Results tagged ‘ Chris Antonetti ’

Chisen-stalled

Chisenhall2.jpgLonnie Chisenhall will not be on the Indians’ Opening Day roster.

I’ve written it multiple times. The Indians have come out and said it multiple times. On Monday morning, Chisenhall was even sent back to Minor League camp.

None of this has stopped a lot of Tribe fans from flooding my inbox and my Twitter feed, outraged over the fact that Chisenhall was not given a chance to win the Opening Day job at third base.

If you’ve been following along — whether that’s here on the blog, over on Twitter or on Indians.com — you’ve no doubt seen me defend Cleveland’s decision to send Lonnie Baseball to the Minors to open this season.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. Would I like to see Chisenhall at third on Opening Day? Sure. Why not? He’s a highly-touted prospect who absolutely raked at the plate this spring, looking completely comfortable down the line on defense as well. But just because one player might generate a little excitment for a championship-starved franchise is not a reason to bring him north this soon.

That happens to be the way the Indians see it.

“That’d be short-sighted for us,” Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said on Monday morning. “We can’t just focus on generating excitement. Our focus is on winning championships. That’s what we want to get back to. Not just with Lonnie, but with any of our players, to the extent we can, we want to put them in a position to be successful when they get to the Major League level.”

This is a principle I agree with entirely.

When Chisenhall breaks into The Show, you want him at third base every day for the long haul. You don’t want him there, only to see him struggle in his first taste of the big leagues, forcing a demotion back to the Minors. Teams, not just the Indians, like to avoid shipping a young player back and forth if possible.

In some ways, this is where expanded rosters in September come into play. It helps contending teams boost their depth, but is also helps non-contenders give a taste of the Majors to some developing players. Chisenhall has not had that taste. He hasn’t even cracked Triple-A yet. He has exactly 27 spring at-bats, including four in a “B” game, under his belt.

That resume does not make him a realistic candidate for an Opening Day roster spot, no matter how strong a spring he has had up to this point. The Indians insist that there are areas that Chisenhall — just 22 years old still — needs to develop. Antonetti cited his offense against left-handed pitching and the fact that Chisenhall is still working on learning third base after years spent as a shortstop, as two examples.

“Really, all aspects of his game [need developing],” Antonetti said. “He certainly has strengths. With his swing, his balance, his ability to consistently put the barrel of the bat on the ball, are all strengths. He needs to a little more consistent against left-handed pitching. He needs to continue to have a better awareness of the strike zone. And then defensively, remember, it’s a guy who’s transitioned from shortstop to third base and he still needs to learn nuances at the position defensively.”

“He hasn’t had any Triple-A exposure yet. He’ll begin to learn more about himself and we’ll be able to learn a little bit more about him as well as he faces better pitching and better competition.”

When a team decides to send a player down in this manner, talk of delaying his arbitration clock naturally arises. By pushing back Chisenhall’s promotion to the Majors, Cleveland also potentially pushes back the possibility of him becoming a Super 2 player, meaning he’d need three full seasons to reach arbitration instead of just two.

I know some fans out there won’t buy this — and, hey, you’re entitled to your opinion — but Antonetti said the decision to re-assign Chisenhall to the Minors was in no way financially motivated.

“I can say that’s certainly not the case,” Antonetti said. “What we do is we try to rely upon our evaluators and our player development people. We meet at the end of the season every year to talk about every player in our system and where they are developmentally. Everybody to a person thought that he still had development left to do. I think if you look back to last year, if he was really that far ahead, then he would’ve been at Triple-A at some point last year.

“He still had development left to do where we felt he was best served developing at Double-A last year and he needs some some amount of Triple-A time. How much is going to be dependent upon a lot of things, primarily on his development and secondly on our Major League need.”

And that is the big question. How long will Chisenhall be at Triple-A? One month? Two? Until September? Could he crack the Major Leagues sooner rather than later?

“First thing, there needs to be an opportunity for him,” Antonetti said. “Second, if that opportunity is there, he needs to make sure that he’s done the things necessary from a development standpoint to position himself for that opportunity.

