"Every moment's a little bit later"
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
Still a couple days remaining in the desert. But after everything that transpired today at the Player Development Complex and Goodyear Ballpark, I think we can pretty much call it a camp, barring injuries or unforeseen developments.
I will, of course, blog any news or particularly pertinent notes that come up before my Saturday departure. And over on the Indians.com site on Friday, we’ll have my Q&A with manager Manny Acta and a feature on Opening Day starter Jake Westbrook.
Now, with the roster all but set, let’s do a rundown of the ramifications of today’s activity.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
David Huff probably locked up the rotation job today. With Acta and the bulk of hte coaching staff traveling to Los Angeles tomorrow, that won’t be announced
until Friday(UPDATE: Turns out, Acta will address reporters before he leaves tomorrow, so expect the rotation announcement then), but it seems like a no-brainer, particularly with four right-handers in the rotation. Huff went seven innings against the White Sox and allowed one run (an Alex Rios solo shot) on five hits with three walks and four strikeouts. After Carlos Carrasco’s rough outing Sunday, Huff just had to come in today and pound the strike zone. He wasn’t spotless, as the three walks illustrate. But he did a solid job against a Sox lineup nearly full of regulars.
- The rotation, then, seems set. These were GM Mark Shapiro’s thoughts on the rotation, with the season on the horizon: “I’m pleased with [Jake] Westbrook and [Fausto] Carmona. I think Justin Masterson’s last outing was extremely encouraging. Hopefully he’s trending in the right direction and can build off that. Mitch Talbot, other than the first couple innings [Tuesday] night, has had a good camp. But there’s a certain level of anxiety with pitching. Our pitching is going to be a work in progress. It’s going to require some time and adjustments along the way. I feel there are enough guys here, enough quality alternatives, to put a staff together. I’m just not sure we’re going to get that staff April 5. It may take us some time to get there.”
- Westbrook made his final spring tuneup before his Opening Day start Monday in Chicago. He pitched for Triple-A Columbus against Nashville today and went six innings, allowing four runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
- Andy Marte made the club. For how long? Who knows? But he’s here, and he’ll probably play about two days a week at first the first couple weeks, as Matt LaPorta gets up to full speed following October hip and toe surgeries. If Marte falters, the Indians could turn to fourth outfielder Austin Kearns as the backup backup first baseman. Kearns played a little first today.
- Shapiro and Acta both said that of all the decisions announced today, the final outfield decision was probably the most difficult one to make. Ultimately, the Indians wanted Trevor Crowe to play every day in Triple-A, and they value the right-handed bat Kearns brings to an otherwise all-lefty outfield. Kearns is a solid outfield defender with a “cannon for an arm,” as Shapiro put it.
- Non-roster invitee Jamey Wright will be rewarded for a strong camp. He was durable for the Royals the last couple years, and he followed the strike-throwing mantra this spring. “He came as advertised,” Shapiro said. “He can add great value to our ‘pen and provide some stability as well as some leadership. I was impressed with him, both as a guy and how he pitched.”
- On the other side of the spectrum, non-roster invitees Luis Rodriguez, Brian Buscher, Saul Rivera, Niuman Romero and Chris Gimenez will all be reassigned to Minor League camp Friday. The Indians are keeping them around through Thursday because of the split-squad. The Tribe will probably hold onto Anderson Hernandez through the weekend, as Mark Grudzielanek has to prove he’s past the right hamstring tweak he suffered Sunday before his contract is officially purchased. Grudzielanek will start tomorrow in Tempe.
- Rain is in the forecast tomorrow, so that Tempe game might be in jeopardy.
- Here’s what Shapiro had to say about “Grudz”: “The guy’s amazingly athletic and plays a lot younger than his age. He moved around extremely well and played good defense at second. The only question is what should we expect if we put him at third base. As far as playing second base and complementing Valbuena, I think he’s going to help us in multiple ways.”
- Regarding the split-squad, if you’re attending the game at Dodger Stadium (and several of my readers have e-mailed to inform me they are), you’re getting something closely resembling a regular lineup. Michael Brantley, LaPorta, Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Asdrubal Cabrera and Chris Perez are all making the trip, and Carmona will get the start. Acta and every member of the coaching staff, with the exception of bullpen coach Scott Radinsky, will be there, too.
- Good to see Brantley rewarded with the left field job. “He did everything,” Acta said. “He never got caught up in the [Russell] Branyan signing. He went about his business and put up a great spring.”
- Brantley followed all the service time speculation as much as any of us, and it still might become an issue at some point this season. “Ideally, you’d get a little more Minor League time with a guy like that,” Shapiro said. “But he’s earned an opportunity up here. We told him at this point that he’ll be making the decisions going forward.” Obviously, though, Branyan could come back and complicate matters. Branyan, as scheduled, did not play in the Minors today. He was in the dugout for the game against the Sox.
- Branyan or no Branyan, Shapiro feels good about the offense. Here’s what he had to say: “Good pitching like Felix Hernandez and top-of-the-rotation guys can shut down any offense. We’re going to run into some good pitching in our division. Rick Porcello, Justin Verlander, Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, Zack Greinke. But I feel like our lineup’s got the ability to put up runs with anybody in our division, except maybe the Twins. [The offense] is not a concern. As a general manager, you’re concerned about everything. But our offense and our outfield defense would be in the lowest rung of my concerns.”
- Speaking of the outfield defense, that’s a pretty dynamic unit the Indians will put out there on Opening Day. Brantley stole 46 bags in Triple-A last year, while Shin-Soo Choo stole 20 in the big leagues. Obviously, Sizemore was hurt last year, but he stole 38 bases in ’08. “It’s a very athletic outfield,” Shapiro said. “It should be a fun outfield to watch.”
- Shapiro on Sizemore’s spring: “Seeing him play this spring made me realize how hurt he must have played last year. His injuries were significant. He just doesn’t say anything. But to watch him run how he’s running now, to watch him swing how he’s swinging now, it makes it more striking what he must have endured last year.”
- Shapiro’s take on Acta, as the manager’s first camp with the Indians wraps up: “Just positive energy. He brings it every day, and it resonates throughout the clubhouse and with everyone around him. He’s a great communicator, easy to approach and a smart baseball guy. I’ve never had a moment where I’ve questioned who we picked. It’s been fun to work with him. We haven’t lost a game yet, but it’s been fun to work with him, and I’ve definitely learned from him, which is what you want in any relationship.”
- And while we’re on a roll with the Shapiro synopsis, here’s what he had to say about his feelings on the team now vs. December: “I don’t think we knew what to expect from Carmona or Hafner. We’ve seen very positive indicators from those guys. Not definitives, but positive indicators. Westbrook is healthy. We didn’t expect Kerry Wood to get hurt, so that’s a negative. Spring Training can be an inaccurate reading. There are areas where it’s heightened anxiety, and there are areas where it may have falsely made us feel more secure. But the biggest questions out there — Hafner, Carmona and Westbrook — are three resounding positives.”
- Finally, the Indians announced today a new “Volunteer Challenge” with Business Volunteers Unlimited. Those who sign up for the program through BVU’s Volunteer Center and log a minimum of four hours of volunteer work with nonprofits will receive a ticket voucher for two upper box tickets to one of 24 preselected Tribe games. Find out more at indians.com/volunteer.