-

2.21.2010

2010 Spring Training Primer: The Final Overview

Nino Colla | Sunday, February 21, 2010 | | | Best Blogger Tips
2010 Cleveland Indians Spring Training Primer

Today is the day we've been waiting for...Maybe.

Officially, pitchers and catchers will report to Goodyear, Arizona at the one-year-old Spring Training Complex for the Indians.

Over the past two weeks, we've looked at every player that is coming into big league camp (except for one, grr) and their situation. Today, we tie it all in a bow and preview the whole damn thing. We'll go over what players are coming off injuries, prospects, people fighting for roster spots, people fighting for jobs, take on the biggest questions and more.

Happy Spring Training Day Everyone! Let's get to it.

Three Up - Keep an Eye On

Carlos Santana, C: Carlos Santana should take full-advantage of his time with Mike Redmond and Sandy Alomar Jr. He has plenty of time to pick their brains and learn from two guys who have been around the position for a long time. Remember, the Indians consider his bat to be ready, so it's all about the defense. Everyone had their eye on him last year because he was the big prospect and everyone was excited about the steal. Now the eyes are on him because he could be sporting that Indians hat regularly sooner rather than later.

Carlos Carrasco, SP: I think perhaps Carlos Carrasco is the most intriguing name in camp this year that most likely won't make the final 25 man roster. Who knows what he's going to come in and do, which is sort of the intrigue. We want to see this guy put it together. If he comes in and does it this spring, there's a good chance he could win a spot, but there's also a chance he couldn't. Either way, eyes will be on Carrasco to see if he can actually put it together, or at least make progress in the right direction. Columbus seems likely, but he can go a long way towards having a long future in Cleveland if he does well this Spring.

Jason Grilli, RP: What isn't interesting about Jason Grilli? The guy tweets like mad, so you can bet we'll find out plenty of awesome stuff that we normally wouldn't. That alone makes him someone to keep an eye on. Aside from that, Grilli has experience in the major leagues and he's very versatile in terms of what bullpen role he can fill. Grilli is the one pen guy you need to keep an eye on this spring as he's probably the most likely to leave if he doesn't get a spot, depending on what type of minor league deal he signed, of course.

Prospect Dark Horse

Jordan Brown, OF: He's always the dark horse really. In just one year, Jordan Brown has made little progress up the Indians organization. Sure, getting added to the 40-man roster was big for him, but many believe it was a year late. In fact, it almost seems as if the Indians are holding Brown back an entire year. Perhaps he could catch up this spring. Many regard the left field spot to come down to Michael Brantley, Austin Kearns, and Trevor Crowe, but Brown is very much in the mix in terms of showing the club he deserves a shot at the majors. One thing everyone does know is that the kid knows how to swing a bat.

Injury Watch

Adam Miller, RP - Finger
It's still a mystery as to what is going on with that damn finger, but Miller underwent another surgery during the offseason. Basically, his career is in serious limbo at this point. He was basically let go by the Indians in the offseason to clear a 40 man spot up and then re-signed to a minor league deal to continue his rehab with the club. He may want to establish residency in Goodyear if he hasn't already.

Chris Perez, RP - Ankle
It was announced in July that Chris Perez would undergo offseason surgery to remove a bone cyst in his ankle. Perez said he could pitch with it if need be, but it's something he decided to take care off this offseaosn. He expects to be 100% for spring training. He was supposed to resume normal offseason conditioning as regularly scheduled in December.

Anthony Reyes, SP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
Anthony Reyes underwent not just Tommy John Surgery on his elbow, but he also had some other ulnar nerve thingie do that I'm not going to begin to look up. Point is, that's the least of his issues. After Jake Westbrook missed 2009, I doubt Reyes will be back this year. Reyes underwent surgery in June of last year and the way his "velocity decreased" has to be concerning. Reyes is only a camp invite to rehab. Don't expect to see much of him this year, if at all.

Joe Smith, RP - Knee
The knee was his latest problem, but Joe Smith's 2009 was plagued with injuries. He started out getting a viral infection in spring training, which set back him back considerably and in his haste to catch up, strained a finger on his pitching hand and then did the same to his rotator cuff. Smith should be good to go for this spring as everything should be all healed up. Hopefully for his sake, he has a much healthier 2010 and doesn't catch any nasty viruses that set him back.