So what do you have to look forward to at third base for now? It’s been written to death that Jason Donald is the favorite for that job and nothing has changed. That said, if Donald’s current left hand issue continues to be an issue, Jack Hannahan seems like the next option for the hot corner.

Maybe that doesn’t excite you like a highly-touted prospect would, but if you take a close look at the situation, and the way baseball teams routinely operate, it is the route that makes the most sense. You don’t have to agree with it. But, that doesn’t mean it should stop you from understanding the reasoning behind it.

For the rest of today’s coverage, 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

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

Say hello to Uncle Orlando

CabrerasBanner.jpgIt became pretty apparent that Orlando Cabrera passed his physical with the Indians when he was spotted hanging out with his new double-play partner, Asdrubal Cabrera, in the outfield on a practice diamond on Wednesday morning.

Sure enough, Cleveland announced that it had indeed signed the veteran infielder to a one-year Major League contract. The deal is worth $1 million plus incentives, but there is no option for the 2012 season. Ask me, and I’ll say that seems like a nice bargain.

During our sit-down with Orlando, we asked if he knew Asdrubal before today.

“The nephew?” Cabrera replied with a grin.

So a few years back, when baseball started to see an increase in the number of Cabreras in The Show — Asdrubal, Melky, Miguel, Fernando, Daniel — Orlando started referring to them as his nephews.

“And he calls me uncle,” Cabrera said of Asdrubal.

And to answer the obvious question: No, they are not actually related.

That said, Orlando Cabrera is the kid brother of Jolbert Cabrera, who suited up for the Indians in 310 games from 1998-2002. For those wondering how Jolbert is doing these days, Orlando said he is currently still playing ball for a team in Mexico.

As for OC, he’s in camp as the favorite to be the Tribe’s starting second baseman. One way or another, manager Manny Acta — who knows Orlando from their days in the Expos organization — said Cabrera is on the team (barring an injury, of course). So he’ll break camp either as a second baseman or a utlity guy (he’ll see reps at 3B, too).

Cabrera actually sounded genuinely enthusiastic about the chance to play second base. It was the position he played as a Minor Leaguer and he said making the switch to shortstop — a position where he’s won two Gold Gloves — was more difficult that going from short to second. Acta said Cabrera could play second “with his eyes closed.”

Helping matters will be the fact that he’ll play second with them open.

Where will Cabrera hit in the lineup? Acta said Cabrera has the ability to adjust to any spot in the batting order. As of right now though, the Indians do not view Cabrera as a part of the top of the lineup. So I’d pencil him into one of the Nos. 7-9 spots right now if you’re busy doing mock lineups at home.

Other notes and observations from Wednesday…

  • Pitchers and catchers all underwent physicals on Wednesday. They also met individually with Acta and GM Chris Antonetti to discuss expectations for the upcoming season. The first official workout for pitchers and catchers is Thursday.
  • Spotted in camp: Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner and newly-hired special assistant to baseball operations Eduardo Perez. I introduced myself as “Best Buy” to Hafner, because that’s where I ran into him and initially introduced myself over the winter. That’s a story for another day…
  • The Indians need to make another transaction in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Cabrera. Once the move is approved by the league — likely in the next couple of days — it would be announced. I would think a pitcher is most likely to be removed from the roster.
  • To help account for the high volume of pitchers in camp, the Indians added catching prospect Chun Chen to their group of non-roster invitees. That will help with early bullpen sessions and also provide Chen with valuable experience, especially the chance to work with Sandy Alomar Jr. on his defense.
  • Rumored for a few days, confirmed on Tuesday and official on Wednesday: Kenny Lofton is joining the Tribe as a guest instructor this spring. He will work with outfielders and offer tips on baserunning while he’s in camp from Feb. 22-28. During the regular season, Lofton will have an expanded role as an alumni ambassador, helping with some community initiatives among other things.
  • The Indians could have a bit of a logjam in the infield at Triple-A Columbus this year. If Lonnie Chisenhall is at third and Jason Kipnis is at second, suddenly guys like Jared Goedert (3B) and Cord Phelps (2B/3B) we’ll be searching for playing time if they’re in Columbus as well. Antonetti said Goedert will see some time in the outfield this spring and he could get at-bats at 1B or DH at Triple-A, too. Phelps will see action at second and third, but Antonetti wasn’t sure yet if he’d see innings in the outfield this spring.
  • Antonetti said that no big-league starters are currently faced with any obvious innings restrictions for the coming season. The only one he said the club will “be mindful of” is Mitch Talbot. Antonetti quickly added, though, that the goal is for Talbot to pitch a full Major League season.
  • On Monday, Justine Siegal will become the first woman to throw batting practice to a Major League team when she does so for the Indians. She will also throw BP to A’s hitters on Feb. 23. Siegal is also the first woman to coach men’s professional baseball (Brockton Rox, 2009).

