Results tagged ‘ Jason Donald ’

Greetings from Goodyear

IndiansComplex.jpgThe unofficial start of Spring Training for me has always been the drive over the Courtney Campbell Causeway that runs over Tampa Bay. Water to my left and to my right. Palm trees all around. Baseball straight ahead.

I guess I’ve got to start establishing some new traditions now that I’m covering the Indians out here in the Arizona desert. The drive west on I-10 didn’t have the same feel as the causeway, but I certainly didn’t mind gazing out at all the mountains surrounding Phoenix.

I landed Saturday afternoon — a barking dog in my row on the plane made the trip feel much longer than it was — and reached my spring headquarters by about 3 p.m. local time. Of course, “reached” doesn’t mean I “got inside” my home for the next six weeks. Turns out, the rental company had a slight oversight. No keys were left for me.

Eventually I got into Casa de Bastian and everything is great. I got a decent enough rental car, my apartment is nice and the weather is gorgeous (I know, you didn’t need to hear that last part). This morning, I headed over to the Indians’ player development complex to check out the club’s digs. Man, what a great facility.

No offense, Dunedin. I loved being near the beach and you’re little Main Street was great. The ballpark had its good qualities, too. But, man, the complex the Indians have here in Goodyear is fantastic. Everything looks brandnew and having the Estrella Mountains as a backdrop is going to be a pleasure. I’m going to do some trail running up there, too.

But I digress…

It was quiet at camp this morning, which was expected. It’s Sunday and the last Sunday before Spring Training officially opens at that. Jason Donald dropped by for a bit, but there wasn’t a whole heckuva lot of activity going on today. Except inside the manager’s office, that is. Manny Acta was on hand, working hard.

Inside his office, there is a large whiteboard to the left with all the names listed of players in camp with the team. On the wall behind his desk hangs a picture of former Expos manager Felipe Alou. Along that wall is a minifridge. On top? A hat from a Dominican winter league team and a Cleveland Browns cap.

“Nice touch,” I said.

“Hey, I’m a Browns fan,” Acta said with a grin.

Chatted for a while with Acta about a wide variety of topics, but eventually we discussed this spring and the current roster. Acta has been in camp for about a week and he’s been pleasantly surprised with the high volume of players already on hand. Acta said morning stretch has looked like a normal spring workout due to so many players being here already.

On Saturday, center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) hit on the field for the first time since his injury and Acta said he looked great: “Like a kid with a new toy.” Acta added that Sizemore is not likely to be a full participant in outfield drills when full-squad workouts begin next weekend. Obviously, Sizemore will need to pass certain running and agility tests before being cleared for full outfield activity.

Acta raved about what he’s seen in bullpen sessions from Carlos Carrasco. The manager also had great things to say about what he’s seen from pitching prospect Alex White. Acta said he is also excited to see some of the young relief prospects — Vinnie Pestano, Josh Judy, Bryce Stowell and Zach Putnam, in particular — push for bullpen jobs.

In the infield, assuming Orlando Cabrera’s physical is fine and he does indeed sign with the Indians (the signing has not been officially confirmed by the club), he will be the front-runner in the competition at second base. The way I see it, Donald is the front-runner at third. If he can show he has the glove and arm to handle the hot corner, I believe it’s his job to lose. Acta noted again on Sunday how important strong defense will be at third base.

Asked if he had a favorite to win the third-base job, Acta chuckled and shook his head.

“No, no,” Acta said. “I don’t have a favorite.”

The only people I saw on the practice diamonds today were the groundskeepers, watering the grass and tending to the infield. There are sure to be players out there tomorrow and I’ll keep you up-to-date on all the goings on at camp. Be sure to be following me on Twitter (@MLBastian) and I will keep you posted in the coming days where I’ll be posting photos.

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

Winter Meetings: Day 2

WMpic.jpgWelcome to Day 2 of the Winter Meetings here in the land of walking, talking mice.

After two Meetings here at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin resort, I am now a pro at navigating my way around the lobby. Not sure how this skill will help me later in life.

As an aside, a big plus to being here this week if the fact that MLBastian Jr. is really into Mickey right now. One stop in a gift shop and my Christmas shopping will be done for the little man this week. Shhh, don’t tell him!