Jeremy Sowers SP - Shoulder
This is one that popped up out of nowhere. Sowers reported to Arizona early and it was discovered that he's having soreness and inflammation. Not much is known about the situation now, but if it lingers, it may be a convenient way of putting off the decision about doing something with him and the fact that he's out of options. Yes, Disabled List.

Jake Westbrook, SP - Elbow (Tommy John Surgery)
Jake Westbrook underwent Tommy John surgery over a year ago and it ended his 2008 season. It would most definitely cut into his 2009 year, but little did anyone expect it would claim the whole thing. Westbrook spent the 2009 offseason rehabbing even more and pitching in Puerto Rico and all signs are good. This is a big spring for him and the Tribe as he's going to be a free agent this coming offseason. All eyes will be on his elbow as he attempts to come back from a surgery that can disrupt many pitcher's careers.

Carlos Santana, C - Hamate Bone
What the hell is a hamate bone you say? Hell if I know, but it has something to do with the hand. During winter ball, Carlos Santana felt discomfort after returning from a small bout with the flu. It turns out he had a fractured hamate bone and he had surgery in early December to get it removed. At the time, everything was supposed to work out to where Santana should be ready to for Spring. I doubt that situation has changed much at this point. Santana should be good to go.

Matt LaPorta, 1B - Left Hip, Toe
Matt LaPorta underwent surgery in October to fix a hip problem. The hip surgery will put him behind to start spring training as the procedure calls for 4 to 6 month recovery period. Mid-April would be the 6 month mark from the surgery, so he's right around that area. It all depends on how his rehab has gone and what progress he makes this spring. LaPorta spent most of the offseason in Goodyear under care from the Indians training staff. LaPorta will be behind from the get-go and may not even be ready to start the season playing regularly. Cleveland did bring in a few backup options in case LaPorta can't go at all.

Russell Branyan, 1B - Back
On August 30th, Russell Branyan was placed on the disabled list. The ruling was a herniated disk in his back and Branyan even admitted he had back spasms during the year. Branyan didn't end the year on the DL, but he didn't play in another game that season. He still has yet to pass his physical to officially become an Indian, but with the Indians thoroughness in terms of physicals and injuries, expect everything to be cleared up if he does indeed end up an Indian.

Jason Donald, 2B - Back
Had he not suffered back issues in early August, Donald probably would have earned a major league call-up. But now, that back issue that forced him out until Akron appeared in the postseason and will eventually keep him out of contending for a utility spot this spring. Donald was expected to head off to Arizona to catch the remainder of instructs and supposedly be in camp early so his back should be fine. He'll still start the year in Columbus.

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS - Elbow
Cabrera underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow during the offseason. He stuck around Cleveland after the surgery in October for therapy and rehab. Not much is really known about what was or done or why, but he should be good to go for spring.

Grady Sizemore, OF - Left Elbow, Abdomen
In early September before the season ended, Grady Sizemore underwent arthroscopic surgery on his elbow. His arm was pretty much dead. A week later, he underwent surgery to fix his lower abdominal wall. Sizemore was bothered with a groin injury he sustained in spring training last year and it even forced him to back out of the World Baseball Classic. Sizemore underwent the surgery early enough for him to be 100% ready to go for Spring Training this year.

Nick Weglarz, OF - Leg
He was supposed to participate in the Arizona Fall League, however Nick Weglarz instead had surgery in early November to put a rod in his leg. Weglarz suffered a stress fracture in his left tibia and the surgery was expected to help speed up that process. Big Red reported to camp early and since there hasn't been much word out about him, one should assume he's on track and there have been no set backs or problems.

Travis Hafner, DH - Shoulder

He isn't coming off an injury, but we all know that shoulder is still lingering around in the back of everyone's minds. Hafner dealt with the injury last year going into Spring and it cost him a few weeks in 2009, but he finished the year strong. 2010 should be big for him in knowing where he stands as a hitter as he surely has his confidence back and hopefully, most of the strength in that shoulder.

