Results tagged ‘ Alex White ’

Red Cedar Faithful Rejoice!

tom-izzo.jpgThis has been a strange college basketball season for me and my fellow Michigan State fans and alums. Up is down. Down is up. The Spartans lived on the bubble.

I didn’t know what it was like to root for a program that might not make the NCAA tournament. I was actually pretty convinced MSU wasn’t going to get into the big dance this spring.

Naturally, it took until the end of the Selection Sunday show for the Spartans to find out that they did, in fact, get an invitation to the tournament this year. That’s 14 straight tourney appearances in a row!

I haven’t really followed the basketball season too much this year. Between heart-breaking loss after heart-breaking loss, and being busy with baseball, I just decided to take a step back and not let this season drag me down. But today I sported my Spartans hat and was thrilled when Tom Izzo and Gang Green from East Lansing got the nod.

Way to go, fellas. Now live up to your tourney rep!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I live in Ohio now. Time to stop rambling on here about my Big Ten school.

Well, hey, at least I ain’t rooting for Michigan. And, you know what? Big congrats to THE Ohio State University for getting the No. 1 overall seed. Well earned. And playing in Cleveland to start off? That should be a blast. Likewise, congrats to Akron on its tourney invite. Drawing Notre Dame IN Chicago is no easy task, though.

Can’t wait to fill out a few brackets.

But you didn’t come here to read about college basketball…

Sunday’s notes:

  • Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore took a major step Sunday morning in his recovery from microfracture surgery on his left knee. For the first time since the operation, Sizemore tested his knee with some baserunning. He said everything felt fine and he’s down to do more baserunning drills on Tuesday and possibly Thursday.
  • Following the two additional baserunning workouts, combined with more sprint and agility work, plus outfield drills and batting practice, Sizemore could be ready to play in games for the first time this spring. He said Saturday would be the earliest he might be able to get into a game. March 21 or March 22 at the latest, if all goes well. CLICK HERE for more.
  • Chatted with third baseman Jason Donald on Sunday morning about his left hand injury. He said he irritated the hand with a swing on Friday and an MRI exam on Saturday revealed a bone bruise. He is not allowed to swing a bat for three days. I’d say it’s at least another five days before he’s back in a game setting. Indians manager Manny Acta said “nothing has changed” with the third base situation. CLICK HERE for more.
  • Right-hander Joe Smith has not pitched since Wednesday and he was not listed to throw on either Sunday or Monday. He told me he’s been fighting upper abdominal soreness and that’s why he’s been out for a brief period here. Smith said, if all goes as planned, he hopes to be back on the hill by Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • Closer Chris Perez has been working on a changeup since late last season, but the right-hander is not satisfied with where he’s at with the new pitch. He said the changeup won’t be ready in time for the start of the season. At this point in camp, it’s time to focus on his two main weapons, the fastball and slider. Perez said right now he is concentrating on throwing his slider inside to lefties.
  • When Perez’s changeup is working properly, he said the idea is that the offspeed pitch would dive away from lefties, acting like a sinker. So far, the movement on the pitch has been inconsistent. He also said it is too “hard” at times, meaning there is not a big enough gap in mph between the fastball and changeup. Ideally, he said there should consistently be a 7-8 mph differential.
  • The Indians took it on the chin on Sunday, dropping a 7-2 decision to the Padres in Peoria in Cactus League play and losing 11-8 to the White Sox in a morning “B” game in Glendale. In the “B” game, Carlos Santana and Cord Phelps belted back to back homers. Hot-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall went 3-for-4. Pitching prospect Alex White allowed three runs in 2 2/3 innings.
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco worked three innings against San Diego, allowing three runs on six hits and ending with two strikeouts and one walk. He threw 54 pitches, including 36 strikes. Acta said he liked how Carrasco threw, but noted that the pitcher struggled with leaving a few breaking balls up in the strike zone.
  • Lefty David Huff had a rough (near) three-inning appearance against the Padres. More to the point, Huff was strong for two innings and then had his final frame fall apart on him. Overall, he allowed four runs (all in the seventh inning) on six hits in 2 2/3 innings. Acta said Huff has thrown “decent” this spring. Not a glowing endorsement for a guy vying for the fifth spot in the rotation.
  • Huff’s main competitors for that final starting job are Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez. Gomez is slated to pitch on Monday against the A’s. Ask me, and I’ll say Tomlin is the favorite to win the fifth spot right now. The field for the fifth spot will likely be narrowed by Acta in the next week.

