March 2010

3/6: Indians vs. Reds

Today’s 3:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast live on the Indians Radio Network.


cle2.gifINDIANS (1-0):
CF Michael Brantley, 2B Mark Grudzielanek, DH Shin-Soo Choo, 3B Jhonny Peralta, LF Nick Weglarz, RF Austin Kearns, 1B Andy Marte, C Wyatt Toregas, SS Jason Donald. LHP David Huff.

 

 


cin2.gifREDS (0-1):
CF Chris Dickerson, SS Orlando Cabrera, 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, 3B Scott Rolen, RF Jay Bruce, LF Jonny Gomes, C Corky Miller, DH Devin Mesoraco. RHP Johnny Cueto.

 

 

Also scheduled to throw for the Tribe: RHP Mitch Talbot, RHP Hector Ambriz, LHP Tony Sipp, RHP Jess Todd, RHP Jensen Lewis, LHP Mike Gosling.

Beat the drum and hold the phone, the sun came out today

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

One win, two injuries, and about 97 tweets later, the first day of Cactus League play is in the books (and I have the early stages of carpal tunnel syndrome).

Once the drama of the Jordan Brown and Jason Grilli injuries settled down, the Indians had a nice day at The Big Chipotle.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • Justin Masterson breezed through two innings of work. He even retired the only two lefties he faced.
  • A full story on Masterson will be up soon at Indians.com. But it’s interesting to note that he’s always quick to downplay the importance of his changeup, while the Indians (be it Eric Wedge last year or Manny Acta this year) are always quick to point out how pivotal that pitch will be if he’s going to have success against lefties. I’d side with the club on this one, because a sinking fastball and a slider thrown by a right-hander with a low arm slot isn’t always going to work. Masterson’s numbers last year are proof of that.
  • Here’s what Masterson said about the development of his changeup: “The funny thing is, when I first got drafted [in 2006], I went to the Instructional League and had an awesome changeup. I didn’t necessarily remember how I threw it, going into the offseason, and then it was a constant search to re-find what we were doing. The last few years it’s been a work in progress. I think we’ve finally come to something that won’t be perfect but, for the most part, will work.”
  • It worked today on Jay Bruce, who struck out on a check-swing… and broke his bat. Well, that’s technically not true. Apparently, Bruce broke the bat on a foul ball a pitch earlier and didn’t realize it. When he check-swung at strike three, the barrel of the bat went flying toward Masterson. “I thought he was throwing the bat at me,” Masterson said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘Come on, dude. I’m sorry!'”
  • Kerry Wood gave up a leadoff double but worked his way out of the jam without incident.
  • Aaron Laffey looked especially sharp, throwing two perfect innings. Laffey has kept a low profile in camp thus far, but, in my book, he’s still a favorite for a rotation spot. “He probably threw the ball the best today,” Acta said.
  • The Perez pair — Chris and Rafael — also worked a scoreless inning. The only guy who had any real trouble was Joe Smith, who allowed a pair of runs in the eighth.
  • The line on Rafael Perez was that he relied too heavily on his slider last year. He was less predictable in his starting stint in winter ball and today, mixing in his fastball to great effect.
  • By and large, Acta had a lot to like from his pitchers today. “They did what we preach,” he said. “Pound the strike zone.”
  • On the offensive end, Asdrubal Cabrera led off the game with a home run. That figures. Acta moved Grady Sizemore down to the No. 2 spot so that he could be the one driving Cabrera home and so that he wouldn’t be hitting as many solo shots. “It was a great at-bat all the way,” Acta said of Cabrera’s homer, which came on a 3-2 pitch from Mike Lincoln. “We were joking that some other guys can lead off games hitting home runs.”
  • Non-roster infielder Brian Buscher (who is not considered part of the middle infield utility mix, because he’s left-handed) and Nick “The Canuck with Pluck” Weglarz also went deep. Weglarz had a three-run blast.
  • Still no word on the extent of the Brown and Grilli injuries. That will come tomorrow.

~AC

3/5: Indians "at" Reds

UPDATE: Jordan Brown was carted off the practice field with right knee soreness and has been scratched. He’s replaced in left field by Austin Kearns. Right-hander Jason Grilli also suffered a knee injury on the agility field.

For the record, the right knee is not the knee that Brown had arthroscopic surgery performed on in 2008. Brown, who hit two homers in the two intrasquad games, was on crutches after the workout and will get an MRI.

