April 2010

4/7: Indians at White Sox

Idyllic conditions on Opening Day have given way to miserable conditions today in the Windy City. The tarp is on the field, it’s been raining all day, and there’s no telling if these two clubs will get Game No. 2 in tonight.

But if they do, these are the lineups. And note the return (can you call it a return when it’s the second day of the season?) of Luis Valbuena.

cle.gifINDIANS (0-1):
SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B LaPorta, 2B Valbuena, C Redmond, LF Brantley. RHP Carmona.




cws.gifWHITE SOX (1-0):
LF Pierre, 2B Beckham, RF Quentin, 1B Konerko, DH Kotsay, CF Rios, C Pierzynski, 3B Teahen, SS Ramirez. RHP Peavy.

This one's worth reading, Jeff in Pittsburgh. Click here.

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

OD10_alt2.pngToday’s headline goes out to reader Jeff B. in Pittsburgh, who wrote me a nice note explaining that while he enjoys and appreciates these blog entries, my penchant for using song lyrics and “Seinfeld” quotes in the headlines aren’t especially helpful to him, personally.

Jeff is like many of you, I imagine, in that he subscribes to CastroTurf’s RSS feed. And in his RSS reader, he sees only the headline. So when I use a quote in the headline, it is difficult for Jeff to determine whether the entry is worthy of being clicked on.

Loyal readers like Jeff are the reason I gives this blog my best effort, day after day, season after season. Far be it from me not to cater to his wishes, especially on such a momentous occasion as Opening Day. So I hope today’s headline served him well.

As for the rest of you, I hope the Manny Acta Q&A, Jake Westbrook feature, “25 on 25” entry and Springsteen songs got you sufficiently primed for today’s action.

And if not, well, here are a few more notes to peruse as the Indians and White Sox get things started.


  • Luis Valbuena is out of today’s lineup with a bruised right hand, but Manny Acta said his condition was “playable” and that the Indians were merely being conservative. “Our medical staff is pleased with his progress,” Acta said.
  • Acta stressed that although Valbuena had a rough spring camp, he remains the regular at second base and will not be a part of a platoon at the position. Last year, Jamey Carroll spelled Valbuena pretty much whenever a left-hander was on the mound. But Acta said the Indians will use Mark Grudzielanek “as we see fit.” We’ll see what that means and how this develops over time, but Acta has said in the past that he’s not in the business of grooming 24-year-olds to be platoon guys, so that bodes well for Valbuena getting the opportunity against left-handers, once he’s healthy.
  • Jake Westbrook is getting the Opening Day start, despite missing all of last season. How rare is this? Well, in the context of the 2010 season, It’s not all that rare at all, as both Ben Sheets (A’s) and Shaun Marcum (Blue Jays) are also starting the opener for their teams despite missing ’09. But in the context of history, this is actually pretty rare, indeed. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it had only happened to four pitchers in the last 50 years — Carl Pavano (’07, Yankees), Scott Erickson (’02, Orioles), Alex Fernandez (’99, Marlins) and Diego Segui (’77 Mariners).
  • Westbrook’s last start was May 28, 2008, also against the White Sox. Only two players from the Tribe’s starting lineup that day are in today’s lineup — Grady Sizemore and Jhonny Peralta.
  • This year marks the 70th anniversary of Bob Feller’s Opening Day no-hitter against the White Sox — the only Opening Day no-no in MLB history. It came on April 16, 1940 at Comiskey Park. Feller in attendance for today’s game as a guest of the Chicago Baseball Museum and the Jerome Holtzman Library. The museum will have a luncheon tribute to Rapid Robert on Tuesday at Harry Caray’s Restaurant. I’ll have a full feature on Feller’s no-hitter on Indians.com, closer to the actual anniversary.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera gets his first Opening Day start at short. Trivia time: Can you remember the last person not named Peralta or Vizquel to serve as the Indians’ Opening Day starter at that position? Answer to come a little later.
  • Early in spring camp, Acta stressed the importance of getting off to a strong start this season, and today he added that winning early would help ease tensions from a fan base that was “turned off” by what transpired the last two years. But Acta also said the Indians are no different from the other 29 clubs. “Every one of us wants to have a good start. No one ways, ‘We want a slow start.’ … All you can do is have a plan and see if it works or not.”
  • This is the fifth time in the last six years that the Indians and White Sox are facing each other on Opening Day. Only one of those meetings came in Cleveland.
  • The Indians have lost five of their last seven openers, yet they have the fifth-best Opening Day winning percentage among current AL teams. They are 57-52 all-time, trailing the Yankees (63-45-1), Orioles (62-46-1), Mariners (18-15) and Angels (26-23).
  • The Tribe has opened on the road eight of the last nine years.
  • Westbrook and Mark Buehrle also faced each other on Opening Day 2005 in a memorable pitcher’s duel. Westbrook was a hard-luck loser, as he went eight innings and gave up just one run. Buehrle blanked the Tribe for eight innings.
  • The Indians have used a different Opening Day first baseman each of the last six years (Ben Broussard, Eduardo Perez, Casey Blake, Ryan Garko, Victor Martinez, Matt LaPorta), and they’ve used a different Opening Day third baseman each of the last five years (Aaron Boone, Andy Marte, Casey Blake, Mark DeRosa, Peralta).
  • The Indians are taking a 15-game road losing streak into this season.
  • Among AL teams, the Indians ranked 12th in batting average, 13th in slugging percentage and 10th in OPS in the first six innings of the game. From the seventh inning on, they tied for third in batting average and finished fifth in slugging percentage and fourth in OPS.
  • Answering the trivia question, that shortstop was Felix Fermin, in 1993.
  • I love an underdog as much as the next guy, but tonight I’m rooting for recent E Street Radio guest DJ Mike Krzyzewski, who impressed me with such rare selections as “Then She Kissed Me,” “Back in Your Arms” and “Viva Las Vegas.” Let’s go Duke.


