Results tagged ‘ Manny Acta ’

Finding Fausto

Fausto.jpgWhen Indians starter Fausto Carmona headed home to the Dominican Republic for the offseason, manager Manny Acta made sure the pitcher left him with his phone number.

Otherwise, it might have taken until Spring Training for the two to talk.

“Very few of us have access to him
over the offseason,” Acta said. “
He’s a very private person.”

That is one reason Acta believes Carmona (above photo courtesy of Dan Mendlik/Indians) was unaffected by the trade rumors that made the rounds throughout the winter.

“I don’t think that even got to him,” Acta said. “Fausto, he gets himself into his farm back home and he
works out. He’s not in the spotlight back home. I don’t think too many people were
interviewing him, asking him about that back home.”

Asked if he was aware of the trade rumors, Carmona smiled and offered a shrug. He said had it not been for other people bringing it to his attention from time to time, he would not have even known about the reports. Even when he did hear about the rumors, Carmona said it was not a big deal one way or another.

“I never read the newspaper in the Dominican Republic,” Carmona said. “I can’t control the situation. Sometimes somebody will see something on the internet and tell me. I don’t think about it. I have to be ready no matter what team I play for.”
 
“I’m very happy here. I’m ready to play.”

The rumors are sure to continue into the season. Carmona’s solid comeback showing in 2010 and his club-friendly contract alone will fuel the hot stove fires as we near the July 31 Trade Deadline. He went 13-14 with a 3.77 ERA for a team that lost 93 games last year and he was a workhorse with 210 1/3 innings logged.

Carmona is under contract for $6.1 million in 2011 and the Indians own club options for 2012 ($7 million), 2013 ($9 million) and 2014 ($12 million). Carmona has been tied to the Yankees in rumors more than any other team, but the pitcher hardly sounded concerned about the situation on Saturday morning.

“I’m working hard. I’m ready to go,” he said. “I want to have a good season.”

Notes from Saturday…

  • The Indians made it through their workout on Saturday before a heavy rain/wind storm ripped through the area. It was a crazy sight outside the complex, where sand was being stirred up and tumbleweeds rolled down the roads in waves. Pitchers managed to squeeze in their bullpen sessions outside before things took a turn for the worst.
  • Sunday will mark Cleveland’s first full-squad workout of the spring. Acta said pitchers will throw off the mounds in live BP sessions, but the hitters won’t be swinging. For the first two days, hitters will be tracking pitches. This is the second year in a row the Tribe has practiced this exercise with Acta running the show.
  • Acta and Antonetti have noted that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was not at 100 percent when he returned from a forearm injury last season. He still had weakness in the arm and that took a toll on his offensive performance. Acta said Saturday that reports on Cabrera’s showing in winter ball were strong and the shortstop is at full strength right now.
  • The Indians plan on giving a handful of players some reps at first base this spring. Matt LaPorta is the clear-cut starter at the position, but Acta noted that Carlos Santana, Shelley Duncan, Jordan Brown, Chad Huffman and Travis Buck will all see some time at first during Spring Training.
  • Prior to Sunday’s workout, Acta plans on holding a meeting with the entire team. He did the same thing with the pitchers and catchers prior to their first official workout. The message? That Acta’s expectations are to win and he does not want the players to expect anything different, no matter what they might have read or heard about rebuilding.
  • Chatted some with Indians prospect Jason Kipnis, who said the biggest challenge remaining in his converstion to second base is getting better with footwork and turning double plays. Also learned he’s a Chicago guy like me, so I’m pulling for him to reach The Show quick so I have another Bears/Bulls fan around. (I’ll adopt the Browns as my AFC team if that will make you feel better)
  • Fun fact: Kipnis and Steve Bartman (Remember him, Cubs fans?) attended the same high school. Kipnis’ sister was actually in the same graduating class as Bartman. Not only that, Bartman didn’t live that far away from the Kipnis family. “He has to have police guard his house,” Kipnis said.

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.

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

The best defense is a good defense

Donald2.jpgThe way things are shaping up, Jason Donald appears to be in a good position to land the opening at third base. Don’t believe me? Well, then take it from manager Manny Acta.

