May you stay forever young
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
Forget about blooming flowers or the groundhog seeing its shadow (or not seeing its shadow… I always forget how that works). To me, the first real sign of spring is when the legendary Bob Feller strolls into the Indians’ Spring Training complex. It’s the sign that the (exhibition) games can begin.
Feller used to throw out a ceremonial first pitch before every game at Chain O’ Lakes in Winter Haven, Fla. He’s since ceased that practice, but he continues to sign autographs for fans at the Tribe’s games at Goodyear Ballpark.
Amazingly, Feller is nearing the 70th anniversary of his April 16, 1940, Opening Day no-hitter against the White Sox (depicted in the painting to the right). It is, of course, the only Opening Day no-hitter in history.
Rapid Robert turned 91 in November, but the Gates Mills, Ohio, resident remains spry. He seemed pleased to arrive in Arizona.
“This is the worst winter I’ve ever seen in Cleveland,” he said.
And coming from a 91-year-old with long-time Cleveland ties, that’s saying something.
Feller has an opinion on everything. In fact, immediately after his arrival, he was offering his take on LeBron James filing to change his number from 23 to 6, in deference to Michael Jordan.
“I changed my number three times,” Feller said, “and I never had to file any papers.”
Feller wore Nos. 9, 11, 17 and 19 in his career. Why did he wear them?
“I can’t really tell you,” he said. “I like oddballs and odd numbers.”
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- Opening Day, Cactus League edition, takes place at 3:05 p.m. ET Friday, as the Indians have a “road” date with the Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. The game will be televised live on SportsTime Ohio, WTAM 1100 and the Indians Radio Network. For those not in Cleveland, the game will air live on MLB.TV and will be available on-demand after the fact.
- Here’s the lineup the Manny Acta will write out for the opener against the Reds: SS Asdrubal Cabrera, CF Grady Sizemore, RF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Travis Hafner, 3B Jhonny Peralta, LF Jordan Brown, 1B Andy Marte, 2B Luis Valbuena, C Lou Marson. RHP Justin Masterson.
- As far as the position players are concerned, that should be pretty close to the real Opening Day lineup, with the obvious exceptions of Brown (Matt LaPorta) and Marte (Russell Branyan). LaPorta, recovering from hip and toe surgeries, isn’t scheduled to appear in a Cactus League game until March 10. He initiated a running program today. Branyan, who battled back issues at the end of ’09, is currently doing limited work at first base.
- But what about Brown and Marte? Do they have a chance of making this club? I’d say Marte, who is out of options, has a better shot than Brown, but they both have their work cut out for them after the Branyan signing. Austin Kearns, Trevor Crowe, Shelley Duncan and Brown will all be vying for time in the corner outfield this season, and Kearns and Crowe seem to be the top candidates for the fourth OF job.
- What can Brown do to win a job? Prove he’s improved on the defensive end and show off some power. Two homers in two intrasquad games help his stock on the latter front. “If he hits a home run every game,” Acta said, “he can make the club.” Acta said it’s too early to get a read on Brown’s defense.
- Marte is competing for a bench spot in which he could help out at the infield corners. He’s helped by the fact that he’s right-handed, though it remains to be seen how much. “A right-handed bat comes in handy when you want to gives guys a break,” said Acta, who has a lineup that leans to the left.
- Jeremy Sowers (left shoulder soreness) threw another bullpen session today, as he tries to get healthy enough to compete for a rotation spot. “He threw well,” Acta said. “It’s just about building stamina.” Acta said there is still no timetable for when Sowers will appear in the exhibition games. Clearly, it could get late early, when it comes to competing for a rotation job.
- David Huff will start Saturday against the Reds (followed by Mitch Talbot, Hector Ambriz, Tony Sipp, Jess Todd, Jensen Lewis and Mike Gosling) and Jake Westbrook will start Sunday against the Rangers (followed by Kerry Wood, Jamey Wright, Jason Grilli, Alex White and Saul Rivera).
- On Monday, the Indians will make the 135-mile trek to Tucson to face the Diamondbacks. Obviously, this is not a popular trip, and Acta had this in mind when he kidded Choo during batting practice this morning. “Choo,” he said, “I hear you have family in Tucson and want to visit them on Monday?” Choo quickly denied the claim.
- STO will debut a live call-in show following Indians games this season. “Chuck’s Last Call,” hosted by Chuck Galeti, will begin airing after the Tribe-White Sox game on April 7. Galeti previously worked for WOIO Channel 19, WKYC Channel 3 and WTAM 1100.