Things are still quiet on the Tribe front. There’s the rumors of having interest in outfielder Fred Lewis (a source told me the Indians did indeed inquire about him, but so have more than half a dozen other teams), and maybe Jeff Francoeur (not seeing it happening) or Nick Punto (as a utility man).

If those seem like minor discussions, well that’s because they are, and don’t expect the Tribe to be in on any big names this week or later this winter. The biggest name they’ll be talking about is Shin-Soo Choo, and that’ll be floating the idea of an extension with agent Scott Boras.

So, it’s more of the same right now here on Day 2. Make sure you keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. We’ll be meeting again with GM Chris Antonetti this afternoon.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE: 5:51 p.m. ET — One online rumor indicated that the Indians had interest in free-agent shortstop Adam Everett. Probably the same type of infield utility role that the Tribe reportedly is interested in having free-agent infielder Nick Punto fill. Without going into specifics, Antonetti said today that the club could benefit from adding an extra infielder. More on our chat with Antonetti in a bit.

UPDATE: 8:13 p.m. ET — Indians are close to signing free-agent catcher Paul Phillips, formerly of the Rockies. Deal is not done, but would be a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invite. Another rumor swirling is that Mariners have interest in trading for Indians infielder Luis Valbuena.

UPDATE: 8:38 p.m. ET — The Indians met with the representative for free-agent infielder Nick Punto on Tuesday. Cleveland also met with a handful of other free agents as well.

Notes and quotes from Day 2:

  • The Indians are out of the mix for 3B Edwin Encarnacion. His performance in the field is simply too much of a risk to put behind a cast of young rotation arms, especially when the group relies so much on grounders. EE’s bat is intriguing, but not to the point that his fielding issues can be ignored.
  • Even though CF Grady Sizemore is making positive strides in his comeback from microfracture surgery on his left knee, the Indians have to be prepared in the event he isn’t ready for Opening Day. OF Michael Brantley is the favorite to move to center/leadoff if Sizemore is not fully recovered. The Indians have also inquired about free-agent Fred Lewis, though he only seems like a fit if the Indians do not currently believe Sizemore will return in time for Opening Day.
  • The more immediate concern in the outfield is obtaining a right-handed hitter. The addition would simply be a player who could provide a day off for the regulars on days when a lefty was on the mound. Don’t expect Jeff Francouer in an Indians’ jersey, though. His price is rising with multiple teams interested.
  • Antonetti noted that Jason Donald will see time at multiple infield spots in the spring. Donald remains in the mix for the starting role at second base. The Tribe could also benefit from more stability behind shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Punto would help in that regard, providing more depth around the infield.
  • Catcher Carlos Santana (left knee) is back in Arizona rehabbing. Antonetti said his rehab has gone well and he will likely be slightly ahead of Sizemore when Spring Training begins. That said, Sizemore remains on his initial progression and should resume running activities some time in January.
  • Asked of Jason Kipnis could be in the mix for the starting job at second base, Antonetti said you can’t rule anything out. Maybe so, but Kipnis has yet to play one inning at Triple-A. It seems more realistic that Cord Phelps makes a push for a roster job out of camp than Kipnis, who could benefit from more time on the farm.
  • I don’t expect the Indians to leave these Meetings with a new rotation member. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tribe does not add an arm to its staff. If they do, it will probably be a late-offseason add. Manager Manny Acta and Antonetti are on the same page in terms of the belief that there is no reason to add a veteran simply to add a veteran. Leadership and mentoring are great attributes, but the Indians are more interested in quality innings. If the veteran options out there are not clear upgrades, the Tribe will likely stick with its developing in-house alternatives. 

More tomorrow…

~JB

Winter Meetings: Day 1

Swan-and-Dolphin-Hotel-Birthday-Orlando-794146.jpgSitting here in the media work room at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort, soaking up all that is Day 1 of the Winter Meetings.

Teams have been busy leading up to this year’s annual offseason gathering, with Adam Dunn signing with the White Sox, Jayson Werth inking a seven-year pact with the Nationals, the Blue Jays trading away Shaun Marcum and the Red Sox pulling off a swap with San Diego to reel in Adrian Gonzalez.

