March 2010

"That's the way you do it! That's the way you debate!"

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
http://www.twitter.com/castrovince

I had an inkling the “tortilla” vs. “wrap” discussion would inspire thoughtful debate, and I humbly accept the fact that the vast majority of you (including my fiancée, who is now on shaky ground) sided with Jason “The Master of Self-Promotion” Stein on this one. I shall hereby cease referring to tortillas wrapped around fajitas as wraps.

But I think my dad best articulated my feelings on the “Jungleland” saxophone solo and the Bob Dylan vs. Willie Nelson debate:

“Stein’s lack of understanding of the nature of said sax solo is a result of his inability to grasp the meaning behind this musical masterpiece. It is the ballet that is danced, the opera that is sung, the plaintive cry of youth yet to be understood.

joed.gif“Dylan vs. Nelson is like comparing DiMaggio to Kaline. Both Hall of Famers. But one a master of the sport, a brilliant performer, a class act who married the most beautiful woman in the world. The other a very good ballplayer.”

Amen. I’m up 2-1, Stein.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • Russell Branyan was supposed to make his Cactus League debut today, but he was nowhere to be found. That’s pretty much been the case since the Indians signed him two weeks ago, as I have yet to see Branyan, who has a herniated disc in his lower back, take any batting practice. Manny Acta said Branyan has been taking groundballs and some swings (probably in the indoor cages). But it was Acta who announced that Branyan would play today, and, following the game, it was Acta who announced that there is now no such timetable for Branyan. “This is what we knew when we signed him,” Acta said. “He’s still finishing his rehab. We have a lot of time left. We’ve got to take care of this guy.” Branyan didn’t play the last month of the ’09 season with the Mariners.
  • So far, the Branyan situation reminds me a little bit of ’07, when the Indians signed Trot Nixon, and he arrived to camp barely able to move following back surgery. Nixon slowly eased his way into action and, of course, was able to assume his position as the Tribe’s regular right fielder at the start of the season. The Indians obviously expect Branyan to be ready, as well, though I wouldn’t classify Wednesday’s change in plans as a great first step.
  • Matt LaPorta, on the other hand, did manage to make his Cactus League debut today, playing three innings at first base and going 0-for-1 at the plate. He’s still seeing all his time at first but will eventually transition out to left field.
  • I profiled LaPorta on the Indians.com site today. A collection of quotes has been kept in the clubhouse this spring, and the “LaPortaisms” that have been chronicled have been hysterical.
  • The highlight for the Indians today was a nine-run fourth inning in which 14 guys came to the plate, all nine guys scored a run and Grady Sizemore smacked a grand slam off Jackson Quezada. That pretty much sealed the game, which improved the Indians to 5-0 this spring season. “Guys are pounding the strike zone and playing good defense,” Acta said. “[In the big inning] they took advantage of a little wildness by [the Padres]. That’s what we tell our guys is you have to pound the strike zone [to avoid those innings].”
  • If you’re wondering where Carlos Carrasco’s been, he pitched in Monday’s intrasquad game here in Goodyear, while the Tribe was in Tucson. I’m told LaPorta took him deep.
  • Speaking of action that goes beyond the Cactus schedule, the Indians will have a “B” game against the Reds here on Sunday morning.
  • From the alumni department, Josh Barfield entered today’s game at second base in the bottom of the sixth. After being cast off by the Indians last fall, he signed a Minor League deal with the Padres last month and was not given an invite to big league camp. This guy was once supposed to be the Tribe’s long-term second baseman. Today, he was wearing No. 99 for the Pads. I root for Barfield because he’s a great kid and a hard worker, but he obviously has a long climb ahead of him if he’s going to get back to the bigs.
  • I talked a little with Hector Ambriz about his spring so far. Rule 5 situations are inherently awkward, because the odds are generally against the guy sticking with the club. They come in, get acclimated to a new staff and new teammates, then get shipped back to their old team if they don’t make the Opening Day roster. But Ambriz found the acclimation process here to be pretty easy. After all, he joined a club that’s experienced a ridiculous amount of turnover in the past year. “I didn’t skip a beat there,” he said.
  • Ambriz has a real opportunity here, given the state of the Tribe ‘pen, but he knows he’s going to need to rein in his adrenaline a bit if he’s going to make the most of it. He’s turned in two scoreless innings, but he’s been a little wild in the process. Ambriz is converting from starting to relief work, so he’s working with Tim Belcher, Scott Radinsky and Charlie Nagy on refining his pitch selection. “I throw a curveball, slider and split[-fingered fastball],” he said. “It’s a matter of focusing in on one to get first-pitch strikes.”
  • Tribe owner Larry Dolan was in the house today.
  • Not too many other people were. The Indians announced that 2,271 tickets were distributed for today’s game, and there were definitely fewer than that actually in the seats. The weather has not been ideal, and it’s not quite spring break season, but, from my vantage point the past week, Cactus League attendance has been hurting so far.