4/5: Indians at White Sox

It’s Acta One, Scene One, as the 2010 Cleveland Indians season gets underway.

A beautiful day for baseball here in Chicago. The sun is shining brightly on U.S. Cellular Field (and directly into the Press Box, so if there any typos below, blame it on my temporary blindness).

cle3.gifINDIANS (0-0): SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B LaPorta, 2B Grudzielanek, C Marson, LF Brantley. RHP Westbrook.




cws2.gifWHITE SOX (0-0):
LF Pierre, 2B Beckham, RF Quentin, 1B Konerko, DH Kotsay, CF Rios, C Pierzynski, 3B Teahen, SS Ramirez. LHP Buehrle.

25 on the 25

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

OD10_Alt5.pngThis spring, I’ve written countless words about the outlook for the Indians’ Opening Day roster. Today, here are 25 words each about the 25 guys.

(Did you notice that introductory paragraph was exactly 25 words? We’re off to a great start!)

MICHAEL BRANTLEY: Will he be the Grady Sizemore to Russell Branyan’s Juan Gonzalez? We’ll see. Brantley has all the tools to become the Indians’ long-term leadoff man.

ASDRUBAL CABRERA: Exceeded every expectation at the plate and so smooth in the field. Will be fun to watch for years, considering he keeps watching his weight.

FAUSTO CARMONA: Sensational spring calms some fears that the 2007 Carmona is dead and gone. But I’ll believe it when he makes Torii Hunter feel “hungover” again.

SHIN-SOO CHOO: With five tools and a tireless work ethic, Choo might wear a Tribe uniform in the Midsummer Classic this year (but not South Korean camouflage).

MARK GRUDZIELANEK: “Jamey Carroll, The Sequel.” At 39, “Grudz” brings a needed veteran presence to this clubhouse. Had an impressive camp, considering he missed all of 2009.

TRAVIS HAFNER: Won’t quite be a return to “Pronkville,” but don’t rule out the possibility of 30 homers, if healthy. Finally driving the ball to all fields.

DAVID HUFF: Won a team-high 11 games last year, but not without fair share of rookie hiccups. Intense competitor with the intelligence to put it all together.

AUSTIN KEARNS: Injury prone veteran who will help out in a bench role. Solid defender in the outfield. Can add late pop. “A pro’s pro,” says Acta.

AARON LAFFEY: Whether Wedge or Acta, the Indians always find ways to leave Laffey out of the rotation. He always works his way in. It’ll happen again.

MATT LaPORTA: Fair or not, it’s up to him to make fans stop bemoaning the Sabathia trade. Tribe’s really counting on the right-handed power he can provide.

JENSEN LEWIS: Deceptive righty probably has a future in broadcasting when he’s done getting people out. He didn’t get enough out last year. It was Souvenir City.

