Results tagged ‘ Masa Kobayashi ’

They made a record and it went in the charts

One of my favorite annual rites of spring is raiding PR guru Bart Swain’s CD collection. And with spring winding down and my ears still ringing, I thought I’d bring you another scintillating installment of The Three-Word Music Review:

Blitzen Trapper: “Furr” – I support PETA.

“Heading West” (Starbucks compilation) — Good driving tunes.

Mark Knopfler: “Shangri-La” – I’m rah-rah (Does that count as three words, or two? I don’t even know.).

Randy Newman: “Harps and Angels” — Yawns and boredom.

Ryan Adams and the Cardinals: “Cardinology” – Has its moments.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss: “Raising Sand” — Worthy of Grammy.

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY…

  • A telling postgame from Eric Wedge today. After a 14-14 tie that clearly was a “hitters’ day,” in the skipper’s words, Wedge showed no concern over Cliff Lee (seven runs on nine hits, including three homers, over five innings). “I thought the ball came out of Cliff’s hand pretty good,” Wedge said. “He had a real good breaking ball. His changeup was a little firm at times, but he had good fastball command.”
  • So Wedge was asked if it was the same deal with Masa Kobayashi (five runs on five hits, including a homer, in one inning). “No, Masa was a little flat,” Wedge quickly countered. “He was up and flat and threw a few too many fastballs.”
  • Wedge said Kobayashi pitched better after Carl Willis visited him on the mound and told him to work in his split-fingered fastball and slider a little more. It appears Kobayashi’s been a little stubborn with a fastball that clearly isn’t working for him.
  • Ken Griffey Jr., who could be 76 and probably still have the sweetest swing in baseball, torched Kobayashi for a two-run homer in the seventh. I was stunned to see that was only the second homer allowed by Kobayashi this spring. It feels like more than that, probably because he’s given up 20 hits in 11 innings. 
  • I hate to be overly negative, but this would be a good time to start up a “Kobayashi optioned/released” office pool. If you do, sign me up for April 27 (and that’s being really generous).
  • I’ll reiterate that it was a hitters’ day, but this was nonetheless Travis Hafner’s strongest showing of the spring. He went 3-for-6 with a homer and two RBIs. Unlike his blast the other day – when the Padres’ Kevin Correia hung him a breaking ball that any Major League hitter worth his pine tar would have hit out — this one was impressive. Pronk scooped out a slider and pulled it out to right.
  • Franklin Gutierrez had two strong days against his former team in this home-and-home series. Today he went 3-for-5 with a double, triple and three runs scored out of the leadoff spot. He has a nice opportunity in Seattle.
  • Wedge on Ed Mujica, dealt to the Padres: “I feel like he’s had a strong progression here. Just for us, it’s more of a timing thing and what we needed out of that final [bullpen] spot.”
    The padres.com headline says, “Padres enhance bullpen with Mujica.” If that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about the Padres and their bullpen, nothing will. 
  • Kerry Wood talked about the Arizona elements and their affect on pitchers. He said he always leaves here feeling like his slider is much worse than it actually is. Oh, and Wood worked another perfect inning today. His spring ERA is a sparkling 0.00 in six innings, and his arm action and raw stuff are nothing short of impressive.
  • For what it’s worth, Wood has grown out a full goatee. He said he won’t shave it until he gives up some runs.
  • Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s “Working on a Dream” tour kicks off tonight in San Jose. Be excited, and celebrate accordingly.

~AC

Got on my dead man's suit and my smilin' skull ring


322938259.jpgI thought the Indians' clubhouse featured a lot of guys in Affliction T-shirts.

 

Then I went to dinner last night at a restaurant next to an arena hosting a Disturbed concert. The attendees were lined up outside, ready to rock out and bang their heads to such easy listening tunes as "Down with the Sickness," "Violence Fetish," "Sons of Plunder," and "Ten Thousand Fists."

 

There are graveyards with fewer skulls and crossbones than what I witnessed last night.

