Results tagged ‘ Chad Durbin ’

Breaking down the bullpen

After a few lovely days back in Ohio with the MLBastian Family, I’m back in Arizona. Apparently I brought a little Midwest back with me, though. Today was ugly and rainy and the Indians’ game against the Royals was canceled as a result.

Ah, but poor weather does not stop the rumor mill now does it?

Early Monday morning, a report surfaced that the Indians had placed right-handed reliever Jensen Lewis on waivers. Now, some of you out there have contacted me asking why Cleveland “waived” Lewis, which makes it sound like he was cut or released. That is something entirely different.

Now, I am not sitting here claiming to be an expert on all the nuances of the MLB waiver system. I’m still learning about the whole process, but after six years in baseball I’ve got a pretty good feel for the general way things work. News of Lewis being exposed to waivers is news in the sense that there was news that Lewis was exposed to waivers.

Confused?

What I mean is a lot of players are placed on waivers in the latter stages of Spring Training. Similarly, lots of players are run through waivers after the non-waiver July 31 Trade Deadline. It is a way to gauge interest in players, putting them temporarily up for grabs to other teams, but it does not always mean the players will be moved.

In Lewis’ case, I can’t confirm whether he was or was not placed on waivers. What I can tell you is that it would make sense if he was. He is having a rough spring and he is out of options. If a team puts in a claim, maybe a deal can be worked out. If there is no claim, then Lewis can be sent outright to the Minor Leagues.

For now, Lewis is very much a member of the Indians. Will he be in the Opening Day bullpen? Well, if he was indeed run through waivers, that could be an indication that it’s more likely he’s got a bus ticket to Triple-A Columbus in his future.

Let’s look at how the bullpen shapes up right now…

LOCKS: Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Chad Durbin, Tony Sipp

OPEN SPOTS: Three

OTHER CANDIDATES: Jensen Lewis, Joe Smith, Justin Germano, Frank Herrmann, Vinnie Pestano, Doug Mathis, Jess Todd

Smith is still fighting a strained upper abdominal muscle and appears doubtful for Opening Day. Lewis is out of options, but that issue might be in the process of being solved via the waiver situation. Lewis is still in the mix for an Opening Day spot, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that he’s more likely headed to Triple-A.

That would leave Germano, Herrmann, Pestano, Mathis and Todd for three spots (also assuming Smith won’t be ready). Germano and Mathis are in camp on Minor League deals, meaning someone would have to be removed from the 40-man roster for them to be added to the roster. Obviously, if Lewis is outrighted to the Minors (he can’t refuse such an assignment) that would vacate a roster spot.

Pestano seems to be a logical fit for the bullpen, especially if Smith isn’t ready to go. Indians manager Manny Acta raved about Germano on Monday and reiterated how important it is for the Indians to have a reliever or two capable of logging multiple innings. Germano, Herrmann and Mathis fit that mold.

Now is your time to play GM. With the current choices and situation, who would make your Opening Day bullpen for the Tribe?

For the rest of today’s news, check Indians.com.

–JB

“It’s Spring Training.”

Talbot2.jpgI know how some die-hard fans can get at this point in Spring Training.

We’re about midway through camp, so it seems like a good time to study the box scores and see what jumps out. If somebody isn’t hitting well, or so and so is getting lit up on the mound, panic buttons start getting pushed.

I am here to once again talk you off the ledge. It is only Spring Training. Don’t believe me? Take it from Indians manager Manny Acta then…

“It’s Spring Training,” Acta said.

See?

Do you feel better now?

No? That 17.55 ERA for Mitch Talbot is still eating at you? How about we turn the mic over to Mr. Acta again…

“It is Spring Training,” Acta repeated, “and he’s got a spot on the club and he’s just getting himself ready.”

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s get one thing clear. If Talbot were fighting for the fifth spot in the rotation, he might be in trouble. But that’s not his situation. He won 10 games a year ago as a rookie for a team that lost 93. So Acta believes Talbot has earned the right to open this season as one of the five starters.

That said, it is certainly worth pointing out that Talbot is out of player options. What that means is the right-hander would need to be exposed to waivers — up for grabs by other pitching-starved clubs — before he could be sent to the Minor Leagues. Cleveland is not going to mess with that scenario. It needs all the depth it can get.

The other thing to keep in mind is a player’s mind-set when he knows he has a spot guaranteed on the Opening Day roster. Spring Training is no longer a time to come out fighting. It is suddenly a time to work on things. Don’t like how that pitch is moving? Keep throwing it until you get it right — no matter the results.