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Photo of the day:


LaPorta.jpg

1B Matt LaPorta. Calling his shot?

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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

Pitchers, catchers & tweeters report

PerezBullpen2.jpgThat there on the right is Indians closer Chris Perez, working through a bullpen session on Tuesday morning at the player development complex here in Goodyear.

If we’re to believe @PureRage_Perez, not pictured here are all the people fleeing in terror before this fastball was unleashed. Rumor has it no one was willing to catch Perez and now the Indians are faced with a hefty repair bill after the closer’s heaters ripped apart the chain-link fence behind home plate.

Ah, Twitter.

It’s been a great tool for members of the media to deliver news and interact with readers. It’s also been a good tool for athletes to interact with fans. Twitter has its obvious risks, but it has also proven quite useful. That’s one reason why the Indians are embracing the social-networking site.

Manager Manny Acta joined recently under the handle @Mactriber_11 and you can find players like Perez (@ChrisPerez54), Jensen Lewis (@JLEWFifty) and Matt LaPorta (@Gator4God) on there as well. The Tribe also has prospects Drew Pomeranz, Nick Hagadone and Zach McAllister on the site.

Could Indians GM Chris Antonetti be next?

“I think soon,” he said with a grin on Tuesday. “It’s part of an organizational initiative.”

When we started joking about Antonetti’s policy on not commenting on rumors or discussing contract talks before deals are official, the GM laughed and quipped, “I can do that. I’ll tweet ‘no comment.'”

If he does sign up, Antonetti would become the first active Major League general manager on Twitter.

Notes from Tuesday…

  • Predictably, Antonetti wouldn’t budge on his policy when we asked him if there was any update on the Orlando Cabrera situation. The GM did offer this: “I think you guys have accurately reported to date. I’ll leave it at that.” So, I’ll report here that Cabrera still needs to pass a physical and the Indians will likely announce his 1-year, Major League contract later this week.
  • Also likely to come later this week? News that the Indians are bringing Kenny Lofton in as a guest instructor. He’ll be in camp this spring to help out as a baserunning and outfield coach. Details of his role are still being worked out, but Lofton could have an expanded role during the regular season, assisting with community initiatives, for example.
  • On the starting pitching front, the Indians do not appear close to reeling in any additional help. Talks appear to have stalled with free-agents Jeremy Bonderman and Kevin Millwood. Said Antonetti: “We’re planning to proceed with the group that we have in camp. If an opportunity presents itself as we’re in camp, we’ll certainly look at it. But right now our expectations are that we’ll go with the group that we have.”
  • HuffCatch.jpgManager Manny Acta rattled off some names when asked about the candidates for the fifth job, citing David Huff (playing catch in the photo to the right), Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, Anthony Reyes and “to an extent” Aaron Laffey. Acta said Laffey will get some innings early in camp and the Indians will work to quickly determine whether he will prepare as a starter or long reliever. The Tribe will not move him back and forth this season.
  • Beyond working to add Lofton, the Indians announced Tuesday that they hired Eduardo Perez and Jason Bere as special assistants to baseball operations. They will help out on the field this spring and will continue to assist at both the Major and Minor League levels this season. Perez will also continue in his role as an analyst with ESPN.
  • Pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona on Tuesday and Acta said everyone is accounted for. Physicals for pitchers and catchers take place Wednesday with the first official workout slated for Thursday. Also on Wednesday, Acta and Antonetti will meet with each pitcher and catcher individually to discuss expectations for spring and the coming season.
  • Both Acta and Antonetti said they have been thrilled with the progress of Grady Sizemore (left knee). Said the GM: “First and foremost, it’s great to see him on the field. And in talking with him, he feels a comfort level swinging the bat and throwing that he didn’t have before with his knee.” Antonetti said, even before Sizemore went on the DL or had surgery, he was having problems putting weight on his back leg while hitting. That has not been an issue so far this spring.
  • As far as Sizemore’s running program goes, Acta said the plan is to “accelerate” the running during the first week of March. That would likely mean baserunning drills and full participation in outfield work and agility exercises. Sizemore noted on Monday that he hopes to begin testing his knee with agility work later this week or early next week.
  • Acta did not bite when asked if Sizemore would automatically be the leadoff man whenever he returns to the lineup. Said the skipper: “He’s going to be in the lineup. It’s a good question and everybody wants to know, but right now we’re trying to get this guy healthy. Then, we’ll give you your material later. It’s just that it’s more than him involved in the situation.” Fair enough.

