Results tagged ‘ Manny Acta ’

“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

Gone with the wind

The wind was howling at the Indians’ player development complex Monday morning and it didn’t let up when the team arrived to the Ballpark at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.

It was raging out to left field — the 25 mph listed in the box score seems like an understatement — making it less than ideal for pitchers. As expected, we took in a near-four hour slugfest that ended with the Indians and White Sox waving the white flags after ending nine innings in a 16-16 deadlock.

Monday’s game by the numbers

54 at-bats
39 hits
32 runs
20 left on base
16 extra-base hits
10 walks
10 doubles
6 home runs
6 errors
4 wild pitches
2 hit batters
0 starters without a hit

For the Tribe, right-hander Mitch Talbot allowed nine runs on six hits in just 1 2/3 innings. He walked two and allowed two homers (both by Alex Rios). Talbot has a spot in the rotation right now. The elements aside, Indians manager Manny Acta was not particularly pleased with what he saw from Talbot on Monday.

“I didn’t think he threw enough strikes,” Acta said. “I thought that he pitched a lot behind in the count. These are not the conditions to give hitters an advantage.”

Acta also took all of the home runs for what they were worth in such a high wind.

“A couple of those home runs,” Acta said, “I don’t have them in my book.”

The exception was the shot by infielder Luis Valbuena in the eight inning. He took a pitch out to right-center field, earning a three-run shot that pulled the game into a 14-14 tie at the time.

“Yeah, he really hit that ball hard,” Acta said. “It was a brekaing ball, too. Across the wind. The wind was blowing to left, so that was a very good swing by him. He’s hit some balls hard since Day 1 in Spring Training. It’s good to see that for his confidence.”

Notes from Monday…

  • The Indians officially signed 1B/DH Nick Johnson to a one-year Minor League contract on Monday. Right now, he is rehabbing his right wrist from a third surgery (all in the past year). The timetable for his return is not clear right now. If he does reach the Majors at some point this season, his deal is worth $750,000. The contract also includes a $2.75 club option for 2012. He is not an option for the Opening Day roster.
  • Jason Donald, who was hit on the left hand with a pitch on Saturday, took part in some of Monday’s workout. He played catch and did some running. He hopes to add hitting back to his routine on Tuesday. Acta said there is a chance that Donald will participate in the full workout. That means Donald could potentially be available for games again as early as Wednesday or Thursday. He is the front-runner for the starting third baseman job.
  • Right-hander Doug Mathis worked two scoreless innings during Monday’s debacle. Acta called it “a miracle” given how most of the pitchers fared. Giving Mathis multi-inning outings is part of the plan this spring. He’s in camp on a Minor League deal, but he’s in the mix for a long-relief role out of Cleveland’s bullpen.
  • Bad news for Minor Leaguer Jared Goedert. He strained a right oblique muscle and is going to miss at least a couple of weeks, according to Acta. Goedert will likely be at Triple-A this season and he’ll get playing time at first base, third base, designated hitter and left field. Acta and the Indians staff were looking forward to getting a close lok at Goedert this spring, so it’s a disappointing development for both sides.
  • Acta noted that Indians catcher Carlos Santana is penciled in to make his first spring start at first base on Wednesday. He will have at least three starts at the position throughout the spring. Santana is a former third baseman and has shown good hands at first, Acta said. The areas Santana needs to learn more about deal with positioning on certain plays. Santana will see time at first this season as a way to keep his legs fresh.
  • The Indians signed 25 rostered players on Monday. The only three left to sign are Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez and Santana. The deadline for any unsigned roster players to pen their name on a contract for 2011 is Friday.
  • Players who signed on Monday include: Michael Brantley, Carlos Carrasco, Ezequiel Carrera, Trevor Crowe, Kelvin De La Cruz, Jason Donald, Shelley Duncan, Jared Goedert, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, David Huff, Josh Judy, Corey Kluber, Matt LaPorta, Lou Marson, Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Jayson Nix, Vinnie Pestano, Hector Rondon, Tony Sipp, Mitch Talbot, Jess Todd, Luis Valbuena and Nick Weglarz.
  • Brantley remained out of the lineup on Monday, but he took part in the Indians morning workout. He has not played since Thursday, missing four games since then. Acta continued to call Brantley’s ailment “lower body soreness.” Brantley was wearing an athletic brace on his right knee Monday morning, for what that’s worth. The issue is obviously not serious since Brantley has been taking part in the workouts and Acta said he will be back in the outfield and starting lineup on Tuesday.
  • Shin-Soo Choo has missed the past two games, but Acta noted that he’ll be back in right field on Tuesday. Choo has been dealing with left elbow soreness throughout camp and is still not entirely back at full strength.
  • Right-hander Anthony Reyes reported no issues from his Sunday bullpen session. He noted that he is slated to throw off a mound again on Tuesday or Wednesday. Reyes was not sure when he might make his first Cactus League appearance this spring.
  • Right-hander Carlos Carrasco rejoined the team on Monday after being in Florida with his wife for the birth of their first child. They welcomed a baby girl into the world. He is down to pitch on Wednesday.
  • The Indians have a “B” game scheduled against the Reds at 9:30 a.m. local time at the Tribe’s complex on Tuesday. Recently-signed reliever Chad Durbin will make his spring game debut. Free to attend for fans. The Indians and White Sox will also have a “B” game at 10 a.m. on Sunday in Glendale.
    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

