimate competition amongst the position players this spring. I’d guess the starters will be:Marson, Branyan, Valbuena, Cabrera, Peralta, Laporta, Choo, Sizemore, Hafner, the bench will be Redmond, Marte, Grudz, Crowe … Probably the only question mark at all there, if everyone is healthy, is Crowe. They might want to get him regular at bats in AAA, but then I imagine they can work the 4th outfielder in pretty regularly, as a late defensive sub for Laporta … I’ve come to the conclusion that the Branyan signing is pretty savvy. They are clearly signing him with the intention of moving him mid-season if they aren’t in contention (if he’s not performing, he probably gets released, if he is performing, he gets traded), and the major reason for it is the service time clock on Brantley and Brown. As a fan I don’t like it, because I’d be much more interested in the games at the start of the year seeing how someone like Brown or Brantley would perform (of course if Branyan’s hitting .310 with 20 HRs on June 1st, I won’t be complaining), but it’s a move that does have a potential upside. It still gives them the opportunity to give Brantley and/or Brown a half-year at minimum at the big league level. Best case if they’re not contending they can trade Branyan for a decent prospect, a la Derosa, then they move Laporta back to 1b and call up whoever’s performing better, Brantley or Brown. The downside is Laporta moving between positions, and Brown getting stuck in AAA again, but if you look at it as a half-season move at most and consider that other injuries are bound to happen that will shake up the roster, neither of those things are that bad.

My only concern with that theory, ST, is that no one else wanted Branyan and, given his poor second half, what are the chances he performs well enough in the first half of this year that he has any real trade value? So that’s a $2M risk we’re taking that also leaves LaPorta in the OF for half a season as opposed to 1B where he should be.
If they were concerned about Brantley having to start the year in AAA, they should have just taken the best spring training outfielder and left it at that.
But I guess it’s another thing for us to watch for. By my count, we’re hoping that LaPorta, Brantley, Valbuena, Masterson, Carmona, R. Perez, Santana, and any number of AAA pitchers step up and meet their theoretical potential. Then we need Cabrera and Choo to play like they did last year for a whole year. Then we need Sizemore and Hafner to finally be at full strength all year. Then we need Westbrook, Peralta, Branyan, Wood, and possibly Hafner to perform well enough in the first half for us to deal them at mid-season for more prospects.
That’s an awful lot of question marks.

I’m not saying I disagree, I personally doubt that Branyan will have success. But I think the game they’re playing is that even if Branyan bombs, they have to release him and they eat $2 million, in the long run monetarily it’s a wash, because they set Brantley’s arbitration and free agency back a year, as long as they can hold off on calling him up until around June. On the plus side, Branyan could play well. The odds of this aren’t even that bad, he was good in the 50 games he played in 2008, when he had a .925 OPS, and the first 2 months of last year he played great, so it’s always possible that he opens the year pounding balls over the fence … I’m just trying to be positive I guess, now that this Branyan deal has gone through. I really can’t argue that a Branyan/Marte platoon at 1b with Laporta in the outfield wouldn’t be the most productive lineup you could put together on paper. It wouldn’t be shocking to get at least 40 HRs out of that 1b tandem, with Laporta hitting another 25 in the outfield. Jordan Brown definitely gets the shaft again, but it’s likely he gets an opportunity at some point–Hafner, Branyan, Laporta and Sizemore are all current health risks, and you never know what other injuries might crop up

LACF, I thought about Kearns or Duncan stealing the job away from Crowe last night but neglected to add it to my post because without Crowe we have NO ONE to spell Sizemore in CF. That was my hangup. Choo has like 4 games total in his career at CF and to my knowledge Kearns and Duncan are only corner men.

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