Results tagged ‘ Lonnie Chisenhall ’

Chisen-stalled

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

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

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

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

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

That happens to be the way the Indians see it.

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

This is a principle I agree with entirely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

–JB

Red Cedar Faithful Rejoice!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can’t wait to fill out a few brackets.

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

Sunday’s notes:

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

Before I go…

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

PerezGuide.jpg

Be sure to keep checking the blog and Indians.com for updates from camp. Also, make sure you’re following along on Twitter (@MLBastian).

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

“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

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

Pom[eranz] Wonderful

Pomeranz2.jpgMike Pomeranz felt it was time to teach his son how to throw a curveball. Not just any curve, either. It was a spike curve, thrown with the index finger bent and dug into the seams.

So Mike began showing his boy Stuart how to use the signature pitch, one that the elder Pomeranz used in high school and as a collegiate pitcher at Ole Miss.

Stuart’s little brother didn’t want to be left out.

“My dad started showing my brother,” Indians lefty Drew Pomeranz said on Sunday. “Of course, the four-year-younger brother wants to do it, too.”

Mr. Pomeranz obliged, teaching Stuart and also 11-year-old Drew how to fire off the sharp breaking pitch.

Stuart Pomeranz developed into a second-round Draft pick for the Cardinals (2003) and is entering his seventh pro season. Drew eventually became the fifth overall selection in the first round of the 2010 Draft, grabbed by the Tribe.

On Sunday, Drew Pomeranz made his second appearance of the spring for Cleveland, working two shutout innings in a 3-1 loss to Colorado. The 6-foot-5 southpaw struck out three, allowing no walks and no hits.

That curveball? It was making hitters look silly.

“Me and Belch were talking about it,” said Indians manager Manny Acta, referring to pitching coach Tim Belcher. “When it’s not for a strike, guys won’t even swing at it, because it’s so sharp with a tight rotation. The breaking ball is very impressive.”

Pomeranz was able to cruise through the college ranks at University of Mississippi primarily using his hard fastball and spike curve. Maybe once or twice a start he’d flip a changeup over just to keep hitters honest. He mainly got by on just two pitches, though.

That will be the difference this year for the 22-year-old Pomeranz. In the pros, having a third pitch is important and that is what the Indians want him to focus on throughout the upcoming season. Pomeranz will likely open the year with a Class A affiliate and Double-A could be reached before the end of the year.

That nasty breaking ball could be in the bigs as soon as 2012.

