Results tagged ‘ Tony Sipp ’

Breaking down the bullpen

After a few lovely days back in Ohio with the MLBastian Family, I’m back in Arizona. Apparently I brought a little Midwest back with me, though. Today was ugly and rainy and the Indians’ game against the Royals was canceled as a result.

Ah, but poor weather does not stop the rumor mill now does it?

Early Monday morning, a report surfaced that the Indians had placed right-handed reliever Jensen Lewis on waivers. Now, some of you out there have contacted me asking why Cleveland “waived” Lewis, which makes it sound like he was cut or released. That is something entirely different.

Now, I am not sitting here claiming to be an expert on all the nuances of the MLB waiver system. I’m still learning about the whole process, but after six years in baseball I’ve got a pretty good feel for the general way things work. News of Lewis being exposed to waivers is news in the sense that there was news that Lewis was exposed to waivers.

Confused?

What I mean is a lot of players are placed on waivers in the latter stages of Spring Training. Similarly, lots of players are run through waivers after the non-waiver July 31 Trade Deadline. It is a way to gauge interest in players, putting them temporarily up for grabs to other teams, but it does not always mean the players will be moved.

In Lewis’ case, I can’t confirm whether he was or was not placed on waivers. What I can tell you is that it would make sense if he was. He is having a rough spring and he is out of options. If a team puts in a claim, maybe a deal can be worked out. If there is no claim, then Lewis can be sent outright to the Minor Leagues.

For now, Lewis is very much a member of the Indians. Will he be in the Opening Day bullpen? Well, if he was indeed run through waivers, that could be an indication that it’s more likely he’s got a bus ticket to Triple-A Columbus in his future.

Let’s look at how the bullpen shapes up right now…

LOCKS: Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Chad Durbin, Tony Sipp

OPEN SPOTS: Three

OTHER CANDIDATES: Jensen Lewis, Joe Smith, Justin Germano, Frank Herrmann, Vinnie Pestano, Doug Mathis, Jess Todd

Smith is still fighting a strained upper abdominal muscle and appears doubtful for Opening Day. Lewis is out of options, but that issue might be in the process of being solved via the waiver situation. Lewis is still in the mix for an Opening Day spot, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that he’s more likely headed to Triple-A.

That would leave Germano, Herrmann, Pestano, Mathis and Todd for three spots (also assuming Smith won’t be ready). Germano and Mathis are in camp on Minor League deals, meaning someone would have to be removed from the 40-man roster for them to be added to the roster. Obviously, if Lewis is outrighted to the Minors (he can’t refuse such an assignment) that would vacate a roster spot.

Pestano seems to be a logical fit for the bullpen, especially if Smith isn’t ready to go. Indians manager Manny Acta raved about Germano on Monday and reiterated how important it is for the Indians to have a reliever or two capable of logging multiple innings. Germano, Herrmann and Mathis fit that mold.

Now is your time to play GM. With the current choices and situation, who would make your Opening Day bullpen for the Tribe?

For the rest of today’s news, check Indians.com.

–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

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

Manny being Manny

ActaBatterhorn.jpgIt’s been an interesting few days for Indians manager Manny Acta. Fresh off a mini-vacation with his family to a remote beach area in his native Dominican Republic, Acta was in Cleveland, hands gripped tightly to an inflatable tube as he flew down the Batterhorn at Snow Days at Progressive Field.
 
That was just Saturday.
 
On Sunday, Acta attended his first NFL game, watching the Browns edge out the Panthers, 24-23. Acta was sporting an Indians winter hat at the game, but he said he was proudly wearing and waving a bright orange foam finger as he cheered on Cleveland’s team.
 
“It was a good experience,” Acta said with a smile. “And we won. Regardless of how, and who we beat, we won.”

Acta is soaking up all things Cleveland — evidenced by his usage of the word “we” when talking about the Browns.
 
He raved about watching Browns running back Peyton Hillis plow through defenders, even referencing the hard-nosed back when asked if Grady Sizemore might need to adjust his all-out style in light of his recent knee injury.
 
“That’s just the way he’s wired,” Acta said. “That’s like asking Hillis to stop running people over.”
 
Acta took the time to gather with reporters on Monday afternoon for a casual lunch, followed by a question-and-answer session. Monday evening Acta was scheduled to hold a chat with Indians’ season-ticket holders as well. Here are a few highlights of Acta’s discussion with us local scribes today
 

  • On more than one occastion, Acta noted that the non-tender date is coming up. Considering Cleveland is limited in what it can do financially, looking to this second wave of free agents — typically less-expensive options — might be a way for the club to solve the holes at third base and in the rotation. Thursday is baseball’s non-tender deadline.
  • Asked about third base, Acta said, “We’ll see what’s out there. if not, we’re prepared to go with our in-house candidates.” He took a slightly different route when answering about the club’s search for rotation help. “We should be able to add a guy or two and have him compete. There are some guys that are going to go to Spring Training to compete for us who probably still need some more seasoning in the Minor Leagues.”
  • One internal option for third base is Jayson Nix, who is working on his defense at the position at winter ball in Puerto Rico. That said, Acta noted that Nix’s performance in P.R. will not dictate whether the Tribe seeks an addition at the hot corner. “If that would be the case, then I would be tomorrow sitting in Puerto Rico watching him play,” Acta said with a chuckle. “You have to give it to him. Not too many guys will take the challenge and go to winter ball and get better. He’s just trying to make himself more versatile.”
  • There was no real update on Sizemore, but Acta said he did see the center fielder when the manager was in Arizona to see some Fall League action. Understandably, Acta said the club will take a very conservative approach with Sizemore in the spring, but the manager added that, “Until I hear anything different, he’s our center fielder. But, we have to get to Spring Training and see how he is and how things develop.”
  • Acta maintained his sense of humor when asked about the Tribe’s poor luck with injuries: “My seventh, eighth or ninth hitter never went down,” he quipped. The manager is excited about the possibility of having both Sizemore and catcher Carlos Santana back at full strength and knows that a pile of injuries present a big problem for teams like the Indians. “It’s something that is tough to absorb when you’re a team rebuilding and you don’t have the depth or the flexibility to just go grab somebody else.”
  • Acta noted that there are definitely some spots in the Indians’ bullpen that are “up for grabs.” Said the manager: “We have Chris Perez and we have the two lefties [Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez]. Then we have [Joe] Smith and the rest of the guys. Nothing is set in stone when it comes to that, so guys like [Josh] Judy, he could come into Spring Training and who knows? He could win a spot. We’re not dead set on the rest of those guys.”
  • When it comes to leadership within the clubhouse, Acta said he expected guys like Chris Perez, Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo to play a larger role come 2011. Acta has no problem with younger guys stepping up, either: “I just don’t know who told people you have to be a 10-year veteran to be a leader.” Then again… “I’ll take pitching and defense over leadership,” Acta quipped.
  • Acta was asked for his thoughts about Indians CEO Paul Dolan’s recent comments about this not being the right time to spend on free agents. Replied Acta: “It doesn’t upset me, because … he also said that when he feels it’s the right time, he will spend.” After referencing the Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa signings of nto so long ago, Acta added: “My job is actually to make these guys better and to make Paul spend. … I feel very confident about what we have here. He was pretty clear about that, that when he thinks it’s the right time, he’ll do it, and he has done it.”

Makes you wonder…

… can Hillis play third base?

~JB

     
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