Dad Day at the ballpark

It was just another typical day in Indians camp. You know, pitchers playing catch, hitters taking BP, Tony La Russ and Dave Duncan wandering between practice fields while they watched the morning workout.

Wait… what?

Talk about a pleasant surprise in Goodyear. Duncan and La Russa — the long-time pitching coach & manager partnership — are currently in career limbo. Duncan is on a leave of absence from his role as the Cardinals pitching coach and La Russa has retired from managing.

Duncan stepped away from his post to tend to his wife, Jeanine, who has been battling brain cancer. He said she has been responding well to treatment of late, making for a “positive situation” right now for their family. Both Dave and Jeanine are currently in Arizona to spend time with their son, Indians outfielder Shelley Duncan, and his wife.

“We came out to Arizona for a couple of reasons,” Dave Duncan said. “Mostly to see Shelley, but his wife is pregnant with twins, so my wife really wanted to get together with his wife and do a little baby shopping.”

As a bonus, Dave finally got to watch his son play in a big league game. Given their respective careers in the game, that type of situation had never presented itself. On Monday, Dave Duncan sat with La Russa, Indians GM Chris Antonetti and assistant GM Mike Chernoff in a suite during Cleveland’s game.

With his dad watching, Shelley went 1-for-3 with two RBIs in a 3-2 win over the D-backs. Shelley ripped an RBI single into left field in the first inning and displayed some patience with a bases-loaded walk in the fourth. This spring, Duncan is competing to be the Tribe’s regular left fielder.

Dave Duncan is happy to see Shelley get that chance.

“I just like to see him get an opportunity,” said the elder Duncan. “You get the opportunity, and if you make the best of it and it works out that you play more, great. If you don’t take advantage of that opportunity, then you play a different role.

“I think he understands that and will do whatever he has to do to be an asset to the Cleveland Indians.”

Some notes from Monday…

  • The Associated Press is reporting that pitcher Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona) has reached an agreeement with D.R. prosecutors to have the charges against him dropped in return for completing a work program. That is all I know at this point. The Indians have yet to comment on the matter.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez worked three innings in his third outing of the spring for the Indians. His pitch count improved with each frame: 20 (12), 19 (9) & 18 (13). Jimenez scattered three hits, gave up one run, walked two, struck out one hitter and escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed. He stuck with mostly fastballs, splitters and sliders.
  • On Sunday, Kevin Slowey mentioned that he is trying to find ways to create more grounders this year. I followed up on Monday for a little more detail, given that he is a flyball pitcher. He explained that his sinker runs more than dives, so he needs to create more downward action with his mechanics. That involves accelerating his arm more out in front of his body to a better downward plane. He was happy with Sunday’s results. Of the 15 hitters he faced, eight put the ball on the ground.
  • Also chatted briefly with lefty David Huff, whose stat line wasn’t the prettiest on Sunday: 3 IP, 7 H, 5 R (4 ER), 1 BB, 2 K. He said the bulk of his struggles came in the first inning, when he had trouble adjusting to the strike zone that was in play. He didn’t want to use that as an excuse, but Huff said he was able to adjust better in his next two innings. Huff added that he was also encouraged by the fact that, when he missed his spots, he missed down in the zone. “I can live with that,” he said.
  • Closer Chris Perez enjoyed catching up with Dave Duncan, who was his pitching coach in St. Louis earlier in the pitcher’s career. Perez said Duncan had a style that relied less on mechanical adjustments and more on approach and mentality. It’s obviously worked for Duncan for a long time. Perez added that Tribe pitching coach Scott Radinsky is similar in style that way.
  • As for that pesky left oblique, Perez continues to make progress in his return to pitching. On Monday, he played catch from 120 feet, which is generally the final flat-ground benchmark before bullpen sessions are resumed. It’s baby steps, but Perez is passing all the tests with no issues so far.
  • Indians first baseman Casey Kotchman (back tightness) and outfielder Felix Pie (stiff neck) were still unavailable on Monday. Manager Manny Acta noted that Pie, who crashed into a wall on Sunday, might be cleared to resume playing on Tuesday. Acta added that it isn’t as clear whether Kotchman will be ready to go on Tuesday, but he’s still considered day to day.
  • Another one from the Department of Health: Indians lefty Rafael Perez threw another bullpen session on Monday with no leftover issues from the sore shoulder that’s bugged him so far this spring. Facing live hitters is the next step, after a couple of days off, according to Acta.
  • I had hoped there’d be a fun story behind Justin Masterson wearing No. 63 — since he’s worn it since his Boston days — but it turns out that there really isn’t much to it. It was simply the number the Red Sox assigned him when he was promoted. Masterson kind of liked it. Saw it as an offbeat number for an offbeat kind of guy.
  • The Indians announced on Monday that they agreed to a two-year player development extension with Class A (short season) Mahoning Valley. The Scrappers will remain a Cleveland affiliate at least through the 2014 season.
  • There was some confusion on the field in the first inning on Monday. With a runner on second base and no outs, Jimenez kept stepping off the rubber. It was clear that there were some signals getting mixed up. Acta headed to the field, called all the infielders to the mound and looked a little heated during his chat. Acta said after the game they were trying to practice an in-game strategy that they’d only done in fundamentals practice, but the signs were getting mixed up on the field. This is why it’s called Spring Training, folks.
  • Mighty Russ Canzler — who needs a nickname, by the way. Rusty Canzler? Russ Yes-He-Canzler? No Fuss Russ? I’ll keep working on it. — continues to impress with the bat. In Monday’s game, he went .2-for-3 to raise his spring average to .368. He NEEDS to keep hitting to try to force his way on the team. He has options, and limited experience, so I still think it’s going to be tough for him to make the Opening Day roster.
  • Bullpen Mafia Watch: On Monday, Vinnie Pestano struck out three in one shutout inning; Joe Smith struck out one in one clean frame of his own; lefty Nick Hagadone worked two scoreless innings; righty Jeremy Accardo turned in one shutout inning; veteran Dan Wheeler gave up one run in one inning.


Photo of the Day

Indians GM Chris Antonetti with former manager Tony La Russa.


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

Stay tuned for more…




And the Red Sox miss 63! Masterson is so fun. Sigh.

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