“Jason Donald, for us,” Acta said on Friday, “was going to be a guy who was going to get at-bats regardless of whether it was going to be at third or at second.”

Second base is not much of an option, considering the Indians just signed Orlando Cabrera with that spot in mind. Could a disastrous spring move Cabrera to the bench? Sure. But the real competition is now at third, not at second.

Also, consider that Donald noted on Friday that he has taken exactly zero grounders at second base or shortstop since arriving in camp. All of his attention has been on third base, which gives him the best chance of heading north as a part of the Tribe’s starting lineup.

Donald will get reps at second and short this spring, but right now he is concentrating soley on the hot corner. Also in the mix are Jayson Nix, Luis Valbuena and Jack Hannahan, as well as youngsters Jared Goedert and Cord Phelps (though Phelps will see most his action at second).

Acta has emphasized how important infield defense will be this season and the club believes Donald has the ability to handle the position. Here’s what Acta had to say when asked why Cleveland started to consider Donald as a realistic option for third…

“The fact that he was pushed to the big leagues last year, but he survived and played fairly well for us,” Acta said. “He worked during the offseason with [third-base coach and infield instructor]Steve Smith and Smitty saw a lot of things that he liked about it. We’ve seen some of those in the week that he’s been here. That’s pretty much it.”

Asked if Donald had the arm to handle third, Acta had no doubts.

“He’s a shortstop, yeah,” Acta replied. “He’s got a good enough arm to play third base.”

Donald’s only experience at third as a pro came in the Arizona Fall League in 2008 and at Triple-A in 2009. Donald said he played “some third base” in each instance. Right now, he said his biggest challenge is getting used to the different reads off the bat and the topspin on most grounders down the line.

Donald knows how important infield defense will be this season, too.

“We have more sinkerballers,” Donald said. “I think it’s very important. We’re not going to make any excuses, but we were trying to find things out about, ‘Can I play here?’, ‘Can this guy play here?’ and whatnot [in 2010]. I think now coming into camp, guys have a better idea of what their roles are.”

Note from Friday…

  • As long as we’re talking infield D, it’s worth noting that the Indians had the third-highest total of infield errors (72) in the American League in 2010. They made 27 errors at third, 25 at short and 10 each at second and first. Of Cleveland’s 110 errors as a team, 65.5% came in the infield (third-highest percentage in AL).
  • Acta was quick to point out that much of the infield’s defensive issues a year ago stemmed from losing Asdrubal Cabrera to injury and trading away Jhonny Peralta. That said… “It’s in the past and we need to play better defense,” Acta added. The Indians are hoping having Orlando Cabrera at second and a healthy Cabrera at short will help bring some stability to the infield alignment.
  • Chatted some with righty Justin Masterson today (Shameless plug: check indians.com later today for a feature on him). He said the biggest challenge for him this season is to remain consistent with his delivery mechanics. That’s not always easy to do for someone of his size (6-6, 250). Masterson and pitching coach Tim Belcher developed some “checkpoints” in his delivery down the stretch last year and the big righty is hoping to carry that into the upcoming campaign.
  • Acta discussed the bullpen picture some on Friday. The only “locks” right now are Chris Perez, Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp. Acta said Joe Smith and Jensen Lewis “have a leg up” on the others. So, by process of elimination, that leaves two jobs up for grabs this spring with a whole lotta arms in the running.
  • Acta noted that he would “ideally” prefer to have “at least one” pitcher in the bullpen capable of logging multiple innings. Aaron Laffey could handle that role, but Acta did not want to lable Laffey a long-relief option until the pitcher is no longer considered a possibility for the fifth rotation job.
  • Besides Laffey, Acta said some long relief options include Frank Herrman, Justin Germano and Joe Martinez. Two more pitchers who could enter that mix later this spring are Anthony Reyes and Josh Tomlin. Acta said Reyes and Tomlin could be considered for the ‘pen if it becomes clear that they are not going to win the fifth starter’s role.
  • Cleveland’s position players were required to report to Arizona on Friday and they will undergo their physicals on Saturday. Sunday is the first scheduled full-squad workout. As far as I’ve been able to tell, everyone has been in camp. Austin Kearns arrived to the complex in Goodyear on Thursday.
  • One name that has not come up too often in the discussions about second and third base is that of veteran infielder Adam Everett, signed to a Minor League contract over the winter. Acta said Everett will compete for the infield utility job.
  • The Indians outrighted Martinez to Triple-A Columbus on Friday to clear room on the 40-man roster for the signing of Orlando Cabrera. Martinez will remain in camp as a non-roster invitee. Currently, the Tribe has 61 players (31 pitchers, 14 infielders, 10 outfielders and six catchers) in camp with the big league club.

