Results tagged ‘ Jason Donald ’

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

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

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

Gone with the wind

The wind was howling at the Indians’ player development complex Monday morning and it didn’t let up when the team arrived to the Ballpark at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.

It was raging out to left field — the 25 mph listed in the box score seems like an understatement — making it less than ideal for pitchers. As expected, we took in a near-four hour slugfest that ended with the Indians and White Sox waving the white flags after ending nine innings in a 16-16 deadlock.

Monday’s game by the numbers

54 at-bats
39 hits
32 runs
20 left on base
16 extra-base hits
10 walks
10 doubles
6 home runs
6 errors
4 wild pitches
2 hit batters
0 starters without a hit

For the Tribe, right-hander Mitch Talbot allowed nine runs on six hits in just 1 2/3 innings. He walked two and allowed two homers (both by Alex Rios). Talbot has a spot in the rotation right now. The elements aside, Indians manager Manny Acta was not particularly pleased with what he saw from Talbot on Monday.

“I didn’t think he threw enough strikes,” Acta said. “I thought that he pitched a lot behind in the count. These are not the conditions to give hitters an advantage.”

Acta also took all of the home runs for what they were worth in such a high wind.

“A couple of those home runs,” Acta said, “I don’t have them in my book.”

The exception was the shot by infielder Luis Valbuena in the eight inning. He took a pitch out to right-center field, earning a three-run shot that pulled the game into a 14-14 tie at the time.

“Yeah, he really hit that ball hard,” Acta said. “It was a brekaing ball, too. Across the wind. The wind was blowing to left, so that was a very good swing by him. He’s hit some balls hard since Day 1 in Spring Training. It’s good to see that for his confidence.”

Notes from Monday…

  • The Indians officially signed 1B/DH Nick Johnson to a one-year Minor League contract on Monday. Right now, he is rehabbing his right wrist from a third surgery (all in the past year). The timetable for his return is not clear right now. If he does reach the Majors at some point this season, his deal is worth $750,000. The contract also includes a $2.75 club option for 2012. He is not an option for the Opening Day roster.
  • Jason Donald, who was hit on the left hand with a pitch on Saturday, took part in some of Monday’s workout. He played catch and did some running. He hopes to add hitting back to his routine on Tuesday. Acta said there is a chance that Donald will participate in the full workout. That means Donald could potentially be available for games again as early as Wednesday or Thursday. He is the front-runner for the starting third baseman job.
  • Right-hander Doug Mathis worked two scoreless innings during Monday’s debacle. Acta called it “a miracle” given how most of the pitchers fared. Giving Mathis multi-inning outings is part of the plan this spring. He’s in camp on a Minor League deal, but he’s in the mix for a long-relief role out of Cleveland’s bullpen.
  • Bad news for Minor Leaguer Jared Goedert. He strained a right oblique muscle and is going to miss at least a couple of weeks, according to Acta. Goedert will likely be at Triple-A this season and he’ll get playing time at first base, third base, designated hitter and left field. Acta and the Indians staff were looking forward to getting a close lok at Goedert this spring, so it’s a disappointing development for both sides.
  • Acta noted that Indians catcher Carlos Santana is penciled in to make his first spring start at first base on Wednesday. He will have at least three starts at the position throughout the spring. Santana is a former third baseman and has shown good hands at first, Acta said. The areas Santana needs to learn more about deal with positioning on certain plays. Santana will see time at first this season as a way to keep his legs fresh.
  • The Indians signed 25 rostered players on Monday. The only three left to sign are Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez and Santana. The deadline for any unsigned roster players to pen their name on a contract for 2011 is Friday.
  • Players who signed on Monday include: Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Ezequiel Carrera, Trevor Crowe, Kelvin De La Cruz, Jason Donald, Shelley Duncan, Jared Goedert, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, David Huff, Josh Judy, Corey Kluber, Matt LaPorta, Lou Marson, Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Jayson Nix, Vinnie Pestano, Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp, Mitch Talbot, Jess Todd, Luis Valbuena and Nick Weglarz.
  • Brantley remained out of the lineup on Monday, but he took part in the Indians morning workout. He has not played since Thursday, missing four games since then. Acta continued to call Brantley’s ailment “lower body soreness.” Brantley was wearing an athletic brace on his right knee Monday morning, for what that’s worth. The issue is obviously not serious since Brantley has been taking part in the workouts and Acta said he will be back in the outfield and starting lineup on Tuesday.
  • Shin-Soo Choo has missed the past two games, but Acta noted that he’ll be back in right field on Tuesday. Choo has been dealing with left elbow soreness throughout camp and is still not entirely back at full strength.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes reported no issues from his Sunday bullpen session. He noted that he is slated to throw off a mound again on Tuesday or Wednesday. Reyes was not sure when he might make his first Cactus League appearance this spring.
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco rejoined the team on Monday after being in Florida with his wife for the birth of their first child. They welcomed a baby girl into the world. He is down to pitch on Wednesday.
  • The Indians have a “B” game scheduled against the Reds at 9:30 a.m. local time at the Tribe’s complex on Tuesday. Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin will make his spring game debut. Free to attend for fans. The Indians and White Sox will also have a “B” game at 10 a.m. on Sunday in Glendale.
    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

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

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

The best defense is a good defense

Donald2.jpgThe way things are shaping up, Jason Donald appears to be in a good position to land the opening at third base. Don’t believe me? Well, then take it from manager Manny Acta.