So, yes, Talbot has allowed 14 runs (13 earned) on 15 hits, including three home runs, in just 6 2/3 innings with four walks and two strikeouts. But he will be on the 2011 Cleveland Indians Opening Day roster whether that pitching line makes you panic or not. He’ll likely have three more starts to sort out his current flaws.

And by saying all of this, I am certainly not saying that Acta and the rest of the Indians brass would not like to see better results. Of course they would.

“Obviously, we want to see him throw more strikes,” Acta said. “That’s what he’s working on.”

For Acta, the most discouraging development in all of this — Talbot isn’t alone in this, either — is the fact that a few pitchers have logged fewer innings that originally planned. On Friday, Talbot was originally down to pitch four frames against the Mariners, but his rough three-inning showing forced the Tribe to cut his outing short.

That’s “the only thing that bothers me a little bit about these type of outings,” Acta said.

Other notes from Friday…

  • The roster received its first trimming on Friday morning, when Drew Pomeranz, Nick Hagadone, Bryce Stowell, Kelvin De La Cruz, Jared Goedert, Corey Kluber, Hector Rondon and Chun Chen each cleaned out their lockers. The Indians now have 54 players in camp. There are 29 cuts to go.
  • General manager Chris Antonetti raved about Pomeranz’s poise on the mound and said it was made clear that the young lefty’s fastball “can play” on the big league stage. Antonetti said Pomeranz will likely open the year with Class A Kinston. Pom Wonderful’s curveball has looked sharp, so the goal this season is to further develop his changeup.
  • Antonetti noted that Hagadone is still being stretched out as a starter, but the organization has yet to determine whether he will spend the bulk of this season in a rotation or working out of a bullpen. The GM said the team will make a decision on Hagadone’s role later in camp. Antonetti was impressed with Hagadone’s fastball command and his “above-average” breaking ball.
  • Stowell had some serious command issues early on this spring, but Antonetti said there was nothing physically wrong with the hard-throwing righty. Command is actually the biggest area that Stowell needs to developn. The GM noted that Stowell “didn’t demonstrate that arm strength in Spring Training that he’ll have during the course of the season, but that’s not really a concern.”
  • First baseman/designated hitter Nick Johnson arrived in camp on Friday. He also had stitches removed from his surgically-repaired (four times) right wrist in the morning. He said there is no timetable for his return, but Antonetti noted that the goal is to hopefully have Johnson in Minor League games some time in April. Right now, Johnson said he will work toward regaining his range of motion and “getting the stiffness out” of the wrist.
  • Johnson’s in camp in a Minor League deal. If he makes the Major League roster, his salary jumps to $750K. The Indians have a $2.75 million club option for 2012, but only if Johnson is selected to the Major League roster. Johnson’s deal also has another $1.75 million in incentives for the 2012 season.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes (elbow soreness) completed a 31-pitch live batting practice session on Friday morning. In all, including his time in the bullpen, Reyes estimated he threw around 60 pitches. He threw all of his pitches and reported no issues. Acta said Reyes will throw a bullpen session Sunday with the goal of appearing in his first spring game on Tuesday.
  • It remains to be seen if the Indians have enough time to stretch Reyes out in time for Opening Day. It just doesn’t seem possible, though. Said Antonetti: It’s hard to say. With where we are in the calendar, it would be really close at this point. So I’m not sure from a volume standpoint how quickly we could progress him to five or six innings.”
  • Center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) was at the plate during Reyes’ live BP session. He took 10 swings, fouling off four, missing two, sending one off the wall in left and another up the middle on the ground. Sizemore also took part in regular batting practice prior to the session with Reyes.
  • Acta continued to rave about how Sizemore has looked swinging a bat. Cleveland is simply waiting for Sizemore to get up to speed — pun intended — with his running. If everything goes according to plan, Sizemore will likely begin running bases on Sunday. It is possible that playing in games could come next week.
  • Outfielder Chad Huffman had been out with a strained right hamstring, but he made it back into a game on Friday against the Mariners. That’s a good thing, because Huffman is trying to work his way into the picture as a serious contender for an Opening Day roster spot. Given the makeup of the roster, he is likely up against Shelley Duncan for a corner outfield/first base/right-handed DH role off the bench.
  • Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin made his Cactus League debut for the Indians in the fourth inning of Friday’s game against Seattle. He didn’t allow any hits in his lone inning of work, but a walk came back to bite him. Durbin walked Dustin Ackley, who later came around to score on a sacrifice fly. Ain’t that always the way.
  • Two more small items before I go. 1) The Indians signed Carlos Santana, Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez to contracts for the 2011 season. Every 40-man roster player is under contract for this year now. 2) Outfielder Jordan Brown will not be with the team this weekend. He is attending to a family situation.