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

Waiting to exhale

Santana5.jpgThere were a few gasps here in the Goodyear Ballpark pressbox during today’s first inning, when Indians catcher Carlos Santana tried to score on a close play at the plate.

Santana singled with two outs off Dodgers righty Chad Billingsley and then was off and running on an opposite-field single by Travis Hafner. In left field, L.A.’s Tony Gwynn Jr. booted the ball, opening the door for Santana to go to third.

Santana took things up a noth and bolted around third and headed toward the plate. The throw from left beat him and catcher Rod Barajas was planted as Santana came barreling in.

Indians manager Manny Acta held his breath.

“That’s the first reaction,” Acta said.

Not to mention, it was Santana who had his left knee seriously injured in a collision at the plate last August. Boston’s Ryan Kalish slid into Santana, who went on to have knee surgery as a result. Fortunately for the Indians, Santana is back at 100 percent with no restrictions.

The play in the first also showed he is back without any hesitation, too.

“He was more than willing to go,” Acta said, “and show that he had no fear. That’s good.”

The part that wasn’t good? The headfirst slide into the plate. Santana dove forward, trying to get a hand on the plate — close to wear Barajas’ left foot was firmly planted. It was a dangerous decision so early in Spring Training. Ezequiel Carrera slid headfirst into home in the seventh, too. It is a technique that the Tribe does not encourage.

“It’s something that we preach against,” Acta said. “I think that 30 Major League clubs preach against that, but it’s such an instinctive play. Even when we covered that the other day in our baserunning lecture, guys will still go and do it. Both guys got an earful.”

Santana was ruled out. But he got up, brushed himself off and recovered fine. For a moment, it was a scary play for the Indians. Santana will be a critical part of any success the club hopes to have during the coming campaign.

There were lots of notable things in camp today, so let’s get to it.

