"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.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • 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.

~AC

21 Comments

good to see that Acta has a blue collar (or is it blue-collar?) working man’s attitude about his coaching philosophies. It’s the old saying that you can tell a man’s worth by the wear and tear of his hands. Not to bash Wedge but he was SO reserved that watching his interviews seemed like he was annoyed by the “little people” making cracks at him. I sincerely doubt that is accurate as he did many positive things for the Indians organization but he always seemed a bit off in his interviews like, “I know what the bigger picture is, you don’t, so quit questioning my decisions.”

ST, something for you particularly about Ronnie Belliard from ESPN.

Ken Gurnick of MLB.com cautions that the Dodgers have concerns whether Belliard’s age (34) and conditioning habits will allow him to carry a heavy workload.

Gurnick says Belliard’s contract will not be guaranteed until he weighs less than 210 pounds.

I’m cool with the new skipper, provided he refrains from the term “grinding”. I hope he’s been made aware, that we the fans, don’t appreciate the term. I may not be struggling right now, but I know there are too many fans out there that “grind” on a daily basis just to make ends meet.

That said, I’m excited for the beginning of the re-building. No expectations take me back to the pre-Hart days, a team I can enjoy just because I’m a baseball fan. See you in Goodyear (or Tempe, or Surprise, or Scottsdale).

AM, to answer your question from the last blog, Kearns has played 63 games in center field, as recently as last season. He actually has more starts in center than in left which would, in theory, be a more likely place for him to end up than right field, which is where he’s played the most.
Um, that’s a round about way of saying he can play center, if need be, which probably keeps him in the mix for the 4th OF job.
Indians, I think most people want Grady moved down further than that, but unless Brantley makes the opening day roster with a fantastic spring, I don’t know who they’d move to the lead off spot. And eventual 1-2-3 of Brantley-Cabrera-Sizemore is what I hear most people mention.
I may not like Scott Boras, but if anyone could get an entire country to re-negotiation with a player (South Korea w/Choo), it’s probably him.

Is there any truth to Grady being moved down to second in the order?

Oh, and Choo hires Scott Boras? (LA Times)

Sorry LACF, didn’t read your comment about choo..lol
According to WFNY, the Indians have already made the move with Grady. Though, their is no other report..?? (I can’t find any, and AC would be all over it )

AC-

I wouldn’t do this except for the fact that you’ve made such an issue of grammar recently–

But… “most unique?” Unique is an absolute… meaning something can’t be “very unique” or the “most unique.” By definition, something that is unique is one of a kind, so it can’t be “more unique” than something else.

I love your stuff and will keep reading for eternity. Long live your indians/grammar blog!

Grady confirmed that he will bat second (behind Cabrera) on STO last night.

I think the order should go Brantley, Cabrera, Sizemore, Choo. Although Choo doesn’t like to be a 4 hitter, and has a higher OBP and hits less homers than most 4 hitters, he or Grady should definetely be the four hitter. Grady is a leadoff hitter, but with Brantley who I think is a better one Grady should be a 3 or 4 guy. He strikes out way to much for a leadoff hitter and his batting average is too low. And on Cabrera,…. he’s a pure two hitter. That’s just my opinion.

http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/

I don’t know about a Cabrera-Sizemore 1-2. Better than having Grady lead off, I guess. I’d actually think Cabrera, Choo, Sizemore would make more sense, since Sizemore right now is probably their best power hitter. 30 HRs isn’t out of the question for Choo of course, but he has yet to realize that potential while Sizemore has. If you have Grady batting after Cabrera and Choo, he should be hitting with guys on base often, and anyone who’d be on the base paths ahead of him would still have speed if you wanted to try a double steal. Choo and Sizemore are very similar players though, both have 30/30 potential and both have a high .OBP and a high strikeout rate, but Choo has generally hit for a better BA/OBP than Sizemore and Sizemore’s generally hit for more power, so that’s why right now I’d have Sizemore hitting after Choo … And quaserne, your attempt at grammar correction falls flat. “unique” can simply mean “unusual”, in which case a modifier is entirely appropriate. It’s not always used as an absolute.

Savagetruth: I agree that a Cabrera, Choo, Sizemore look to start out the season would be a pretty good idea. I don’t think Choo is a 30 HR guy though because he is more of a line drive hitter. I do think he could hit 20 a year, but I think 30 is outta the question. I think that Sizemore should definetly be spot in for the 3 or 4 spot to get more RBI’s and to really get a better year.

Ted

http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/

I’d go with 1. Cabrera 2. Choo 3. Sizemore 4. Hafner 5. Branyan 6. Laporta 7. Peralta 8. Valbuena 9. Marson … Branyan is kind of flexible in there, if he’s going well you could definitely bump him up to 4, if not, he’d hit lower down. To start I’d have him nicely in the middle in that 5 spot. Against left handed starters I’d go with 1. Cabrera 2. Sizemore 3. Choo (Choo handles lefties better than Sizemore … after this it gets real sketchy) 4. as much as I hate to, I’d have to go with Peralta in the cleanup spot. 5. Laporta 6. Hafner 7. Marte 8. Valbuena 9. Marson … It’s pretty much an awful lineup against LHP regardless of what you do, unless Hafner, Peralta and Marte step up. It is interesting though, looking at the Central Division rosters, the only left handed pitching that stands out is Buehrle and Danks with the White Sox. But their lefty/right numbers are both about even, last year lefties actually hit Buehrle much better than right handed batters. So at least in the Central, where they’re obviously playing the majority of their games, there isn’t a lot of downside to their lefty heavy lineup.

