2.27.2010

I'm more of a Juan De Madera than a Vincente Lombardo

The first different thing that Manny Acta has brought to Indians camp is his insistence that Indians hitters do not swing at a single pitch.

Great, we're screwed.

Not really... But Acta's brought the practice of "pitch tracking" over in the first two days of full-squad workouts. He believes that since the pitchers are ahead of the hitters right now, that they should just simply stand there and look at he ball rather than swing at it
"I started doing it last year (in Washington)," said Acta. "Guys like it. We managers talk during the winter meetings. Some of the guys do it. I was sold on the idea.

"I think it's very counterproductive to have guys, the first day or two, batting against pitchers because the pitchers are ahead of them. They can take bad swings and get into bad habits."
I'll buy into that.

It was a bit of a joke yesterday about Vincente Lombardo and the whole fedora stuff, as it usually is here on this space. But Acta really does his philosophy away from a legendary head coach in a different sport. It isn't Vince Lombardi, but Juan De Madera doesn't sound as cool as Vincente Lombardo, nor does it tell you who it is unless you can decipher my horrid Spanish translation.
"John Wooden is all about the team," said Acta. "No individual is above the team. That is the kind of mind-set you want to set in your guys. Also, you need to be a major-league person before you become a major-league player.

"He believes good things happen to good people. It worked for him. You have to admire a guy who has lived the way he has lived. And a guy who had the patience to lose for 14 years in a row and then became the greatest [men's college basketball] coach ever in this country." 
I know another coach who had to endure some losing seasons the past few years...

We're going to learn a whole lot more about Acta during this camp based on how he runs things and we're going to compare it to how Wedge did it. The funny thing is we've already learned a whole lot about Acta. One of the biggest differences so far is Acta's active participation in instructing and coaching.

Wedge never got out into the field and threw BP to my knowledge. So far Acta hasn't done that, but it's only because he's recovering from shoulder surgery he had in September. Acta is out there though hitting ground balls, shagging fly balls and moving around. Could you imagine Wedge shagging a fly ball? Hell no... Maybe something at his old position? Catch a bullpen session? Not even that! He'd need his mustache back.
"I used to be an infield and third-base coach," Acta said. "I'm not going to stop instructing and coaching just because I'm a manager. I can still do it, so I'm going to do it." 
Picture Wedge as more of a general, sitting afar watching how things are progressing with his hands in his pockets, not giving away anything. Observing what's going, maybe having a chat with one of the lieutenants under him once and awhile.


Oh that was pretty cool.. Let's try it again..

Now picture Acta, still a leader, but an active participant in the job at hand. Sometimes he'll have those conversations, maybe with the commander in charge, but always on the go, ready to jump into the fray. He has his arms folded because if they are in his pockets, he won't be able to have his hands ready at the instant he wants to jump in. Maybe he'll have a weapon in hand, ready to go into battle at the drop of a hat for his warriors.


Now that was pretty cool.

Acta delivered his first big speech of his tenure as Cleveland Indians manager. I think we all hope he's making bigger ones and doing it for a long time. David Huff chimed in about what Acta was like.
"He was very motivating," said left-hander David Huff, who led the team in wins as a rookie last year. "You can sense his energy and his passion and his pride. He makes us believe we are a good team. We're young, but we've still got the right guys to go about our business."
That's kind of how I pictured it. Wedge's camp was workman-like. Nose to the grind-stone and do your job. Acta's is a little more upbeat and fun, but yet Acta has that way of making his players hold themselves accountable for what is going on.

That's a special human being to be able to do that. Regardless, it sounds like he has the players trust and that's the biggest thing going forward. Don't listen to the Plain Dealer commenters that say Acta is the Latino Eric Wedge, they are completely different people.

Jhonny Peralta's attitude about playing third base is much better this time around. Perhaps Acta's talk to him did something, but he's more "what's best for the team" than he was last year. Which is something I got on him for.

And as far as who's on first and what Matt LaPorta is on, not even Matt knows.And quite frankly, until he's healthy, he isn't worried about it.
"I haven't known my whole life," LaPorta said with a laugh. "Even in college, people would ask me, and I'd just say, 'I'm a hitter.'"

"Right now, the focus is on getting me back to 100 percent," LaPorta said. "We can't talk about my position until I'm 100 percent."

LaPorta will probably start talking about it though, because he isn't that far behind teammates. The first Cactus League game for the Indians is March 5th. LaPorta is expected to make his debut on the 10th, just five days later.