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Photo of the day:

GM Chris Antonetti keeps an eye on Friday’s workout

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

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

Say hello to Uncle Orlando

CabrerasBanner.jpgIt became pretty apparent that Orlando Cabrera passed his physical with the Indians when he was spotted hanging out with his new double-play partner, Asdrubal Cabrera, in the outfield on a practice diamond on Wednesday morning.

Sure enough, Cleveland announced that it had indeed signed the veteran infielder to a one-year Major League contract. The deal is worth $1 million plus incentives, but there is no option for the 2012 season. Ask me, and I’ll say that seems like a nice bargain.

During our sit-down with Orlando, we asked if he knew Asdrubal before today.

“The nephew?” Cabrera replied with a grin.

So a few years back, when baseball started to see an increase in the number of Cabreras in The Show — Asdrubal, Melky, Miguel, Fernando, Daniel — Orlando started referring to them as his nephews.

“And he calls me uncle,” Cabrera said of Asdrubal.

And to answer the obvious question: No, they are not actually related.

That said, Orlando Cabrera is the kid brother of Jolbert Cabrera, who suited up for the Indians in 310 games from 1998-2002. For those wondering how Jolbert is doing these days, Orlando said he is currently still playing ball for a team in Mexico.

As for OC, he’s in camp as the favorite to be the Tribe’s starting second baseman. One way or another, manager Manny Acta — who knows Orlando from their days in the Expos organization — said Cabrera is on the team (barring an injury, of course). So he’ll break camp either as a second baseman or a utlity guy (he’ll see reps at 3B, too).

Cabrera actually sounded genuinely enthusiastic about the chance to play second base. It was the position he played as a Minor Leaguer and he said making the switch to shortstop — a position where he’s won two Gold Gloves — was more difficult that going from short to second. Acta said Cabrera could play second “with his eyes closed.”

Helping matters will be the fact that he’ll play second with them open.

Where will Cabrera hit in the lineup? Acta said Cabrera has the ability to adjust to any spot in the batting order. As of right now though, the Indians do not view Cabrera as a part of the top of the lineup. So I’d pencil him into one of the Nos. 7-9 spots right now if you’re busy doing mock lineups at home.

Other notes and observations from Wednesday…

  • Pitchers and catchers all underwent physicals on Wednesday. They also met individually with Acta and GM Chris Antonetti to discuss expectations for the upcoming season. The first official workout for pitchers and catchers is Thursday.
  • Spotted in camp: Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner and newly-hired special assistant to baseball operations Eduardo Perez. I introduced myself as “Best Buy” to Hafner, because that’s where I ran into him and initially introduced myself over the winter. That’s a story for another day…
  • The Indians need to make another transaction in order to clear room on the 40-man roster for Cabrera. Once the move is approved by the league — likely in the next couple of days — it would be announced. I would think a pitcher is most likely to be removed from the roster.
  • To help account for the high volume of pitchers in camp, the Indians added catching prospect Chun Chen to their group of non-roster invitees. That will help with early bullpen sessions and also provide Chen with valuable experience, especially the chance to work with Sandy Alomar Jr. on his defense.
  • Rumored for a few days, confirmed on Tuesday and official on Wednesday: Kenny Lofton is joining the Tribe as a guest instructor this spring. He will work with outfielders and offer tips on baserunning while he’s in camp from Feb. 22-28. During the regular season, Lofton will have an expanded role as an alumni ambassador, helping with some community initiatives among other things.
  • The Indians could have a bit of a logjam in the infield at Triple-A Columbus this year. If Lonnie Chisenhall is at third and Jason Kipnis is at second, suddenly guys like Jared Goedert (3B) and Cord Phelps (2B/3B) we’ll be searching for playing time if they’re in Columbus as well. Antonetti said Goedert will see some time in the outfield this spring and he could get at-bats at 1B or DH at Triple-A, too. Phelps will see action at second and third, but Antonetti wasn’t sure yet if he’d see innings in the outfield this spring.
  • Antonetti said that no big-league starters are currently faced with any obvious innings restrictions for the coming season. The only one he said the club will “be mindful of” is Mitch Talbot. Antonetti quickly added, though, that the goal is for Talbot to pitch a full Major League season.
  • On Monday, Justine Siegal will become the first woman to throw batting practice to a Major League team when she does so for the Indians. She will also throw BP to A’s hitters on Feb. 23. Siegal is also the first woman to coach men’s professional baseball (Brockton Rox, 2009).

