Results tagged ‘ David Huff ’

Red Cedar Faithful Rejoice!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t wait to fill out a few brackets.

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

Sunday’s notes:

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

Before I go…

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

PerezGuide.jpg

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

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

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

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

We need to talk…

Brantley2.jpgEvery hitter is different. Some like talking to their hitting coach during a game. Some like to be left alone, leaving chats about approach and mechanics for sessions in the batting cage.

It is the job of every hitting coach to sort out which players prefer one method over another. Veteran hitters can often be different than young hitters for obvious reasons.

When it comes to Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, talking shop is usually initiated by him. Hitting coach Jon Nunnally said that Brantley is the type of hitter that not only is open to talking things over during games, the young outfielder will be the one to bring certain things up.

“Sometimes they’ll come ask,” Nunnally said. “He’s one of those guys. If he doesn’t feel it, he’ll come and say, ‘Do you see this?’ Or he’ll say, ‘Keep an eye on this and, if I’m not doing it, let me know. “That’s what I want. I don’t want to have to, every time something goes wrong, I have to say, ‘Look at this.’”

Obviously, there is a time for that type of approach. But during games, the last thing Nunnally wants his players doing is heading up to the plate worrying about specific mechanical or approach issues. That’s when hitters start thinking too much and getting away from their plan.

Nunnally likes to have hitters who can feel for themself when something is not right.

“You kind of want the guy to know himself a little bit,” Nunnally said.

Last year, Brantley struggled with getting started on time, causing a chain reaction that made it difficult for him to recognize pitches. Indians manager Manny Acta noted that one problem that came out of that was Brantley had struggles attacking pitches on the outer half of the plate. Nunnally said Brantley became predictable for Major League fielders, who would shade him in and toward the left-field line.

“It was very hard for me to see the baseball,” Brantley said, “and then react, notice what pitch was coming, was it inside or outside, or was it up or down. I really pride myself on my strike zone discipline and I really couldnt do it. I was making bad choices.”

It is obviously early in Spring Training, but Nunnally said he has not seen similar issues in his early sessions with Brantley. He said the outfielder’s mechanics are sound right now. The only thing Nunnally said he is working on right now with Brantley is making sure he stays on top of the ball when taking pitches to the opposite field.

“He’s making it really easy for me,” Nunnally said with a smile.

Notes from Tuesday…

  • Center fielder Grady Sizemore took part in live batting practice on Tuesday, marking the first time he has faced live pitching since undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in June. Sizemore also did some sprint and agility work during the day’s workout. “He was fine,” reported Acta.
  • Acta said the backup catching job is not likely to be decided until the final days of Spring Training. Right now, Lou Marson, Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips and Juan Apodaca are in the mix. Marson is the only one among that group on the roster, but the Tribe is currently weighing whether he might benefit from more seasoning in the Minors.
  • With five pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, the Indians will have a tough time getting them enough innings as spring progresses. One way to help is having an extra game or two. Right now, Cleveland has one “B” game on the schedule. They’ll face the Reds at 9:30 a.m. MT on March 8 at the Indians’ complex.
  • Acta said the Indians will need to make some decisions about the rotation after the first week or two of games in order to help give innings to the players with the most realistic shot of heading north. So in mid-March, expect the Tribe to narrow the list of candidates for that fifth rotation job.
  • As has been well-documented, Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes are the pitchers in the running for the fifth starting job. Acta called Reyes “a sleeper” and noted that the righty was hitting between 90-96 mph with his fastball and showing a strong breaking ball during instructional league in October. Reyes is coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
  • A report surfaced on Tuesday indicating that Indians 2B Orlando Cabrera planned on retiring after this season. When approached about it, Cabrera laughed, shook his head and said,” That’s crazy. He said he had a long radio interview with a station in his home country of Colombia and a newspaper, “El Universal,” must have misunderstood his comments. All Cabrera meant to say was that he wants to leave the game on his own terms. Right now, though, he hopes to play for a few more years. Cabrera said the move to second base might even extend her career by a year or two. So hold off on the retirement party for now.
  • Former Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton was not in uniform with the club on Tuesday — he’s returning as a guest instructor, not as a player — but he should be with the team on Wednesday. Lofton will spend the week working with outfielders and offering tips on baserunning techniques.
  • There was some confusion about the order of the upcoming intrasquad games. To straighten it out, Thursday will be about four innings and Friday will last around seven innings. Thursday’s game is scheduled to be held at Goodyear Ballpark with Friday’s game slated to take place at the Indians complex.

