Results tagged ‘ Chad Huffman ’

“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

Luis muy bueno

LV.jpgA few days ago, when a strong wind was ripping through the Ballpark at Camelback Ranch, Indians manager Manny Acta was ready to add a few asterisks to some wind-aided blasts that left the yard.

On Wednesday afternoon, after Luis Valbuena belted a homer down the right-field line at Goodyear Ballpark, Acta was more than willing to point to the official scorebook. In there, Valbuena has a team-high three blasts this spring.

The scoreboard does not account for wind.

“He’s hit three,” Acta said. “Three home runs. Two, two days ago and one today. That’s the way they’re in the [scorebook].”

It’s fair to point out that Valbuena is hitting just .211 for the spring so far. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s also fair to point out that Acta has been impressed with what he’s seen from the infielder at the plate to this point.

“He’s swung the bat well so far in Spring Training,” Acta said. “I’m happy for him. I think people saw a glimpse of what he can do here two years ago. He did have a rough year last year, but it is 2011 and so far he’s swung the bat well for us.”

Two years ago, Valbuena hit .250 with 10 home runs, 25 doubles, three triples and 31 RBIs in 103 games with the Indians as a rookie. In 2010, though, Valbuena hit just .193 with two homers and 24 RBIs in 91 games with the Tribe.

This spring, Valbuena (thanks to Getty Images for the photo) is vying for a utility infield role off Cleveland’s bench. Jason Donald is the front-runner for the job at third base, Asdrubal Cabrera is locked in at short and Orlando Cabrera is the leading candidate for the regular role at second. That leaves Valbuena fighting for a reserve role.

There is also a good chance he winds up playing shortstop for Triple-A Columbus.

“We hope that by the end of Spring Training every one of our decisions are tough to make,” Acta said. “That’s what we want. That’s called progress and depth.”

Notes from Wednesday…

  • Catcher Carlos Santana made his debut as a first baseman for the Indians in Wednesday’s 9-2 loss to the Padres. He had nine total chances (six throws and three grounders) and did not look bad. In the fifth, Santana even attempted to start a double play by throwing to second base. All in all, a decent debut at a spot he’ll man a handful of times throughout the upcoming season.
  • Acta had nothing but good things to say about Santana’s first taste of first: “He looked good, man. It’s only one game, but he looked comfortable and made some good plays, including trying to turn that double play, which is probably the toughest play there is on the field.”
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco returned to the team on Monday after being with his wife in Florida for the birth of their daughter. On Wednesday, in his first start back with the club, Daddy Carrasco allowed two runs on four hits in three innings. He struck out three and walked none. CC (am I allowed to call him that?) allowed back-to-back homers in the second to Aaron Cunningham and Anthony Rizzo.
  • David Huff the Magic Dragon did fare as well in his outing on Wednesday. Huff allowed four runs — all in the fifth inning — in a two-inning appearance. He was down to log three frames, but threw too many pitches and had his outing cut short. The lefty, who is in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation, gave up four hits with one walk.
  • Outfielder Chad Huffman has hit .571 in the six spring games he’s played so far, but he has not suited up since Saturday. Turns out Huffman is battling a strained right hamstring and will miss at least “a couple more days,” according to Acta. Huffman, who hits right-handed andcan play the corner outfield spots as well as first base, is competing for a spot on Cleveland’s bench.
  • Third baseman Jason Donald participated in a full workout on Wednesday morning. His left hand? “It felt pretty stinkin’ good,” Donald beamed. He said the improvement from Tuesday to Wednesday was great and he is ready to play in games again. Acta said Donald will indeed be in the lineup come Thursday. Donald was hit on the back of the left hand by a pitch on Saturday.
  • Anthony Reyes Watch: The right-hander threw  in a bullpen session on Tuesday and reported no issues on Wednesday. He has been coming back from right elbow soreness. Reyes said he is scheduled to throw off a mound again on Friday. Acta noted that it will be a live batting practice and he’ll face center fielder Grady Sizemore.
  • Speaking of Sizemore, his sprint and agility work has progressed as hoped, with increased intensity and more drills over the past week. Sizemore continues to take part in outfield drills and batting practice and he will likely begin a baserunning progression some time this weekend. Could games be next week? Stay tuned.
  • Chatted with third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall this morning and he is not getting too caught up in his hot start at the plate this spring. Neither should you. “It’s only 20 at-bats,” said Chisenhall. Granted, he’s hitting .550 with two homers in those 20 at-bats, but it’s not going to make Cleveland suddenly abandon its development plan for the youngster. The best part about it is Chisenhall’s hot hitting is happening now, in front of Acta and other big league staff members, and not after he left for Minor League camp.
  • Jayson Nix had been mentioned as a candidate for third base when Spring Training began, but there is nothing to indicate that he is seriously in the running for that job. Nix has taken most of his reps during workouts at second base and that is where he has played during games (he started there again on Wednesday). Nix said this week that he’s been told that he will play mostly second, but third isn’t entirely ruled out. Acta added earlier this week that Nix is competing with Orlando Cabrera for the second base job. Cabrera looks like the favorite for that role, though.
  • On Thursday, the Indians take on the Cubs in Mesa, which is where I got my first taste of the big leagues. I wrote a little bit about it in this week’s Inbox (CLICK HERE to read it). Pitchers making the trip for the Tribe will be Justin Masterson (starting), Jeanmar Gomez, Frank Herrmann, Joe Martinez, Vinnie Pestano, Yohan Pino and Zach Putnam.