Before I go…

The Indians media guide just didn’t seem accurate with a clean-shaven Chris Perez pictured on page 169. So I grabbed my black pen and corrected the issue.

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Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian).

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

Slowing things down

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Any team that has competition in camp deals with the same issue every year, especially when there are young players in the mix for jobs. Too often, inexperienced players will push things too hard during Spring Training in an effort to stand out and impress the manager and coaches.

Every year, the manager and coaches must emphasize slowing things down.

“It’s very early,” Indians manager Manny Acta said on Monday. “We talk to these guys and make sure that they don’t try to make the ballclub in the first workout. Every pitcher that is out there is not throwing the ball 100 percent and every player is not swinging the bat the way they’re probably capable of yet.

“We try to slow the kids down, especially the younger guys. We just try to make sure they don’t try to impress the coaches way too much and end up missing time.”

One thing the Indians have done since Acta has been the manager is hold a meeting with individual players before workouts officially start. The meeting is two-on-one — the GM is also in the room — and the goal is to go over expectations and roles for spring and the season ahead.

Acta does not want any of his players wondering where he stands in the organization’s eyes. Every player in camp right now has been told what is expected of them and the club has let certain players know they are legitimately competing for a job or they are in camp simply to gain experience.

“That’s why we have those two-on-one meetings,” Acta said. “Just about every one of those guys know where we stand right now. We are open minded, but I think those younger kids, they know which ones are really competing, trying to make the club, and which ones are soaking up the experience and learning from being around those other guys.

“We kind of laid the groundwork there in those meetings. It’s just tough at times for them not to try to do [push things]. It’s human nature, especially wen you’re new to somebody. If you come from Double-A or Triple-A and nobody up here has seen you, you want to really show what you’ve got. I don’t think the first day is the right day [to do that].”

Notes from Monday…

  • Siegal2.jpgCleveland native Justin Siegal became the first woman to throw BP to a Major League team when she did so for the Indians on Monday. She’ll do it again on Wednesday with the A’s. Siegal threw to a group of five Minor Leaguers and was then allowed to throw to big league catchers Paul Phillips, Lou Marson and Juan Apodaca. CLICK HERE for a story I wrote on Siegal for MLB.com
  • Acta noted that OF Trevor Crowe, who is in the mix for a backup outfield role with the Indians, is currently behind his teammates health-wise. Crowe had surgery on his right elbow over the winter and is still working to get his arm strength back to 100 percent. Acta said Crowe will miss “at least” the intrasquad games slated for Thursday and Friday.
  • Along the lines of the intro to today’s blog post, Acta noted on Monday that prospect Alex White is not competing for a spot in the Tribe’s rotation this spring. So even with a dynamite showing, expect White to head to Triple-A, where he has yet to log a single inning as a pro. White is definitely in the mix for a big league promotion this year, though.
  • Acta indicated that DH Travis Hafner was able to up his weight lifting over the winter, a sign that his right shoulder is holding up well right now. Even so, Acta plans on closely monitoring Hafner throughout spring and the upcoming season. Hafner will likely see days off against lefties here and there and Acta might give him other days off with the goal of keeping him fresh.
  • On days when Hafner is out of the lineup, Acta could use outfielder Austin Kearns as a right-handed DH. That said, Acta has made it clear that he values Kearns’ defense so much that he prefers to leave him in the outfield. That being the case, Shelley Duncan is in the mix as a righty DH and Carlos Santana, who switch hits, could see action as a DH from time to time this year as well.
  • Tuesday is (unofficially) Kenny Lofton Day here at the Indians’ complex. The former All-Star and Gold Glove winner is due to arrive for his week of serving as a guest instructor for the Tribe. Lofton will help with baserunning techniques and he’ll also lend a hand with Cleveland’s outfielders.
  • The Indians are scheduled to open their Cactus League schedule with exhibition games against the Reds on Sunday and Monday. Josh Tomlin will start on Sunday and Fausto Carmona will get the nod on Monday. Don’t read too much into who starts when right now. We can start getting into all those conspiracy theories later this spring. Tomlin is competing against Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes for the fifth rotation spot.
  • Pitchers slated to work in Thursday’s intrasquad game include Justin Masteron (starting), Tomlin (starting), Kelvin De La Cruz, Gomez, Nick Hagadone, Huff, Joe Smith, Doug Mathis and Drew Pomeranz.
  • Pitchers slated for Friday’s intrasquad tilt include Carlos Carrasco (starting), Mitch Talbot (starting), Josh Judy, Frank Herrmann, Laffey, Jensen Lewis, Yohan Pino, Reyes, Tony Sipp, Jess Todd, Zach McAllister, Joe Martinez, Bryce Stowell and Vinnie Pestano.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Acta was asked if it was important for the Indians to get off to a good start this season. He smiled. “We accomplished the good start last year,” Acta replied. “We went 2-1.”

