Who’s your Vladdy?

The Indians did indeed hold a workout for free-agent Vladimir Guerrero earlier this week at their baseball academy in the Dominican Republic.

Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti confirmed as much in a sit-down with reporters on Tuesday morning. Beyond that…

“I wouldn’t read too much into it at this point,” Antonetti said.

The GM said it was actually Guerrero who contacted the club and asked if they’d have any interest in working him out. Antonetti — not one to leave any stones unturned — obliged.

“He has interest in continuing to play,” Antonetti said. “We have an academy in the Dominican. He asked if we would be interested in seeing him work out, so we worked him out. That’s really the extent of it.”

At this point, past injuries have essentially rendered the 37-year-old Guerrero a pure designated hitter. He appeared in 137 games as a DH for Baltimore last season, hitting .290 with 13 homers and 63 RBIs. The Indians already have a well-paid full-time DH with a laundry list of recent health woes in Travid Hafner.

In theory, Cleveland could put Hafner and Vladdy into a DH platoon, but that would strike a decisive blow to the versatility manager Manny Acta wants available on his bench. The only way I could see adding Guerrero making sense was if he could handle playing left field.

Asked if Guerrero could play any outfield, Antonetti’s reply was: “He hasn’t played outfield recently.”

Antonetti noted that the Indians had Guerrero track down some fly balls during the workout to see what type of shape he was in for playing the outfield. The GM said Guerrero looked “no different than how he has over the last few years.” That’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

So, as Antonetti suggested, I wouldn’t make too much of this at this point in time. If we’re a month into the season, and injuries haunt Cleveland’s roster once again, and the team is in dire need of offense, well then, hey, sure I could see the Tribe getting more serious about taking a flier on an experienced hitter like Vlad.

Asked if Guerrero stepped into the box to face “Rob” (Indians pitcher Roberto Hernandez/formerly Fausto Carmona), Antonetti allowed himself to crack a smile.

“Good ol’ Rob did not pitch to him,” said the GM.

And a big thanks to friend John Lott of the National Post in Toronto for the great photo of Guerrero from a couple years back.

Some notes from Tuesday…

  • The Indians “reduced their roster” — don’t go calling them roster cuts unless you want to get Manny Acta angry — by three players on Tuesday. The Tribe optioned 3B Lonnie Chisenhall and 1B Matt LaPorta to Triple-A, and also re-assigned OF Chad Huffman to Minor League camp.
  • Removing Chisenhall from camp cleared the way for Hannahan to win the starting nod at third base for the Indians. Not a big surprise there, but Cleveland insisted it was a competition. Chisenhall (16 Ks against 1 walk this spring) did not show the type of plate discipline the Indians wanted to see from him this preseason.
  • For all of you upset about Chisenhall’s demotion, keep in mind that the kid is still only 23 years old. He’s actually the third-youngest player on the team’s 40-man roster. The fact that he’s already in the mix for a big league job is impressive, but he is still in need of some offensive development.
  • The Indians know Hannahan is one of the best defensive third basemen in baseball and they love having him out there, along with Casey Kotchman at 1B, for their groundball-happy pitching staff. That said, Hannahan is eager to prove that he really did turn a corner down the stretch last season in the batter’s box.
  • Acta said LaPorta had a real opportunity to win a job on the Opening Day roster as either the starting left fielder or a backup outfielder/first baseman/DH off the bench. LaPorta hit .167 with 11 strikeouts and one walk in 14 games for the Tribe this spring. Cleveland needs to see more consistency from him before calling him back to the Majors.
  • Huffman had a better shot at making the team as a backup outfielder last spring than he did this spring. Still, given the way the outfield competition has gone, Huffman certainly could have played himself into the mix. Instead, he hit .231 and will likely wind up back in Columbus to start the year.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez started against the White Sox on Tuesday and was solid for the most part. He went five innings, giving up three runs (two earned) with three strikeouts and no walks. The Big U sat around 91-94 mph for the most part and ended with eight groundouts. He logged 90 pitches (54 strikes) and registered 11 first-pitch strikes among the 21 hitters he faced. Ubaldo had six 3-ball counts.
  • Acta raved about Ubaldo’s secondary pitches and Jimenez said he was pleased with his ability to avoid falling behind in the count as often as he has in other spring outings. He breezed through the first three innings, but ran into a 26-pitch wall during the fourth.
  • Center fielder Michael Brantley returned to the lineup on Tuesday after having last played a game on March 19 due to a right hamstring injury. He went 0-for-2. Outfielder Fred Lewis, who had been battling a sore right elbow, also returned to game action on Tuesday.
  • Shelley Duncan went 0-for-4 and saw his spring average drop to .195 on Tuesday, but Antonetti said Duncan had stepped forward as a leading candidate for the left field job. The average isn’t quite there, but Duncan has made consistently solid contact and leads the team with five home runs and 15 RBIs this spring so far.
  • The Associated Press reported the details of Hernandez’s restructured contract on Monday. Good ol’ Rob will have a base salary of $2.5M in 2012 with another $2.7M available through incentives. He can make $200K each for 20, 23 and 26 starts, $200K each for 150, 170 and 185 innings, and $250K every 15 days on the roster from 95-165 days. Hernandez’s original deal was for $7M this season. His 2013 club option has been reduced to $6M with any bonuses reached tacked on, and another $3M possible through incentives based on innings pitched. That option was originally $9M. The 2014 club option was eliminated. Of course, Hernandez is on MLB’s restricted list and he won’t see a penny until he’s back with the Indians and activated.
  • Antonetti said he has a couple pitchers in mind for the two available bullpen jobs, but he’s not ready to tip hishand just yet. The GM then went on to note that some of the candidates have performed better of late after poor starts to the spring. That, to me, might be in relation to Dan Wheeler.
  • Three of the other candidates — Jeremy Accardo, Robinson Tejeda and Henricus van den Hurk — each pitched on Tuesday. Accardo turned in another shutout frame to lower his spring ERA to 1.29 ERA. Tejeda and van den Hurk? Two runs allowed apiece. Right now, I’ve got to think Accardo, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann and Wheeler are the top choices.
  • Antonetti and Acta have both stated that they want to see Jeanmar Gomez, Kevin Slowey and David Huff each pitch once more before announcing who has won the fifth starter job. Antonetti said they will take the best arm — regardless of their contract situation (see: $1.25M owed Slowey in 2012). With that said, it’s easy to think Gomez will land the job.
  • A couple Indians-related notes out of Rockies camp: Casey Blake was released on Tuesday and Colorado is moving former Tribe prospect Alex White to the bullpen. Blake is 38, missed time last year and this spring due to neck issues, and hit .150 in Cactus League play. I really don’t see him as a fit for the Indians at this point. As for White — part of the Ubaldo trade — many evaluators believed from the start that he was a future reliever, not starter.

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

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

7 Comments

Why hasn’t the front office demonstrated any interest in bringing in Johnny Damon to play left field? His defense is actually better than he gets credit for, and he still has good speed and some pop left in his bat. It seems like this might be a decent move for the Tribe, particularly in light of recent moves to bring in the likes of Bobby Abreu.

ok – DISCLAIMER – exceedingly small sample size. Watched several games online / MLBTV, and saw a couple in person at Goodyear. LaPorta looked like a whipped puppy. His body language was just plain horrible. I played D1 college ball and you could tell when someone just wanted to be somewhere else. Sorry to say that was what I saw. I hope I’m wrong or that it changes, but I wonder . . . . The Tribe needs him to be what he was expected to be – or at least something a lot closer. C’Mon Matt – it might still be in there somewhere. . . . . Don’t give up yet.

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