"Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa."

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

santa.jpgIt’s 95 degrees with 95 percent humidity (at least, that’s how it feels) at Progressive Field, just in time for the Indians’ “Christmas in July” celebration. It’s difficult to dig Ashley Tisdale singing “Last Christmas” on a normal day, let alone one where your shirt is sticking to your back.

I like Christmas. Heck, I’ll go so far as to say I love Christmas. But I’m no fan of Christmas in July. Where does it end? Halloween in March? Arbor Day in February? Martin Luther King Jr. Day on some day other than the day that happens to be Martin Lurther King Jr.’s birthday? (Wait, we already do that one. But you get the point.)

If somebody decides we can have multiple Thanksgivings, I won’t complain. And judging by the girth of some of my fellow press box inhabitants, I’m not alone. But let’s leave Christmas alone. Or at least, go easy on the Christmas tunes.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • The Indians’ Christmas in July present came in the form of Shin-Soo Choo returning from the DL. Choo said he was a little cautious swinging the bat in his first at-bat for Akron, but he quickly realized the thumb was fine and there was no reason to hold back. Alas, that first at-bat was the only one that resulted in a hit for Choo. But the point of the rehab assignment was to see live pitching, not necessarily to hit it.
  • As expected, Choo slides right into the No. 3 spot of the lineup, with Carlos Santana batting cleanup. As discussed in this story, this should/could generate more opportunities for Santana, but the Indians still need to see improvement from Travis Hafner in the No. 5 spot if Santana is going to get better pitches to hit. Santana had little to work with the last few weeks, as the scouting reports have made it clear he’s a guy to avoid.
  • Choo took Aaron Laffey’s roster spot, which was not much of a surprise once Laffey told reporters he’s dealing with a “dead arm” after his last start in Minnesota. The Indians were not pleased that Laffey chose to go that route in making the information public (hey, at least he didn’t tweet it).
  • Laffey had an MRI yesterday that did not reveal structural damage. The Indians feel rest is the only remedy. How long will Laffey rest? They didn’t say for certain. But we do know that this will be more than just a spot start opportunity for the guy who comes up to replace Laffey in the rotation.
  • Who will that guy be? The Indians will need to add a starter for Tuesday’s game against the Yankees. That happens to be Josh Tomlin’s day to throw for Columbus, and Tomlin is one of three candidates for the job. The Indians could also go with Carlos Carrasco or David Huff, who are scheduled to throw this weekend but could obviously be scratched at a moment’s notice.
  • You’d have to assume Carrasco would be the odds-on favorite to get the opportunity, given that Acta has made it clear for weeks that he intends to get Carrasco a meaningful look in the rotation. Carrasco left his start Tuesday with a stiff elbow and is still being evaluated. But pitching coach Tim Belcher said the issue was just cramping and is not considered serious. So I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Carrasco (8-4, 3.98 ERA in 19 starts) is the guy on Tuesday. But we’ll see.
  • Justin Masterson takes Laffey’s originally scheduled Sunday start on regular rest, with Jake Westbrook on Monday.
  • The felony assault charges against Tomlin, Beau Mills and Jerad Head have been reduced to disorderly conduct by a Summit County grand jury, according to the Akron Beacon Journal. The max sentence is 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.
  • Here’s the latest Indians Inbox, in case you missed it.
  • A couple other notes on Choo: 1. He changed lockers. He is now in the spot next to the door that leads to the showers, a spot formerly occupied by the likes of Jim Thome, Sandy Alomar Jr., Aaron Boone and, most recently, Mike Redmond. 2. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said he tried to get Choo on last year’s All-Star team but simply didn’t have enough spots. Maddon is a huge Choo fan. “He’s one of the best players in the American League,” Maddon said. “There’s not a thing he can’t do.”
  • Maddon is also a Mitch Talbot fan, and he said he’s not overly surprised with Talbot’s effectiveness here in his rookie season. As you know, Talbot is here via the trade that sent Kelly Shoppach to the Rays. Talbot was out of options, and the Rays didn’t have a place for him in their rotation. “He has a nice arm, a really good changeup, a really good cutter,” Maddon said. “I always thought his delivery was as sturdy as you can be. A guy with a delivery like that has a good chance of avoiding injuries.”
  • Speaking of Shoppach, Maddon said he’ll get the start here tomorrow for his big Cleveland homecoming. Shoppach joked that he’ll probably be carted around the field in a convertible to be paraded before his adoring fans.
  • Shoppach also said he was going to get on Hafner about the decrease in the number of “Pronkville” promotion in Progressive Field these days. It’s down to one faded sign that hangs in the back of the “Pronkville” mezzanine. “They’re going to call it ‘Travis Town,'” Shoppach joked. “When you stop hitting as many homers, they start calling you by your first name.”
  • The Indians are 9-2 in their last 11 games in the home of “Travis Town.” In that span, the pitching staff has a 1.76 ERA. The pitchers have allowed just one homer in their last 120 innings here.
  • Amazingly, the Rays haven’t won here since Sept. 28, 2005. Granted, only 17 games have been played between these two clubs here in that span (and granted, that was a pretty big loss for the Tribe at the time), but that’s still hard to pull off. It’s the longest current winning streak vs. an opponent in a home ballpark in the big leagues and the most since Milwaukee took 22 straight from the Pirates at Miller Park from 2007-10.
  • Acta believes the key to the bullpen’s surge has been Joe Smith, and it’s a difficult point to argue against. Smith has not allowed a run in 12 straight appearances, covering eight innings. He’s yielded just two hits in that span and has dropped his ERA from 8.10 to 4.50.  Smith has allowed just 13 percent (3 of 23) of inherited runners to score this season, the second-best mark in the AL.
  • Anthony Reyes made his second rehab start in the Arizona Rookie League on Thursday and allowed three runs (two earned) on three hits with a walk and a pair of strikeouts. He’ll begin to progress up the Minor League ladder.
  • Nick Weglarz is hot at Columbus, having homered in three straight and batting .425 with four doubles, four homers and six RBIs over his last 10 games.
  • Left-hander Nick Hagadone returned from the DL in Akron and allowed a run on two hits with no walks and two strikeouts in three innings of a 4-1 loss to Reading last night. Hagadone could be bullpen bait before all is said and done.
  • A big welcome to Mentor native Caleb Potter, who is in the house tonight. Caleb was Ohio’s participant in the Pitch, Hit and Run national competition that took place at this year’s All-Star Game. He finished first in the 13-14 age group in the national finals of the competition.
  • Whoever said painting can be therapeutic didn’t paint my living room yesterday.

