Results tagged ‘ Matt LaPorta ’

“We didn’t start the fire”


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

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

Lovely.

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

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

Thus, the nickname.

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

Farewell, sweet prince.

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

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

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

Friday’s notes…

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

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Photo of the day:

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New blog profile photo.

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

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

Stay tuned for more…–JB

Managing expectations

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

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

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

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

And he means it.

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

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

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

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

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

Notes from Sunday…

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

One last thing…

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

Well, then here you go:

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

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

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

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

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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Manny3.jpg
 

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

 

There and Back Again


Kearns.jpgIt was a productive week around the new Bastian home.

We got all the strawberry-and-jam wallpaper removed from the kitchen, cleaned out the junk the previous owners left in our basement (not the housewarming gift we wanted), redid a bathroom and installed a new light fixture without getting electrocuted. And, I got all my Christmas shopping done.

Alas, my vacation — with snow shoveling and sick baby included — has expired. It was good to take a break, but I’m also glad to be back. Today, first day back on the clock has been a busy one, too. The Indians announced that they signed free-agent outfielder Austin Kearns to a one-year contract.

The Kearns signing — worth a base of $1.3 million, plus incentives — marks the first Major League signing by Chris Antonetti since he assumed the role of Indians general manager. Not exactly an earth-shattering move or one fans aren’t familiar with. Shoot, Kearns was brought in by the Tribe last offseason, too.

What Kearns does is checks one item off Cleveland’s Christmas list. The Tribe has their right-handed-hitting outfielder to offset the all-lefty combo of Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. Kearns can man all three spots and could potentially see limited action as a designated hitter.

Other items of note:

  • Was saddened by the news of Indians great Bob Feller’s passing while I was away last week. Anthony Castrovince wrote a lovely piece as part of MLB.com’s tribute to Feller. I never had the chance to chat with Feller, but have read so much about him over the years. His story sounds like the stuff of tall tales. Most amazing is the fact that it’s all true. RIP, Mr. Feller. Cleveland and the United States as a whole lost a legendary man.
  • Also while I was gone, the Indians inked shortstop Adam Everett to a Minor League contract. He will come to camp to compete for the utility infielder’s role. Everett provides depth at shortstop, but the Tribe feels he can also man second base or third base if necessary. And, just because Everett is in the fold, this doesn’t mean the Indians are no longer looking for infield help.
  • Two notes related to Class A Kinston: 1.) The club has been sold and is set to move to Zebulon, N.C., following the 2011 season; 2.) The Indians signed Japanese righty Toru Murata to a Minor League deal over the weekend and he might open the year with Kinston. Murata’s deal is strictly of the Minor League variety and he is not being invited to Spring Training with the big league club.
  • While the Indians have not officially announced the signing of free-agent outfielder Travis Buck, the sides have reached an agreement on a Minor League deal with a spring invite. Buck’s deal would be worth $625,000 if he makes the Major League roster. A source indicated that there were still steps to complete in the signing process. See: reviewing medical records provided by Oakland.
  • In order to place Kearns on the 40-man roster, the Indians will need to make a move to vacate a spot. Antonetti said Monday that he anticipates designating a player for assignment. Could Shelley Duncan be a possibility? Well, he’s in the mix for the extra outfielder’s job as well as a part-time role as a right-handed DH “provided he’s on the roster,” as Antonetti worded it. We’ll know the move in the next day or two.
  • When discussing that “extra” outfield role off the bench, Antonetti rattled off the names of Duncan, Trevor Crowe and Chad Huffman (claimed off waivers from the Yankees in September). Obviously, Buck would figure into that mix as well. Something to ponder, might be good to have someone around who can backup Matt LaPorta at first base besides catcher Carlos Santana. Duncan fits that description, as does Jordan Brown.
  • As for the reports out there that the Indians have scouted veteran pitcher Bartolo Colon, here’s all Antonetti would say: “We’ve scouted him in the Dominican and we’ll continue to watch him pitch. We’ve had some pretty good reports on him. His last outing wasn’t exceptionally good, but the others prior to that he pitched pretty well.” Indians are in the market for a veteran starter. Just saying.
  • Asked if the search for third base help could last into the spring, Antonetti said “it potentially could.” He said the Indians are “content” with going into Spring Training with the current internal options. The front-runners would seem to be Jayson Nix, Jason Donald and Jack Hannahan. Donald is also in the mix at second. This is where additional help from a guy like Everett comes into play as well.
  • Speaking of Nix, he ran into a bit of a hiccup recently during winter ball in Puerto Rico. After being hit in the head by a pitch, Nix missed nine games. He is feeling better and has returned to action. Nix headed to Puerto Rico in order to work on his defense at third base, one way to hopefully be ready to compete for the job there this spring.

In case you missed it, the latest edition of the Inbox is also up on indians.com.

–JB

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