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Photo of the day:


LaPorta.jpg

1B Matt LaPorta. Calling his shot?

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

Pitchers, catchers & tweeters report

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

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

Ah, Twitter.

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

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

Could Indians GM Chris Antonetti be next?

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

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

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

Notes from Tuesday…

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

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

Sizemore watch begins


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other notes from camp…

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

Greetings from Goodyear

IndiansComplex.jpgThe unofficial start of Spring Training for me has always been the drive over the Courtney Campbell Causeway that runs over Tampa Bay. Water to my left and to my right. Palm trees all around. Baseball straight ahead.

I guess I’ve got to start establishing some new traditions now that I’m covering the Indians out here in the Arizona desert. The drive west on I-10 didn’t have the same feel as the causeway, but I certainly didn’t mind gazing out at all the mountains surrounding Phoenix.

I landed Saturday afternoon — a barking dog in my row on the plane made the trip feel much longer than it was — and reached my spring headquarters by about 3 p.m. local time. Of course, “reached” doesn’t mean I “got inside” my home for the next six weeks. Turns out, the rental company had a slight oversight. No keys were left for me.

Eventually I got into Casa de Bastian and everything is great. I got a decent enough rental car, my apartment is nice and the weather is gorgeous (I know, you didn’t need to hear that last part). This morning, I headed over to the Indians’ player development complex to check out the club’s digs. Man, what a great facility.

No offense, Dunedin. I loved being near the beach and you’re little Main Street was great. The ballpark had its good qualities, too. But, man, the complex the Indians have here in Goodyear is fantastic. Everything looks brandnew and having the Estrella Mountains as a backdrop is going to be a pleasure. I’m going to do some trail running up there, too.

But I digress…

It was quiet at camp this morning, which was expected. It’s Sunday and the last Sunday before Spring Training officially opens at that. Jason Donald dropped by for a bit, but there wasn’t a whole heckuva lot of activity going on today. Except inside the manager’s office, that is. Manny Acta was on hand, working hard.

Inside his office, there is a large whiteboard to the left with all the names listed of players in camp with the team. On the wall behind his desk hangs a picture of former Expos manager Felipe Alou. Along that wall is a minifridge. On top? A hat from a Dominican winter league team and a Cleveland Browns cap.

“Nice touch,” I said.

“Hey, I’m a Browns fan,” Acta said with a grin.

Chatted for a while with Acta about a wide variety of topics, but eventually we discussed this spring and the current roster. Acta has been in camp for about a week and he’s been pleasantly surprised with the high volume of players already on hand. Acta said morning stretch has looked like a normal spring workout due to so many players being here already.

On Saturday, center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) hit on the field for the first time since his injury and Acta said he looked great: “Like a kid with a new toy.” Acta added that Sizemore is not likely to be a full participant in outfield drills when full-squad workouts begin next weekend. Obviously, Sizemore will need to pass certain running and agility tests before being cleared for full outfield activity.

Acta raved about what he’s seen in bullpen sessions from Carlos Carrasco. The manager also had great things to say about what he’s seen from pitching prospect Alex White. Acta said he is also excited to see some of the young relief prospects — Vinnie Pestano, Josh Judy, Bryce Stowell and Zach Putnam, in particular — push for bullpen jobs.

