Results tagged ‘ Grady Sizemore ’

Please stand by…

Thumbnail image for standbybars.JPGI asked the Indians if they could stop their whole Spring Training operation for a few days while I head home to see my family in Ohio, but apparently the show will go on without me here in Goodyear. I am leaving on a jet plan on Wednesday morning and I will return Sunday night. In the meantime, the blog will be quiet.

While I’m away, you can keep checking Indians.com for the latest Tribe coverage. There will be a team of writers filling in for me while I’m back home enjoying some down time with Mrs. MLBastian and MLBastian Jr. Come Monday morning, yours truly will be back grinding away here on the beat, getting ready for Opening Day.

But, before I go, here are some notes from Tuesday…

  • Center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) ran the bases again on Tuesday morning. He did three sets of home to first, home to second and second to home. He will do one more baserunning workout on Thursday, or Friday if he needs an extra day. The biggest obstacle left in his rehab progression is sliding.
  • If Sizemore passes his next baserunning tests with flying colors, he could make his Spring Training game debut for the Indians on Sunday, according to manager Manny Acta. At the latest, Sizemore said he hoped to be in a game situation by Monday. CLICK HERE for the latest on Sizemore Watch.
  • Righty Anthony Reyes made his Cactus League debut on Tuesday. He faced four batters, retiring two, walking one and allowing a double. Reyes was pulled after 22 pitches due to a pitch count, according to Acta. Earlier this spring, Reyes, who missed all of last season after elbow surgery, was shut down due to elbow soreness.
  • Third baseman Jason Donald remains sidelined with a bone bruise in his left hand. He took part in Cleveland’s morning workout on Tuesday with the exception of swinging a bat. He is unlikely to swing a bat until Thursday at the earliest. On Thursday or Friday, Donald might get into a Minor League or Cactus League game for late-inning defense. When he’ll be back in the starting lineup remains up in the air.
  • Right-hander Joe Smith is also still sidelined with upper abdominal soreness. Smith did note that he was able to throw a light round of catch on Monday. He hopes to be back on a mound for the Indians later this week. Smith said he will likely throw a bullpen session prior to being cleared for a return to Cactus League play.
  • Right-hander Mitch Talbot, who had a 17.55 ERA through three starts this spring, bounced back in a big way on Tuesday. He allowed one first-inning run over five frames, striking out three with no walks and six scattered hits. Talbot said it was a “big weight off his shoulders” to finally find a comfortable and reliable release point. He had been struggling with command of all four pitches this spring.
  • Even though it is only Spring Training, both Talbot and Acta said it was a bit of a relief to see an improved showing from the starter. Talbot said it helped having the knowledge that he already had a spot on the Opening Day roster. That allowed him to work through his mechanical issue without worrying about losing a Major League job.
  • Reliever Jensen Lewis had a tough outing against the Brewers. He entered in relief of Reyes with two outs and two runners on base. Lewis then allowed a three-run homer, issued a walk and gave up a single, and then surrendered another three-run homers. Acta said Lewis struggled with his fastball command.
  • Acta also noted that neither Lewis nor Smith have a guaranteed spot in the bullpen. Right now, the only locks are Chris Perez, Chad Durbin, Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp. That leaves four spots up for grabs. “[Lewis] and Smitty have a leg up,” Acta said, “but a leg up doesn’t mean you’re in. I think just about everybody is fighting for a spot.” It is worth noting that Lewis is out of player options.
  • Chatted some this morning with reliever Frank Herrmann about working with Mike Scott over the offseason on a revamped splitter. Herrmann said their meeting lasted a half hour at most, but Scott showed Herrmann how to simplify his splitter grip. The big challenge right now for Herrmann is to maintain the same arm action and arm speed as he does with his fastball, as to not give away when the split is coming.
  • The Indians have a scheduled team off-day on Wednesday. Players will be sleeping in, going golfing and doing a whole heckuva lot of nothing, for the most part. Not right-hander Josh Tomlin. He’ll be at the Indians complex for a 10 am PT Minor League start. He is vying for the fifth spot in the rotation.

Catch you guys on Monday. Try to survive without me…

–JB

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

“It’s Spring Training.”

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

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

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

“It’s Spring Training,” Acta said.

See?

Do you feel better now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notes from Friday…

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

Pom[eranz] Wonderful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That curveball? It was making hitters look silly.

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

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

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

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

Notes from Sunday…

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

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

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

“We didn’t start the fire”


Drier.jpgYou know it’s just going to be one of those days when you wake up to an e-mail from the Indians PR director that reads:

“There was a fire outside the locker room area at the ballpark last night/early this morning that has been contained and damage is being assessed as we speak.”

Lovely.

It was not a big blaze. In fact, the fire was contained to one appliance: “The Burner.”