LOU MARSON: Viewed primarily as a placeholder for Carlos Santana, but has strengths in handling a pitching staff. At the plate, lots of patience but no power.

ANDY MARTE: It’s been four years since he was acquired and billed as the “third baseman of the future.” The future’s now past, but Marte’s still here.

JUSTIN MASTERSON: Has the size and stuff to be an effective starter. Still, don’t be shocked if he’s in the back end of the bullpen by June.

JHONNY PERALTA: Expect the usual. Slow April, some defensive foibles, some sizzling stretches. At year’s end, he’ll have 85 RBIs. But will he be with the Indians?

CHRIS PEREZ: Great arm, great kid and, most importantly, great hair. He has the stuff to close. And now, with Kerry Wood out, he has the opportunity.

RAFAEL PEREZ: Lanky lefty had abominable ’09 but appears to have recovered with winter and spring performances. Starting in 2011 isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

MIKE REDMOND: Carmona’s personal catcher will earn every penny of his $850,000 salary if he keeps Fausto in line and under control. Naked BP also a plus.

TONY SIPP: The pride of Pascagoula piles on the strikeouts, thanks to deceptive delivery. If he can control his fastball, he’ll remain effective against righties and lefties.

GRADY SIZEMORE: Still slightly miscast, this time as a No. 2 hitter, but back to being the picture of health (insert picture joke here). An All-Star again.

JOE SMITH: The reliever with the most boring name in baseball had first season in Cleveland marred by health issues. Wants to prove he’s not “all right.”

MITCH TALBOT: Deep arsenal and calm demeanor helped him pile up wins in Triple-A. Freed from the Rays, he has a chance to pile them up here.

LUIS VALBUENA: Makes great DP partner for Cabrera. But was the power displayed in 2009 a mirage, and will he be left out when lefties are in?

JAKE WESTBROOK: Opening Day is an outing nearly two years in the making. Needs to find his old sink or the Indians are sunk from the start.

JAMEY WRIGHT: Found his niche as a durable reliever. Can eat up middle innings when the starters falter. Who’s taller? Him or Masterson? Too close to call.


"The dope's that there's still hope"

nostradamus.jpgIt’s that time of year again. Time for you to become the Nostradamus of the ‘net and lay down your official prediction for the 2010 Cleveland Indians’ record.

Last year, reader “henryscott35” won this little contest (in which we play by “Price Is Right” rules… i.e. you must be the closest to predicting the Tribe’s win total, without going over) by predicting the Indians would win just 32 games. He was uncomfortably close, as the Tribe went on to go 65-97.

This year, I’m weighing in with a 78-84 finish, good for fourth place in the AL Central. Let’s hear your best guess.


"I had a friend was a big baseball player…"

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

born-to=run.jpgOpening Day is mere days away, so it’s time to take a look at the team the Indians have assembled and have a little fun in the process. Taking a cue (and responding to a challenge) from the abnormally astute
Paul Cousineau of “The DiaTribe,” I’m going to attempt to mesh my two areas of expertise — the Tribe and Bruce Springsteen — with a very Boss blog entry.

The idea here is to go through the Indians’ Opening Day lineup and find one Springsteen song that best illustrates each player’s outlook for 2010. We won’t bemoan the losses of Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez here. And we won’t make further comment on what transpired last season. No, we’re here to look ahead, to familiarize ourselves with an Indians team that is “Working on a Dream,” even if it’s all-too-true when Bruce sings that “sometimes it feels so far away.”

Admittedly, this is an exercise that might not appeal to all of you “Castronauts” out there. But whether you’re a Bruce fan or not, consider this: Springsteen concerts last three hours, and MLB games last three hours (or longer, if Raffy Betancourt is involved). Furthermore, the guy who put this team together, Mark Shapiro, is a Bossaholic just like me. Besides, until I get one of those “Be the Boss” segments on E Street Radio, this is the best I can do.

So without any further ado, here’s the A lineup intersecting with E Street, complete with links to the songs and some notes on the performances.


cabrera.jpg1. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
“Man at the Top”

Comment: Pretty self-explanatory selection for the Tribe’s new leadoff man. And it shouldn’t be “lonely up there,” as Springsteen sings, because Cabrera has some pretty potent company following him in the next few spots of this lineup.

