Results tagged ‘ Travis Hafner ’

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.

————————————————————————

Photo of the day:

Pronk2.jpg

Due to so many requests for this… Travis Hafner (with hair)

————————————————————————

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

Stay tuned for more…–JB

 

Slowing things down

Acta2b.jpg

Any team that has competition in camp deals with the same issue every year, especially when there are young players in the mix for jobs. Too often, inexperienced players will push things too hard during Spring Training in an effort to stand out and impress the manager and coaches.

Every year, the manager and coaches must emphasize slowing things down.

“It’s very early,” Indians manager Manny Acta said on Monday. “We talk to these guys and make sure that they don’t try to make the ballclub in the first workout. Every pitcher that is out there is not throwing the ball 100 percent and every player is not swinging the bat the way they’re probably capable of yet.

“We try to slow the kids down, especially the younger guys. We just try to make sure they don’t try to impress the coaches way too much and end up missing time.”

One thing the Indians have done since Acta has been the manager is hold a meeting with individual players before workouts officially start. The meeting is two-on-one — the GM is also in the room — and the goal is to go over expectations and roles for spring and the season ahead.

Acta does not want any of his players wondering where he stands in the organization’s eyes. Every player in camp right now has been told what is expected of them and the club has let certain players know they are legitimately competing for a job or they are in camp simply to gain experience.

“That’s why we have those two-on-one meetings,” Acta said. “Just about every one of those guys know where we stand right now. We are open minded, but I think those younger kids, they know which ones are really competing, trying to make the club, and which ones are soaking up the experience and learning from being around those other guys.

“We kind of laid the groundwork there in those meetings. It’s just tough at times for them not to try to do [push things]. It’s human nature, especially wen you’re new to somebody. If you come from Double-A or Triple-A and nobody up here has seen you, you want to really show what you’ve got. I don’t think the first day is the right day [to do that].”

Notes from Monday…

  • Siegal2.jpgCleveland native Justin Siegal became the first woman to throw BP to a Major League team when she did so for the Indians on Monday. She’ll do it again on Wednesday with the A’s. Siegal threw to a group of five Minor Leaguers and was then allowed to throw to big league catchers Paul Phillips, Lou Marson and Juan Apodaca. CLICK HERE for a story I wrote on Siegal for MLB.com
  • Acta noted that OF Trevor Crowe, who is in the mix for a backup outfield role with the Indians, is currently behind his teammates health-wise. Crowe had surgery on his right elbow over the winter and is still working to get his arm strength back to 100 percent. Acta said Crowe will miss “at least” the intrasquad games slated for Thursday and Friday.
  • Along the lines of the intro to today’s blog post, Acta noted on Monday that prospect Alex White is not competing for a spot in the Tribe’s rotation this spring. So even with a dynamite showing, expect White to head to Triple-A, where he has yet to log a single inning as a pro. White is definitely in the mix for a big league promotion this year, though.
  • Acta indicated that DH Travis Hafner was able to up his weight lifting over the winter, a sign that his right shoulder is holding up well right now. Even so, Acta plans on closely monitoring Hafner throughout spring and the upcoming season. Hafner will likely see days off against lefties here and there and Acta might give him other days off with the goal of keeping him fresh.
  • On days when Hafner is out of the lineup, Acta could use outfielder Austin Kearns as a right-handed DH. That said, Acta has made it clear that he values Kearns’ defense so much that he prefers to leave him in the outfield. That being the case, Shelley Duncan is in the mix as a righty DH and Carlos Santana, who switch hits, could see action as a DH from time to time this year as well.
  • Tuesday is (unofficially) Kenny Lofton Day here at the Indians’ complex. The former All-Star and Gold Glove winner is due to arrive for his week of serving as a guest instructor for the Tribe. Lofton will help with baserunning techniques and he’ll also lend a hand with Cleveland’s outfielders.
  • The Indians are scheduled to open their Cactus League schedule with exhibition games against the Reds on Sunday and Monday. Josh Tomlin will start on Sunday and Fausto Carmona will get the nod on Monday. Don’t read too much into who starts when right now. We can start getting into all those conspiracy theories later this spring. Tomlin is competing against Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Aaron Laffey and Anthony Reyes for the fifth rotation spot.
  • Pitchers slated to work in Thursday’s intrasquad game include Justin Masteron (starting), Tomlin (starting), Kelvin De La Cruz, Gomez, Nick Hagadone, Huff, Joe Smith, Doug Mathis and Drew Pomeranz.
  • Pitchers slated for Friday’s intrasquad tilt include Carlos Carrasco (starting), Mitch Talbot (starting), Josh Judy, Frank Herrmann, Laffey, Jensen Lewis, Yohan Pino, Reyes, Tony Sipp, Jess Todd, Zach McAllister, Joe Martinez, Bryce Stowell and Vinnie Pestano.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Acta was asked if it was important for the Indians to get off to a good start this season. He smiled. “We accomplished the good start last year,” Acta replied. “We went 2-1.”