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

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

As the Crowe flies…

GYBP.jpgIndians GM Chris Antonetti offered this thought earlier this month…

“It’s Spring Training. Inevitably, when you have 60 guys in camp, I’m sure that there will be a few guys that have some bumps and bruises along the way. Hopefully we can minimize the extent of those and the duration of those.”

Well, the first spring bruise arrived on Friday.

Indians manager Manny Acta noted recently that outfielder Trevor Crowe was a bit behind schedule with a sore arm. Turns out that Crowe’s surgically-repaired right elbow is fine. What’s bothering the outfielder currently is a sore right shoulder. Specifically, he is fighting rotator cuff soreness.

“My elbow is fine. It’s strong. It’s good,” Crowe said on Friday morning. “Since a month after the [October] surgery, that was good to go. It’s 100 percent healthy. There’s just tenderness, tiredness, I don’t know what you want to call it, [in the shoulder].”

Crowe entered camp as a favorite to head north as a reserve outfielder. Now, his status for the start of the season is potentially in doubt. Right now, he has been shut down from throwing or hitting and there is no established timetable for when he can resume playing catch. So obviously it’s TBD for when he can even get in a game.

Even if Crowe rests for a week or two and then begins building back up, it seems unlikely that he’ll get the required reps in to make a push for the Opening Day roster. That means guys like Travis Buck, Chad Huffman, Shelley Duncan or Jordan Brown might now have a more realistic chance of breaking camp with the club. Nick Weglarz and Ezequiel Carrera are also in camp.

Acta would not say which way the Indians were leaning as far as carrying one or two extra outfielders. He merely said the Tribe will remain “open minded” and he joked that the club would start the year with [NEWSFLASH!] 13 position players and 12 pitchers. Going with two outfielders off the bench seems to make sense, though.

Think of it this way. If Grady Sizemore (left knee) isn’t ready for Opening Day — a very distinct possibility — the starting outfield projects to include Austin Kearns (LF), Michael Brantley (CF) and Shin-Soo Choo (RF). You could then go with an extra guy like Duncan, who could help in left or first, if needed, and as a righty DH to spell Travis Hafner on occasion. You could also carry a versatile fifth outfielder (say, someone like Buck) who can man all three spots. The switch-hitting Crowe obviously fits that second role when healthy.