“Jason Donald, for us,” Acta said on Friday, “was going to be a guy who was going to get at-bats regardless of whether it was going to be at third or at second.”

Second base is not much of an option, considering the Indians just signed Orlando Cabrera with that spot in mind. Could a disastrous spring move Cabrera to the bench? Sure. But the real competition is now at third, not at second.

Also, consider that Donald noted on Friday that he has taken exactly zero grounders at second base or shortstop since arriving in camp. All of his attention has been on third base, which gives him the best chance of heading north as a part of the Tribe’s starting lineup.

Donald will get reps at second and short this spring, but right now he is concentrating soley on the hot corner. Also in the mix are Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena and Jack Hannahan, as well as youngsters Jared Goedert and Cord Phelps (though Phelps will see most his action at second).

Acta has emphasized how important infield defense will be this season and the club believes Donald has the ability to handle the position. Here’s what Acta had to say when asked why Cleveland started to consider Donald as a realistic option for third…

“The fact that he was pushed to the big leagues last year, but he survived and played fairly well for us,” Acta said. “He worked during the offseason with [third-base coach and infield instructor]Steve Smith and Smitty saw a lot of things that he liked about it. We’ve seen some of those in the week that he’s been here. That’s pretty much it.”

Asked if Donald had the arm to handle third, Acta had no doubts.

“He’s a shortstop, yeah,” Acta replied. “He’s got a good enough arm to play third base.”

Donald’s only experience at third as a pro came in the Arizona Fall League in 2008 and at Triple-A in 2009. Donald said he played “some third base” in each instance. Right now, he said his biggest challenge is getting used to the different reads off the bat and the topspin on most grounders down the line.

Donald knows how important infield defense will be this season, too.

“We have more sinkerballers,” Donald said. “I think it’s very important. We’re not going to make any excuses, but we were trying to find things out about, ‘Can I play here?’, ‘Can this guy play here?’ and whatnot [in 2010]. I think now coming into camp, guys have a better idea of what their roles are.”

Note from Friday…

  • As long as we’re talking infield D, it’s worth noting that the Indians had the third-highest total of infield errors (72) in the American League in 2010. They made 27 errors at third, 25 at short and 10 each at second and first. Of Cleveland’s 110 errors as a team, 65.5% came in the infield (third-highest percentage in AL).
  • Acta was quick to point out that much of the infield’s defensive issues a year ago stemmed from losing Asdrubal Cabrera to injury and trading away Jhonny Peralta. That said… “It’s in the past and we need to play better defense,” Acta added. The Indians are hoping having Orlando Cabrera at second and a healthy Cabrera at short will help bring some stability to the infield alignment.
  • Chatted some with righty Justin Masterson today (Shameless plug: check indians.com later today for a feature on him). He said the biggest challenge for him this season is to remain consistent with his delivery mechanics. That’s not always easy to do for someone of his size (6-6, 250). Masterson and pitching coach Tim Belcher developed some “checkpoints” in his delivery down the stretch last year and the big righty is hoping to carry that into the upcoming campaign.
  • Acta discussed the bullpen picture some on Friday. The only “locks” right now are Chris Perez, Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp. Acta said Joe Smith and Jensen Lewis “have a leg up” on the others. So, by process of elimination, that leaves two jobs up for grabs this spring with a whole lotta arms in the running.
  • Acta noted that he would “ideally” prefer to have “at least one” pitcher in the bullpen capable of logging multiple innings. Aaron Laffey could handle that role, but Acta did not want to lable Laffey a long-relief option until the pitcher is no longer considered a possibility for the fifth rotation job.
  • Besides Laffey, Acta said some long relief options include Frank Herrman, Justin Germano and Joe Martinez. Two more pitchers who could enter that mix later this spring are Anthony Reyes and Josh Tomlin. Acta said Reyes and Tomlin could be considered for the ‘pen if it becomes clear that they are not going to win the fifth starter’s role.
  • Cleveland’s position players were required to report to Arizona on Friday and they will undergo their physicals on Saturday. Sunday is the first scheduled full-squad workout. As far as I’ve been able to tell, everyone has been in camp. Austin Kearns arrived to the complex in Goodyear on Thursday.
  • One name that has not come up too often in the discussions about second and third base is that of veteran infielder Adam Everett, signed to a Minor League contract over the winter. Acta said Everett will compete for the infield utility job.
  • The Indians outrighted Martinez to Triple-A Columbus on Friday to clear room on the 40-man roster for the signing of Orlando Cabrera. Martinez will remain in camp as a non-roster invitee. Currently, the Tribe has 61 players (31 pitchers, 14 infielders, 10 outfielders and six catchers) in camp with the big league club.

————————————————————————

Photo of the day:

GM Chris Antonetti keeps an eye on Friday’s workout

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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

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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