In closing, to stick with the theme of today’s blog lead, this is for all the fans drooling over themselves in light of prospect Lonnie Chisenhall’s .478 spring batting average and demanding he be promoted now. A couple days ago, Chisenhall showed great maturity in saying, “It’s only 20 at-bats.” He knows it’s only Spring Training, too.

Here’s what Antonetti had to say about it today: “We’ve been very encouraged by what Lonnie’s done in camp. But, we try to be mindful of a guy’s history coming in, and the opinions of our scouting and player development people based upon their entire body of work with him, and not just evaluate it off 25 Major League Spring Training at-bats.”

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. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

Pom[eranz] Wonderful

Pomeranz2.jpgMike Pomeranz felt it was time to teach his son how to throw a curveball. Not just any curve, either. It was a spike curve, thrown with the index finger bent and dug into the seams.

So Mike began showing his boy Stuart how to use the signature pitch, one that the elder Pomeranz used in high school and as a collegiate pitcher at Ole Miss.

Stuart’s little brother didn’t want to be left out.

“My dad started showing my brother,” Indians lefty Drew Pomeranz said on Sunday. “Of course, the four-year-younger brother wants to do it, too.”

Mr. Pomeranz obliged, teaching Stuart and also 11-year-old Drew how to fire off the sharp breaking pitch.

Stuart Pomeranz developed into a second-round Draft pick for the Cardinals (2003) and is entering his seventh pro season. Drew eventually became the fifth overall selection in the first round of the 2010 Draft, grabbed by the Tribe.

On Sunday, Drew Pomeranz made his second appearance of the spring for Cleveland, working two shutout innings in a 3-1 loss to Colorado. The 6-foot-5 southpaw struck out three, allowing no walks and no hits.

That curveball? It was making hitters look silly.

“Me and Belch were talking about it,” said Indians manager Manny Acta, referring to pitching coach Tim Belcher. “When it’s not for a strike, guys won’t even swing at it, because it’s so sharp with a tight rotation. The breaking ball is very impressive.”

Pomeranz was able to cruise through the college ranks at University of Mississippi primarily using his hard fastball and spike curve. Maybe once or twice a start he’d flip a changeup over just to keep hitters honest. He mainly got by on just two pitches, though.

That will be the difference this year for the 22-year-old Pomeranz. In the pros, having a third pitch is important and that is what the Indians want him to focus on throughout the upcoming season. Pomeranz will likely open the year with a Class A affiliate and Double-A could be reached before the end of the year.

That nasty breaking ball could be in the bigs as soon as 2012.

Notes from Sunday…

  • RHP Justin Masterson didn’t have the best outing on Sunday, but he was pleased with the improvement in his sinker and with his ability to consistently repeat his delivery. I can’t emphasize enough that results this early do not hold the most importance, especially for a pitcher who knows he has a spot on the team. Masterson’s line: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP.
  • 3B prospect Lonnie Chisenhall continued on his early tear, going 2-for-4 with a long homer to right field in Sunday’s loss to the Rockies. He’s now hitting .467 for the spring and he’s looked solid at the hot corner. Could Chisenhall make the Opening Day roster? Hey, anything is possible. But know that he’s been told that he’s heading to the Minors to open the season. He’s in camp for experience.
  • Spoke with 3B Jason Donald at the Indians complex this morning and he said the swelling in his left hand (still wrapped) had gone down. Donald was hit by a pitch on the hand on Saturday, but X-rays came back negative. He is scheduled to take part in Monday’s workout and could be available again for games as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • OF Michael Brantley has been out of the lineup for the past three games, but Acta told me it’s nothing to be too concerned about. Brantley has “lower body soreness” and was given a few days off. No one would be more specific than that. Head athletic trainer cited general knee and hamstring soreness. He could be back in the lineup on Monday or Tuesday.
  • Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin has thrown a couple of bullpen sessions and he is getting closer to being ready for games. Before he makes his Cactus League debut, the veteran right-hander will pitch in a “B” game against the Reds on Tuesday. The game will be at Cleveland’s complex at 9:30 am local time.
  • RHP Anthony Reyes threw off a mound in a bullpen session on Sunday morning and Acta said there were no issues with the elbow soreness that plagued him earlier in camp. Reyes threw 36 pitches in a session that lasted about eight minutes. He will need to work through a couple more bullpens before being cleared for games, Acta said.
  • UTIL Shelley Duncan was in the lineup Sunday as a left fielder one day after making his spring debut, serving as a first baseman. Duncan said the strained back muscle is no longer an issue and noted that he felt “normal” while swinging. Duncan is competing for a job as a LF/1B/DH. Chad Huffman is also in that mix.
  • Acta said he will not have one person in mind as a DH for days when Travis Hafner is not in the lineup this season. The manager plans on cycling a few players in and out of the DH spot to provide days of rest from playing the field. That would be helpful for guys like Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore, who are returning from knee issues. Against tough lefties, Acta might go with a right-handed option like Duncan or Huffman, depending on who makes the club.
  • RHP Jeanmar Gomez, who is in the running for the fifth rotation job, allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings in his outing on Saturday. Acta said Gomez’s velocity and pitch movement were good, but his control was not there like usual. RHP Josh Tomlin and LHP David Huff are also vying for that fifth spot.
  • Indians closer Chris Perez is human. I may have jinxed him in a previous blog post by saying he has been turning in “boring” outings. My bad. Against the Rockies, Pure Rage allowed one run on two hits with one walk.
  • OF Trevor Crowe (right rotator cuff soreness) said Sunday morning that he was scheduled to meet with Dr. Mark Schickendantz on Monday to be re-evaluated. If everything goes according to plan, Crowe said he hopes to resume a throwing program next week.
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco should be back with the team on Monday, according to Acta. Carrasco has been in Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Congrats. Fatherhood is a blast.