~AC

Brown surgery successful; 32 players signed

Two minor news items this morning…

  • OF Jordan Brown had arthroscopic surgery performed on his right knee Monday in Cleveland by Dr. Rick Parker. Because the correct knee was operated on and Brown woke up, it was deemed a successful procedure. Brown will report back to the Goodyear complex next Monday to begin a rehab program. As previously reported, he’s expected to miss four to eight weeks of action before joining the Triple-A Columbus club.
  • The Indians reached contractual terms with the 32 non-arbitration-eligible members of their 40-man roster. They are: Hector Ambriz, Brian Bixler, Michael Brantley, Brown, Asdrubal Cabrera, Carlos Carrasco, Shin-Soo Choo, Trevor Crowe, Kelvin De La Cruz, Jason Donald, Wes Hodges, David Huff, Matt LaPorta, Aaron Laffey, Jensen Lewis, Lou Marson, Andy Marte, Justin Masterson, Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Anthony Reyes, Carlos Rivero, Hector Rondon, Carlos Santana, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith, Jeremy Sowers, Mitch Talbot, Jess Todd, Wyatt Toregas, Luis Valbuena and Nick Weglarz.

Everybody form a line

The last couple years, I’ve been posting the Indians’ lineups in this blog, because I’m just an old-fashioned kind of guy. Alas, that format has quickly become archaic, and I’m seeing less and less value in rushing toward the keyboard to pass along a lineup that can be more efficiently tweeted to you and yours.

 

So let’s just go with that, all right? If you’re not following me on Twitter, here’s another reason to do so. I’ll tweet the Tribe’s daily lineup as quickly as I can. CastroTurf, meanwhile, will remain a reservoir for news and minutiae.

 

~AC

"It must be impossible for a Spanish person to order seltzer and not get salsa."

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
http://www.twitter.com/castrovince

Regular readers of this space know that one of my favorite pastimes is arguing with Indians iTrac vision trainer Jason Stein, not-so-affectionately known as the “Master of Self-Promotion.”

The most heated of these arguments pertained to Clarence Clemons’ heroic/historic saxophone solo on “Jungleland” (which Stein callously dismissed as superfluous) and a debate over which American music legend has proven more influential, Bob Dylan (yes) or Willie Nelson (definitely not).
 
fajitas.jpgWell, Stein and I are at it again. This time, the argument pertains not to music but to Mexican. I referred to the food item that blankets a chicken fajita as a “wrap.” This immediately offended Stein, a native Texan and a self-described expert on Texican grub.

“Why do you call it a wrap?” he said in his Texan twang. “It’s a tortilla.”

I argued that a tortilla in chip form is known as a “tortilla chip” or simply a “chip,” and a tortilla in wrap form is known as a “tortilla wrap” or simply a “wrap.” Stein counters that a tortilla that’s fried becomes a “tortilla chip,” but the tortilla on its own is known just as a “tortilla” and never a “wrap.”