Notes from Sunday…

  • RHP Justin Masterson didn’t have the best outing on Sunday, but he was pleased with the improvement in his sinker and with his ability to consistently repeat his delivery. I can’t emphasize enough that results this early do not hold the most importance, especially for a pitcher who knows he has a spot on the team. Masterson’s line: 3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HR, 1 HBP.
  • 3B prospect Lonnie Chisenhall continued on his early tear, going 2-for-4 with a long homer to right field in Sunday’s loss to the Rockies. He’s now hitting .467 for the spring and he’s looked solid at the hot corner. Could Chisenhall make the Opening Day roster? Hey, anything is possible. But know that he’s been told that he’s heading to the Minors to open the season. He’s in camp for experience.
  • Spoke with 3B Jason Donald at the Indians complex this morning and he said the swelling in his left hand (still wrapped) had gone down. Donald was hit by a pitch on the hand on Saturday, but X-rays came back negative. He is scheduled to take part in Monday’s workout and could be available again for games as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.
  • OF Michael Brantley has been out of the lineup for the past three games, but Acta told me it’s nothing to be too concerned about. Brantley has “lower body soreness” and was given a few days off. No one would be more specific than that. Head athletic trainer cited general knee and hamstring soreness. He could be back in the lineup on Monday or Tuesday.
  • Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin has thrown a couple of bullpen sessions and he is getting closer to being ready for games. Before he makes his Cactus League debut, the veteran right-hander will pitch in a “B” game against the Reds on Tuesday. The game will be at Cleveland’s complex at 9:30 am local time.
  • RHP Anthony Reyes threw off a mound in a bullpen session on Sunday morning and Acta said there were no issues with the elbow soreness that plagued him earlier in camp. Reyes threw 36 pitches in a session that lasted about eight minutes. He will need to work through a couple more bullpens before being cleared for games, Acta said.
  • UTIL Shelley Duncan was in the lineup Sunday as a left fielder one day after making his spring debut, serving as a first baseman. Duncan said the strained back muscle is no longer an issue and noted that he felt “normal” while swinging. Duncan is competing for a job as a LF/1B/DH. Chad Huffman is also in that mix.
  • Acta said he will not have one person in mind as a DH for days when Travis Hafner is not in the lineup this season. The manager plans on cycling a few players in and out of the DH spot to provide days of rest from playing the field. That would be helpful for guys like Carlos Santana and Grady Sizemore, who are returning from knee issues. Against tough lefties, Acta might go with a right-handed option like Duncan or Huffman, depending on who makes the club.
  • RHP Jeanmar Gomez, who is in the running for the fifth rotation job, allowed four runs in 2 1/3 innings in his outing on Saturday. Acta said Gomez’s velocity and pitch movement were good, but his control was not there like usual. RHP Josh Tomlin and LHP David Huff are also vying for that fifth spot.
  • Indians closer Chris Perez is human. I may have jinxed him in a previous blog post by saying he has been turning in “boring” outings. My bad. Against the Rockies, Pure Rage allowed one run on two hits with one walk.
  • OF Trevor Crowe (right rotator cuff soreness) said Sunday morning that he was scheduled to meet with Dr. Mark Schickendantz on Monday to be re-evaluated. If everything goes according to plan, Crowe said he hopes to resume a throwing program next week.
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco should be back with the team on Monday, according to Acta. Carrasco has been in Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Congrats. Fatherhood is a blast.

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

Stay tuned for more…

–JB

“We didn’t start the fire”


Drier.jpgYou know it’s just going to be one of those days when you wake up to an e-mail from the Indians PR director that reads:

“There was a fire outside the locker room area at the ballpark last night/early this morning that has been contained and damage is being assessed as we speak.”

Lovely.

It was not a big blaze. In fact, the fire was contained to one appliance: “The Burner.”

When the Indians pulled up the stakes in Winter Haven, Fla., and moved across the country to Goodyear, Ariz., for Spring Training a few years ago, a large dryer was rolled onto one of the moving trucks. It had a reputation for running a little hot.

Thus, the nickname.

Well, on Friday morning, as “The Burner” did its worst to a batch of towels at Goodyear Ballpark, a small fire broke out. Emergency crews were on the scene at 6 a.m. local time and the stadium did not suffer any structural damage. Only Mr. Burner was hurt. There he sat, charred and obliterated, resting in a pool of water.

Farewell, sweet prince.

As a result of the small fire, the Rockies had to take batting practice at their home ballpark. The afternoon tilt at Goodyear Ballpark went on as planned, though. There was a lot of standing water in the laundry room, in an indoor batting cage across the hall and on the right-field warning track, but it was all cleaned up throughout the day.

CLICK HERE for a story I wrote on the fire and check out the short video with it. I think I should be up for some cinematography award for my excellent b-roll footage.

You just never know what to around here on any given day.