Notes from Tuesday…

  • The Indians learned late Monday that outfielder Austin Kearns was arrested near Lexington, Ky., on charges of driving under the influence back on Feb. 12. Kearns arrived in camp around Feb. 16 or so and did not alert the team of the situation. Kearns spoke about the matter on Tuesday and indicated that he was advised not to inform the team. A source told me Kearns originally wanted to tell the club what happened at the time of his arrest, but he acted on the advice of his attorney. No matter how you slice it, this was an unfortunate situation. Kearns met with GM Chris Antonetti and Acta on Tuesday morning to talk things over. CLICK HERE for more on Indians.com.
  • I’ve reported all spring that it was unlikely that center fielder Grady Sizemore (microfracture surgery on his left knee in June) would be ready in time for Opening Day with the Indians. Antonetti had not said as much until Tuesday, when he admitted that Sizemore was unlikely to be recovered by April 1. Sizemore is still working through sprint and agility tests and taking batting practice. He has yet to run the bases or really test his legs by changing direction while running. No outfield drills yet. Needless to say, there are still a number of tests he needs to pass before being cleared for any type of game action.
  • Guess who arrived at the Indians’ complex this morning? Hint: he had a Phillies equipment bag in his locker. Yes, the reported deal for Chad Durbin finally came to fruition on Tuesday. Durbin is officially a member of the bullpen on a one-year deal worth $800,000. Who is getting the boot from the 40-man roster? We don’t know just yet. I’d expect that announcement to come on Wednesday.
  • There could be another new face in camp soon, too. As of Tuesday evening, the Indians were close to signing free-agent Nick Johnson to a Minor League deal with a spring invite. He would likely act as insurance behind Matt LaPorta at first base. He also has experience as a DH. This looks mostly like a depth move on the surface. I wouldn’t expect this to become official right away. Johnson underwent two surgeries on his right wrist last year and has a long history of injury. That means an extensive physical process before the Tribe would comfirm a possible signing.
  • The list of Indians players who are banged up keeps growing. Acta noted on Tuesday that utility man Shelley Duncan was “dinged up” after pulling a muscle in his back while swinging a bat in batting practice last week. Duncan has been held out of games and will likely remain out for the next few days.
  • More updates on the walking wounded. Antonetti noted that outfielder Trevor Crowe (rotator cuff soreness) would likely be cleared to resume throwing “shortly.” It’s still a no-go for righty Anthony Reyes, though. Reyes is out with right elbow soreness and Antonetti said there is still no timetable for his return to a throwing program.
  • An interesting item worth noting is that, until Tuesday, Acta has maintained all spring that the outfield would be Kearns in left, Michael Brantley in center and Shin-Soo Choo in right in the event that Sizemore was not ready for Opening Day. Acta has changed his tune some. The manager even suggested that the Indians might consider a platoon situation in left field.
  • Choo had the day off from the starting lineup on Tuesday, but he replaced Hafner as the DH midway through the game. The plan was for Choo (sore left elbow) to throw from 120 feet on Tuesday. He’ll take Wednesday off from playing and there is a chance he’ll make his spring debut in right field as early as Thursday.
  • Oh, hey, a game took place on Tuesday. The Indians beat the Dodgers, 2-1, but we don’t care about the final score, remember? What does matter is that righty Carlos Carrasco logged two shutout innings, as did lefty David Huff. Carrasco’s is in the rotation and Huff is trying to harness the magic of his Samurai-warrior-slaying-the-three-headed-dragon tattoo to win the fifth spot. Huff retired all six hitters he faced and struck out the side in the fifth. Closer Chris Perez logged one scoreless inning of work.
  • Carrasco said he did not throw any curves because he never fell into a count where he would use that pitch. He stuck with fastballs, changeups and sliders. Carrasco said he has been working hard on his slider this spring. Last year, it acted more like a cutter. Now, he says there is a harder late break with the pitch.
  • Up next: Indians head to Phoenix to take on the A’s. Justin Masterson is slated to start and Doug Mathis, Vinnie Pestano, Drew Pomeranz, Zach Putnam, Joe Smith and Jess Todd are also down to appear. Names circled on the travel sheet: Carlin, Chen, Phillips, Brown, Chisenhall, Everett, Hafner, LaPorta, Nix, Hannahan, Kipnis, Phelps, Valbuena, Brantley, Buck, Huffman and Carrera.
  • I have postponed the weekly Inbox until tomorrow. A lot has happened in the past few days, so I’m sure you all have questions. If you want to have a shot at being included, send any Indians inquiries to IndiansInbox@gmail.com with your name and hometown.

That’s all for today…

…but that was plenty, right?

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

Shin-Soo Boom…

ChooFence.jpgJaws were dropping all around the batting cage on Field 1 this morning. The reason? Shin-Soo Choo was flat-out putting on a show.

