March 2011

Gone with the wind

The wind was howling at the Indians’ player development complex Monday morning and it didn’t let up when the team arrived to the Ballpark at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.

It was raging out to left field — the 25 mph listed in the box score seems like an understatement — making it less than ideal for pitchers. As expected, we took in a near-four hour slugfest that ended with the Indians and White Sox waving the white flags after ending nine innings in a 16-16 deadlock.

Monday’s game by the numbers

54 at-bats
39 hits
32 runs
20 left on base
16 extra-base hits
10 walks
10 doubles
6 home runs
6 errors
4 wild pitches
2 hit batters
0 starters without a hit

For the Tribe, right-hander Mitch Talbot allowed nine runs on six hits in just 1 2/3 innings. He walked two and allowed two homers (both by Alex Rios). Talbot has a spot in the rotation right now. The elements aside, Indians manager Manny Acta was not particularly pleased with what he saw from Talbot on Monday.

“I didn’t think he threw enough strikes,” Acta said. “I thought that he pitched a lot behind in the count. These are not the conditions to give hitters an advantage.”

Acta also took all of the home runs for what they were worth in such a high wind.

“A couple of those home runs,” Acta said, “I don’t have them in my book.”

The exception was the shot by infielder Luis Valbuena in the eight inning. He took a pitch out to right-center field, earning a three-run shot that pulled the game into a 14-14 tie at the time.

“Yeah, he really hit that ball hard,” Acta said. “It was a brekaing ball, too. Across the wind. The wind was blowing to left, so that was a very good swing by him. He’s hit some balls hard since Day 1 in Spring Training. It’s good to see that for his confidence.”

Notes from Monday…

  • The Indians officially signed 1B/DH Nick Johnson to a one-year Minor League contract on Monday. Right now, he is rehabbing his right wrist from a third surgery (all in the past year). The timetable for his return is not clear right now. If he does reach the Majors at some point this season, his deal is worth $750,000. The contract also includes a $2.75 club option for 2012. He is not an option for the Opening Day roster.
  • Jason Donald, who was hit on the left hand with a pitch on Saturday, took part in some of Monday’s workout. He played catch and did some running. He hopes to add hitting back to his routine on Tuesday. Acta said there is a chance that Donald will participate in the full workout. That means Donald could potentially be available for games again as early as Wednesday or Thursday. He is the front-runner for the starting third baseman job.
  • Right-hander Doug Mathis worked two scoreless innings during Monday’s debacle. Acta called it “a miracle” given how most of the pitchers fared. Giving Mathis multi-inning outings is part of the plan this spring. He’s in camp on a Minor League deal, but he’s in the mix for a long-relief role out of Cleveland’s bullpen.
  • Bad news for Minor Leaguer Jared Goedert. He strained a right oblique muscle and is going to miss at least a couple of weeks, according to Acta. Goedert will likely be at Triple-A this season and he’ll get playing time at first base, third base, designated hitter and left field. Acta and the Indians staff were looking forward to getting a close lok at Goedert this spring, so it’s a disappointing development for both sides.
  • Acta noted that Indians catcher Carlos Santana is penciled in to make his first spring start at first base on Wednesday. He will have at least three starts at the position throughout the spring. Santana is a former third baseman and has shown good hands at first, Acta said. The areas Santana needs to learn more about deal with positioning on certain plays. Santana will see time at first this season as a way to keep his legs fresh.
  • The Indians signed 25 rostered players on Monday. The only three left to sign are Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez and Santana. The deadline for any unsigned roster players to pen their name on a contract for 2011 is Friday.
  • Players who signed on Monday include: Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Ezequiel Carrera, Trevor Crowe, Kelvin De La Cruz, Jason Donald, Shelley Duncan, Jared Goedert, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, David Huff, Josh Judy, Corey Kluber, Matt LaPorta, Lou Marson, Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Jayson Nix, Vinnie Pestano, Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp, Mitch Talbot, Jess Todd, Luis Valbuena and Nick Weglarz.
  • Brantley remained out of the lineup on Monday, but he took part in the Indians morning workout. He has not played since Thursday, missing four games since then. Acta continued to call Brantley’s ailment “lower body soreness.” Brantley was wearing an athletic brace on his right knee Monday morning, for what that’s worth. The issue is obviously not serious since Brantley has been taking part in the workouts and Acta said he will be back in the outfield and starting lineup on Tuesday.
  • Shin-Soo Choo has missed the past two games, but Acta noted that he’ll be back in right field on Tuesday. Choo has been dealing with left elbow soreness throughout camp and is still not entirely back at full strength.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes reported no issues from his Sunday bullpen session. He noted that he is slated to throw off a mound again on Tuesday or Wednesday. Reyes was not sure when he might make his first Cactus League appearance this spring.
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco rejoined the team on Monday after being in Florida with his wife for the birth of their first child. They welcomed a baby girl into the world. He is down to pitch on Wednesday.
  • The Indians have a “B” game scheduled against the Reds at 9:30 a.m. local time at the Tribe’s complex on Tuesday. Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin will make his spring game debut. Free to attend for fans. The Indians and White Sox will also have a “B” game at 10 a.m. on Sunday in Glendale.
    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.