Friday’s notes…

  • Shin-Soo Choo made his Cactus League debut in right field during Friday’s 6-2 win over the Rockies. He played five innings and admitted he felt tired as the game wore on. Choo added that he talked to head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff, who said the fatigue was normal, considering the outfielder spent the last week building up his arm strength and not playing the field. Choo had served only as a DH up to this point.
  • Choo made it clear before spring that he did not want to discuss a contract extension once the regular season began. As of Friday, Choo said he had not heard from GM Chris Antonetti or his agent Scott Boras about any ongoing talks. I have said it before and I’ll say it again. If Choo signs a long-term deal, I think next winter is the most likely time it would happen.
  • Staying with Choo here for a moment, he was asked what he would consider a good season. Choo did not hesitate, answering only: “Playoffs.” Choo said that is his only goal, no matter what outside expectations are for the Tribe.
  • Center fielder Grady Sizemoe (left knee) took another step forward — pun intended? — in his rehab on Friday. Sizemore took part in outfield group drills, catching fly balls and fielding grounders. He also upped the intensity of his agility and sprint drills, noting that the day’s exercises had him moving “in all directions.” He also took part in batting practice as usual.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes resumed a throwing program on Friday after being shut down for the past five days due to elbow soreness. Reyes played catch and reported no issues. He worked to a distance of 90 feet. If all goes well, Cleveland hopes to have Reyes back on a mound next week.
  • The Stork is busy this week, too. Carlos Carrasco left the team on Friday to head to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Left-hander Rafael Perez rejoined the team Friday after being in New York for the birth of his child. Congrats.
  • Chatted for a while with first baseman Matt LaPorta this morning. Check Indians.com tomorrow for a feature. Briefly, he feels drastically different than he did a year ago thanks to a normal offseason. On the bases and at the plate, he feels like a completely different player now that his legs are strong. Indians manager Manny Acta has been very pleased with what he’s seen so far as well.
  • Third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall went 3-for-4 with two runs scored and a long home run in Friday’s win. For the spring — yes, I know, sample size alert — he is batting .500. He’s off to a hot start and is ticketed for Triple-A Columbus. I asked Acta if Chisenhall was trying to make the team anyway. “We encourage everybody that it doesn’t matter what we tell them in those two-on-one meetings [with the manager and general manager],” Acta said. “They should have that type of mentality. It has happened before.”
  • Indians Opening Day starter Fausto Carmona went three innings on Friday, allowing one run on three hits against the Rockies. Indians closer Chris Perez continued to be bored — just what you want your close to be — with one shutout inning  of work. Indians pitching prospect Alex White logged two scoreless frames.
  • Tomorrow the Indians have split squad games at home (White Sox) and on the road (Mariners). Pitching at home will be David Huff (starting), Joe Martinez, Zach McAllister, Vinnie Pestano, Zach Putnam and Jess Todd. Pitching on the road will be Jeanmar Gomez (starting in place of Carrasco), Kelvin De La Cruz, Jensen Lewis, Yohan Pino, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith and Bryce Stowell.

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Photo of the day:

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New blog profile photo.

That’s Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and I
watching some of the game while waiting to interview Fausto Carmona.

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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

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

Managing expectations

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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:

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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

Prospecting

chisenhall_all-star_250_09.jpg‘Tis the season for ranking prospects and organizations. On Tuesday night, MLB.com unveiled its Top 50 Prospects list. Among those picked as baseball’s future stars was Indians third base prospect Lonnie Chisenhall, who came in at 36th overall.

Chisenhall was the lone Cleveland representative on Minor League expert Jonathan Mayo’s Top 50 list. Had Mayo’s list included the Top 100 prospects in the game, Tribe farmhands such as second baseman Jason Kipnis, right-hander Alex White and leftyDrew Pomeranz would likely have made the cut.

Considering all the focus on the Indians’ youth and future core, and the attention that some of the club’s recent trades for packages of prospects has garnered, I asked fans over Twitter for their thoughts on having just one players named to the Top 50 list.

Here are a few of the responses I received…

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Needless to say, I was blown away by all the optimism and positive feedback! Oh, wait…

When considering MLB.com’s Top 50 list, though, @thinkkaz was one person who showed a solid understanding of where Cleveland’s system currently stands. There is good depth and many players on the cusp of reaching the big leagues, but the club lacks a pile of players that make the top-prospect-list-makers drool all over themselves.

Asking for a bunch of players to be thrown into the Top 50 is expecting a lot, too. Yes, I know the Royals had six on Mayo’s list and the Rays had four. But there were also four teams — I’m looking at you Mets, Marlins, Brewers and A’s — who had no players in the Top 50. The Indians were one of 14 teams with only one player on the list.

Rest assured, Tribe fans, the Indians’ farm system is in good shape. Sure, the jury is still out on the overall return of the CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee deals, but Cleveland’s Minor League system is widely considered one of the best in baseball. Last year’s Draft haul only added to that evaluation.

