By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
There was an air hockey table in the recreation room where we spent our lunch periods at Euclid High School. It became the site of some legendary aerated action involving yours truly and my equally socially awkward friends. We created a championship belt and a bracket system, and I’ll never forget the patriotic fervor that erupted the day we pitted a guy named Gerald against a foreign exchange student named Philip. Chants of “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” echoed through the halls that afternoon.
And this was how it went, day in and day out, during my senior year. Until one day, a 15-year-old freshman who was roughly 6-foot-7, with hands the size of my Algebra 2 textbook, decided he wanted to get involved. The first one of us who took him on ended up leaving the table crying. (Not because he got beat, but because he had other, personal issues going on.) But the rest of us? We couldn’t figure this kid out. He had the reflexes of a cat on caffeine and a steely gaze that burned your soul and buried your confidence. What’s more, he never said a word. He just grabbed his mallet, slipped seven pucks into the slot, then rode off into the sunset that was sixth period.
We never learned his name. We just referred to him as “God.”
And I guess, when I really give it some thought, that’s the only personal comparison I have to what’s going on with Stephen Strasburg.
Should be fun to watch Sunday.
In the meantime…
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- Sunday’s game has been picked up nationally by TBS. I assume because David Huff is pitching.
- You had to figure Matt LaPorta would collect a little confidence facing Triple-A pitching for a spell, and he’s got to be feeling much more confident after crushing three homers against Rochester last night. But the Indians don’t plan to bring LaPorta back to Cleveland until they can guarantee him everyday playing time. So until or unless Austin Kearns and/or Russell Branyan get moved or have their playing time significantly lessened, it would appear LaPorta will remain in Triple-A.
- And before you ask, no, there’s absolutely nothing going on in the trade department. Yet.
- You know who’s probably not going to be in Triple-A much longer? Carlos Santana. He’s starting to make the Indians believers in the defensive strides he’s made this season. Manager Manny Acta said a promotion for Santana before the All-Star break is not out of the realm of possibility. And obviously, Santana will be here before September.
- Santana has such an elite bat (as evidenced by his 1.008 OPS through 56 games this season) that the Indians expect him to stick once he comes up here. They don’t want any major defensive development to have to take place at this level. One area where Santana has shown the need to improve is in controlling the running game. He’s thrown out 9 of 40 runners this season. It’s certainly not from a lack of arm strength. Acta said Santana has shown a tendency to overthrow in-game, at times. It’s not a trait he’s demonstrated as much in drills. “He has a cannon for an arm, and he wants people to see it,” Acta said. “It gets him a little long at times.”
- What do the Indians do if both Santana and Lou Marson (who has been excellent defensively) are both up here and worthy of playing time? The Indians believe they could definitely work Santana in at first base, on occasion, in that scenario. He was, after all, a third baseman before the Dodgers moved him behind the dish.
- Jamey Wright and Mark Grudzielanek were officially released today.
- Justin Masterson has clearly rebounded over his last three starts, and he was dominant in that two-hitter he tossed against his old mates last night. You can’t help but wonder if Masterson would have even had the opportunity to make these last three starts if the Indians would have had a hot hand in the Columbus rotation.
- Speaking of that Columbus rotation, Carlos Carrasco has had an unsteady season. But he has won his last three starts with a 4.71 ERA, striking out 21 and walking four in 21 innings. He worked eight scoreless, allowing just three hits with a walk and nine strikeouts, in Wednesday’s win. Acta said Carrasco needs to keep himself composed when he has baserunners aboard.
- Taking a cue from Masterson and Carrasco last night, Akron left-hander Scott Barnes tossed seven scoreless on two hits while striking out 10 against New Hampshire.
- Aaron Laffey has gotten stretched out to tolerate a pitch count of 75. In two starts with the Clippers, he’s 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA in 9 2/3 innings. Acta said Laffey remains in the Indians’ plans.
- Jason Donald gets his first Major League start at second base tonight, but Acta said not to read too much into it. He spelled Luis Valbuena to get an extra right-handed bat in there against Jon Lester. Donald will see the occasional start at second (preparing him for when Asdrubal Cabrera returns), but Acta said it won’t be a 50/50 split for Donald between second and short.
- Second baseman Jason Kipnis has been promoted to Double-A Akron to replace Cord Phelps, who moved on up to Columbus. Kipnis was drafted as an outfielder in the second round last year before converting to the infield. He batted .302 with eight doubles, a triple, two homers and 15 RBIs over his last 24 games for Class A Kinston.
- I’m working on some other projects for MLB.com (including in-depth coverage of the Strasburgian Spectacle on Sunday) for the remainder of the homestand. So you won’t see my byline much on the Indians’ coverage. I’m leaving you in the highly capable hands of John Barone, so treat him well.
