Results tagged ‘ Mark Shapiro ’

And the rain fell down on the cold hard ground

It’s Opening Day in Cleveland, so, naturally, I’m typing this during a rain delay.

Yeah, it’s cold today (45 degrees at first pitch). And yeah, the rain blew around all day before it began to pour in the fifth inning. But this is nothing, right?

“Our fans are used to it,” Eric Wedge said. “They’ve sat out here in worse conditions than this.”

We Clevelanders toss out the phrase “at least it’s not snowing” as if that’s any sort of consolation whatsoever.

But hey, at least it’s not snowing.

And the delay gives me the opportunity to throw some mid-game minutia your way.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • Jamey Carroll’s left hand is in a splint as he recuperates from that broken fifth metacarpal shaft suffered in his last at-bat of the spring. “The longest Spring Training in history, and I get hurt in the last inning of the last game,” Carroll said. If it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.
  • Thus far, it’s been a straight swap of the catching duties for Victor Martinez and Kelly Shoppach. Martinez caught Scott Lewis today, and Shoppach will, of course, catch Cliff Lee on Saturday. No word on who is catching for Anthony Reyes on Sunday.
  • During the pregame roster and lineup introductions, the Indians’ training and strength and conditioning staff got to trot out to the third-base line for their turn in the limelight. Considering all the injuries the Indians endured last season, I’d say the honor was well-deserved.
  • The Tribe hit five homers Thursday. That feat only happened once last season – July 30 against Detroit, in a 13-inning game.
  • Entering today, the Indians were 58-50 all-time in home openers
  • Wedge liked what he saw from Travis Hafner in Thursday’s home run. “That was the swing, that was the speed and that was the path [the Indians want to see from Pronk],” Wedge said. But “that” was also an 84 mph fastball from Eddie Guardado.
  • I was much more impressed with Hafner getting around on Scott Richmond’s 93-mph fastball for a two-run double off the right-field wall in the first inning and a 92-mph fastball for a solo homer to the Indians’ visitors’ bullpen in the right-field corner in the third. Pronk’s starting to look a little more legit.
  • The Indians have not started a season 0-4 wince 1985, when they started 0-5.
  • Wedge was really relaxed with the media today. Somehow, he got on the subject of his first exposure to baseball. It came in 1977, when he was 11 years old and first played Little League. The coach asked Wedge (“a short, fat, squatty kid,” as he put it) if he wanted to try catching, and he was all for it. “I thought it would be cool to put all that stuff on,” Wedge said. On his bedroom wall, he hung posters of Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench and Thurman Munson. No Farrah Fawcett, sadly.
  • The Tribe’s clubhouse has new carpet, and it was GM Mark Shapiro’s wife, Lissa, who picked out the color scheme (a deep blue in the clubhouse and a gray in the halls). Mark pretty much designed the alternate uniforms worn for the home opener, holidays and weekend home games. Move over, HGTV.