40 Man Endangered Species
*At the time of this posting, Russell Branyan hasn't officially been signed because he has yet to pass his physical. When that happens, someone would most definitely be shipped off the 40-man roster to make room. I'm pretty sure it will be one of the first four.*

Andy Marte, 3B: Recent developments say that Andy Marte is still valued by this club and could be safe from being booted for Russell Branyan, but you have to figure the third baseman is out of options and on the fringe regardless. He would play the same positions that Branyan will and not even the fact that he plays them both better defensively might not save him. Marte will have to hope for an injury or else he could be let go at the end of spring. He'd be designated for assignment and the ball would be in his court. Chances are he won't accept that assignment and choose to sign with a different team. If he is okay with the Indians, would he clear waivers? It depends on the situation of other teams. Last year he got passed over and returned to Columbus and eventually lit it up. This year, he isn't quite the broken down baseball player with no hope that he was in 2009.

Chris Gimenez, UTIL: His poor outing offensively in the major leagues probably turned a lot of people off to Gimenez. Regardless of his versatility, he's falling out of favor in the organization. The bright news is he might be easy to sneak through waivers if he's removed from the 40-man roster. Gimenez could be the guy to get the boot for Russell Branyan.

Jeremy Sowers, SP: Jeremy Sowers is running out of opportunities. The amazing second half of his rookie year is a long time ago and now Sowers is out of options, literally. It pretty much comes down to making the roster or being sent through waivers. Given his past success and the fact that he's shown flashes the past few years, you have to imagine a team out there probably thinks they can fix what's wrong. What really is wrong is that he belongs in the pen. Perhaps he doesn't win a rotation spot though and ends up in the bullpen battle. It may be the best move for him. Either way, Mitch Talbot being on the team really hurts Sowers' situation.

Wyatt Toregas, C: You wouldn't think that Russell Branyan being added would impact Toregas situation, but if you couple it with the addition of Mike Redmond, then yeah that would be a problem. There is a numbers crunch going on and Toregas may be the victim of it. With Carlos Santana close by, there may be no reason to have Toregas on the 40-man. What would save him is the fact that right now, he's next man up at the catching spot if something where to happen. So for that reason, I think Toregas can rest easy as I think they'd be more apt to jettisoning Chris Gimenez off before Toregas.

Hector Ambriz, RP: Ambriz doesn't have much wiggle room because he's basically on loan. As a Rule V pick, Ambriz can't be sent down to the minor leagues. He has to remain on the Cleveland Indians active roster for the entire 2010 season (there are some DL guidelines) to remain in the organization. If not, the Indians have to offer him back to Arizona. So if Ambriz doesn't show enough, Cleveland has a choice to make. Now if they feel like there is something worth exploring and that he just needs a little more development as a reliever, then they could try and work out a deal with Arizona to hold onto Ambriz and get him into the minor leagues.

Mitch Talbot, SP: Mitch Talbot is virtually in the same position as Jeremy Sowers, minus the fact that he has major league experience and familiarity with the club. That could work in his favor as the Indians may be enamored with the unknown and willing to give him a shot to start the year. But figure he'd be on a short leash with all the other names they could plug in. I think it would probably be rotation or bust for Talbot. You also have to wonder what team out there would want to take a chance on him if the Indians decided to not give him a roster spot.

Position Battles

Final Three Bullpen Spots
Contenders: Hector Ambriz, Jensen Lewis, Tony Sipp, Jeremy Sowers, Mitch Talbot, Jess Todd, Mike Gosling, Jason Grilli, Frank Herrmann, Yohan Pino, Saul Rivera, Jamey Wright
I'll start off by saying I'd be downright shocked to see Tony Sipp not win a spot. So by that estimation, there is two spots up for grabs. Jeremy Sowers and Mitch Talbot are both in the race because they're out of options and if neither win a rotation spot, they are added to the mix. Yohan Pino is also thrown in, but don't expect him to win any roster spot. Frank Herrmann and Jess Todd are both in the mix, but I'd expect them to at least start the year in Colubmus, Herrmann would need 40-man status to boot. So now you have two spots coming down to all the minor league free agents, Hector Ambriz and Jensen Lewis. Ambriz has a lot working for him as he's got to make the roster or be offered back to Arizona, however he's working with the fact that this he's being freshly moved to the bullpen. Jason Grilli and Saul Rivera are probably the most likely to win a spot out of the non-roster invites. Rivera has a past relationship with Acta from Washington and Grilli has some major league success and versatility. Jensen Lewis obviously has the familiarity with the organization and bullpen coach Scott Radinsky, which could play a big part in things. I think Mike Gosling and Jamey Wright are both Columbus depth options for now and would probably slot behind guys like Rivera and Grilli in terms of getting a shot.

