September 2010

"My friends, it's been a long, long time"

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

The demand has been overwhelming. The (non-existent) late-night calls, the (two or three) e-mails, the (four or five) messages on Twitter, the (one) in-person request (from blog favorite Jim Rosenhaus).

Yes, the people have spoken, and they have demanded more minutiae.

My apologies for the lack of consistency in CastroTurf in recent weeks. I have been pulled away on some other assignments for MLB.com and have been doing less Indians beat stuff in the waning weeks of the season.

But with the season winding to a close and all eyes turned to 2011, we must make some sense of all we’ve witnessed over the last six months. And we start by turning to manager Manny Acta, who held his postmortem press conference today, despite the fact that we have yet to reach the “post” portion of the season schedule.

Acta won’t be in Cleveland for several weeks, as he’ll be shuffling off to Arizona to check out Instructional League action and helping out with Fox en Espanol’s coverage of the NLCS and World Series, so he met with local scribes today to discuss a wide array of topics.

We’ve got it all covered here in a long-awaited batch of minutiae.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • acta9.jpgWhen he took the Indians’ job a year ago, Acta said he didn’t view this as a rebuilding project. Another 90-plus loss season would tend to disagree with that statement, but it’s Acta’s contention that the rebuild is within the pitching staff, not the lineup. So when Acta evaluates the 2010 season, he focuses on the progress that pitching staff has made. “I think we’ve taken huge steps,” he said.
  • Acta points to the progress of Fausto Carmona, the late-season improvements made by Justin Masterson, the eye-catching performance of Carlos Carrasco, the unexpected help provided by Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez and the exceeded expectations provided by Mitch Talbot. When asked to name favorites for next year’s rotation, he mentioned Carmona, Masterson, Carrasco and Talbot, though he said nothing is set in stone.
  • Would the Indians go after a veteran starter this winter? “Not a veteran, but a good pitcher,” Acta said. “You can’t just bring in a 40-year-old guy to say you brought in a veteran.”
  • Because good pitchers cost good money, I would say it’s somewhat safe to assume the Indians will stick with the arms they have in place. But I’ve been wrong before.
  • While it’s the pitching staff that Acta deems to be in rebuild mode, he feels the arms made much more progress this season than the bats. That’s obviously evident in the season numbers for Matt LaPorta, Luis Valbuena, Trevor Crowe and Lou Marson, each of whom had a legit starting opportunity at one point or another.
  • Acta said the perpetual struggles of Luis Valbuena came as a major surprise to him. “He’s never been overmatched, but he has nothing to show for the season,” Acta said. “He was unable to get his head above water.”
  • As far as LaPorta’s uninspiring numbers are concerned, Acta said he gives LaPorta a “mulligan” for the year. “He spent his whole offseason rehabbing from two surgeries, not training for baseball,” Acta said. “It was a long year, mentally and physically. [This winter] he’s going to get to train for 162 games.” With more stamina, Acta believes LaPorta can more consistently demonstrate the right-handed power he’s provided in flashes this season.
  • To Acta, the offensive woes this season essentially come down to the injuries suffered by Grady Sizemore, Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera. “I don’t believe in luck,” Acta said. “But our eighth hitter never got hurt or anybody on the bench. It was from the leadoff to the fifth hitter. To be the type of team we are, I don’t think we can absorb that. We’ll be better for it next year, because a lot of guys who weren’t supposed to be here got Major League experience, and that’s going to give us depth.”
  • When asked what he would say to Cleveland sports fans to get them excited about the Indians again, Acta admitted small-market baseball can be a difficult sell to some. “People pick and choose what they want to support,” he said. “I can’t tell people what to choose. I am excited about this franchise. It’s a fact that we have to do things a certain way. It’s tough to tell people that’s what we have to do. But this is the way we have to operate. Our best chance is to draft and develop our players and make as few mistakes as we can. That’s the reality. All I can do is try to accelerate the process as much as I can to make this an exciting, blue-collar unit that people will want to come watch play.”
  • Carlos Santana drew that kind of excitement in his short time in the big leagues before a season-ending knee injury. Santana was in the clubhouse before today’s doubleheader. He’s still using crutches, but he said he hopes to stop using them in about a week. He is also hoping to begin doing running drills in November, at the Goodyear, Ariz., complex, where he’ll spend his winter. “I feel great,” he said. “Everything’s going well with my knee. I feel strong.”
  • The Indians will release their full list of winter ball participants on Thursday, but Jayson Nix is headed to Puerto Rico to work on his defense at third base, and Cabrera will be playing in Venezuela for the first time in three years, as he’s still trying to get his rhythm back after missing two months with the forearm injury.
  • Some unfortunate news about Bob Feller, who has dealt with an array of ailments in recent months. Here’s hoping Rapid Robert can pull through.
  • I’ll have a brand spankin’ new edition of the Inbox up on Indians.com for Thursday’s off day.