What's the most encouraging is the fact that Manny Acta said he'd get the opportunity to get 500 at-bats if he's healthy. This team sounds very committed to LaPorta this year and that's a good thing to hear. I can bite the bullet with Brantley starting in Triple-A, but LaPorta needs to get going and get going now.

I also could care less about defense. As LaPorta said, he's a hitter. He was acquired to hit and that's all we really want to see him do. Our strongest defensive players are in center, short, catcher and second base. There's a reason LaPorta is at first and in left, he isn't the greatest defender.

Onto tidbits to note from CastroTurf and around the world...

Right now, Luis Valbuena is the second baseman. It's his job to lose according to Manny Acta. Moral of this story Louie? Don't screw up and you get a shot.

Brian Bixler will get a look in center, a position he played with Pittsburgh last year for a grand total of one inning.

Great news if you like inflated contracts and devil-agents. Scott Boras has gained a new client and he wears the Chief Wahoo cap. Shin-Soo Choo has reportedly been added to the stable of Boras clients. He joins current Indian Matt LaPorta.

So much for that contract extension we were thinking about. If anything though, it shows Choo is serious about remaining in the US to play baseball. Little victories my friends, little victories.

You know when I was a kid and played baseball video games, Carlos Baerga was just a funny name. Then I started to realize what baseball was and what the Cleveland Indians were. Then he became the player my fourth grade teacher loved. There is nothing else there other than to tell you that Baerga was in Goodyear yesterday. He asked where Albert Belle was. Paul Hoynes gave him his phone number.

That last sentence was a lie.

Speaking of that real quick... Someone pointed out to me a while ago after I ripped Paul Hoynes that I should "learn proper grammar" if I was going to rip a journalist. Yesterday I talked about not ripping someone four grammar or spelling errors because the minute you do, that's when someone will hawk your posts for errors.

Well I just would like to point out that even journalists make mistakes. Sometimes three in one sentence.
They're still around: One-time prospects Adam Miller and Scott Lewis will come to camp with the minor leaguers in early March. Miller's career is in jeapordy because of repeates surgeries on his right middle finge. Lewis was taken off the 40-man at the end of last season after missing much of the year with left elbow problems.
And in case they fix it, I took a screen shot so you don't think I edited that paragraph.

Moral of the story: People make mistakes. Don't started hawking me posts fpr all tjhe errors I make cuz I know I make plenty.

I'm taking Sunday off to work on some stuff for both the blog and other things. We return Monday with a whole batch of links and junk.



2.26.2010

The Reason Manny Acta Wears Fedoras

I'm praying this is the last big snow of the winter that we're getting.

Of course the snow must know I have to travel the 45 mile trek eastward to Youngstown, because it only seems to snow when I have to.

I'll lead off with this piece of negativity.

I tweeted this link yesterday after I found it. I'm sure Nick Carrabine (never heard of him) appreciates being linked to on Cleveland Plain Dealer, or doesn't after the way he was ripped up by commenters in his blog entry. Of course CPD commenters for the most part took this guy's side because they are cynical jerks who seem to think Paul Hoynes takes it easy on the Indians and is a Dolan apologist.

Yeah that couldn't be further from the truth. CPD commenters make me go crazy. We all know my beef with Hoynes and his negativity. This guy's "ripping" is child's play to me. What I take issue with is the fence-riding headline. Since it's a blog and not an article, I'm going to just assume he had the title himself. Not only that, but he clear-as-day rides the fence in his entry.
This offense isn’t 1995 Cleveland Indian dangerous, but dangerous enough where this team — which is expected to flirt with triple digit losses — isn’t going to be a pushover.
Someone tell me if I'm reading this right. What the hell does that even mean? How do you be horrid yet not a pushover?

I define horrid and horrible as being.... HORRIBLE! There is no word to define horrible.

When you can't define a word with another word, then there is typically no higher or lower you can go in expression.

That's like saying.... Oh yeah Rafael Nadal was the worst tennis player today, but he still took Roger Federer to five sets!

Those two thoughts just don't go together.

Anyway, I don't know who Nick Carrabine is and didn't until this blog entry was linked. It seems as if he's a reporter of actual news with an  interest in Cleveland sports who will occasionally blog about it.

So Mr. Carrabine can write absolute baffling blog entries once and awhile, get CPD to link him up, and yet someone like Paul Cousineau, who writes more fantastic entries in one day than Carrabine writes in his whole life, can only get mentioned by the only guy at the Plain Dealer who seems to know what's going on, Terry Pluto once in awhile.

