Results tagged ‘ Josh Tomlin ’

Please stand by…

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

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

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

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

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

–JB

Red Cedar Faithful Rejoice!

tom-izzo.jpgThis has been a strange college basketball season for me and my fellow Michigan State fans and alums. Up is down. Down is up. The Spartans lived on the bubble.

I didn’t know what it was like to root for a program that might not make the NCAA tournament. I was actually pretty convinced MSU wasn’t going to get into the big dance this spring.

Naturally, it took until the end of the Selection Sunday show for the Spartans to find out that they did, in fact, get an invitation to the tournament this year. That’s 14 straight tourney appearances in a row!

I haven’t really followed the basketball season too much this year. Between heart-breaking loss after heart-breaking loss, and being busy with baseball, I just decided to take a step back and not let this season drag me down. But today I sported my Spartans hat and was thrilled when Tom Izzo and Gang Green from East Lansing got the nod.

Way to go, fellas. Now live up to your tourney rep!

Now, I know what you’re thinking. I live in Ohio now. Time to stop rambling on here about my Big Ten school.

Well, hey, at least I ain’t rooting for Michigan. And, you know what? Big congrats to THE Ohio State University for getting the No. 1 overall seed. Well earned. And playing in Cleveland to start off? That should be a blast. Likewise, congrats to Akron on its tourney invite. Drawing Notre Dame IN Chicago is no easy task, though.

Can’t wait to fill out a few brackets.

But you didn’t come here to read about college basketball…

Sunday’s notes:

  • Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore took a major step Sunday morning in his recovery from microfracture surgery on his left knee. For the first time since the operation, Sizemore tested his knee with some baserunning. He said everything felt fine and he’s down to do more baserunning drills on Tuesday and possibly Thursday.
  • Following the two additional baserunning workouts, combined with more sprint and agility work, plus outfield drills and batting practice, Sizemore could be ready to play in games for the first time this spring. He said Saturday would be the earliest he might be able to get into a game. March 21 or March 22 at the latest, if all goes well. CLICK HERE for more.
  • Chatted with third baseman Jason Donald on Sunday morning about his left hand injury. He said he irritated the hand with a swing on Friday and an MRI exam on Saturday revealed a bone bruise. He is not allowed to swing a bat for three days. I’d say it’s at least another five days before he’s back in a game setting. Indians manager Manny Acta said “nothing has changed” with the third base situation. CLICK HERE for more.
  • Right-hander Joe Smith has not pitched since Wednesday and he was not listed to throw on either Sunday or Monday. He told me he’s been fighting upper abdominal soreness and that’s why he’s been out for a brief period here. Smith said, if all goes as planned, he hopes to be back on the hill by Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • Closer Chris Perez has been working on a changeup since late last season, but the right-hander is not satisfied with where he’s at with the new pitch. He said the changeup won’t be ready in time for the start of the season. At this point in camp, it’s time to focus on his two main weapons, the fastball and slider. Perez said right now he is concentrating on throwing his slider inside to lefties.
  • When Perez’s changeup is working properly, he said the idea is that the offspeed pitch would dive away from lefties, acting like a sinker. So far, the movement on the pitch has been inconsistent. He also said it is too “hard” at times, meaning there is not a big enough gap in mph between the fastball and changeup. Ideally, he said there should consistently be a 7-8 mph differential.
  • The Indians took it on the chin on Sunday, dropping a 7-2 decision to the Padres in Peoria in Cactus League play and losing 11-8 to the White Sox in a morning “B” game in Glendale. In the “B” game, Carlos Santana and Cord Phelps belted back to back homers. Hot-hitting Lonnie Chisenhall went 3-for-4. Pitching prospect Alex White allowed three runs in 2 2/3 innings.
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco worked three innings against San Diego, allowing three runs on six hits and ending with two strikeouts and one walk. He threw 54 pitches, including 36 strikes. Acta said he liked how Carrasco threw, but noted that the pitcher struggled with leaving a few breaking balls up in the strike zone.
  • Lefty David Huff had a rough (near) three-inning appearance against the Padres. More to the point, Huff was strong for two innings and then had his final frame fall apart on him. Overall, he allowed four runs (all in the seventh inning) on six hits in 2 2/3 innings. Acta said Huff has thrown “decent” this spring. Not a glowing endorsement for a guy vying for the fifth spot in the rotation.
  • Huff’s main competitors for that final starting job are Josh Tomlin and Jeanmar Gomez. Gomez is slated to pitch on Monday against the A’s. Ask me, and I’ll say Tomlin is the favorite to win the fifth spot right now. The field for the fifth spot will likely be narrowed by Acta in the next week.