Bruce Nerd Notes: A nice acoustic performance of this “Born in the U.S.A.” outtake from near the end of that album’s tour, when Bruce, riding the wave of a record that sold 15 million copies and spawned seven Top 10 singles, really was the “Man at the Top.”


sizemore.jpg2. Grady Sizemore, CF
“You Can Look (But You Better Not Touch)”

Comment: Easy, easy. This isn’t some comment on those famous photos plastered all over the ‘net. Get your head out of the gutter, people. This is in reference to fans of big-market ballclubs who are expecting the Indians to unload their Gold Glove and Silver Slugger winner any day now. Sizemore’s under contract through 2012 and isn’t going anywhere just yet. And now that he’s healthy, hopefully he’ll get Tribe fans excited rather than making them “feel mean.”

Bruce Nerd Notes: I’m going with the rockabilly version of this song, from the unreleased “The Ties That Bind” album. A far superior version to the one that saw the light of day on “The River.”


choo.jpg3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
“From Small Things (Big Things One Day Come)”

Comment: The Indians got this guy for Ben Broussard. Need I say more? Broussard’s out of baseball and pursuing a music career, while Choo is billed as one of the best players in baseball that no one (outside of Cleveland and Korea) knows about (at least, not yet). He came to Cleveland in a pretty low-profile deadline trade. Now his career’s on the path toward one of those fancy Boras deals.

Bruce Nerd Notes: The only thing worse than this song getting left off “The River”? This song getting left off the “Tracks” boxed set of outtakes and B-sides. And then it was left off “18 Tracks,” too. It finally surfaced on the 2003 “Essential” collection, thank God. (Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for “Unsatisfied Heart” to see its proper release. Get on it, Bruce.)


hafner.jpg4. Travis Hafner, DH
“Leap of Faith”

Comment: If I had to pick one for Hafner’s 2008-09 seasons, I’d have to go with “Your Own Worst Enemy” from the “Magic” album. Shoulder woes made a mess of the once-mighty Pronk, and the line, “Once the family felt secure, now no one’s very sure,” seemed particularly apropos. But it’s a different Hafner we’ve seen in spring camp, the kind of guy who could say, “The moon’s looking young, but I feel younger.” And it takes a leap of faith from Manny Acta to have Hafner remain in the cleanup spot. We’ll see if Pronk can deliver and be “sanctified.”

Bruce Nerd Notes: “I grabbed you, baby, like a wild pitch” is a much better baseball reference from the Boss than the regrettably inaccurate use of the term “speedball” in “Glory Days.” Great live version with the “Other Band” from the 92-93 tour here, complete with Springsteen doing some crowd surfing at the Meadowlands.


peralta.jpg5. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
“Johnny 99”

Comment: I had a hard time deciding on this one. I nearly went with “Don’t Look Back,” as the importance of Peralta finally letting go of his emotional ties to the shortstop position was stressed all winter and spring. But in the end, I’m sure the Indians would sign up for 99 RBIs from their No. 5 hitter, whose handedness makes him an important cog in a lineup loaded with lefties. It’s just too bad Bruce didn’t use the correct spelling of Jhonny. Not sure what he was thinking there.

Bruce Nerd Notes: The live version from the first two legs of last year’s “Working on a Dream” tour was a scorcher. Some great locomotive interplay with Little Steven around the 5:10 mark.


laporta.jpg6. Matt LaPorta, 1B
“This Little Light of Mine”

Comment: The man who operates under the Twitter handle “Gator4God” asked his followers to come up with suggestions for his at-bat music this season. This was the best I could come up with for the Christian slugger. And lo and behold, Springsteen covered it on the Seeger Sessions tour in 2006. In LaPorta’s case, the “light” he needs to let shine every day is that right-handed power bat that this lineup sorely needs.

Bruce Nerd Notes: You know, having spent my formative years in Catholic school, I’m admittedly biased, but this is one of my favorite Springsteen covers. I actually loved the energy and enthusiasm of the Seeger Sessions shows and hope Bruce can get that 18-piece band back together in some capacity at some point (though I wouldn’t turn down another E Street tour, either). Cindy Mizelle’s contribution at the 1:52 mark of this clip is spectacular.


valbuena.jpg7. Luis Valbuena, 2B
“Tomorrow Never Knows”

Comment: The uncertainty of the title and ambiguity of the lyrics speak well to Valbuena’s situation as the Tribe’s starting second baseman. The team made a well-documented pitch to Orlando Hudson over the winter, despite not having a great deal of money to work with in the free-agent market and despite Valbuena’s strong second half and surprising pop last season. So that speaks volumes. Valbuena remains the man at second, for now, but he had a rough spring. And if “no more thunder sounds” from his bat, then the position might not be his for long.