~AC

Mama if that's movin' up then I'm movin' out

It's the last day of the month, and my lease is up on my spring rental unit. Ordinarily, move-out day is a celebratory occasion. Today, it just means three nights in an Arizona hotel, as the Eternal Spring continues.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Oh my. Scott Lewis got shelled again today against the Mariners. He gave up 10 runs on 13 hits in 3 2/3 innings, giving up a grand slam to Ronny Cedeno and two homers to Russell Branyan that haven't landed yet. That's 15 runs on 21 hits in his last 6 2/3 innings since being named the Indians' No. 4 starter.
  • Lewis said he's having some issues trying to grip the ball in the dry air. But if I remember correctly, it was pretty dry in his first five appearances, when he had a 3.52 ERA and won the job. Lewis acknowledged that the air won't be any better when he makes the start in assumedly cold conditions in Cleveland at the April 10 home opener. He'll have one more opportunity to figure it out in an extended game here in Goodyear on Sunday.
  • Gary Sheffield cut. Didn't see that one coming. And before you ask (well, actually, some of you already have), while the Indians do have a history of trying to trade for Sheffield, it's hard to imagine them making a run at him here. Last I checked, they already have a DH with question marks. They don't need another. And when you consider that Sheffield's first day with the Tribe would involve him trying to punch teammates Asdrubal Cabrera and Fausto Carmona in the head as retaliation for last September's incident, I don't think he'd add much in the way of clubhouse camaraderie.
  • GM Mark Shapiro met with the media today. Nothing all that newsworthy to report. He offered some thoughts on the division, noting that the White Sox are the defending champs and must be respected as such. But the Twins, he said, have "without a doubt... the best pitching, top to bottom. There's no scenario where the Twins aren't going to be a solid to good team, with that rotation and with the guy they have finishing games for them [Joe Nathan]."
  • Shapiro said 90 wins could be enough to take the AL Central this season. Hard to dispute that, when you look at the rosters.
  • Summing up camp: "The overwhelming positive is we've got a minute injury list right now. At least what that allows is that the club you plan, by and large, will be on the field. It doesn't mean it will definitely be a championship team, but that's a strong positive. That's not something you take for granted. When you like the team you plan, you go through spring training holding your breath every game."
  • One guy we haven't discussed much is left-hander Tony Sipp, who will open at Triple-A Columbus and is very much back on the radar after '07 Tommy John surgery. "I think he's back on the trajectory he was on prior to his injury, which is a good thing," Shapiro said.
  • Getting away from Shapiro and speaking of Columbus, here's the Clippers' rotation (in no particular order): LHPs David Huff, Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey, RHPs Kirk Saarloos and Jack Cassel. If the Indians had an opening in their rotation at this moment, Sowers would probably get the first call. But this will be a fluid situation all season, and any one of those guys (particularly the young lefties) could step up at any time.
  • The Double-A rotation (in no particular order): LHPs Chuck Lofgren, RHPs Hector Rondon, Steve Wright, Josh Tomlin, Frank Herrmann. LHP Ryan Edell has been moved to the bullpen. Lofgren, who was once a promising prospect, is likely on a short leash.
  • It needs to be said: Ryan Garko is not that bad in the outfield corners. He won't be climbing walls or making diving catches in the gap, but it doesn't look like he'll kill the Indians out there, either. And if his bat remains as productive as it was today, when he ripped a two-run single in the sixth, then finding another way to keep him in the lineup is a good thing.
  • Last home game of the spring. And for all that talk earlier this spring about the small crowds, the Indians drew a club-record 99,824 fans, an average of 5,546 per game. Last year, they drew an average of 5,820, with the boost of people paying their last respects to Chain of Lakes. In '07, they drew an average of 4,773.

~AC

General Manager Minutia

shapiro.jpgMark Shapiro arrived to Goodyear one month ago today. This morning, he met with the media to talk about his impressions of the first month of camp and his thoughts with three and a half weeks remaining before the opener.

Here’s a sampling of what he had to say, with a full story to come on Indians.com this afternoon…

  • General thoughts: “I’ve been very happy with most of what’s happened in camp. But if you had to point to one area of concern, it would still be the rotation.”
  • Shapiro likes the way Fausto Carmona is leveraging the ball, he believes Carl Pavano is on track to be a veteran, stabilizing starter, and he’s encouraged by Anthony Reyes’ stuff and health. But Shapiro, like everybody else, is waiting for somebody to step up and take the No. 5 job.
  • At this stage, he puts very little stock in spring numbers, especially in the Arizona conditions. He pointed to Scott Lewis’ outing yesterday (2 1/3 innings, 4R, 3H, 2BB, 2K) as a prime example of an impressive appearance thrown awry by one or two bad pitches.
  • Trevor Crowe, Wes Hodges, Carlos Santana, Hector Rondon, Chris Gimenez, Luis Valbuena, Matt LaPorta and Michael Brantley have all made a very favorable impression, and Shapiro expects this team to rely on that depth. “This is the best layer of talent we’ve had here in a long, long time.”
  • Crowe is not only battling for the final bench spot but also the fourth outfield spot. But that latter spot is still David Dellucci’s to lose, and Shapiro likes what he’s seen from Dellucci (3-for-8, a homer, a double and two walks) since his return from the thumb injury.
  • The extended camp has been nice from the standpoint of getting young players more looks, but it’s made evaluation difficult. He said it’s tough to know when to start cutting guys — a process that ordinarily would have begun by now.
  • Another downside to the long camp: “We already went through a bunch of nicks and bruises and scrapes that kept a bunch of guys off the field. Now we’re almost completely back to full health, but there’s enough time to go through it again. That’s how long we’re here for.”
  • Speaking of health, he was really happy to see Victor Martinez hit back-to-back home runs on Feb. 27 and really happy to see Travis Hafner “nearly decapitate” Jered Weaver with a liner up the middle yesterday. “When you don’t see those things for a long time, it affects you emotionally.” 
  • On that front, he talked about defense, and he said fans and writers are often so emotionally affected by Jhonny Peralta’s inability to get to the occassional grounder up the middle that we ignore his ability to field every routine ball. Our response? Hey, we were emotionally affected long before Jhonny Peralta came into our lives.
  • The Indians use four metrics to evaluate defense. One of them is John Dewan’s Fielding Bible, which I’ve often referenced here, another is internal, and he wouldn’t reveal the two others. But he noted that objective analysis of defensive play is always imperfect.
  • He’s been impressed with Ryan Garko in the outfield and beyond. “[Garko] deserves some credit. He was the first guy through the doors of this place in October and the most consistent guy here all winter long. He clearly has worked with a sense of determination."