In the event that Sizemore progresses rapidly and does wind up on the Opening Day roster. Kearns, who can man all three outfield spots as well, would then slide to the bench. He’d still see plenty of time in the field, though, considering Acta values his defense and Sizemore would likely see some days off to rest his legs. Under this scenario, the Indians would likely only have one outfielder role available off the bench.

Other notes from Friday…

  • Seeing as it’s Spring Training and these are the Cleveland Indians, it was only natural that a discussion about the movie “Major League” came up today. Bob DiBiasio, the Indians VP of public relations, was here and he chimed in, “You know I had script approval for that?” Who knew? One scene he wanted changed was the “red tag scene” that took place in the clubhouse. In the movie, players being cut at the end of spring had red tags hanging in their lockers. This is not how it happens in the real world. The scene stuck, however, because the writers felt it worked best for film. I got a kick out of this, because I recently watched “Major League” at home with my wife — someone bought us the bluray as a welcome-to-Cleveland present — and I explained to her that the red tag scene was completely unrealistic. Anyways…
  • The photo at the top of this post was from Thursday’s intrasquad game at Goodyear Ballpark, where Smitty’s American Racers took down Sarby’s Sour-Balls, 3-2. Well, the Sarbanauts had their revenge on Friday, defeating the Racers, 4-2, on Field 1 at the Indians’ complex. Fun fact: Field 1 has the exact dimensions as Progressive Field.
  • If the first two intrasquad games are any indication, and they rarely are, Michael Brantley might have himself some kind of season. All he’s done so far is collect three extra-base hits: a triple on Thursday and a triple and double on Friday. I asked him if he’s planning on trying for a triple a day this year. “Maybe,” Brantley said with a laugh. “Why not?” In case you’re wondering, the Major League record for triples in one season is 36, set by Pittsburgh’s Chief Wilson in 1912.
  • On a more serious note, Acta said he has been impressed with Brantley’s swing mechanics so far this spring. The manager said it is clear that Brantley has worked hard on shortening up his swing. As noted in this space earlier this week, one issue Brantley had last season was getting started too late with his swing. A more compact swing can help eliminate that problem.
  • Here’s your daily fifth starter’s race update: Lefty Aaron Laffey logged two-thirds of an inning before his day was cut short due to pitch count. He allowed one hit, walked two, threw one wild pitch and struck out one, allowing one run in the process. Anthony Reyes was originally down to pitch, but he did not appear in the game.
  • A reporter from South Korea asked Acta what he thought about Choo’s performance on Friday. Acta kept a straight face and said, “He struggled.” Choo went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Acta quickly added that he is hardly worried about Choo and said that seeing him play in intrasquad games is not very high on the importance scale. The games are a better venue for watching the younger players in camp. Choo will be in the lineup for Sunday’s opener against the Reds.
  • Acta was quick to praise the brief outing of righty Carlos Carrasco, noting that the Tribe’s No. 4 starter threw four first-pitch strikes to the four hitters he faced. The Indians manager has made it known all spring that first-pitch strikes is a big area of emphasis for the ballclub this year.
  • Hard-throwing relief prospect Bryce Stowell was showing off his fastball on Friday, but the righty struggled mightily with his command. Stowell, who could see the bigs this year but is not in the mix for the Opening Day bullpen, issued four consecutive walks in his appearance. Said Acta: “That’s what he needs to work on. At this level up here, you need to have command because guys will lay off of those pitches. Bryce knows that.”

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

Finding Fausto

Fausto.jpgWhen Indians starter Fausto Carmona headed home to the Dominican Republic for the offseason, manager Manny Acta made sure the pitcher left him with his phone number.

Otherwise, it might have taken until Spring Training for the two to talk.

“Very few of us have access to him
over the offseason,” Acta said. “
He’s a very private person.”

