Spring in Tribe’s step

KipChizTalk about a hectic, news-filled first few days in Indians camp. Cleveland turned in one of the busiest offseasons in the long, storied history of its franchise, and it turned out the ballclub wasn’t done. Since the team began gathering in Goodyear, it has added veteran Jason Giambi, pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka and, the stunner of the winter, free-agent Michael Bourn.

“There’s a lot of buzz around this locker room,” Nick Swisher said on Wednesday morning. “If you’re a Tribe fan, you should be super excited.”

It sure seems like Indians fans are indeed excited.

Since arriving, my Twitter feed has been peppered with fan inquiries about single-game tickets becoming available. I can’t say that has been the case in my previous two springs covering this team. On Wednesday, the team went as far as issuing a reminder that tickets for all 81 home games will go on sale starting at 10 a.m. ET on Feb. 25. Mark it down. A few other notes offered by the team:

  • On Tuesday, the Tribe reached one-day season-ticket sales totals that equal what the team typically sees during an average offseason month.
  • Retail was up over 50-percent on Tuesday compared to the same date last year.
  • Indians.com site traffic doubled on Monday and Tuesday compared to the previous week’s daily average.
  • The team tripled the amount of @indians Twitter mentions on Monday and Tuesday compared to previous days

There is much to be said about the Terry Francona Effect. The manager is quick to point to his coaches, and players such as Swisher, who have helped in the recruiting process. And there is no denying many people have played a role in this winter transformation. That said, it all started when Francona agreed to take on Cleveland’s managerial challenge.

“Ever since we got Tito, it seems like the dominos keep falling,” Vinnie Pestano said.

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StringStrings attached: During some of the team’s early bullpen sessions, there have been two parallel yellow strings lined above the frot of the row of home plates. The idea, which Francona said was a suggestion of new pitching coach Mickey Callaway, is to help the pitchers focus on pounding the lower part of the strike zone.

“The guys are trying to build their arm strength,” Francona said. “Hopefully, along with that, we start seeing, as we get moving, command without effort. That would be really exciting. That’s why sometimes you see the strings out there. I think guys when they’re throwing sides, Mickey’s idea is if the strings are there, it shows you what ball down actually is.

“Sometimes guys get comfortable just throwing it across the plate and it ends up being a little bit up and very hittable. So it’s just a reminder. If guys want it, it’s there for them. If they don’t want it, we don’t use it.”

The Tribe’s pitching woes of 2012 have been well-documented:

  • 543 walks ranks 13th in the American League and 27th in baseball
  • 1,503 hits allowed ranked 12th in the AL and 27th in baseball
  • 1,086 strikeouts ranked 13th in the AL and 29th in baseball
  • 1.42 WHIP ranked 14th in the AL and 28th in baseball
  • 845 runs allowed ranked 14th in the AL and 29th in baseball
  • 4.79 ERA ranked 14th in the AL and 29th in baseball

Oof.

Give ‘em strings. All of them.

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Swisher1Some notes from the first few days in camp:

  • Where was I when the Bourn news broke? Buying shower shoes for the gym. Ah, the life of a journalist. No trip to the store is safe. In fact, that’s always the precise time news breaks. Bourn is expected to be in camp Thursday for his physical and his four-year, $48 million contract (with a fifth-year vesting option worth $12 million) will likely become official on Friday.
  • Closer Chris Perez spoke his mind about plenty of things last season. Most controversial was his late-season critique of Cleveland ownership. Well, the Indians have spent $117 million on guaranteed contracts this winter, and suddenly look like a team on the rise. “It feels like we’re a big-market club,” Perez said.
  • No Spring Training is without some bumps and bruises along the way. Early injuries to watch: Joe Smith is taking things slow out of the gates due to a left oblique issue, but he’s already playing catch up to 75 feet; Minor League Trey Haley has a “balky” right shoulder (as Francona described it) and is also being slowed for the next week.
  • Giambi arrived to camp on Wednesday afternoon and will be with the team on Thursday. With Bourn in the fold, causing a ripple effect that now has Mark Reynolds as the main designated hitter, Big G will be competing for a part-time DH and pinch-hitter role. At the very least, the 42-year-old Giambi will provide another veteran voice this spring for a team filled with youngsters.
  • There was a slight passport problem with lefty Edward Paredes, but his name is in fact Edward Paredes and he is no longer stuck in the Dominican Republic. After missing the report date for the Indians, the non-roster invitee has made it to Arizona and will be in camp on Thursday.
  • Trevor Bauer will get a legitimate chance to make the rotation, said both GM Chris Antonetti and Francona on Wednesday. One day earlier, Bauer responded to even more criticism from D-backs catcher Miguel Montero.
  • The Indians released their promotional schedule, and there will be an Albert Belle bobblehead, and it will feature his famous biceps-pointing pose, from what I’ve been told.
  • Dice-K arrived in camp with a large Japanese media following, but nothing like what he experienced when he first came to the United States. Read about his comeback attempt on Indians.com.
  • Swisher has had an immediate impact on the clubhouse and atmosphere in camp. Read about it here.
  • Gomes is leaning toward not playing in the World Baseball Classic. Francona is hoping Chris Perez and Vinnie Pestano can maybe get some work in with the Indians during their training period with Team USA.
  • Matt LaPorta is feeling “a million times better” than he did last season.
  • MLB.com’s Zack Meisel fashioned this fine feature on Perez.
  • I will be posting photos on Twitter (@MLBastian) throughout the spring, and you can also find me now on Instagram (bastianmlb).

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

3 Comments

Pingback: While We’re Waiting… Fantastic Friday reads | WaitingForNextYear

Francona hiring was great and will mean a lot. Bourn’s signing is the cherry on the sundae but Swisher signing has got to be the biggest surprise this winter considering the roster of the team at the time.

superb post you gots here, thanks alot for making it available!

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