“It’s frustrating,” he said. “I had a good groove going and felt good about what I was doing.”

Grilli will also receive an MRI. The Indians won’t have an update on either guy until Saturday.

I think those are the only two injuries to report from the morning workout, but I can’t swear to it. How’s your day going?

Ay, oh, way to go, Ohio. It’s the Cactus League opener for the Indians and Reds this afternoon, as the Buckeye ballclubs go to work at their shared home, Goodyear Ballpark.

Today’s game will begin at 3:05 p.m. ET, after the Reds officially christen their new spring digs with special appearances by members of the Big Red Machine and the 1990 World Series Champion Reds. No word on whether the Indians will counter with members of their early 1970s and 1990 teams (I’m keeping my eye out for Duane Kuiper and Alex Cole). But Bob Feller is expected to throw out a ceremonial first pitch Saturday, which is, technically, the Indians’ home opener.

Anyway, here are the lineups for today’s game, which will be aired live on SportsTime Ohio, the Indians Radio Network and MLB.TV. I’ll also post a few in-game updates on Twitter.

cle.gifINDIANS (0-0): SS Asdrubal Cabrera, CF Grady Sizemore, RF Shin-Soo Choo, DH Travis Hafner, 3B Jhonny Peralta, LF Austin Kearns Jordan Brown, 1B Andy Marte, 2B Luis Valbuena, C Lou Marson. RHP Justin Masterson.

 

 


cin.gifREDS (0-0):
CF Drew Stubbs, SS Orlando Cabrera, 1B Joey Votto, 2B Brandon Phillips, 3B Scott Rolen, RF Jay Bruce, LF Jonny Gomex, C Ramon Hernandez, DH Drew Stutton. RHP MIke Lincoln.

May you stay forever young

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

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.

BobFeller1940NoHitter_graigKreindler.jpgAmazingly, 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.

~AC

Give what I got until I got no more

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com 

Updating my previous blog entry, I had quite a few e-mailers and Twitterers wondering how Tony Amato’s perfect game on “R.B.I. Baseball 3″ is considered a perfect game when, as the photo of the box score illustrated, five errors were committed by the San Diego Padres.

Apparently, the errors are attributable to Amato’s generosity and appreciation for the virtual fans. He told me he has a habit of tossing the ball into the stands after an out is recorded at first base. And each time he does this, “R.B.I.” charges his first baseman with an error.

So fear not, skeptics. The perfect game was legit and remains intact. I’ll let you know the broadcast schedule for when it will air on the MLB Network as soon as it’s announced.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • David Huff and Fausto Carmona started today’s 6 -inning intrasquad game, which, for the completists, was a 5-3 triumph for “Smitty’s American Racers.” Carlos Carrasco, Jason Grilli, Mitch Talbot, Yohan Pino, Hector Rondon, Jeanmar Gomez, Zach Putnam, Josh Judy, Alex White and Kelvin De La Cruz all threw.
  • The deciding blow came on Donnie Webb’s three-run blast off De La Cruz in the sixth. Webb was brought up from Minor League camp. Andy Marte and Lonnie Chisenhall also homered, and Jordan Brown went deep for the second time in as many intrasquads.
  • Carmona has begun throwing from the first-base side of the rubber, in an attempt to improve his effectiveness against left-handers. “Being on that side of the rubber gives him a better opportunity to hit both sides of the plate,” Manny Acta said. Acta said he was going to suggest the move to Carmona during winter ball. But when Acta arrived in the Dominican, he was pleased to discover Carmona’s Aguilas teammate Jose Lima had already made the suggestion, and Carmona had already made the move. “It worked for him in winter ball,” Acta said. “It was only 13 innings, but it worked.”
  • It didn’t work as well today. Carmona was taken deep by the left-handed Chisenhall for a solo shot that marred an otherwise efficient inning of work. Carmona had Travis Hafner guessing on a nice changeup for a punchout to start the inning (yes, Hafner led off, but more on that in a second).
  • Chisenhall had a nice day, going 2-for-3 with the homer and two runs scored. The first-round pick in 2008 converted to full-time third base duties last year and will probably begin the season at Double-A Akron. “This kid is walking around the clubhouse like he’s been there before, without being cocky or anything,” Acta said of Chisenhall. “He’s not intimidated by anything. He’s just a ballplayer, and he’s going to be a nice player for this franchise.”
  • Though Wednesday’s action marked the debut of the Asdrubal Cabrera-Grady Sizemore 1-2 punch, the real highlight of the intrasquad lineups was Pronk in the leadoff spot for “Sarby’s Sour Balls.” “I must have shown them a few things running sprints,” joked Hafner, who went 0-for-2. “I told Fausto that if he walks me, it’s a triple.”
  • Pronk also spent some time at shortstop during batting practice. But because of his shoulder woes, he hasn’t actually thrown a ball in two years, so he flipped every ball he fielded to the second baseman. “Every play has to be a highlight, with that flip,” he said.
  • I’ll have a full story on Hafner and his recovery from the shoulder issue up at Indians.com tonight.
  • Single-game tickets for the full slate of 81 home games go on sale Friday at 10 a.m. Those who purchase tickets on Friday will receive no online fees for April and May games and free parking for select games (May 22 vs. the Reds, June 7 and 10 vs. the Red Sox, July 26 and 29 vs. the Yankees).
  • Former Tribe third baseman Aaron Boone made an appearance at batting practice this morning. He announced his retirement last month and will soon begin working as an analyst on ESPN.
  • Media relations director Bart Swain threw BP to some Tribe hitters — in full uniform, no less. He complained of groin soreness afterward. Could be a DL situation.
  • Stat guru Bill James released his annual Young Talent Inventory in his newly published book, Gold Mine 2010, and the Indians fell 19 places to 26th overall in the game. The Rays ranked first. Age 29 is the cutoff.
  • Here’s what James had to say: “In my many years as a baseball fan, I’ve rarely seen things go bad for an organization, through no fault of their own, the way they have gone bad for the Indians. Two years ago, the Indians appeared ready take on the world. Two years later, with CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee long gone, Victor Martinez gone, Carmona having imploded, and even Grady Sizemore not playing as well, they’ve been pushed down to near the back of the line. I’ve never really seen anything like it. Their top five: Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta and Carlos Santana.”
  • Hey, I’m all for the integrity of the game. But there’s something to be said for the pace of these 6 -inning affairs. And just think of the money that could be saved on middle relievers.
  • Finally, I’d like to wish a very Happy 59th Birthday to Plain Dealer beat reporter Paul Hoynes, one of my all-time favorites.

~AC

"The perfect combination of Mountain Dew and mozzarella… just the right amount of grease on the joy stick."

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com 

A few years ago, Nintendo’s old-school “R.B.I. Baseball” game became popular in the Indians’ clubhouse. This somehow became newsworthy, because, well, it’s a long season.

rbi.jpgThe fact that Tribe players gathered around the TV to watch their teammates face each other in virtual reality was somehow supposed to be illustrative of the special bond the Indians players had. But really, they were just killing time before games.

Anyway, the game remains popular with some players, but that’s not all that interesting. What’s interesting is when one man defies the odds and all conceivable logic and achieves an “R.B.I.” feat previously thought unimaginable.

That’s right. Home clubhouse manager Tony Amato tossed a perfect game in “R.B.I. Baseball 3.”

Why is this unimaginable? Because anybody who has played that game knows it’s deliberately skewed in favor of the hitters. The strike zones are tight, line drives routinely skip away from the outfielders on the artificial turf and most deep fly balls go out for home runs.

Furthermore, Amato threw the perfect game with former Tribe reliever Ed Whitson on the mound for the San Diego Padres against a loaded Oakland A’s lineup operated by clubhouse staffer Omar the Intern. Omar had at his disposal the 1990 vintages of Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, among others.

“I was mowing them down like it was nothing,” Amato said proudly.

It was the fifth inning when Amato turned to assistant home clubhouse manager Marty Bokovitz and said, “Do we have any champagne in the house?”

The place erupted when Amato recorded the final out, and visiting clubhouse manager Willie Jenks took the above photo on his Blackberry to capture the magic.

Whitson could not be reached for comment.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • It was a beautiful day in Goodyear, as the Indians’ pitchers continued to throw live batting practice sessions on the back fields. Jake Westbrook, I thought, looked particularly sharp, getting nice downward action on his sinker. Justin Masterson also looked good.
  • Speaking of bullpen sessions, Jeremy Sowers threw one (sans hitters), as he continues to work his way back from left shoulder issues. Sowers looked sharp, but head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff told me there is still not an exact timetable for when Sowers will get into Cactus League games. Manny Acta said it’s too early to count Sowers out of the rotation race, but it could get late quick.
  • Anthony Reyes, eight and a half months removed from Tommy John surgery, threw off the mound beside Sowers. Reyes is throwing 30-pitch bullpens on Monday and Friday. This was his second one.
  • There was a report that the Indians sped up the timetable on promoting Mark Shapiro to president because the Browns had targeted him to be their president before hiring Mike Holmgren. I was told that Shapiro is close with Randy Lerner and such a scenario might have been possible a couple years back. But once Shapiro’s brother-in-law, Eric Mangini, was hired as the Browns’ coach after the 2008 season, that pretty much killed any chance, however faint, of Shapiro making such a move.
  • Shin-Soo Choo switched agents, partnering with Scott Boras and no doubt affecting the Indians’ chances of locking him up long-term. Choo had been represented by Alan Nero. Asdrubal Cabrera, another long-term contract candidate, is also represented by Nero. Cabrera, for what it’s worth, told me he has no plans to leave Nero for Boras.
  • Top prospect Carlos Santana might be another story. Boras is apparently pursuing him hard. No surprise there, I suppose.
  • The move of Asdrubal Cabrera to the leadoff spot only enhances the need for Jhonny Peralta to improve on his ’09 numbers, because Peralta figures to hold a prominent position in the middle of the lineup against left-handed starters. Peralta and Cabrera (a switch-hitter) will probably be the only right-handers in the first six spots of the lineup (I’d have to imagine Matt LaPorta and Lou Marson will get protected in the lower-third, initially). “We really need Jhonny to create balance in the middle of the lineup,” Acta said. “That’s why he’s so big there.”
  • Hector Rondon threw live BP today. Though it’s generally been assumed that Rondon will begin the season in Triple-A, Acta said he considers Rondon part of the rotation battle. “He has a good arm and good life to his fastball,” Acta said. “The organization talks about him needing to refine his secondary pitches. He looks like a guy who could get up here based on his fastball and continue to work on his other pitches at this level.”  
  • We were originally told that the Indians’ two intrasquad games will take place Wednesday and Thursday, but they’re actually being held Tuesday and Wednesday. It will be a four-inning affair tomorrow and a six-inning game on Wednesday. The first game will feature Saul Rivera, Jensen Lewis, Tony Sipp and Hector Ambriz pitching for “Smitty’s [Steve Smith's] Amazing Racers” and Joe Smith, Mike Gosling, Jess Todd and Frank Herrmann pitching for “Sarby’s [Mike Sarbaugh's] Sour-Balls.”
  • Speaking of Smith and his “Amazing Race,” he and his daughter, Allie, finished second among the nine teams in Sunday night’s episode, which took place in Argentina. I did a story on Smith’s participation in the show. He’s still not telling if he won the million.
  • In Wednesday’s intrasquad, Fausto Carmona will start opposite David Huff.
  • Justin Masterson will start Friday’s Cactus League opener opposite the Reds’ Mike Lincoln. That game will be carried live on MLB.TV. Kerry Wood, Aaron Laffey, Rafael Perez, Chris Perez, Joe Smith and Saul Rivera are all scheduled to follow Masterson in that game.
  • Nick Weglarz was one contented Canuck this morning, after his countrymen defeated the U.S. in the Olympic hockey finale.
  • Early camp takes place this week for the Indians’ best prospects that aren’t in Major League Spring Training. There are currently 37 such players set to arrive by tomorrow, including Victor Martinez trade acquisition Nick Hagadone, one of the top-rated prospects in the system. Left-hander Scott Barnes (from the Ryan Garko trade) and right-hander Connor Graham (from the Rafael Betancourt trade) are also on the list.
  • Tom Mastny — back from Japan — will also be at early camp. The Indians signed him to a Minor League deal.
  • I have an honest-to-goodness day off tomorrow. You take those when you can get them in Spring Training… and the season, for that matter. My MLB.com coworker Tom Singer will provide Tuesday’s Tribe coverage on Indians.com. I’ll be off somewhere in the Estrella Mountains with my scalpin’ knife and my coonskin cap, looking for dinner. Or I might just go to the Olive Garden.

~AC

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