Spring workouts begin

The three-day progression for the official start of Spring Training always amuses me.

There is the report date, when players have to be in the area, but they don’t have to be at the complex. Then, there is physical day, when the players are poked and prodded and the workout is still informal. Then, finally, there is the first official workout. It’s when Spring Training really starts, even though it has already started.

That day arrived on Wednesday and manager Manny Acta got downright poetic about it.

“I’m a sports guy and I respect every sport,” Acta said. “But wasn’t that beautiful? The crack of a fungo bat. A white ball rolling over green grass. A pitcher covering first base. And then watching the bullpen sessions. That was beautiful.”

It was, except for the part where Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer and I stood by a row of empty mounds, wondering where the heck the bullpen sessions were taking place. Whoops. They were down on the Minor League side on the first day. Note to self: head to those mounds on Thursday. [Sigh]

Pitchers played catch and ran through mound sessions and fielding practice. Catchers went through drills on a field of their own. Pretty soon we’ll have hitters stepping in for live BP and, before you know it, intrasquad games and Cactus League contests will follow.

Position players do not technically have to report to Arizona for the Indians until Thursday, but most are already on hand for the Tribe. The only players not in camp yet are Casey Kotchman, Trevor Crowe and Felix Pie. The next three days will follow the same progression of events. By Saturday, the full-squad workout will be in full swing.

Some notes from Wednesday…

  • The Indians officially announced that they signed INF Cristian Guzman to a Minor League contract that includes a non-roster spring invite. Acta said he is in the mix as a utility man for shortstop and second base, and he’ll see some reps at third base, too. Acta did not seem overly concerned that Guzman missed all of 2011.
  • Some players in the mix for utility infield jobs off the bench include Jason Donald (the “leading candidate” according to Acta), Jack Hannahan (if he isn’t the starting third baseman), Jose Lopez, Andy LaRoche and Guzman.
  • As for Donald, he can play third base, shortstop and second base. Acta said Donald won’t be seeing much time in the outfield early in in camp, given the high volume of outfielder in the fold this spring. Donald could see some action in the outfield deeper into the spring games schedule, though.
  • Having Donald as an emergency outfield option would help with the lefty-heavy lineup. If Grady Sizemore needs a day off, or Michael Brantley isn’t in the lineup, Donald would seems a solid fit versus lefty pitching. Last year, Donald hit .377 (.949 OPS) against southpaws.
  • That said, Cleveland will probably have a right-handed-hitting outfielder on the bench. Options include Ryan Spilborghs, Aaron Cunningham, Shelley Duncan and Matt LaPorta. Yes, LaPorta is in that mix, according to Acta. He said LaPorta is competing for a backup role as a player capable of helping out at first base, left field and DH.
  • That would seemingly put LaPorta in direct competition with Duncan. As I’ve noted before, Duncan does not have options and LaPorta does. All things being equal, it seems a safe bet that LaPorta will be playing first base for Triple-A Columbus when this season begins. Barring injury, of course.
  • The deal with RHP Jon Garland is off. The Indians had agreed to sign him to a Minor League contract with a non-roster spring invite, but the pitcher did not take a physical with the team as planned and he needs more time to rehab his throwing shoulder. The simple fact is Garland wasn’t ready to compete for a job with the Tribe.
  • Acta joked that he would reveal one or two lineup spots to us each week until Opening Day arrived. On Wednesday, he said catcher Carlos Santana is in the plans as the cleanup hitter once again. As for expectations, Acta said he feels Santana has the ability to hit .280-.300 with 25-30 homers and 80-90+ RBIs.
  • Word is that Ubaldo Jimenez added eight pounds of muscle over the offseason. Sounds like he is in The Best Shape of His Life and The Ball Was Coming Out of His Hand Good. Ah, two of my favorite Spring Training cliches. Joking aside, Ubaldo is healthy, in great shape and itching to get going.
  • One key for Ubaldo this season will be consistency with his landing foot. He had varying strides and footfalls last season and the Indians, and the pitcher, feel those mechanical issues contributed to his drop in velocity.
  • Indians righty Justin Masterson underwent surgery on his left shoulder in October and has no restrictions heading into Spring Training. In fact, Masterson said he was able to begin his offseason throwing program even earlier than he had in years past. Part of that was out of necessity, since the doctors wanted to have him throw before one of his checkups.
  • Closer Chris Perez said he does not plan on toying around with his changeup, which he did last Spring Training. The result last year was some pain in his right forearm and a whole lot of frustration. “It got me off on the wrong foot,” said Perez. He’ll be sticking with his money makers this spring.
  • The winner of the 2012 Offseason Beard Growing Competition is infielder Cord Phelps — by a mile. Duncan came into camp with a strong beard, but Phelps’ new lumberjack look made him barely recognizable when he arrived to Goodyear.
  • Congrats to the Chisenhalls on a welcoming a new baby boy into their family. Lonnie said he and his wife ushered little Cutter Chisenhall into the world in January. Great name. Sounds like a ballplayer.

————————————

Twitter Caption Contest

The Winner:

@Cravanicus “Fence goes flying in 3… 2… 1…”

Some others:

@MichaelZwilling you see what Verlander did last year, boys? Nothing compared to the numbers this arm is putting up this year

@SizemoreFan Justin Masterson shows teammates his planned interpretive dance piece for his upcoming “So You Think You Can Dance” audition.

@Whittness You put your right arm in. You put your right arm out. You put your right arm in and you shake it all about…

@KCandtheSun “Look, I recently got into P90x. If ANY of you want to mess with me this year, you’ll have to deal with these pythons, mkay?”

@poisonwilliam Pitchers, Catchers, and rubber bands have reported.

@bHottleWinning Indians players circle around masterson? for the annual dance off.

@jalong82 Union work.

@PitchersHit8th “This move is called “The Sprinkler”.

@Cleveland_CPA starting the giant mower. It can cut the whole outfield in 10 seconds.

————————————

Thanks for playing.

–JB

2 Comments

Pingback: While We’re Waiting… Jason Donald’s role, LeCharles Bentley’s prospects and tip your waiters and waitresses | WaitingForNextYear

I just want to thank you for writing this blog during Spring Training. For a diehard Featherhead, Spring Training is a time of great excitement but also a time that requires great patience – we get all amped up for Tribe season in February and the season doesn’t actually start until April. I have visited this blog every day this week and I appreciate all the inside info, photos, and player breakdowns. Looking forward to continued reading of this blog and your articles throughout the season.

Indians Fever – Be a Believer

-Brendan

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