–JB

Pom[eranz] Wonderful

Pomeranz2.jpgMike Pomeranz felt it was time to teach his son how to throw a curveball. Not just any curve, either. It was a spike curve, thrown with the index finger bent and dug into the seams.

So Mike began showing his boy Stuart how to use the signature pitch, one that the elder Pomeranz used in high school and as a collegiate pitcher at Ole Miss.

Stuart’s little brother didn’t want to be left out.

“My dad started showing my brother,” Indians lefty Drew Pomeranz said on Sunday. “Of course, the four-year-younger brother wants to do it, too.”

Mr. Pomeranz obliged, teaching Stuart and also 11-year-old Drew how to fire off the sharp breaking pitch.

Stuart Pomeranz developed into a second-round Draft pick for the Cardinals (2003) and is entering his seventh pro season. Drew eventually became the fifth overall selection in the first round of the 2010 Draft, grabbed by the Tribe.

On Sunday, Drew Pomeranz made his second appearance of the spring for Cleveland, working two shutout innings in a 3-1 loss to Colorado. The 6-foot-5 southpaw struck out three, allowing no walks and no hits.

That curveball? It was making hitters look silly.

“Me and Belch were talking about it,” said Indians manager Manny Acta, referring to pitching coach Tim Belcher. “When it’s not for a strike, guys won’t even swing at it, because it’s so sharp with a tight rotation. The breaking ball is very impressive.”

Pomeranz was able to cruise through the college ranks at University of Mississippi primarily using his hard fastball and spike curve. Maybe once or twice a start he’d flip a changeup over just to keep hitters honest. He mainly got by on just two pitches, though.

That will be the difference this year for the 22-year-old Pomeranz. In the pros, having a third pitch is important and that is what the Indians want him to focus on throughout the upcoming season. Pomeranz will likely open the year with a Class A affiliate and Double-A could be reached before the end of the year.

That nasty breaking ball could be in the bigs as soon as 2012.