Before I go…

The Indians media guide just didn’t seem accurate with a clean-shaven Chris Perez pictured on page 169. So I grabbed my black pen and corrected the issue.

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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).

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

“It’s Spring Training.”

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

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

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

“It’s Spring Training,” Acta said.

See?

Do you feel better now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notes from Friday…

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

The kids are all right

It’s the same story every spring. The regulars get their work in during the early innings of exhibition games and the fate of the game is handed to players with uniform numbes that reach into ths 70s and 80s.

Sunday’s opener against the Reds was no different. For Cincinnatti, No. 77 launched one in a series of back-to-back homers in the eighth inning. For Cleveland, No. 76 went 2-for-2 with two doubles and an RBI. No. 65 belted the Tribe’s first homer of the Cactus League season. Overall, two runs were scored in the first six innings and 11 in the final three.

“That’s what usually happens in camp,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “You win a lot of games in Spring Training when you have a good farm system and agood Triple-A team, because the regulars, they usually just play four or five innings at the beginning and then they get out of there.

“Then, those guys are the ones who pick up the game and usually end up making things happen for you.”

Sunday’s star at the plate for the Tribe was that No. 76: Lonnie Chisenhall. He hit a laser of a double to right field in the seventh and added one to the left-center gap in the ninth. No. 65 — outfielder Ezequiel Carrera — did him one better in the seventh with a two-run homer to right field, marking the first blast of the spring for Cleveland.

Notes from Sunday…

  • You’ll quickly learn that I don’t put a whole lot of emphasis on the final score of Spring Training games. Neither should you. But, no matter what I say, there are still those diehards who want to know how the local nine fared. Well, the Tribe dropped the opener to the Redlegs, 7-6.
  • Chatted some this morning with Shin-Soo Choo, who said an MRI on his left elbow revealed no structural damage. He threw from 90 feet with no issues on Sunday and will advance to 120 feet Monday and 150 feet Tuesday. Wednesday might be a day off. He could be back in right field as early as Thursday. Choo is expected to be in the lineup as a DH on Monday.
  • Acta recently dubbed Anthony Reyes a “sleeper” in the competition for the vacancy at the back end of the rotation. Turns out Reyes has been a bit inactive lately. Acta told me Reyes is fighting some right elbow soreness — yes, the same elbow that needed Tommy John in 2009 — and he is not throwing right now. Acta said there is no timetable right now for when Reyes will be back on a mound. That said, Acta also noted that Reyes had his elbow examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum, who performed the pitcher’s TJ surgery, and there was no structural damage in the joint.
  • Add second baseman Orlando Cabrera to the list of players who are a little beat up right now. Acta noted that OC’s right elbow strength is not at 100 percent right now, but the manager said there is no concern. Cabrera played in Sunday’s game. Quoth the manager: “He’s a veteran guy and he knows what to do to get himself in shape. His throwing arm is not in complete shape yet. He’ll be fine.”
  • Two of the contenders for the open fifth spot logged some time on the mound against the Reds on Sunday. Josh Tomlin started and turned in two shutout innings, striking out one and creating five outs via grounders. Aaron Laffey worked one shutout frame with one hit allowed. Acta said Laffey only went one inning due to the need to get relievers in the game in the later frames as well.
  • A few bullpen arms got in some work Sunday, too. Closer Chris Perez worked the third inning in order to face some of the Reds’ regular hitters. He gave up one hit and no runs. Joe Smith worked one shutout inning. Jensen Lewis allowed one unearned run in his inning on the bump. Doug Mathis turned in a shutout frame as well.
  • As for that unearned run tacked on Lewis’ line, it came on a deep fly ball to left field off the bat of Jay Bruce. Indians left fielder Travis Buck lost the ball in the sun and was unable to make the catch. Not much else to say about that. It was bright out there today.
  • The Indians made sure to show rememberance for the late, great Bob Feller prior to Sunday’s spring opener. His No. 19 was painted into the grass in front of the Tribe’s dugout and displayed on a patch on the team’s right sleeves. Beyond the left-center wall was a banner with his number and the phrase, “Always In Our Hearts.” Cleveland also showed a tribute video on the scoreboard before the game.
  • For Monday’s game at Goodyear Ballpark against the Reds, Fausto Carmona will get the nod for Cleveland. Also down to pitch are Jeanmar Gomez, Rafael Perez, Frank Herrmann, Tony Sipp, Justin Germano, Josh Judy and Nick Hagadone.
  • When asked if RHP Chad Durbin made it into camp, Acta replied, “Who?” All joking aside, Durbin was likely in camp on Sunday for a physical to complete his signing. I’d expect the Indians to officially announce the one-year deal on Monday.
  • Catcher Carlos Santana caught two innings and had one plate appearance on Sunday and he reported no issues with his surgically-repaired left knee. At the time of his injury last August, Santana said he thought he might miss one or two years. He said he is extremeles excited about how well his knee has recovered. He’ll be back behind the plate on Tuesday, according to Acta.