————————————————————————

Photo of the day:

Choo2.jpg

Silhouette of OF Shin-Soo Choo heading to the batting cage

————————————————————————

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

 

Managing expectations

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

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

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

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

And he means it.

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

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

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

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

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

Notes from Sunday…

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

One last thing…

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

Well, then here you go:

Manny.jpg

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

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

More tomorrow. Stay tuned…

–JB

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

Toronto did what now?

Lets_Make_A_Deal.gifI thought Jayson Werth’s $126 million contract with the Nationals was going to be the shock of the offseason. That was until Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos’ latest coup.

On Friday, the Blue Jays convinced the Angels to take outfielder Vernon Wells and the $86 million he’s owed through the 2014 season. Toronto netted Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera and did not send a single penny to L.A. as part of the deal.

Given Wells’ recent history of injury and performance, and the fact that he was set to earn $23 million in 2011 and $21 million in each of the following three campaigns, it was believed that his contract was unmovable. No one was going to agree to take on a mammoth deal for a player that was not performing as one of the game’s elite stars in recent seasons.

Well, turns out we were all wrong. Anthopoulos found a taker and suddenly anything seemed possible. Maybe this deal meant other big contracts weren’t the immovable objects we thought they were. Take the Indians, for example. Could the Wells trade mean there could be hope for Cleveland to find a taker for Travis Hafner?

Wells has a strong bounceback year in 2010 (.273 with 31 homers and 88 RBIs), but it was his best showing since his incredible 2006. That year, he hit .303 with 32 homers and 106 RBIs, posting a 6.7 WAR and .899 OPS in the process. In the four years since, he’s averaged a 1.9 WAR, and a .770 OPS while battling injuries and other issues.

Hafner last put up an eye-popping performance in ’06, when he hit .308 with 42 homers, 117 RBIs and a 1.097 OPS. He posted a 5.9 WAR that year. In the four years since then, Pronk has also battled injuries and consistency at the plate, putting up a 5.5 WAR overall (1.4 on average) with a .803 OPS.

Similar, yes. But hardly the same.

“DH — very different,” said one rival general manager.

Wells is a center fielder by trade, but can easily shift to a corner outfield spot or spend some time as a designated hitter. Hafner is limited as a pure DH, really only giving the Indians 13 potential trade partners. That list is obviously smaller when considering how many teams already have a clear-cut DH in the fold for the next season or two. Beyond that, Hafner has a limited no-trade clause, so he could possibly nix a deal to another team.

Another difference is the fact that Wells 2007-10 performance, while diminished, came between ages 28-31. Hafner heads into 2011 as a 33-year-old DH. The market for an aging DH with that recent history — plus owed salaries of $13 million in each of 2011-12 with another $13 million, or a $2.75 million buyout, for 2013 — would be small.