Somebody — anybody — please chip in, cast a deciding vote and wrap up this Mexican standoff.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • It’s natural – maybe even a little fun — to speculate that the Twins will come beating down Mark Shapiro’s door to get  Kerry Wood. But the Twins already have a projected Opening Day payroll nearing $100 million, and they’d have to assume quite a bit of Wood’s $10.5 million contract (plus the vesting 2011 option) to make it worth it for the Indians to move him. So for now, I wouldn’t expect much on that front. But Wood will obviously be on the trading block all year, as this story discusses.
  • laffey.jpgAaron Laffey started against the Mariners today and turned in two scoreless innings, just as he did in his first outing of the spring, against the Reds. The scoreless appearances can’t hurt Laffey’s hopes of landing one of the two open spots in the rotation. That’s a lesson he learned last year, when he went into the Cactus League season with the approach of working on his pitches and not necessarily worrying about the results. “That didn’t work out in my favor,” he said.
  • No, it did not. Laffey was passed over for the fifth starting spot and was none too pleased about it. He sulked for a little while, then reported to Triple-A Columbus, only to be called up two weeks into the season to help out the rotation when Scott Lewis went down with an elbow injury. Laffey remained in the bigs from there on out, minus his stint on the disabled list with an oblique injury.
  • This time around, Laffey said he’s working on his pitches behind the scenes, in his bullpen sessions. Specifically, he’s changed the grip on his two-seamer, trying to get more consistency with his location. The 57 walks allowed by Laffey in 121 2/3 innings in the Majors were rather uncharacteristic. “[The new grip] keeps the ball on the center of the plate and also has more depth to it,” he said. Laffey has had a coach stand in the box while he warms up in the bullpen to get a feel for the pitch. Then he takes what he’s learned about it into the game and, to this point, has fared quite well.
  • Manny Acta said the Indians will take results into account, of course, but he said execution of pitches is what really counts. “It’s about getting first-pitch strikes, which we preach, and staying ahead of the hitters and keeping the defense involved,” Acta said.
  • Justin Masterson worked 1 1/3 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits with a walk and three strikeouts. Acta had to pull him because of his pitch count. Masterson had trouble controlling his sinker.
  • Lots of Indians alumni in the Mariners clubhouse, including Cliff Lee, Ryan Garko, Franklin Gutierrez, Milton Bradley, Josh Bard, Mike Koplove, former pitching coach Carl Willis (now the M’s Minor League pitching coordinator) and former catcher Tim Laker (now the manager at Double-A West Tennessee). I talked with Garko and Lee about all the movement in Cleveland over the last two years. Here’s that story.
  • I told you a little bit about Wes Hodges the other day. Formerly dubbed the Tribe’s “third baseman of the future,” he’s now facing the possibility of moving to first base full-time at Triple-A Columbus this season. He started at first base today and had a big game, contributing a pair of two-run doubles. “He can swing the bat,” Acta said. “He’s able to use the whole field.” Acta said Hodges’ position is a matter of inter-organizational debate, but he’ll “probably” end up at first. “If his bat comes around,” Acta said, “that’s going to be his ticket.”
  • Luis Valbuena also had a nice day, going 3-for-3 with a double in the third, an RBI single in the sixth and two runs scored.
  • Rule 5 pickup Hector Ambriz has logged two scoreless innings in two appearances, but they’ve both been adventures. He gave up a pair of hits to the Reds on Saturday and got out of it. Today, he walked the bases loaded with two out but got Guillermo Quiroz to fly out to end the inning. “He looked like he had his adrenaline pumping,” Acta said. “You can’t blame somebody who wants to impressive, but at times that’s not the way to do it.”
  • They played Bob Seger’s “Fire Down Below” on the PA before today’s game. Sweet.

~AC

3/9: Indians at Mariners

Today’s 3:05 p.m. ET/1:05 p.m. MT game in Peoria will be broadcast live on Indians.com, with Jim Rosenhaus and Matt Underwood calling all the action.

cle4.gifINDIANS (3-0): SS Asdrubal Cabrera, CF Michael Brantley, RF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Travis Hafner, 3B Jhonny Peralta, LF Austin Kearns, 2B Luis Valbuena, 1B Wes Hodges, C Wyatt Toregas. LHP Aaron Laffey.

 

 

sea.gifMARINERS (3-3): LF Corey Patterson, RF Eric Byrnes, 3B Jose Lopez, DH Ken Griffey Jr., 1B Ryan Garko, CF Franklin Gutierrez, SS Matt Tuiasosopo, C Guillermo Quiroz, 2B Nick Franklin. LHP Jason Vargas.