 

The Affliction epidemic continues, as does the Spring Training that won't die.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Just hours after Trevor Crowe was optioned down to Columbus, David Dellucci's calf muscle tightened up on him. If it doesn't respond to treatment immediately, Dellucci's spot is very much in jeopardy. If he has to start the year on the DL, I'd expect Crowe to get called up, unless the Indians decide to keep Tony Graffanino around for a little while. Not much word on Dellucci's condition, other than it was the same today as yesterday and he was getting treatment back at the complex. So stay tuned.
  • Expect an announcement about the last bullpen spot either Monday or Tuesday. It's coming down to Zach Jackson and Vinnie Chulk, and Eric Wedge made it clear that Saturday's game, in which Jackson struggled and Chulk shined, will not serve as a deciding factor. "We look at everything," Wedge said. "I don't think [Saturday] was necessarily good or bad for either one of those guys. We're working through some other things outside of that... what we saw last year, where we're at now, how we see us breaking, how we look at the entire year. So we're going to still stay with that criteria."
  • Given all those qualifiers, it appears to me that the Indians are still leaning toward Jackson. He'd be a left-handed complement to their three right-handed starters, and he can provide length. But that's my own speculation. I guess we'll know the answer any day now.
  • Mark DeRosa made quite an impression on the Cubs and their fans in just two years in Chicago. He was getting lots of love pregame today at HoHoKam Park. And then he stepped up and jacked the first pitch he saw from Ted Lilly over the left-field wall.
  • DeRosa wasn't done. In his second at-bat, DeRosa took Lilly deep to left again -- this time nailing the top of the scoreboard. In his third at-bat, DeRosa hit a shot off the center-field batter's eye that, strangely, is in play. That was very nearly homer No. 3. Looks like DeRo is locked in.
  • Wedge says Masa Kobayashi is on the club, but he took another step back today (two runs on three hits, including a Reed Johnson homer, in one inning). He'll be on a short leash this season.
  • You might want to check out the Bill James Goldmine 2009, which is filled with little nuggets of info, as well as essays and statistical profiles. James unearthed several interesting facts about the '08 Indians. I'll share a few of them here. 
  • According to James' research, the Indians were leading their opponents 83 times in the fifth inning last year, and that was the best fifth-inning record in the AL and the third-best in the Majors. The fact that the club went 81-81 just shows you how lousy that bullpen was, because no other team in baseball finished the season with less total wins than fifth-inning leads.
  • James found that Grady Sizemore's batting average on pulled grounders was .172 last year, compared with .202 in 2007. Defenses have begun to shift on Sizemore, and it's worked pretty well.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera reached base leading off an inning 27 times in '08, and the Indians scored 43 runs in those innings. James says that's the highest production rate in the Majors in that situation.
  • There's plenty more where that came from, but I'll leave it to you to seek out James' book.

~AC

"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and, doggone it, people like me"

Spring Training is six weeks old (and counting), and the upcoming regular season is six months long.


cheers.jpg 

That's a lot of time for a ballclub and its fans to get emotionally off-track, so a little daily affirmation could be in order.

 

With this notion in mind, I submit to you a proposal that you all stock up on your copy of the "Cheers to You" CD now, while supplies are still in stock. You can do it! I believe in you! 