Fourth and Fifth Rotation Spots
Contenders: Aaron Laffey, David Huff, Jeremy Sowers, Mitch Talbot, Hector Rondon, Carlos Carrasco, Yohan Pino
The most muddled mess of a position battle you ever did see. There are two spots up for grabs, two hot prospects, two guys with experience, two guys out of options and Yohan Pino. I think you can pretty much rule out Pino as he has too much working against him. Hector Rondon and Carlos Carrasco have legit shots to win jobs, but they'd have to give the Indians no choice but to put them in the rotation. That likely leaves it as a four way battle between Talbot, Sowers, Huff, and Laffey for the last two spots. Sowers and Talbot have advantages in that they are out of options, while Huff and Laffey have major league success to boast. Talbot holds more of an advantage over Sowers as the Indians don't really know what Talbot brings to the table on a major league stage. Laffey has shown success in the past, but hasn't been consistent with it. David Huff ended 2009 on a very strong note, but that hasn't guaranteed him anything. All in all, the Indians could very well split things up and take one guy out of options and one guy out of the Huff/Laffey group. Either way, three of those four and Rondon and Carrasco could all get shots at some point this year. This is just a battle for who gets to go first.

Backup Infielder Spot
Contenders: Brian Bixler, Jason Donald, Chris Gimenez, Andy Marte, Brian Buscher, Mark Grudzielanek, Luis Rodriguez
With the pending signing of Russell Branyan, there is now one less spot up for grabs and probably one less contender. Branyan's addition will foster another roster move and both Gimenez and Marte on candidates to get removed from the 40-man roster. You can rule out Jason Donald for the spot as Cleveland is committed to starting him in Cleveland. If Branyan is going to be backing up people at the corner spots, you could also remove the player that doesn't get cut (Marte or Gimenez) and Brian Buscher. Realistically, this is a battle between Brian Bixler, Luis Rodriguez and Mark Grudzielanek. The veteran has the upper hand here as Bixler has options and has more of an offensive track record than Rodriguez. All three would be primary backups at shortstop and second base, and Grudzielanek is a former gold glove winner at second. Odds on favorite is the man with 2,010 hits, which is 1,983 more than Bixler has.

Starting Catcher
Contenders: Lou Marson, Wyatt Toregas
At least Cleveland is letting Toregas have the opportunity to compete, but this is the biggest formality among the spring training competitions. Lou Marson is expected to win the job out of spring, which would land Toregas back in Columbus, not as the starter, but the backup to Carlos Santana. Marson was acquired in the Cliff Lee deal and is regarded as a prospect with a lot more upside, so even if the battle is considered close performance wise, expect Marson to win the job.

Left Field and Fourth Outfielder Spots
Contenders: Michael Brantley, Jordan Brown, Trevor Crowe, Austin Kearns
Before the Indians signed Austin Kearns, it was assumed Trevor Crowe would slide perfectly into the fourth outfield role, with Michael Brantley claiming the left field job. Now neither are safe for either job. Brantley will have to beat out both Crowe, Brantley and even Jordan Brown for the job in left and the runner-up is expected to be the fourth outfielder. Jordan Brown can't win the fourth outfield spot by virtue of his assumed lack of defense. Crowe has the make up to be a fourth outfielder, but the Indians may favor going with a veteran at that spot. However Crowe holds the advantage of being on the 40-man, which is something important if it becomes a numbers crunch. Brantley will either win the left field spot or go back to Columbus. He needs regular playing time.

Five Burning Questions Headed into Spring Training


1. How is Manny Acta's Camp Going to Differ from Eric Wedge's?
For one, you can expect more upbeat attitudes. Not that Eric Wedge wasn't upbeat, but Acta is a positive guy that's probably going to get things off on a real jovial start. But he's also going to have accountability for his players and expect to win every spring training game. Now obviously he won't be putting his starters out there the entire time to win every game, but he will expect every player he puts out there to be playing to win the game.