 

 

Also scheduled to throw for the Tribe: RHP Justin Masterson, LHP Rafael Perez, LHP Tony Sipp, RhP Hector Ambriz, RHP Jensen Lewis.

Cold day, ain't no sun; No use complaining, gotta get the job done

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
http://www.twitter.com/castrovince

When you’re in the midst of a typically brutal Cleveland winter, and a 50-degree day comes along, it’s nirvana. I don’t know about you, but I drive around with my windows down and my moonroof open.

Then I come down here and get acclimated to the Arizona weather. It’s 50 degrees here in Tucson today, and I’m freezing my you-know-what off. I plan to drive back to Goodyear with the windows closed and the heat cranked up.

The point (and the only worthwhile thing I’m getting out of those last two paragraphs I just typed) is this: I tend to drive around in 50-degree weather.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • J
    x610.jpgake Westbrook made his much-anticipated Cactus League debut in Tucson today. It was anticipated because it was his first start against a Major League club (albeit a Spring Training entry) in nearly two years. And it looked a lot like his first start against a Major League club (albeit a Spring Training entry) in nearly two years.
  • Westbrook was rusty. He plunked the second batter he faced, and he walked three others. Only 17 of his 38 pitches went for strikes. The good news is he said his arm feels great; the bad news is he’s got some work to do in the mechanical department.
  • Usually, a veteran like Westbrook makes a start or two or three in “B” games because he’s just getting his work in. But considering Westbrook’s time off, Manny Acta said it’s important for him to face Major League competition. That’s why the Indians had Fausto Carmona (the originally scheduled Monday starter, before Sunday’s game got rained out) stay back in Goodyear to pitch an intrasquad game while Westbrook made this trip. Westbrook was originally slated to pitch a “B” game when his start date fell in line with a game against the White Sox (his Opening Day opponent) later this month, because the Indians didn’t want the Sox getting a look at him. Sunday’s rainout might have affected that schedule, though.
  • The full story on Westbrook will be up soon at Indians.com. A new edition of the Indians Inbox will also be posted.
  • Leadoff man and center fielder Michael Brantley was the star of the show in today’s 3-2 win. He tripled to lead off the game and fell a homer shy of the cycle. “He set the tone the whole game,” Acta said. “He put up quality at-bats and worked the count well.”
  • Brantley is expected to begin the season in Triple-A Columbus because of Russell Branyan’s presence, Matt LaPorta’s ensuing move to left field and the simple fact that the Indians don’t want to start Brantley’s arbitration clock prematurely.
  • Catcher and top prospect Carlos Santana will also start the season in Triple-A, a level he has yet to experience. But if his production continues to meet his potential, it won’t be long before he’s in Cleveland. Acta said Santana has made a positive first impression on him. “What impresses me is he’s not your typical, over-aggressive young guy,” Acta said. “He works counts and has a good eye at the plate. He looks very polished for his age.”
  • Why did the Dodgers convert Santana from third base to catcher? Acta is wondering the same thing, because he said Santana is a good athlete with good hands. While you could argue that Santana’s bat is more valuable behind the dish, Acta believes the switch-hitter is going to produce enough to justify his existence, regardless of position. “When you can hit like that,” Acta said, “you can stand anywhere.”
  • But Santana has adapted well to catching the last few years, and he’s working with first-base coach and catching instructor Sandy Alomar Jr. to improve even further. Alomar is working with Santana on quickening the youngster’s release on stolen-base attempts, rather than just relying on his arm strength.
  • I hope he doesn’t mind me posting this, but before today’s game I saw prospect Beau Mills place the contents of a small bag of Cheetos inside what appeared to be a turkey sandwich. And I tell you what… it looked pretty darned good. 
  • As I was finishing up this post, the rain stopped falling and a huge rainbow stretched above Tucson Electric Park. In the backdrop, snow has gathered atop the Santa Catalina Mountains. This will be the last picture I carry in my head of Tucson (the D-Backs and Rockies are moving their training sites up to the Phoenix area next year), and it’s a beauty. Looks even better than a Cheetowich.