It began with three straight homers to deep right field. Then in his next round, he sent baseballs arcing over the tall left-field fence, showing how easily he can go oppo.

Pitch after pitch. Homer after homer. It became comical how easy he was making it look. And how small the diamond suddenly seemed.

“Wow,” said Indians shortstop Asdrubal, standing nearby. “What’s wrong with you today?”

Cabrera then walked over and grabbed Choo’s bat.

“Let me see that,” Cabrera said.

The next round? Same thing. It was a regular Home Run Derby on the field designed to the exact dimensions as Progressive Field. Choo even found a way to punctuate his impressive display.

With his smooth left-handed stroke, Choo sent a BP offering slicing from right-center back to center. That’s where it crashed into the towering screen that stands behind the fence. The baseball bounced off a panel and then got lodged high on the screen (see photo), probably a little more than 30 feet above the ground.

“And you said you wanted to bunt more?” Orlando Cabrera said to Choo with a stunned look.

Notes from Saturday…

  • Choo obviously looked fantastic during today’s BP bomb show, but truth be told, the Indians star right fielder is nursing a sore left elbow. Indians manager Manny Acta said the discomfort is not considered serious, but the team wants to keep Choo out of the field for a couple of days. Choo will sit out Sunday’s spring opener, but will likely be in the lineup as a designated hitter for Monday’s Cactus League tilt against the Reds.
  • Sunday’s lineup for the opener against Cincinnati: 1. Michael Brantley, CF, 2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, 3. Carlos Santana, C, 4. Travis Hafner, DH, 5. Austin Kearns, RF, 6. Orlando Cabrera, 2B, 7. Matt LaPorta, 1B, 8. Travis Buck, LF, 9. Jason Donald, 3B. RHP Josh Tomlin, SP.
  • Following Tomlin on the mound for the Indians (subject to change) will be Aaron Laffey, Jensen Lewis, Doug Mathis, Chris Perez, Yohan Pino, Zach Putnam, Joe Smith, Alex White. Monday’s pitchers (subject to change): Fausto Carmona (SP), Justin Germano, Jeanmar Gomez, Nick Hagadone, Frank Herrmann, Josh Judy, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Bryce Stowell. Tomlin and Laffey are competing for the rotation’s fifth spot.
  • Indians owner Larry Dolan was on Field 1 chatting with some players and taking in some batting practice on Saturday. “I wanted to come here and talk to the players,” he said. “It’s good for them to know the owner is involved.” Dolan has dinner with members of the front office and the coaching staff on Friday night. He was only in town for a couple days, but plans on returning to Arizona to check in on the team later this spring.
  • Acta said it has already been noticeably different this year without Indians great Bob Feller walking around camp. Feller passed away at the age of 92 in December. As part of Sunday’s pregame ceremonies, the Indians will play a Feller tribute video. His No. 19 will also be painted into the grass in front of the Indians dugout.
  • Followed up again today with outfielder Trevor Crowe, who is fighting a sore right rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. Crowe has been shut down from throwing and hitting. He yet to meet with the Indians training staff to discuss a possible timetable for returning to baseball actitivities. “For me to make the team,” Crowe said, “I have to be on the field.” Right now, his focus is on getting healthy, not on competing for a job. As for the potential for surgery? “We haven’t crossed that bridge yet,” Crowe said. Surgery is a last-resort option at this point.
  • Center fielder Grady Sizemore continued with his every-other-day running program on Saturday, doing some more light sprinting and agility work. There is still no established timetable for Sizemore’s return to game action.
  • If Sizemore and Crowe are unable to be ready in time for Opening Day, the Indians’ depth in center will take a hit. Acta noted that Travis Buck can man all three outfield spots. So can Kearns, if necessary. Seems like Buck might have a good shot at pushing for a roster spot if Crowe is unable to get back on the field soon.
  • Minor Leaguer Ezequiel Carrera can also play center and he is currently in camp. Here’s what Acta had to say about him: “He’s a terrific defensive player. A lot of people compare him defensiely to Endy Chavez, who is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. We’ve seen him in the workouts and he can flat-out go get them out there. We’ve just got to see his bat come around.”
  • The Indians have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with righty Chad Durbin, who will likely be in camp Sunday for a physical. An announcement could come Sunday or Monday. Durbin would have a spot in Cleveland’s bullpen, eliminating one of the available jobs this spring.
  • As things currently stand, the bullpen has locks in Chris Perez, Rafael Perez and Sipp. Smith and Lewis have not been deemed locks yet by Acta. Throw Durbin in there and now you’ve got six spots potentially filled with one up for grabs (likely the long relief role). Guys in the mix as long relievers could include Laffey, Herrmann and Germano, or Tomlin, Gomez or Anthony Reyes, depending on how the race for the fifth spot shakes out.