Finally…

  • First, apologies for no photos on the blog post today. Not sure why the system wouldn’t let me post any. Technical difficulties. Second, if you haven’t checked out Castrovince’s latest blog post, diving into the Indians’ media guide, CLICK HERE to check it out. An entertaining read.

That’s all for today…

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

–JB

We need to talk…

Brantley2.jpgEvery hitter is different. Some like talking to their hitting coach during a game. Some like to be left alone, leaving chats about approach and mechanics for sessions in the batting cage.

It is the job of every hitting coach to sort out which players prefer one method over another. Veteran hitters can often be different than young hitters for obvious reasons.

When it comes to Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, talking shop is usually initiated by him. Hitting coach Jon Nunnally said that Brantley is the type of hitter that not only is open to talking things over during games, the young outfielder will be the one to bring certain things up.

“Sometimes they’ll come ask,” Nunnally said. “He’s one of those guys. If he doesn’t feel it, he’ll come and say, ‘Do you see this?’ Or he’ll say, ‘Keep an eye on this and, if I’m not doing it, let me know. “That’s what I want. I don’t want to have to, every time something goes wrong, I have to say, ‘Look at this.'”

Obviously, there is a time for that type of approach. But during games, the last thing Nunnally wants his players doing is heading up to the plate worrying about specific mechanical or approach issues. That’s when hitters start thinking too much and getting away from their plan.

Nunnally likes to have hitters who can feel for themself when something is not right.

“You kind of want the guy to know himself a little bit,” Nunnally said.

Last year, Brantley struggled with getting started on time, causing a chain reaction that made it difficult for him to recognize pitches. Indians manager Manny Acta noted that one problem that came out of that was Brantley had struggles attacking pitches on the outer half of the plate. Nunnally said Brantley became predictable for Major League fielders, who would shade him in and toward the left-field line.

“It was very hard for me to see the baseball,” Brantley said, “and then react, notice what pitch was coming, was it inside or outside, or was it up or down. I really pride myself on my strike zone discipline and I really couldnt do it. I was making bad choices.”

It is obviously early in Spring Training, but Nunnally said he has not seen similar issues in his early sessions with Brantley. He said the outfielder’s mechanics are sound right now. The only thing Nunnally said he is working on right now with Brantley is making sure he stays on top of the ball when taking pitches to the opposite field.