~AC

3/8: Indians at D-Backs

It’s a cold, damp morning in Tucson, but the rain should hold off enough to get today’s 3:05 p.m. ET/1:05 p.m. MT game at Tucson Electric Park in.

Today’s game can be heard live on Indians.com, with Jim Rosenhaus handling the play-by-play duties. I’ll be guesting with Rosey in the bottom of the first, so tune in.

The Tribe is essentially going with a JV lineup today, but Jake Westbrook will be making his first start of the exhibition season and his first start against a Major League club since May 2008.


cle3.gifINDIANS (2-0):
CF Michael Brantley, LF Trevor Crowe, 3B Brian Buscher, DH Carlos Santana, 1B Andy Marte, RF Shelley Duncan, C Lou Marson, 2B Luis Rodriguez, SS Jason Donald. RHP Westbrook.

 

 

 


ari.gifDIAMONDBACKS (1-4):
SS Tony Abreu, 2B Ryan Roberts, RF Justin Upton, DH Adam LaRoche, CF Chris Young, C Miguel Montero, LF Gerardo Parra, 3B Rusty Ryal, 1B Brandon Allen. RHP Rodrigo Lopez.

 

 

Also scheduled to throw for the Tribe: RHP Jamey Wright, RHP Yohan Pino, RHP Chris Perez, RHP Joe Smith and RHP Saul Rivera.

"Denny, don't plan too much. It may not come out right."

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com 

72575879.jpgRainy days were supposed to clear up with the Indians’ move to Arizona. Yet the weather here today is downright Winter Haven-esque, hence the Tribe’s first Cactus League postponement in God knows how long.

So rather than watching history (this was to be Shelley Duncan’s first start in an Indians uniform, after all), I guess I’ll retreat back to my posh Spring Training condo and watch… the Oscars? Eh, probably not. It’s hard to support an awards program that nominates 10 — 10! — movies for “Best Picture” and yet still doesn’t do anything to address the cinematic brilliance of “The Room.” 

First, though, a few notes.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • With today’s game postponed, Jake Westbrook will instead start Monday in Tucson, against the D-Backs. He’s waited 21 months to start against a big league club, so what’s another day? But how about the veteran Westbrook making the 2 ½-hour trip just to work two innings? Westbrook will be making the trip because the Indians feel it’s important that he see Major League hitters at this stage of his return from Tommy John. Fausto Carmona, who was originally slated to start Monday, will instead work in an intrasquad game here at the Goodyear complex.
  • The rain also wiped out the bulk of the morning workout. The hitters were still able to utilize the indoor cages, but the Tribe wasn’t able to do any fundamental drills. So the first time you see a guy airmail a throw to first, blame it on Mother Nature’s March 7 mayhem.
  • Manny Acta doesn’t like all the skepticism about what Westbrook can bring to the rotation, considering he’s made just five starts over the last two seasons. “Tommy John surgery is as common as the everyday dental visit nowadays in baseball,” Acta said. “It’s not a worry. We’re expecting him to be good.”
  • From my perspective, the issue people are pointing to is not Westbrook returning to effectiveness post-surgery. It’s Westbrook doing so in the No. 1 spot of the rotation. But hey, here’s hoping Acta’s accurate.
  • Obviously, Lou Marson, a Cliff Lee trade acquisition, is the favorite for the starting catcher spot. Acta said Marson played “a bit better” than Wyatt Toregas at the big-league level last season (though he admitted it was a pretty small sample for both guys). But Acta said it’s too early to concede anything regarding that job. He wants to get a good look at Toregas, too.
  • What’s strange is Toregas either has to win the Indians over to become the club’s Major League starting catcher, or, because of veteran Mike Redmond’s presence, he’ll have to go back to Triple-A and back up Carlos Santana. Talk about two extremes.
  • Remember Wes Hodges? He was supposed to be the Indians’ third baseman of the future, but his stock took a major hit because of shoulder and wrist injuries that limited him to 86 games at Triple-A Columbus. The 25-year-old Hodges lost important developmental time on the defensive end, where he had a lot of room to improve, to begin with.
  • When it comes to the Tribe’s long-term thinking about third base, Hodges appears to have been leapfrogged by Lonnie Chisenhall, who had a stellar year at Class A Kinston and Double-A Akron and has made a strong early impression here in camp. Hodges, meanwhile, said he was told he will split his time in 2010 between third base and first base. “The more versatile I can be, especially being a young guy, the more opportunity it provides,” he said. “If you can hit, they’ll find a spot for you.” Now that he’s healthy, Hodges believes he’s definitely ready to hit. But if the Indians trade Jhonny Peralta this year, it’s still anybody’s guess as to what would happen at the hot corner. 
  • I wrote up Mark Grudzielanek for the Indians.com site today. He was signed to compete for an infield utility job, but he has his eyes on the starting second base job (the one that’s Luis Valbuena’s to lose). “If I didn’t feel I could play every day and start,” said Grudzielanek, who didn’t play in the bigs last season, “I wouldn’t be here.” Acta said there’s nothing wrong with Grudzielanek’s competitive fire. The question, he said, is whether Grudzielanek can handle the transition to backup duties if he doesn’t land the job he wants. Grudzielanek is currently just seeing time at second base, though he’ll eventually see time at third.
  • You know what I like about Grudzielanek? His last name, of course. As the proud possessor of an 11-character surname, I can sympathize with the plight of a guy like Grudzielanek, whose name loops around the number on the back of his jersey in a semicircle. “I can feel them back there,” he said of the letters. I hope they’re not weighing him down. Maybe he should just go by “Grudz.”
  • Are you following me on Twitter? If not, why not? You only live once. You might as well be overloaded with Indians information.