~AC

"I happen to dress based on mood… This is Morning Mist."

These must already be the dog days of camp if yesterday's discussion centered around dog names.

 

(I particularly liked the idea of getting nine fish and naming them all after the members of the starting lineup. However, that might be difficult to pull off with the Tribe. You might need a few versatile, utility fish to fill in when the other fish are in a slump or need a break from ... I don't know ... swimming laps, I guess.)

 

Today's topic: Clothing.

 

Now, I don't claim to have an admirable wardrobe. Far from it, in fact. Sportswriters technically aren't allowed to wear anything but sweatpants and polo shirts featuring the logo of some event from 1996. Also, I hate to sound like a cranky old man. But seriously... what's with these Affliction shirts?

 

You know what shirts I'm talking about, right? They usually have some sort of skull on them. Or maybe it's not a skull. I guess I haven't really taken the time to examine them closely. (Edit: After I started writing this entry, I went into the clubhouse and did examine one of them closely. It featured a sword going through an empty rib cage, surrounded by flowers. Reminds me of prom night.) But I do know that they're always form-fitting (I would love, just once, to see a guy wearing an Affliction shirt three sizes too big for him), and they are a hit among ballplayers. I'm starting to think they serve as a secondary uniform for this particular team.

 

I don't get it. I don't want to get it. And if you can't tell by this post, I'm really ready for the games to start down here, because I have nothing better to do than write up the unceremonious end of Andy Marte's reign and rant about T-shirts.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • GM Mark Shapiro is back in camp after leaving for Baltimore due to the death of his grandmother. With Shapiro back, he and Eric Wedge began holding their two-on-one meetings with position players.
  • Another rather uneventful morning on the back fields. The players did some work at their individual positions, and the second round of live BP was held.
  • It can be somewhat telling to see who's getting work at which position and what group they are in. For example, Luis Valbuena, Josh Barfield and Beau Mills all got work this morning in what could be considered the Major League infield group (Mark DeRosa at third, Jhonny Peralta at short, Asdrubal Cabrera at second and Ryan Garko at first). Barfield was at second base and Valbuena was taking grounders at short. Jamey Carroll worked with DeRosa at third base.
  • The plan this season is for Carroll to serve as, essentially, the backup third baseman. With DeRosa expected to see some time in the outfield, Carroll can step in at the hot corner. Barfield will probably make this team and serve as Cabrera's backup at second base. So much of Carroll's time on the field, to this point, has been spent at third.
  • Wedge's first impression of third baseman Wes Hodges: "For a young player, he does a nice job staying in the middle of the diamond [in BP]."
  • Someone asked whatever happened with Edward Salcedo, the prospect to end all prospects who the Indians reportedly made a run at last year in the Dominican and were even rumored to have signed for $2.9 million (obviously, that wasn't the case). Last I heard, there was an investigation into Salcedo's age and doubts that he was really 16. The talk about Salcedo coming out of the Dominican quieted in a hurry when that investigation began. 

~AC

(Clarence Clemons' saxophone solo in "Jungleland")

Today's blog headline goes out to the Indians' resident iTrac vision training specialist Jason Stein, also known in these parts as the "Master of Self-Promotion."

 

Stein and I don't see eye to eye on, well, anything, and not just because he's taller than me. One of our many arguments yesterday centered on music. He claimed that Bruce Springsteen's "Jungleland" (referenced in yesterday's blog headline) has a superfluous saxophone solo, while I claim that the solo is the greatest saxophone solo in rock history (granted, it didn't have a heck of a lot of real competition for this honor, but it's an honor, nonetheless), and, therefore, integral to the song's beauty.


clemons.jpg 

Stein's contention was that he listens to music for the lyrics, and he said the simple fact that you can't "quote" a saxophone solo in my blog postings is proof enough that the musical interludes don't matter.

 

So, out of pure spite, I'm sticking it to Stein with The Big Man's solo today, in headline form. If you close your eyes, I swear you can hear it. Or you can just watch it here.

