Evaluating early on

That there is Frank Herrmann. You know, the undrafted Harvard grad. The Indians tapped into that market before it became the trendy thing to do. I’m getting way off topic here, though.

On Friday, Herrmann was one among the eight pitchers that took the mound at Goodyear Ballpark during Cleveland’s Cactus League opener against the Reds. The teams played to a 6-6 tie and a big reason behind that was the four-spot that Herrmann put up in the fourth inning, erasing the Tribe’s early 4-0 lead.

Before you start shouting that “Herrmann’s a bum!” or something, though, let me refer you to a postgame quote from manager Manny Acta: “It’s one game.” Here’s the thing with Spring Training, it’s Spring Training. The offseason kinks are worked out, the pitch counts built up and the results sometimes tossed out.

Well, more to the point, the early results.

In these first few games, starters typically stay in for an inning or two — that includes the pitchers and, in some cases, the position players. That makes the evaluation process early on in camp difficult at times. And that does not apply to only the players who turn in subpar showings. It also holds true for those who get three outs and exit quickly.

“It’s to tough to evaluate guys,” Acta said. “Because sometimes they come in late in the game and the regulars are already out of there.”

Acta tries to counter that by having his go-to relievers appear early in games, as opposed to the innings you’ll see them pitch in the regular season. As for Herrmann, he’s competing for a spot in the bullpen with a handful of other pitchers. He’s also going to have plenty of time to right the wrongs of Saturday’s brief disaster.

Some notes from Saturday…

  • The fifth starter competition is officially underway. Lefty David Huff got things rolling with two shutout innings in Saturday’s game. He threw 35 pitches and landed 25 of them for strikes. Huff surrendered three hits, but limited the damage. He said he stuck mainly with fastballs and cutters in his first outing and focused on pounding hitters inside. Huff was understandably pleased with the results and his execution.
  • Beyond Herrmann, other bullpen candidates to appear included Robinson Tejeda, Jeremy Accardo and Nick Hagadone. Tejeda allowed a solo home run in his lone inning of work. Accardo and Hagadone turned in one clean frame apiece. Setup man Vinnie Pestano also logged a shutout inning that included no hits, no walks and a strikeout (Yawn).
  • Acta said one thing the Indians are trying to work on this spring is situational hitting, especially with a runner on third and less than two outs. That came up in the first inning and Carlos Santana delivered a run-scoring sac fly. In the second, Jason Kipnis singled, moved to second on a sace bunt and scored from second on a single by Chisenhall.
  • Acta said in recent days that he was hopeful that outfielder Aaron Cunningham (sore left hand) would be available for Saturday’s game. Well, Cunningham didn’t play. He did, however, take part in the morning workout. Ryan Spilborghs got the nod in left field and Fred Lewis, Felix Pie and Thomas Neal also made appearances.
  • MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner held a closed-door meeting with the Indians players on Saturday morning. Topics that came up included the new playoff format and Ryan Braun’s successful appeal of a 50-game suspension. Players have all raved about the new postseason format that has two Wild Cards in each league. Two players we talked to also said Weiner’s comments helped alleviate some concerns about the Braun situation. Predictably, no one went into much detail.
  • In the battle for third base, it was Lonnie Chisenhall who got the nod at the hot corner for the spring opener. He went 1-for-2 with an RBI single. In writing a feature on him today for Indians.com, I looked up his performance against LHP last year. He hit .200 at Triple-A and then .111 (2-18) in his early showing in the big leagues. In September, though, Chisenhall hit .344 (11-32) with four homers and 10 RBIs vs. LHP. If he can handle lefties again this spring, and show good strike zone discipline, his bat could help win the job at third over Jack Hannahan.
  •  Other highlights from Saturday’s game: Michael Brantley went 2-for-3 with a double and a run scored; Casey Kotchman went 2-for-3 with a double and one RBI; Jose Lopez went 2-for-2 with a double and a run scored; Jason Kipnis went 1-for-1 with a single and a run-scoring sac fly.
  • The Indians play the Reds again on Sunday in the second of three games in a row between the clubs. Listed as available to pitch for the Indians are Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, Chris Ray, Joe Smith and Hector Ambriz. The Big U will get the start for the Tribe.

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Photo of the Day

First pitch of 2012 Spring Training.

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Make sure you’re reading Indians.com and following me on Twitter (@MLBastian). To see more of my Spring Training photos, CLICK HERE.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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