Notes from Sunday…

  • RHP Justin Masterson didn’t have the best outing on Sunday, but he was pleased with the improvement in his sinker and with his ability to consistently repeat his delivery. I can’t emphasize enough that results this early do not hold the most importance, especially for a pitcher who knows he has a spot on the team. Masterson’s line: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP.
  • 3B prospect Lonnie Chisenhall continued on his early tear, going 2-for-4 with a long homer to right field in Sunday’s loss to the Rockies. He’s now hitting .467 for the spring and he’s looked solid at the hot corner. Could Chisenhall make the Opening Day roster? Hey, anything is possible. But know that he’s been told that he’s heading to the Minors to open the season. He’s in camp for experience.
  • Spoke with 3B Jason Donald at the Indians complex this morning and he said the swelling in his left hand (still wrapped) had gone down. Donald was hit by a pitch on the hand on Saturday, but X-rays came back negative. He is scheduled to take part in Monday’s workout and could be available again for games as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • OF Michael Brantley has been out of the lineup for the past three games, but Acta told me it’s nothing to be too concerned about. Brantley has “lower body soreness” and was given a few days off. No one would be more specific than that. Head athletic trainer cited general knee and hamstring soreness. He could be back in the lineup on Monday or Tuesday.
  • Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin has thrown a couple of bullpen sessions and he is getting closer to being ready for games. Before he makes his Cactus League debut, the veteran right-hander will pitch in a “B” game against the Reds on Tuesday. The game will be at Cleveland’s complex at 9:30 am local time.
  • RHP Anthony Reyes threw off a mound in a bullpen session on Sunday morning and Acta said there were no issues with the elbow soreness that plagued him earlier in camp. Reyes threw 36 pitches in a session that lasted about eight minutes. He will need to work through a couple more bullpens before being cleared for games, Acta said.
  • UTIL Shelley Duncan was in the lineup Sunday as a left fielder one day after making his spring debut, serving as a first baseman. Duncan said the strained back muscle is no longer an issue and noted that he felt “normal” while swinging. Duncan is competing for a job as a LF/1B/DH. Chad Huffman is also in that mix.
  • Acta said he will not have one person in mind as a DH for days when Travis Hafner is not in the lineup this season. The manager plans on cycling a few players in and out of the DH spot to provide days of rest from playing the field. That would be helpful for guys like Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore, who are returning from knee issues. Against tough lefties, Acta might go with a right-handed option like Duncan or Huffman, depending on who makes the club.
  • RHP Jeanmar Gomez, who is in the running for the fifth rotation job, allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings in his outing on Saturday. Acta said Gomez’s velocity and pitch movement were good, but his control was not there like usual. RHP Josh Tomlin and LHP David Huff are also vying for that fifth spot.
  • Indians closer Chris Perez is human. I may have jinxed him in a previous blog post by saying he has been turning in “boring” outings. My bad. Against the Rockies, Pure Rage allowed one run on two hits with one walk.
  • OF Trevor Crowe (right rotator cuff soreness) said Sunday morning that he was scheduled to meet with Dr. Mark Schickendantz on Monday to be re-evaluated. If everything goes according to plan, Crowe said he hopes to resume a throwing program next week.
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco should be back with the team on Monday, according to Acta. Carrasco has been in Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Congrats. Fatherhood is a blast.

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…

–JB

“We didn’t start the fire”


Drier.jpgYou know it’s just going to be one of those days when you wake up to an e-mail from the Indians PR director that reads:

“There was a fire outside the locker room area at the ballpark last night/early this morning that has been contained and damage is being assessed as we speak.”

Lovely.

It was not a big blaze. In fact, the fire was contained to one appliance: “The Burner.”

When the Indians pulled up the stakes in Winter Haven, Fla., and moved across the country to Goodyear, Ariz., for Spring Training a few years ago, a large dryer was rolled onto one of the moving trucks. It had a reputation for running a little hot.

Thus, the nickname.

Well, on Friday morning, as “The Burner” did its worst to a batch of towels at Goodyear Ballpark, a small fire broke out. Emergency crews were on the scene at 6 a.m. local time and the stadium did not suffer any structural damage. Only Mr. Burner was hurt. There he sat, charred and obliterated, resting in a pool of water.

Farewell, sweet prince.

As a result of the small fire, the Rockies had to take batting practice at their home ballpark. The afternoon tilt at Goodyear Ballpark went on as planned, though. There was a lot of standing water in the laundry room, in an indoor batting cage across the hall and on the right-field warning track, but it was all cleaned up throughout the day.

CLICK HERE for a story I wrote on the fire and check out the short video with it. I think I should be up for some cinematography award for my excellent b-roll footage.

You just never know what to around here on any given day.

