3.31.2010

Sowers placed on waivers and a bone to pick with Choo

We might as well start with the latest news out of Goodyear that Jeremy Sowers has been placed on waivers.

According to FOX's Ken Rosenthal, the move was made to clear a 40-man spot for Mark Grudzielanek, which signals to us that he's won a bench spot. Originally, Rosenthal said Sowers was a candidate for release, now a candidate for the minor leagues if unclaimed.

What it means for Anderson Hernandez and Andy Marte? We'll discuss that in a second.

What it means for Sowers... Well if he goes unclaimed the Indians have two options that have already been laid out by Rosenthal in his non-existent tweet and his current tweet.

Send him to Columbus to continue his rehab or just outright release him.

The problem with sending him to Columbus is this. Their rotation is filled with Rondon, Gomez, Pino, Lewis, and the loser of Carrasco and Huff. Sure they could make room to get Sowers some starts, but maybe then Sowers wouldn't have that 40 man power that he has over Rondon, Carrasco/Huff, and Gomez that he once had. So then he wouldn't be the "first man" up when the rotation needed help.

So when you look at it that way, the only reason Sowers was even in consideration was because he was out of options. Now that it won't be an issue, it seems likely that the Indians are ready to move on without Sowers. At least to me. They could send him to Columbus or even Akron to rehab. Nothing says they have to put him in Columbus from the start.

But if the Indians were to give Sowers a shot, he'd have to be re-added to the 40-man roster. After Carrasco's spring fling, you would assume he's leapfrogged Sowers in that regard.

So I don't know what to make of it. Either way, I don't foresee a future for Jeremy Sowers in Cleveland. So a call to the minors for rehab could just be prolonging the death of his career with the Indians.

Now Rosenthal assumes the spot is for Mark Grudzielanek.What if it isn't? Then it would be for Austin Kearns, which means Wyatt Toregas is safe. No harm no foul.

If it is for Grudzielanek, which we are going to assume it is... Then Austin Kearns would still need a spot if he were to make the team. Then Toregas would be in danger. Unless of course the Indians want to end the Anderson Hernandez experiment (I would if you are keeping Grudzielanek, unless this spells doom for Andy Marte, which would be a mistake), then they wouldn't have to worry about Toregas.

This is just a mess right now... I don't even know if Hernandez has options and if they would send him down if he even did because there really isn't a spot for him in Columbus with Brian Bixler, Josh Rodriguez, and Jason Donald.

Like I said.... Mess right now... I think I'll wait until everything is clarified before I begin to even sort out what is going to happen, because nine different things could definitely happen. I mean, Marte has to be on the team because there is no one else to play first for LaPorta. So something has to give with Hernandez and Grundle.

Speaking of waivers... Did anyone else see that Ryan Garko was placed on them by the Mariners to make room for Mike Sweeney? Are they on drugs? Sweeney can't play first anymore, what happened to their platoon with Casey Kotchman? Man what a stinger for Ryan as he had a chance there.

Hope he lands on his feet. It makes me more angry that we spent the two million on Branyan when you can get a guy like Garko for half a million and he would be a capable stop-gap at first for what the Indians wanted to do with the Brantley situation.

Last night, the Indians took on the Royals and Mitch Talbot got one last Cactus League tuneup.

It didn't go so well...Talbot got roughed up in the first inning of the Indians 7-2 loss to the Royals. He gave up five in the first inning and gave up two more later in the fourth, one was unearned. He gave up nine hits and three walks on the day in his 5.2 innings.

Jamey Wright and Jensen Lewis pitched scoreless frames in their continued effort to win bullpen spots.

Is Talbot getting rocked concerning? A little, but was his insane ERA prior to the beating a accurate representation of what he would be int he regular season? No, so you take the good with the bad in spring and just hope he is consistent once the games games.

Talbot is a part of that never ending discussion about the rotation, which Terry Pluto tackles.

The Tribe's two runs came off an Asdrubal Cabrera double in the third inning.

The loss was the Indians second straight and second of this span of playing regulars more often and deeper into games. But what about all these spring wins? Acta says they are good for the soul, but he also realizes there is a deeper meaning.

"[Bench coach] Tim Tolman told me that from day one," said Acta. "He said we're going to have a good spring because our backups are good and our prospects are hungry. That's a good assessment, the way the Rays put it." 

But there is no harm in winning as Acta said. It is good for the soul. It isn't exactly chicken soup, but it does build confidence. Evidence that with the fact that retail sales actually did go up after the 5-0 cactus league start according to Dennis Lehman. It really isn't a huge deal, but there is a different sort of confidence bubbling up about the team than there was a month ago.

Okay this seems like a good time to start this since we are sort of on the subject of money.

If you saw my tweets last night, you would have seen that I absolutely went off on Shin-Soo Choo.

Castrovince revealed yesterday that negotiations for a contract extension for Choo with the Indians have sort of stalled. The Indians don't speak publicly about these things and Boras hasn't commented, so we have to rely on what Choo and the media tells us.

"It's up to Boras and the Indians to figure that out," Choo said Tuesday. "That's not my job. My job is to worry about the team."

 Is it? I wasn't aware that it was Boras hitting the home runs for the team. I wasn't aware that it would be Boras living in Cleveland if he were to sign a long-term deal. I didn't know it was completely in the hands of Scott Boras and the Cleveland Indians.

That is bogus to me and it really makes me lose a lot of respect for Choo. Maybe this is a case like it was last year with Peralta with the language barrier being a problem and Choo not being able to communicate his actual feeling properly.

But it isn't his job?

How is it not his job? This is his career we are dealing with, so it better damn well be his job to help the two sides figure it out. If he wants to be in Cleveland, he needs to communicate to Scott Boras that he needs to get a deal done.

Word is the Indians have offered a five year deal with an option year for a sixth. It would take away one guaranteed free agent year and another if the club were to pick up the option. Obviously Boras' goal is to get his players to free agency as soon as possible, so I'm damn sure he himself would never agree to a deal that took up one single free agent year.

But if CHOO himself wants a five year deal, then Choo needs to tell Boras that. This is what angers me most about players. Their lack of interest in contract negotiations. Communicate with your agent, explain your desires to him. Why are players so disinterested in WHERE they play and more interested in just seeing these agents get as much money as possible?

The Indians will not agree to a deal that is less than five years long. Taking away just the arbitration years is not beneficial to them in the least bit. They could just not extend him if they were going to do that. If Choo wants to negotiate a long term contract, he will need to sign over some of his free agent time.

It is depressing to see this. I like Choo. He's a good kid with a personality and he seems like he genuinely loves the situation he is in. To see them "not have any interest" in a deal like this is concerning for his long term future with the club and certainly doesn't spell good things about anything getting done in the near future or even period with Choo and the Indians.

Whatever...

Terry Pluto doesn't seem to think the long-term answer at second is Luis Valbuena. While I like Louie, this is something I've agreed with for some time now. Pluto hasn't seen anything that has stuck out in the past week, but he does remind us that Val is just 23 years old. Another reason that Grudzielanek should make this team.

Pluto also mentions Jason Donald, who I think is actually the short-term solution beyond this season. I really like Donald a lot. I want to wait until we see how he does at Columbus, but I'm a big Donald fan early.

Today, David Huff makes his final claim for the rotation spot that we all assume is his against Chicago. It will be a home nod at Goodyear, back at the regular 4:00 PM start time (eastern).

Jake Westbrook also goes for a minor league team, his final warm up before he takes the mound opening day against these same White Sox. He isn't pitching against the White Sox so they don't get an early look at him. Westbrook will make his second opening day start, his last came against the same opponent he'll be facing on Monday, Mark Buehrle. The other matchups have been announced: Fausto Carmona Vs Jake Peavy and Justin Masterson Vs Gavin Floyd.

Speaking of minor league games.. Russell Branyan got four at-bats in Triple-A game against Cincinnati's Louisville squad. Branyan hit a home run and walked and was 2-3 on the day.

Finally, I know it is a bad time to not plan on updating, but if I don't prepare something tonight (which I might not), don't expect an update until Thursday night. I have a dentist appointment after class tomorrow, so I really am not going to press to get something up. The Indians will be in Los Angeles on Thursday night for an exhibition contest, as well as in Tempe to face the Angels in a split-squad game.

Who knows when we will get the big roster decisions, especially with the Sowers news leaking today. Definitely expect something Friday, maybe one big update.

3.30.2010

Bullpen Battered, Branyan's Plan, and a Talbot Comparison

Well the regular Indians have been defeated.

The Indians lost their first game since Manny Acta started playing his regular squad more often and deeper into games and it wasn't pretty.

The Dodgers pounded Justin Masterson and the Tribe's bullpen to the tune of 11 runs and Chad Billingsley shut down the offense.

Bright news for Masterson, even though it is a little concerning to see him go into the season on this note, was that he walked just one and struck out six in his 5.2 innings of work. He gave up four runs, but one was unearned thanks to Masterson's own throwing error.

In sort of a preview for the 2010 season, Anthony Castrovince looks at the rotation that Masterson is a part of and how the success of the Indians will depend on it.

Shaprio described Masterson, Fausto Carmona, and Jake Westbrook as the "lynchpin" of how well the club does this year.

The bullpen didn't really pick up Masterson yesterday either. Rafael Perez came in and gave up one of Masterson's inherited runners as well as one of his own. He did not walk anyone though.

Chris Perez on the other hand had some issues. CFP retired just one hitter, gave up two hits and walked a troublesome three hitters. The Dodgers burned him for three earned runs. They did the same to lefty Tony Sipp, who gave up the three earned off four hits and a walk in one inning.

Saul Rivera was the only pitcher to not be charged with a run, getting two outs in the ninth in relief of Perez.

There wasn't much offensively for the starters. Travis Hafner put the team up early in the first inning with an RBI base hit and Luis Rodriguez would later add a sacrifice fly. Hafner had two hits and a walk, and was joined in the two-hit department by Luis Valbuena and Asdrubal Cabrera.

Today, the Indians will hit the road to face Kansas City in game that doesn't start until 9 eastern time. Better than the 10 ET start time yesterday. Mitch Talbot gets his final nod of the Cactus League against Kyle Davies in Surprise.

Interesting comparison from ESPN's Rob Neyer, who builds off John Sickel's Randy Wells to Talbot comparison. Wells carried a very respectable 3.06 ERA as a rookie last year for the Cubs.

I don't think Randy Wells is 3.06 ERA good and I wouldn't go expecting the same from Talbot, but it is a little more assurance that Talbot may be able to make some noise. He's pretty untested at the major league level, so really we don't know what we may get from him. It could be something really good.

More national media love, this time from Peter Gammons, who highlights six teams to watch this season. How great is it to see Peter Gammons getting back to writing? I think the aneurysm impacted him on the camera cause he wasn't the same, but the guy is still a fantastic writer.

Gammo sees a lot of the stuff we are seeing (more on that in a second with Terry Pluto) with healthy stars and encouraging spring performances. He says what myself and others have said about this club scoring runs. If that pitching comes through, if that pitching comes through, if that pitching comes through.

Terry Pluto outlines the Russell Branyan situation, covering the "cases for" and "cases against" originally signing him. It would appear that the cases against are both stronger and contain more substance. Pluto at the end compares the Indians signing Branyan to the purchase of a lottery ticket. The problem is they spent $2 million dollars on it.

The club has pretty much laid out their initial plans for Branyan's rehab though. Branyan will be with the club in Chicago to open the season, but then head off to Columbus for their season opener on the 8th. Branyan says, based off his opinion, that it could take seven to ten days in Columbus, but it ultimately is up to the Indians.

Branyan will DH today in a minor league contest and then test himself in the field later this week. Shapiro said he hopes Branyan will be able to join the club in the middle of April and provided that there are no setbacks, that is the likely target date to expect Branyan to make his debut.

He said he expected to be at this point a week ago, which isn't really reassuring looking at it from our aspect, not really knowing what we know.

"I expected to be at this stage last week," said Branyan on Monday. "This is just the way the rehab worked out for us. It was a little optimistic thinking I could get ready in a week.

Pluto has a feature up about his optimism for this year's club. I think we feel a lot of the same things he does when seeing some of the stuff we see. It's hard not to get excited about some of the stuff, but we do have to remember it is only spring training and not everything is what it appears to be.

Something to be optimistic about is the farm system and MLB.com has two prospect features up. The first is a top ten prospects to watch feature. The second is a more full-scale look at the organization. It highlights players that will make an impact at the major league level this year, under the radar prospects, looks at the 2009 draft, and makes predictions for hitter and pitcher of the year. Their picks: Carlos Santana and Nick Hagadone.

One last prospect note... Read Tony Lastoria's latest at IPI about Omar Aguilar. Great background information on the Tribe's newest acquisition. He shares the same agent with Michael Brantley and is very good friends with him. Also great to know that he recommitted himself this offseason and got into great shape.

I've gone on and on about Grady Sizemore returning to form. I think everyone knows by now that if Sizemore is healthy, he is someone you can count on.

Finally... Matt LaPorta needs your help. If you are on Twitter, send him a tweet for the batting music that he should use this year. We all know that Andy Marte's should be Party in the USA, too bad he doesn't have twitter for me to suggest it to him.

In other twitter news, Jensen Lewis' tweet about opening day was not in fact a sign that that he made the bullpen, just "positive thinking" as he put it. But what about this one from yesterday where Jensen is quote... "So Frickin Happy" and that everything is right in the world.

Either FOX decided to not cancel Dollhouse, they've made 10 calorie cupcakes, (either would make everything right in the world), he tied the knot with good old Audrey, or Lewis made the bullpen. It wouldn't be the first time Lewis used social media to unveil an Indian plan before it happened. He told his facebook friends in 2007 about his major league call up before it actually happened.

3.29.2010

Carrasco Stumbles, Branyan to the DL

Maybe we are better off not telling Carlos Carrasco he is competing for a job. In fact, why not just give him the job and tell him he really isn't on the Cleveland Indians roster.

I didn't see him pitch, but when I see someone throw six walks, I can't help but think they were trying too hard to throw strikes. I can't help but think in his first start since it was declared he was a part of the rotation battle, he was trying too hard and pressing. When you press, it never leads to good things.

Carrasco was awful yesterday against the Angels in his final shot to win the fifth rotation spot. Carrasco threw a lot of pitches in just 3.2 innings as in addition to the six walks, he struck out seven. He recorded 11 outs, seven of them via the strikeout.

His line: 3.2, 4 H, 5 R, 6 BB, 7 K

3, 4, 5, 6, 7... Didn't plan that.

David Huff goes on Wednesday and he'd really have to bomb seeing as he is the favorite to win the job. Carrasco was only in it because of two outings. Now he's pretty much wiped out all of that in one bad game, so all Huff has to do is throw strikes and Manny Acta will probably be content.

"I lost control of the ball a little bit," Carrasco said. "The last inning, my two-seam was going straight and my four-seam was sinking."  

A little bit? Yeah... Acta said he threw it well early and by all accounts, it was the last inning that was his demise. He even admitted pressure and well, he had pressure last year when he got called up too. The dude needs to stop feeling pressure. Get over it at this point. You are here, the club believes in you, just do it man. Hopefully when he does the opportunity again, which will probably be sometime this year, he realizes that he's been there before and he can get over it.

Thursday is the day Acta will announce all the roster decisions and he wouldn't rule out Carrasco after yesterday's performance because Huff hadn't pitched, but we all know. Acta said "you all will know" the second after Huff's start on Wednesday against Chicago. But like I said, we all know... Terry Pluto knows and isn't fooled.

Despite all that, the Indians won again and the five runs Carrasco surrendered was all the Indians surrendered as a team. Matt LaPorta made up for that all by himself with a huge day at the plate as one of the few regulars playing for Cleveland.

LaPorta doubled and hit a two-run homer to total five RBI on the day. Despite missing the first week, he's now tied with Hafner with 11 behind Shin-Soo Choo for the spring RBI lead. Choo also played yesterday and had just as good of a game. He played all nine innings and got six at-bats, going 3-for-6 with three RBI, two doubles, and a run scored.

Matt will indeed be the first baseman to start the season as it was announced yesterday (and at this point, not really a shock to anyone) that Russell Branyan would be starting the season on the 15-day disabled list. Manny Acta and Mark Shapiro, justify.

"Just not enough time," Acta said. "It wasn't just about the at-bats. He could go in a Minor League game and have nine at-bats a day. But it's the everyday standing around on his feet for three hours."

"He's made consistently positive progress," general manager Mark Shapiro said. "He has a good chance to get into a game this week ... We're comfortable saying sometime in the first two weeks of the season he's going to be ready to play, if there are no setbacks." 

The plan is still to get him into game action this week, but if he doesn't play in Cactus League games, then they can backdate his original DL date to March 27th, making him eligible to come off earlier. It will all depend on when they feel he'll be ready if you ask me. If they think he can be ready sooner, they'll just play him in minor league games this week and backdate the DL. If they think he'll take all 15 days from when they place him on it, then they'll get him into Cactus League games.

Branyan will probably only miss the first few weeks, according to Shapiro if there are no set-backs. So really, it isn't a huge deal when you think about it. But they did spend two million dollars that fans believe the club didn't have on him, so you can darn well expect most people to be irate that they signed damage goods.

It does make you wonder why they wouldn't have signed Jermaine Dye. Was he too expensive? Did they just not like the potential production because of his age? They wanted someone to play first base, but Matt LaPorta was supposed to be the guy.

The reason that the Indians signed Russell Branyan, despite what they might say, was to keep Michael Brantley in Triple-A for arbitration reasons. By signing Branyan, they could keep LaPorta in left and force Brantley down. Why not Dye in left and LaPorta at first? Much difference?

I don't know, maybe he cost too much. If that was their plan, which it most likely was, you do have to wonder why Dye wasn't a better option, now that we sit here with Branyan on the DL. But what's done is done and now we move forward.

It will be either Brantley or Austin Kearns in left field. Which means it will be Austin Kearns (1-for-3, 3 RBI yesterday) in left field. Anthony Castrovince did his predictions of the 25 man roster with a week left and I'd have to say I agree with each one, so I won't bother doing it myself. And when I say I agree with each one, I say that is what I would do. The one question comes in at the utility position where the club seems to really like Anderson Hernandez (2-for-3, 3 runs yesterday and a huge defensive play) for some oddball reason. Maybe because he is another Washington Scrub that Manny Acta likes.

I don't know... I would pick Mark Grudzielanek and hope the club does too... If the Indians do go with what Castrovince has laid out, there would be 40-man moves to make.

Kearns, Grudzielanek, and Jamey Wright would need 40-man spots. Wright will get Ambriz's spot as he is likely on the way out in some capacity. Now The reason I think Hernandez might win the job is because he already has the 40-man spot, but it wouldn't be a big deal to remove him and just swap him with Grudzielanek, so that would take care of that.

The other spot would probably come from Wyatt Toregas, who won't need his after he officially loses the spot for starting catcher to Lou Marson (who finally had a good game, 2-4, RBI, BB yesterday and will get more playing time down the stretch here).

Grudzielanek was a scratch yesterday as he was supposed to start at third base. Andy Marte got the nod and strengthened his case to make the team even more with a 2-for-4, 3 run, 2 walk, RBI game. Marte will make it and even get a lot of playing time due to the Branyan injury. As AC stated in CastroTurf, LaPorta still isn't full-go, he'll get days off early because of those offseason surgeries, so expect Marte to at least see a starts at least once a week, maybe even as a defensive replacement late in games as well.

Carlton Smith and CC Lee pitched yesterday due to Carrasco's short outing. Smith got the win. Another Smith, Joe, the one who will make the Indians squad, pitched another scoreless inning with a pair of strikeouts. He did walk a hitter though.

Chris Perez also walked a hitter, but got through the ninth scoreless yet again.

I'm warming up to the Aaron Laffey to the bullpen thing. I said I didn't agree with it, but I understood it. I'm starting to agree with it. It makes a lot of sense when you think about it and Laffey is cool with it. I just hope it doesn't ruin him.

Jake Westbrook won the Plain Dealer's celebrity bracket challenge, beating out Kosta Kofus (suck), Mo Williams, and Josh Cribbs. I am a Duke fan, not hardcore or anything (I prefer college football to college basketball really), but I was rooting for Baylor yesterday. If the Bears won and beat WVU in the final four, I would have won my pool. Now I guess I'll just root for my team to win it all. No good jerks.

Finally I have a nickname for Austin Kearns. No, it isn't something silly like "The Kearnel" even though that does sounds AMAZING. Manny Acta must have called him a "pro" like nine times in this quote.

"I always liked him, because he's a pro," Acta said. "He goes hard every single day. He's a great teammate. He's one of those guys that can only help you, when he's healthy. He's the ultimate pro."

Okay two... Whatever... But if and when he makes this team, he'll be known as "The Ultimate Pro."

I'm not ruling out use of The Kearnel though. In fact, I'm ruling in use of The Kearnel, go for it.

3.28.2010

The Big Three Looks Healthy and Ready

In 2007, the Cleveland Indians won a lot of ball games and were one more win away from reaching the World Series.

Okay stop reminding us of better times you are saying to me.

I only do this for a specific reason.

Three players had a big part in that success. While CC Sabathia, Victor Martinez, and a cast of others also had a hand in it, most of them are gone. But not only that, there are three specific players (still with the team, duh) that were really crucial to the success of that squad if you ask me.

Fausto Carmona, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore.

All three fell on hard times last year. Hafner for the past two has been battling shoulder issues, Sizemore suffered two injuries, and Carmona went partially crazy.

Or something like that. You know the back story, there is no need to get into where we've come from.

So let's talk about the present. All three are ripping up spring training like a wet piece of paper. Sizemore is hitting and running like he did pre-2009 injuries, Hafner is showing presence of old at the plate, and Carmona is dazzling the masses and not walking hitters.

So I ask you... If these three are back and you add in the likes of Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jake Westbrook... Is this team really going to suck as bad as some people say they will? Fans have been bemoaning the Tribe for the past several months, and in a way it's understandable. But if this team has their big three back, this team isn't going to suck.

Let's take a look at what has been going on here for the past several weeks as we wind down spring training with the big three. It just so happens that all at once, everyone is getting a little excited about these three.


Travis Hafner

"He's taking pitches close to the strike zone," said Manager Manny Acta. "That means he's trusting his hands." 

Terry Pluto has a piece up on Pronk and the dubious shoulder injury that has ravaged the past two years of his career. From a MVP Candidate to an "overpaid, half-talent Hack that may have been on the juice" in a matter of years.

It has taken awhile to get to this point, but the root of the matter is this, Hafner is healthy. He feels no more soreness and the fact that you see him hitting in games in back to back spring training games can reassure you of that. Last year, that would have never happened. During the season you would always wonder if Hafner would be in the lineup on a day to day basis, never knowing if he was going to feel sore or not.

Now, it would appear as if that won't be a concern.

Now as far as the hitting goes, that is coming around as well. It is only spring, but with five extra base hits, including a few moon shot home runs, and a team-best 11 RBI on the spring, there is reason to believe Pronk is getting his swing back.

As Pluto also notes, his 14/4 K/BB spring in 2009 is a complete 180 from the 4/11 K/BB this spring. Pluto says a product of that is the non-soreness in his shoulder. It's let him start his swing quicker and it is also increasing his confidence, which is going to give him better pitch selection.

In the few games I've seen televised where Hafner has played, I've noticed a lot sharper Pronk. He isn't swinging at some of those pitches he swung at the past two years, he's starting to reclaim a batting eye that is superb.

I've got reason to believe in him. We don't need meaningless spring statistics to base that feeling off of either. All we need is the reassurance of his health.

Grady Sizemore

I'll be brief in these remarks for one simple reason.

I never lost faith in Grady Sizemore. Last year in my mind, was a fluke due to injuries. It was plain as day that Sizemore's abdominal injury sustained in spring was impacting both the way he ran the bases and swung the bat. Then it became apparent even more that the elbow issues was impacting his power stroke.

Mark Shapiro, the floor is yours.

"Watching Grady Sizemore this spring really shows how much he was hurt last season. He's faster. He is swinging with more authority. You can see he's feeling well, he's very confident."  
Health, Check..

Quietly, Sizemore has also improved on that whole strikeout thing people have an issue with. Take note that he's walked nine times this spring compared to just two strikeouts. While it is a small sample and it is just spring training, the fact that his walk to strikeout ratio is that drastic has to tell you he's made some strides in that department.

Productions, Super Check...

Let's move on.


Fausto Carmona

I think Anthony Castrovince put it best when he said in his latest piece on Carmona, that the biggest question mark of spring training for the Tribe has been an exclamation mark. When asked about 2007 Carmona, he answers...

"I want to be," he said. "But I don't think about that. Just throw strikes."

 Just throw strikes should become his mantra. Earlier in spring when Tim Belcher mentioned something about going out for a sixth inning, before the fifth had even happened, Carmona shrugged it off. He's maturing in a big way, not looking ahead in the least bit.

That was his biggest problem. Getting lost in the clouds. Thinking about other things on the mound, getting wrapped up on what just happened (when it was something bad, it would cause a snowball of badness), and not putting the mistakes behind him. Or he would look ahead and run into a wall.

Carmona needs to stay in the moment and it would appear as if he is. It is just spring training, but I did a little piece on Bleacher Report a few weeks ago that suggests that maybe there are circumstances in which we should say, who cares if it is just spring training or winter league performances?

When a guy is dominating like Fausto Carmona is, who cares. Of course with Fausto's issues, it matters a lot. He'll get a big test this Thursday when he starts "just a spring training game" in Los Angeles at Dodgers' Stadium.

But really, when someone dominates in this fashion, you kind of have to take notice and at least say, he isn't going to be as bad as we thought.

In 20 innings, he's surrendered just one run off just eight hits and two walks (the ultimate problem that has plagued him) with nine strikeouts. Tim Belcher set a goal of 50 percent of his first pitches being strikes, something Carmona has reached. He's also getting the ground ball, as in his last start 12 of 21 outs were recorded via ground out, with only six coming via the flyball.

Oh and yesterday, Carmona was efficient as all get out, in his seven innings, he threw just 70 pitches. They had to let him throw the last ten in the bullpen after to get the other relievers in for work.That's ten pitches per inning. You can't get any better than that really. He faced just two batters over the minimum.

The Big Three

So here we are. I'm now calling them The Big Three because they are important to this club's success for the future. Many think it won't be until 2011 where this team is contending, if they even think that. And that is realistic.

But Carmona is signed to a long term contract. While three of those years are options for the club to decide on, he comes at a cheap price if he's going to be the best pitcher on staff. Grady Sizemore is locked up for a few more years as well and I'm sure they would love to give him a long term deal if he is willing.

Hafner is locked up for some serious cash over the next few years as well. He has been a waste of money based off the injuries, which sucks because Hafner is a simply a great guy who tries his best. It would be great for him to be able to come back and "earn" that money that he was given so he doesn't have to live with fans of his own team making a big deal about it.

Maybe I'm falling into a trap of false hope with the likes of Hafner and Carmona, I don't know. But I do know they used to be great and the "eye-test" has been passed in terms of what they've done this spring. It is beyond statistics, it is on first hand accounts. It is beyond the "field of play" and into between the ears and in Hafner's case, between the shoulder blades.

This club will make noise if The Big Three is on track. More noise than people think.

Quick Notes

I'm testing a new format.. Maybe once and awhile I'll take a bigger issue like the one I just tackled, handle it and then get into the rest of the news, quickly ans swiftly. This won't be a normal thing, but maybe something I'll try more often.

I linked and referenced Pluto's scribbles column from yesterday twice already. There are other important notes. As Pluto points out, the club has made just 14 errors, but only one has been made by a projected opening day starter (Jhonny Peralta). Wes Hodges, Brian Bixler, Jason Donald, and Shelley Duncan account for half of the errors and they will all be starting in Columbus.

Also check out Pluto's usual Sunday thoughts on Cleveland column. He tackles mainly rotation issues but also questions Luis Valbuena as a long term answer at second.

Carmona and Sizemore pretty much powered the win yesterday. The Indians are now 3-0 since Manny Acta began starting the regulars normally and getting them at least three at-bats. Along with Sizemore's two hits, Peralta had two and Hafner knocked in the other run. Grady's solo shot was his second of the spring. He also stole his second base.

Joe Smith and Tony Sipp have been struggling all spring, but they both turned in perfect innings yesterday. No walks or hits for the Smipp combo.

The plan for Russell Branyan is to play in a minor league game on Monday and make his long awaited Cactus League debut on Tuesday. That is the plan at least. Time is ticking for Branyan to get his feet under him if he wants to be on the field come opening day. Branyan said it isn't the at-bats so much as the grind of playing a full game in the field. Gee, sounds like he should be a DH.

Aaron Laffey has three reasons to be okay with the move to the bullpen. 1.) It's good for the Indians, 2.) His starting career is far from over, 3.) He won't be in the minor leagues.

Paul Hoynes answers questions in Hey Hoynsie. Of note, there is no insurance on Kerry Wood's contract like there was with Jake Westbrook. That being said, it would take more than a month or two of missed action for insurance to probably even kick in.

Today, Carlos Carrasco makes his final case for the final rotation spot in his start against the Angels in Tempe.

The Indians will not be sending out a lot of regulars today as they have been in the past few games, probably because the game is away. Here is the lineup.

CF Brantley, 3B Grudzielanek, RF Choo, LF Kearns, 1B LaPorta, DH Buscher, 2B Rodriguez, C Marson, SS Hernandez

Enjoy your Sunday. I have a busy Monday on tap, but I'll still try and make time before my class tomorrow to make a post. I make no promises, if I do, it will be short and sweet.

3.27.2010

Mitch Talbot Wins Rotation Spot, Aaron Laffey...Loses?

Immediate reaction to the news that Aaron Laffey will be moved to the bullpen?

Disagreement.

But like most moves this team makes, I eventually warm up to it, especially if it goes right.

Now that doesn't mean I warm up to agreeing with it, but I warm up to at least living with it. And I guess that's what I can do now with Laffey in the pen, live with it.

Manager Manny Acta announced yesterday that Mitch Talbot would be in the rotation and that Aaron Laffey would be taking up one of the three vacant bullpen spots. Here is some justification by Acta on the move of Laffey to the pen.

"With the rotation that we have, I think a lot of clubs might load up with left-handers against our sinkerballers," manager Manny Acta said. "Then we'll have three guys out of the 'pen to throw from the left side."


"With [closer] Kerry Wood out [for six to eight weeks] and what Aaron is able to give us," Acta said, "it's what's best for the club." 

That I buy... I really do, I still don't agree, but I can see the merits of Laffey being in the bullpen, let me just say that itchy feeling I had a few days ago, turned out to be a rash. Well, okay no, but you get what I'm trying to say here.

As for the other rotation spot, that will not automatically go to David Huff. No he still has to beat out Carlos Carrasco, who put himself in a position for this with his last two outings and Huff and Laffey's inconsistencies this spring.

And in a way, the other two bullpen spots will go to the same three that were fighting for them before the Kerry Wood injury: Jensen Lewis, Jamey Wright, and Saul Rivera.

I think at this point, Wright is going to win one of them based on the fact that he has an out-clause on his contract that he can exercise before opening day, where as Rivera's out-clause isn't until May 15th. Jensen Lewis would be my pick for the other one, but you never know because he has an option year left.

Let me remind you of 40-man roster obligations though. Wright and Rivera would both need to be added if that was the case and I think that also had something to do with Laffey getting the job. If you also have to make room for one of Austin Kearns and Mark Grudzielanek or even both, AND the Wright/Rivera duo, you are having to make a lot of 40-man moves.

So for that reason alone, Lewis could make the squad (and that is probably something I'd go with).

Look here are some of the pros of this move.

Talbot, Huff, and Laffey could all make the opening day roster in this scenario. Huff potentially doesn't need to be optioned to Triple-A either.
The club won't have to clear another 40-man roster spot to get someone like Rivera or Wright on the team.
The bullpen now has a true long-relief man in Laffey.
Laffey doesn't have to go to Triple-A for the third straight start to the season.
Laffey is the only one of the four starters in competition that has a successful track record out of the bullpen.

If you ask me, they far out-weight the cons, which I struggle to come up with as many. I just think the biggest con in this all is the fact that Aaron Laffey may take this the way he took losing out to Scott Lewis last year. But then again he took the move to the bullpen last year in stride after he realized he handled the Lewis thing the wrong way (And Acta says Laffey took it well and that "he just wants to pitch."). Acta said, Laffey didn't lose the rotation battle, but it was simply a decision that sounded best after the Wood injury.

In fact, if anything this says a lot in terms of how much they trust Laffey again. To be able to trust him enough to move him to the bullpen is kind of big. Most guys couldn't handle that. So in a way I guess it is a positive for Laffey, but you just wonder. I think the kid deserves some consistency in terms of his role and a shot at the big leagues. Now he hasn't done much to help it with injuries, but it seems like the Indians have a hand in it as well.

I think he can be a viable major league starter. We've seen him do it. It just is a matter of staying on the field and in the same role. He hasn't had that part.

Oh and going off with what Tim Belcher said kind of. He said Mitch Talbot had nothing left to prove at Triple-A. In a way, that is the same case with Laffey. He doesn't have anything else to prove at Triple-A. Heck even David Huff doesn't have anything to prove, but with all the options he has left, it would have been alright in a way.

Anyway, going off what Belcher said about Talbot, here is what Manny Acta had to say about Talbot and his rotation job victory.

"Mitch came to camp and impressed everybody," said Acta. "He threw strikes. He showed the ability to, maybe, go through the lineup three times. He's pitched a ton of innings in Triple-A." 

Talbot deserves that spot. He definitely earned it this spring. Let's hope this turns out to be a nice little pickup. Everyone bashed it, saying we didn't get enough for Kelly Shoppach. You weren't going to get much to begin with as he was a salary dump. If they can get a consistent fourth or fifth starter out of it though, I think anyone would take that.

Anyway there was a game yesterday and we'll revisit the final battles when they are announced in the coming days. Jake Westbrook took the Cactus League hill for the final time this year, as he will not pitch against the White Sox this coming Wednesday so they don't get an early look in his final tune-up game.

"I felt great, but the ball was all over the place," said Westbrook. "I was supposed to go six or seven innings.To go five is disappointing, but stuff wise and health wise I felt great."

Westbrook walked five and gave up seven hits (not good) in his four plus innings. He came out for the fifth, loaded the bases and was yanked due to pitch count. Saul Rivera came in, let one run in, but then got out of the jam with no further damage (I constitute that as good for a relief pitcher).

Rivera then ended up giving up his first earned run of the spring in the next inning. Jamey Wright got into the action as well, pitching an inning himself. He gave up a run off a hit and two walks. If anything we learned not much in that bullpen battle.

Rafael Perez pitched a solid eighth inning and Chris Perez earned the save despite walking the leadoff hitter on four pitches. He was able to strike out the side. Acta wasn't a fan of the walk, but he made good by the three K's if you ask me.

Westbrook's final line: 4 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 3 K.

To limit himself to just two runs with all those base-runners, credit to him (and Saul Rivera for getting him out of that jam). But still, as Jake said he was all over the place. Sinkerballers like him have those games though, so you just never know. Thankfully he has one more game before opening day, he'll probably be stretched to 100 pitches and we'll go from there. He will pitch Wednesday in a minor league contest.

When I put the lineup on the entry yesterday, it had the normal Choo, Hafner, Peralta. Well it turns out Acta threw a curveball and put Peralta ahead of Hafner. Why? I still don't know and I guess none of the reporters asked him.

It didn't stop Shin-Soo Choo from having a great game though and it even got Peralta an RBI. Choo was productive in all three at-bats. Even though he recorded outs in two of them, he was able to knock in runs via the sac-fly and a groundout. He also doubled in a run the old fashioned way. Jhonny Peralta had RBI off his hit.

Hafner didn't benefit from the move as he went 0-3 with a walk. Wyatt Toregas had two hits to raise his spring average to .261. The Indians stole three bases on the day. Asdrubal Cabrera, Austin Kearns, and Michael Brantley all swiped bags, with Brantley also getting caught once.

Cabrera talked about the leaoff-two hole switch. He says its pretty much the same job for him.

"Hitting leadoff or second, for me, it's the same job," Cabrera said. "I just try to get on base. You know what I mean. I just try to be on base, that's it. I don't put any extra pressure on myself." 

All in all, 2-0 are the Indians since "the regulars are getting a majority of the time."

Next... Fausto Carmona will go for the Indians at Goodyear against the Diamondbacks today. I myself will be in Pittsburgh taking in a hockey game.

Finally in minor league news... Tony says that Brian Bixler looks to be the utility guy in Columbus, but may even be pushing Josh Rodriguez for the second base job. Jason Donald will be the shortstop.

Three players knocked in three RBI or more for Mahoning Valley against Cincinnati yesterday. That Takafumi Nakamura guy pitched a scoreless inning. Tony said Omar Aguilar, acquired in exchange for Chuck Lofgren, is down in the velocity department.

3.26.2010

I'm one big simulation, so you can't trust me

Thanks Ohio... Your birthday gift to me was a nice layer of snow. The sun is out now though, so hopefully by the time I leave the house, I won't have to brush snow off my car. I thought I was finished with that weeks ago.

I once asked my parents why I couldn't have my birthday party at a swimming pool. It never occurred to me that my birthday fell at the start of spring, where in Ohio, that means we still may have snow on the ground. On top of that, no swimming pool is ever opened at the end of March.

So as my swimming pool birthday party dreams die, so does the hopes of one starter making his bid to join the Cleveland Indians rotation.

I'm proud of that segue, thanks for asking.

The rotation battle is heating up and according to Tim Belcher and Manny Acta, there is a fourth contender in this contest. After his nine straight scoreless innings in the past two games, Carlos Carrasco has stated a case to be considered for the job.

"He's pitched his way right into the conversation," Belcher said of Carrasco. "Not that he wasn't before, but he was on the younger end of all those guys, with less experience at Triple-A and less experience at the big league level. Early on, you just figure the best thing for him would be going to [Triple-A] Columbus. But with the way he's pitched, and with Huff and Laffey struggling a little bit, he's going to stay right in the mix until the middle of next week."

Castrovince also indicated that while Belcher didn't say so directly, Mitch Talbot pretty much has one of those spots. That leaves one spot for Aaron Laffey, David Huff, and Carrasco.

Two of them pitched yesterday, with Huff starting and Laffey following. Both will have another opportunity early next week, while Carlos is expected to man the bump on Sunday. We'll probably get the verdict after Laffey and Huff both get their work in next week. So I'll pinpoint Wednesday or Thursday as the day we get the news.

Let's assume that Carrasco still needs AAA seasoning and that while the Indians are entertaining the possibility because he's pitched well, they aren't serious about actually giving him the fifth rotation spot. That means we are once again down to Laffey and Huff.

Both went yesterday, so we can look at their numbers in full. If Acta and Belcher are basing this decision off spring performance then I don't see how Laffey can lose out to Huff. And I love Huff, I really do. But look at the numbers. However if they want to take their game plan of throwing strikes into account, it really is hard to pick.

Huff: 1-1, 5.40 ERA, 16.2 IP, 3 HR, 8/5 K/BB
Laffey: 1-1, 3.07 ERA, 14.2 IP, 0 HR, 6 K/5 BB

Both have walked five hitters, so at that point you have to go beyond the statistics available to us, and they have to base their decision on who's thrown more strikes on who's actually thrown more strikes (and I'm sure they've kept count) as well as who's been routinely working ahead in the count more often than not.

So really, we can look at those numbers and say Laffey wins, but there is a reason Acta keeps saying nice things about Huff as well as Laffey. Despite the runs given up, both have executed the game plan that Acta and Belcher desire the same way, on the surface.

Yesterday was rougher for Huff as he walked three of his five, while Laffey only walked one. Laffey however gave up just two hits and no runs, while Huff surrendered a solo shot to Jack Wilson. If you are wondering how many regulars were still in for the Mariners when Laffey came in, look at the boxscore. Not many regulars even started to begin with.

Going back to the game plan thing for a second. Acta did say Huff would have liked to throw more strikes. He was much more praising of Laffey as he said he threw a lot of first-pitch strikes. Advantage still seems to be Laffey based off that. Terry Pluto (more in a second) seemed to indicated Acta was more praising of Laffey as he wasn't behind in the count like Huff was.

So we'll see, there is another game left and then we'll know more. Their next performances could very well decide who gets the rotation spot and who is in Columbus. I still think even though they will wait till the figure out the rotation to decide on the bullpen, that neither is going into the pen.

Oh and as far as Talbot goes, he actually pitched in the minor league game for Columbus. He gave up one earned (three total) in six innings. I'm sure the Indians will give him one more Cactus League start. Hoynes said the fact that they decided to put Talbot in the minor league game, means they probably aren't really looking for him to "compete" but rather get his work in. Meaning, he's won a rotation spot. That makes sense.

While the Mariners fielded a lineup of regulars and backups initially, Cleveland fielded a lineup of mostly regulars and most of them played a lot of the game. Acta wanted to get a lot of the regulars starting at the same time with about a week left and he's doing just that.

Every starter got three at-bats before they all eventually were replaced in the lineup (minus Marson and Brantley). Travis Hafner was 2-2 with a walk and a run scored after he doubled and scored on a wild pitch. He's now hitting .313 on the spring and I'm even more optimistic that we've got our Pronky somewhat back. Michael Brantley had the lone RBI on the day for the Indians, despite the fact that they won 3-1.

And now everyone forgets about Brantley rolling his ankle, happy times.

On the Seattle side, a few former Indians (and there is no shortage of them with Seattle) now Mariners played in the game. Ryan Garko DHed and hit cleanup and collected two hits (also stole a base, what?). The other former Indian was Milton Bradley who made a little news after colliding with Lou Marson in a play at the plate. Bradley tried to score on a grounder to third, Peralta threw to Marson and Marson blocked the plate. Hoynes described the play as Marson on the "receiving end of a double forearm shot" from Bradley.

What is this, wrestling? Bradley spoke, but I don't think he ripped off his shirt to reveal the nWo logo.

"If it was anybody else, you wouldn't be asking me that question. I just reacted. There was no ill intention. It was just a baseball play."

Shockingly, I agree with Milton here. He is right. I think Milton is a punk and I don't like him. But this is a case of the media egging him on a bit because it is his former club. It was a baseball play and I tend to think that Hoynes wording makes it sound like he was intending to destroy Marson. When you charge the plate and the catcher has the ball, you kind of need to try and dislodge the ball. He probably wasn't attempting to kill Marson, but he needed to get the ball out of there.

So, for probably the only time in my life, I'll take Bradley's side.

Now the Indians won and it was yet another win in this glorious spring training run, but as we know, it really doesn't matter. I'll go ahead and say this though. Now that Acta is rolling out a lineup that is expected to be the lineup regularly to start the season, I'm curious to see how the record is from here on out.

I'm most interested in the record from here on out. 1-0, let's keep track till the end of the season.

Obviously, there are still going to be backups coming in, but the starters are going to get the majority of the at-bats. Pitchers who will be on the roster will get the majority of the innings the rest of this spring.

So let's put a little stock into this final week-plus of action, because it really does matter. Matt LaPorta had a great quote on what Acta is trying to establish with this.

"I think the way he's looking at it is that this is the beginning of the season," said Matt LaPorta. "His goal is to run these guys out there so when April 5 [the season opener in Chicago] rolls around, guys are ready to play."

While I have you here Matt, I need to bring this up. Terry Pluto has arrived in Goodyear and he's scribbling in his notebook, this is good news.

Terry always seems to bring up something that makes you smack your head when he brings it up. How come I didn't realize this?

Matt LaPorta hasn't played a LICK of outfield this spring. Not a single inning. What does that say about Russell Branyan's status? Uh, nothing good. If the Indians were preparing for Branyan to be the guy, they most certainly would have had LaPorta taking reps in the outfield and playing someone like Marte at first. The constant first base playing leads me to believe Branyan isn't going to be ready and Pluto even said it is "a long shot" that he is.

Pluto is a busy man. He had another full piece on the previous issue we were talking about with starting the season. He compares the attitude Wedge took, to the one Acta is taking. He brings up a lot of good points as usual. Give it a read.

Okay I was tweeting this stuff yesterday but let me go ahead and do it again here.

I got my trio of magazine's in the mail yesterday. Every two weeks, ESPN, Sporting News, and Sports Illustrated all arrive at the same time. This week, SN and ESPN had their baseball preview editions since they only put out issues twice a month. I expect SI's next week.

Let's start with Sporting News, who picked the Indians to finish fifth, behind everyone, obviously.

I usually use SN's as a reference more than anything, especially when I'm assembling my own baseball previews. It's a nice guide when I need an up-to-date lineup and rotation for all the teams in one place.

But I don't put a whole lot of stock into things they say opinion wise. And I don't for ESPN either. I factor it into my whole opinion though.

One thing I laughed at was their listed biggest weakness for the club. Every team has a "Here Comes Trouble..." (which is the name of most of my Fantasy Football, Basketball, and Hockey teams, I also own a shirt with that phrase) with a scout's take on their biggest weakness.

Here is what it says for the Indians: They're a heavy-lefthanded-hitting team with Grady Sizemore, Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, and Russell Branyan-that's basically all of their power-so they could be vulnerable to lefthanded pitching. Matt LaPorta needs needs to give them more of a rightnanded pinch. They'll certainly be in the bottom half of this division.

THAT is the biggest weakness?

Here are the left-handers in SN's projected starting rotations for the rest of the AL Central: Francisco Liriano (MIN), Mark Buherle (CHW), John Danks (CHW), Nate Robertson (DET).

Cleveland has all the left-handers! That's 4 pitchers out of 20 in the division that are left-handers, and there is no guarantee they'll face one every series. Who knows if Nate Robertson will even make the Detroit rotation.

My point is, it isn't a big deal. There are far more bigger weaknesses on this team than their heavy left-handed hittingness.

They've also got things like All-Division team and division bests. Sizemore is the only Indian on their all-division team according to Chris Singleton, ESPN analyst and SN AL Writer Ryan Fagan (who pretty much is the opinion in this AL Central preview) doesn't have an Indian in the "Best of the AL Central" category.

Now let's get to the ESPN preview, because this is far more interesting, mainly because little of it is opinion. And as interesting as opinion is, numbers and simulations provide a lot of things that at least make you think.

What they did was basically simulate the season 100 times using Baseball Think Factory's "ZiPS" system. I don't know what that is. Obviously when you google "ZiPS" the second link is the athletic website for my beloved Akron Zips.

I don't know what it is, but it does project the season, so let's just get to the results. Buster Olney (AL) throws his stuff in as well. As you could expect, after 100 simulations, the AL Central is even more of a mess than it would be after one time.

Everyone won the division at least twice, and they only had one wild card winner (Cleveland, sucka). Here are the numbers and their projections based off the 100 simulations.

Team: AVG Wins/AVG Losses/Most Wins/Most Losses
Twins: 82.2/79.8/96/98
Indians: 78.9/83.1/96/99
White Sox: 76.4/85.6/94/99
Tigers: 74.4/87.6/91/105
Royals: 73.3/88.7/85/109

Second place? Sign me up. Here is where it gets interesting though.

Obviously the Twins finished first the most times with 48.5, nearly half the simulations. So who made up the other parts?

The Royals won 2.5 times (.5 for the record must mean they tied for first) and the Tigers 8 times. Chicago surprisingly finished first just 18.5 times.

There is still a large chunk missing, are you telling me these projections had the Indians finishing first in the AL Central more than every other team besides the Twins?

Yuuuuup!

22.5 times the Cleveland Indians finished first in the division. And people think this team is going to finish last? I'm not saying the 22.5 is the reason they won't, but there is something there. If these projections think the Indians can win the division 22 times out of 100, compared to the 10 combined times the Royals and Tigers can... Well I'm just saying.

For the record, my official AL Central preview at Bleacher Report is coming next Wednesday, and my full projections next Friday a week from now. But I will clue you in to where I'm leaning in the division.

White Sox, Twins, Indians, Tigers, Royals.

Not too totally different from ESPN and BTF's projection machine, but different from all the other prognostications (not many people have the same AL Central finish anyway, so whatever).

I just find this very cool and uplifting. There are some numbers behind the belief that the Indians won't suck and actually can make some noise. Realistically, this team could finish second in my mind. But also realistically, if things go bad, they could very well finish last. That is a product of the AL Central, but also the product of the unknowns on this roster. If things go right, good things can happen, if things go wrong, bad things WILL happen.

All in all though, please take preseason predictions with just a little bit of caution because we know how they usually turn out. They are fun right now, but in a few weeks, they won't matter at all. The 22.5 is fun and again, uplifting, for us right now and it means something, but it doesn't mean everything.

Next week, when SI comes out with their projections, I'll go around and compile "predictions" from around the web and publications like I did last year in the Spring Training Primer revisited. So stay tuned for that.

Also stay tuned for a little something I'll be doing with simulations.. Oh this is going to be fun.

I'm a big fan of Out of the Park Baseball. And one cool thing about being a member of the Baseball Bloggers Alliance is this opportunity some of us have received. I will be simulating the 2010 season using the latest version of OOTP (11) and be reviewing it right here on the site. I'll of course focus a little more on the AL Central and the Cleveland Indians, since this is a Tribe blog, but if you know me, you know I have stuff to say about all of baseball.

But look forward for that in the coming weeks and check out their game. If you are not familiar with OOTP, it is a fun thing for people who like the "franchise mode" aspect of baseball games. If you were the type that constantly created a franchise to run, where you traded for players and managed the team more than you actually played the game, it gets no better than this. I know when I had MVP Baseball for PS2 I was always creating a new franchise and playing that. Same for the Show.

By the by, for the Wii, I made the incredibly awful decision to buy MLB 2K10. Apologies to the folks who made the game, but it bites. There is no online capability and no "single player" mode like Road to the Show or the mode that the XBOX360 and PS3 versions have. So I can't get updated rosters. Not to mention the baserunning is complete junk. I got cost a game yesterday when I had the bases loaded and all of a sudden, Andy Marte took off from second. I was down two, bottom of the ninth with two outs and I had Frank Francisco on the ropes.

Side-tracked, sorry. Anyway check out OOTP if you like this simulation stuff. I waste a bunch of that free time I don't know what to do with with OOTP. You can control all the players in the system from Cleveland to the Rookie Arizona team. It's great. And if you are someone who usually buys the latest OOTP, if you order now, you get it cheaper than what it will be when they officially release it ($30 bucks as opposed to $40 bucks).

Moving on to a final few notes.

I love this quote from Shin-Soo Choo in Hoynes' latest on the Indians right fielder.

"Grady told me to try the flip-down glasses," said Choo. "I tried them one day and said, 'cool.' With sunglasses the sun is always big. With the flip downs, the sun is really big; when you flip them down, the sun is really small. It feels better."

I tried them one day and said... cool... He's so smooth.

Today, Jake Westbrook makes the start against the Colorado Rockies. With the White Sox scheduled the next time he is scheduled to make a start, this could be his last official appearance as the Indians will not want his final tuneup game to be against the first team he's going to face. He would pitch in a minor league game if that is the case.

The lineup remains much of the same at the top from yesterday as Acta continues to try and mesh things together. There are some changes though, with players who very well could be on the opening day roster.

SS Cabrera, CF Sizemore, RF Choo, DH Hafner, 3B Peralta, LF Kearns, 2B Grudzielanek, 1B Marte, C Toregas.

Finally in the latest Inbox, Anthony Castrovince provided a small update on the status of Juan Lara, who's career got put on hold a few years ago after a car accident in Latin America and then made a surprising comeback within the system last season. Officially, Lara was not re-signed, but he was offered the use of facilities in the Dominican Republic over the winter. As for his status now, not much is known.

3.24.2010

Your Fausto Looks so Good on that Side of the Mound

Ahhhh I'd rather be working...

That sounds like a bumper sticker... I'm over this semester though. I have a month plus left to go and some annoying things that I still have to complete. I don't want to.

I'd rather be working.

Posting about Fausto Carmona will have to do. I'm still on work-schedule sleeping style and I think I'm going to stay on it for awhile. I'm up at six, doing things like this, before my classes on Tuesday and Thursday it's no biggie as I get up a half hour later usually.

And I pissed because I started this post yesterday, and actually had it finished yesterday as I worked on it between classes. Then blogger screwed me and I lost half of it. So I got angry and decided to not redo it. I hate redoing things, it's the worst. I hate the feeling knowing that I already did something, and thinking it was damn near perfect and now I have to try and remember how I did it. I also hate in this instance re-going through the links and trying to remember which ones I need to re-add.

Anyway today is Wednesday and I'm up early again. I fell asleep at like 9:30 on pure accident. Woke up at 1:30 hearing Jimmy Fallon and John Cena talk about WrestleMania. I have class at 9, but didn't bother setting my alarm because I knew I'd be up at six. This is how pathetic I've become.

Yeah none of this matters though, so let's talk about the awesome powers of Fausto.

Carmona was good Monday, like really good. You can look at the stats and determine that he was solid, but don't believe the stats, believe Mike Redmond and the people who watched Carmona first hand.

 "I can't believe he was any better in '07 than he was today," Redmond said after Carmona had set up -- and remained the talk of -- the Indians' 9-2 Cactus League win over the Cubs. "Those last two innings, he took it to another level. He was phenomenal."

"That was great to see -- especially against the Cubs' 'A' lineup," Acta said after Carmona had helped the Indians (12-5) remain the best of the Cactus League and of American League clubs in just about every important category. "He didn't even reach his pitch limit. That he could go six on 68 pitches tells you a lot." 

Lou Piniella said it was the best spring training start he's seen all year and that he made it look "relatively easy."

And here's the biggest thing... Mike Redmond said he could see the confidence in Carmona growing, and that's the key there. If Carmona can stay out of his own head and be confident about what he's throwing, he'll be fine. Sure the Indians are trying to get him to throw more strikes and fix his mechanics and get him to be more of a "pitcher" in the grand scheme of things. 

But he also needs to stay grounded.

Carmona said he felt comfortable with Mike Redmond, so I wouldn't be surprised if that whole "personal catcher" thing developed with Redmond and Carmona this year. Maybe not every start, but a majority of his starts at least. Redmond said he thinks Carmona feels comfortable and he likes caddying for Fausto.

Day After Edit: I kept that the way I had it because I wanted to look like a prophet. It was reported yesterday that Mike Redmond is actually going to be Carmona's personal catcher. I was wrong about "maybe not every start" but I'll take it.

Oh and the final line: 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K
His ERA now sits at 0.69, where he and Mitch Talbot carry some of the lowest spring ERAs so far.

The other pitchers yesterday included Jamey Wright and Saul Rivera, both fighting for a bullpen spot now with Kerry Wood out and they both put up zeros. Rafael Perez has been having a great spring, but he gave up two unearned runs Monday in the ninth. He did give up three hits, but he didn't walk anyone. So who knows what happened there. But I equate Perez as the Carmona of the bullpen. The Indians need him to come through.

Since I brought up Perez, we might as bring up the bullpen. Tim Belcher says it's pretty much up to Perez in terms of what's happening with set-up roles.
"That's up to Manny," said Belcher. "It's more up to Raffie than anybody. If he continues to pitch like his has this spring in the first couple of weeks of the regular season, I don't see why he couldn't be."

We cannot forget what Perez did. He has the stuff to be dominant. For whatever reason last year, he had issues. His mechanics were not right and no one could fix them and his slider suffered because of it.

That bullpen battle may not be as clear as Rivera, Wright, Jensen Lewis (Struggled yesterday), and Hector Ambriz. Acta says he wants his relievers to be able to go more than one inning if possible.

Why do I get an itchy feeling we may see one of those starters here? And the most likely candidate is Aaron Laffey, because of his past success in the role. I'm not a huge fan of that idea, but I wouldn't exactly fight til death about the issue.

Castrovince says the loser of the rotation battle will probably be in Columbus though, as they provide more value as depth to the rotation than in the pen. Hopefully the Indians see it that way.

On Monday offensively it was another onslaught, led by Austin Kearns once again. Kearns hasn't just gotten himself back in the race for a roster spot, he's pretty much stated his case. He went 2-2 with a walk, a double and two runs scored, upping his average to .300. Seriously, he must have heard me calling him a scrub the other day, because now he isn't hitting like one. 

The final two weeks is going to be an interesting battle between Crowe and Kearns.

Matt LaPorta continues to hit the crap out of the ball with two more hits, including an RBI. Jhonny Peralta and Mike Redmond joined him in the RBI parade, while speedy outfielders Jose Constanza and Donnie Webb both knocked in a pair themselves.

Matt's status is still up in the air because Russell Branyan's status is up in the air. He could start at first if Branyan isn't ready, but he seems headed for left field if Branyan is healthy. We're finally starting to hear some stuff on him, which is a lot more substantial, which is why I've been relatively quiet about his situation. 


Branyan will have to play in a game next week in order for the Indians to feel comfortable him not starting the year on the DL. He thinks a week is enough and I'm sure the Indians won't argue if it avoids him taking a trip to the DL to start the season.


It's been a slow process, but until next week, I'm going to continue to not worry about it. If he can't go, it will probably be a combination of Kearns and Crowe in left with LaPorta at first. Michael Brantley is going to Triple-A, come hell or high water.


Brantley by the by is okay according to himself with the injured ankle that he rolled.

Cuts were made yesterday... Expect some more as the week winds down and the battle for roster positions gets tighter.


Jess Todd, the one on the 40-man was optioned to Triple-A, while everyone else was reassigned to minor league camp. Josh Judy, Frank Herrmann, Mike Gosling, Yohan Pino, Brian Bixler, Damaso Espino, and Shelley Duncan all were re-assigned. 