 

If you can't tell from the above post, it's another slow day in camp. And let's face it... this is what you might call a trend. The early days of camp are always rather mundane, but at least it gives us plenty of time to bicker over Bruce.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Pitching coach Carl Willis said Kerry Wood looked good yesterday -- too good, in fact. Wood's stuff is way ahead of where it needs to be this time of year. "He was impressive, to say the least," Willis said, shaking his head. "By no means was he out of control, but we might have to slow him down a tad."
     
  • In the clubhouse this morning, after PFPs had wrapped up, several of the pitchers were watching a show about Game 7 of the '97 World Series on the MLB Network. Jensen Lewis said he still remembers watching that game on his couch. "I rubbed my face raw with nerves," he said.
     
  • The position players took BP for the first time on Field No. 1 this morning. That's the one with the exact dimensions of Progressive Field.
     
  • The full-squad is in-house. In fact, the addition of Tony Graffanino means an even 60 players are in camp. So each and every one of the 60 lockers in the Indians' clubhouse is spoken for. Lots of elbow-bumping going on.
     
  • Position players took their physicals. Their two-on-one meetings with Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro have been pushed back because of Shapiro's absence due to a death in the family. When Shapiro returns this week, the meetings will be spread out over the course of three days.
     
  • One number change this year: Jamey Carroll has given up No. 7 to Mark DeRosa and taken No. 11. Carroll was hoping he might get something in return for the number (a nice steak dinner, perhaps?), but it hasn't happened yet. And Carroll is already justifying the situation by praising his new number. "It's a one for each kid," said Carroll, whose wife, Kim, gave birth to twins last year.
     
  • Josh Weir of the Canton Repository pointed out that Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo each have exactly 509 Major League at-bats under their belt. What are the odds of that? (Note: Please don't conjure up some scientific formula that proves the odds were actually quite good, thereby making me look like an idiot. Please.)
     
  • You knew this story was coming, and it's a shame. Winter Haven businesses will be hurt by the Indians' absence. One estimate is that Spring Training generated $25 million in economic impact for the city each year.
     
  • Finally, it just dawned on me that Richie Cannata's sax solo on Billy Joel's "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" is also quite good. Not "Jungleland" good, but still good.

~AC

 

UPDATE: Wedge said, in general, he was happy with the shape guys reported in. But without naming names, he said, "There's always a couple that don't look quite how you want them to." Then he added sarcastically, "It's not like you have anything to get in shape for."

 

UPDATE No. 2: Alto Reed. "Turn the Page." How did I forget that one? Yes, yes, that definitely needs consideration for top sax solo. I'm biased, of course, so I'd still list The Big Man at No. 1, but Alto's up there. And does anybody know his real name? It can't be Alto Reed, right? This has always bugged me, but I've never seen an original name. If his birth name really was Alto Reed, he had no choice but to become a saxophonist. It's the same as that old Seinfeld bit about naming your kid Jeeves and, thus, sealing his fate as a butler. Then again, if you're named Jeeves, you can also become the guy who answers everybody's questions on the Internet. OK, I'm rambling. 

We're born again, there's new grass on the field

It's remarkably trite to quote John Fogerty's "Centerfield," but, well, that's how it feels the first morning pitchers and catchers work out at Spring Training. The sun came out today, and there really is new grass on the field... because the field itself is new.

 

Lots of excitement in the air here this Valentine's Day morning, as camp got underway in earnest. Cliff Lee, Fausto Carmona, Aaron Laffey, Rafael Perez, Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith were among those throwing bullpen sessions in front of the coaching and front-office staff. There was also some batting practice held on Field No. 6. And let's not forget the always enthralling round of PFPs (pitchers' fielding practice).

 

How'd they look? They looked like they always look the first day of camp. World Series-bound, of course! And don't even try to bunt on these hurlers. They'll make you look silly.

 

I'm not exactly sure if the players felt extra incentive to finish early today, because when they stepped outside this morning they were greeted with a nice whiff of mesquite chicken cooking on a wood-fired grill out back. The inimitable Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer and I wondered if that might be "media chicken." (It wasn't, but the chicken served up in the media workroom was also quite good.)

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Travis Hafner has taken three days of batting practice this week, including today. Every other day, he's taking soft toss. He said he's had no endurance or strength issues. It's still expected he'll be about a week behind in exhibition action, but that program might be sped up.
     
  • Josh Barfield, who spent all winter here in the Phoenix area and worked out regularly at the Player Development Complex, said he has no problem trying out new positions in camp. He even said playing the outfield is no big deal. “You just run and catch the ball,” he said with a shrug. Sounds easy enough. Barfield said he played some shortstop in the Minors and in high school, so he’s up for that challenge. He thinks — and I agree — that he has a good shot at making this club.