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Photo of the day:

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Silhouette of OF Shin-Soo Choo heading to the batting cage

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Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian) and check out the “Jordan Bastian” fan page on Facebook for links to stories, blogs, photos and more.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

 

Peering into the future

Pomeranz2.jpgDrew Pomeranz was firing baseballs with his left hand and Alex White was doing the same with his right.

They were doing so next to one another on a row of mounds at the Indians player development complex on Thursday morning. The moment was not lost on Indians manager Manny Acta.

Especially considering pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryce Stowell were also in this particular group.

“That was fun,” Acta said with a smile. “I don’t know how they were able to put that group together, but it was beautiful to see those four guys. I was just talking to some of our coaches and I said, ‘This is it. This is the next wave right here.’ It’s exciting.”

Pomeranz (pictured to the left) was the Tribe’s top pick in the 2010 Draft. White was the same the year before. Hagadone was one of the prospects reeled in in the Victor Martinez trade with Boston and Stowell is an up-and-coming relief prospect who could see the bigs this year.

Watching them work on Thursday during the team’s first official workout of the spring was special for Acta.

“Alex White is knocking the door to being a very good pitcher up here,” said the manager, “and Pomeranz is going to be an impact guy. Hagadone, everybody knows how well he was thought of in the Boston system and in our system. Bryce Stowell has one of those power arms that you need in the American League.

“I know that there were no hitters standing up there, but those guys are going to be able to get guys out.”

White, 22 features three fastballs — four-seam, two-seam, cutter — along with a slider and a split. He said his focus for this spring and this season is to become more consistent and trusting with his offspeed pitches. White appears set to head to Triple-A with the possibility of seeing the Major Leagues later this summer.

“There’s a lot of things [to work on],” White said. “Consistency would be the biggest one. Consistency in my delivery and in my offspeed pitches. There’d be times where I had great offspeed pitches one night and there’d be times that I didn’t. I just want that consistency of having good stuff every time I go out.”

Pomeranz, also 22 years old, is listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds.

“He’s a big boy,” Acta said.

Pomeranz is the impact lefty that the Indians lack in their current rotation. He features a plus curve, four-seam and two-seam fastballs, and a changeup. He’s on a similar path as White was when he was Drafted. So expect Pomeranz to open with a Class A affiliate with the goal of possibly reaching as high as Double-A this year.

“I had my meeting with the coaches the other day,” Pomeranz said, “and they just talked about getting experience and learning stuff from all the guys [here in big league camp]. Obviously, a lot of these guys are successful people because they’re in the big leagues. Basically, I’m just being a student of the game here.”