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • The Indians looked lethargic and in need of "Cheers to You" agains the Giants today. Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Barfield each made an error and, in general, guys were slow to get to balls and quick to make outs. "We're entering unchartered waters, in regard to the length of camp," Eric Wedge said. "We've got to sharpen ourselves and pick it up this final week, no doubt about it."
  • Cliff Lee was roughed up again -- eight runs (seven earned) on 12 hits with no walks and six strikeouts over five innings. He was much better late than early, and his defense didn't play well behind him, but it's still not the type of performance you expect from the reigning Cy Young winner in his penultimate spring tuneup. "It's definitely a little harder to get up for a game in Spring Training than it is in the regular season," Lee said. "It's a different intensity. But I've still go to work on locating my pitches and getting better at something each time I'm out there."
  • The rather uneventful battle to be the guy sitting on the bench, occasionally but not too frequently inserted into the lineup and a little-more-occasionally inserted as a pinch-runner will probably draw to its anticlimactic close tomorrow or Sunday. It's still expected to go to Barfield, who started in left field today.
  • Barfield still hasn't caught on at the plate. The Indians feel he has a better approach, but the results haven't been there. Barfield is an excellent athlete and a great guy, so you root for him to catch on in this utility role, because it's difficult to imagine him once again emerging as an everyday player... at least, in this organization.
  • There's only one spot open on the bench. David Dellucci is indeed on the club. Or at least, "as of today," as Wedge said. Obviously, Dellucci's roster spot (and Masa Kobayashi's, for that matter) is tenuous, but it looks like the Indians will at least give him the benefit of the doubt at the outset of the season. He's still not expected to play much as the fourth outfielder, especially with Mark DeRosa and, I'm assuming, Barfield in the outfield mix.
  • Trevor Crowe won't win the job. Wedge said Crowe is "still not exactly where he needs to be," and he's better off, in terms of development, getting regular starts in Triple-A.
  • Tony Graffanino won't win the job. He's had a nice camp and can bounce around the infield. But the Indians don't have a need for another veteran infielder in his mid-30s. They need speed off the bench, and it looks like Barfield will be the one to provide it.
  • Of course, we knew that in February, didn't we?
  • While the bench job announcement is impending, it will probably be a few days before we know the winner of that seventh bullpen spot. Though Wedge won't call it a "long man" role, for all intents and purposes that's what it is, which is why Zach Jackson is a favorite and Vinnie Chulk will be stretched out to pitch two or three innings Saturday in Tucson. Jackson, who is already stretched out as a result of his inclusion in the rotation battle, will start that game.
  • You have to figure Jackson is the favorite for that job. Though he has a fourth Minor League option available, he's already on the 40-man, whereas Chulk would have to be added. And the Indians would have about six weeks to look at Chulk in Triple-A before they have to act on him. He has an out clause in his contract that kicks in May 15.
  • Rafael Betancourt was relieved mid-inning by Joe Smith today. It had nothing to do with the neck kink that Betancourt suffered while on the mound yesterday. Betancourt (two runs on two hits in two-thirds of an inning) is fine physically. Wedge said he wanted an opportunity to get Smith into the middle of an inning. 
  • I'm sending a shout-out to my buddy Big Bob Petriella, who was in attendance today. We used to work as sports clerks together at the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, in our youth. Until today, he had no idea I had this blog, so perhaps I can use this space to rip him.

~AC

"Due to our policy of overselling flights, this flight has been oversold."

I am back in the Spring Training saddle after a few days back in the Cleveland tropics. And it's worth noting that my Continental flight from Phoenix to Cleveland was overbooked, as was every other flight between the two destinations that day.

 

As is the case with, well, most things in life, this puzzles me. What does an airline gain by overbooking a flight? Those who were left without a seat -- or those who were willing to give up their seat -- were put up in hotels, placed in first class on another flight and given vouchers for free meals. This can't be a money-making proposition for the airline, can it?

 

I know this much: It's certainly not an inviting scenario for the passenger. You buy a ticket to one flight and end up on another flight on another day. In what other business does this sort of thing occur?

 

I have never bought Bruce Springsteen concert tickets, shown up to the arena and been told, "I'm sorry, but someone else is in your seat. But we'd be happy to give you front-row seats for tomorrow night's Nickelback show." I have never gone to McDonald's, ordered a cheeseburger, paid for it, then been told that they are currently out of cheeseburgers but I can come back the next day for a free one.

 

