Play ball! Sort of…
Enough with the stretching bands, ball buckets and L-screens. On Wednesday, the Indians took part in some good old fashioned baseball in an abbreviated intrasquad game at their Spring Training complex.
Man, it felt good to be sitting in the bleachers, soaking up some sun and watching some ball again.
Josh Tomlin (pictured) got the start for Smitty’s Homers — the squad organized by third base coach Steve Smith. If you were in Goodyear and you took your eyes off the field for a few seconds, you might’ve missed his outing. Tomlin needed just three pitches to carve up Ezequiel Carrera, Jason Donald and Lonnie Chisenhall.
Pop-out foul to third base. Groundout to shortstop. Strikeout swinging on a nasty curve ball.
This is where I insert the annual line about the “pitchers being ahead of the hitters.” That said, Tomlin looked exceptional in the handful of minutes he needed to breeze through three batters before heading in for a shower.
“He had command, location, everything,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “The rest of the world was just trying to get outs. That’s him. He’s in mid-season form already.”
And, see, the thing about Tomlin is he has built an early reputation for being strong out of the gates. I don’t necessarily mean at the start of a season — though that was the case in 2011. What I mean is early in his starts, and the first time through a batting order, the righty tended to be at his best.
You know me, I likes me some numbers. So let’s have a look…
First, here’s a glance at how hitters fared against Tomlin when facing him at various points throughout his outings during the 2011 season:
First plate appearance: .204 average/.591 OPS
Second plate appearance: .256 average/.733 OPS
Third plate appearance: .292 average/.823 OPS
Now, here’s a look at how hitters fared against Tomlin based on his pitch count:
Pitches 1-25: .157 average/.428 OPS
Pitches 26-50: .254 average/.756 OPS
Pitches 51-75: .285 average/.790 OPS
Pitches 76-100: .306 average/.911 OPS
There’s a clear pattern there and the Indians, and Tomlin, are more than aware of the issue. The pitcher has already brainstormed some with sinkerballer Justin Masterson, pitching coach Scott Radinsky and former pitching coach Tim Belcher to try to figure out a plan of attack for finding a way to keep hitters guessing later into an outing.
Tomlin said on Wednesday that he will probably try to talk things over some with Kevin Slowey, who has had success in the Major Leagues with a very similar style of pitching. The key, Tomlin noted, is varying his pitch patterns as the game goes on, especially against hitters who boast a bit more power.
“It’s about pitch sequences for me,” Tomlin explained. “Pitch sequences and making a hitter guess and not letting them sit on one certain pitch throughout an at-bat.”
He explained that one strategy might be to hold off on using a particular pitch — “Keeping it in my back pocket for later on,” he said — against certain hitters early in a game. Another approach might be to come at particular hitters with completely different patterns than they saw in previous at-bats or previous starts.
It’s not so much how Tomlin starts, but how he finishes. And he’s working hard to improve.
Some notes from Wednesday…
- Asked if there was anything new on the Grady Sizemore front, Acta said that the Indians would provide an update to the media on Thursday. As far as we could tell, Sizemore (lower back injury) did not appear to be at the complex over the past two days. It’s possible (speculating here) that he went to see a specialist. All I know is when a manager won’t come out with even a hint of information, it sounds ominous. We’ll see.
- Had a nice discussion with Shin-Soo Choo earlier this spring about the time he spent taking part in basic training with the South Korean army over the winter. He learned to shoot a rifle and throw grenades, and he took part in 15-mile hikes with a 55-pound pack strapped to his shoulders. What Choo walked away with was a new perspective on a lot of things and he insists he has a clear mind going into 2012. That’d be great news for the Indians. CLICK HERE for the whole story.
- Acta still has not named his Opening Day starter, but the manager said that he will reveal his choice on Friday morning. He still has to inform the two pitchers involved in the decision. It will be either Justin Masterson or Ubaldo Jimenez. My money’s on Masterson, but this could really go either way for a number of reasons.
- Lefty reliever Tony Sipp said he is focusing on controlling the running game this spring. It’s an area he knows he needs to improve on this season. Last year, he allowed 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts and the bulk of the thefts came on sliders. Sipp said he is working right now to try to find out why that was the case, even suggesting he might have been tipping his pitches.
- Sipp said he was told it might be beneficial to chat things over with Tomlin. Last season, not a single baserunner even attempted a stolen base off the righty starter. That marked the first time — at least since 1969 — that a pitcher who qualified for the ERA title had zero stolen base attempts against him in a season. Much like mixing up pitch sequences, Tomlin said the key for him was varying his looks to first base.
- Acta singled out outfielder Aaron Cunningham and Minor League reliever Tyler Sturdevant as two player who have opened a few eyes in the early-spring workouts. Sturdevant tossed a scoreless inning in Wednesday’s intrasquad game and could work himself into the bullpen mix at some point this season. Cunningham is competing for a spot on the Opening Day roster, either as the left fielder or off the bench.
- Smitty’s Homers defeated Sarby’s Visitors (run by Triple-A manager Mike Sarbaugh) 1-0 in Wednesday’s four-inning tilt. The lone run that scored came courtest of an RBI single from Jose Lopez, who is trying to win a utility bench role this spring. Acta said Lopez is an intriguing player in camp given his strong history of production a few years ago with the Mariners.
- Closer Chris Perez is feeling much improved since tweaking his left oblique, but it’s baby steps in terms of his rehab. He’s been riding an exercise bike and doing some other light activities in his build-up toward throwing again. “A lot of really athletic stuff oing on in there,” Perez joked. “Tomorrow I might even roll over.”
- Catcher Carlos Santana gave Acta a bit of a scare in the first inning on Wednesday. After pulling a pitch sharply down the left-field line, Santana took a few steps out of the box and pulled up. At first, Acta thought Santana was hurt. Turns out the catcher didn’t know the ball was ruled fair. With his teammates shouting at him, Santana started running again and still legged out a double.
- Outfielder Trevor Crowe has come into camp with the right attitude, saying that “things have a funny way of working out” in relation to his situation. He missed most of last season due to injury, was knocked off the 40-man roster over the winter, was given an extremely late invite to Spring Training and saw his number rise from No. 4 to No. 80. His locker? Three stalls from the exit. Crowe is a longshot to make the Opening Day roster, but he’s doing all he can to make sure people don’t forget about him. In Wednesday’s game, he drew a walk and stole second against reliever Frank Herrmann.
- The Indians’ second intrasquad game will be held at noon MST on Thursday at Goodyear Ballpark, which is located roughly a half-mile north of the team’s player development complex. The game is free for the pubic to attend. Pitchers scheduled to appear include Derek Lowe, Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, Dan Wheeler, Scott Barnes, Zach McAllister, Chris Ray, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Hector Ambriz.
- Al Rosen, who played for the Indians from 1947-56, celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday. Rosen — actually 88 years old — is one of only 11 Major League players who were born on Feb. 29 in a leap year in baseball history.
Photo of the Day
Acta threw batting practice Terminator style on Wednesday.
#LouMar asks Santa Clause what he wants for Christmas
@timcyoung Lou Marson doesn’t call for a change-up; he calls for a fastball and scares the ball into slowing down.
@shlawallace #LouMar doesn’t own a remote for his TV, DVD, or DVR because he’s always in control.
Thanks for playing.
Stay tuned for more…