"Stay hard, stay hungry, stay alive"

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com

feller3.jpg

I’m no doctor, so I don’t pretend to know the implications of Bob Feller’s leukemia diagnosis. I do know that he appeared to be in good spirits Sunday in his return to the Progressive Field press box after a week and a half of treatments, and I do know that he was going back to the Clinic for an evaluation today. 
I also know that as I look to my left and see an empty seat in the place where the 91-year-old Feller is usually perched to check in on his beloved Cleveland Indians, I hope that seat is filled many, many times in the future.
I’m not old enough to have ever seen Feller pitch. In fact, he’s been classifiable as an “old man” for my entire life. But through this job, I have had the honor and the pleasure to get to know the man behind that sometimes-brash and cantankerous personality and see a guy who loves the game, loves discussing it and, yes, loves to rile us up from time to time with his remarks.
From his roots on an Iowa cornfield to his glorious baseball career to his service in the Navy during World War II, Feller is a living legend and a veritable walking American history textbook. Having access to his insight, his instincts and his humor has been a real treat, and I hope to see Feller come out victorious in yet another battle.
Best of luck and best of health, Bob.
EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…
  • Though seeing him come out of Sunday’s game with an injury to a surgically repaired area raised a red flag, it doesn’t sound like Matt LaPorta’s hip injury is serious. The Indians weren’t even planning to have an MRI taken on the hip. LaPorta is expected back in the lineup Tuesday.
  • Manny Ramirez is obviously the story of the day around here, as his first week with the White Sox will feature visits to his old haunts, Progressive Field (where he has a lifetime .312 average, 132 homers and 436 RBIs in 493 games) iand Fenway Park. This is such a momentous acquisition that MLB.com has placed me on White Sox coverage for this series. I’m filling in for the inimitable Scott Merkin, who, quite unfathomably, would rather see the Eagles in concert than Bruce Springsteen (seriously, Merk?). Should be a fun change of pace, aside from the difficult process of trying to transcribe Ozzie Guillen quotes.
  • Speaking of Guillen, this is what he had to say about Omar Vizquel, who has been a nice addition for the Sox (yes, the Indians pursued him, to no avail): “Awesome. Oh my God. Omar? You want to talk about somebody’s savior, Omar has been a savior for the White Sox for a long time. We never thought Omar was going to be playing this long, this good, this many days. I’m very proud to be managing this kid. A kid who is three years older than me. He’s unbelievable. I never thought he would be this good for us, and he really, really picked us up.”
  • Things have gone so well that Vizquel, who is batting .288 for the season and .333 over his last 40 games, is no longer viewing this as his final season. “The numbers are telling me that maybe there is another good year left,” he said. “I feel good about myself, my body feels good. No adjustments at all. I play the game the same way I was before. I just keep working out, which is the main reason I’m here and am going to be here next year. I keep my body in shape in order to play another year.”
  • Though the Indians weren’t able to woo Vizquel last winter, they’d be remiss not to try again this offseason. He’d be a practical addition to this team, particularly now that he’s proven himself to be an asset at third base, too. And not that people come to ballgames to see utility infielders, but at least Vizquel would provide some measure of marketability in what should be another tough year for attendance.
  • In the meantime, the 1990s Indians reunion so many fans clamor for is happening in the White Sox locker room this week. “It’s going to be fun to have Manny around again,” Vizquel said. “I haven’t played with Manny for about 12 years, and a lot of things have happened since. But it’s always nice to have a guy who can change the outcome of the game with one swing of the bat.”
  • You know who can change a game with one swing of the bat? Andy Marte. Or at least, that’s what Bruce Chen thinks. When asked about serving up that dead-center blast to Jason Donald yesterday, this was what Chen had to say: “I don’t want to say anything [negative], but you imagine that [Donald] would not go to deep center field. If you think of a guy on that team, you think of Hafner, LaPorta and Marte.” Rare love for Marte. 
  • Still waiting on word on September callups. The Indians are waiting to see how Triple-A Columbus’ season shakes out. Aaron Laffey is not guaranteed to join this team in September, given that he is still not 100 percent in his recovery from left shoulder fatigue. If Laffey does come back, it will be in the bullpen. But he’ll have to show a lot of progress in the next couple days to convince the Indians he’s ready.
  • Fausto Carmona has tweaked the grip of his changeup, which has Acta encouraged. In Sunday’s loss to the Royals, Carmona’s changeup was clocking in around 85 mph, giving him a nice separation of speeds from his sinker. The Indians were concerned that his changeup speed was getting too close too consistently to the fastball speed.
  • Acta said Carmona has been throwing his changeup more often this season. According to data on Fangraphs.com (one of Acta’s favorite web sites), Carmona is definitely throwing less sinkers (67.8 percent, as opposed to 72.2 percent last year and 80.9 percent in ’08) and more sliders (18.3 percent, way up from 7.6 percent last year and 8.8 percent in ’08). The changeup is at 13.9 percent, according to the site, which is actually down from 20.2 percent last year but way up from 2.6 percent in ’08. Obviously, this data is not guaranteed to be 100 percent accurate, but Carmona is definitely deviating from the sinker with more regularity.
  • Speaking of Acta’s favorite web sites, he told me the other day that he just noticed, for the first time, the tagline at the top of this blog: “Manny Acta’s favorite Indians blog… or if it’s not, it ought to be.” That’s been up there, I believe, since the day Acta was hired. That it’s taken him this long to notice doesn’t bode well for that tag line being accurate.
  • Russell Branyan trade acquisition Ezequiel Carrera is batting .375 over his last eight games at Columbus, with five multi-hit games.
  • Columbus closer Vinnie Pestano has a 0.81 ERA and eight saves in eight opportunities over his last 21 appearances. He’d be an intriguing September callup option.
  • Best of luck to media relations intern Vince Gerbec, who is working his final series before heading back to Athens, Ohio, the Navel of the Universe and the Land of Milk and Honey, for his senior year at Ohio University. See you at my bachelor party, Vince.
~AC