Notes  from Thursday…

  • Acta1b.jpgAs things currently stand, the Indians could open with five right-handed pitchers in their rotation. Two lefty candidates for the fifth spot are David Huff and Aaron Laffey. Asked if in a perfect world he’d like to have a lefty in the rotation, Acta quipped, “In a perfect world, I would take five Roy Halladays.” So I asked, “What about three Docs and two CCs?” Acta laughed and replied, “Five Docs.”
  • Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) took part in some early batting practice on Thursday. Throwing to Sizemore? Indians media relations director Bart Swain. With his last swing of the session, Sizemore homered to the opposite field. Bart’s cutter needs a little more fine-tuning.
  • Acta said that first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. takes special care in matching pitchers with certain catchers during bullpen sessions during Spring Training. “It’s strategic,” Acta said. That’s why on Thursday, for example, Carlos Santana, and not someone like Minor League catcher Chun Chen, was behind the plate for White (a possible big leaguer this year).
  • Speaking of Chen, both GM Chris Antonetti and Acta have raved about him as a prospect. Beyond getting working on his defense behind the plate, though, Chen also needs to work on his English. “That’s very important for a catcher,” Acta said. Chen, a native of Taiwan, actually knows more Spanish than English right now.
  • Right now, the general thought is that the Indians rotation will be 1. Fausto Carmona, 2. Justin Masterson, 3. Mitch Talbot and 4. Carlos Carrasco, followed by the winner of the fifth starter competition. That said, Acta noted that the specific order behind Carmona “doesn’t matter” right now. So, come Opening Day, it’s not set in stone that it will be Masterson, Talbot and Carrasco occupying the Nos. 2-4 spots in that order.
  • Speaking of Carmona and Masterson, Acta foresees great things for them in 2011 (what else would you expect him to say, really?). He said he feels Carmona’s 2010 showing was nearly as impressive as his ’07 performance considering the offensive support. Acta also said he feels Masterson is on the cusp of a breakout year.
  • Acta has been singing and tweeting the praises of right-hander Carlos Carrasco ever since the manager arrived to Arizona. That did not change on Thursday, when the manager had this to say about the young starter: “He has the stuff to be one of the best guys in the American League, period.”
  • It seems like every year, just about every team holds a competition for the backup catching job during Spring Training. The Indians are no different this year. Acta made it clear that Lou Marson (the only rostered backup candidate) did not have a leg up on the other catchers in camp. Acta went as far as to say that Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips and Juan Apodaca were all in the mix for the backup role.
  • If Huff is going to win the fifth starter’s job, it sounds like he might have to have a fantastic spring showing. Acta said the Indians “aren’t giving up” on Huff (11-8 for the Tribe in ’09 and then 2-11 in ’10), but later in the discussion about the lefty, the manager added, “Peoples’ moods change with results. We need to see results.”

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Photo of the day:

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Big League Choo

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Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian) and check out the “Jordan Bastian” fan page on Facebook for links to stories, blogs, photos and more.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

Greetings from Goodyear

IndiansComplex.jpgThe unofficial start of Spring Training for me has always been the drive over the Courtney Campbell Causeway that runs over Tampa Bay. Water to my left and to my right. Palm trees all around. Baseball straight ahead.

I guess I’ve got to start establishing some new traditions now that I’m covering the Indians out here in the Arizona desert. The drive west on I-10 didn’t have the same feel as the causeway, but I certainly didn’t mind gazing out at all the mountains surrounding Phoenix.

I landed Saturday afternoon — a barking dog in my row on the plane made the trip feel much longer than it was — and reached my spring headquarters by about 3 p.m. local time. Of course, “reached” doesn’t mean I “got inside” my home for the next six weeks. Turns out, the rental company had a slight oversight. No keys were left for me.

Eventually I got into Casa de Bastian and everything is great. I got a decent enough rental car, my apartment is nice and the weather is gorgeous (I know, you didn’t need to hear that last part). This morning, I headed over to the Indians’ player development complex to check out the club’s digs. Man, what a great facility.

No offense, Dunedin. I loved being near the beach and you’re little Main Street was great. The ballpark had its good qualities, too. But, man, the complex the Indians have here in Goodyear is fantastic. Everything looks brandnew and having the Estrella Mountains as a backdrop is going to be a pleasure. I’m going to do some trail running up there, too.

But I digress…

It was quiet at camp this morning, which was expected. It’s Sunday and the last Sunday before Spring Training officially opens at that. Jason Donald dropped by for a bit, but there wasn’t a whole heckuva lot of activity going on today. Except inside the manager’s office, that is. Manny Acta was on hand, working hard.

Inside his office, there is a large whiteboard to the left with all the names listed of players in camp with the team. On the wall behind his desk hangs a picture of former Expos manager Felipe Alou. Along that wall is a minifridge. On top? A hat from a Dominican winter league team and a Cleveland Browns cap.

“Nice touch,” I said.

“Hey, I’m a Browns fan,” Acta said with a grin.

Chatted for a while with Acta about a wide variety of topics, but eventually we discussed this spring and the current roster. Acta has been in camp for about a week and he’s been pleasantly surprised with the high volume of players already on hand. Acta said morning stretch has looked like a normal spring workout due to so many players being here already.

On Saturday, center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) hit on the field for the first time since his injury and Acta said he looked great: “Like a kid with a new toy.” Acta added that Sizemore is not likely to be a full participant in outfield drills when full-squad workouts begin next weekend. Obviously, Sizemore will need to pass certain running and agility tests before being cleared for full outfield activity.

Acta raved about what he’s seen in bullpen sessions from Carlos Carrasco. The manager also had great things to say about what he’s seen from pitching prospect Alex White. Acta said he is also excited to see some of the young relief prospects — Vinnie Pestano, Josh Judy, Bryce Stowell and Zach Putnam, in particular — push for bullpen jobs.