So while I’d expect the Indians to be open to trading Hafner, especially in the midst of a rebuilding period, I wouldn’t expect him to be dealt. What I would expect is for Cleveland to continue to hold out hope that Hafner can bounce back and avoid the disabled list. Pronk is still being counted on as a big part of the Tribe’s offense for the next two years.

TRIBE EYEING CANTU? Free-agent third baseman Jorge Cantu told the Houston Astros Examiner on Saturday that the Padres, Braves and Indians were among the teams considering his services for the upcoming season. On Monday, reports indicated that the Padres might be the front-runner to sign him, while the Braves’ interest has cooled. Messages left with Cantu’s agent were not immediately returned. When reached via e-mail, Indians GM Chris Antonetti declined to comment on Cantu specifically, but said the club continues to look at infielders and starting pitchers that the team feels would improve upon the in-house alternatives.

UPDATE: 11:16 p.m. ET — Online reports tonight are indicating that Cantu has signed with San Diego. So there goes that. Carry on…

–JB

Where the payroll stands

Calculator.jpgI always hated math. The problem throughout childhood was that I was also good at it. This creates quite an issue as you go through school.

I kept testing well, so they kept putting me in increasingly complicated math classes. When you absolutely hate math, this is awful. Maybe I should’ve picked some wrong answers on all those aptitude tests.

Then, the greatest thing happened when I arrived at Michigan State University. Because I was a journalism student, match wasn’t exactly a key requirement. You had to take some math as part of your overall studies, sure, but there was a way out.

I could test out. All those tests that put me in the advanced math classes had led to this — a test to get me out of them. So I took their little test, scored high enough and never had to take a math class while I was at MSU. Go Green!

Why the heck am I rambling on about all this? Well, turns out math is a big part of what I do now. And, because I haven’t studied it in so long, I’m prone to more errors now than I ever was as a kid. Thankfully, Baseball Math mainly sticks to the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplying and dividing.

Luckily, here in the real world — unlike in that jerk of a teacher’s calculus class way back in high school — calculators are allowed. Today’s lesson is in simple addition as we take a glance at how the Indians’ payroll looks in light of Tuesday’s signings of Shin-Soo Choo and the Pitchers Perez.

On the books for 2011

1. DH Travis Hafner: $13 million
2. CF Grady Sizemore: $7.5 million
3. SP Fausto Carmona: $6.1 million
4. OF Shin-Soo Choo: $3.975 million
5. CL Chris Perez: $2.225 million
6. SS Asdrubal Cabrera: $2.025 million
7. RP Rafael Perez: $1.33 million
8. OF Austin Kearns: $1.3 million
9. RP Joe Smith: $870,000
10. RP Jensen Lewis: $650,000

Total: $38.975 million

That figure does not include incentives that are within some of these deals. This leaves us with 15 spots on the Major League roster. For argument sake, let’s say Adam Everett makes the Opening Day roster and gets his $700,000 salary. Now, we’re at $39.675 million for the big-league payroll.

The 14 remaining spots will go to players who will earn at least the league minimum. As is the case with most clubs, some will earn slightly more. With the league minimum around $414,000, let’s go ahead and argue that the last 14 spots will earn an average of $450,000. That equates to $6.3 million.

Estimated total: $45.975 million

That’s a drop of around $15 million from where the payroll stood in 2010. Over the past two years, the payroll has decreased about $35 million. In the near future, the payroll will likely remain slim given the fact that the Tribe will be fielding so much youth, with a crop of prospects on the cusp of breaking into The Show.

These estimates obviously aren’t set in stone right now, but the numbers aren’t likely to vary all that much by Opening Day. Indians GM Chris Antonetti indicated on Tuesday that he is still exploring starting pitching options on the market. A Minor League contract with a spring invite seems the most likely scenario for any pending acquisition.

*Earlier, I wrote incorrectly that Chris Perez’s new deal was worth $2.25 million. His correct salary for the 2011 season is the one listed above at $2.225 million. Apologies.

~JB

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 94 other followers