As for your Indians? Well, don’t expect any huge, headline-hogging news this week in Lake Buena Vista. Tribe GM Chris Antonetti will surely be kicking the tires on some third base options, as well as looking into finding a starting pitcher, a backup catcher and a right-handed-hitting outfielder. Antonetti might also be hunting down uberagent Scott Boras for a chat about an extension for Shin-Soo Choo.

Us Cleveland scribes will meet with Antonetti this afternoon and Indians manager Manny Acta is scheduled to hold his sit-down today at 4 p.m. ET. While the Indians might not be the most active team at these Winter Meetings, I’ll do my best to keep up up to date on all that’s going on with the club.

Keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter.

Stay tuned for more…

UPDATE — 3:51 p.m. ET: One rumor making the rounds is that the Indians have some level of interest in free-agent outfielder Jeff Francoeur. The Royals, Phillies and Rockies have also been tabbed as suitors for the outfielder. The Tribe is in the market for a right-handed-hitting outfielder to help break-up the all-lefty combo of Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo.

UPDATE — 5:49 p.m. ET:
The Indians, along with more than half a dozen teams, have reportedly inquired about outfielder Fred Lewis. On the surface, this doesn’t seem to be a fit. The Tribe already has three lefty outfielders and Lewis became increasingly unhappy as his playing time decreased down the stretch last season with the Blue Jays.

Notes & quotes from Day 1:

  • Antonetti would not spill the beans when asked if he has met or plans to meet with Boras this week to continue talks about an extension for Choo. He did say that they will have to talk because Choo is eligible for arbitration, so talks of an extension will “naturally” be a part of the process. The GM noted that he is reluctant to discuss long-term deals once the regular season has started.
  • In discussing the situation at third base, Acta said that Jason Donald, Jayson Nix and Cord Phelps could all be in the mix for the job, barring an offseason addition. “There is a chance of everything in the world,” Acta said. “There is a chance. We’re very deep and our depth is great up the middle.”
  • Antonetti and Acta both emphasized the importance of having a strong defender at third base, especially due to having a young all-righty rotation that is so reliant on ground balls. That would seemingly rule out Encarnacion. But, Antonetti left the door open by saying, “If there’s an exceptional offensive player available at that position that may not be as strong defensively, we’ll be open-minded to that as well.” So, yeah…
  • Antonetti is not one to dive into specifics, but I asked him if there were any surprise decisions at the non-tender deadline. Maybe the Tribe had its eyes on someone who they thought would become a free-agent. Antonetti replied, “Up to that point you have dialogue with teams to get some sense. There may have been a couple of surprises on either side, here or there, but for the most part a lot of the guys we expected to be non-tendered were non-tendered.” More to the point, the Indians probably would’ve preferred the A’s non-tender Kevin Kouzmanoff — not Encarnacion.
  • If the Indians are going to find rotation help through free agency, a signing is not likely to happen this week at the Meetings. The Tribe needs more time to see how the market develops. “We’re not in a position to preempt the market,” said the GM. Obviously, if the Tribe is looking at trades, it could come sooner rather than later. It’s been pretty quiet on that front.
  •  Antonetti offered some unsolicited praise for former GM Pat Gillick, who was voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame on Monday. Said the Indians GM: “I’m elated at the fact that Gillick got elected to the Hall of Fame. That is great. There’s not a classier, more respected person in all of baseball than Pat. He’s so deserving of that.”
  • Acta noted that center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) passed a checkup on Sunday and remains on target for Opening Day. So far, the same can be said for catcher Carlos Santana, who is also making his way back from a left knee operation.
  • While you can never have enough pitching, Acta likes the way his bullpen is set up for the time being. As things currently stand, it’s closer Chris Perez, with Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith under contract. Then, there will be a bevy of arms in the mix for the other jobs. Names that quickly rolled off Acta’s tongue were Josh Judy, Zach Putnam, Bryce Stowell and Vinnie Pestano.
  • Asked about Luis Valbueno’s play in winter ball in Venezuela (.271 average, .341 on-base in 48 games), Acta had this to say: “The main thing is Luis’ playing. He needs to get
    his confidence back. Hopefully before the year’s over, he gets up there in the .270s, .280s, .300s, and comes to camp re-energized.”

More tomorrow…

~JB

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