Friday’s notes…

  • Shin-Soo Choo made his Cactus League debut in right field during Friday’s 6-2 win over the Rockies. He played five innings and admitted he felt tired as the game wore on. Choo added that he talked to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, who said the fatigue was normal, considering the outfielder spent the last week building up his arm strength and not playing the field. Choo had served only as a DH up to this point.
  • Choo made it clear before spring that he did not want to discuss a contract extension once the regular season began. As of Friday, Choo said he had not heard from GM Chris Antonetti or his agent Scott Boras about any ongoing talks. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. If Choo signs a long-term deal, I think next winter is the most likely time it would happen.
  • Staying with Choo here for a moment, he was asked what he would consider a good season. Choo did not hesitate, answering only: “Playoffs.” Choo said that is his only goal, no matter what outside expectations are for the Tribe.
  • Center fielder Grady Sizemoe (left knee) took another step forward — pun intended? — in his rehab on Friday. Sizemore took part in outfield group drills, catching fly balls and fielding grounders. He also upped the intensity of his agility and sprint drills, noting that the day’s exercises had him moving “in all directions.” He also took part in batting practice as usual.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes resumed a throwing program on Friday after being shut down for the past five days due to elbow soreness. Reyes played catch and reported no issues. He worked to a distance of 90 feet. If all goes well, Cleveland hopes to have Reyes back on a mound next week.
  • The Stork is busy this week, too. Carlos Carrasco left the team on Friday to head to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Left-hander Rafael Perez rejoined the team Friday after being in New York for the birth of his child. Congrats.
  • Chatted for a while with first baseman Matt LaPorta this morning. Check Indians.com tomorrow for a feature. Briefly, he feels drastically different than he did a year ago thanks to a normal offseason. On the bases and at the plate, he feels like a completely different player now that his legs are strong. Indians manager Manny Acta has been very pleased with what he’s seen so far as well.
  • Third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a long home run in Friday’s win. For the spring — yes, I know, sample size alert — he is batting .500. He’s off to a hot start and is ticketed for Triple-A Columbus. I asked Acta if Chisenhall was trying to make the team anyway. “We encourage everybody that it doesn’t matter what we tell them in those two-on-one meetings [with the manager and general manager],” Acta said. “They should have that type of mentality. It has happened before.”
  • Indians Opening Day starter Fausto Carmona went three innings on Friday, allowing one run on three hits against the Rockies. Indians closer Chris Perez continued to be bored — just what you want your close to be — with one shutout inning  of work. Indians pitching prospect Alex White logged two scoreless frames.
  • Tomorrow the Indians have split squad games at home (White Sox) and on the road (Mariners). Pitching at home will be David Huff (starting), Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister, Vinnie Pestano, Zach Putnam and Jess Todd. Pitching on the road will be Jeanmar Gomez (starting in place of Carrasco), Kelvin De La Cruz, Jensen Lewis, Yohan Pino, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith and Bryce Stowell.

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Photo of the day:

Shadows.jpg

New blog profile photo.

That’s Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and I
watching some of the game while waiting to interview Fausto Carmona.

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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…–JB

Waiting to exhale

Santana5.jpgThere were a few gasps here in the Goodyear Ballpark pressbox during today’s first inning, when Indians catcher Carlos Santana tried to score on a close play at the plate.

Santana singled with two outs off Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley and then was off and running on an opposite-field single by Travis Hafner. In left field, L.A.’s Tony Gwynn Jr. booted the ball, opening the door for Santana to go to third.

Santana took things up a noth and bolted around third and headed toward the plate. The throw from left beat him and catcher Rod Barajas was planted as Santana came barreling in.

Indians manager Manny Acta held his breath.

“That’s the first reaction,” Acta said.

Not to mention, it was Santana who had his left knee seriously injured in a collision at the plate last August. Boston’s Ryan Kalish slid into Santana, who went on to have knee surgery as a result. Fortunately for the Indians, Santana is back at 100 percent with no restrictions.

The play in the first also showed he is back without any hesitation, too.

“He was more than willing to go,” Acta said, “and show that he had no fear. That’s good.”

The part that wasn’t good? The headfirst slide into the plate. Santana dove forward, trying to get a hand on the plate — close to wear Barajas’ left foot was firmly planted. It was a dangerous decision so early in Spring Training. Ezequiel Carrera slid headfirst into home in the seventh, too. It is a technique that the Tribe does not encourage.

“It’s something that we preach against,” Acta said. “I think that 30 Major League clubs preach against that, but it’s such an instinctive play. Even when we covered that the other day in our baserunning lecture, guys will still go and do it. Both guys got an earful.”

Santana was ruled out. But he got up, brushed himself off and recovered fine. For a moment, it was a scary play for the Indians. Santana will be a critical part of any success the club hopes to have during the coming campaign.

There were lots of notable things in camp today, so let’s get to it.