That is one reason Acta believes Carmona (above photo courtesy of Dan Mendlik/Indians) was unaffected by the trade rumors that made the rounds throughout the winter.

“I don’t think that even got to him,” Acta said. “Fausto, he gets himself into his farm back home and he
works out. He’s not in the spotlight back home. I don’t think too many people were
interviewing him, asking him about that back home.”

Asked if he was aware of the trade rumors, Carmona smiled and offered a shrug. He said had it not been for other people bringing it to his attention from time to time, he would not have even known about the reports. Even when he did hear about the rumors, Carmona said it was not a big deal one way or another.

“I never read the newspaper in the Dominican Republic,” Carmona said. “I can’t control the situation. Sometimes somebody will see something on the internet and tell me. I don’t think about it. I have to be ready no matter what team I play for.”
 
“I’m very happy here. I’m ready to play.”

The rumors are sure to continue into the season. Carmona’s solid comeback showing in 2010 and his club-friendly contract alone will fuel the hot stove fires as we near the July 31 Trade Deadline. He went 13-14 with a 3.77 ERA for a team that lost 93 games last year and he was a workhorse with 210 1/3 innings logged.

Carmona is under contract for $6.1 million in 2011 and the Indians own club options for 2012 ($7 million), 2013 ($9 million) and 2014 ($12 million). Carmona has been tied to the Yankees in rumors more than any other team, but the pitcher hardly sounded concerned about the situation on Saturday morning.

“I’m working hard. I’m ready to go,” he said. “I want to have a good season.”

Notes from Saturday…

  • The Indians made it through their workout on Saturday before a heavy rain/wind storm ripped through the area. It was a crazy sight outside the complex, where sand was being stirred up and tumbleweeds rolled down the roads in waves. Pitchers managed to squeeze in their bullpen sessions outside before things took a turn for the worst.
  • Sunday will mark Cleveland’s first full-squad workout of the spring. Acta said pitchers will throw off the mounds in live BP sessions, but the hitters won’t be swinging. For the first two days, hitters will be tracking pitches. This is the second year in a row the Tribe has practiced this exercise with Acta running the show.
  • Acta and Antonetti have noted that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was not at 100 percent when he returned from a forearm injury last season. He still had weakness in the arm and that took a toll on his offensive performance. Acta said Saturday that reports on Cabrera’s showing in winter ball were strong and the shortstop is at full strength right now.
  • The Indians plan on giving a handful of players some reps at first base this spring. Matt LaPorta is the clear-cut starter at the position, but Acta noted that Carlos Santana, Shelley Duncan, Jordan Brown, Chad Huffman and Travis Buck will all see some time at first during Spring Training.
  • Prior to Sunday’s workout, Acta plans on holding a meeting with the entire team. He did the same thing with the pitchers and catchers prior to their first official workout. The message? That Acta’s expectations are to win and he does not want the players to expect anything different, no matter what they might have read or heard about rebuilding.
  • Chatted some with Indians prospect Jason Kipnis, who said the biggest challenge remaining in his converstion to second base is getting better with footwork and turning double plays. Also learned he’s a Chicago guy like me, so I’m pulling for him to reach The Show quick so I have another Bears/Bulls fan around. (I’ll adopt the Browns as my AFC team if that will make you feel better)
  • Fun fact: Kipnis and Steve Bartman (Remember him, Cubs fans?) attended the same high school. Kipnis’ sister was actually in the same graduating class as Bartman. Not only that, Bartman didn’t live that far away from the Kipnis family. “He has to have police guard his house,” Kipnis said.

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.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–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

There and Back Again


Kearns.jpgIt was a productive week around the new Bastian home.

We got all the strawberry-and-jam wallpaper removed from the kitchen, cleaned out the junk the previous owners left in our basement (not the housewarming gift we wanted), redid a bathroom and installed a new light fixture without getting electrocuted. And, I got all my Christmas shopping done.

