The best defense is a good defense
The way things are shaping up, Jason Donald appears to be in a good position to land the opening at third base. Don’t believe me? Well, then take it from manager Manny Acta.
“Jason Donald, for us,” Acta said on Friday, “was going to be a guy who was going to get at-bats regardless of whether it was going to be at third or at second.”
Second base is not much of an option, considering the Indians just signed Orlando Cabrera with that spot in mind. Could a disastrous spring move Cabrera to the bench? Sure. But the real competition is now at third, not at second.
Also, consider that Donald noted on Friday that he has taken exactly zero grounders at second base or shortstop since arriving in camp. All of his attention has been on third base, which gives him the best chance of heading north as a part of the Tribe’s starting lineup.
Donald will get reps at second and short this spring, but right now he is concentrating soley on the hot corner. Also in the mix are Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena and Jack Hannahan, as well as youngsters Jared Goedert and Cord Phelps (though Phelps will see most his action at second).
Acta has emphasized how important infield defense will be this season and the club believes Donald has the ability to handle the position. Here’s what Acta had to say when asked why Cleveland started to consider Donald as a realistic option for third…
“The fact that he was pushed to the big leagues last year, but he survived and played fairly well for us,” Acta said. “He worked during the offseason with [third-base coach and infield instructor]Steve Smith and Smitty saw a lot of things that he liked about it. We’ve seen some of those in the week that he’s been here. That’s pretty much it.”
Asked if Donald had the arm to handle third, Acta had no doubts.
“He’s a shortstop, yeah,” Acta replied. “He’s got a good enough arm to play third base.”
Donald’s only experience at third as a pro came in the Arizona Fall League in 2008 and at Triple-A in 2009. Donald said he played “some third base” in each instance. Right now, he said his biggest challenge is getting used to the different reads off the bat and the topspin on most grounders down the line.
Donald knows how important infield defense will be this season, too.
“We have more sinkerballers,” Donald said. “I think it’s very important. We’re not going to make any excuses, but we were trying to find things out about, ‘Can I play here?’, ‘Can this guy play here?’ and whatnot [in 2010]. I think now coming into camp, guys have a better idea of what their roles are.”
Note from Friday…
- As long as we’re talking infield D, it’s worth noting that the Indians had the third-highest total of infield errors (72) in the American League in 2010. They made 27 errors at third, 25 at short and 10 each at second and first. Of Cleveland’s 110 errors as a team, 65.5% came in the infield (third-highest percentage in AL).
- Acta was quick to point out that much of the infield’s defensive issues a year ago stemmed from losing Asdrubal Cabrera to injury and trading away Jhonny Peralta. That said… “It’s in the past and we need to play better defense,” Acta added. The Indians are hoping having Orlando Cabrera at second and a healthy Cabrera at short will help bring some stability to the infield alignment.
- Chatted some with righty Justin Masterson today (Shameless plug: check indians.com later today for a feature on him). He said the biggest challenge for him this season is to remain consistent with his delivery mechanics. That’s not always easy to do for someone of his size (6-6, 250). Masterson and pitching coach Tim Belcher developed some “checkpoints” in his delivery down the stretch last year and the big righty is hoping to carry that into the upcoming campaign.
- Acta discussed the bullpen picture some on Friday. The only “locks” right now are Chris Perez, Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp. Acta said Joe Smith and Jensen Lewis “have a leg up” on the others. So, by process of elimination, that leaves two jobs up for grabs this spring with a whole lotta arms in the running.
- Acta noted that he would “ideally” prefer to have “at least one” pitcher in the bullpen capable of logging multiple innings. Aaron Laffey could handle that role, but Acta did not want to lable Laffey a long-relief option until the pitcher is no longer considered a possibility for the fifth rotation job.
- Besides Laffey, Acta said some long relief options include Frank Herrman, Justin Germano and Joe Martinez. Two more pitchers who could enter that mix later this spring are Anthony Reyes and Josh Tomlin. Acta said Reyes and Tomlin could be considered for the ‘pen if it becomes clear that they are not going to win the fifth starter’s role.
- Cleveland’s position players were required to report to Arizona on Friday and they will undergo their physicals on Saturday. Sunday is the first scheduled full-squad workout. As far as I’ve been able to tell, everyone has been in camp. Austin Kearns arrived to the complex in Goodyear on Thursday.
- One name that has not come up too often in the discussions about second and third base is that of veteran infielder Adam Everett, signed to a Minor League contract over the winter. Acta said Everett will compete for the infield utility job.
- The Indians outrighted Martinez to Triple-A Columbus on Friday to clear room on the 40-man roster for the signing of Orlando Cabrera. Martinez will remain in camp as a non-roster invitee. Currently, the Tribe has 61 players (31 pitchers, 14 infielders, 10 outfielders and six catchers) in camp with the big league club.
Photo of the day:
GM Chris Antonetti keeps an eye on Friday’s workout
Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian) and check out the “Jordan Bastian” fan page on Facebook for links to stories, blogs, photos and more.
More tomorrow. Stay tuned…