~AC

10 Comments

AC, it’s only therapeutic if you’re not painting something hot pink.
New batting order already paid off. Go figure.

The new 1-4 looking good the second time through, and Hafner doing exactly what AC said. Here’s a question for my fellow Castronauts: where do you stick Grady in there? Do you break up this new 1-4 to get him in there somehow, or bat him 5th in that duel RBI/second lead off kind of thing? And, yeah, I’m referring to a theoretical healthy Grady. What about LaPorta? Could he be the better option at #5?

Laporta is a MUCH better option at number 5. I’ve said for a while that the Indians need to realize what the current version of Travis Hafner is. Hafner had a very good month of May this year, but it was still ineffective for a cleanup hitter and probably didn’t contribute to that many runs, especially when the guys hitting behind him were not good at all. Would’ve been great production as a number 2 hitter … For next year, Grady could bat 5th, if you imagine a future where Brantley is the leadoff hitter. Grady I think should for the most part hit behind Santana, whether that’s batting 4th or 5th, and Laporta should hit behind Grady, assuming everyone else is healthy and productive. Hafner should be batting 7th or 8th, though again, if the Laporta, Choo, Sizemore, Santana, Brantley group is all healthy and productive, then someone like Weglarz or Jordan Brown might be much more effective at DH/backup outfielder. The money paid to Hafner should only be factored into the equation if he is providing more production than what they can get at a minimal cost, if Brown or Weglarz can equal or surpass Hafner’s production, then his contract is a sunk cost, and he should be released.

Yeah, I don’t know what you do with Hafner. I agree that moving LaPorta to #5 is probably the better move right now.
I’m jumping the gun, I know, but Brantley is hitting .333 over is last 7 games (well, 6.5 since I’m counting tonight) and perhaps more importantly, he also has 4 BB and only 1 K in 27 ABs. I also feel like having Cabrera in the line-up is going to help him.
That would be a pretty nice 1-6, if healthy, of Brantley, Cabrera, Choo, Santana, Sizemore, and LaPorta. That would leave Marte/Goedert, Donald/Valbuena, and a DH in the bottom of third, which is, as you said, ST, where Hafner should be hitting these days, if they’re determined to keep him around.
This rain delay is a real bummer for Fausto. It seems like he’s actually getting better as the season goes on, which is a great sign for next year. I wonder what his ceiling is — ’07 era Fausto?

In an earlier post, I proposed a very similar lineup. I think that Brantley should hit 9, though, for the time being and the lineup should begin with Cabrera-Choo-Santana-Sizemore-LaPorta. I would prefer Hafner 6th and Goedert-Donald over Marte-Valbuena for 7-8.

Gomez was cruising last night. Good to see him follow up his ML debut with a strong outing for Columbus. Perhaps we get lucky and Tweet-gate enabled him to turn a corner.

I think it is a little premature to map out a 2011 lineup that includes a healthy Sizemore. I hope that he returns to form or something near it but at this point in the 2010 season it is just a good hypothetical conversation to have. Whether he struggles or not I would leave Brantley in the lead-off spot. I want to see what he can do for an extended period against July and August contending teams, not our AL Central dominated September schedule (2 series vs KC, MIN, and LAA and 1 vs DET and SEA). And it would make more sense going forward to see what LaPorta could contribute in the 5-hole rather than 7th. Not to mention he’s hitting well right now and Hafner is scuffling and not a prototypical middle-of-the-order bat anymore.

Tomlin getting the start on Tuesday. Nothing like making your major league debut against the Yankees. At least we know if a fight breaks out he’ll be able to hold his own. Ba-dum-dum! Thank you! I’ll be here all week! Enjoy the veal!

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