Bruce Nerd Notes: An opening reminiscent of CCR’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door” gives way to a tender, almost plaintive, little number from the “Working on a Dream” disc. Springsteen churns out so much material that songs like this sadly get lost in the shuffle.


marson.jpg8. Lou Marson, C
“Cover Me”

Comment: This is what the Indians are essentially asking Marson, a Cliff Lee trade acquisition, to do for them behind the plate for a few months. They have top prospect Carlos Santana opening the season at Triple-A Columbus. But if Santana is as good as advertised, he’ll be up here in a hurry. We’ll see what would happen with Marson at that point. He could end up becoming trade bait himself. In that scenario, another Springsteen song would apply. It’s called “Spare Parts.”

Bruce Nerd Notes: Had to go with the version from the Giants Stadium finale last fall, when Bruce and the band played the entire “Born in the U.S.A.” album in sequence. My dad and I were there on the floor, just outside the pit, after spending the day checking out Springsteen’s old haunts in and around Asbury Park. Awesome day, awesome show.


brantley.jpg9. Michael Brantley, LF
“Livin’ in the Future”

Comment: This guy was supposed to be opening the season in Triple-A Columbus, with a big-league promotion in the second half. But thanks to the Russell Branyan injury, Brantley’s in the big leagues, his cleats “clickin’ like the barrel of a pistol spinning ’round.” The future is now. But when Branyan gets healthy, will we hear the sound of “something righteous goin’ under” (or, more accurately, going down to the Minors)? 

Bruce Nerd Notes: Didn’t always translate well live, but this song smokes on the “Magic” album. The E Streeters in fine form.


westbrook.jpgRHP Jake Westbrook
“Light of Day”

Comment: It’s been a long crawl “out of the woods” for Westbrook, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since May 28, 2008. But he’ll finally see the light of day on Opening Day. The Indians will be leaning on the veteran sinkerballer to lead a rotation filled with question marks. Hard to say what the Indians can expect from Westbrook after such a long layoff. But considering he’s made just five starts over the last two years and the Indians are coming off a 97-loss season, “Things can’t get any worse, they gotta get better.”

Bruce Nerd Notes: This song closed the main set every night on the Reunion tour in 1999-2000. I’ll always have a soft spot for that tour, because I was an 18-year-old kid getting to experience the E Street Band in concert for the first time. Just watch Bruce work the band and the crowd. The preacher schtick that begins
 around the 4:10 mark will come off as corny to most. But if you truly understand “the springsteencap.jpgmajesty, the mystery and the ministry of rock ‘n roll,” it speaks to you.

There you have it. I don’t know how well the lineup will perform, but that’s a decent little setlist right there. And just remember, boys, they’re not booing you, they’re just saying, “Bruuuuuuuuce!”

(Well, who am I kidding… sometimes they will be booing you.)


Huff joins rotation, Carrasco optioned

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

The Opening Day roster picture is official now. Carlos Carrasco has been optioned out to Triple-A Columbus, and left-hander David Huff has claimed the last open spot in the Indians’ rotation.

Huff was the team leader in wins in his rookie season in ’09. He joined the rotation in May and went 11-8 with a 5.61 ERA in 23 starts, showing marked improvement as the year progressed.

With nothing assured to him, Huff had an up and down spring camp, but he finished with seven strong innings against the White Sox on Wednesday. For the spring, he went 2-1 with a 4.18 ERA this spring.

Carrasco, acquired in last summer’s Cliff Lee trade and hammered in the big leagues last September, was ticketed for Columbus when camp opened, but he pitched his way into consideration for the final rotation job. He posted no record and a 4.60 ERA in four Cactus appearances, and the six walks he issued against the Angels on Sunday hurt him.

UPDATE: Manny Acta said Huff will be the Tribe’s fourth starter, with Talbot at No. 5. The left-handed Huff breaks up the right-handers a little bit. Acta also said the Indians will not skip Talbot at any point in April, because the rotation consists of four young guys and one veteran (Jake Westbrook) coming off surgery.