Let's dust things off and get to chatting.
Aside from the awesome Brian Bixler acquisition, the news of the week surrounds the signing of Rafael Perez to his contract to avoid arbitration.
We were just talking about this and it happened rather quickly after. It really didn't take long for them to get something done and that was expected.
Perez will make $795,000 next year. If he reverts to 2007/2008 form and produces, that's a bargain. It is a raise from last year, but when you become arbitration eligible and have the success Perez has had in the past, you have to give him that bump. Tim Belcher spoke on Perez's season, the success in winter ball and the idea of putting him in the rotation.
I think that options is very realistic if other options don't pan out. We've seen guys make the transition before. Perez has a rubber arm, so it's not like durability or length would be an issue. Plus he's been a starter before. However Belcher is right, for now, he's a pen guy and until we are in dire need for him to move into the rotation and have people to replace him, then he's going to stay there.
"I'd like to think that last year was just a hiccup from a guy that was used and used heavily for the previous two or three years," pitching coach Tim Belcher said. "[Perez] had success in winter ball, and we look for him to be in a position to rebound and be a solid contributor in our bullpen."
"He did well enough to get everybody's attention and say [starting is] a potential option," Belcher said. "But here's a guy who, for a number of years now, has been a bullpen guy. To all of a sudden change gears and put him in the rotation and expect a guy to go 180 or 200 innings is not something we want to do at this point. But it certainly presents an option, should unforeseen injuries happen with the starters we have currently."
Belcher did some more speaking on the pitching staff, specifically the rotation. What I think is key though is Tim Belcher. We need to know more about him. So what's he like, how's he going to do things?
"Different coaches have different experiences throughout their playing and coaching careers that allow them to be effective in motivating their players to get better and improve," Belcher said. "I've really done a little bit of everything, including filling in as a pitching coach. There's probably not going to be a day that goes by where I won't have a conversation with one of those pitchers where, in some way, shape or form, I'm communicating something I experienced myself."Lots of quotes from Belcher in that piece. He covers Jake, Fausto and Masterson, the three guaranteed starters and seemed to have a lot to say about Jeremy Sowers.
"[Sowers] went right up the ladder really quickly after being drafted, and he's had success in the Major Leagues," Belcher said. "It's been a little difficult for him the last couple years. But that's not uncommon. We saw that with Jeremy Guthrie, when we just ran out of time with him. With [Sowers], it's different in that he doesn't have the stuff of somebody like a Guthrie. He relies on putting the ball where he needs it to be. If he doesn't have his secondary stuff, it's pretty difficult for him to have success. He's definitely still in the mix. But with him being out of options, you get to that point where you have to get it done on a more consistent basis."I'm excited to see what the new coaches can do with this team, but the guy I'm most interested in is Tim Belcher. He's got, by far, the stiffest test as the pitching coach. He'll have three guys that are guaranteed spots if they are ready, but they are by far from locks in terms of expectations. Then he's got tons of other arms to sort through.
So he's got a tough challenge and it will be interesting to see.
Last pitching note is on Hector Ambriz, the Rule V pick up from Arizona. Clearly there is one thing on his mind as he enters Spring Training with a new team.
"It's my goal to make the team and keep playing baseball," Ambriz said. "It's no different than making the varsity team in high school. You've got to go out there, work your butt off and do everything you can to make that team."What's different here is that this guy was brought in with the expectation that he could make the team. So that's something that should be on his mind. This isn't some one just in the race because he's close, he's in the race because the team believes he can take that next step. So hopefully that's some motivation for him to do well and make the team.
What I love reading this one is to see Ambriz's comment how he was excited he got picked. The Rule V is an opportunity for players. If you don't get selected, there could be some doubt that teams like you or maybe you don't have a future. For the ones who are selected though, it's a sign that there are teams out there taking note and think you can do something.
"I knew [the possibility of being selected] was out there," he said, "but I tried not to get my hopes up too much. My agent called me and gave me the news at 6 a.m. my time, and I was up ever since then. I couldn't get back to sleep."Ross Atkins spoke on Ambriz as well.
"For Hector, the most important thing is his comfort level with us and us getting to know him," Atkins said. "Those are things that are ingrained in this program. But for him, it's even more powerful, because he only knew one player in our organization, David Huff. So us getting to know him and determining his goals, mutually, and understanding the goals and expectations for him is important."I like the prospect of Ambriz. He's going to be a guy to keep an eye on for sure with the bullpen mix. His versatility as a starter is going to be something that I think plays in his favor, but it could work against him if he can't get over the move to the pen.
Seems to be the time where we are getting a lot of thoughts from players, especially the newer ones to the organization. Mike Redmond is one of the latest and on Wednesday we got to see a little more about him and how he's feeling about being a Cleveland Indian and...well being 38.
"At 38," he said Wednesday, "people talk about you like you're a dinosaur, like you're done, like it's amazing you're even walking. But to be honest, I still feel pretty good. I mean, I legged out a triple last year."This guy is a workman. He talked about guiding Joe Mauer in Minnesota and the importance of a guy like him on a young pitching staff like the one the Indians have and the opportunity he has to help them grow. He's been through it before, so I think there is no one really better to have brought in for this situation.
I think we can also expect him to put it out there for the team.
"I pulled my groin on Opening Day and wasn't about to go on the DL, leaving our team with two young catchers," Redmond said. "So I sucked it up and played. It probably wasn't the best situation for me, but I played, and it kept us around .500."That's pretty awesome. Redmond also talked about catching Fausto Carmona and how he was looking forward to it, rather than trying to hit against him. We all know the Twins don't particularly enjoy facing Fausto.
I don't have much else. Just a quick catch up on the latest links around the web. There is this one small matter though. Jim Thome is a free agent and CPD's Starting Blocks brings up the question of bringing him back.
We know by now I was in favor of bringing back Omar Vizquel. It made sense both on the field and the bonus of him being a former Indian great was there.
Bringing back Jim Thome makes no sense what so ever. Sell some tickets? That's something you get in addition to, not as your primary reason.
Travis Hafner is the DH of this team and they are paying him enough money.
Thome cannot play first base and even if he did, it's LaPorta's show if he's healthy. If not, plug in Shelley Duncan for the few weeks or month that it will take to get LaPorta ready.
There is no absolutely no reason what so ever to bring in Jim Thome. Starting Blocks bringing it up is nonsense and they should know better. Horrible.
Tomorrow is Friday... Nothing expected tomorrow unless news comes up. Maybe an update this weekend, if not, I will see you next week. I have some stuff I want to roll out before training camp nears. So we might get to that next week.
Make sure you keep up with the Prospect Countdown going on over at Indians Prospect Insider. Tony has started his top 50 countdown today and Donnie Webb clocks in at #50.