Greetings from Goodyear
The unofficial start of Spring Training for me has always been the drive over the Courtney Campbell Causeway that runs over Tampa Bay. Water to my left and to my right. Palm trees all around. Baseball straight ahead.
I guess I’ve got to start establishing some new traditions now that I’m covering the Indians out here in the Arizona desert. The drive west on I-10 didn’t have the same feel as the causeway, but I certainly didn’t mind gazing out at all the mountains surrounding Phoenix.
I landed Saturday afternoon — a barking dog in my row on the plane made the trip feel much longer than it was — and reached my spring headquarters by about 3 p.m. local time. Of course, “reached” doesn’t mean I “got inside” my home for the next six weeks. Turns out, the rental company had a slight oversight. No keys were left for me.
Eventually I got into Casa de Bastian and everything is great. I got a decent enough rental car, my apartment is nice and the weather is gorgeous (I know, you didn’t need to hear that last part). This morning, I headed over to the Indians’ player development complex to check out the club’s digs. Man, what a great facility.
No offense, Dunedin. I loved being near the beach and you’re little Main Street was great. The ballpark had its good qualities, too. But, man, the complex the Indians have here in Goodyear is fantastic. Everything looks brandnew and having the Estrella Mountains as a backdrop is going to be a pleasure. I’m going to do some trail running up there, too.
But I digress…
It was quiet at camp this morning, which was expected. It’s Sunday and the last Sunday before Spring Training officially opens at that. Jason Donald dropped by for a bit, but there wasn’t a whole heckuva lot of activity going on today. Except inside the manager’s office, that is. Manny Acta was on hand, working hard.
Inside his office, there is a large whiteboard to the left with all the names listed of players in camp with the team. On the wall behind his desk hangs a picture of former Expos manager Felipe Alou. Along that wall is a minifridge. On top? A hat from a Dominican winter league team and a Cleveland Browns cap.
“Nice touch,” I said.
“Hey, I’m a Browns fan,” Acta said with a grin.
Chatted for a while with Acta about a wide variety of topics, but eventually we discussed this spring and the current roster. Acta has been in camp for about a week and he’s been pleasantly surprised with the high volume of players already on hand. Acta said morning stretch has looked like a normal spring workout due to so many players being here already.
On Saturday, center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) hit on the field for the first time since his injury and Acta said he looked great: “Like a kid with a new toy.” Acta added that Sizemore is not likely to be a full participant in outfield drills when full-squad workouts begin next weekend. Obviously, Sizemore will need to pass certain running and agility tests before being cleared for full outfield activity.
Acta raved about what he’s seen in bullpen sessions from Carlos Carrasco. The manager also had great things to say about what he’s seen from pitching prospect Alex White. Acta said he is also excited to see some of the young relief prospects — Vinnie Pestano, Josh Judy, Bryce Stowell and Zach Putnam, in particular — push for bullpen jobs.
In the infield, assuming Orlando Cabrera’s physical is fine and he does indeed sign with the Indians (the signing has not been officially confirmed by the club), he will be the front-runner in the competition at second base. The way I see it, Donald is the front-runner at third. If he can show he has the glove and arm to handle the hot corner, I believe it’s his job to lose. Acta noted again on Sunday how important strong defense will be at third base.
Asked if he had a favorite to win the third-base job, Acta chuckled and shook his head.
“No, no,” Acta said. “I don’t have a favorite.”
The only people I saw on the practice diamonds today were the groundskeepers, watering the grass and tending to the infield. There are sure to be players out there tomorrow and I’ll keep you up-to-date on all the goings on at camp. Be sure to be following me on Twitter (@MLBastian) and I will keep you posted in the coming days where I’ll be posting photos.