If you like going with Baseball America, then know that BA has the Indians ranked seventh in the 2011 organizational rankings (ESPN’s Keith Law disagreed, ranking them 17th). That’s the third year in a row that the Tribe has cracked BA’s Top 10 (third in 2010 and seventh in 2009). BA also rated the Indians’ 2010 First-Year Player Draft as the best in the game.

Maybe you’re not seeing the money being spent wildly on the Major League roster right now, but know that the Indians have shown a willingness to increase spending behind the scenes. The Draft provides one example. Consider that the Tribe shelled out $9.4 million in bonuses for the 2010 Draft class compared to $4.9 million the year before. For their top 10 picks in 2010, Cleveland went overslot by more than $3 million in order to sign all the selections.

So, yes, the Indians only had one player — Chisenhall, currently rated the second-best third base prospect by Mayo, and one of only two third basemen in his Top 50 — on Tuesday’s much-anticipated list. That said, the Indians could have at least three prospects (Chisenhall, Kipnis and White), probably more, impacting the Major League club in 2011.

In the end, shouldn’t that matter more right now?

–JB

Think warm thoughts

jacobs_field_snow_01.jpgCall me crazy, but I enjoy shoveling snow… which means I’ve been having a whole lot of fun over the past two days.

Maybe it’s because I missed out on all the shoveling over the last five years living in Toronto. No matter how high the piles got, life in a downtown condo did not require any outdoor maintenance on my part.

I’m also fortunate now to be living in Avon Lake, where we don’t get hammered with the real heavy stuff. I’ve had to shovel the driveway and sidewalks three times in the past 24 hours, so I can only imagine how much worse it is to the south and east of me. May God help you all as you try to bury yourself out of this latest snow storm.

Seemed to be good timing then when MLB announced the official Spring Training workout dates as the snow began to fall around Cleveland. For your Indians, the pitchers and catchers will begin workouts on Feb. 17 and the first full squad workout will be on Feb. 20. We’re almost a month away.

Today, the Tribe also unveiled the list of players who will be taking part in this year’s Winter Development Program. Those heading to Cleveland for the start of the two-week program will be outfielders Ezequiel Carrera and Chad Huffman; left-handers Nick Hagadone and Matt Packer; right-handers Corey Kluber, Chen-Chang Lee, Zach McAllister, Vinnie Pestano, Bryce Stowell and Alex White; and infielders Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Jared Goedert and Cord Phelps.

The program runs from Jan. 17-22 in Cleveland and then Jan. 23-29 in Goodyear, Ariz. The WDP includes classroom sessions with various coaches, conditioning drills, fundamental work, guest speakers and on-field activities. The players will also take part in community and charitable events while in Cleveland. The program is now in its 16th year after being orginally developed by Mark Shapiro, now the team president.

Obviously, Chisenhall, Kipnis and White will garner much of the attention this year. That said, there’s a considerable cast of players taking part who could be in the mix for jobs with the Tribe come Opening Day. Kipnis could be a candidate at second base, Phelps and Goedert might make a push for third, and Pestano and Stowell are potential bullpen options. Before the 2011 season is up, you might see plenty of these guys getting stints in The Show.

Other items on indians.com this week…

1. A feature on new GM Chris Antonetti

2. Cleveland unveils plans for “Tribe on Tour”

3. The latest Indians Inbox

4. Castrovince weighs in on recent Tribe trades

5. Indians rework season ticket prices

and…

6. Kearns added to roster; Brown designated  

One last thing.

Not sure how many of my new Indians Nation followers out there are runners. My leftover Toronto followers know that one of my “off-field” hobbies is running — training for marathons, specifically. I’ve run five full marathons dating back to October 2008 (Chicago in ’08 and ’09, Disney World in ’09, and Tampa and Philly in ’10). Right now, I’m planning on running the Cleveland full in May for my sixth. I’ve also challenged myself to run every day in 2011, no excuses. So far, so good (even out in the snow). For anyone interested in following my running exploits, I have a Twitter account dedicated to my ongoing training: @26point2. If that sounds horribly boring, forget I brought it up!

Stay tuned for more…

~JB

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