Finally…

  • Thanks to Dan Mendlik of Indians.com for the photo of Choo’s home run ball.

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

As the Crowe flies…

GYBP.jpgIndians GM Chris Antonetti offered this thought earlier this month…

“It’s Spring Training. Inevitably, when you have 60 guys in camp, I’m sure that there will be a few guys that have some bumps and bruises along the way. Hopefully we can minimize the extent of those and the duration of those.”

Well, the first spring bruise arrived on Friday.

Indians manager Manny Acta noted recently that outfielder Trevor Crowe was a bit behind schedule with a sore arm. Turns out that Crowe’s surgically-repaired right elbow is fine. What’s bothering the outfielder currently is a sore right shoulder. Specifically, he is fighting rotator cuff soreness.

“My elbow is fine. It’s strong. It’s good,” Crowe said on Friday morning. “Since a month after the [October] surgery, that was good to go. It’s 100 percent healthy. There’s just tenderness, tiredness, I don’t know what you want to call it, [in the shoulder].”

Crowe entered camp as a favorite to head north as a reserve outfielder. Now, his status for the start of the season is potentially in doubt. Right now, he has been shut down from throwing or hitting and there is no established timetable for when he can resume playing catch. So obviously it’s TBD for when he can even get in a game.

Even if Crowe rests for a week or two and then begins building back up, it seems unlikely that he’ll get the required reps in to make a push for the Opening Day roster. That means guys like Travis Buck, Chad Huffman, Shelley Duncan or Jordan Brown might now have a more realistic chance of breaking camp with the club. Nick Weglarz and Ezequiel Carrera are also in camp.

Acta would not say which way the Indians were leaning as far as carrying one or two extra outfielders. He merely said the Tribe will remain “open minded” and he joked that the club would start the year with [NEWSFLASH!] 13 position players and 12 pitchers. Going with two outfielders off the bench seems to make sense, though.

Think of it this way. If Grady Sizemore (left knee) isn’t ready for Opening Day — a very distinct possibility — the starting outfield projects to include Austin Kearns (LF), Michael Brantley (CF) and Shin-Soo Choo (RF). You could then go with an extra guy like Duncan, who could help in left or first, if needed, and as a righty DH to spell Travis Hafner on occasion. You could also carry a versatile fifth outfielder (say, someone like Buck) who can man all three spots. The switch-hitting Crowe obviously fits that second role when healthy.

In the event that Sizemore progresses rapidly and does wind up on the Opening Day roster. Kearns, who can man all three outfield spots as well, would then slide to the bench. He’d still see plenty of time in the field, though, considering Acta values his defense and Sizemore would likely see some days off to rest his legs. Under this scenario, the Indians would likely only have one outfielder role available off the bench.