Another difference that I think fans should take note of is the fact that Cleveland will travel to Los Angeles to play a exhibition game in Dodger Stadium before the final two games against Cincinnati. I think that is a good move to get the players in a game-like mindset. Many teams do that now and I think that's a practice that should probably be done a lot more, especially for a team that is slow to start in the regular season. Whatever Acta does, he will need to avoid those slow starts, so let's see what principles he brings to the table in an effort to do so.

2. What does the Russell Branyan Signing Mean?
The stance the Indians are taking is that Branyan will take up at-bats at first and designated hitter. Meaning they don't have the faith that Travis Hafner and Matt LaPorta will be able to handle a full-season. Which is reasonable on Hafner's end in terms of injuries and a little bit of precaution on their part in terms of LaPorta being ready to be a first baseman.

The only thing it really affects is a roster spot. It shouldn't mean a huge decrease in playing time for LaPorta overall, unless he isn't 100% ready to go.

3. Who could benefit from an injury the most?

Anyone in the bullpen... Seriously there are so many names in the race for the bullpen spots, that an injury there would open the door for someone else. Let's face it, you cannot get through a spring without injuries flaring up. You just have to hope they aren't serious and everyone can start the season off on the right foot. Last year, Trevor Crowe and Tony Graffanino started the year on the 25-man roster because of injuries to Jamey Carroll and David Dellucci. Luckily those were two bench players. The Indians can only hope that none of their starters get injured as well.

If someone in the bullpen gets hurt, it would open the door for definitely seeing one of the non-roster invitees get a shot. Andy Marte and Jordan Brown stand the greatest gains if someone gets hurt ahead of them however. Marte could win a roster spot and if he can couple a good spring with an injury, things might be looking up for Brown.

4. How will players without options impact final decisions?

It could be huge in the pitching staff situation. For one, you could see the Indians pretty much giving Mitch Talbot a rotation spot because if he doesn't make the roster, he'll have to be snuck through waivers. Where as someone like David Huff can safely be sent down to Columbus and be ready and waiting for whenever the Indians want to bring him up. Don't under-estimate that factor coming into play when roster decisions get down to the wire. It won't be the only reason of course, but if you have two players that have equally impressed or performed this spring and every other situation doesn't matter or is equal, then that optionless player might have the advantage. It could also come into play with Hector Ambriz, who isn't out of options, but rather not able to be sent down unless the Indians and Diamondbacks strike a deal to make him permanent property of Cleveland. I think Ambriz and Talbot are probably the biggest names that could affect things because of their options, mainly because of their unknown. Andy Marte might press things, but Branyan signing hurts his status and Jeremy Sowers might just be losing ground with the organization.

5. Will any spring performances impact the slotting of the bullpen?

This is interesting because all but two or three actual jobs are said to be locked down. Obviously Kerry Wood is the closer and that isn't changing. But where does Joe Smith fit into the mix? Indians brass has said he has a spot and it's assumed that if Tony Sipp doesn't fall off the face of the earth, he'll be in the mix too. Chris Perez is expected to be the primary setup man and then Rafael Perez is expected to follow in some way. However what if Perez shows dominance like he did in Winter ball? Will that matter? I don't think so, because Perez is a valuable commodity when he isn't restricted to the eighth inning. He can pitch many innings or come in and get one batter. He's got versatility and he can be a swing guy. I think the Indians are set on letting Perez handle eighth inning duties because he'd be next man up if they traded Wood or he got hurt. Other than that, I think Joe Smith is fighting to show he's healthy and able to handle more than just right-handed hitters. The guys battling for jobs are just battling for jobs, they'll be last on the totem pole regardless.

25 Man Roster Projections

Starting Lineup
C – Lou Marson
1B – Matt LaPorta
2B - Luis Valbuena
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera
3B – Jhonny Peralta
LF – Michael Brantley
CF – Grady Sizemore
RF – Shin-Soo Choo
DH – Travis Hafner

No surprises with Marson winning the starting catching job. I have Michael Brantley winning left field. I think the Indians are a little more confident in him than they are letting on.

Bench
C – Mike Redmond
IF – Mark Grudzielanek
IF – Russell Branyan
OF – Austin Kearns

I have a complete bench of veterans. I originally had Andy Marte winning a spot on the bench, but with the signing of Branyan, had to change it up. Branyan can handle third and first, Grudzielanek can handle pretty much any of the infield spots (and would probably play third before Branyan does), and Austin Kearns will be the fourth outfielder over Trevor Crowe. If Grudzielanek doesn't win the last infield spot, Brian Bixler probably would.

