Results tagged ‘ Lou Marson ’

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:

Pronk2.jpg

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

 

Peering into the future

Pomeranz2.jpgDrew Pomeranz was firing baseballs with his left hand and Alex White was doing the same with his right.

They were doing so next to one another on a row of mounds at the Indians player development complex on Thursday morning. The moment was not lost on Indians manager Manny Acta.

Especially considering pitching prospects Nick Hagadone and Bryce Stowell were also in this particular group.

“That was fun,” Acta said with a smile. “I don’t know how they were able to put that group together, but it was beautiful to see those four guys. I was just talking to some of our coaches and I said, ‘This is it. This is the next wave right here.’ It’s exciting.”

Pomeranz (pictured to the left) was the Tribe’s top pick in the 2010 Draft. White was the same the year before. Hagadone was one of the prospects reeled in in the Victor Martinez trade with Boston and Stowell is an up-and-coming relief prospect who could see the bigs this year.

Watching them work on Thursday during the team’s first official workout of the spring was special for Acta.

“Alex White is knocking the door to being a very good pitcher up here,” said the manager, “and Pomeranz is going to be an impact guy. Hagadone, everybody knows how well he was thought of in the Boston system and in our system. Bryce Stowell has one of those power arms that you need in the American League.

“I know that there were no hitters standing up there, but those guys are going to be able to get guys out.”

White, 22 features three fastballs — four-seam, two-seam, cutter — along with a slider and a split. He said his focus for this spring and this season is to become more consistent and trusting with his offspeed pitches. White appears set to head to Triple-A with the possibility of seeing the Major Leagues later this summer.

“There’s a lot of things [to work on],” White said. “Consistency would be the biggest one. Consistency in my delivery and in my offspeed pitches. There’d be times where I had great offspeed pitches one night and there’d be times that I didn’t. I just want that consistency of having good stuff every time I go out.”

Pomeranz, also 22 years old, is listed at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds.

“He’s a big boy,” Acta said.

Pomeranz is the impact lefty that the Indians lack in their current rotation. He features a plus curve, four-seam and two-seam fastballs, and a changeup. He’s on a similar path as White was when he was Drafted. So expect Pomeranz to open with a Class A affiliate with the goal of possibly reaching as high as Double-A this year.

“I had my meeting with the coaches the other day,” Pomeranz said, “and they just talked about getting experience and learning stuff from all the guys [here in big league camp]. Obviously, a lot of these guys are successful people because they’re in the big leagues. Basically, I’m just being a student of the game here.”

Notes  from Thursday…

  • Acta1b.jpgAs things currently stand, the Indians could open with five right-handed pitchers in their rotation. Two lefty candidates for the fifth spot are David Huff and Aaron Laffey. Asked if in a perfect world he’d like to have a lefty in the rotation, Acta quipped, “In a perfect world, I would take five Roy Halladays.” So I asked, “What about three Docs and two CCs?” Acta laughed and replied, “Five Docs.”
  • Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) took part in some early batting practice on Thursday. Throwing to Sizemore? Indians media relations director Bart Swain. With his last swing of the session, Sizemore homered to the opposite field. Bart’s cutter needs a little more fine-tuning.
  • Acta said that first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. takes special care in matching pitchers with certain catchers during bullpen sessions during Spring Training. “It’s strategic,” Acta said. That’s why on Thursday, for example, Carlos Santana, and not someone like Minor League catcher Chun Chen, was behind the plate for White (a possible big leaguer this year).
  • Speaking of Chen, both GM Chris Antonetti and Acta have raved about him as a prospect. Beyond getting working on his defense behind the plate, though, Chen also needs to work on his English. “That’s very important for a catcher,” Acta said. Chen, a native of Taiwan, actually knows more Spanish than English right now.
  • Right now, the general thought is that the Indians rotation will be 1. Fausto Carmona, 2. Justin Masterson, 3. Mitch Talbot and 4. Carlos Carrasco, followed by the winner of the fifth starter competition. That said, Acta noted that the specific order behind Carmona “doesn’t matter” right now. So, come Opening Day, it’s not set in stone that it will be Masterson, Talbot and Carrasco occupying the Nos. 2-4 spots in that order.
  • Speaking of Carmona and Masterson, Acta foresees great things for them in 2011 (what else would you expect him to say, really?). He said he feels Carmona’s 2010 showing was nearly as impressive as his ’07 performance considering the offensive support. Acta also said he feels Masterson is on the cusp of a breakout year.
  • Acta has been singing and tweeting the praises of right-hander Carlos Carrasco ever since the manager arrived to Arizona. That did not change on Thursday, when the manager had this to say about the young starter: “He has the stuff to be one of the best guys in the American League, period.”
  • It seems like every year, just about every team holds a competition for the backup catching job during Spring Training. The Indians are no different this year. Acta made it clear that Lou Marson (the only rostered backup candidate) did not have a leg up on the other catchers in camp. Acta went as far as to say that Luke Carlin, Paul Phillips and Juan Apodaca were all in the mix for the backup role.
  • If Huff is going to win the fifth starter’s job, it sounds like he might have to have a fantastic spring showing. Acta said the Indians “aren’t giving up” on Huff (11-8 for the Tribe in ’09 and then 2-11 in ’10), but later in the discussion about the lefty, the manager added, “Peoples’ moods change with results. We need to see results.”