16 Comments

AC
I just got in trouble at work for laughing out loud when I saw your comment on Acta finally noticing your blog tagline.

Oh well

Meanwhile, yeah, Omar next year would be great. Still my all time favorite player (that I have personally seen play). I wonder if he still does infield warmups between innings, where he fields the grounder/throw from first with a closed glove, letting it roll up his arm to grab it. He was better than Ozzie in his prime. I can’t wait till he’s in the Hall of Fame.

Meanwhile, I think this is the first time I have heard Pestano’s name as a potential call-up all season. How come? Is he a young prospect? Or a been floating around the minors forever type?
Finally, I saw Ingraham of the News-Herald call for both Omar AND Thome signings next year. What do you think, AC?

It would be nice to have Omar back, but if he doesn’t win a ring this season, I would have to imagine him signing with a contender, not the Indians. Get well soon, Bob.

I’ve been at work an unable to see the game, but can anyone tell what the deal is with Talbot? I realize this is his first full season in the majors — does it seem like that’s a factor? Gameday seemed to indicate that he was nibbling a lot. Perhaps confidence is an issue.
It would appear that Germano is human after all.

Didn’t see the game either, but Talbot is what he is, an ok back of the rotation starter. His xFIP has been around 5 for the entire season, so it’s not really that surprising to see his ERA climbing up to that territory. He had a very low BABIP for the 1st half of the year, which is now around .300. I wouldn’t expect Tomlin or Gomez to go a full season with an ERA much under 5 either. It’s tough to have sustained success when you can’t strike many guys out … probably doubly so pitching with the Indians’ fielders behind you … Hafner annoys me. Just when I’m ready to write him off, he starts hitting again. Probably end the year with some halfway decent numbers. He’s not going anywhere, I guess, since he’s now easily the second best hitter on the team, after Choo.

I don’t know, Talbot didn’t seem to nibble quite so much earlier in the season. It’s like he’s lost confidence in his stuff, which is entirely possible.
I’d be thrilled with Hafner’s turn around if I actually believed we were going to see him (and it) every game. At this point, he’s got decent numbers that look worse when you consider a) his contract and b) how many games he’s actually in.
So do we just put Masterson out there every 2 weeks? Is that the solution to this? Because I honestly don’t understand what it will take to keep him from swinging so far to the extremes in his starts.
I was never convinced that R. Perez had turned it around and I’m less convinced than ever. It’s no wonder they’ve moved Hagadone to the bullpen, given we’ll probably need a lefty by the time he gets up to the majors. It would be kind of funny if our lefty/righty set up men are Hagadone and Masterson, given they came over together.