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Photo of the day:

Pronk2.jpg

Due to so many requests for this… Travis Hafner (with hair)

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

Stay tuned for more…–JB

 

Peering into the future

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He’s a big boy,” Acta said.

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

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

Notes  from Thursday…

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

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Photo of the day:

Choo.jpg

Big League Choo

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

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

Sizemore watch begins


SizemoreBanner.jpgAnd so it begins, the weekly monitoring of Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore. He was among the position players who took the fields at the Indians’ player development complex on Monday, taking part in batting practice on one field before shifting to another for some running.

By running, what I mean is jogging with gradually-increased intensity and some timed breaks between laps around the warning track. Sizemore wasn’t sprinting and he has yet to begin some agility tests (side to side, running back, quick turns, etc;), but those could start later this week or next week.

Sizemore said his rehab schedule changes weekly and they’ll continue to increase his workload as his surgically-repaired left knee allows. Right now, Sizemore said he is running three times per week and is doing baseball activities three or four times per week. When he runs, there is some discomfort in his knee, but nothing that was not expected.

Returning in time for Opening Day remains his goal, but here’s what Sizemore had to say:

“We built everything around Opening Day, but we’re not going to push anything or speed the process up to get to that point. If two weeks from Opening Day, I’m still a little bit behind, or I still need two weeks and five days, we’re not going to ramp it up so I can get an extra five days of work in. I want to be playing at the end of October or the end of September — not just at the beginning of April.

“I want to finish the year and be good for, not only this year, but every year after that as opposed to getting in too early and having something happen. They won’t let me go out there unless I’m 100 percent ready, so we’re not rushing to get ready for April 1. But, that is still the goal and I obviously want to be ready to get a full season in.

“It’s such a major surgery and it’s been so long, it’d be foolish to try to go out there and do something to risk everything that we’ve done and risk all the progress we’ve made.”

 
Sizemore has had no setbacks, but I’m not sure how realistic it is to expect him in the lineup come Opening Day. April 1 is just a date and the Opening Day roster is often hyped more than necessary. What matters is having Sizemore for as much of 2011 as possible and bringing him back too early presents plenty of risk. If it takes until mid-April then it takes until mid-April.

The Indians have a contingency plan in place in the event Sizemore isn’t ready, too. Austin Kearns can move to left and Michael Brantley to center. Shin-Soo Choo is obviously unaffected by any of this in right. And Guys like Trevor Crowe and Travis Buck, among others, could vie for an extra outfield job off the bench.

There’s no reason to rush Sizemore back before he’s ready.

Here’s a story I wrote on Sizemore for Indians.com today. And a special bonus, a quick video I took of him taking some swings during BP.

Other notes from camp…

  • SantanaAgility.jpg
    Watched C Carlos Santana catch a couple bullpens and then run through some agility tests on a practice field. Yeah, he looks fine. As manager Manny Acta said on Sunday, Santana is “just another guy in Spring Training” right now, not a player restricted in any way by the left knee injury he suffered last August.
  • I watched a couple groups of pitchers throw bullpens, but seeing as I was the only reporter there and it was an unofficial workout (see: no numbers on jerseys) don’t ask me who they all were. This was a big “new guy” moment for me. This is what happens when you cover one team for five years and then switch. I was able to pick out Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco, as well as David Huff and Josh Tomlin. Give me a couple days to put all the names with all the faces.
  • One pitcher not in camp yet is Fausto Carmona, but Acta told me yesterday that the team didn’t expect him to be here early. Carmona has been working out at the team’s facility in the Dominican Republic. Pitchers and catchers are required to report (not necessarily be physically present in camp) on Tuesday. Physicals are Wednesday. First official workout is on Thursday.
  • Pretty much all the position players have arrived. I haven’t seen Travis Hafner or Kearns yet, though. Position players aren’t required to report until Friday. Choo, Jason Donald, Jayson Nix, Shelley Duncan, Lou Marson and a bunch of other players, including Sizemore, took batting practice on the fields today after some hitting in the indoor cage.
  • No, Orlando Cabrera was not in camp today and his signing is still not official. And, no, the Indians didn’t have a locker set up for him in the clubhouse, either. If he’s about to join the team, the Tribe has done well in hiding any clues. The physical remains in the signing process and, if the signing does come to fruition, I’d expect it later this week.
  • Breaking news: Radiohead is releasing a new album on Saturday, if you haven’t heard already. This news, combined with Arcade Fire winning album of the year, made for a wonderful Monday morning for me. Also, watched “127 Hours” last night. What a great performance by James Franco. Next on my to-see list this spring: “The Fighter” and “The King’s Speech.”

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

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