Results tagged ‘ Jack Hannahan ’

Chisen-stalled

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

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

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

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

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

That happens to be the way the Indians see it.

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

This is a principle I agree with entirely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–JB

Getting up to [game] speed

The Indians played some baseball today. At 10:45 local time, Jeanmar Gomez let loose a strike against Jason Donald for the first unofficial pitch of the 2011 season. The Tribe held its first intrasquad game of the spring and played under blue skies and the Arizona sun for four innings.

Gomez got the starting nod for Smitty’s American Racers (coached by third base coach Steve Smith) and Justin Masterson took the ball for Sarby’s Sour-Balls (coached by Triple-A manager Mike Sarbaugh). The Racers won, 3-2, with Donald leading the way with a single, triple and one run scored, plus a nice barehanded play at third base.

“We’re undefeated,” Indians manager Manny Acta declared.

“Actually, you’re 1-1,” I quickly corrected.

Intrasquad games are nice, because it’s a pleasant change of pace from all the bullpen sessions and workout drills. For the team, it gives them a chance to simulate game speed shortly before the Cactus League slate opens up. Typically, pitchers are ahead of the hitters at this point, but the Tribe pounded out five extra base hits, including two triples.

Acta was impressed with what he saw from the lineup. He especially liked seeing guys taking extra bases and moving runners. That’s something he’s been emphasizing this spring. In the second inning, Matt LaPorta stretched a single into a double with some aggressive baserunning, too. It was exactly the type of thing Acta hopes to see more often this year.

“We got in the middle of the pack last year in our baserunning,” Acta said. “Our goal is to continue to get better and push, push, push until we can put some pressure on other people. We just want to be aggressive and smart.”

Notes from Thursday…

  • I had a lovely shot of Goodyear Ballpark that I was going to post here, but the blog is having some issues with allowing me to upload photos. So, if you want to be reminded of what baseball looks like, you’ll have to check out my Twitter feed or go to the yfrog page with the photos. Links are at the bottom of this post.
  • As you may have noticed, I was absent yesterday. Castrovince was in camp and he did a lovely blog post to wrap up Wednesday’s events. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez also pinch hit for me and wrote some articles for Indians.com. See that? It takes two reporters to do in one day what I do alone. [pats self on back]
  • So what did I do with my rare day off? I headed into Estrella Mountain Park and did 11+ miles of trail running/hiking. I felt like I was the only person on the face of the earth running out there in the desert terrain. It was a great day and being deep into the hills forced me to actually take a breather from the daily grind

Oh, you wanted actual baseball notes?

  • Acta walked away very impressed with the three big lefties — Nick Hagadone, Kevlin De La Cruz and Drew Pomeranz — who pitched the final stages of Thursday’s intrasquad game. When asked if he’d ever seen De La Cruz do a backflip, though, you should’ve seen Acta’s eyes widen. Told that the 6-foot-5 De La Cruz did just that early in camp before a workout, Acta smiled wide and said, “Really? He better not do another one.” But you could tell Acta wanted to see it for himself, too.
  • As for Pomeranz, Acta said: “[He] has that mound presence out there. It gives you the impression that nobody is going to hit him. He just has the look out there, that very confident look.” Pomeranz struck out one and walked one in one inning. The lefty noted that he was hitting around 92-95 on his fastball in instrux in October and he also used that time to focus on a changeup he’s been fine-tuning.
  • Donald made a fantastic play at third, bare-handing a ball and making a strong throw for a big out in the second inning. Acta said it will be more important to see how Donald handles the routine plays, though. Plays like Thursday’s are more about instincts and reaction. “That’s a play you see once a month,” Acta said. “We need to see the plays he’ll see every week.”
  • Donald noted that he traveled to San Diego in the offseason and worked with Steve Smith in some one-on-one sessions to prepare for the move to third. Donald said he has also been discussing positioning and other techniques with Travis Fryman here in camp. During BP, Donald is often at third to track balls in the zone and off the bat as well.
  • Gomez worked one clean inning and David Huff was roughed up a little in his inning. Both are competing for the fifth spot. Acta was asked how their respective outings might affect the fifth starter’s race. The manager just laughed. One-inning intrasquad outings do not influence a whole lot.
  • Jack Hannahan is in camp as a third baseman, but he’s been getting plenty of reps at short this week. He’s been taking grounders there and he started at short during Thursday’s game. Acta said Hannahan can also play first and second, if needed, and he could be in the mix for a utility job off the bench (similar to Adam Everett).
  • There is a report out there indicating that Grady Sizemore is likely moving to left field whenever he returns to the lineup. Letting you know that I have not heard that here in camp. Everyone I’ve talked to has said they believe center would actually be better on his legs due to having more room to decelerate when running. The corners can be harder on a player’s legs due to more plays at the wall and more abrupt stopping. So far, everyone has said Sizemore is in the plans for center. If I hear anything different, I will let you know.
  • Friday’s intrasquad game is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. local time on Field 1 at the Indians complex — not at Goodyear Ballpark. Pitchers slated to appear: Carrasco, Talbot, Judy, Herrmann, Laffey, Lewis, Pino, Reyes, Sipp, Todd, McAllister, Martinez, Stowell, Pestano

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.