Notes from Tuesday…

  • The Indians learned late Monday that outfielder Austin Kearns was arrested near Lexington, Ky., on charges of driving under the influence back on Feb. 12. Kearns arrived in camp around Feb. 16 or so and did not alert the team of the situation. Kearns spoke about the matter on Tuesday and indicated that he was advised not to inform the team. A source told me Kearns originally wanted to tell the club what happened at the time of his arrest, but he acted on the advice of his attorney. No matter how you slice it, this was an unfortunate situation. Kearns met with GM Chris Antonetti and Acta on Tuesday morning to talk things over. CLICK HERE for more on Indians.com.
  • I’ve reported all spring that it was unlikely that center fielder Grady Sizemore (microfracture surgery on his left knee in June) would be ready in time for Opening Day with the Indians. Antonetti had not said as much until Tuesday, when he admitted that Sizemore was unlikely to be recovered by April 1. Sizemore is still working through sprint and agility tests and taking batting practice. He has yet to run the bases or really test his legs by changing direction while running. No outfield drills yet. Needless to say, there are still a number of tests he needs to pass before being cleared for any type of game action.
  • Guess who arrived at the Indians’ complex this morning? Hint: he had a Phillies equipment bag in his locker. Yes, the reported deal for Chad Durbin finally came to fruition on Tuesday. Durbin is officially a member of the bullpen on a one-year deal worth $800,000. Who is getting the boot from the 40-man roster? We don’t know just yet. I’d expect that announcement to come on Wednesday.
  • There could be another new face in camp soon, too. As of Tuesday evening, the Indians were close to signing free-agent Nick Johnson to a Minor League deal with a spring invite. He would likely act as insurance behind Matt LaPorta at first base. He also has experience as a DH. This looks mostly like a depth move on the surface. I wouldn’t expect this to become official right away. Johnson underwent two surgeries on his right wrist last year and has a long history of injury. That means an extensive physical process before the Tribe would comfirm a possible signing.
  • The list of Indians players who are banged up keeps growing. Acta noted on Tuesday that utility man Shelley Duncan was “dinged up” after pulling a muscle in his back while swinging a bat in batting practice last week. Duncan has been held out of games and will likely remain out for the next few days.
  • More updates on the walking wounded. Antonetti noted that outfielder Trevor Crowe (rotator cuff soreness) would likely be cleared to resume throwing “shortly.” It’s still a no-go for righty Anthony Reyes, though. Reyes is out with right elbow soreness and Antonetti said there is still no timetable for his return to a throwing program.
  • An interesting item worth noting is that, until Tuesday, Acta has maintained all spring that the outfield would be Kearns in left, Michael Brantley in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right in the event that Sizemore was not ready for Opening Day. Acta has changed his tune some. The manager even suggested that the Indians might consider a platoon situation in left field.
  • Choo had the day off from the starting lineup on Tuesday, but he replaced Hafner as the DH midway through the game. The plan was for Choo (sore left elbow) to throw from 120 feet on Tuesday. He’ll take Wednesday off from playing and there is a chance he’ll make his spring debut in right field as early as Thursday.
  • Oh, hey, a game took place on Tuesday. The Indians beat the Dodgers, 2-1, but we don’t care about the final score, remember? What does matter is that righty Carlos Carrasco logged two shutout innings, as did lefty David Huff. Carrasco’s is in the rotation and Huff is trying to harness the magic of his Samurai-warrior-slaying-the-three-headed-dragon tattoo to win the fifth spot. Huff retired all six hitters he faced and struck out the side in the fifth. Closer Chris Perez logged one scoreless inning of work.
  • Carrasco said he did not throw any curves because he never fell into a count where he would use that pitch. He stuck with fastballs, changeups and sliders. Carrasco said he has been working hard on his slider this spring. Last year, it acted more like a cutter. Now, he says there is a harder late break with the pitch.
  • Up next: Indians head to Phoenix to take on the A’s. Justin Masterson is slated to start and Doug Mathis, Vinnie Pestano, Drew Pomeranz, Zach Putnam, Joe Smith and Jess Todd are also down to appear. Names circled on the travel sheet: Carlin, Chen, Phillips, Brown, Chisenhall, Everett, Hafner, LaPorta, Nix, Hannahan, Kipnis, Phelps, Valbuena, Brantley, Buck, Huffman and Carrera.
  • I have postponed the weekly Inbox until tomorrow. A lot has happened in the past few days, so I’m sure you all have questions. If you want to have a shot at being included, send any Indians inquiries to IndiansInbox@gmail.com with your name and hometown.

That’s all for today…

…but that was plenty, right?

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.

–JB

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