~AC

"Grab your ticket and your suitcase"

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

australia.jpgAs a thank you for sticking with me and this blog throughout a long and difficult Cleveland Indians season, I have a special announcement to make to all of you Castronauts out there.

We’re going to Australia!

We’re going to Australia!

We’re going to Australia!

Oh, no. Wait. That’s Oprah’s audience.

Sorry for the confusion.

Forget Australia. Let’s just go to the Minutiae.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY… 

  • The Indians were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention last week. To soften the blow, there’s good news tonight — the release of the 2011 schedule! Yes, it’s time for renewed hope, reborn optimism, visions of a healthy Grady Sizemore and Carlos Santana and, most importantly, three more games against the Pirates to look forward to.
  • The big news is the Indians opening at home for just the third time in the last 14 years, and that opener (Friday, April 1, against the White Sox) will be earlier than usual, with the bulk of teams starting their season on Friday as opposed to the usual Monday. It’s the first time since 1905 that the season, by and large, will begin on a Friday. MLB pushed it up to avoid World Series games in November.
    The aforementioned Pirates have become an annual Interleague foe for the Tribe, much like the Reds have been since 1997. The Pirates did not have a natural AL rival built into their yearly schedule the way most teams do and they pushed MLB to make the Cleveland-Pittsburgh series a regular feature. It seems to have been good for attendance in both cities when the Indians and Bucs play each other.
  • So ,why were the Indians mathematically eliminated this year? I don’t have enough gigabytes to get into all the grim details. But to break things down as simply as possible, Manny Acta believes that to be a viable playoff contender, you must score 800 runs, have an on-base percentage of .340 or higher and have an ERA of 4.00 or lower. There are exceptions, of course, but those are his basic benchmarks. The Indians, in case you’re now wondering, have an OBP of .320, a team ERA of 4.32 and are on pace to score just 635.5 runs. How they’re going to get that last half a run is beyond me.
  • Obviously, the losses of Sizemore and Santana (and Asdrubal Cabrera for two months) contributed to that run total (which, at 561 coming into the night, is third-lowest in the league). But when evaluating what went wrong with this team in 2010, Acta looks no further than these two numbers – 521 and 106. Those are, respectively, the number of walks issued and the number of errors made by the Indians this season.
  • Consider this: The Twins, on their way to winning the AL Central title (they can all but wrap it up with a three-game set against the Sox this week), have walked 319 guys and made 61 errors. So the Indians have let somewhere in the neighborhood of 240 extra men on base (depending, of course, on the nature of the errors) when compared to the Twins. That’s, uh, going to lead to a run or two.
  • Here’s what Acta had to say about the long-term outlook for the Tribe: “In order for us to turn things around here, we’re going to need some pitching. The depth here, with the way [Josh] Tomlin, [Jeanmar] Gomez and [Carlos] Carrasco have thrown the ball, is better. That’s a key for us. Bullpens are unpredictable, and they’re easier to put together than a starting rotation. I think we’ve made some progress [in building starting depth].”
  • Jason Donald is out at least a week with a bruised tendon in his right index finger, which is why Drew Sutton (known to some of you as “Who?”) was summoned from Triple-A Columbus today. Obviously, Sutton is pleased to be here, though he was pulled away from the Governor’s Cup against Durham, which began tonight. He’ll help out at second, third and short, if need be. Luis Valbuena will see the bulk of the time at second.
  • As of this writing, the Indians are still getting a read on whether Mitch Talbot’s shoulder inflammation will prevent him from making his next scheduled start, Saturday in Kansas City. Acta said the injury did not appear serious. If Talbot can’t go, Justin Masterson will take his turn. If Talbot can go, then Masterson’s season is likely over, because the Indians don’t want to push his innings total (currently 173) any higher if they don’t have to.
  • Hard to know what to make of Masterson’s season, though he’s certainly shown improvement and reasons to believe in August and September. There were times this season when his spot in the rotation appeared tenuous, at best, but the Indians, it appears, never seriously considered removing him from the rotation (until he reached his innings max, of course), in part because of his performance but also because there simply weren’t other intriguing options to turn to. The Indians hope their patience has paid off and that something clicked for Masterson in the second half, and I don’t foresee a scenario in which he’s not in the Opening Day rotation.
  • In case you missed it, here’s the latest Indians Inbox
  • I’ll be part of the panel for the Tribe Social Forum, taking place here at Progressive Field on Thursday at 5:45 p.m. (doors open at 5 p.m.). General manager Mark Shapiro will give some opening remarks before the panel on how social media is changing the way we communicate. The $50 ticket gets you access to the discussion, a buffet meal with drinks and a spot in the Champions Suite for the Indians-Angels game at 7:05 p.m. More details here.

~AC

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