In the infield, assuming Orlando Cabrera’s physical is fine and he does indeed sign with the Indians (the signing has not been officially confirmed by the club), he will be the front-runner in the competition at second base. The way I see it, Donald is the front-runner at third. If he can show he has the glove and arm to handle the hot corner, I believe it’s his job to lose. Acta noted again on Sunday how important strong defense will be at third base.

Asked if he had a favorite to win the third-base job, Acta chuckled and shook his head.

“No, no,” Acta said. “I don’t have a favorite.”

The only people I saw on the practice diamonds today were the groundskeepers, watering the grass and tending to the infield. There are sure to be players out there tomorrow and I’ll keep you up-to-date on all the goings on at camp. Be sure to be following me on Twitter (@MLBastian) and I will keep you posted in the coming days where I’ll be posting photos.

Stay tuned…

–JB

Prospecting

chisenhall_all-star_250_09.jpg‘Tis the season for ranking prospects and organizations. On Tuesday night, MLB.com unveiled its Top 50 Prospects list. Among those picked as baseball’s future stars was Indians third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall, who came in at 36th overall.

Chisenhall was the lone Cleveland representative on Minor League expert Jonathan Mayo’s Top 50 list. Had Mayo’s list included the Top 100 prospects in the game, Tribe farmhands such as second baseman Jason Kipnis, right-hander Alex White and leftyDrew Pomeranz would likely have made the cut.

Considering all the focus on the Indians’ youth and future core, and the attention that some of the club’s recent trades for packages of prospects has garnered, I asked fans over Twitter for their thoughts on having just one players named to the Top 50 list.

Here are a few of the responses I received…

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Needless to say, I was blown away by all the optimism and positive feedback! Oh, wait…

When considering MLB.com’s Top 50 list, though, @thinkkaz was one person who showed a solid understanding of where Cleveland’s system currently stands. There is good depth and many players on the cusp of reaching the big leagues, but the club lacks a pile of players that make the top-prospect-list-makers drool all over themselves.

Asking for a bunch of players to be thrown into the Top 50 is expecting a lot, too. Yes, I know the Royals had six on Mayo’s list and the Rays had four. But there were also four teams — I’m looking at you Mets, Marlins, Brewers and A’s — who had no players in the Top 50. The Indians were one of 14 teams with only one player on the list.

Rest assured, Tribe fans, the Indians’ farm system is in good shape. Sure, the jury is still out on the overall return of the CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee deals, but Cleveland’s Minor League system is widely considered one of the best in baseball. Last year’s Draft haul only added to that evaluation.

If you like going with Baseball America, then know that BA has the Indians ranked seventh in the 2011 organizational rankings (ESPN’s Keith Law disagreed, ranking them 17th). That’s the third year in a row that the Tribe has cracked BA’s Top 10 (third in 2010 and seventh in 2009). BA also rated the Indians’ 2010 First-Year Player Draft as the best in the game.

Maybe you’re not seeing the money being spent wildly on the Major League roster right now, but know that the Indians have shown a willingness to increase spending behind the scenes. The Draft provides one example. Consider that the Tribe shelled out $9.4 million in bonuses for the 2010 Draft class compared to $4.9 million the year before. For their top 10 picks in 2010, Cleveland went overslot by more than $3 million in order to sign all the selections.

So, yes, the Indians only had one player — Chisenhall, currently rated the second-best third base prospect by Mayo, and one of only two third basemen in his Top 50 — on Tuesday’s much-anticipated list. That said, the Indians could have at least three prospects (Chisenhall, Kipnis and White), probably more, impacting the Major League club in 2011.

In the end, shouldn’t that matter more right now?

–JB

Think warm thoughts

jacobs_field_snow_01.jpgCall me crazy, but I enjoy shoveling snow… which means I’ve been having a whole lot of fun over the past two days.

Maybe it’s because I missed out on all the shoveling over the last five years living in Toronto. No matter how high the piles got, life in a downtown condo did not require any outdoor maintenance on my part.

I’m also fortunate now to be living in Avon Lake, where we don’t get hammered with the real heavy stuff. I’ve had to shovel the driveway and sidewalks three times in the past 24 hours, so I can only imagine how much worse it is to the south and east of me. May God help you all as you try to bury yourself out of this latest snow storm.