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. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

Waiting to exhale

Santana5.jpgThere were a few gasps here in the Goodyear Ballpark pressbox during today’s first inning, when Indians catcher Carlos Santana tried to score on a close play at the plate.

Santana singled with two outs off Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley and then was off and running on an opposite-field single by Travis Hafner. In left field, L.A.’s Tony Gwynn Jr. booted the ball, opening the door for Santana to go to third.

Santana took things up a noth and bolted around third and headed toward the plate. The throw from left beat him and catcher Rod Barajas was planted as Santana came barreling in.

Indians manager Manny Acta held his breath.

“That’s the first reaction,” Acta said.

Not to mention, it was Santana who had his left knee seriously injured in a collision at the plate last August. Boston’s Ryan Kalish slid into Santana, who went on to have knee surgery as a result. Fortunately for the Indians, Santana is back at 100 percent with no restrictions.

The play in the first also showed he is back without any hesitation, too.

“He was more than willing to go,” Acta said, “and show that he had no fear. That’s good.”

The part that wasn’t good? The headfirst slide into the plate. Santana dove forward, trying to get a hand on the plate — close to wear Barajas’ left foot was firmly planted. It was a dangerous decision so early in Spring Training. Ezequiel Carrera slid headfirst into home in the seventh, too. It is a technique that the Tribe does not encourage.

“It’s something that we preach against,” Acta said. “I think that 30 Major League clubs preach against that, but it’s such an instinctive play. Even when we covered that the other day in our baserunning lecture, guys will still go and do it. Both guys got an earful.”

Santana was ruled out. But he got up, brushed himself off and recovered fine. For a moment, it was a scary play for the Indians. Santana will be a critical part of any success the club hopes to have during the coming campaign.

There were lots of notable things in camp today, so let’s get to it.