One thing I need to point out with both Kearns and Grudzielanek making the team is that the Indians would have to boot not one, but two guys off the roster. Obviously someone like Marte, Toregas, or Giminez will get the axe if Branyan passed the physical, and another would probably fall when they don't make the roster. Perhaps the pitching situation would clear up who else would be jettisoned.

Starting Rotation
1. Jake Westbrook
2. Fausto Carmona
3. Justin Masterson
4. Aaron Laffey
5. Mitch Talbot

This isn't necessarily who I would pick, but this is what I think will turn out. I'm a full believer in the Indians wanting to give Mitch Talbot an opportunity and unless he spontaneously combusts over spring, he'll win a spot. I would personally give David Huff a shot, because I think he's headed for big things this year. Aaron Laffey wins the other spot because I think he's got the most experience and the Indians feel like they owe him as much to give him the first shot.

Bullpen
Closer – Kerry Wood
8th Inning – Chris Perez
7th/8th Inning – Rafael Perez
Bullpen – Joe Smith
Bullpen – Tony Sipp
Bullpen – Jensen Lewis
Bullpen – Hector Ambriz

The final two bullpen spots go to Jensen Lewis and Hector Ambriz. I have Perez Right handling the eighth inning and Perez Left being the 7th/8th swingman. Joe Smith was guaranteed a spot and I'd have a hard time seeing Tony Sipp not get one either. None of the NRI's make it because I believe Lewis will outright earn a job and I think the Indians are going to give Ambriz a shot in the pen. That would make a lot more sense than giving someone like Saul Rivera a job, when he can just go to the minor leagues and be on stand by until May 15th.

Because Ambriz and Lewis are both on the 40-man roster, Cleveland can safely remove Jeremy Sowers from the roster to add both Grudzielanek and Kearns. Everything works out perfectly. In this scenario, Marte, Gimenez/Toregas and Sowers are removed from the roster to make room for Kearns, Grudzielanek, and Branyan. I think Marte is last out, Gimenez is first.

Four-Deep Depth Chart
Catcher: Lou Marson, Mike Redmond, Wyatt Toregas, Carlos Santana
The first injury would probably have Wyatt Toregas come up. Now if they get to a certain point in the year and Santana is deemed "ready" to be pushed forward, this will change. But for the time being, Toregas would get the call if Redmond or Marson went down.

First Base: Matt LaPorta, Russell Branyan, Shelley Duncan, Andy Marte/Chris Gimenez

It appears as if the first base situation is now a little cloudy with Branyan on board. However expect Duncan to be on call in Columbus at the sight of trouble. At this point, it's unclear where Marte stands, but if he ends up back on the club, he'd be option number four, if not it would be Chris Gimenez if he survives. If they both get axed and Gimenez doesn't return to the club, which I think is a stretch, then someone like Stephen Head would probably be called upon in an emergency. Cleveland has made it clear Jordan Brown is not an option, sadly.

Second Base: Luis Valbuena, Mark Grudzielanek, Brian Bixler, Jason Donald
Cleveland could very well test the depth of second base this year. If Luis Valbuena isn't progressing, they could look to Brian Bixler and I don't think he is an answer either. So they very well could get Donald up and starting at some point. Grudzielanek will back up and potentially play a lot at second to spell Louie, Bixler would be up at the first sight of injury and after Jason Donald gets enough experience at Columbus, he could be up regardless of injury.

Third Base: Jhonny Peralta, Russell Branyan, Andy Marte/Chris Gimenez, Wes Hodges
If Jhonny Peralta is traded midseason, chances are Russell Branyan might be as well. Again, whatever works out with Andy Marte/Gimenez, one of them would be next in line. My guess is that if Peralta is traded, Wes Hodges would be the stop-gap between Peralta and Lonnie Chisenhall and Hodges would get the first crack provided he is healthy. Early injury would probably force a guy like Branyan into a pinch or keeping Gimenez or Marte.

Shortstop: Asdrubal Cabrera, Brian Bixler, Jason Donald, Carlos Rivero
Asdrubal Cabrera is the unquestioned starter. If he goes down, panic. Bixler would be the first up to fill in, but again, there could be a point where Donald is deemed ready and could just jump Bixler completely. Rivero won't see the big league club at all this year. The Indians would sign a veteran jerk before they bring Rivero up.