Well, not yet, anyway.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Naturally, the rotation battle was settled in my absence. As much as the word "competition" is thrown around, so much of these supposed spring battles are decided upon long before the team even arrives at camp. So it was refreshing to see a guy like Lewis come into camp and win a job the old-fashioned way. Back in January, Lewis' name was something of an afterthought. I remember Mark Shapiro listing the candidates for the fifth spot in the rotation and almost forgetting to include him.
  • Well, Lewis won the job yesterday, then proceeded to go out and get rocked today. He allowed five runs on eight hits with two walks and two strikeouts in three innings against the Angels. Bobby Abreu, Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter went back-to-back-to-back with solo shots off him in the third. And though it was a windy day at the Big Chipotle, none of these were what you'd call wind-assisted. "He wasn't able to get a feel for the baseball," Eric Wedge said of Lewis. "You look at the way he's pitched, and he was probably due for one of those days."
  • Adam Miller will throw a bullpen session Friday. It will be his third bullpen since being cleared to throw with decreased range of motion and strength in his right middle finger, and it will be his last bullpen before the Indians decide whether to let Miller pitch with the problem or to have him undergo season-ending surgery. Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff will update the media on the situation, but that update might not come until Saturday. We shall see. For what it's worth, Miller is telling people that he feels pretty good.
  • Masa Kobayashi is showing improvement and not a moment too soon. He worked two perfect innings today, striking out four batters. He's mixing up his pitches better, working in his split-finger fastball more often.
  • Rafael Betancourt stepped off the mound and got looked at by the trainer in the midst of his inning of work. Still not sure what that was all about, but he went on to finish the inning without any problems.
  • For those wondering if the talk about the "dry heat" affecting the flight of the ball in Arizona, PR guru Bart Swain passed along some stats comparing Grapefruit League ERAs to Cactus League ERAs, and there's a discernible difference. The bottom line is that, through yesterday's games, the overall ERA was 4.42 in Florida and 5.68 in Arizona. Also, 10 of the lowest 13 qualifying ERAs among pitchers belonged to guys in the Grapefruit League.
  • Progressive Field press box attendant Joe Corrado is retiring. Corrado spent 59 years with the club at old Cleveland Stadium and the ballpark formerly known as The Jake. He started out as an usher in 1949. He's a good man, and he'll be missed.
  • It's a busy night in the Phoenix area. You've got the Billy Joel-Elton John show at the U.S. Airways Center downtown and the Sweet 16 going on at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale. I just hope nobody gets confused and shows up to the concert in their Mizzou gear or the West Regional in their tattered "Storm Front" tour T-shirt.

~AC

The Irish been coming here for years, acting like they own the place

St. Patrick's Day is a really divisive holiday for me. When I'm not working, it is, without question, one of the best days of the year. And when I am working, it is, without question, one of the most obnoxious days of the year.


fourleafclover.jpg 

If you're neither Irish nor inebriated, this holiday does nothing for you. If you're not a fan of corned beef or soda bread, all you've got is a bunch of goofs wearing T-shirts with ridiculous expressions like "Erin Go Braless" or saying annoying things like "Top o' the mornin' to ya!"

 

Ah, maybe I'm just jealous. Pass the Tullamore Dew. I need to get in the holiday spirit.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • Wow. Cliff Lee took quite a lump today -- 10 runs (nine earned) on 11 hits with a walk and two strikeouts in 2 2/3 innings. It reads as bad as it looked, and it looked heinous. Lee said he was just trying to locate his fastballs today. And I could definitely locate them. There was one that landed near the warning track in right, there was one off the center-field wall, there was one that cruised past his left ear on a liner up the middle.... well, you get the idea.
  • That being said, Lee had a point. He was basically throwing nothing but fastballs. Only five or six of his 60-some pitches were offspeed. He was throwing fastballs in counts he'd never throw them in-season, and he said he also took into account the fact that he'll be facing this Rangers team in less than three weeks, when the games count.
  • By the way, Lee had a 5.68 ERA and a .342 average against last spring -- and that's when he was competing for a job. I know those numbers aren't as bad as the 18.90 ERA he's carrying now, but it's just another demonstration that we shouldn't put too much weight into what happens out here. So don't panic yet.
  • Well, unless you were counting on Masa Kobayashi to be a go-to setup man. In that case, yes, now would be a good time to panic. But Eric Wedge thought he looked better today.
  • Travis Hafner will begin to see some action in Minor League games in the coming weeks, for a couple reasons. It gives him extra repetitions, for one. But after Wednesday's off day, nine of the Indians' remaining 10 exhibition road games will be against National League teams. Thus far, the Indians haven't had a single road game in which the DH wasn't utilized, but that's sure to change as we get closer to the regular season.
  • Let's talk about the batting order. We know, of course, that Grady Sizemore is going to lead off. We know Mark DeRosa is batting second. We know Wedge prefers to have Hafner at No. 3 and Victor Martinez at cleanup. But Wedge said today he puts Hafner, Martinez and Jhonny Peralta (who was excellent at No. 4 last year) in those Nos. 3-5 spots, and he's still not sure of the order or even if it will be static.
  • Moving down the order, Wedge said Asdrubal Cabrera will remain in the Nos. 8 or 9 spots. He likes the protection that affords the young Cabrera, though he still sees him potentially working his way back up to No. 2 (where he thrived at the end of '07) someday. That leaves Shin-Soo Choo, Ben Francisco and Kelly Shoppach/Ryan Garko somewhere in the Nos. 6-9 mix, with the order depending on the day and opposing pitcher.
  • How would you organize the lineup? I'd go with Choo at No. 3, Peralta at No. 4, Martinez at No. 5 and Hafner at No. 6 at the outset. It's too early to know what the Indians will get out of Pronk, so I would bump him down and ease the pressure on him.
  • Peralta started at third today. That's his second appearance there this spring. "We just want to give him some repetitions," Wedge said, "so that if we do need him [at third], he's been there." Cabrera started at short.
  • Kirk Saarloos came on in emergency relief of Lee in the third inning and held the Rangers scoreless for 1 1/3 innings. It was a nice audition for that long relief role.
  • A guy dressed in costume as a gigantic Dunkin' Donuts coffee cup came into the PDC this morning with about four or five dozen free donuts for all the players. Well, it's 2009. The coffee cup should have known that the modern athlete is prohibited (at work and under the supervision of a team of athletic trainers, anyway) from eating such garbage.
  • So, guess who got all the donuts? Yes, media membership has its privileges.