Notes from Tuesday…

  • The Indians learned late Monday that outfielder Austin Kearns was arrested near Lexington, Ky., on charges of driving under the influence back on Feb. 12. Kearns arrived in camp around Feb. 16 or so and did not alert the team of the situation. Kearns spoke about the matter on Tuesday and indicated that he was advised not to inform the team. A source told me Kearns originally wanted to tell the club what happened at the time of his arrest, but he acted on the advice of his attorney. No matter how you slice it, this was an unfortunate situation. Kearns met with GM Chris Antonetti and Acta on Tuesday morning to talk things over. CLICK HERE for more on Indians.com.
  • I’ve reported all spring that it was unlikely that center fielder Grady Sizemore (microfracture surgery on his left knee in June) would be ready in time for Opening Day with the Indians. Antonetti had not said as much until Tuesday, when he admitted that Sizemore was unlikely to be recovered by April 1. Sizemore is still working through sprint and agility tests and taking batting practice. He has yet to run the bases or really test his legs by changing direction while running. No outfield drills yet. Needless to say, there are still a number of tests he needs to pass before being cleared for any type of game action.
  • Guess who arrived at the Indians’ complex this morning? Hint: he had a Phillies equipment bag in his locker. Yes, the reported deal for Chad Durbin finally came to fruition on Tuesday. Durbin is officially a member of the bullpen on a one-year deal worth $800,000. Who is getting the boot from the 40-man roster? We don’t know just yet. I’d expect that announcement to come on Wednesday.
  • There could be another new face in camp soon, too. As of Tuesday evening, the Indians were close to signing free-agent Nick Johnson to a Minor League deal with a spring invite. He would likely act as insurance behind Matt LaPorta at first base. He also has experience as a DH. This looks mostly like a depth move on the surface. I wouldn’t expect this to become official right away. Johnson underwent two surgeries on his right wrist last year and has a long history of injury. That means an extensive physical process before the Tribe would comfirm a possible signing.
  • The list of Indians players who are banged up keeps growing. Acta noted on Tuesday that utility man Shelley Duncan was “dinged up” after pulling a muscle in his back while swinging a bat in batting practice last week. Duncan has been held out of games and will likely remain out for the next few days.
  • More updates on the walking wounded. Antonetti noted that outfielder Trevor Crowe (rotator cuff soreness) would likely be cleared to resume throwing “shortly.” It’s still a no-go for righty Anthony Reyes, though. Reyes is out with right elbow soreness and Antonetti said there is still no timetable for his return to a throwing program.
  • An interesting item worth noting is that, until Tuesday, Acta has maintained all spring that the outfield would be Kearns in left, Michael Brantley in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right in the event that Sizemore was not ready for Opening Day. Acta has changed his tune some. The manager even suggested that the Indians might consider a platoon situation in left field.
  • Choo had the day off from the starting lineup on Tuesday, but he replaced Hafner as the DH midway through the game. The plan was for Choo (sore left elbow) to throw from 120 feet on Tuesday. He’ll take Wednesday off from playing and there is a chance he’ll make his spring debut in right field as early as Thursday.
  • Oh, hey, a game took place on Tuesday. The Indians beat the Dodgers, 2-1, but we don’t care about the final score, remember? What does matter is that righty Carlos Carrasco logged two shutout innings, as did lefty David Huff. Carrasco’s is in the rotation and Huff is trying to harness the magic of his Samurai-warrior-slaying-the-three-headed-dragon tattoo to win the fifth spot. Huff retired all six hitters he faced and struck out the side in the fifth. Closer Chris Perez logged one scoreless inning of work.
  • Carrasco said he did not throw any curves because he never fell into a count where he would use that pitch. He stuck with fastballs, changeups and sliders. Carrasco said he has been working hard on his slider this spring. Last year, it acted more like a cutter. Now, he says there is a harder late break with the pitch.
  • Up next: Indians head to Phoenix to take on the A’s. Justin Masterson is slated to start and Doug Mathis, Vinnie Pestano, Drew Pomeranz, Zach Putnam, Joe Smith and Jess Todd are also down to appear. Names circled on the travel sheet: Carlin, Chen, Phillips, Brown, Chisenhall, Everett, Hafner, LaPorta, Nix, Hannahan, Kipnis, Phelps, Valbuena, Brantley, Buck, Huffman and Carrera.
  • I have postponed the weekly Inbox until tomorrow. A lot has happened in the past few days, so I’m sure you all have questions. If you want to have a shot at being included, send any Indians inquiries to IndiansInbox@gmail.com with your name and hometown.

That’s all for today…

…but that was plenty, right?

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. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.

–JB

Fausto goes first

You know what happens when you assume? Well, not much if the assumption at hand was that Indians starter Fausto Carmona was going to be on the bump come Opening Day.

It had not been officially announced by Cleveland, but it seemed a pretty safe bet that the plan was to give the ball to Carmona when the Tribe opens the season against the White Sox on April at Progressive Field. As any reporter knows, though, even if the question seems dumb or the answer appears obvious, you still have to ask.

So we did. And guess what?

“That’s a good assumption,” Indians manager Manny Acta said with a smile. “Yeah, he’s our Opening Day starter. He deserves that.”

It was so good of an assumption, in fact, that Carmona said he hadn’t been informed that he was in the plans for Opening Day. He’ll find out soon enough. Carmona would be the first Opening Day starter for the Indians not named CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee or Jake Westbrook since 2002, when Bartolo Colon made his third straight Opening Day start for Cleveland.

On Monday, Carmona turned in his first outing of Spring Training. In two innings against the Reds, he allowed no runs on one hit with one strikeout and one walk. Carmona tallied 29 pitches, including 22 for strikes.

