Results tagged ‘ Jayson Nix ’

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

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

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

Manny being Manny

ActaBatterhorn.jpgIt’s been an interesting few days for Indians manager Manny Acta. Fresh off a mini-vacation with his family to a remote beach area in his native Dominican Republic, Acta was in Cleveland, hands gripped tightly to an inflatable tube as he flew down the Batterhorn at Snow Days at Progressive Field.
 
That was just Saturday.
 
On Sunday, Acta attended his first NFL game, watching the Browns edge out the Panthers, 24-23. Acta was sporting an Indians winter hat at the game, but he said he was proudly wearing and waving a bright orange foam finger as he cheered on Cleveland’s team.
 
“It was a good experience,” Acta said with a smile. “And we won. Regardless of how, and who we beat, we won.”

Acta is soaking up all things Cleveland — evidenced by his usage of the word “we” when talking about the Browns.
 
He raved about watching Browns running back Peyton Hillis plow through defenders, even referencing the hard-nosed back when asked if Grady Sizemore might need to adjust his all-out style in light of his recent knee injury.
 
“That’s just the way he’s wired,” Acta said. “That’s like asking Hillis to stop running people over.”
 
Acta took the time to gather with reporters on Monday afternoon for a casual lunch, followed by a question-and-answer session. Monday evening Acta was scheduled to hold a chat with Indians’ season-ticket holders as well. Here are a few highlights of Acta’s discussion with us local scribes today
 

  • On more than one occastion, Acta noted that the non-tender date is coming up. Considering Cleveland is limited in what it can do financially, looking to this second wave of free agents — typically less-expensive options — might be a way for the club to solve the holes at third base and in the rotation. Thursday is baseball’s non-tender deadline.
  • Asked about third base, Acta said, “We’ll see what’s out there. if not, we’re prepared to go with our in-house candidates.” He took a slightly different route when answering about the club’s search for rotation help. “We should be able to add a guy or two and have him compete. There are some guys that are going to go to Spring Training to compete for us who probably still need some more seasoning in the Minor Leagues.”
  • One internal option for third base is Jayson Nix, who is working on his defense at the position at winter ball in Puerto Rico. That said, Acta noted that Nix’s performance in P.R. will not dictate whether the Tribe seeks an addition at the hot corner. “If that would be the case, then I would be tomorrow sitting in Puerto Rico watching him play,” Acta said with a chuckle. “You have to give it to him. Not too many guys will take the challenge and go to winter ball and get better. He’s just trying to make himself more versatile.”
  • There was no real update on Sizemore, but Acta said he did see the center fielder when the manager was in Arizona to see some Fall League action. Understandably, Acta said the club will take a very conservative approach with Sizemore in the spring, but the manager added that, “Until I hear anything different, he’s our center fielder. But, we have to get to Spring Training and see how he is and how things develop.”
  • Acta maintained his sense of humor when asked about the Tribe’s poor luck with injuries: “My seventh, eighth or ninth hitter never went down,” he quipped. The manager is excited about the possibility of having both Sizemore and catcher Carlos Santana back at full strength and knows that a pile of injuries present a big problem for teams like the Indians. “It’s something that is tough to absorb when you’re a team rebuilding and you don’t have the depth or the flexibility to just go grab somebody else.”
  • Acta noted that there are definitely some spots in the Indians’ bullpen that are “up for grabs.” Said the manager: “We have Chris Perez and we have the two lefties [Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez]. Then we have [Joe] Smith and the rest of the guys. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to that, so guys like [Josh] Judy, he could come into Spring Training and who knows? He could win a spot. We’re not dead set on the rest of those guys.”
  • When it comes to leadership within the clubhouse, Acta said he expected guys like Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo to play a larger role come 2011. Acta has no problem with younger guys stepping up, either: “I just don’t know who told people you have to be a 10-year veteran to be a leader.” Then again… “I’ll take pitching and defense over leadership,” Acta quipped.
  • Acta was asked for his thoughts about Indians CEO Paul Dolan’s recent comments about this not being the right time to spend on free agents. Replied Acta: “It doesn’t upset me, because … he also said that when he feels it’s the right time, he will spend.” After referencing the Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa signings of nto so long ago, Acta added: “My job is actually to make these guys better and to make Paul spend. … I feel very confident about what we have here. He was pretty clear about that, that when he thinks it’s the right time, he’ll do it, and he has done it.”

Makes you wonder…

… can Hillis play third base?

~JB

     
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