Other notes from Friday…

  • Seeing as it’s Spring Training and these are the Cleveland Indians, it was only natural that a discussion about the movie “Major League” came up today. Bob DiBiasio, the Indians VP of public relations, was here and he chimed in, “You know I had script approval for that?” Who knew? One scene he wanted changed was the “red tag scene” that took place in the clubhouse. In the movie, players being cut at the end of spring had red tags hanging in their lockers. This is not how it happens in the real world. The scene stuck, however, because the writers felt it worked best for film. I got a kick out of this, because I recently watched “Major League” at home with my wife — someone bought us the bluray as a welcome-to-Cleveland present — and I explained to her that the red tag scene was completely unrealistic. Anyways…
  • The photo at the top of this post was from Thursday’s intrasquad game at Goodyear Ballpark, where Smitty’s American Racers took down Sarby’s Sour-Balls, 3-2. Well, the Sarbanauts had their revenge on Friday, defeating the Racers, 4-2, on Field 1 at the Indians’ complex. Fun fact: Field 1 has the exact dimensions as Progressive Field.
  • If the first two intrasquad games are any indication, and they rarely are, Michael Brantley might have himself some kind of season. All he’s done so far is collect three extra-base hits: a triple on Thursday and a triple and double on Friday. I asked him if he’s planning on trying for a triple a day this year. “Maybe,” Brantley said with a laugh. “Why not?” In case you’re wondering, the Major League record for triples in one season is 36, set by Pittsburgh’s Chief Wilson in 1912.
  • On a more serious note, Acta said he has been impressed with Brantley’s swing mechanics so far this spring. The manager said it is clear that Brantley has worked hard on shortening up his swing. As noted in this space earlier this week, one issue Brantley had last season was getting started too late with his swing. A more compact swing can help eliminate that problem.
  • Here’s your daily fifth starter’s race update: Lefty Aaron Laffey logged two-thirds of an inning before his day was cut short due to pitch count. He allowed one hit, walked two, threw one wild pitch and struck out one, allowing one run in the process. Anthony Reyes was originally down to pitch, but he did not appear in the game.
  • A reporter from South Korea asked Acta what he thought about Choo’s performance on Friday. Acta kept a straight face and said, “He struggled.” Choo went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts. Acta quickly added that he is hardly worried about Choo and said that seeing him play in intrasquad games is not very high on the importance scale. The games are a better venue for watching the younger players in camp. Choo will be in the lineup for Sunday’s opener against the Reds.
  • Acta was quick to praise the brief outing of righty Carlos Carrasco, noting that the Tribe’s No. 4 starter threw four first-pitch strikes to the four hitters he faced. The Indians manager has made it known all spring that first-pitch strikes is a big area of emphasis for the ballclub this year.
  • Hard-throwing relief prospect Bryce Stowell was showing off his fastball on Friday, but the righty struggled mightily with his command. Stowell, who could see the bigs this year but is not in the mix for the Opening Day bullpen, issued four consecutive walks in his appearance. Said Acta: “That’s what he needs to work on. At this level up here, you need to have command because guys will lay off of those pitches. Bryce knows that.”

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

Getting up to [game] speed

The Indians played some baseball today. At 10:45 local time, Jeanmar Gomez let loose a strike against Jason Donald for the first unofficial pitch of the 2011 season. The Tribe held its first intrasquad game of the spring and played under blue skies and the Arizona sun for four innings.

Gomez got the starting nod for Smitty’s American Racers (coached by third base coach Steve Smith) and Justin Masterson took the ball for Sarby’s Sour-Balls (coached by Triple-A manager Mike Sarbaugh). The Racers won, 3-2, with Donald leading the way with a single, triple and one run scored, plus a nice barehanded play at third base.

“We’re undefeated,” Indians manager Manny Acta declared.

“Actually, you’re 1-1,” I quickly corrected.

Intrasquad games are nice, because it’s a pleasant change of pace from all the bullpen sessions and workout drills. For the team, it gives them a chance to simulate game speed shortly before the Cactus League slate opens up. Typically, pitchers are ahead of the hitters at this point, but the Tribe pounded out five extra base hits, including two triples.

Acta was impressed with what he saw from the lineup. He especially liked seeing guys taking extra bases and moving runners. That’s something he’s been emphasizing this spring. In the second inning, Matt LaPorta stretched a single into a double with some aggressive baserunning, too. It was exactly the type of thing Acta hopes to see more often this year.

“We got in the middle of the pack last year in our baserunning,” Acta said. “Our goal is to continue to get better and push, push, push until we can put some pressure on other people. We just want to be aggressive and smart.”