Alas, my vacation — with snow shoveling and sick baby included — has expired. It was good to take a break, but I’m also glad to be back. Today, first day back on the clock has been a busy one, too. The Indians announced that they signed free-agent outfielder Austin Kearns to a one-year contract.

The Kearns signing — worth a base of $1.3 million, plus incentives — marks the first Major League signing by Chris Antonetti since he assumed the role of Indians general manager. Not exactly an earth-shattering move or one fans aren’t familiar with. Shoot, Kearns was brought in by the Tribe last offseason, too.

What Kearns does is checks one item off Cleveland’s Christmas list. The Tribe has their right-handed-hitting outfielder to offset the all-lefty combo of Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. Kearns can man all three spots and could potentially see limited action as a designated hitter.

Other items of note:

  • Was saddened by the news of Indians great Bob Feller’s passing while I was away last week. Anthony Castrovince wrote a lovely piece as part of MLB.com’s tribute to Feller. I never had the chance to chat with Feller, but have read so much about him over the years. His story sounds like the stuff of tall tales. Most amazing is the fact that it’s all true. RIP, Mr. Feller. Cleveland and the United States as a whole lost a legendary man.
  • Also while I was gone, the Indians inked shortstop Adam Everett to a Minor League contract. He will come to camp to compete for the utility infielder’s role. Everett provides depth at shortstop, but the Tribe feels he can also man second base or third base if necessary. And, just because Everett is in the fold, this doesn’t mean the Indians are no longer looking for infield help.
  • Two notes related to Class A Kinston: 1.) The club has been sold and is set to move to Zebulon, N.C., following the 2011 season; 2.) The Indians signed Japanese righty Toru Murata to a Minor League deal over the weekend and he might open the year with Kinston. Murata’s deal is strictly of the Minor League variety and he is not being invited to Spring Training with the big league club.
  • While the Indians have not officially announced the signing of free-agent outfielder Travis Buck, the sides have reached an agreement on a Minor League deal with a spring invite. Buck’s deal would be worth $625,000 if he makes the Major League roster. A source indicated that there were still steps to complete in the signing process. See: reviewing medical records provided by Oakland.
  • In order to place Kearns on the 40-man roster, the Indians will need to make a move to vacate a spot. Antonetti said Monday that he anticipates designating a player for assignment. Could Shelley Duncan be a possibility? Well, he’s in the mix for the extra outfielder’s job as well as a part-time role as a right-handed DH “provided he’s on the roster,” as Antonetti worded it. We’ll know the move in the next day or two.
  • When discussing that “extra” outfield role off the bench, Antonetti rattled off the names of Duncan, Trevor Crowe and Chad Huffman (claimed off waivers from the Yankees in September). Obviously, Buck would figure into that mix as well. Something to ponder, might be good to have someone around who can backup Matt LaPorta at first base besides catcher Carlos Santana. Duncan fits that description, as does Jordan Brown.
  • As for the reports out there that the Indians have scouted veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon, here’s all Antonetti would say: “We’ve scouted him in the Dominican and we’ll continue to watch him pitch. We’ve had some pretty good reports on him. His last outing wasn’t exceptionally good, but the others prior to that he pitched pretty well.” Indians are in the market for a veteran starter. Just saying.
  • Asked if the search for third base help could last into the spring, Antonetti said “it potentially could.” He said the Indians are “content” with going into Spring Training with the current internal options. The front-runners would seem to be Jayson Nix, Jason Donald and Jack Hannahan. Donald is also in the mix at second. This is where additional help from a guy like Everett comes into play as well.
  • Speaking of Nix, he ran into a bit of a hiccup recently during winter ball in Puerto Rico. After being hit in the head by a pitch, Nix missed nine games. He is feeling better and has returned to action. Nix headed to Puerto Rico in order to work on his defense at third base, one way to hopefully be ready to compete for the job there this spring.

In case you missed it, the latest edition of the Inbox is also up on indians.com.

–JB

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