In the infield, assuming Orlando Cabrera’s physical is fine and he does indeed sign with the Indians (the signing has not been officially confirmed by the club), he will be the front-runner in the competition at second base. The way I see it, Donald is the front-runner at third. If he can show he has the glove and arm to handle the hot corner, I believe it’s his job to lose. Acta noted again on Sunday how important strong defense will be at third base.

Asked if he had a favorite to win the third-base job, Acta chuckled and shook his head.

“No, no,” Acta said. “I don’t have a favorite.”

The only people I saw on the practice diamonds today were the groundskeepers, watering the grass and tending to the infield. There are sure to be players out there tomorrow and I’ll keep you up-to-date on all the goings on at camp. Be sure to be following me on Twitter (@MLBastian) and I will keep you posted in the coming days where I’ll be posting photos.

Stay tuned…

–JB

Manny Media

ActaTweet.jpgLike White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen before him — oh, boy — Indians skipper Manny Acta has joined the Twitterverse. With Spring Training nearly upon us, we can all now get a glimpse of the world according to Manny.

If you’re on Twitter, you can find all Acta’s Mannyisms under the handle @Mactriber_11. It’s the latest plunge into social media on the part of the Indians, who are also planning on doing more on that area in thr future.

On Wednesday, Cleveland actually sent out an e-mail notification to promote Acta’s newly-created Twitter account. In the message, the club stated: “Acta’s presence on Twitter is part of an over-arching organizational social media strategy overseen by team president, Mark Shapiro. Future announcements regarding the Cleveland Indians use of social media will be forthcoming.”

Here is a taste of what to expect if you give Acta a follow…

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Eating home-cooked meals at mom’s house. Packing for Spring Training. Updates on Indians players from Arizona. If that’s a sample of what’s to come, should be entertaining and insightful to follow along.

As long as we’re pointing out some Indians-related accounts on Twitter, here are some others worth checking out:

@castrovince — Former Indians.com beat reporter & current MLB.com columnist
@MLBastian – Current Indians.com beat reporter (shameless plug!)
@Indians – Official Indians Twitter account
@tribeinsider — Front office account
@tribetalk — Front office account
@ChrisPerez54 – Indians closer Chris Perez
@JLEWfifty – Indians pitcher Jensen Lewis
@Gator4God – Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta
@RadioRosey — Jim Rosenhaus of the Indians Radio Network

@hoynsie – Plain Dealer beat guy Paul Hoynes
@jitribeinsider — News-Herald’s Jim Ingraham
@ABJ_indians — Beacon Journal’s Sheldon Ocker
@twithersAP — Associated Press’ Tom Withers
@TonyIPI – Tony Lastoria of IndiansProspectInsider.com
@CLBClippers – Triple-A Columbus
@AkronAeroes — Double-A Akron
@KinstonIndians — Class A Kinston
@LCCaptains — Class A Lake County
@mvscrappers – Class A Mahoning Valley
@mlbtrindians – MLB Trade Rumors Indians feed
@LetsGoTribe – Indians blog
@TheDiaTribe — Indians blog
@PureRage_Perez – Fake Chris Perez account

If there are others you think should be included on this list, feel free to mention them in the comments section below this post.

I’ll be writing, blogging & tweeting from Arizona starting Saturday.

~JB

 

Winter Meetings: Day 3

IMG_20101208_105621.jpgGreetings again from lovely Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Day III of these Winter Meetings are here…

…and the Indians are still quiet.

For those of you thinking I’m out working on my tan and soaking up the Florida sun, you can rest assure that is not the case. Life at the Meetings is a constant mix of lobby circling and workroom working.

And it’s cold here. OK, “cold” is a bit much. It’s chilly. There’s no snow, so I’m not going to start complaining about the weather in Florida. Well, I won’t complain much anyway.

As for your Tribe, they continue to explore trades and entertain the idea of signing a handful of inexpensive free agents. It’s about building depth right now, finding a way to guard against injuries and also putting the team in a good position to keep young players on their development plans.

That is where a player like Nick Punto fits into the equation. The Indians have unanswered questions at third base, second base and in the backup role at short. Punto can assist at all three positions, taking some heat off the youngsters and allowing Cleveland to avoid rushing players into prominent roles before they’re deemed ready for such a task.