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

Where the payroll stands

Calculator.jpgI always hated math. The problem throughout childhood was that I was also good at it. This creates quite an issue as you go through school.

I kept testing well, so they kept putting me in increasingly complicated math classes. When you absolutely hate math, this is awful. Maybe I should’ve picked some wrong answers on all those aptitude tests.

Then, the greatest thing happened when I arrived at Michigan State University. Because I was a journalism student, match wasn’t exactly a key requirement. You had to take some math as part of your overall studies, sure, but there was a way out.

I could test out. All those tests that put me in the advanced math classes had led to this — a test to get me out of them. So I took their little test, scored high enough and never had to take a math class while I was at MSU. Go Green!

Why the heck am I rambling on about all this? Well, turns out math is a big part of what I do now. And, because I haven’t studied it in so long, I’m prone to more errors now than I ever was as a kid. Thankfully, Baseball Math mainly sticks to the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplying and dividing.

Luckily, here in the real world — unlike in that jerk of a teacher’s calculus class way back in high school — calculators are allowed. Today’s lesson is in simple addition as we take a glance at how the Indians’ payroll looks in light of Tuesday’s signings of Shin-Soo Choo and the Pitchers Perez.

On the books for 2011

1. DH Travis Hafner: $13 million
2. CF Grady Sizemore: $7.5 million
3. SP Fausto Carmona: $6.1 million
4. OF Shin-Soo Choo: $3.975 million
5. CL Chris Perez: $2.225 million
6. SS Asdrubal Cabrera: $2.025 million
7. RP Rafael Perez: $1.33 million
8. OF Austin Kearns: $1.3 million
9. RP Joe Smith: $870,000
10. RP Jensen Lewis: $650,000

Total: $38.975 million

That figure does not include incentives that are within some of these deals. This leaves us with 15 spots on the Major League roster. For argument sake, let’s say Adam Everett makes the Opening Day roster and gets his $700,000 salary. Now, we’re at $39.675 million for the big-league payroll.

The 14 remaining spots will go to players who will earn at least the league minimum. As is the case with most clubs, some will earn slightly more. With the league minimum around $414,000, let’s go ahead and argue that the last 14 spots will earn an average of $450,000. That equates to $6.3 million.

Estimated total: $45.975 million

That’s a drop of around $15 million from where the payroll stood in 2010. Over the past two years, the payroll has decreased about $35 million. In the near future, the payroll will likely remain slim given the fact that the Tribe will be fielding so much youth, with a crop of prospects on the cusp of breaking into The Show.

These estimates obviously aren’t set in stone right now, but the numbers aren’t likely to vary all that much by Opening Day. Indians GM Chris Antonetti indicated on Tuesday that he is still exploring starting pitching options on the market. A Minor League contract with a spring invite seems the most likely scenario for any pending acquisition.