~AC

"It's true! Nobody can do the Switch! It was a stupid idea to begin with!"

Just days after I wrote in an Inbox that the Indians might want to consider having Asdrubal Cabrera bat solely from the right-hand side, he stepped up today and ripped a two-run double off right-hander Cha Seung Baek -- from the left-hand side, naturally.

 

That's just the way these things tend to happen.

 

But the more important matter here is that when Cabrera came out of the game and was asked how long he's been switch-hitting, he said he's been doing it since he was 3 years old.

 

Three?!

 

I couldn't even burp out of both sides of my mouth when I was three, and this guy was switch-hitting. It kind of makes me wonder what kind of journalistic career I might have had if I had attempted switch-writing at a young age. Just think how often that would have saved me from hand cramps while jotting down choice quotes from ballplayers.

 

Ah, what might have been. Here's the rest of today's story.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • The first round of cuts is coming. I haven't heard an exact date, but it will definitely be any day now. The first cuts are obviously the easiest. None of them will impact the various roster battles taking place.
  • At what point do the Indians express legitimate concern over Masa Kobayashi? Right about now, I'd say. He has a ghastly 15.75 ERA after giving up another three runs on four hits with a walk in one inning against the Padres today. He's not quite up to Aaron Fultz-ian levels yet, but this has been an ugly camp for Kobayashi thus far. "We need to see him turn the corner for us," Eric Wedge said. Stay tuned.
  • Cabrera also said he's lost between 10-15 pounds since arriving to camp early, on Jan. 15. He said he weighs 198 now, versus 210 a year ago.
  • Fausto Carmona was terrific again today. He walked three batters in four innings but held the Padres scoreless on one hit in four innings. "He's doing a good job getting himself back on-line [when he runs into trouble]," Wedge said.
  • Sean Casey's coming to camp. The Mayor, who retired this year and became an analyst on MLB Network, will be in Minor League camp Monday through Thursday as a guest instructor working with the hitters and first basemen.
  • I've mentioned this before, but one guy who has really opened eyes this spring is Chris Gimenez. A year ago, the Indians weren't even sure he could handle catching in the big leagues. Now they're certain of it. And catching might not even be his best position. Wedge said he's comfortable using Gimenez in left, right and first base. "The irony is we signed him as a third baseman," Wedge said with a laugh.
  • The Indians haven't settled on a third catcher going into the season. It's either Gimenez or Wyatt Toregas. They'll both be at Triple-A Columbus. Toregas is excellent behind the plate but shaky at it. Gimenez's versatility (they love that word here) is, of course, a bonus.
  • Jensen Lewis has been pitching like a man possessed this spring, giving up no runs on three hits with six strikeouts in six innings over five appearances so far. He has said all the right things with regard to the Indians' decision to sign Kerry Wood over the winter, but Lewis remains hungry to prove to the higher-ups that he can be a dominant late-inning arm. "We're seeing a lot of good things out of him right now," Wedge said.
  • The members of the Peoria police department have BMW motorcycles. Now that's cool.