“He’s making it really easy for me,” Nunnally said with a smile.

Notes from Tuesday…

  • Center fielder Grady Sizemore took part in live batting practice on Tuesday, marking the first time he has faced live pitching since undergoing microfracture surgery on his left knee in June. Sizemore also did some sprint and agility work during the day’s workout. “He was fine,” reported Acta.
  • Acta said the backup catching job is not likely to be decided until the final days of Spring Training. Right now, Lou Marson, Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips and Juan Apodaca are in the mix. Marson is the only one among that group on the roster, but the Tribe is currently weighing whether he might benefit from more seasoning in the Minors.
  • With five pitchers vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, the Indians will have a tough time getting them enough innings as spring progresses. One way to help is having an extra game or two. Right now, Cleveland has one “B” game on the schedule. They’ll face the Reds at 9:30 a.m. MT on March 8 at the Indians’ complex.
  • Acta said the Indians will need to make some decisions about the rotation after the first week or two of games in order to help give innings to the players with the most realistic shot of heading north. So in mid-March, expect the Tribe to narrow the list of candidates for that fifth rotation job.
  • As has been well-documented, Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes are the pitchers in the running for the fifth starting job. Acta called Reyes “a sleeper” and noted that the righty was hitting between 90-96 mph with his fastball and showing a strong breaking ball during instructional league in October. Reyes is coming back from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
  • A report surfaced on Tuesday indicating that Indians 2B Orlando Cabrera planned on retiring after this season. When approached about it, Cabrera laughed, shook his head and said,” That’s crazy. He said he had a long radio interview with a station in his home country of Colombia and a newspaper, “El Universal,” must have misunderstood his comments. All Cabrera meant to say was that he wants to leave the game on his own terms. Right now, though, he hopes to play for a few more years. Cabrera said the move to second base might even extend her career by a year or two. So hold off on the retirement party for now.
  • Former Indians outfielder Kenny Lofton was not in uniform with the club on Tuesday — he’s returning as a guest instructor, not as a player — but he should be with the team on Wednesday. Lofton will spend the week working with outfielders and offering tips on baserunning techniques.
  • There was some confusion about the order of the upcoming intrasquad games. To straighten it out, Thursday will be about four innings and Friday will last around seven innings. Thursday’s game is scheduled to be held at Goodyear Ballpark with Friday’s game slated to take place at the Indians complex.

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Photo of the day:

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Due to so many requests for this… Travis Hafner (with hair)

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

Stay tuned for more…–JB

 

Slowing things down

Acta2b.jpg

Any team that has competition in camp deals with the same issue every year, especially when there are young players in the mix for jobs. Too often, inexperienced players will push things too hard during Spring Training in an effort to stand out and impress the manager and coaches.

Every year, the manager and coaches must emphasize slowing things down.

“It’s very early,” Indians manager Manny Acta said on Monday. “We talk to these guys and make sure that they don’t try to make the ballclub in the first workout. Every pitcher that is out there is not throwing the ball 100 percent and every player is not swinging the bat the way they’re probably capable of yet.

“We try to slow the kids down, especially the younger guys. We just try to make sure they don’t try to impress the coaches way too much and end up missing time.”

One thing the Indians have done since Acta has been the manager is hold a meeting with individual players before workouts officially start. The meeting is two-on-one — the GM is also in the room — and the goal is to go over expectations and roles for spring and the season ahead.

Acta does not want any of his players wondering where he stands in the organization’s eyes. Every player in camp right now has been told what is expected of them and the club has let certain players know they are legitimately competing for a job or they are in camp simply to gain experience.

“That’s why we have those two-on-one meetings,” Acta said. “Just about every one of those guys know where we stand right now. We are open minded, but I think those younger kids, they know which ones are really competing, trying to make the club, and which ones are soaking up the experience and learning from being around those other guys.