*Earlier, I wrote incorrectly that Chris Perez’s new deal was worth $2.25 million. His correct salary for the 2011 season is the one listed above at $2.225 million. Apologies.

~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

Where were you…

gavel%203.jpg… the last time the Indians went to an arbitration hearing?

I was 8 years old, growing up in Chicago and rooting on the Bulls as they pushed their way to their first NBA title. Hey, um, sorry about “The Shot,” by the way.

(True story tangent: My mom bought me a shirt that said “Air Jordan” when I was a little kid. She seriously thought it was an airline. Had no idea there was some basketball superstar with my name. God Bless her.)

Moving on…

The last time the Indians went to an arbitration hearing was 1991. Second baseman Jerry Browne wanted $1.1 million and pitcher Greg Swindell wanted $2.025 million. The sides did not budge. Arbitration hearings were required. Browne lost. Swindell won.

I’m bringing this up because tomorrow (Jan. 5) is the first day players can officially file for arbitration. Cleveland has four players — Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and the Pitchers Perez — who fall into that category. Players file between Wednesday and Jan. 15, salary figures are due to be exchanged on Jan. 18 and the hearings, if necessary, run from Feb. 1-21.

When I covered the Blue Jays last winter, GM Alex Anthopoulos had a policy of setting an internal deadline for negotiations. In short, if he did not avoid arbitration by settling on a contract prior to the exchange date, then he would go to a hearing with the player in question. Anthopoulos believed it was an effective tool for getting talks done fast, wasting no one’s time. Either agree to a deal or we’re done talking and it’ll be settled at a hearing.

I asked Indians GM Chris Antonetti if he might use a similar policy and he said it was not something the Tribe did — not as a blanket policy anyway. Antonetti said each contract would be considered on a case-to-base basis and if an internal deadline was required, they’d implement one. Behind-the-scenes tactics aside, expect the Indians to settle with all four of their eligible players.

I’d expect Choo to reach a deal somewhere between $3 million or $4 million in his first year of eligibility. I find it hard to believe that the Tribe will sign him to a long-term contract this winter. I could be wrong, but Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, did not seem too optimistic about the possibility of agreeing to an extension this winter when he addressed the issue at the Winter Meetings.

Chris Perez is eligible for the first time due to reaching Super 2 status and Cabrera is also a first-time arbitration candidate. Rafael Perez is in his second go-round after settling on a $795K contract for last season. The Indians already avoided arbitration with Jensen Lewis ($650K for 2011) and Joe Smith ($870K plus incentives for ’11).

And, in case you missed it, here’s the latest edition of the Indians Inbox on Indians.com. Keep sending those questions to IndiansInbox@gmail.com.

Last, Go Buckeyes! That actually was painful to type for me, but after the New Years Day showing by the Big 10, I’m willing to put our differences aside and root for THE Ohio State University. Just this once.

–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

Winter Meetings: Day 3

IMG_20101208_105621.jpgGreetings again from lovely Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Day III of these Winter Meetings are here…

…and the Indians are still quiet.

For those of you thinking I’m out working on my tan and soaking up the Florida sun, you can rest assure that is not the case. Life at the Meetings is a constant mix of lobby circling and workroom working.

And it’s cold here. OK, “cold” is a bit much. It’s chilly. There’s no snow, so I’m not going to start complaining about the weather in Florida. Well, I won’t complain much anyway.

As for your Tribe, they continue to explore trades and entertain the idea of signing a handful of inexpensive free agents. It’s about building depth right now, finding a way to guard against injuries and also putting the team in a good position to keep young players on their development plans.

That is where a player like Nick Punto fits into the equation. The Indians have unanswered questions at third base, second base and in the backup role at short. Punto can assist at all three positions, taking some heat off the youngsters and allowing Cleveland to avoid rushing players into prominent roles before they’re deemed ready for such a task.

The Indians met with the agent for Punto on Tuesday and might meet again before the Meetings conclude. There appears to be mutual interest, but I’m not expecting a signing to come to fruition before we hop on our planes and fly back to C-town. Then again, one never knows. Things have a way of coming together fast sometimes.