Other notes from Monday…

  • Right fielder Shin-Soo Choo spent the day as the designated hitter for the Indians due to the mild soreness in his left elbow. He went 1-for-3 with an RBI single to left field. Prior to the game, Choo threw up to a distance of 105 feet and then took part in some fundamental drills, even making a couple throws, according to Acta. Choo said his arm felt great and the plan is to build up to 120 feet on Tuesday. Acta said Choo would DH one more day and then would likely have a day off on Wednesday. That means Choo could be back in right field for the Indians as early as Thursday, when the team heads to Surprise to take on the Rangers.
  • Center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) went through his usual rehab routine on Monday. The outfielder took part in batting practice and then did some sprint and agility drills. Acta said Sizemore did not add any new elements to his workout. There is still no established timetable for Sizemore’s Cactus League debut.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes said on Monday that his elbow soreness is not considered uncommon for a pitcher coming back from Tommy John surgery. He hasn’t thrown in a few days and he’s shut down for the time being, but Reyes said his arm feels better now than it did when he arrived in camp. Reyes is hoping to compete for the fifth spot in Cleveland’s rotation. Right now, though, he does not know when he’ll gain clearance to resume throwing.
  • Outfielder Travis Buck had a strong day for the Indians on Monday, going 3-for-3 with three runs scored and one RBI. He drove himself in with a towering home run to right field that landed atop the roof above the patio. Given the current injuries to Sizemore and Trevor Crowe, Buck will get a serious look for a bench role. “Very much so,” Acats said. “Travis has always been an interesting guy. This organization has liked him for a while.”
  • Also impressing early has been outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, who went 1-for-3 on Monday after launching a homer on Sunday. Carrera has been praised for his defense, but the Tribe wanted to see more from his bat this spring. So far, so good. That said, he’s still “depth” according to Acta. Translation: A few more things would have to happen for Carrera to really put himself into the Opening Day picture.
  • After Carmona’s outing, righty Jeanmar Gomez entered in relief and logged two innings for the Indians. Gomez allowed two hits, but escaped without allowing any runs. He finished with one strikeout. Gomez is competing against Josh Tomlin, David Huff and Aaron Laffey for the fifth spot.
  • This morning, I asked prospect Jason Kipnis about his unique stance. Prior to shifting into his ready position for swinging, he holds the bat relaxed and flat behind him, nearly parallel to the ground. It’s a style former players like Cal Ripken Jr. and Mickey Tettleton used. He said he began trying it midway through last season. He was cycling through various stances in an effort to find a comfort zone. He finally settled on this one, which he feels helps him keep his swing mechanics sound. Hey, whatever works. On Monday, Kipnis launched a homer in Cleveland’s 12-0 route of the Reds.
  • It seems worth noting that prospect Jared Goedert manned first base for a bit during Monday’s game. Goedert is a third baseman by trade, but if he winds up back at Triple-A Columbus to start the season, that spot will likely be occupied by top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall. Goedert might need to play first at Triple-A in order to maximize his playing time. Chisenhall and Jack Hannahan got all the innings at third on Monday.
  • This morning, upon seeing the starting lineup, Luis Valbuena smiled wide and said, “Yes, I made it in the lineup.” Valbuena got the nod at shortstop for Monday’s game and went 1-for-2 with one run scored. Valbuena has been discussed for third base, but his best route to the Opening Day roster will be as a utility player. He’s got competition in guys such as Jayson Nix, Adam Everett and Hannahan.
  • Highlight of the day? In the first inning, Fred Lewis (I had fun covering him last year in Toronto) sent a pitch from Carmona tailing toward the left-field line. Looked like a sure double. That was until Chad Huffman, who is trying to win a bench job with the Indians, made an all-out, head-first, horizontal diving catch to rob Lewis of extra bases.
  • Still no official welcoming for newly-signed relief pitcher Chad Durbin. The move is not officially complete, likely due to the process involved in making the subsequent roster move to vacate a spot on the 40-man roster. So, same as I said yesterday, I’d expect the Durbin signing to be officiall announced tomorrow.
  • Tomorrow’s pitchers against the Dodgers will include Carlos Carrasco (starting), Kelvin De La Cruz, Huff, Doug Mathis, Zach McAllister and Chris Perea. Pitchers down to throw in bullpen sessions include Mitch Talbot, Alex White and Josh Tomlin.

That’s all for today…

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. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.

–JB

The kids are all right

It’s the same story every spring. The regulars get their work in during the early innings of exhibition games and the fate of the game is handed to players with uniform numbes that reach into ths 70s and 80s.

Sunday’s opener against the Reds was no different. For Cincinnatti, No. 77 launched one in a series of back-to-back homers in the eighth inning. For Cleveland, No. 76 went 2-for-2 with two doubles and an RBI. No. 65 belted the Tribe’s first homer of the Cactus League season. Overall, two runs were scored in the first six innings and 11 in the final three.

“That’s what usually happens in camp,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “You win a lot of games in Spring Training when you have a good farm system and agood Triple-A team, because the regulars, they usually just play four or five innings at the beginning and then they get out of there.

“Then, those guys are the ones who pick up the game and usually end up making things happen for you.”