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game is on WTAM and WKYC Channel 3.
Manny Acta tried to go heavy on the right-handers against Lester.
INDIANS (22-36): CF Crowe, RF Choo, LF Kearns, DH Hafner, 1B Duncan, 3B Marte, SS Hernandez, C Marson, 2B Donald. RHP Mitch Talbot (7-4, 3.54).
RED SOX (35-26): SS Scutaro, 2B Pedroia, DH Ortiz, 1B Youkilis, C Martinez, RF Drew, 3B Beltre, CF Cameron, LF Hall. LHP Jon Lester (7-2, 2.73).
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
Tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field is on WTAM and STO.
INDIANS (21-35): CF Crowe, RF Choo, LF Kearns, 3B Peralta, 1B Branyan, DH Duncan, 2B Valbuena, C Marson, SS Donald. LHP David Huff (2-6, 6.08).
RED SOX (34-25): SS Scutaro, 2B Pedroia, C Martinez, 1B Youkilis, DH Ortiz, 3B Beltre, LF Hall, CF Cameron, RF McDonald. RHP Tim Wakefield (1-4, 6.02).
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
- Pleased to announce that associate reporter John Barone is on board, hoping to follow in the big footsteps left behind by past interns David “Young Zeus” Briggs and Andrew “The Scribble” Gribble. We’ll have to work on getting Barone a nickname, but for now you can expect to see his byline plenty on Indians.com for the remainder of the season.
- In fact, you can check the site later tonight for Barone’s full roundup of all the Tribe’s Day 2 Draft picks. The team has already refuted a report that it had agreed to terms with No. 2 pick LeVon Washington (when they negotiate, they must heed Elton John’s warning that “LeVon likes his money”).
- Spoke with top pick Drew Pomeranz today. Here’s the full story.
- Nice to see the Tribe pick up local product Alex Lavisky, a catcher from St. Ed’s. Then again, the last time the Indians drafted a local catcher, it was the immortal Chris Bando.
- Asdrubal Cabrera was in the clubhouse after batting practice today. His broken left forearm remains in a cast, but he said he began moving the arm around, doing various exercises, three days ago. He’s three weeks into his eight- to 10-week stay on the DL and, as you might expect, he misses being out there every night. I asked him if he’s watched the replay of his May 17 collision with Jhonny Peralta, and he said he has. “It’s really tough to watch,” he said, “but that happens.”
- Nice to see Victor Martinez, obviously, but it’s also nice to see his son, Victor Jose. The 5-year-old boy was in full Red Sox uniform this afternoon, including batting gloves and wrapped wrists, as he took batting practice at Progressive Field. He’s a natural, lining shots to both sides of the infield. He also has an exact replica of his daddy’s stance. Little Vic, though, only bats from the right-hand side. For now.
- Working on a feature on Martinez and his host family, Bob and Patty Bixler, from his days at Class A Mahoning Valley. He’s actually staying with them at their home near Warren this week. You can look for that on MLB.com and Indians.com on Thursday.
- The Indians only had one at-bat with a runner in scoring position in Monday’s loss.
The Indians have designated veteran infielder Mark Grudzielanek for assignment and purchased the contract of Anderson Hernandez from Triple-A Columbus.
Grudzielanek, 39, made his return to the Majors this year after missing all of 2009, and he became a semi-regular in the Tribe lineup. He appeared in 30 games, batting .273 with 11 RBIs. All 30 of his hits were singles.
Grudzielanek tweaked his hamstring in Sunday’s game in Chicago, and the Indians decided to go elsewhere for their infield assistance. Manny Acta has a history with Hernandez from their days in Washington, where Hernandez was the regular second baseman at the outset of last season, and Acta wanted to get a look at him.
The Indians initially plucked Hernandez, 27, off waivers from the Mets during Spring Training camp. He didn’t win a job with the club and was outrighted to Columbus, where he hit .234 (40-for-171) with four doubles, a homer and 17 RBIs in 47 games, including 39 starts at short and eight at second base.
UPDATE: Grudzielanek’s hamstring issue was going to send him to the DL. The Indians needed his roster spot, hence the DFA move. They gave Grudzielanek the option of going to the 60-day DL, and he declined.
The main incentive for Hernandez coming up is to allow Donald to not only get some more rest than he’s been getting but also to get some opportunities at second base, where he’ll likely be counted on once Asdrubal Cabrera is back.
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
Andy Marte is back from one of the stranger disabled list moves in recent memory, and he’s bumping Matt LaPorta down to Triple-A.