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Photo of the day:

Choo.jpg

Big League Choo

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

Sizemore watch begins


SizemoreBanner.jpgAnd so it begins, the weekly monitoring of Indians center fielder Grady Sizemore. He was among the position players who took the fields at the Indians’ player development complex on Monday, taking part in batting practice on one field before shifting to another for some running.

By running, what I mean is jogging with gradually-increased intensity and some timed breaks between laps around the warning track. Sizemore wasn’t sprinting and he has yet to begin some agility tests (side to side, running back, quick turns, etc;), but those could start later this week or next week.

Sizemore said his rehab schedule changes weekly and they’ll continue to increase his workload as his surgically-repaired left knee allows. Right now, Sizemore said he is running three times per week and is doing baseball activities three or four times per week. When he runs, there is some discomfort in his knee, but nothing that was not expected.

Returning in time for Opening Day remains his goal, but here’s what Sizemore had to say:

“We built everything around Opening Day, but we’re not going to push anything or speed the process up to get to that point. If two weeks from Opening Day, I’m still a little bit behind, or I still need two weeks and five days, we’re not going to ramp it up so I can get an extra five days of work in. I want to be playing at the end of October or the end of September — not just at the beginning of April.

“I want to finish the year and be good for, not only this year, but every year after that as opposed to getting in too early and having something happen. They won’t let me go out there unless I’m 100 percent ready, so we’re not rushing to get ready for April 1. But, that is still the goal and I obviously want to be ready to get a full season in.

“It’s such a major surgery and it’s been so long, it’d be foolish to try to go out there and do something to risk everything that we’ve done and risk all the progress we’ve made.”

 
Sizemore has had no setbacks, but I’m not sure how realistic it is to expect him in the lineup come Opening Day. April 1 is just a date and the Opening Day roster is often hyped more than necessary. What matters is having Sizemore for as much of 2011 as possible and bringing him back too early presents plenty of risk. If it takes until mid-April then it takes until mid-April.

The Indians have a contingency plan in place in the event Sizemore isn’t ready, too. Austin Kearns can move to left and Michael Brantley to center. Shin-Soo Choo is obviously unaffected by any of this in right. And Guys like Trevor Crowe and Travis Buck, among others, could vie for an extra outfield job off the bench.

There’s no reason to rush Sizemore back before he’s ready.

Here’s a story I wrote on Sizemore for Indians.com today. And a special bonus, a quick video I took of him taking some swings during BP.

Other notes from camp…

  • SantanaAgility.jpg
    Watched C Carlos Santana catch a couple bullpens and then run through some agility tests on a practice field. Yeah, he looks fine. As manager Manny Acta said on Sunday, Santana is “just another guy in Spring Training” right now, not a player restricted in any way by the left knee injury he suffered last August.
  • I watched a couple groups of pitchers throw bullpens, but seeing as I was the only reporter there and it was an unofficial workout (see: no numbers on jerseys) don’t ask me who they all were. This was a big “new guy” moment for me. This is what happens when you cover one team for five years and then switch. I was able to pick out Justin Masterson and Carlos Carrasco, as well as David Huff and Josh Tomlin. Give me a couple days to put all the names with all the faces.
  • One pitcher not in camp yet is Fausto Carmona, but Acta told me yesterday that the team didn’t expect him to be here early. Carmona has been working out at the team’s facility in the Dominican Republic. Pitchers and catchers are required to report (not necessarily be physically present in camp) on Tuesday. Physicals are Wednesday. First official workout is on Thursday.
  • Pretty much all the position players have arrived. I haven’t seen Travis Hafner or Kearns yet, though. Position players aren’t required to report until Friday. Choo, Jason Donald, Jayson Nix, Shelley Duncan, Lou Marson and a bunch of other players, including Sizemore, took batting practice on the fields today after some hitting in the indoor cage.
  • No, Orlando Cabrera was not in camp today and his signing is still not official. And, no, the Indians didn’t have a locker set up for him in the clubhouse, either. If he’s about to join the team, the Tribe has done well in hiding any clues. The physical remains in the signing process and, if the signing does come to fruition, I’d expect it later this week.
  • Breaking news: Radiohead is releasing a new album on Saturday, if you haven’t heard already. This news, combined with Arcade Fire winning album of the year, made for a wonderful Monday morning for me. Also, watched “127 Hours” last night. What a great performance by James Franco. Next on my to-see list this spring: “The Fighter” and “The King’s Speech.”