Seemed to be good timing then when MLB announced the official Spring Training workout dates as the snow began to fall around Cleveland. For your Indians, the pitchers and catchers will begin workouts on Feb. 17 and the first full squad workout will be on Feb. 20. We’re almost a month away.

Today, the Tribe also unveiled the list of players who will be taking part in this year’s Winter Development Program. Those heading to Cleveland for the start of the two-week program will be outfielders Ezequiel Carrera and Chad Huffman; left-handers Nick Hagadone and Matt Packer; right-handers Corey Kluber, Chen-Chang Lee, Zach McAllister, Vinnie Pestano, Bryce Stowell and Alex White; and infielders Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Jared Goedert and Cord Phelps.

The program runs from Jan. 17-22 in Cleveland and then Jan. 23-29 in Goodyear, Ariz. The WDP includes classroom sessions with various coaches, conditioning drills, fundamental work, guest speakers and on-field activities. The players will also take part in community and charitable events while in Cleveland. The program is now in its 16th year after being orginally developed by Mark Shapiro, now the team president.

Obviously, Chisenhall, Kipnis and White will garner much of the attention this year. That said, there’s a considerable cast of players taking part who could be in the mix for jobs with the Tribe come Opening Day. Kipnis could be a candidate at second base, Phelps and Goedert might make a push for third, and Pestano and Stowell are potential bullpen options. Before the 2011 season is up, you might see plenty of these guys getting stints in The Show.

Other items on indians.com this week…

1. A feature on new GM Chris Antonetti

2. Cleveland unveils plans for “Tribe on Tour”

3. The latest Indians Inbox

4. Castrovince weighs in on recent Tribe trades

5. Indians rework season ticket prices

and…

6. Kearns added to roster; Brown designated  

One last thing.

Not sure how many of my new Indians Nation followers out there are runners. My leftover Toronto followers know that one of my “off-field” hobbies is running — training for marathons, specifically. I’ve run five full marathons dating back to October 2008 (Chicago in ’08 and ’09, Disney World in ’09, and Tampa and Philly in ’10). Right now, I’m planning on running the Cleveland full in May for my sixth. I’ve also challenged myself to run every day in 2011, no excuses. So far, so good (even out in the snow). For anyone interested in following my running exploits, I have a Twitter account dedicated to my ongoing training: @26point2. If that sounds horribly boring, forget I brought it up!

Stay tuned for more…

~JB

Its gold, Jerry! Gold!

Choo_Korea2.jpgShin-Soo Choo probably would’ve found a way out of his military service one way or another. But there was one sure-fire way to earn exemption: gold.

Well, consider that done.

On Friday, South Korea rode the S.S. Choo to a gold medal at the 16th annual Asian Games being held in China. The Koreans defeated the defending champs from Taiwan 9-3 and earned military exemption in the process.

According to Korean military regulations, athletes who capture gold at the Asian Games are exempt from 30 months of military conscription. The requirement is for all able-bodied men under 30 years of age.

Choo is 28 and entering his prime and he can now do so without the threat of military hanging over him. Had South Korea fallen short, Choo might’ve stayed in the U.S., applied for citizenship, but it would’ve made going home a big issue.

Choo used his bat to swing his way out of the obligation legitimately. All he did in the five wins for the South Koreans was hit .571 (8-14) with three homers, six walks, eight runs scored and 11 RBIs. In the gold medal game, he went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a stolen base.

Now maybe the focus can shift to trying to sign Choo — a Scott Boras client — to a long-term extension. The Indians obviously have their financial limitations, but wrapping Choo up is certainly a priority for the club. With those 30 months of military service off the table, however, the Tribe can proceed with more clarity.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Baseball America revealed its Top 10 Indians prospects earlier this week. The list is as follows: 1. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, 2. RHP Alex White, 3. 2B Jason Kipnis, 4. LHP Drew Pomeranz, 5. OF Nick Weglarz, 6. RHP Jason Knapp, 7. OF Levon Washington, 8. SS Tony Wolters, 9. RHP Joe Gardner, 10. LHP Nick Hagadone

GET ‘EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT…

Opening Day tickets (April 1 vs. White Sox) go on sale Monday at 2 pm ET. You can purchase them at indians.com, Indians Team Shops, 1-866-48-TRIBE and at Ticket Master Ticket Center locations. Single-game tickets for the entire 81-game home slate will go on sale at 10 am ET on Feb. 28.

–JB

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