“We kind of laid the groundwork there in those meetings. It’s just tough at times for them not to try to do [push things]. It’s human nature, especially wen you’re new to somebody. If you come from Double-A or Triple-A and nobody up here has seen you, you want to really show what you’ve got. I don’t think the first day is the right day [to do that].”

Notes from Monday…

  • Siegal2.jpgCleveland native Justin Siegal became the first woman to throw BP to a Major League team when she did so for the Indians on Monday. She’ll do it again on Wednesday with the A’s. Siegal threw to a group of five Minor Leaguers and was then allowed to throw to big league catchers Paul Phillips, Lou Marson and Juan Apodaca. CLICK HERE for a story I wrote on Siegal for MLB.com
  • Acta noted that OF Trevor Crowe, who is in the mix for a backup outfield role with the Indians, is currently behind his teammates health-wise. Crowe had surgery on his right elbow over the winter and is still working to get his arm strength back to 100 percent. Acta said Crowe will miss “at least” the intrasquad games slated for Thursday and Friday.
  • Along the lines of the intro to today’s blog post, Acta noted on Monday that prospect Alex White is not competing for a spot in the Tribe’s rotation this spring. So even with a dynamite showing, expect White to head to Triple-A, where he has yet to log a single inning as a pro. White is definitely in the mix for a big league promotion this year, though.
  • Acta indicated that DH Travis Hafner was able to up his weight lifting over the winter, a sign that his right shoulder is holding up well right now. Even so, Acta plans on closely monitoring Hafner throughout spring and the upcoming season. Hafner will likely see days off against lefties here and there and Acta might give him other days off with the goal of keeping him fresh.
  • On days when Hafner is out of the lineup, Acta could use outfielder Austin Kearns as a right-handed DH. That said, Acta has made it clear that he values Kearns’ defense so much that he prefers to leave him in the outfield. That being the case, Shelley Duncan is in the mix as a righty DH and Carlos Santana, who switch hits, could see action as a DH from time to time this year as well.
  • Tuesday is (unofficially) Kenny Lofton Day here at the Indians’ complex. The former All-Star and Gold Glove winner is due to arrive for his week of serving as a guest instructor for the Tribe. Lofton will help with baserunning techniques and he’ll also lend a hand with Cleveland’s outfielders.
  • The Indians are scheduled to open their Cactus League schedule with exhibition games against the Reds on Sunday and Monday. Josh Tomlin will start on Sunday and Fausto Carmona will get the nod on Monday. Don’t read too much into who starts when right now. We can start getting into all those conspiracy theories later this spring. Tomlin is competing against Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes for the fifth rotation spot.
  • Pitchers slated to work in Thursday’s intrasquad game include Justin Masteron (starting), Tomlin (starting), Kelvin De La Cruz, Gomez, Nick Hagadone, Huff, Joe Smith, Doug Mathis and Drew Pomeranz.
  • Pitchers slated for Friday’s intrasquad tilt include Carlos Carrasco (starting), Mitch Talbot (starting), Josh Judy, Frank Herrmann, Laffey, Jensen Lewis, Yohan Pino, Reyes, Tony Sipp, Jess Todd, Zach McAllister, Joe Martinez, Bryce Stowell and Vinnie Pestano.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Acta was asked if it was important for the Indians to get off to a good start this season. He smiled. “We accomplished the good start last year,” Acta replied. “We went 2-1.”

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Photo of the day:

Choo2.jpg

Silhouette of OF Shin-Soo Choo heading to the batting cage

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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

 

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.

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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

Pitchers, catchers & tweeters report

PerezBullpen2.jpgThat there on the right is Indians closer Chris Perez, working through a bullpen session on Tuesday morning at the player development complex here in Goodyear.

If we’re to believe @PureRage_Perez, not pictured here are all the people fleeing in terror before this fastball was unleashed. Rumor has it no one was willing to catch Perez and now the Indians are faced with a hefty repair bill after the closer’s heaters ripped apart the chain-link fence behind home plate.

