Last spring, when I asked catcher Carlos Santana what he thought his biggest key to success was, he replied: “Think happy.” Great advice.
And would just look at Ubaldo smiling. That’s the general feeling early on in Spring Training. Everyone’s happy to be back together and back to baseball. But, these are the best of times, and these are the worst of times.
I’m posting this Happy Ubaldo photo first, because it’s best for you fans to focus on happy thoughts right now.
“I was hoping not to talk to you guys until at least when we broke camp,” head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff told reporters this afternoon.
It was an unexpected turn that the Indians decided to reveal today since, well, we would be wondering why Grady Sizemore wasn’t out on the field when we showed up tomorrow. Sizemore is injured. Again. This time around, however, it does not involve his surgerically-repaired right or left knee.
Roughly two weeks ago, Sizemore suffered a lower back strain while fielding ground balls in the outfield. In his right knee rehab, he had progressed to hitting and throwing with no restrictions. He as up to a walking/jogging routine and had added agility drills to his weekly routine. Grady was way ahead of last year’s pace.
Then, he tweaked his back and Soloff believes it is unlikely that Sizemore will be ready for Opening Day. It’s deja vu all over again.
Sizemore has been shut down from baseball activities and his knee rehab has been put on hold until his back is completely healed. There is no established timetable for his return to baseball drills, meaning there is no way of knowing right now just how long Sizemore might be sidelined.
The Indians knew the risk involved when they declined Sizemore’s option and re-signed him at a lower cost with incentives. That inherent risk is a big reason why Cleveland spent the winter collecting experienced outfielders like baseball cards. The team feels it is better prepared to withstand such a loss this season.
That brings us to…
Some notes from Friday…
- The most likely solution now seems to be sliding left fielder Michael Brantley to center field (I swear I wrote this same sentence last spring). Many people view Brantley as a center fielder anyways, so having him move up the middle makes sense, and it’s what the Tribe did for much of last season.
- Indians manager Manny Acta said that Brantley is an option, but not the only option. He quickly rattled off the names of Ezequiel Carrera, Ryan Spilborghs, Aaron Cunningham and Felix Pie as center field alternatives. Acta said they will assess the outfield alignment throughout Spring Training.
- If Brantley does shift to center again, that means left field is open. Options for that spot include Shelley Duncan, Fred Lewis and the outfielders I listed in the above bullet point. Lewis has experience in center field in his career, but he’s really a left fielder at this point in time.
- Of all the guys mentioned, Duncan, Carrera and Cunningham are on the 40-man roster. Duncan and Cunningham are out of options, which is always factored into the equation at the end of camp. Spilborghs, Pie and Lewis are all non-roster invitees.
- Outfielders not mentioned by Acta or GM Chris Antonetti included Thomas Neal, Nick Weglarz, Chad Huffman, Russ Canzler and Trevor Crowe. Neal and Weglarz seem to be in the Triple-A mix. Huffman, Canzler and Crowe seem to be bubble candidates for bench jobs. Of those three, Canzler might have a leg up. Hard to tell right now.
- As for the leadoff spot, it doesn’t sound like Acta was considering Sizemore for that role even before the back injury came up. Acta said on Friday that Brantley is his leadoff man. Acta joked that he’s giving us 1-2 lineup spots each week until Opening Day. So we’ve got 1. Brantley, 2. TBA, 3. TBA, 4. Santana, 5. TBA, 6. TBA, 7. TBA, 8., TBA, 9. TBA. Speculate away.
- As for Brantley’s health status, Soloff noted that the outfielder recently progressed to his hitting program without any issues. Brantley had right hand surgery in August. Soloff said Brantley’s only restriction come full-squad workouts, which start Saturday, will be a heavy work volume. The team will keep a close eye on that.
- Former Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton arrived in camp on Friday. While he looks like he could still put on a uniform and step into the lineup, he’s in camp as a guest instructor, not as a non-roster invitee. Lofton did the same thing last spring. He’ll focus on baserunning and outfield techniques.
- Right-hander Carlos Carrasco has been hanging around the complex in uniform, working through his rehab. Carrasco had Tommy John elbow surgery last season and is not expected to pitch for the Indians in 2012. That’d be a great arm to get back for the 2013 rotation.
- Forgot to mention: during our sit-down with pitching coach Scott Radinsky on Thursday, he was asked if there was any one pitching coach he had that stands out in his mind. Radinsky had high praise for Dave LaRoche, who he credits for helping him stay in the big leagues. As it happens, Andy LaRoche — Dave’s son — is in camp with the Indians as a non-roster invitee.
- Caught up some with righty Jeremy Accardo, who I know from my days on the Blue Jays beat. I asked him if inconsistency with his splitter over the last four years explains his career showing since his 30-save season in 2007. He said Acta asked him the same thing. This spring, Accardo is going to try to get back to being a fastball-splitter pitcher. Over the past few years, he leaned heavily on his slider and cutter.
- Also spent some time chatting with Shin-Soo Choo, who talked a lot about the military training he took part in over the offseason. Part of it included 15-mile hikes with a 55-pound pack on his back. He said the long marches gave him a lot of time to reflect on his life and the past year. Check back on Indians.com in the coming days for a feature on that topic.
Photo of the Day
Indians catcher Carlos Santana
Twitter Caption Contest
Indians righty Justin Masterson showing David Huff how to pitch left-handed?
Gold, Jerry. It’s gold!
@gosche15 “I’m thinking I’ll take the number 1 and 5 spots”
@bookelly73 Huff thinking, “Sure, go ahead and throw with that surgically repaired left shoulder. I could use a rotation spot.”
@mhess52 “Then just shave your head and you can achieve the level of Mastiness that I have come to enjoy.”
Apologies to @bookelly73, who I originally named the winner. @gosche15 was a late entry and, well, it made me chuckle a little more than all the others. And since this is my game, and my rules, I’ve edited the post and declared a new winner!
Thanks for playing.
First full-squad workout in the morning. Stay tuned for more…