Notes from Thursday…

  • I had a lovely shot of Goodyear Ballpark that I was going to post here, but the blog is having some issues with allowing me to upload photos. So, if you want to be reminded of what baseball looks like, you’ll have to check out my Twitter feed or go to the yfrog page with the photos. Links are at the bottom of this post.
  • As you may have noticed, I was absent yesterday. Castrovince was in camp and he did a lovely blog post to wrap up Wednesday’s events. MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez also pinch hit for me and wrote some articles for Indians.com. See that? It takes two reporters to do in one day what I do alone. [pats self on back]
  • So what did I do with my rare day off? I headed into Estrella Mountain Park and did 11+ miles of trail running/hiking. I felt like I was the only person on the face of the earth running out there in the desert terrain. It was a great day and being deep into the hills forced me to actually take a breather from the daily grind

Oh, you wanted actual baseball notes?

  • Acta walked away very impressed with the three big lefties — Nick Hagadone, Kevlin De La Cruz and Drew Pomeranz — who pitched the final stages of Thursday’s intrasquad game. When asked if he’d ever seen De La Cruz do a backflip, though, you should’ve seen Acta’s eyes widen. Told that the 6-foot-5 De La Cruz did just that early in camp before a workout, Acta smiled wide and said, “Really? He better not do another one.” But you could tell Acta wanted to see it for himself, too.
  • As for Pomeranz, Acta said: “[He] has that mound presence out there. It gives you the impression that nobody is going to hit him. He just has the look out there, that very confident look.” Pomeranz struck out one and walked one in one inning. The lefty noted that he was hitting around 92-95 on his fastball in instrux in October and he also used that time to focus on a changeup he’s been fine-tuning.
  • Donald made a fantastic play at third, bare-handing a ball and making a strong throw for a big out in the second inning. Acta said it will be more important to see how Donald handles the routine plays, though. Plays like Thursday’s are more about instincts and reaction. “That’s a play you see once a month,” Acta said. “We need to see the plays he’ll see every week.”
  • Donald noted that he traveled to San Diego in the offseason and worked with Steve Smith in some one-on-one sessions to prepare for the move to third. Donald said he has also been discussing positioning and other techniques with Travis Fryman here in camp. During BP, Donald is often at third to track balls in the zone and off the bat as well.
  • Gomez worked one clean inning and David Huff was roughed up a little in his inning. Both are competing for the fifth spot. Acta was asked how their respective outings might affect the fifth starter’s race. The manager just laughed. One-inning intrasquad outings do not influence a whole lot.
  • Jack Hannahan is in camp as a third baseman, but he’s been getting plenty of reps at short this week. He’s been taking grounders there and he started at short during Thursday’s game. Acta said Hannahan can also play first and second, if needed, and he could be in the mix for a utility job off the bench (similar to Adam Everett).
  • There is a report out there indicating that Grady Sizemore is likely moving to left field whenever he returns to the lineup. Letting you know that I have not heard that here in camp. Everyone I’ve talked to has said they believe center would actually be better on his legs due to having more room to decelerate when running. The corners can be harder on a player’s legs due to more plays at the wall and more abrupt stopping. So far, everyone has said Sizemore is in the plans for center. If I hear anything different, I will let you know.
  • Friday’s intrasquad game is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. local time on Field 1 at the Indians complex — not at Goodyear Ballpark. Pitchers slated to appear: Carrasco, Talbot, Judy, Herrmann, Laffey, Lewis, Pino, Reyes, Sipp, Todd, McAllister, Martinez, Stowell, Pestano

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.

Stay tuned for more…

–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:

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

 

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

 

Managing expectations

Thumbnail image for Acta.jpg
It’s happened a few times this spring. A reporter starts off by saying, “Manny, what do you think…” before pausing every so briefly to turn a thought into a question.

During that quick moment of dead air, Indians manager Manny Acta points a finger at the reporter and answers with an emphatic, “WIN.”