  • Jake Westbrook is throwing off a five-inch mound. He wasn’t sure when, exactly, he’ll progress to the full, 10-inch mound, but he’s still expected to begin throwing in simulated games in April. Westbrook said he’s feeling the expected soreness in his elbow. He said his hip, which, you might remember, was also surgically addressed last year, feels great.
     

  • Tony Sipp had Tommy John surgery in 2007 and joined Double-A Akron in the second half last season, but he suffered shoulder tendinitis in the Fall Instructional League. He’s been rehabbing the injury and, as a result, is about a week behind the other pitchers. But he’s throwing off a mound and used all his pitches for the first time today.
     
  • As far as quotes summing up the move to the Goodyear facility go, you won't find a better, more succinct one than this one from Barfield: "They should have done this a long time ago."
     
  • GM Mark Shapiro has left camp for a few days, due to a death in the family.
     
  • The intensity of the Japanese media never ceases to amaze me. When I walked into the complex this morning, there was a pool of about seven or eight Japanese journalists in the players' parking lot, waiting, presumably, to get a shot of Masa Kobayashi or Tomo Ohka pulling in.
  • The Indians have added names to the backs of their Spring Training jerseys. Clubhouse manager Tony Amato said the names were added for television. More and more spring games are broadcast these days.
     
  • Did you know the Dodgers are charging up to $100 for tickets to their exhibition games? And in a related story, their sales are hurting. Shocker.

  • Be sure to check out CastroTurf on Monday morning, when I’ll provide you with an all-access tour of the new facility. I’ll have photos and everything. It will be awesome*.

     *awesomeness not guaranteed.

 

~AC

"I was in there for two minutes… touch this, feel that, 75 bucks"

Let's get physical(s).

 

A few players just headed out to the ballpark to take some early batting practice, and a few guys are playing catch. But the main thing shaking today at the Indians Player Development Complex are the annual physical examinations of pitchers and catchers.

 

It's the usual rundown of eye, ear, nose, throat exams. Turn your head and cough. Touch your toes. Step on this scale. All that good stuff.

 

One guy spared from a good portion of this was Kerry Wood, who, as you might remember, was subjected to an "all-inclusive" physical before his deal with the Tribe became official in December.

 

"I got a hall pass," Wood said with a smile. "I just had my physical not too long ago."

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • In addition to the physicals, players are having their annual sit-downs with manager Eric Wedge and general manager Mark Shapiro. They are told, essentially, where they stand in the organization, their odds of making the team and what's expected of them this year.
  • I don't know if Carl Pavano got a bad rap or if he's had a change of life or what, but the general consenus around here is that he is, for lack of a better term, a Grade A dude. I can back up this consensus based on my first encounter with Pavano, who not only was a fine interview but even offered up a local restaurant recommendation. He said he's not at all bitter about the way the media treated him in New York (where "American Idle" came to be his nickname), and we had a nice conversation about the type of "comes with the territory" uncomfortability that can sprout up between reporter and player. He knows we have a job to do, and he knows he didn't get the job done as a Yankee. And if he's at all upset with the way he was portrayed in Joe Torre's book, he's not showing it.
  • Jhonny Peralta played third base in all but one game in the Dominican this winter. He said he likes that the position doesn't require him to move around much (I'm sure more than a few Tribe fans just nodded their head in agreement), but he did have some trouble with his throws and fielding bunt plays. He said he has "no problem" with the concept of moving to third eventually in his career, but, for now, he views himself as a shortstop.
  • A few people have written in wondering what Kerry Wood's entrance music will be this season. He said he'll probably stick with the Guns N' Roses classic, "Welcome to the Jungle," which he used in Chicago. When I mentioned that some fans would prefer he go with "Wild Thing" (of "Major League" fame, of course), he said, "I'm trying to avoid being wild." The guy did strike out 84 and walk 18 last year, so Guns N' Roses it is.
  • You might remember last spring as the spring Masa Kobayashi made his first foray into American life and became instantly enamored with Wal-Mart. Yesterday I asked his interpreter, Toshi Nagahara, if Masa had made his way to the Goodyear Wal-Mart yet, and Nagahara said, "He was there the first day." Sure enough, I step into the local Supercenter after leaving the complex yesterday, and there's Masa at the express line.
  • I haven't seen every nook and cranny of the complex yet, but so far my favorite part has to be the gigantic photo of Brandon Phillips outside the Goodyear Ballpark.

~AC

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