When the Indians pulled up the stakes in Winter Haven, Fla., and moved across the country to Goodyear, Ariz., for Spring Training a few years ago, a large dryer was rolled onto one of the moving trucks. It had a reputation for running a little hot.

Thus, the nickname.

Well, on Friday morning, as “The Burner” did its worst to a batch of towels at Goodyear Ballpark, a small fire broke out. Emergency crews were on the scene at 6 a.m. local time and the stadium did not suffer any structural damage. Only Mr. Burner was hurt. There he sat, charred and obliterated, resting in a pool of water.

Farewell, sweet prince.

As a result of the small fire, the Rockies had to take batting practice at their home ballpark. The afternoon tilt at Goodyear Ballpark went on as planned, though. There was a lot of standing water in the laundry room, in an indoor batting cage across the hall and on the right-field warning track, but it was all cleaned up throughout the day.

CLICK HERE for a story I wrote on the fire and check out the short video with it. I think I should be up for some cinematography award for my excellent b-roll footage.

You just never know what to around here on any given day.

Friday’s notes…

  • Shin-Soo Choo made his Cactus League debut in right field during Friday’s 6-2 win over the Rockies. He played five innings and admitted he felt tired as the game wore on. Choo added that he talked to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, who said the fatigue was normal, considering the outfielder spent the last week building up his arm strength and not playing the field. Choo had served only as a DH up to this point.
  • Choo made it clear before spring that he did not want to discuss a contract extension once the regular season began. As of Friday, Choo said he had not heard from GM Chris Antonetti or his agent Scott Boras about any ongoing talks. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. If Choo signs a long-term deal, I think next winter is the most likely time it would happen.
  • Staying with Choo here for a moment, he was asked what he would consider a good season. Choo did not hesitate, answering only: “Playoffs.” Choo said that is his only goal, no matter what outside expectations are for the Tribe.
  • Center fielder Grady Sizemoe (left knee) took another step forward — pun intended? — in his rehab on Friday. Sizemore took part in outfield group drills, catching fly balls and fielding grounders. He also upped the intensity of his agility and sprint drills, noting that the day’s exercises had him moving “in all directions.” He also took part in batting practice as usual.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes resumed a throwing program on Friday after being shut down for the past five days due to elbow soreness. Reyes played catch and reported no issues. He worked to a distance of 90 feet. If all goes well, Cleveland hopes to have Reyes back on a mound next week.
  • The Stork is busy this week, too. Carlos Carrasco left the team on Friday to head to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Left-hander Rafael Perez rejoined the team Friday after being in New York for the birth of his child. Congrats.
  • Chatted for a while with first baseman Matt LaPorta this morning. Check Indians.com tomorrow for a feature. Briefly, he feels drastically different than he did a year ago thanks to a normal offseason. On the bases and at the plate, he feels like a completely different player now that his legs are strong. Indians manager Manny Acta has been very pleased with what he’s seen so far as well.
  • Third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a long home run in Friday’s win. For the spring — yes, I know, sample size alert — he is batting .500. He’s off to a hot start and is ticketed for Triple-A Columbus. I asked Acta if Chisenhall was trying to make the team anyway. “We encourage everybody that it doesn’t matter what we tell them in those two-on-one meetings [with the manager and general manager],” Acta said. “They should have that type of mentality. It has happened before.”
  • Indians Opening Day starter Fausto Carmona went three innings on Friday, allowing one run on three hits against the Rockies. Indians closer Chris Perez continued to be bored — just what you want your close to be — with one shutout inning  of work. Indians pitching prospect Alex White logged two scoreless frames.
  • Tomorrow the Indians have split squad games at home (White Sox) and on the road (Mariners). Pitching at home will be David Huff (starting), Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister, Vinnie Pestano, Zach Putnam and Jess Todd. Pitching on the road will be Jeanmar Gomez (starting in place of Carrasco), Kelvin De La Cruz, Jensen Lewis, Yohan Pino, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith and Bryce Stowell.

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Photo of the day:

Shadows.jpg

New blog profile photo.

That’s Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and I
watching some of the game while waiting to interview Fausto Carmona.

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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

Waiting to exhale

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

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

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

Indians manager Manny Acta held his breath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes from Tuesday…

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

That’s all for today…

…but that was plenty, right?

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

–JB

Fausto goes first

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

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

So we did. And guess what?

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

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

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

Other notes from Monday…

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

That’s all for today…

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

–JB

Shin-Soo Boom…

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

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

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

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

Cabrera then walked over and grabbed Choo’s bat.

“Let me see that,” Cabrera said.

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

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

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

Notes from Saturday…

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

Finally…

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

That’s all for today…

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

–JB

As the Crowe flies…

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

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

Well, the first spring bruise arrived on Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notes from Friday…

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

That’s all for today…

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

–JB

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

 

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