April 2010

4/30: Indians vs. Twins

Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field is on STO and WTAM.

UPDATE: Here are tonight’s Beat items.

cle9.gifINDIANS (9-12): SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, LF Kearns, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B LaPorta, 2B Valbuena, C Redmond. RHP Fausto Carmona (3-0, 2.96).

min5.gifTWINS (14-8): CF Span, 2B Hudson, C Mauer, 1B Morneau, RF Cuddyer, DH Kubel, LF Young, SS Hardy, 3B Harris. RHP Kevin Slowey  2-2, 3.42). 

Ambriz activated, Smith optioned

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

The Indians are going to get a look at right-hander Hector Ambriz in the big leagues.

Ambriz, a Rule 5 Draft pickup who was swiped from the D-backs, has been activated off the 15-day disabled list and placed in the Tribe ‘pen. He’s taking the spot of right-hander Joe Smith, who was optioned to Triple-A Columbus.

The power-armed Ambriz was on the DL with right elbow tendinitis that prevented him from getting much of an audition in spring camp. During his rehab assignment at Columbus, he gave up one run on nine hits with a walk and 15 strikeouts in just eight innings of work.

Smith made nine appearances thus far this season, going 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA.

"Ain't no ghost gonna run me off"

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

I am convinced about very few things in life, but one thing I know for sure is that the hotel I typically stay at here in Anaheim is haunted.

Well, not the entire hotel. Just the workout room. It has televisions attached to its treadmills, but they operate independently of human contact. They turn on when they’re supposed to be off, they turn off when they’re supposed to be on. And the channels change on their own.

This morning, when I wanted to watch ESPN, the treadmill decided after a few minutes that I’d be much better off watching the “Threesome Disasters” episode of “The Jerry Springer Show.”

The treadmill was right, but that’s not the point. The point is this happens each and every time I stay at this hotel. Either the workout room is haunted, or Springer has found an innovative way to boost his ratings.


  • Austin Kearns. Who woulda thunk it? Manny Acta thunk it, to some degree. He knew Kearns well from Washington, knew the pain he played through the last two years and viewed Kearns as an above-average defender in the outfield with right-handed pop. But I don’t think anybody envisioned Kearns getting this much playing time and occupying such a prominent spot in the lineup. Kearns is batting .386 with two homers and 10 RBIs, and is batting .474 over the last four games. That helps takes some of the pressure off Shin-Soo Choo in the No. 3 spot, though the Indians obviously still need better contributions from Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner.
  • Acta on Kearns: “This was the first time in the last five or six years where he had to come to Spring Training having to make a ballclub. I just told him, ‘This is unchartered territory for you, but you have to battle because nothing’s going to be given to you. I know what you can do, so just get out there and play.’ He handled it very well.”
  • Pretty telling that Acta began benching Hafner against lefties this week. Not sure how long or how often that will take place, but it’s not an encouraging sign that Hafner will reclaim his Pronkness. Lefties are holding Hafner to a .148 average against and no extra-base hits. He hasn’t been much better against righties (.235, with four extra-base hits). He’s looked pretty lost at the plate thus far this season, and now it’s begun affecting his playing time.
  • Shin-Soo Choo has had a busy week off the field, as the Angels credentialed 10 Korean journalists for this series. He was also scheduled to get a day off in Oakland, but Acta didn’t want to disappoint the large Korean fan base in the Bay Area. The same applies here in the LA area. Choo has yet to miss an inning, let alone a game, this season.
  • The Tribe’s team batting average rose from .223 to .237 with last night’s 18-hit output.
  • Rule 5 pickup Hector Ambriz (elbow tendonitis) gave up a run on two hits with four strikeouts in two innings of work for Columbus last night, raising his ERA to 1.13 over eight innings. The Indians must make a decision on him next week, as his rehab assignment expires May 8.
  • Kerry Wood will  throw a bullpen session in Cleveland on Friday, with a simulated game soon thereafter. If all goes well, he should then be ready to begin a rehab assignment in the Minors.
  • As Luis Valbuena struggles up here, Jason Donald is in the midst of a sizzling stretch at Columbus. Donald has driven in 10 runs over his last eight games and is batting .355 (11-for-31) with two doubles and two homers in that span. He’s started 15 games at second base and four at short.
  • If you thought the Jerry Springer show was strange, wait until you hear this. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Indians are the most hated team in baseball, registering a 0.9 on WSJ.com’s “Hatred Index,” which measures positive and negative reactions on the Internet. The Yankees draw the ire of plenty of fans outside of the Big Apple, but I guess winning a World Series and spending freely on top talent earned them enough points with their loyalists to only earn a fifth-place ranking in the study. Full results are here.
  • The Angels only have four of these weekday 4:10 p.m. PT starts this season, and the Indians happen to play in two of them. That’s obviously not ideal for a club traveling back east immediately after the game. The Indians are expected to land in Cleveland around 4 a.m. ET Thursday.