Here I sit, giving you gems such as Eric Wedge's fake twitter account. Eh forget it, the deserves no notice what so ever. In fact, that needs to have dirt properly shoveled on top of it with a properly placed tombstone.

Let's get to the news, shall we?

Before we get started...As a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, there are things that go on in terms of features for other blogs, collaborative efforts and all that stuff. Daniel runs C70 At the Bat and is the founder of the BBA. He asked us BBA members of the Tribe to contribute to his "Playing Pepper Series" and I obliged. Tony from IPI contributed as well, take a gander.

Russell Branyan has arrived at camp and is ready to go for his new-old team.You can check out a few videos of Branyan talking, one at the CPD site and another on Indians.com. Russell talked about the opportunity he had in Seattle and how he feels about the situation he's coming into at Cleveland. 
"I was fortunate to come across that situation in Seattle," Branyan said Thursday. "They let me go through my ups and downs. I showed myself what I can do at the big league level when given the chance to play against righties and lefties." 

"I've spoken to [general manager] Mark [Shapiro] and Manny, and the way they want to handle it is to do whatever's best for the ballclub," Branyan said. "They're trying to create a winner in Cleveland, and whatever it takes is what's going to happen." 

"A lot of things went through my mind with the decision," he said. "The relationship I built with Mark and knowing what his intentions are with this ballclub, and knowing that he's trying to do it in a way that's respectable ... they do things right here, and I'm glad to be a part of that."
If you watched that CPD video and are confused as to what is going on, let me clear it up, considering the reporters (sounded like Sheldon Ocker, of course) couldn't understand it.

Russell Branyan was told he was the starting first baseman, but he was tentative about it because he never got that type of opportunity to be the starter right from the get-go. That's what he meant by second guessing.

So we talked yesterday about what the revelation that Branyan would be the starting first baseman would mean for other players, specifically Michael Brantley and LaPorta. Mike spoke on the issue.
"I'm worried about my business. I can't worry about what business decisions get made. I'm just going to go out there, give 110 percent at all times and see what decision they make at the end of spring training."
I decided that this spring will be boring if we just sit here and talk about the news everyday. So my idea was to profile a bunch of the new faces we've got around camp. Since that's a boring idea and I already talked enough about the players, I figured why not profile the coaches? But then I came across the stupid little box on the side of this article on CPD. So I'm not going to steal their idea. I will think of something else in the coming days for next week and beyond.

I will mention this bit of coaching news though. AC has a piece on Steve Smith and his experience on the Amazing Race. I found one quote in particular, hilarious.
"When you're coaching third base, you're out there [near the fans]," Smith said. "If you do something stupid on the show, you're never going to hear the end of it." 
I guess he hasn't spoken with Joel Skinner yet. And Eric Wedge fans will be pleased to know that, while he may be gone, there is still a proponent of "grinding it out" on staff.
"You grind every day, game by game, and you don't get to appreciate it until afterward," he said. "Then when you get a ring three or four months later, you look back and go, wow, that's a goal you had your whole life. It's well worth the wait. It was quite an experience." 
GRINDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDING!

Okay, whatever, let's get to current manager, Manny Acta and his thoughts on the bullpen.
"I really like our bullpen. I know they didn't pitch well last year, but we have a lot of guys back there with the potential to miss bats. We have Joe Smith back healthy this year. It's going to be a tough competition. We've brought some quality arms in to camp."    
Last night on STO's Spring Training Daily, they talked to Hector Ambriz. Acta also mentioned that Ambriz will probably get more of an opportunity than guys like Jason Grilli and Jamey Wright based on the fact that they are working with a limited time frame.

I must commend the historic moment that Anthony Castrovince will forever cherish when his blog entry was able to correct a few grammar issues that were on the walls of the complex in Goodyear.

If there's anything I've learned in my history with the internet though, it would be to not correct someone's grammar. Why? Because you inevitably will make a mistake yourself and be subject to some hawk coming out of the woodwork to correct you when you do make a mistake.

And I make plenty of them. I've spelled players names wrong for months and not realized it (Sorry Vinnie Pestano). So you won't see me doing that anytime soon. I may be a writer, but I've got grammar issues of my own. I take the mad scientist approach to things though. So excuse me if I make errors.