Masterson matches up pretty well against the White Sox, lots of right handed hitters. I still don’t necessarily get everyone talking about how terrible Masterson is and how he needs to go to the bullpen though. He’s been a much better pitcher this year than Huff was last year, and everyone was all in love with Huff just because the Indians scored a bunch of runs in games he pitched and gave him a winning record. Masterson’s biggest problem this year in the games I’ve seen him has been his inability to prevent innings from getting out of control, which seems more like a mental thing that’s probably fairly common for a pitcher who’s in his first full season as a starting pitcher … the funny thing about Hafner, is so far this year fangraphs has him at 1.6 WAR, which they translate to $6.4 million worth of production. So yeah, it’s still a bad contract, but not Kerry Wood bad, with $10 million completely down the drain. Depending on how he finishes the season, he could conceivably put up numbers worth around $7 million, in which case they only overpaid him about $4.5. I think Hafner’s overall numbers do overrate him, partially because the Indians have him in the wrong place in the batting order, and partially because Hafner’s really struggled with men on base.

I think a lot of the complaints about Masterson stem from how awful our bullpen is — and they are, they are awful. Acta has managed to make them look better than they are by getting them into good match-ups, but this series has proven just how bad they really are. Germano is a nice story, but there’s got to be a reason why the Tribe was the only team in all of baseball who gave him a chance. Rafael Perez is exactly what we thought he was when the year started and until Tony Sipp is turning into the left handed Jensen Lewis. At this point, I don’t trust any of them aside from Chris Perez. Yes, we’ve got some potential in the minors, but not all of that is going to pan out. They’re going to have to call up Todd, Judy, and Pestano here just to get a look, because this bullpen is worthless and only smoke and mirrors made anyone think otherwise.
Aside from his most recent performance, the other compelling reason to keep Masterson in the rotation (or at least let him compete for a spot next year) is this: who do we have that could take his spot? I don’t think anyone believes that Tomlin or Gomez has better stuff.
Crazy as it sounds, their best move would probably be to have the same exact opening day rotation next year as they did this year, assuming they can bring Jake back.

yeah, the current bullpen isn’t too great, but that’s where all of their upper level prospects are right now, between Todd, Judy, Pestano, Price, Bryson, Putnam, Stowell and Hagadone, to go along with the keepers in the current crew, they should be able to field a pretty good bullpen. Stowell did go on the DL with an elbow problem which could be a big blow if he needs Tommy John or something, he was looking like the best of the bunch

Corey Kluber with a nice AAA debut tonight.

how can one not be impressed with Jeanmar Gomez to this point? The guy has done practically everything that you could have asked from him through 8 starts. And despite the one clunker against Detroit he’s been a surprising prospect to watch which is a stark contrast to how he was pitching in Columbus. Perhaps tweet-gate by David Huff was a blessing in disguise. He does need to limit his walks (12 in 44 IP)

can I reiterate that I hate Jayson Nix and still cannot understand why he is considered a viable option for next year

The Indians probably need to go get a third baseman for next year. They apparently don’t view Goedert as someone who’s adequate defensively, and Nix is not a third baseman. Today I watched some of Carrasco pitching from yesterday’s game, and Nix extended the 1st inning by about 10 pitches when he couldn’t get the ball out of his glove on a weak grounder to third. It has to be tough to pitch with these guys as your fielders, especially for what’s still a groundball oriented staff. Carrasco was also victimized by Duncan falling down in the outfield and letting a guy get a “triple”, then giving up a hit through the drawn-in infield

AM, I just don’t think Gomez’s stuff is going to hold up over time. He’s given up a lot of hits and walked a tight rope in a lot of games. A full season seeing teams multiple times — I just don’t think he’s got the pitches to make the cut. I’d love for him to prove me wrong, though, and he should get the chance.
Crazy thought, but if he’s healthy and the price is right, I wonder if a one year deal for Mike Lowell wouldn’t have some upside to it. He seems to have some gas in the tank and one would have to assume he’d only be the starter for half a year, anyway. He’d add veteran presence to the team, he’s an actual third baseman, and he could become a 3B/1B/DH type guy at mid-season, when we invariably call up Goedert or even Chisenhall. Heck, he’d be 4th in OPS on this team right now (which is sad in many ways). But a guy like that might help out a young team like this in ways beyond stats — and it’s not like he could be any worse at third than what we’ve got now. You also have to figure there isn’t going to be a lot of action for him in the off-season.
Thinking outside the box here…

stay outside the box It suits you and fuels our discussions. Good perspective. While you may be right about Gomez’s longevity at the ML level I’m still surprised at this turnaround is all I’m saying. It seems we have a bunch of 4th, 5th, and middle relief SPs on this FMR. Not encouraging.

All the best to Bob Feller. If you get a chance, stop his childhood home and museum in Van Meter, IA. It’s worth checking out if you’re in the area. The link to my trip there with some pics is below.
–Mike
‘Minoring In Baseball’
http://burrilltalksbaseball.mlblogs.com/archives/2010/05/2010-baseball-trip-day-2-van-meter-ia.html

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