4/28: Indians at Angels

Tonight’s 7:10 p.m. ET game will be on STO and WTAM 1100. You can catch me on the STO pregame show.

cle4.gifINDIANS (9-11):
SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, LF Kearns, DH Hafner, 1B Branyan, 3B Peralta, 2B Valbuena, C Marson. RHP Jake Westbrook (0-2, 5.82).




ana3.gifANGELS (11-11):
SS Aybar, RF Abreu, CF Hunter, DH Matsui, 1B Morales, LF Rivera, 2B Kendrick, 3B Wood, C Budde. RHP Ervin Santana (1-2, 4.73).

4/27: Indians at Angels

Tonight’s 10:05 p.m. ET game will be broadcast on WMMS 100.7 and SportsTime Ohio.

cle2.gifINDIANS (8-11):
SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, LF Kearns, 3B Peralta, 2B Grudzielanek, 1B Marte, DH LaPorta, C Marson. RHP Mitch Talbot (2-1, 2.25).




ana2.gifANGELS (11-10):
SS Aybar, RF Abreu, CF Hunter, DH Matsui, 1B Morales, LF Rivera, 2B Kendrick, C Napoli, 3B Wood. LHP Joe Saunders (1-3, 5.82).




Here are tonight’s notes.

4/26: Indians at Angels

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

Tonight’s 10:05 p.m. ET game at Angel Stadium is on STO and the Indians Radio Network.

cle.gifINDIANS (8-10):
SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, DH Hafner, 1B Branyan, LF Kearns, 3B Peralta, 2B Valbuena, C Redmond. LHP David Huff (1-2, 3.00).




ana.gifANGELS (10-10):
SS Aybar, RF Abreu, CF Hunter, DH Matsui, 1B Morales, LF Rivera, 2B Kendrick, C Napoli, 3B Wood. RHP Jered Weaver (2-0, 2.77).





  • Here's the link to tonight's Beat section.
  • If you're watching tonight's game back east, you might not have to stay up quite as late as you think. Every game on this road trip thus far has been 2 hours, 46 minutes or less. That's what happens when you don't hit.
  • Speaking of not hitting, the Indians' four shutouts are tied with the Braves for the most in the Majors. By comparison, the Tribe didn't get shut out for the fourth time of the season until the 60th game of 2009.
  • The positive that Manny Acta harps on is the Indians have somehow eked out an 8-10 record, despite getting outscored 84-60, to date. When the Indians have hit, it's been timely, as 33 of their 60 runs have come with two outs. According to STATS LLC, that's the highest percentage (55 percent) of two-out runs scored in the AL.
  • Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Tribe pitching coach Tim Belcher were teammates on the Dodgers back in the day, and Scioscia had some nice things to say about Belcher. "Belch is a product of pitching deep into games and wanting to finish games, and that's the way he lived his whole career," Scioscia said. "But he also has a good understanding of what it takes to win a game, whether it means a different pitcher or a different look for later in the game. I think he can help pitchers get through a pitch count barrier and be more efficient with their pitches."
  • Tuesday's game will be broadcast on WMMS 100.7 because of WTAM's conflict with the Cavaliers' payoff schedule.
  • The good news about the defense? The Indians' 10 errors are tied for the third-fewest in the AL, with three of those errors coming from the pitching staff. The 26 double plays turned by the Tribe defense thus far are the most in the Majors.
  • The bad news? Despite the low error count, the Indians have allowed the most unearned runs (15) in the AL.
  • Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall is hot at Double-A Akron. He's hit in 10 straight games, going 16-for-42 (.381) with three doubles, three RBIs and five runs scored. He's batting .358 on the season. Veteran Brian Buscher is keeping third base warm for Chisenhall at the Triple-A level.
  • The other day, I told you Acta's policy on the use of "luck." He feels it doesn't apply to baseball, and he expounded upon that theory today. "You know what luck is?" he said. "Luck is when you don't play the lottery, you're walking down the street and find a lotto ticket on the ground, and it ends up winning. That's luck. If you don't study for a test, do you think you're going to pass it through luck?"
  • The Indians are having a one-day sale Friday.