~AC

Familiar faces around me

Aside from today's shift in scenery from the complex to the ballpark, the highlight of the day was undoubtedly the arrival of Rapid Robert Feller. It's an annual rite of spring.

 

As was the case in Winter Haven, Feller will be throwing out a ceremonial first pitch and signing autographs at each and every home game at the Goodyear Ballpark.

 

You might be surprised to hear Mr. Feller has an opinion on some things. Shocker, right? He came into the media workroom and said, "Are you guys going to write about steroids this season, or baseball?" Hopefully baseball, we responded. "I'm sure Bud and A-Rod hope that, too," he replied.

 

When told Jeremy Sowers is starting tomorrow's Cactus League opener, Feller said, "If he got some upper body strength, he could do it. He reminds me a lot of Scotty Bailes."

 

Feller also told us scribes, "The last thing I want to hear is that we have great players in the Minor Leagues. I don't care. How about some great ones, right now, winning a ballgame?"

 

I guess he's not all that interested in my Nick Weglarz feature.

 

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIA OF THE DAY...

 

  • If you're in the Cleveland area, SportsTime Ohio will be broadcasting tomorrow's opener against the Giants, which begins at 3 p.m. ET. If you're not, fear not. MLB Network will be picking up and airing the STO live feed.
  • Feller was far from the only special guest at the complex today. This place has become a tourist trap. This morning, former closer Joe Borowski rolled in to take a tour and catch up with some old friends. Not only was Borowski, who lives in nearby Scottsdale, wearing the standard-issue Affliction T-shirt, he was also carrying his trademark cup of Starbucks. "I can drink as much as I want now," he joked. If you remember, Borowski's major complaint about Winter Haven was the lack of Starbucks availability.
  • Cubs GM Jim Hendry and Padres GM Kevin Towers also toured the complex this morning. And on Monday, Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd (a former Indians assistant GM) rolled through. The Rockies have to be considering a move from Tucson. Only two teams (the Rockies and Diamondbacks) remain there, so their travel schedule is brutal.
  • Not a great deal to report off the five-inning intrasquad, because, well, it's a five-inning intrasquad. But Josh Barfield started a double play on the only ball hit to him at third, and he also cranked out a three-run homer. So a nice day for him.
  • Bad day for Masa Kobayashi, who had a rough third inning in which he faced eight batters and gave up three runs on four hits with a walk and a strikeout. Trevor Crowe took him deep for a solo shot, and Beau Mills added an RBI triple to the left-field corner. Eric Wedge said Kobayashi was flying open on his delivery. After Carl Willis talked with him on the mound, he tightened it up and got better action on his breaking ball -- and got out of the inning, to boot.
  • Carlos Santana put on a display in batting practice during the morning workout, and he showed off his strong arm behind the plate in the intrasquad. Santana is catching (no pun intended) attention down here.
  • The real star of the intrasquad was the ballpark itself. The plaza beyond foul territory near right field contains a Wiffle Ball field for the kids. The 8-year-old inside me is just dying to try it out.
  • The park has an incredible sound system. Some of the players are already talking about starting a petition to have the system installed at Progressive Field (they hate the sound there).
  • Then again, the people operating the system here could stand to make some tweaks. You've no doubt heard a small sampling of Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" played after strikeouts in many a ballpark, and Goodyear Ballpark is no exception. It's a tired act. And the lone time it was broken up, the replacement, bizarrely, was a short dose of Blessid Union of Souls' "I Believe" when Wes Hodges went down swinging in the fourth. I'm struggling to make the connection there.

 ~AC

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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