That is Acta’s answer. He doesn’t need to know the question. For Acta, “WIN” is the only thing that matters.

It’s the message he keeps preaching to the media and it’s the same message he has delivered to his players. No matter what the prognosticators are saying, Acta expects his team to win.

And he means it.

On Sunday, a visiting reporter asked Acta about his expectations for the Tribe this season. Specifically, Acta was asked how high he has set his expectations for the coming year.

“Very high,” Acta replied. “Very high, because I’m counting on our rotation and pitching staff to pick up where
they left off last year. They pitched very well in the second half of the season and that’s what
I’m basing it on. I’m not basing my expectations on “Anything can happen.”

“That is part of the
game, but it’s the fact that they got better in the second half and I think they’re going to
continue to get better. With the addition of those guys that were injured, our offense is going
to get better, too.”

Acta was then asked what would be considered a successful season for the Indians, who lost 93 games in 2010 and dropped 97 the year before.

Making the playoffs,” Acta said. “Shoot for the stars. If you don’t make it there, at least you won’t have mud on your shoes. I’m sorry. I just can’t sit over here and tell these guys, ‘Win two more games than last year and we’ll feel that’s fine.’ That’s not fine. You play to win.”

Notes from Sunday…

  • CF Grady Sizemore (left knee) did some sprinting at 50-60 percent in the outfield today. He also added some agility work, moving from side to side and backwards. It’s the first time he added those exercises to his running program since the June microfracture surgery. Sizemore said he had no issues and the goal remains to be ready in time for Opening Day on April 1.
  • Sunday’s workout — the first full-squad workout of the spring — was altered some due to some heavy early-morning rain. Pitchers threw in the bullpen instead of on the field and the hitters moved to the indoor batting cage. The first day of having batters “track” pitches was scrapped. The plan is for hitters to track and not swing on Monday.
  • Infield practice was also canned on Sunday due to the wet conditions on the fields. The Indians did hold a baserunning lecture on the field, though. On Monday, the Tribe plan on going over bunt-play fundamentals as well.
  • The Indians plan on having an intrasquad game on Thursday (estimated seven innings) and again on Friday (estimated 4 1/2 innings). Acta said that Indians catcher Carlos Santana is currently penciled in to start behind the plate on Thursday. Santana has no restrictions after completing his rehab from left knee surgery.
  • Asked who the main competitors for third base were, Acta named Jason Donald, Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena and Jared Goedert. Jack Hannahan will also get reps there this spring as will Cord Phelps and Lonnie Chisenhall to a lesser extent. Goedert has been criticized for his defense, but Acta said he wants to get a close look at the prospect this spring.
  • Mike Hargrove is scheduled to join the club in camp on Thursday. He and Eduardo Perez will spend time working with the many players expected to see reps at first base this spring. Kenny Lofton, who will help with outfielders and baserunning, should be in camp on Tuesday.
  • Acta said he is in no way worried about Matt LaPorta’s defensive ability at first base. Said the manager: “I’m not concerned at all about LaPorta. LaPorta played very good defense for us last year. I thought that he did a very fine job over there. The second half of the season, he was a little bit worn out, but I’m very happy with how he played defense.”
  • This is from yesterday, but I forgot to toss it on here. Acta was asked about the head of hair that Travis Hafner showed up with this spring. Here’s what the skip, chuckling throughout, had to say: “He said he felt comfortable with that haircut. I just couldn’t believe it. I shave my head because I’m bald. If I had hair, I would try every style. I really don’t comprehend why someone with hair would want to shave it. I’d try every haircut possible until I run out of hair. That’s what I did.”

One last thing…

Have you seen Acta’s new profile picture on Twitter (@Mactriber_11)? No?

Well, then here you go:

Manny.jpg

The story behind it: This photo of Acta was taken 24 years ago and was sent to him last year by his brother, who stumbled across it. They found it amusing that Acta was wearing an Indians T-shirt more than two decades before becoming the manager of the team. Why was he wearing it? He was a big fan of the D.R.’s Julio Franco, who was with the Indians at the time.

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

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