That all being set aside, there are a few Indians notes from Castrovince's latest entry that we must tackle, hopefully grammatically correct.

^ That has the potentially of being awkward phrasing and perhaps even wrong. But I'm leaving it, because I'm like that.

We've got our first new nickname. While I think it's been agreed upon that Acta will be called Actavision at times, he coronated himself as "Vincente Lombardo" yesterday. So he's the Spanish Vince Lombardi?

THAT'S WHY HE WEARS THE FEDORA!!!!!!


You can expect some crazy photoshop stuff with this revelation. Hell, it could make a great t-shirt as well.

Anyway, Acta said he's saving his best Vincente Lombardo stuff for Friday.

I just picture him saying something like Jim Valvano did.

Gentlemen, we'll be successful this year if you can focus on three things, and three things only. Your family, your religion........and the Green Bay Packers

Errr.. The Cleveland Indians!

Fedora!

Seriousness.... Acta updated us on the progress of Carlos Santana's English.
"He's not an introverted type of kid," Acta said of Santana. "He's not afraid to speak, he's not shy. His English is going to continue to improve. He knows how important it is, and he's going to put as much effort as possible into that."
That along with defense is probably what will determine when he gets up here. We've heard many times and I've mentioned just as many that his bat is just about major league ready. It's the defense and communication that are not there yet.

Finally.. It was a discussion on Spring Training Daily and in CastroTurf, so you KNOW we have to touch up on it here.

David Huff will be switching from 58 to 28 this year, the number formally worn by Jeff Datz. Huff wore 24 with Akron, 54 with Buffalo, 58 last year. Tony Sipp has already changed his number a few times himself. He occupied 49 and had to give it up.

Not to Jason Grilli, who wanted the number, but to pitching coach Tim Belcher. Grilli is wearing 35. Sipp switched to 33, but is now 46 after Russell Branyan took it.

33 was worn by Trot Nixon a few years ago.

Tim Tolman is wearing 29. Whenever I make it, he'll have to give it up.

2.25.2010

Acta: Russell Branyan Was Signed to Start

Now that Niuman Romero has officially reported, I can officially welcome you to Spring Training 2010. I can also Introduce your starting first baseman for the 2010 Cleveland Indians, Russell Branyan!

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat!

So we thought Russell Branyan was signed to be the backup swing guy.

Well, remember how I was talking about we don't know what spring may give us?

Remember how we were wondering what was going to be done.

Russell Branyan starting at first base throws a wrench in everything we thought we thought.

We thought we thought?

Oh brother.

The first bit of interesting news yesterday was the confirmation that Russell Branyan passed his physical with the team, which means he's healthy. Cleveland doesn't take the physical lightly, I'm sure he was put through every test on this planet.

The big news however was the quotes that followed the announcement from general manager Mark Shapiro and manager Manny Acta.
"We didn't sign [Branyan] to be a backup guy," Acta said.

"He adds depth we didn't have at first base," Acta said. "We were an injury away from not feeling as comfortable. We're more covered now." 
So if Russell Branyan is the primary first baseman, where does that leave Matt LaPorta?

It appears Matt LaPorta better polish off that outfielders glove.

So what does that mean for Michael Brantley?

Unfortunately for him, it looks like he's back to Columbus. Acta is staying mum on the plans of right now, deferring to what will  happen in camp. However he did mention that LaPorta and Brantley are both in developing stages. 
"We haven't even started camp to try and figure out what will happen," said manager Manny Acta. "If everybody's healthy, it obviously will impact one of the young guys. I guarantee you that both of those guys will be playing somewhere every day."

"Both [LaPorta and Brantley] will be a big part of our future," said Acta. "But they're in the developmental process. They both need to develop in certain areas. ... It could happen in spring training or the regular season."
Let's be honest, Anthony Castrovince reported that Shapiro said LaPorta and Brantley will be playing everyday somewhere. There's one spot for them, so you do the math. LaPorta in left, Brantley in center at Columbus.

So if you will, the 25-man roster that was projected just a few days ago is already nixed and Andy Marte's chances are looking better by the day. Kearns or Crowe will be the backup outfielder, Andy Marte the backup infielder, Branyan primary first baseman and LaPorta in left field.

For now, lord only knows what will happen in three weeks, considering the entire thing was just blown up in three days.

The one thing that Shapiro did say about signing Branyan was that they are now left-handed heavy in terms of their lineup, even more so than they were before they signed Russell The Muscle. They've seemed to justify that with the fact that they will be facing right-handed pitchers "about 70% of the time." That's logic I cannot argue with, but days against lefties could be rough.