Left Field: Michael Brantley, Austin Kearns, Trevor Crowe, Jordan Brown

Kearns is first man up in left field if there is an injury or Brantley isn't performing. If Brantley doesn't get it done, I think they'd most definitely send him down to Columbus for seasoning. At that point it just depends on who is performing better and the time of the season. Crowe could get the call based on the fact he's had experience, but if Brown demonstrates he's got enough defense, he could be up based on the fact that they've yet to see what he has to offer at the major league level.

Center Field: Grady Sizemore, Trevor Crowe, Austin Kearns, Jose Constanza
If Grady Sizemore goes down, Trevor Crowe will get the call. They could shift Brantley to center if he's playing well and put Kearns in left and let Crowe be the fourth outfielder.

Right Field: Shin-Soo Choo, Austin Kearns, Trevor Crowe, Michael Brantley
Again, Kearns would be option one if something were to happen to Shin-Soo Choo. Crowe and Brantley can both play right field as well, so if they have to do some moving around, that's probably the order they'd go.

On-Call Pitchers

Starting Rotation

1. David Huff
2. Carlos Carrasco
3. Hector Rondon
4. Jeremy Sowers
Provided the rotation shakes out like I projected, I think David Huff would be inline to get the first call. Carrasco would be next and Rondon would follow. I put Jeremy Sowers at the end of the list because by my projections, he'd have to clear waivers, be traded or outright released. If he clears waivers, I think the Indians would move him ahead of Carrasco and Rondon in terms of getting a shot, but it all depends on what those two are doing in terms of performance.

Bullpen
1. Jason Grilli
2. Saul Rivera
3. Jess Todd
4. Jamey Wright
Welcome to retread central. Jess Todd is the lone youngster on this list and I think Grilli and Rivera get priority over Todd based on their status. Now I don't know if Grilli has a definite May 15th clause in his contract, but I'll assume he does and make him the first guy up if the pen suffers an injury.

Projected Lineups

VS RHP
CF – Grady Sizemore, L
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, S
RF – Shin-Soo Choo, L
DH – Travis Hafner, L
3B – Jhonny Peralta, R
1B – Matt LaPorta, R
2B – Luis Valbuena, L
C - Lou Marson, R
LF - Michael Brantley, L

I don't think there is anything too surprising here. I think people expect Valbuena to be in the nine hole, but I put him up ahead of Marson because it wouldn't put three lefties in a row. So Brantley slides down to the nine-hole to be sort of the "second leadoff" guy in front of Sizemore and Marson splits the lefties up.

VS LHP

CF – Grady Sizemore, L
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera, S
RF – Shin-Soo Choo, L
DH – Travis Hafner, L
3B – Jhonny Peralta, R
1B – Matt LaPorta, R
LF - Michael Brantley, L
C - Lou Marson, R
2B – Mark Grudzielanek, R

I do have Mark Grudzielanek as the starting second baseman against left-handed pitchers. He slots in at the nine hole and Brantley splits up the right-handers towards the bottom. I would take this lightly though. In order for Valbuena to prove he can be a regular, he'll have to hit lefties. So expect him to get starts, but I think Grudz will help take pressure of early by starting most games at second, if he makes the roster.