The Indians met with the agent for Punto on Tuesday and might meet again before the Meetings conclude. There appears to be mutual interest, but I’m not expecting a signing to come to fruition before we hop on our planes and fly back to C-town. Then again, one never knows. Things have a way of coming together fast sometimes.

One meeting on tap today for the Tribe involves preparation for Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. The Indians’ 40-man roster is currently at capacity, so Cleveland will meet this afternoon to determine whether it makes sense to vacate a spot in order to try to select someone in the Draft. A couple of third basemen eligible for selection are Brad Emaus (Toronto) and Taylor Green (Milwaukee).

Make sure you keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. We’re scheduled to have lunch with manager Manny Acta this afternoon and we’ll meet with GM Chris Antonetti a bit later.

Stay tuned for more…

UPDATE: 2:11 p.m. ET — Following lunch with Acta and Indians pitching coach Tim Belcher, among others (including members of the Reds media corps and manager Dusty Baker), chatted with uberagent Scott Boras. Boras said that he has not met with Antonetti yet about a possible contract extension for Tribe outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. Boras added that he does not anticipate meeting with the Indians GM about the matter at the Winter Meetings.

UPDATE: 2:29 p.m. ET — Indians make C Paul Phillips signing official. Minor League contract with an invite to attend Spring Training with the big league club.

UPDATE: 3:27 p.m. ET — CHOO EXTENSION TALKS

Scott Boras, the agent for Shin-Soo Choo, said on Wednesday that he has not met with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti about a contract extension for the star outfielder. Boras added that he did not expect to discuss the matter at the Winter Meetings.

“I don’t think I’ll be doing a lot of discussing on those fronts right now,” Boras said.

Thumbnail image for Boras.jpgAntonetti said earlier this week that such talks would likely come “naturally” due to the fact that he would need to negotiate an arbitration deal with Choo later this winter. Boras did not necessarily see it the same way.

“Most arbitration discussions don’t end in multi-year contracts, that’s for sure,” Boras said. “But, again, I’ve not had that discussion with Chris yet.”

Boras noted that a long-term deal with Cleveland could be more difficult than with other teams. The Indians finished last in the league in attendance in 2010, is scaling back its payroll and plans on fielding a young roster this coming season.

“That’s going to be Shin-Soo’s decision about what he may want to do or not do,” Boras said. “I do think it’s tougher, it’s always tougher, in situations where you’re a club that’s a developmental team, to know where the club’s going to be two or three years from now. So, those situations are always a little more difficult.

“But, again, we listen to every team and pass it on to the player and see what he says.”

UPDATE: 3:58 p.m. ET — Two items. 1) Mariners are reportedly interested in Indians second baseman Luis Valbuena. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Tribe had not discussed him with Seattle. 2) Among other things Boras talked about, he said the A’s still have interest in free-agent 3B Adrian Beltre. If that’s true, it is possible that the Indians would approach Oakland about potentially trading for 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff.

UPDATE: 6:51 p.m. ET — In a sit-down with Antonetti, the Indians GM said he is hopeful that he will be able to chat with Boras about Choo’s contract situation “shortly after the Winter Meeetings.” Antonetti noted that Choo has expressed optimism about the club’s future in conversations they’ve had. The GM has every intention of talking about an extension.

ETCETERA: The Indians are still in the process of determining whether they want to clear a spot on the 40-man roster in order to make a selection in the Rule 5 Draft. Cleveland’s roster is  at capacity and the club has the seventh pick (technically eighth due to a compensation pick earlier in the Draft for Arizona). Antonetti said there are some “intriguing” pitchers available, and the Tribe is probably also considering some of the third base/infield options out there. … Talked some with pitching coach Tim Belcher today about the rotation. He had high praise for Carlos Carrasco, who is the front-runner for the fourth spot on the staff. The fifth is likely down to Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin and David Huff. Belcher is hopeful that Huff will be able to bounce back from his 2-11 showing last year. Cleveland’s rotation could certainly benefit from having a lefty in the mix for a job. Belcher also said, in a perfect world, he believes the rotation could benefit from having a more experienced arm added to the mix this winter. … There was a rumor floating out there that the Indians had some interest in bringing Bartolo Colon back. I wouldn’t put too much stock into that one.