~AC

3/7: Indians vs. Rangers… maybe (UPDATE: Fugghetaboutit)

UPDATE: Today’s game has been postponed. Jake Westbrook has waited more than 21 months to start a Major League game. He’ll have to wait a little longer. Instead of starting today, he’ll get the nod Monday in Tucson, against the Diamondbacks.

It’s raining in the desert, so today’s 3:05 p.m. ET/1:05 p.m. ET MT game at Goodyear Ballpark, like a certain Oscar candidate, is “Up in the Air.”

But if they get it in, it will be live on the Indians Radio Network. Here’s the lineup the Tribe will trot out there.


cle.gifINDIANS (2-0):
SS Asdrubal Cabrera, DH Travis Hafner, RF Shin-Soo Choo, C Carlos Santana, CF Trevor Crowe, 3B Andy Marte, 1B Brian Buscher, LF Shelley Duncan, 2B Luis Valbuena. RHP Jake Westbrook.

 

 

RANGERS (1-2): TBA

Also slated to pitch for the Tribe: RHP Kerry Wood, RHP Jamey Wright, RHP Yohan Pino, RHP Alex White and RHP Saul Rivera.

Brown to miss 4 to 8 weeks; Grilli could miss entire season

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

The news wasn’t all that great for Jordan Brown or Jason Grilli on Saturday, after the Indians’ doctors analyzed their MRI exams.

Brown has a torn meniscus in his right knee and will require arthroscopic surgery in Cleveland next week. He’ll miss four to eight weeks of action, so count him out of the competition in the Indians’ outfield.

“Hopefully this is a tiny little setback,” said Brown, the International League batting champ last year at Columbus. “If anybody is used to tiny little setbacks, it’s this guy.”

Grilli’s injury is no tiny little setback. He has a tear in his right quadriceps, just above the knee, that is likely to require surgery. Grilli, a non-roster invitee who was to be a veteran bullpen option for the Tribe, could miss the entire 2010 season. Upon the Indians’ request, he’ll receive a second opinion on the quadriceps injury before it’s determined whether he’ll have the surgery.

Here’s the full story at Indians.com.

UPDATE: In other injury news, Russell Branyan, still working his way back from the back issues that sidelined him the last month of the ’09 season in Seattle, will make his Cactus League debut Wednesday against the Padres.

That’s the same day Matt LaPorta, recovering from hip and toe surgeries, is also slated to debut. 

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