"My friends, it's been a long, long time"
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
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…
- When 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.