Results tagged ‘ Michael Brantley ’

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

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

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

 

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

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

Winter Meetings: Day 1

Swan-and-Dolphin-Hotel-Birthday-Orlando-794146.jpgSitting here in the media work room at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resort, soaking up all that is Day 1 of the Winter Meetings.

Teams have been busy leading up to this year’s annual offseason gathering, with Adam Dunn signing with the White Sox, Jayson Werth inking a seven-year pact with the Nationals, the Blue Jays trading away Shaun Marcum and the Red Sox pulling off a swap with San Diego to reel in Adrian Gonzalez.

As for your Indians? Well, don’t expect any huge, headline-hogging news this week in Lake Buena Vista. Tribe GM Chris Antonetti will surely be kicking the tires on some third base options, as well as looking into finding a starting pitcher, a backup catcher and a right-handed-hitting outfielder. Antonetti might also be hunting down uberagent Scott Boras for a chat about an extension for Shin-Soo Choo.

Us Cleveland scribes will meet with Antonetti this afternoon and Indians manager Manny Acta is scheduled to hold his sit-down today at 4 p.m. ET. While the Indians might not be the most active team at these Winter Meetings, I’ll do my best to keep up up to date on all that’s going on with the club.

Keep checking back here on the blog, reading indians.com and following along on Twitter.

Stay tuned for more…

UPDATE — 3:51 p.m. ET: One rumor making the rounds is that the Indians have some level of interest in free-agent outfielder Jeff Francoeur. The Royals, Phillies and Rockies have also been tabbed as suitors for the outfielder. The Tribe is in the market for a right-handed-hitting outfielder to help break-up the all-lefty combo of Michael Brantley, Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo.

UPDATE — 5:49 p.m. ET:
The Indians, along with more than half a dozen teams, have reportedly inquired about outfielder Fred Lewis. On the surface, this doesn’t seem to be a fit. The Tribe already has three lefty outfielders and Lewis became increasingly unhappy as his playing time decreased down the stretch last season with the Blue Jays.

Notes & quotes from Day 1:

  • Antonetti would not spill the beans when asked if he has met or plans to meet with Boras this week to continue talks about an extension for Choo. He did say that they will have to talk because Choo is eligible for arbitration, so talks of an extension will “naturally” be a part of the process. The GM noted that he is reluctant to discuss long-term deals once the regular season has started.
  • In discussing the situation at third base, Acta said that Jason Donald, Jayson Nix and Cord Phelps could all be in the mix for the job, barring an offseason addition. “There is a chance of everything in the world,” Acta said. “There is a chance. We’re very deep and our depth is great up the middle.”
  • Antonetti and Acta both emphasized the importance of having a strong defender at third base, especially due to having a young all-righty rotation that is so reliant on ground balls. That would seemingly rule out Encarnacion. But, Antonetti left the door open by saying, “If there’s an exceptional offensive player available at that position that may not be as strong defensively, we’ll be open-minded to that as well.” So, yeah…
  • Antonetti is not one to dive into specifics, but I asked him if there were any surprise decisions at the non-tender deadline. Maybe the Tribe had its eyes on someone who they thought would become a free-agent. Antonetti replied, “Up to that point you have dialogue with teams to get some sense. There may have been a couple of surprises on either side, here or there, but for the most part a lot of the guys we expected to be non-tendered were non-tendered.” More to the point, the Indians probably would’ve preferred the A’s non-tender Kevin Kouzmanoff — not Encarnacion.
  • If the Indians are going to find rotation help through free agency, a signing is not likely to happen this week at the Meetings. The Tribe needs more time to see how the market develops. “We’re not in a position to preempt the market,” said the GM. Obviously, if the Tribe is looking at trades, it could come sooner rather than later. It’s been pretty quiet on that front.
  •  Antonetti offered some unsolicited praise for former GM Pat Gillick, who was voted into baseball’s Hall of Fame on Monday. Said the Indians GM: “I’m elated at the fact that Gillick got elected to the Hall of Fame. That is great. There’s not a classier, more respected person in all of baseball than Pat. He’s so deserving of that.”
  • Acta noted that center fielder Grady Sizemore (left knee) passed a checkup on Sunday and remains on target for Opening Day. So far, the same can be said for catcher Carlos Santana, who is also making his way back from a left knee operation.
  • While you can never have enough pitching, Acta likes the way his bullpen is set up for the time being. As things currently stand, it’s closer Chris Perez, with Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp, Jensen Lewis and Joe Smith under contract. Then, there will be a bevy of arms in the mix for the other jobs. Names that quickly rolled off Acta’s tongue were Josh Judy, Zach Putnam, Bryce Stowell and Vinnie Pestano.
  • Asked about Luis Valbueno’s play in winter ball in Venezuela (.271 average, .341 on-base in 48 games), Acta had this to say: “The main thing is Luis’ playing. He needs to get
    his confidence back. Hopefully before the year’s over, he gets up there in the .270s, .280s, .300s, and comes to camp re-energized.”

More tomorrow…

~JB

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