"A uniform used to mean something"

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

target-logo.pngMinneapolis is Target Town. The Indians are wrapping up their first series at Target Field today. Right next door is the Target Center, home of the Timberwolves (only because Targetwolves don’t exist). And a few blocks away, on Nicollet Mall, is the headquarters of Target Corporation, as well as a Target store roughly the size of the Empire State Building.

I’m a Target fan. My fiancee and I even registered there (she picked out kitchen accessories, I picked out peanut butter and angel hair). But I do think the store is off-target in at least one area, and that’s employee apparel.

Target employees are all instructed to wear red, but they are not supplied with a uniform. So while the guy who helps you pick out a lawnmower might be wearing terra cotta, the guy at the electronics counter is in rosso corsa. And the woman ringing you up at the register is in coquelicot.

Target employees are referred to as “team members.” But on what legitimate team are the uniforms this disjointed? As a guy who donned a Wal-Mart smock in high school, I’m a little insulted by the inconsistency.

Other than that, love Target. And Target Field, in particular. The Indians are going from three games here to three games in Oakland Coliseum, which is a lot more like Dollar General.


  • How do you explain David Huff going from throwing nearly 70 percent of his pitches for strikes in a complete-game gem against the Rangers last week to walking a career-high six batters in his loss to the Twins last night? Easy. You remember that he’s 25 years old. “This is something we have to deal with as a young team,” Manny Acta said. “Throughout the year, they’re going to be making progress.”
  • I mentioned this on the STO pregame show yesterday, but what I like about Huff is the genuine anger he shows after a loss like that one last night. His competitive fire (not to mention his ability to attack both sides of the plate with a fastball low on velocity but high on deception, when he’s on his game) reminds me a lot of Cliff Lee. They both know they have the talent to win at this level, and they both get fired up when they don’t. In our postgame dealings with pitchers, you don’t see that quite as often as you might expect.
  • This is a normal day off for Jhonny Peralta, Acta said. If anything, Acta was encouraged by what he saw from Peralta last night, when he notched two singles and drew a walk. Acta said Peralta laid off some tough breaking pitches from Francisco Liriano and took well to a talk about using his lower half more.
  • There are no shortage of struggling hitters to pick on in this Indians’ lineup, but Acta hasn’t said a bad word about any of them. “Patience plus self-control leads to success,” he said.
  • The above was part of a larger discussion about the two words that fall outside Acta’s vocabulary — “frustrated” and “lucky.” He says he will never use them to describe his feelings or the fortunes of his team. When it comes to the former, Acta said he has a “great job,” and while baseball might disappoint him at times, it never frustrates him. The same, he said, goes with golf. “If I slice the ball, I laugh,” he said. “It makes me drive over and have another beer. I have a buddy who throws clubs and drops F bombs. Then after 18 holes, he says, ‘What time we playing tomorrow?'”
  • The Indians have lost 21 of their last 23 road games, dating back to last Aug. 30.
  • With Kerry Wood coming back soon, the current members of the bullpen would be wise to curry favor with the higher-ups. One guy potentially on the fence is left-hander Tony Sipp, so his 1-2-3 outing against the Twins last night was a necessary one. Sipp is carrying a 5.40 ERA and four walks allowed after five innings of work over seven appearances, and he had a rough spring camp, too. “I base my performance off feel and how I execute,” Sipp said. “The rest I can’t control. But it’s definitely good to go out and not walk anybody. That’s the main thing. If you walk people, nothing good can happen.”
  • All the balls used at Target Field this season have a logo commemorating the ballpark’s debut. A commemorative logo for the Metrodome’s last season was also on all balls used in 2009. But whereas that ball was only used in-game, this ball is used in batting practice, as well. That’s a nice souvenir for anybody who snags a BP homer.
  • My favorite Tribe farmhand, outfielder Jose “Can’t Stand Ya” Constanza is off to a sizzling start at Triple-A Columbus. He’s batting .444 (16-for-36) with three doubles, two triples, a homer, six RBIs two stolen bases and a 1.182 OPS.
  • Hector Rondon, on the other hand, is struggling down there. He’s 0-1 with a 10.66 ERA and a 2.29 WHIP in three starts.
  • Down at Double-A Akron, second baseman Cord Phelps (.422 average, 1.069 OPS) and outfielder Nick “The Canuck With Pluck” Weglarz (.314 average, 1.112) have been locked in. Phelps (whose first name on his birth certificate is the decidedly less cool “Robert”) was a third-round pick in the 2008 Draft.
  • Chris Perez asked me, “What’s this movie you’re always writing about?” He said he’s going to make it a point to check out “The Room.” This thing is growing.
  • This being our last day in the Twin Cities, my Pandora Radio selection for the composition of this blog entry was Minnesota native Robert Zimmerman. Although, Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis” would have been equally appropriate. 
  • Not making the trip to Oakland, but I’ll catch back up with you from Anaheim on Monday.