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

 

 

Managing expectations

Thumbnail image for Acta.jpg
It’s happened a few times this spring. A reporter starts off by saying, “Manny, what do you think…” before pausing every so briefly to turn a thought into a question.

During that quick moment of dead air, Indians manager Manny Acta points a finger at the reporter and answers with an emphatic, “WIN.”

That is Acta’s answer. He doesn’t need to know the question. For Acta, “WIN” is the only thing that matters.

It’s the message he keeps preaching to the media and it’s the same message he has delivered to his players. No matter what the prognosticators are saying, Acta expects his team to win.

And he means it.

On Sunday, a visiting reporter asked Acta about his expectations for the Tribe this season. Specifically, Acta was asked how high he has set his expectations for the coming year.

“Very high,” Acta replied. “Very high, because I’m counting on our rotation and pitching staff to pick up where
they left off last year. They pitched very well in the second half of the season and that’s what
I’m basing it on. I’m not basing my expectations on “Anything can happen.”

“That is part of the
game, but it’s the fact that they got better in the second half and I think they’re going to
continue to get better. With the addition of those guys that were injured, our offense is going
to get better, too.”

Acta was then asked what would be considered a successful season for the Indians, who lost 93 games in 2010 and dropped 97 the year before.

Making the playoffs,” Acta said. “Shoot for the stars. If you don’t make it there, at least you won’t have mud on your shoes. I’m sorry. I just can’t sit over here and tell these guys, ‘Win two more games than last year and we’ll feel that’s fine.’ That’s not fine. You play to win.”

Notes from Sunday…

  • CF Grady Sizemore (left knee) did some sprinting at 50-60 percent in the outfield today. He also added some agility work, moving from side to side and backwards. It’s the first time he added those exercises to his running program since the June microfracture surgery. Sizemore said he had no issues and the goal remains to be ready in time for Opening Day on April 1.
  • Sunday’s workout — the first full-squad workout of the spring — was altered some due to some heavy early-morning rain. Pitchers threw in the bullpen instead of on the field and the hitters moved to the indoor batting cage. The first day of having batters “track” pitches was scrapped. The plan is for hitters to track and not swing on Monday.
  • Infield practice was also canned on Sunday due to the wet conditions on the fields. The Indians did hold a baserunning lecture on the field, though. On Monday, the Tribe plan on going over bunt-play fundamentals as well.
  • The Indians plan on having an intrasquad game on Thursday (estimated seven innings) and again on Friday (estimated 4 1/2 innings). Acta said that Indians catcher Carlos Santana is currently penciled in to start behind the plate on Thursday. Santana has no restrictions after completing his rehab from left knee surgery.
  • Asked who the main competitors for third base were, Acta named Jason Donald, Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena and Jared Goedert. Jack Hannahan will also get reps there this spring as will Cord Phelps and Lonnie Chisenhall to a lesser extent. Goedert has been criticized for his defense, but Acta said he wants to get a close look at the prospect this spring.
  • Mike Hargrove is scheduled to join the club in camp on Thursday. He and Eduardo Perez will spend time working with the many players expected to see reps at first base this spring. Kenny Lofton, who will help with outfielders and baserunning, should be in camp on Tuesday.
  • Acta said he is in no way worried about Matt LaPorta’s defensive ability at first base. Said the manager: “I’m not concerned at all about LaPorta. LaPorta played very good defense for us last year. I thought that he did a very fine job over there. The second half of the season, he was a little bit worn out, but I’m very happy with how he played defense.”
  • This is from yesterday, but I forgot to toss it on here. Acta was asked about the head of hair that Travis Hafner showed up with this spring. Here’s what the skip, chuckling throughout, had to say: “He said he felt comfortable with that haircut. I just couldn’t believe it. I shave my head because I’m bald. If I had hair, I would try every style. I really don’t comprehend why someone with hair would want to shave it. I’d try every haircut possible until I run out of hair. That’s what I did.”

One last thing…

Have you seen Acta’s new profile picture on Twitter (@Mactriber_11)? No?

Well, then here you go:

Manny.jpg

The story behind it: This photo of Acta was taken 24 years ago and was sent to him last year by his brother, who stumbled across it. They found it amusing that Acta was wearing an Indians T-shirt more than two decades before becoming the manager of the team. Why was he wearing it? He was a big fan of the D.R.’s Julio Franco, who was with the Indians at the time.

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

There and Back Again


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

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

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

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

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

Other items of note:

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

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

–JB

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