Ah, Twitter.

It’s been a great tool for members of the media to deliver news and interact with readers. It’s also been a good tool for athletes to interact with fans. Twitter has its obvious risks, but it has also proven quite useful. That’s one reason why the Indians are embracing the social-networking site.

Manager Manny Acta joined recently under the handle @Mactriber_11 and you can find players like Perez (@ChrisPerez54), Jensen Lewis (@JLEWFifty) and Matt LaPorta (@Gator4God) on there as well. The Tribe also has prospects Drew Pomeranz, Nick Hagadone and Zach McAllister on the site.

Could Indians GM Chris Antonetti be next?

“I think soon,” he said with a grin on Tuesday. “It’s part of an organizational initiative.”

When we started joking about Antonetti’s policy on not commenting on rumors or discussing contract talks before deals are official, the GM laughed and quipped, “I can do that. I’ll tweet ‘no comment.'”

If he does sign up, Antonetti would become the first active Major League general manager on Twitter.

Notes from Tuesday…

  • Predictably, Antonetti wouldn’t budge on his policy when we asked him if there was any update on the Orlando Cabrera situation. The GM did offer this: “I think you guys have accurately reported to date. I’ll leave it at that.” So, I’ll report here that Cabrera still needs to pass a physical and the Indians will likely announce his 1-year, Major League contract later this week.
  • Also likely to come later this week? News that the Indians are bringing Kenny Lofton in as a guest instructor. He’ll be in camp this spring to help out as a baserunning and outfield coach. Details of his role are still being worked out, but Lofton could have an expanded role during the regular season, assisting with community initiatives, for example.
  • On the starting pitching front, the Indians do not appear close to reeling in any additional help. Talks appear to have stalled with free-agents Jeremy Bonderman and Kevin Millwood. Said Antonetti: “We’re planning to proceed with the group that we have in camp. If an opportunity presents itself as we’re in camp, we’ll certainly look at it. But right now our expectations are that we’ll go with the group that we have.”
  • HuffCatch.jpgManager Manny Acta rattled off some names when asked about the candidates for the fifth job, citing David Huff (playing catch in the photo to the right), Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, Anthony Reyes and “to an extent” Aaron Laffey. Acta said Laffey will get some innings early in camp and the Indians will work to quickly determine whether he will prepare as a starter or long reliever. The Tribe will not move him back and forth this season.
  • Beyond working to add Lofton, the Indians announced Tuesday that they hired Eduardo Perez and Jason Bere as special assistants to baseball operations. They will help out on the field this spring and will continue to assist at both the Major and Minor League levels this season. Perez will also continue in his role as an analyst with ESPN.
  • Pitchers and catchers officially reported to Arizona on Tuesday and Acta said everyone is accounted for. Physicals for pitchers and catchers take place Wednesday with the first official workout slated for Thursday. Also on Wednesday, Acta and Antonetti will meet with each pitcher and catcher individually to discuss expectations for spring and the coming season.
  • Both Acta and Antonetti said they have been thrilled with the progress of Grady Sizemore (left knee). Said the GM: “First and foremost, it’s great to see him on the field. And in talking with him, he feels a comfort level swinging the bat and throwing that he didn’t have before with his knee.” Antonetti said, even before Sizemore went on the DL or had surgery, he was having problems putting weight on his back leg while hitting. That has not been an issue so far this spring.
  • As far as Sizemore’s running program goes, Acta said the plan is to “accelerate” the running during the first week of March. That would likely mean baserunning drills and full participation in outfield work and agility exercises. Sizemore noted on Monday that he hopes to begin testing his knee with agility work later this week or early next week.
  • Acta did not bite when asked if Sizemore would automatically be the leadoff man whenever he returns to the lineup. Said the skipper: “He’s going to be in the lineup. It’s a good question and everybody wants to know, but right now we’re trying to get this guy healthy. Then, we’ll give you your material later. It’s just that it’s more than him involved in the situation.” Fair enough.

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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