One meeting on tap today for the Tribe involves preparation for Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. The Indians’ 40-man roster is currently at capacity, so Cleveland will meet this afternoon to determine whether it makes sense to vacate a spot in order to try to select someone in the Draft. A couple of third basemen eligible for selection are Brad Emaus (Toronto) and Taylor Green (Milwaukee).

Make sure you keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. We’re scheduled to have lunch with manager Manny Acta this afternoon and we’ll meet with GM Chris Antonetti a bit later.

Stay tuned for more…

UPDATE: 2:11 p.m. ET — Following lunch with Acta and Indians pitching coach Tim Belcher, among others (including members of the Reds media corps and manager Dusty Baker), chatted with uberagent Scott Boras. Boras said that he has not met with Antonetti yet about a possible contract extension for Tribe outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Boras added that he does not anticipate meeting with the Indians GM about the matter at the Winter Meetings.

UPDATE: 2:29 p.m. ET — Indians make C Paul Phillips signing official. Minor League contract with an invite to attend Spring Training with the big league club.

UPDATE: 3:27 p.m. ET — CHOO EXTENSION TALKS

Scott Boras, the agent for Shin-Soo Choo, said on Wednesday that he has not met with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti about a contract extension for the star outfielder. Boras added that he did not expect to discuss the matter at the Winter Meetings.

“I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of discussing on those fronts right now,” Boras said.

Thumbnail image for Boras.jpgAntonetti said earlier this week that such talks would likely come “naturally” due to the fact that he would need to negotiate an arbitration deal with Choo later this winter. Boras did not necessarily see it the same way.

“Most arbitration discussions don’t end in multi-year contracts, that’s for sure,” Boras said. “But, again, I’ve not had that discussion with Chris yet.”

Boras noted that a long-term deal with Cleveland could be more difficult than with other teams. The Indians finished last in the league in attendance in 2010, is scaling back its payroll and plans on fielding a young roster this coming season.

“That’s going to be Shin-Soo’s decision about what he may want to do or not do,” Boras said. “I do think it’s tougher, it’s always tougher, in situations where you’re a club that’s a developmental team, to know where the club’s going to be two or three years from now. So, those situations are always a little more difficult.

“But, again, we listen to every team and pass it on to the player and see what he says.”

UPDATE: 3:58 p.m. ET — Two items. 1) Mariners are reportedly interested in Indians second baseman Luis Valbuena. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Tribe had not discussed him with Seattle. 2) Among other things Boras talked about, he said the A’s still have interest in free-agent 3B Adrian Beltre. If that’s true, it is possible that the Indians would approach Oakland about potentially trading for 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff.

UPDATE: 6:51 p.m. ET — In a sit-down with Antonetti, the Indians GM said he is hopeful that he will be able to chat with Boras about Choo’s contract situation “shortly after the Winter Meeetings.” Antonetti noted that Choo has expressed optimism about the club’s future in conversations they’ve had. The GM has every intention of talking about an extension.

ETCETERA: The Indians are still in the process of determining whether they want to clear a spot on the 40-man roster in order to make a selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Cleveland’s roster is  at capacity and the club has the seventh pick (technically eighth due to a compensation pick earlier in the Draft for Arizona). Antonetti said there are some “intriguing” pitchers available, and the Tribe is probably also considering some of the third base/infield options out there. … Talked some with pitching coach Tim Belcher today about the rotation. He had high praise for Carlos Carrasco, who is the front-runner for the fourth spot on the staff. The fifth is likely down to Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin and David Huff. Belcher is hopeful that Huff will be able to bounce back from his 2-11 showing last year. Cleveland’s rotation could certainly benefit from having a lefty in the mix for a job. Belcher also said, in a perfect world, he believes the rotation could benefit from having a more experienced arm added to the mix this winter. … There was a rumor floating out there that the Indians had some interest in bringing Bartolo Colon back. I wouldn’t put too much stock into that one.

More tomorrow…

~JB

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