More tomorrow…

~JB

Winter Meetings: Day 2

WMpic.jpgWelcome to Day 2 of the Winter Meetings here in the land of walking, talking mice.

After two Meetings here at the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin resort, I am now a pro at navigating my way around the lobby. Not sure how this skill will help me later in life.

As an aside, a big plus to being here this week if the fact that MLBastian Jr. is really into Mickey right now. One stop in a gift shop and my Christmas shopping will be done for the little man this week. Shhh, don’t tell him!

Things are still quiet on the Tribe front. There’s the rumors of having interest in outfielder Fred Lewis (a source told me the Indians did indeed inquire about him, but so have more than half a dozen other teams), and maybe Jeff Francoeur (not seeing it happening) or Nick Punto (as a utility man).

If those seem like minor discussions, well that’s because they are, and don’t expect the Tribe to be in on any big names this week or later this winter. The biggest name they’ll be talking about is Shin-Soo Choo, and that’ll be floating the idea of an extension with agent Scott Boras.

So, it’s more of the same right now here on Day 2. Make sure you keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter for updates throughout the day. We’ll be meeting again with GM Chris Antonetti this afternoon.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE: 5:51 p.m. ET — One online rumor indicated that the Indians had interest in free-agent shortstop Adam Everett. Probably the same type of infield utility role that the Tribe reportedly is interested in having free-agent infielder Nick Punto fill. Without going into specifics, Antonetti said today that the club could benefit from adding an extra infielder. More on our chat with Antonetti in a bit.

UPDATE: 8:13 p.m. ET — Indians are close to signing free-agent catcher Paul Phillips, formerly of the Rockies. Deal is not done, but would be a Minor League contract with a Spring Training invite. Another rumor swirling is that Mariners have interest in trading for Indians infielder Luis Valbuena.

UPDATE: 8:38 p.m. ET — The Indians met with the representative for free-agent infielder Nick Punto on Tuesday. Cleveland also met with a handful of other free agents as well.

Notes and quotes from Day 2:

  • The Indians are out of the mix for 3B Edwin Encarnacion. His performance in the field is simply too much of a risk to put behind a cast of young rotation arms, especially when the group relies so much on grounders. EE’s bat is intriguing, but not to the point that his fielding issues can be ignored.
  • Even though CF Grady Sizemore is making positive strides in his comeback from microfracture surgery on his left knee, the Indians have to be prepared in the event he isn’t ready for Opening Day. OF Michael Brantley is the favorite to move to center/leadoff if Sizemore is not fully recovered. The Indians have also inquired about free-agent Fred Lewis, though he only seems like a fit if the Indians do not currently believe Sizemore will return in time for Opening Day.
  • The more immediate concern in the outfield is obtaining a right-handed hitter. The addition would simply be a player who could provide a day off for the regulars on days when a lefty was on the mound. Don’t expect Jeff Francouer in an Indians’ jersey, though. His price is rising with multiple teams interested.
  • Antonetti noted that Jason Donald will see time at multiple infield spots in the spring. Donald remains in the mix for the starting role at second base. The Tribe could also benefit from more stability behind shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. Punto would help in that regard, providing more depth around the infield.
  • Catcher Carlos Santana (left knee) is back in Arizona rehabbing. Antonetti said his rehab has gone well and he will likely be slightly ahead of Sizemore when Spring Training begins. That said, Sizemore remains on his initial progression and should resume running activities some time in January.
  • Asked of Jason Kipnis could be in the mix for the starting job at second base, Antonetti said you can’t rule anything out. Maybe so, but Kipnis has yet to play one inning at Triple-A. It seems more realistic that Cord Phelps makes a push for a roster job out of camp than Kipnis, who could benefit from more time on the farm.
  • I don’t expect the Indians to leave these Meetings with a new rotation member. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tribe does not add an arm to its staff. If they do, it will probably be a late-offseason add. Manager Manny Acta and Antonetti are on the same page in terms of the belief that there is no reason to add a veteran simply to add a veteran. Leadership and mentoring are great attributes, but the Indians are more interested in quality innings. If the veteran options out there are not clear upgrades, the Tribe will likely stick with its developing in-house alternatives. 

More tomorrow…

~JB

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