4/22: Indians at Twins

The Indians wrap up their first series at Target Field with today’s 1:10 p.m. ET game.

cle6.gifINDIANS (6-8):
SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, DH Hafner, LF LaPorta, 1B Branyan, 3B Marte, 2B Valbuena, C Marson. RHP Mitch Talbot (1-1, 3.21).




min4.gifTWINS (11-4):
CF Span, 2B Hudson, LF Kubel, 1B Morneau, RF Cuddyer, DH Thome, 3B Harris, C Butera, SS Casilla. RHP Scott Baker (2-1, 3.38).

4/21: Indians at Twins

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

Here are the lineups for tonight’s 8:10 p.m. ET game at Target Field. I’ll be on the SportsTime Ohio pregame show, if you wish to tune in.

Russell Branyan, still being eased into action and limited to no more than four games per week, is out of tonight’s lineup.

cle8.gifINDIANS (6-7):
SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, LF Kearns, DH Hafner, 2B Grudzielanek, 3B Peralta, 1B LaPorta, C Redmond. LHP David Huff (1-1, 1.80).




min3.gifTWINS (10-4):
CF Span, 2B Hudson, C Mauer, 1B Morneau, RF Cuddyer, DH Kubel, LF Young, SS Hardy, 3B Harris. LHP Francisco Liriano (1-0, 2.08).





  • Manny Acta has said that in an ideal situation, Peralta would be his cleanup hitter against left-handed pitchers. But Peralta’s not holding up his end of the bargain. He’s batting .122 with a .504 OPS for the season and is 1-for-12 against lefties. Tonight, Acta is going with Kearns in the No. 4 spot against Liriano, by virtue of his 2-for-6 showing against lefties thus far. (That qualifies as an MVP-type of showing for this club right now.)
  • As a team, the Indians are batting .187 (25-for-134) against left-handers. The main offenders, in terms of lineup prominence, are Peralta (.434 OPS), Sizemore (1-for-18, .206 OPS) and Hafner (4-for-20, .438 OPS).
  • While we’re on the subject of offensive offensive numbers, the Indians are batting .186 (16-for-86) with runners in scoring position, striking out in 23 of those 86 (or 26.7 percent) at-bats. That’s a big reason why the Indians are 13th in the AL with just 46 runs in 13 games (3.54 runs per game).
  • And it bears repeating. Choo has either driven in or scored 48 percent of the Indians’ runs this season. He’s also responsible for 20 percent of their total bases. Choo can do a lot, but he can’t do it all by himself.
  • Top prospect Carlos Santana fouled a ball off his left knee and had to come out of a game against Louisville earlier today. He is listed as day to day with a knee bruise. It is not considered serious.
  • Target Field is getting rave reviews from everybody on the Indians. Acta did point out one problem, however – the proximity of the on-deck circle (and, for that matter, the dugouts) to the plate. “It’s very close and could be dangerous,” Acta said. What concerns Acta is the possibility of a Juan Encarnacion type of situation. Encarnacion was the Cardinals outfielder who was struck in the eye by a foul ball in 2007 and never played another game.
  • Justin Masterson still hasn’t mastered that changeup that the Indians deem pivotal to his success against left-handers. He threw one to Morneau last night that was about five feet (give or take a few feet) over the head of Lou Marson. Acta still thinks Masterson has the ability to be an effective starter at this level. “He’s a work in progress,” Acta said. “It’s only been three outings so far … He’s got such good stuff. If he puts it all together, he’ll be a dependable guy.”
  • On the dry-erase board outside the visitors’ clubhouse at Target Field before Wednesday’s game, someone had written, “Win one for Red Dog aka ‘The Mayor.'” It was a reference to Redmond, who is highly popular in these parts.
  • Don’t forget, tomorrow’s 1:10 p.m. ET game is on MLB Network.
  • On the off chance you haven’t seen the Fordham Flip yet, check it out.


4/20: Indians at Twins

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

targetfield.jpgGreetings from brand-spanking-new Target Field, where the Indians and Twins will kick off a three-game series at 8:10 p.m. ET.

My feelings about this place haven’t changed since I toured it last September. It has jumped near the top of my list of Major League facilities, ahead of that behemoth they built in the Bronx. Those of you prone to pilgrimages need to check it out.

As far as the lineup is concerned, Russell Branyan is set to make his 2010 debut, with Austin Kearns notably starting in left field over Matt LaPorta. LaPorta is taking fly balls in the outfield for the first time pregame today.

cle3.gifINDIANS (6-6): SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B Branyan, LF Kearns, 2B Valbuena, C Marson. RHP Justin Masterson (1-0, 2.45).




min2.gifTWINS (9-3):
CF Span, 2B Hudson, C Mauer, 1B Morneau, RF Cuddyer, DH Kubel, LF Young, SS Hardy, 3B Harris. RHP Kevin Slowey (1-1, 3.48).





  • Thursday’s game between the Tribe and Twins will be on the MLB Network. Previously, it wasn’t scheduled to air in Cleveland.
  • Manny Acta said activating Branyan today was the “plan all along.” He had told reporters last week that the Indians wanted to see Branyan play back-to-back days at first base in the Minors, but he made it clear he said that so that we wouldn’t be bothering Michael Brantley about the imminent possibility of getting sent down. That’s all well and good, I suppose, but the notion of having Branyan play in consecutive games before activating him off the DL didn’t seem like the worst idea in the world. Obviously, the Indians are confident in the condition of Branyan’s back.
  • That said, Branyan is not ready to tolerate more than four games a week, Acta said. So you’ll probably be seeing Matt LaPorta bounce back and forth between left field and first base. LaPorta, as you know, has not only not played a game in left field this year; he hadn’t taken so much as a fly ball at the position before today’s pregame activity. Acta said LaPorta will get some work at the position again on Wednesday and play Thursday.
  • Brantley had a stellar spring camp, and he has a lot to look forward to at the big-league level. But the need for some more development time was pretty glaring the first couple weeks up here. All of his hits — and there were only five of them in 24 at-bats — came against right-handed pitching. Acta said the Indians could have kept Brantley up here in a part-time role, but there’s obviously not much sense in that.
  • Speaking of performances against lefties, Grady Sizemore is batting .056 (1-for-18) with five strikeouts.
  • Kerry Wood (strained back muscle) threw to live hitters today and felt good. He’ll either throw another simulated game Thursday or head out on a rehab assignment in the Minors. Acta made it clear he wants Wood to pitch in some games before joining the Tribe, because he only appeared in two games this spring.
  • The All-Star ballots were released today, and you’d have to imagine Shin-Soo Choo will get some votes after his AL Player of the Week heroics. Choo won a watch from Game Time Watch Shop for his efforts. “When I won Player of the Month in Sept. 2008, I got a 52-inch TV [from Sharp],” Choo said. “I still use it.”
  • Entering tonight, Choo has either scored or driven in 48.9 percent of the Indians’ runs. So, yeah, you could say he’s a big reason they got back to .500.
  • But how about the pitching? The Indians have been outscored 50-45, but they have, entering tonight, the fourth-best starters’ ERA in the AL (3.40), and their bullpen has allowed just three of 29 inherited runners to score (leading the AL and ranking second in the Majors).
  • The Cleveland Indians Charities High School Hardball Classic takes place Friday and Saturday at Progressive Field. For more information on the six games, visit indians.com/community.
  • Tonight marks the Indians’ first outdoor game in Minnesota since a May 10, 1981, game at Metropolitan Stadium. I was negative-11 days old.
  • I could write thousands of words about the various features that make Target Field such a wonderful place to watch a game, but all of that is available elsewhere. What I do want to tell you about covering a game here is that my favorite feature has to be the men’s restroom in the press box? Why? Because it actually is a men’s restroom… with multiple urinals and everything. At the Metrodome, the press box bathroom was a unisex unit with one toilet and a door that may or may not have locked.