Quick Hits
• Trade Candidates: Jhonny Peralta, Russell Branyan, Kerry Wood, and if healthy, Jake Westbrook become prime trade candidates for midseason.
• The following players are known to have reported to Goodyear before their target report date: Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, Luis Valbuena, Lou Marson, Nick Weglarz, Jeremy Sowers, Jensen Lewis, Jason Donald, Rafael Perez, Jason Grilli, Anthony Reyes and Jake Westbrook.
• The official report date for everyone else is Wednesday, although I'm imagining most of the team is already there or will be there on Sunday.
• March 1st is the key date for minor leaguers, although again, you could probably expect to see a lot of them there early to take advantage of the complex and all the amenities it provides.
Jason Knapp appeared on The Cleveland Fan's Smoke Signals show with Paul Cousineau and Tony Lastoria a few days ago and confirmed that he will not be starting the season with any team and he'll be pretty limited this spring. Lastoria then explained the situation later saying that Knapp is essentially being handled very carefully. Knapp probably won't debut until Juneish and he'll start the year in extended spring training. He also will not pitch in any live games this spring.
Michael Brantley gained 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason. We should know more weight details when players start reporting.
• If Russell Branyan passes his physical and becomes an Indian, it will mark the fourth time the team has acquired him: Drafted, Traded from Atlanta, Signed to Minor League Deal, Signed to Major League Deal. He was dealt to Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Philadelphia the previous three times.
• The Shin-Soo Choo military obligation has gone untouched this offseason. Neither Choo nor the Indians seems to be worried about it and while Choo hasn't started any processes to become an American citizen, both he and club will probably explore other routes in making this go away.
• Cleveland attempted to re-sign Jamey Carroll this offseason but he decided to return to the National League and sign a deal with the Dodgers. They decided against bringing back Tomo Ohka, who is still un-signed and they non-tendered Jose Veras, who ended up with Florida.
Shelley Duncan isn't in any of the roster spot battles because he will not win the fourth outfield spot, nor the extra infielder spot. He is simply there if Matt LaPorta can't go. I'd fully expect him to be the starting first baseman in Columbus this year.
• Every Sunday you can watch new third base coach Steve Smith on The Amazing Race with his daughter Allie. The show was obviously already recorded and completed, but don't expect Smith to divulge if he won or not.
• Remember Edward Salcedo, the Dominican player that the Indians were believed to be heavily interested in years ago? He's finally resurfaced and he's nearing a deal with the Atlanta Braves.
Josh Barfield will not be with the club this year as he's signed a minor league deal with San Diego, the team that traded him to Cleveland. Oddly enough, Kevin Kouzmanoff was traded to Oakland (Andrew Brown, who was the other piece that went to SD in the deal is with Oakland currently as well) in the offseason. Barfield didn't receive an invite to major league camp.
• The following games will be televised by Sportstimeohio this spring: San Diego (WED 1oth, 3:05 PM), Los Angeles Angels (FRI 12th, 3:05 PM), San Diego (SUN 14th, 4:05 PM), San Francisco (TUE 16th, 4:05 PM), Cincinnati (THUR 4:05 PM), San Francisco (FRI 19th, 4:05 PM),
• Cleveland has split quad games on the 17th and 19th. They play at Colorado and Cincinnati on Wednesday and at San Francisco and Texas on Friday. The Giants game will be televised. They also play a split squad game on March 1st. They have a 3:05 PM start time against the Angels at their site and then a 10:10 PM start against the Dodgers AT Dodger Stadium.
• Cleveland's last game is on Saturday against the Reds, they then get Sunday off before traveling to Chicago for Monday's opener.

Final Outlook
There is something I want to remind you all before we wrap this little ditty up.

Nothing is set in stone, especially with a new manager.

For all we know, they could decide to bring one less pitcher to Cleveland(Chicago, whatever) to start the season and actually make room for someone like Andy Marte. In the American League, that isn't needed as much because you cycle through more pitchers than you did pinch hitters, but remember, Manny Acta is coming from the National League.

That aside, that is just one of the blindside options that could happen this spring. I'm telling you right now, expect something like this. Not this in particular, but something that we don't expect. Something not many people saw coming, but something that will happen and we will be able to rationalize it after we see it.

Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti are innovative thinkers when it comes to this type of stuff. So there is definitely something out there that no one has thought of, that they have. You add Manny Acta into that mix and just the fact that injuries always happen this spring, and there is no telling what my happen.

If this season is what many people think it will be, then we are in for a long year. I don't buy that though. I think this year is going to be one of hope. We may not look good every night or there will probably be no AL Central Division pennant being painted onto the walls of Progressive Field. But I think this year is really going to establish that we've got something brewing here and that is something good.

Maybe that is the hope of spring training talking or whatever, but it's the first day of the rest of the season. Enjoy it and get ready because baseball is back.

This is the second year I've done this primer and I find it incredibly eye opening because you have to think of every possibility. Even predictable years can turn out unpredictable. There is a lot of information that I've included in this thing and I hope it was useful. There is also a lot of my sputtering analysis that could be dead wrong or partially right. Either way, with spring finally here, we can stop talking about Mike Redmond being signed and creating fake twitter pages, substance has arrived!





0 comments: