“It’s Spring Training.”
I know how some die-hard fans can get at this point in Spring Training.
We’re about midway through camp, so it seems like a good time to study the box scores and see what jumps out. If somebody isn’t hitting well, or so and so is getting lit up on the mound, panic buttons start getting pushed.
I am here to once again talk you off the ledge. It is only Spring Training. Don’t believe me? Take it from Indians manager Manny Acta then…
“It’s Spring Training,” Acta said.
Do you feel better now?
No? That 17.55 ERA for Mitch Talbot is still eating at you? How about we turn the mic over to Mr. Acta again…
“It is Spring Training,” Acta repeated, “and he’s got a spot on the club and he’s just getting himself ready.”
Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s get one thing clear. If Talbot were fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation, he might be in trouble. But that’s not his situation. He won 10 games a year ago as a rookie for a team that lost 93. So Acta believes Talbot has earned the right to open this season as one of the five starters.
That said, it is certainly worth pointing out that Talbot is out of player options. What that means is the right-hander would need to be exposed to waivers — up for grabs by other pitching-starved clubs — before he could be sent to the Minor Leagues. Cleveland is not going to mess with that scenario. It needs all the depth it can get.
The other thing to keep in mind is a player’s mind-set when he knows he has a spot guaranteed on the Opening Day roster. Spring Training is no longer a time to come out fighting. It is suddenly a time to work on things. Don’t like how that pitch is moving? Keep throwing it until you get it right — no matter the results.
So, yes, Talbot has allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 15 hits, including three home runs, in just 6 2/3 innings with four walks and two strikeouts. But he will be on the 2011 Cleveland Indians Opening Day roster whether that pitching line makes you panic or not. He’ll likely have three more starts to sort out his current flaws.
And by saying all of this, I am certainly not saying that Acta and the rest of the Indians brass would not like to see better results. Of course they would.
“Obviously, we want to see him throw more strikes,” Acta said. “That’s what he’s working on.”
For Acta, the most discouraging development in all of this — Talbot isn’t alone in this, either — is the fact that a few pitchers have logged fewer innings that originally planned. On Friday, Talbot was originally down to pitch four frames against the Mariners, but his rough three-inning showing forced the Tribe to cut his outing short.
That’s “the only thing that bothers me a little bit about these type of outings,” Acta said.
Other notes from Friday…
- The roster received its first trimming on Friday morning, when Drew Pomeranz, Nick Hagadone, Bryce Stowell, Kelvin De La Cruz, Jared Goedert, Corey Kluber, Hector Rondon and Chun Chen each cleaned out their lockers. The Indians now have 54 players in camp. There are 29 cuts to go.
- General manager Chris Antonetti raved about Pomeranz’s poise on the mound and said it was made clear that the young lefty’s fastball “can play” on the big league stage. Antonetti said Pomeranz will likely open the year with Class A Kinston. Pom Wonderful’s curveball has looked sharp, so the goal this season is to further develop his changeup.
- Antonetti noted that Hagadone is still being stretched out as a starter, but the organization has yet to determine whether he will spend the bulk of this season in a rotation or working out of a bullpen. The GM said the team will make a decision on Hagadone’s role later in camp. Antonetti was impressed with Hagadone’s fastball command and his “above-average” breaking ball.
- Stowell had some serious command issues early on this spring, but Antonetti said there was nothing physically wrong with the hard-throwing righty. Command is actually the biggest area that Stowell needs to developn. The GM noted that Stowell “didn’t demonstrate that arm strength in Spring Training that he’ll have during the course of the season, but that’s not really a concern.”
- First baseman/designated hitter Nick Johnson arrived in camp on Friday. He also had stitches removed from his surgically-repaired (four times) right wrist in the morning. He said there is no timetable for his return, but Antonetti noted that the goal is to hopefully have Johnson in Minor League games some time in April. Right now, Johnson said he will work toward regaining his range of motion and “getting the stiffness out” of the wrist.
- Johnson’s in camp in a Minor League deal. If he makes the Major League roster, his salary jumps to $750K. The Indians have a $2.75 million club option for 2012, but only if Johnson is selected to the Major League roster. Johnson’s deal also has another $1.75 million in incentives for the 2012 season.
- Right-hander Anthony Reyes (elbow soreness) completed a 31-pitch live batting practice session on Friday morning. In all, including his time in the bullpen, Reyes estimated he threw around 60 pitches. He threw all of his pitches and reported no issues. Acta said Reyes will throw a bullpen session Sunday with the goal of appearing in his first spring game on Tuesday.
- It remains to be seen if the Indians have enough time to stretch Reyes out in time for Opening Day. It just doesn’t seem possible, though. Said Antonetti: It’s hard to say. With where we are in the calendar, it would be really close at this point. So I’m not sure from a volume standpoint how quickly we could progress him to five or six innings.”
- Center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) was at the plate during Reyes’ live BP session. He took 10 swings, fouling off four, missing two, sending one off the wall in left and another up the middle on the ground. Sizemore also took part in regular batting practice prior to the session with Reyes.
- Acta continued to rave about how Sizemore has looked swinging a bat. Cleveland is simply waiting for Sizemore to get up to speed — pun intended — with his running. If everything goes according to plan, Sizemore will likely begin running bases on Sunday. It is possible that playing in games could come next week.
- Outfielder Chad Huffman had been out with a strained right hamstring, but he made it back into a game on Friday against the Mariners. That’s a good thing, because Huffman is trying to work his way into the picture as a serious contender for an Opening Day roster spot. Given the makeup of the roster, he is likely up against Shelley Duncan for a corner outfield/first base/right-handed DH role off the bench.
- Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin made his Cactus League debut for the Indians in the fourth inning of Friday’s game against Seattle. He didn’t allow any hits in his lone inning of work, but a walk came back to bite him. Durbin walked Dustin Ackley, who later came around to score on a sacrifice fly. Ain’t that always the way.
- Two more small items before I go. 1) The Indians signed Carlos Santana, Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez to contracts for the 2011 season. Every 40-man roster player is under contract for this year now. 2) Outfielder Jordan Brown will not be with the team this weekend. He is attending to a family situation.
In closing, to stick with the theme of today’s blog lead, this is for all the fans drooling over themselves in light of prospect Lonnie Chisenhall’s .478 spring batting average and demanding he be promoted now. A couple days ago, Chisenhall showed great maturity in saying, “It’s only 20 at-bats.” He knows it’s only Spring Training, too.
Here’s what Antonetti had to say about it today: “We’ve been very encouraged by what Lonnie’s done in camp. But, we try to be mindful of a guy’s history coming in, and the opinions of our scouting and player development people based upon their entire body of work with him, and not just evaluate it off 25 Major League Spring Training at-bats.”
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. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.
Stay tuned for more…