The result of Branyan's addition was Chris Gimenez's out-righting, which was a move that became pretty obvious a few days ago after Tony Lastoria found out Marte's spot was pretty secure.

Before the Indians added Branyan however, they made a little move to accommodate their injury situation. Because Anthony Reyes has an out clause in his contract at the end spring, the Indians went ahead and added him to their 40-man roster.

Then immediately placed him back on the 60-day disabled list. Reyes now remains an Indian and will get a major league salary for 2010. The Indians don't expect him to contribute until the second half at the earliest, I still don't expect him to contribute at all. But it's a smart move on their part as it keeps him around.

Reyes said he hopes this 12-month recovery only takes 11. I doubt it dude.

Since were talking about blown out elbows, might as well cover Tuesday's big news.

Jake Westbrook is back, sort of.

For ten-minutes, Westy threw a bullpen session on Tuesday, pain-free.

Remember how I said, I doubt it went Anthony Reyes was hoping for 11 months recovering from surgery? Well it's been 20 months for Jake Westbrook and he didn't have arm durability issues and a dangerous pitching motion.

Jake is a part of the team again. He's doing his thing with the team, pitching normally, the restrictions are gone. All that's left now is for him to put it all together in a live game. All he needs to do to get there is survive the spring and build up his stamnia.

I don't think he'll have a problem with that. Tim Belcher talked about Jake's first session.
"I felt like a standard-bred horse driver trying to pull the reins back," Belcher said with a laugh. "But Jake's a rapid-fire kind of guy. He's always been that way. Even in 10 minutes today, he probably threw five or six or eight more pitches than anybody else."
To hear what Jake Westbrook and new pitching coach Tim Belcher had to say, check out audio provided by the Plain Dealer.

I will be honest, this stuff about Westbrook is huge with all the young players this team will be relying on. Some of those young players were on display in yesterday's sessions however. White, Gomez, and De La Cruz were just three youngsters to impress.
"It was refreshing to see those young guys throw the ball like they did," said Acta. "The Gomezes of the world ... De La Cruz and Alex White. Granted it was just a bullpen, but it was nice to see what the future looks like here."
 For one, it's good to see DLC healthy. The guy is literally Carmona from the right side talent and stature wise. It's also just good to see Alex White. The fact that the Indians invited him to camp without even pitching a single inning for them in professional action says how highly they think of him and the level he's coming into this organization at.

Catching Up On Videos.. For Real. Check out Plain Dealer videos of Catcher Lou Marson and catching instructor and First Base Coach Sandy Alomar Jr..

Spring Training Daily on STO is a nice little program. One of the things that stuck out to me on last night's edition was Jon Nunnally. The guy is a cool customer. I honestly didn't even know what Jon Nunnally looked like until a few days ago. I didn't know what I was expecting, but I didn't expect to see footage of him jumping around swinging a bat and laughing.

He also came off well in the interview. I used that picture up top because I don't think others ever know who Nunnally is. He sounds like a relaxed guy, but one who will instill confidence in his players. I can't wait to see what he brings to the table.

The Plain Dealer has a bit up about Kerry Wood and the position he didn't think he'd be in at this point. That isn't stopping him from refining his pitches or working hard though.
"There are no guarantees in the game," said Wood on Tuesday after the Indians' first practice of spring training. "You sign with an organization thinking they're headed in the right direction. Obviously we were, but as a team we didn't go out and do what we were expected to do."

"Upper management made decisions to rebuild and I've got to be part of that. I signed my contract. I'm here for the duration of my contract. I want to help these guys get better and help us win."

Don't dump on this guy like Aaron Boone was dumped on. Booney just retired and took a job with ESPN. He was a class-act and a big time presence in that clubhouse. Sure he had rough time for this club and didn't live up to the contract, but the treatment the guy received was downright pathetic.

And even now, people are still bitter about it. Stop it, just stop it.

Before we label Wood a bust of a signing, let's let him pitch this season. I'm not defending him but like he said, he signed a contract, let's let him run through the duration of it before we judge what we received for the money paid. But let's also lay off with the pitchforks.

Some bits and pieces from AC's latest CastroTurf blog entrees.


Jeremy Sowers was pain-free in the 25 pitches he threw on Tuesday. The problem is he's at a point he usually is in January. Still, the important part for him is that he isn't feeling pain or discomfort.

Every time I mention Jeremy Sowers, it's required I mention Mitch Talbot, they are now twins. He called David Price and Wade Davis the golden boys and he's happy to be competing for a job. AC seems to be convinced he's going to make the rotation and I can't disagree with that notion. Why would the team acquire him just to get rid of him without giving him a major league shot?

More good news from more sessions. Fausto Carmona threw one on Wednesday and impressed was the word that came up for Belcher and Acta. Not only that, but Carmona hired a personal trainer rather than spending time at the Marte Buffet.

Baseball America released their top 100 prospect ranking the other day and Cleveland is tied for second in number of prospects that made the list with five: Carlos Santana (10), Lonnie Chisenhall (31), Nick Hagadone (44), Jason Knapp (64), Alex White (65).

That's five players in the top 65, so that's pretty awesome. On a similar note, I just received Tony Lastoria's prospect book and it is amazing. Go ahead and consider making a purchase if you haven't already. This paired with BA's prospect guide will be a deadly reference combo.

Finally, I'd be unfair if I didn't mention the fact that Wyatt Toregas also had a kid in the offseason. So we've got three new Tribe babies. Toregas' son Alexander is actually just a week old.

Today is physical day for position players. I'm sure they went ahead and did those "one-on-one's" with position players that already reported and things are ahead of schedule. The first full-squad workout is tomorrow and next week, gameage. 

2.23.2010

Rain is to blame; Injury Updates, Contract Extensions and Baby Names






Well it's good to see we aren't the only ones getting pelted with rain.

The wet weather has been putting a damper on things in Arizona for the past two days. I hate rain.

But I was driving home Monday (I'm actually typing the majority of this up Monday night) and thought to myself, you know rain sucks, but at least it isn't snow.

And at least it didn't rain too hard, because I forgot my umbrella when I left at 7:30.

Anyway, I spent the majority of my Monday morning writing about baseball and stuff that happened in the offseason and I came across this interesting factoid about Progressive Field.

The park is far from homer friendly. I don't even begin to understand some of the wacky statistics that are in the game of baseball and park factor is right there in terms of me "getting it" if you explained it.

But Cleveland is last in home run park factor. And according to ESPN's explanation of what the hell is going on, Progressive Field is pitcher friendly, especially when it comes to the long ball. I was doing all this in a study on Cliff Lee and how he would be a good fit for Safeco Field. Nonetheless I got the statistics I needed, but it was interesting to come upon and I wasn't expecting to see it.

The big news concerns Jeremy Sowers and the hit his chances of not only making the rotation, but the Indians roster, took with the sudden injury to his shoulder. Jeremy will be approximately a week to ten days behind he rest of his teammates according to Manny Acta.
"Obviously not," Sowers said Monday. "But you can't pick when you get hurt. You deal with it. I've had plenty of opportunities to prove my value to this team. Whatever happens, happens."
"If my velocity was going down [as the game wore on], you could point to that," he said. "But that's probably more coincidence -- a mental hurdle more than a physical hurdle, and the challenge of facing guys a third time."  
In a way I feel for the kid here. He's about to enter battle for what could be the last realistic shot he has to make this team and he gets hurt. Sowers has been in Goodyear for about a month now in an effort to help monitor the issue.

Other injury updates include Carlos Santana, who is expected to have no restrictions when games start next week.

Anthony Reyes won't be a option till July at the absolute earliest according to Anthony Castrovince. Tim Belcher confirmed this on STO's Spring Training Daily Monday. I'll go ahead and say that earliest mark is quite a stretch. Seriously, July? I've signed up for him not even pitching at all this year, so July seems EXTREMELY generous to me.

Baby Update: We know Travis Hafner and his wife Amy welcomed their first child during the offseason. Well So did Jhonny Peralta and his scorpion queen wife Molly. Analise was born in October. Thankfully Jhonny Peralta had a girl and couldn't name his child after a former teammates like Pronk did with Blake Lee Hafner.

Onto more serious business. Not that baby names aren't important.

The military issue with Shin-Soo Choo has resurfaced. What's the latest news in what is being done to deter Choo from fulfilling his obligation to his native country? For one Choo isn't thinking about it, so let's stop bringing it up. But there is a plan of action.

Plan A is to obtain permission from Cleveland to play in the 2010 Asian Games in November. That plan not only involves helping his country win the gold, but hoping his country would provide military exemption to his squad for doing so.

Plan B is unknown to everyone but Choo, but it likely involves Choo not returning to Korea or becoming an American citizen. Those two probably go hand-in-hand. For Choo's sake, I hope that isn't the case and I think the Indians would be open to letting Choo participate in the Asian Games.

Then again, they might have a little more invested in him at that point in time, so that isn't a foregone conclusion. What the hell am I talking about now?

One of the questions posed in the latest Indians Inbox is the possible extension possibilities for Asdrubal Cabrera. AC throws Choo in the mix, as does Paul Hoynes in this Plain Dealer piece.

This is something I've brought up repeatedly during the offseason.
"They haven't talked to me or my agents," said Choo, Monday afternoon as rain hit the Valley of the Sun for the third straight day. "But I would like to stay with the Indians for a long time. I like it here."
Both are eligible for salary arbitration after this year and it would be wise for Cleveland to show some long-term investment in their two strongest young players as they have in the past. Especially guys like Cabrera and Choo who I see as two guys that would be very open to long term deals.

Cabrera by the by feels good after offseason surgery. No one's made a big deal about this, so I'm going to assume it isn't a big deal.

The Plain Dealer has a video of Jordan Brown talking with the media. Brown discussed what he did in Venezuelan, working with Jon Nunnally both in Columbus and during Winter League, what he's focusing on, and how he now feels about not getting called up.

Brown says he wish he would have handled his frustration a little better, but wasn't necessarily regretful for the way it happened because of the lesson he learned from his mistake.

Another Winter League participant was Chris Gimenez, who said he felt "embarrassed" by the performance he put up offensively at the major leagues in 2009. I really like him and hope he pans out, but there could be a good chance he gets cut from the 40-man roster today or Wednesday if Russell Branyan passes his physical.

On tap for today: A bunch of pitchers will start throwing. Branyan reports to camp for his physical. And well if the rain stops, fun in the sun.

Finally, a non-Indians note to end this. Sort of. Rafael Betancourt has found a home in Colorado as their primary setup guy. He revealed to the Denver Post that when he arrived to the Rockies, he had an injured groin.

Raffy said he wasn't sure he could pitch, however he felt a big responsibility to not let them down. I find it interesting he felt it was a sports hernia. Remember Betancourt had some injury issues last season, as did everyone, but who knew it was bothering him as bad as it did at the time of the trade.


2.22.2010

The Dawn of a New Day


Why is it that every site I've read like ESPN and Sporting News, has the pitchers and catchers reporting Tuesday and everyone else like, Friday, or some junk like that?

Hello! Pitchers and Catchers are here!

That my friends is why I've got the local newspapers for all 30 MLB teams in my Google Reader. I've got ESPN's Spring Training Blog in there as well, because they do have little facts and tidbits I like to know, but I in large part get all my information from the local guys.

Let's hope they are not as cynical as some our newspaper beat-writers.

I won't get into that. That's offseason fodder that doesn't need to be present now that we've got substance to talk about.

Manny Acta was mum on Russell Branyan, only stating that he wouldn't talk about anyone until it was official.
"Let's wait until everything becomes official," Acta said. "Then we'll answer all those questions."
 He did however say that Matt LaPorta would be about a week behind his teammates. That makes sense, Mid-April would put him at the six month mark from his surgery. If anything, that's good news and it sounds like he's ahead of schedule.

Acta had some things to say about Rafael Perez and Fausto Carmona, who both got in some throwing yesterday.
"We're very encouraged by the way they threw the ball in winter ball. ... We're looking forward to them bouncing back."
 Acta was encouraged by the fact that his core group of players had already reported before Pitchers and Catchers were required to report. You can hear more of what he had to say from the Plain Dealer's audio snippet. All 35 P's and C's have reported though. Wednesday is the day for everyone else, but as Castrovince notes in the return of Spring Training Minutiae, everyone is pretty much there.

One more Acta quote that I think is interesting and it reflects Luis Valbuena and his situation.
"We're not in the business of developing platoon players at 24 years old," Acta said. "We're going to give him opportunities [against lefties]."
He is in fact coming into this camp as the starting second baseman.

Today, all 35 pitchers and catchers will undergo physicals and they will begin individual meetings to tell where each player stands. The official first workout will happen Tuesday and then by Wednesday, everyone should be officially reported.

I mentioned it in the Primer yesterday, but it is worth repeating and further explaining.

Edward Salcedo is on the verge of signing a major league contract with the Atlanta Braves organization. You may or may not remember him as the very young shortstop that the Indians were interested in signing a few years ago, back when I started this blog in fact. It was really one of the first piece of news items we handled.

Well it turns out Salcedo's age has finally been verified and he'll become a member of the Braves after they fostered a lot of the rigmarole that was needed to verify him. Back when the Indians had interest in signing him, and almost did, he was a Scott Boras client that took part in the Indians Dominican Baseball Academy.

I'm pretty content with our shortstop, you? However that two bills that the reportedly the Indians offered a few years ago, and spent on Branyan this year, wouldn't mind that being put towards young talent. Not even Salcedo, but rather our first round draft pick this year perhaps?

Finally, I think we'll end up all these daily or two-day wrap-ups with everything stupid.

The three stupid notes that I've gathered from reading everything. Mike Gosling arrived with things packed in a garbage bag because it just fit in his car better. Matt Underwood has established the first injury of the spring after he reported to camp with a broken middle finger. And Manny Acta has two cellphones and it isn't because he's Buster Olney and has many sources contacting him, one of them is his Spanish phone.

Speaking of Underwood... Your prime time lineup spot at 10 PM is filled up for awhile. Spring Training Daily is on Sportstimeohio every weeknight this week. Not that you were going to watch Jay Leno or anything like that. Yeah I know the Olympics are on, but I have to get my digs in on him.

Branyan takes his physical tomorrow... Rejoice, we've got stuff to talk about!


2.21.2010

2010 Spring Training Primer: The Final Overview

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!





2.19.2010

Report: Russell Branyan Accepts Tribe Offer

Russell Branyan has reportedly accepted the Cleveland Indians one-year contract offer, however Indians officials will not confirm reports as Branyan has yet to pass a physical.

He is expected to do so at the Indians complex in Goodyear but the time table for that is unknown.

ESPN's Buster Olney has contract details that say Branyan will get a $2 million dollar base salary with up to $1 million dollars in incentives. He also says there is a mutual option for 2011 that can earn him up to $5 million dollars.

Apparently now there is a concern that Matt LaPorta needs more time at first base.

I will have more on this tomorrow and in the Spring Training primer on Sunday, so I won't go into it now.

But Ken Rosenthal recently tweeted that Branyan picked the Indians over the Rays because there was more at bats available with Cleveland. I question where those at-bats will come from as they've already committed a hefty chunk of change to Travis Hafner at DH and it was expected to be Matt LaPorta's show at first.

Now if LaPorta isn't healthy from the start, I kind of understand, but why would you bring in a guy like Branyan to block him after he gets healthy? I thought Shelley Duncan was a fair insurance policy and someone who could fill in until LaPorta was ready to go, if that was the case.

As I said, more tomorrow and Sunday on this move, because he still has to pass a physical, which isn't guaranteed considering he had those back issues flare up last year.


Indians Twidder: @Grinder_Wedge 2/19

I figured with the end of 2009's offseason officially coming to a close, we might as well officially close that era of Indians Baseball.

Heck, we've got a new General Manager at this point, and a new manager, so it's time to move on.

But first, I have to get rid of this Twidder gem from my little arsenal of them. As I've mentioned in the past, these first batch of Twidders were created back last year when I got the bright idea and some of the "tweeds" that I made up were just too good to pass up on. Okay the real reason is, I'm too lazy to make new ones. But nonetheless.

Eric Wedge was fired last year, but that didn't stop me from doing this. It was right around the time he was fired and the Indians were looking for a new manager. Of course, Wedge was looking for a job in my mind, but as we've seen, Wedge is happily taking a year off. Kind of ruins the joke now, but like I said... I'm a lazy jerk.



Followers

Casey Blake
Grady Sizemore
Travis Hafner
Mark Shapiro
David Dellucci
Carl Willis
Ramon Vazquez
Trot Nixon
Roger Clemens
Alex Cora
Kelly Shoppach
Derek Shelton

Eric will probably spend a lot more time tweeding now that he doesn't have a job, but as you can see, he doesn't follow much. He sticks to his friends mainly, yet he finds a way to communicate with Jhonny Peralta.

He always has the wise words for players like Travis Hafner and he's constantly talking to his two best buds, Shapiro and Casey Blake.

I must remind you to make sure you follow the site on twitter and if you want a feed of the latest Indians news, follow this list. Also give new president @FakeShap some more love, he is going to be more business friendly now.