The Indians finally determined that LaPorta’s development at the Major League level was stunted enough by Austin Kearns and Russell Branyan that it was time to get him more consistent at-bats with Columbus.
LaPorta was expected to be an everyday player at left field and first base this season, but Kearns’ hot start and Branyan’s presence have gotten in his way. He also hasn’t shown the progress at the plate that the Indians had hoped for, as he’s batting just .218 (26-for-119) with four doubles, a homer and seven RBIs in 35 games.
Marte was placed on the 15-day DL on May 15 with an infected ingrown hair on his stomach that required surgery. He has hit .208 (5-for-24) with four runs scored, a triple, homer and seven RBIs in 15 games this season. He made a rehab appearance at Class A Lake County over the weekend.
Frank Herrmann’s 0.31 ERA in Triple-A proved irresistible to an Indians team with significant issues in the bullpen.
UPDATE: Here’s the link to today’s notes, including Sandy Alomar Jr.’s take on the close play at first, Manny Acta’s thoughts on expanding instant replay, Austin Kearns on playing with Ken Griffey Jr. and the news that Grady Sizemore will have his knee surgery Friday. Also, here’s an update on Jason Donald, finally watching the replay of the controversial call and admitting he was out.
I won’t be with the team in Chicago this weekend. Monday marks the first day of the 2010 MLB Draft, with the Indians picking fifth overall. I’ll catch up with you then.
We’re back at the scene of the crime, Comerica Park, where Armando Galarraga, like a pair of jeans at Gabriel Brothers, was “slightly imperfect” last night.
It’s also the scene where David Huff will return to the mound just five days after nearly getting decapitated by an Alex Rodriguez line drive. Here’s the full story on Huff and his incredible good fortune.
Today’s 1:05 p.m. ET game is on WTAM. No TV in Cleveland today.
INDIANS (19-32): CF Crowe, RF Choo, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B Branyan, LF LaPorta, 2B Valbuena, C Marson, SS Donald. LHP David Huff (2-6, 5.54).
TIGERS (27-25): CF Jackson, LF Raburn, RF Ordonez, 1B Cabrera, DH Boesch, 2B Guillen, 3B Inge, C Laird, SS Everett. RHP Rick Porcello (4-5, 5.27).
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
At least Jim Joyce doesn’t work for BP. They can’t pin that one on him.
But few other words of encouragement can be said to Joyce in the wake of his plunder of Armando Galarraga’s perfection at Comerica Park last night. Managers and players around the league were quick to say laudatory things about Joyce in the wake of his mistake (Russell Branyan said Joyce has “eyes like a hawk” and “ice water in his veins,” among other things). But you know and I know that Joyce will live with this for the rest of his umpiring life, and beyond.
In that instant, as Jason Donald and Galarraga met at the first-base bag, my initial (incorrect) thought from my vantage point in the press box was, “I think he’s safe… I think… but even if he’s safe, you have to call him out. You simply have to.” It’s kind of like that pass interference play that gave Ohio State new life in the national title game against Miami in 2003. Even if there was an infraction, the moxie it takes to drop a flag in that scenario is off the charts.
Joyce took that chance, to his own detriment and to the detriment of Galarraga, who will go down as the 20.5th pitcher to throw a perfect game in Major League history.
Two legacies, then, were built last night, one for Joyce and one for Galarraga. And if you ask me, what we witnessed last night was even more compelling than a perfect game. The perfect game is passé. It’s been done twice in the past month, for crying out loud. At this rate, somebody will probably toss one by the time I’m done writing this paragraph.
But this? This incredible ending to the first 28-out perfect game in Major League history? We’ll never forget it.
To ensure we don’t, here are the links to MLB.com’s in-depth coverage of the perfect game that wasn’t (and was):
A full rundown of Galarraga’s near-perfection
Blown call now a part of Joyce’s legacy
Donald’s hustle creates imperfect moment
Galarraga was brilliant, perfect or not
The Indians react Galarraga’s performance and the play in the ninth
Will this be the play that ushers in further instant replay?
Columnist Mike Bauman hopes not
The tarp is on the field at Comerica Park, but the radar shows a cloud of green creeping out of here by tonight’s 7:05 p.m. ET first pitch. If the radar is correct, tonight’s game will be on STO (with yours truly joining in on the pregame show) and WTAM.
INDIANS (19-31): CF Crowe, RF Choo, LF Kearns, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, 1B Branyan, 2B Grudzielanek, C Redmond, SS Donald. RHP Fausto Carmona (4-3, 3.69).
TIGERS (26-25): CF Jackson, LF Damon, RF Ordonez, 1B Cabrera, DH Boesch, 2B Guillen, 3B Inge, C Avila, SS Santiago. RHP Armando Galarraga (1-1, 4.50).