Sunday’s star at the plate for the Tribe was that No. 76: Lonnie Chisenhall. He hit a laser of a double to right field in the seventh and added one to the left-center gap in the ninth. No. 65 — outfielder Ezequiel Carrera — did him one better in the seventh with a two-run homer to right field, marking the first blast of the spring for Cleveland.

Notes from Sunday…

  • You’ll quickly learn that I don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on the final score of Spring Training games. Neither should you. But, no matter what I say, there are still those diehards who want to know how the local nine fared. Well, the Tribe dropped the opener to the Redlegs, 7-6.
  • Chatted some this morning with Shin-Soo Choo, who said an MRI on his left elbow revealed no structural damage. He threw from 90 feet with no issues on Sunday and will advance to 120 feet Monday and 150 feet Tuesday. Wednesday might be a day off. He could be back in right field as early as Thursday. Choo is expected to be in the lineup as a DH on Monday.
  • Acta recently dubbed Anthony Reyes a “sleeper” in the competition for the vacancy at the back end of the rotation. Turns out Reyes has been a bit inactive lately. Acta told me Reyes is fighting some right elbow soreness — yes, the same elbow that needed Tommy John in 2009 — and he is not throwing right now. Acta said there is no timetable right now for when Reyes will be back on a mound. That said, Acta also noted that Reyes had his elbow examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who performed the pitcher’s TJ surgery, and there was no structural damage in the joint.
  • Add second baseman Orlando Cabrera to the list of players who are a little beat up right now. Acta noted that OC’s right elbow strength is not at 100 percent right now, but the manager said there is no concern. Cabrera played in Sunday’s game. Quoth the manager: “He’s a veteran guy and he knows what to do to get himself in shape. His throwing arm is not in complete shape yet. He’ll be fine.”
  • Two of the contenders for the open fifth spot logged some time on the mound against the Reds on Sunday. Josh Tomlin started and turned in two shutout innings, striking out one and creating five outs via grounders. Aaron Laffey worked one shutout frame with one hit allowed. Acta said Laffey only went one inning due to the need to get relievers in the game in the later frames as well.
  • A few bullpen arms got in some work Sunday, too. Closer Chris Perez worked the third inning in order to face some of the Reds’ regular hitters. He gave up one hit and no runs. Joe Smith worked one shutout inning. Jensen Lewis allowed one unearned run in his inning on the bump. Doug Mathis turned in a shutout frame as well.
  • As for that unearned run tacked on Lewis’ line, it came on a deep fly ball to left field off the bat of Jay Bruce. Indians left fielder Travis Buck lost the ball in the sun and was unable to make the catch. Not much else to say about that. It was bright out there today.
  • The Indians made sure to show rememberance for the late, great Bob Feller prior to Sunday’s spring opener. His No. 19 was painted into the grass in front of the Tribe’s dugout and displayed on a patch on the team’s right sleeves. Beyond the left-center wall was a banner with his number and the phrase, “Always In Our Hearts.” Cleveland also showed a tribute video on the scoreboard before the game.
  • For Monday’s game at Goodyear Ballpark against the Reds, Fausto Carmona will get the nod for Cleveland. Also down to pitch are Jeanmar Gomez, Rafael Perez, Frank Herrmann, Tony Sipp, Justin Germano, Josh Judy and Nick Hagadone.
  • When asked if RHP Chad Durbin made it into camp, Acta replied, “Who?” All joking aside, Durbin was likely in camp on Sunday for a physical to complete his signing. I’d expect the Indians to officially announce the one-year deal on Monday.
  • Catcher Carlos Santana caught two innings and had one plate appearance on Sunday and he reported no issues with his surgically-repaired left knee. At the time of his injury last August, Santana said he thought he might miss one or two years. He said he is extremeles excited about how well his knee has recovered. He’ll be back behind the plate on Tuesday, according to Acta.

Finally…

  • First, apologies for no photos on the blog post today. Not sure why the system wouldn’t let me post any. Technical difficulties. Second, if you haven’t checked out Castrovince’s latest blog post, diving into the Indians’ media guide, CLICK HERE to check it out. An entertaining read.

That’s all for today…

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. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.

–JB

Shin-Soo Boom…

ChooFence.jpgJaws were dropping all around the batting cage on Field 1 this morning. The reason? Shin-Soo Choo was flat-out putting on a show.

It began with three straight homers to deep right field. Then in his next round, he sent baseballs arcing over the tall left-field fence, showing how easily he can go oppo.

Pitch after pitch. Homer after homer. It became comical how easy he was making it look. And how small the diamond suddenly seemed.

“Wow,” said Indians shortstop Asdrubal, standing nearby. “What’s wrong with you today?”