I think you will probably see all but Espino in Columbus. Gosling could get outright cut himself, but all are probably ticketed for Triple-A. 


Brantley could be in the group that is next to go, as well as Carlos Carrasco, who saved the day with five shutout innings in the game against Milwaukee yesterday. Actually, he didn't really save anything as the game was over and it doesn't matter, but after Jeremy Sowers laid an egg, he was stellar.

Five innings, two hits, two walks, four punchouts. Combine that with the four shutout innings he threw a few days ago and you have to start feeling good about the progress he is making. Acta said he was aggressive in the zone and that he showed all of his good pitches.


Sowers' demolishing yesterday is just more evidence that he'll start the year on the Disabled List. He isn't nearly ready to start the year as a starter and the Indians will not put him in the bullpen. He still has to build up his workload.


Finally... John Mirabelli spoke out about the suspensions and releasings that occurred with the three international additions from this offseason. I wondered the other day about what the heck was going on with this and Mirabelli simply said he didn't feel sorry for these players and placed blame on the trainers and the culture.


Manny Acta is close to the situation, being from the Dominican, said there is a lot of work to do, but the MLB is making a strong effort. The Indians response to the recent happenings is the implementing of their own drug testing procedures. Mirabelli says it's all but finalized.


"We still have some I's to dot and T's to cross as far as the legal part is concerned. We're very close to doing our own drug testing prior to these guys signing a contract."

"We see a player, we evaluate him. We verbally agree on a contract. Then we say you're taking a drug test before we sign the contract. It's an added expense to the process, but we're going to try and include our own procedures." 

There is an off-day today, the first, only, and last scheduled one of Cactus League play. The crew will be back at it tomorrow for the stretch run against Seattle. David Huff and Aaron Laffey will get one of their final shots to prove themselves in the rotation race as they both pitch. 

I felt like this post was all over the place and I'm forgetting something. I probably am. I'm still pissed about losing my post yesterday. Oh well.. Also the formatting on the post is all screwed up and I don't have the time to fix it, so apologies for that. I blame the editing I had to do to make it look like everything didn't happen yesterday... Grr



3.22.2010

I Got My Pronk Back; Kearns Makes 4th OF Spot a Race

He must have heard me call him a "Washington Scrub" yesterday, because he went out and was un-scrub like.

Austin Kearns homered twice, totaled five RBI in yesterday's game against the Dodgers.

Kearns had a pair of two-run shots, as well as another RBI and run scored in his big game. Not only was it his first visit to Souvenir City (Curse you Eric Young) it was the first RBI of the spring for Kearns. He's now hitting .250 and giving Trevor Crowe a run for his money for the fourth outfield job.

You know we got Kearns, Anderson Hernandez, Saul Rivera. Guys Manny Acta knows from Washington. Washington Scrubs seems to fit for their name as a group.

And now, according to Acta, just like the pitchers, he is tied for first with Crowe and everyone else for the roster spots.

"He's just like everybody else, he's tied for first place right now," said Acta. "He's a right-handed bat with a track record and some power. He can play all three outfield positions and he's been taking ground balls at first base

Sorry Manny, but not everyone is tied. So don't give us that impression.

I understand what he's saying, but Shelley Duncan is not tied with Crowe and Kearns for a bench spot right now.

Same for the bullpen, and I may have legit left out someone from it yesterday when I went over the remaining candidates.

Seriously throw Josh Judy into the mix. Judy pitched 1.1 innings yesterday, not giving up a single thing and his spring ERA remains 0.00. He hasn't pitched above Akron, but I wouldn't exactly count him out completely just yet. It will be unlikely, but I wouldn't eliminate the youngster quite yet.

Also on the mound yesterday was our new closer, Chris Pererz. Bulldog CFP disposed of three minor leaguers in quick fashion, striking two of them out to keep his perfect ERA in tact.

The real story was Jake Westbrook though, who went 4.2 innings of work, giving up a run off six hits with three strikeouts and more importantly, no walks. The run came off a long ball shot from Blake DeWitt. Jake is steadily gaining control though. The mechanics are starting to get back to him and I'll say it one more time, things are getting coming back.

The offensive output all came in the 4th and 6th innings and while Austin Kearns powered a lot of it with his homers, that man was back.


Travis Hafner topped off his INSANE week at the plate, with three more RBI. I believe all 10 of his runs batted in came in this past week of action. Hafner had two hits, including a double he ripped down the line, and he scored on both Kearns jacks. He's now hitting .308 in the spring with a .471 OBP.

Do we have our Pronky back?

Grady Sizemore and Shelley Duncan both had two hits and a RBI. Sizemore scored twice and was on-base four times with two extra walks. Sizemore also stole his first base of the spring. Speaking of speed, Jose Constanza had the highlight of the game when he scored on an inside the park home run, but it was ruled a triple and an error because Xavier Paul "bobbled" the ball. I wouldn't know if it was legit or not because I only had the radio, but it's spring training, give the kid his inside the parker!

And one more note on speedy guys... Michael Brantley left yesterday's game due to a tweaked ankle. Manny Acta says we'll know more today, but he isn't expecting anything serious as Brantley was walking after the game.

Brantley rolled his ankle and has had ankle issues in the past, but again, this shouldn't be anything serious as he is believed to have just rolled it. A little rest will cure that.

Speaking of Brantley, Tony Lastoria was probably the first to bring up Brantley's service time as a reason for the Branyan signing. Now he's revealed that Brantley didn't stand a chance at winning the left field job from the get-go.

In his latest and final Goodyear Notebook, Tony mentions that Mike was told he had no chance of making the roster and that he was ticketed for Triple-A Columbus to finish off his development.

So despite the hitting, if Russell Branyan isn't ready to go, you could very well see Austin Kearns starting in Left Field to begin the season.

Other pieces to take stock of in the notebook from Tony... Another suspension and release. Manuel Boscan received a 50-gamer for testing positive to Stanozolol, an anabolic steroid that Rafael Palmerio tested positive for and the same drug that Barry Bonds was accused of using.

What is it with all these minor league suspensions of players we've never heard about? This didn't happen last year, did it? And if it did, why didn't we hear about it like we are this year? Ahhh anyway, Boscan was released, just as the previous two no-names were.

Finally, cuts are coming from the minor league portion. That means players are going to get out-right released and according to Tony, there could be players that had some good years involved. I would expect some starting pitchers to be on that list with all the added depth from last year. The Indians could be in a crunch for rotation spots, so some players may get the boot, especially with just about everyone starting the year healthy (minus Jason Knapp).

With that, you may have noticed my attempt to re-update the Depth Chart as the season draws closer. It's still a work in progress, but as players are getting sent down from major league camp to their respective teams, I'm putting them on the roster. Right now it's all guess work and going off of reports from people like Tony.

I should also have the expanded salary chart up soon. It's going to track service time in-season and I'll try and do that to the best of my abilities. I will also have bonus information so that can be tracked and added to get an even more precise number on the current payroll.

I'm still looking for salary numbers of all the people that signed their one year tenders (pre-arbitration players). Obviously if they are in the minor leagues they will make the minimum (around 65K) and they could have a split contract if called (Around 400K), but the major leaguers all make slightly different salaries (like Choo). If you run across them, please let me know so I can update the chart.

What's on tap for today... The Indians travel to face the Chicago Cubs in Mesa.

Fausto Carmona will get the start against former Notre Dame Wide Receiver Jeff Samardzija.

Carmona looks to follow that formula for success that Acta, Tim Belcher, and Scott Radinsky have been preaching to the pitching staff.

"We showed them how important it was to stop walking people and pitch ahead," said Acta. "And how dangerous it is to get behind in the count. We gave them every type of example possible. So far it's paid off." 

You have to admire the low walk rate so far. And you can't argue with the strategy because it has been successful so far. That's always the key to pitching though. It's common sense. If you don't walk people, you are forcing them to hit your pitch and 7 out of 10 times, even the good hitters won't hit it.

I didn't steal that quote from Acta, but rather remember him talking about something similar... Then I read this part.

"The best hitters make outs seven out of 10 times. You can't be too fine up here. The numbers we showed to them show how big a difference it makes to be 1-0, 2-0, 3-1 compared to 0-1 and 0-2 on a hitter."

Too early to relay pitchers following Carmona or the lineup, so be on the lookout for that on Twitter. Which gives me a good excuse to share the Paul Hoynes quote of the day via Twitter.

Ducks in the Desert, Who Knew?!