Ted, Choo hit 13 HRs in the first 87 games last year. He hit 11 in 58 games in the 2nd half of ’08. So if you take the “year” starting with the All-Star break in ’08 to ’09, he hit 24 in 145 games (and his 2nd half ’08 pace if continued to a full year would’ve taken him to 30). So 30’s definitely not out of the question. The problem is I think last year he went like an entire month in July/August without a home run, so to date his power has been very streaky. I think he can improve significantly on last year. Being a little run down and having a power dropoff at the end of the year isn’t really that surprising last year, when you consider that he just came back from the elbow injury in ’08, and he’d never played a full year at the major league level before.

Peralta when he’s going well can really hit left handed pitching, he just takes them to the opposite field. I agree exactly with the opening day batting order. I think that guys in the front of the order (Cabrera, Choo) who have high OBP can get on base for Grady, Pronk, and Branyan. Your absolutely right that Russell should be moved into the 4 spot when he’s going good.

I don’t know if Sizemore should go 2 though against left handers. He doesn’t hit them well at all, but your right there’s no one else who could really go two unless you put Sizemore one, and Cabrera two against lefties (which I prefer.)

I am really hoping that after Brantley gets his “tuning up,” that he really explodes into the majors like he did last year. He just works pitchers very well and reminds me of a young Kenny Lofton. I also hope that Carlos Santana makes it up to the big leagues. They said he has a cannon arm and his numbers at the plate are consistent. He’s looking promising. I do agree with you mostly.

Ted

http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/

Savage, I see. That’s exactly what I was trying to point out. He is streaky with homers, but he does have paces where he can go off. I think that if he constistently hits homers and bulks up more, he could definetly have 30 HR potential. But I doubt this will be a yearly thing. He might get it once or twice in his career. I agree with you.

Ted

http://tribewithted.mlblogs.com/

After being here in Goodyear last year and now this for spring training I don’t agree with your assessment of ‘wonderful’ in describing fan access, perhaps a better description would be slightly improved. I was never at Winterhaven but everyone I’ve talked to about comparing Goodyear with Winterhaven have said Winterhaven was better, way better. We are locked out of the practice pitching mounds area where they recently poured new walkways not intended apparently for the fans. Also I’ve witnessed more than once fans getting downright angry with Indians personnel who ‘guard’ the entry points over the limited access. Without the fans there is no major league baseball or any pro baseball for that matter. We pay the lions share of the bills and buy the products advertised during televised games not to mention all the team paraphernalia. I think we deserve a little better access considering the money these folks spend on the pilgrimage from northern Ohio to Arizona.

I remember Choo getting moved around in the order a few times last year, which could account for his streakiness. His numbers in the four spot are more impressive than at the number three spot, but he had more time at #4.
I like the move by Acta, if nothing else than to get Grady to stop being the lead off hitter. I think we’re all leaning towards moving him further down and I personally really like Cabrera at #2, but I’ll take what I can get at this point, particularly since it seems like Brantley will be starting the year in AAA.

I don’t like the fact that Choo has hired Scott Boras. Bottom line for me, he’s gone and won’t sign a pre-arbitration extension. D’oh.

ST, did you see that Felipe Lopez signed a one-year, $1M deal with $1.2M in incentives? Maybe he gave St. Louis a discount for going back to them thus having a shot at a World Series but that’s still a heckuva deal for the Cardinals.

Unless Brantley breaks camp with the big club then I see absolutely NO point in moving Sizemore and Cabrera around in the order. Follow me here, if Brantley could/should be in the leadoff spot before the season ends then why would you move Cabrera (described as the epitome of a #2 hitter) into the leadoff spot and then in turn make Sizemore the #2 guy? It doesn’t make sense to me. We’re switching two guys from their “natural” spots in the batting order for only a short amount of time when we may potentially move them around again by season’s end?

Does that scenario sound familiar? Kinda like signing Branyan and putting him at first base, which kicks LaPorta (our future first baseman) to the outfield for only one year?

I’m fine with the order change, just because I think it will force Sizemore to approach his ABs differently. Be it 1 guy or 2 guys, now he has someone ahead of him in the order. Cabrera might be more of an issue, because the pitches he gets are going to be different with no one on ahead of him, but it’s only the first time through the order.
Did everyone see that we signed Tom Mastny to a minor league deal? His numbers in Japan were just as bad as they were here.

yep, I saw that on Lopez. I’d have taken him for that price. He was really awful in Washington though, which I’m sure had something to do with the Indians’ non-interest … having Sizemore bat 2nd is a whole lot better than having Sizemore leading off. That’s probably at least 5 runs you just added to the offense by turning solo home runs into 2-run home runs. Cabrera actually hit leadoff in 32 games last year, he had a .301 BA, .340 OBP and .799 OPS, batting 2nd he had a .311 BA, .343 OBP and .782 OPS. Not really any difference in his production at all. I imagine he’ll get quite a few good pitches to hit, you wouldn’t want to walk him in front of Sizemore and Choo … If not for Hafner’s decline, this would really be a formidable offense. Cabrera, Sizemore, Choo, and ’06 Hafner–that would be real nice. You’d have 3 of the best in baseball at drawing walks hitting consecutively, all guys with around a .400 OBP, and hitting 90 home runs between them

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