Cabrera then walked over and grabbed Choo’s bat.

“Let me see that,” Cabrera said.

The next round? Same thing. It was a regular Home Run Derby on the field designed to the exact dimensions as Progressive Field. Choo even found a way to punctuate his impressive display.

With his smooth left-handed stroke, Choo sent a BP offering slicing from right-center back to center. That’s where it crashed into the towering screen that stands behind the fence. The baseball bounced off a panel and then got lodged high on the screen (see photo), probably a little more than 30 feet above the ground.

“And you said you wanted to bunt more?” Orlando Cabrera said to Choo with a stunned look.

Notes from Saturday…

  • Choo obviously looked fantastic during today’s BP bomb show, but truth be told, the Indians star right fielder is nursing a sore left elbow. Indians manager Manny Acta said the discomfort is not considered serious, but the team wants to keep Choo out of the field for a couple of days. Choo will sit out Sunday’s spring opener, but will likely be in the lineup as a designated hitter for Monday’s Cactus League tilt against the Reds.
  • Sunday’s lineup for the opener against Cincinnati: 1. Michael Brantley, CF, 2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, 3. Carlos Santana, C, 4. Travis Hafner, DH, 5. Austin Kearns, RF, 6. Orlando Cabrera, 2B, 7. Matt LaPorta, 1B, 8. Travis Buck, LF, 9. Jason Donald, 3B. RHP Josh Tomlin, SP.
  • Following Tomlin on the mound for the Indians (subject to change) will be Aaron Laffey, Jensen Lewis, Doug Mathis, Chris Perez, Yohan Pino, Zach Putnam, Joe Smith, Alex White. Monday’s pitchers (subject to change): Fausto Carmona (SP), Justin Germano, Jeanmar Gomez, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, Josh Judy, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Bryce Stowell. Tomlin and Laffey are competing for the rotation’s fifth spot.
  • Indians owner Larry Dolan was on Field 1 chatting with some players and taking in some batting practice on Saturday. “I wanted to come here and talk to the players,” he said. “It’s good for them to know the owner is involved.” Dolan has dinner with members of the front office and the coaching staff on Friday night. He was only in town for a couple days, but plans on returning to Arizona to check in on the team later this spring.
  • Acta said it has already been noticeably different this year without Indians great Bob Feller walking around camp. Feller passed away at the age of 92 in December. As part of Sunday’s pregame ceremonies, the Indians will play a Feller tribute video. His No. 19 will also be painted into the grass in front of the Indians dugout.
  • Followed up again today with outfielder Trevor Crowe, who is fighting a sore right rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. Crowe has been shut down from throwing and hitting. He yet to meet with the Indians training staff to discuss a possible timetable for returning to baseball actitivities. “For me to make the team,” Crowe said, “I have to be on the field.” Right now, his focus is on getting healthy, not on competing for a job. As for the potential for surgery? “We haven’t crossed that bridge yet,” Crowe said. Surgery is a last-resort option at this point.
  • Center fielder Grady Sizemore continued with his every-other-day running program on Saturday, doing some more light sprinting and agility work. There is still no established timetable for Sizemore’s return to game action.
  • If Sizemore and Crowe are unable to be ready in time for Opening Day, the Indians’ depth in center will take a hit. Acta noted that Travis Buck can man all three outfield spots. So can Kearns, if necessary. Seems like Buck might have a good shot at pushing for a roster spot if Crowe is unable to get back on the field soon.
  • Minor Leaguer Ezequiel Carrera can also play center and he is currently in camp. Here’s what Acta had to say about him: “He’s a terrific defensive player. A lot of people compare him defensiely to Endy Chavez, who is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. We’ve seen him in the workouts and he can flat-out go get them out there. We’ve just got to see his bat come around.”
  • The Indians have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with righty Chad Durbin, who will likely be in camp Sunday for a physical. An announcement could come Sunday or Monday. Durbin would have a spot in Cleveland’s bullpen, eliminating one of the available jobs this spring.
  • As things currently stand, the bullpen has locks in Chris Perez, Rafael Perez and Sipp. Smith and Lewis have not been deemed locks yet by Acta. Throw Durbin in there and now you’ve got six spots potentially filled with one up for grabs (likely the long relief role). Guys in the mix as long relievers could include Laffey, Herrmann and Germano, or Tomlin, Gomez or Anthony Reyes, depending on how the race for the fifth spot shakes out.

Finally…

  • Thanks to Dan Mendlik of Indians.com for the photo of Choo’s home run ball.

That’s all for today…

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. You can view more spring photos by checking out the stream on yfrog.com as well.

–JB

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