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

Notes and quotes

BallinNet.jpgYikes, that blog title isn’t clever at all. As a Seinfeld fan, I’d love to use “Excruciating minutiae” but I can’t step on Castroturf’s, um, well, turf. So I’m opening it up to the floor for suggestions. What should I call these posts when I dive headfirst into a bunch of Tribe-related topics covered today? Let’s here what you’ve got. Otherwise, I’ll have to let my utilitze my corny sense of humor.

  • First off, before I delve into anything else, my 14-month old son learned how to say “baseball” today. Well, OK, it sounds more like “bah-bawl”, but we’ve got to start somewhere. I just finished piecing together my new office in my new Ohio home and on the walls are framed black and white photos I’ve taken over the years. There is one that he really likes, a photo I took in Spring Training of a home run ball hanging in the netting of a fence (above). He points at it and starts saying “Bah-bawl!” I’m one proud papa.
  • Us Tribe scribes spoke with GM Chris Antonetti tonight about Shin-Soo Choo’s path to gold (and military exemption), among other topics. The Indians have yet to hear from the Korean Baseball Office concerning the status of Choo’s military requirement, but have no fear, the Indians fully expect the outfielder to be exempted from the 30-month obligation. Antonetti said he hopes to know officially in the next 12-24 hours.
  • As for Choo’s performance (.571, 3 HR, 11 RBIs in 5 games), Antonetti was more than impressed. “It’s hard to imagine a more presure-filled environment than playing under the circumstances Choo was playing in,” Antonetti said. “It’s certainly a great accomplishment for him and Team Korea to win the gold medal at a very competitive tournament and to perform exceptionally well in helping lead Team Korea to the gold.”
  • Now, about that contract extension. Well, predictably, Antonetti did not go into much detail about any possible ongoing talks with agent Scott Boras about a long-term deal with Choo. Antonetti was quick to remind that Choo (arbitration eligible this winter) is controllable for the next three years. That said, the GM said he plans on continuing dialogue with Boras at some point this winter.
  • Friday marked the final day for clubs to add players to their 40-man roster in preparation for the upcoming Rule 5 Draft. The Indians had five vacant spots and they used every last one of them. Added to the roster were infielder Jared Goedert, left-hander Nick Hagadone, right-hander Josh Judy, righty Corey Kluber and righty Zach McAllister.
  • One notable player left unprotected is right-hander Adam Miller. The former first-round pick has logged an inning in the past two years and is coming back from multiple finger operations. Miller is trying to make a comeback as a reliever and Antonetti said the pitcher hit around 90-91 in a game appearance in Instructional League. In that outing, Miller threw both fastballs and sliders. Until we get to spring, and the Indians can closely monitor Miller’s progress, his status for 2011 remains an unknown.
  • Others of note who are eligible for the Rule 5 from Cleveland’s system? Minor Leaguer Josh Rodriguez, who has the ability to man multiple infield and outfield positions. Other notables include Beau Mills, Matt McBride, Jerad Head, Carlton Smith and Juan Diaz. I have my doubts about any of the players listed being taken in the Draft by another club.
  • Antonetti said he has some productive talks at the GM Meetings earlier this week with rival GMs, “laying the groundwork” to see if there might be potential fits for trades. Given Cleveland’s financial situation, trades seem like a more likely route for making additions. That, or some late-offseason signings that won’t break the bank. Third base and starting pitching remain the top two priorities.
  • As for that possible addition to the rotation, Antonetti said reliability is the main trait the Tribe is seeking. Said the GM: “We have depth. We have options. There are any number of guys, we can probably go eight or nine or 10 deep, that could pitch at the Major League level for us next year. I think the one thing we lack in our rotation is some reliability. It’s a very young rotation. I think our oldest starter next year is 27 and we have two guys in Carmona and Masterson who have thrown over 180 innings in a season. So while it’s a very talented group, there’s not a lot of certainty with it and I think that’s one of the things we would look to potentially address this offseason if we could.”
  • Beyond that and potentially bringing in a new third baseman? Antonetti said adding another catcher and a right-handed-hitting outfielder are other areas possibly in need of addressing. Said the GM: “There are a couple of other areas where we could add depth. Obviously, we have two very good catchers in Carlos Santana and Lou Marson, but we could look certainly complement that area as well. And, an extra outfielder, preferably a right-handed bat.”

With that, I’m signing off and will be heading to Philly in the morning. I’m taking part in the Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday. It’ll be my fifth full marathon (Chicago 2008-09, Disney ’09 and Tampa ’10). The move to Ohio fell right in the thick of my training, so the program became a bit sporadic for a while. Not sure I’ll beat the 3:43 I put up in Tampa in February, but I’ll make it over that finish line one way or another.

–JB

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