3.28.2011

Soon becomes sooner and sooner becomes closer

Can you believe we'll be seeing real live, actual counting for something baseball in a few days? I get giddy when we get to single digits, but even happier when I can say "a few days." Cause a few isn't many and is a little more than a couple, and a couple is pretty small.

[DOUBLE TROUBLE]

KEY PERFORMANCES - BOX SCORE -3/26
Grady Sizemore: 1/3, 2B
Shin-Soo Choo: 1/2, R, 2R HR, BB
Carlos Santana: 1/3, R, HR
Josh Tomlin: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R, BB, 5 K
Chad Durbin: 0.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 2 BB
Justin Germano: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB

I had a feeling Josh Tomlin would come out and have that type of outing after being named to the rotation, but maybe he will be using these last few starts as tune-up type games where he can work on some stuff.

He's been competing all spring, not really getting a chance to prepare for the season. He's pretty much been going since stepping off the plane. We can only hope. Note, he also threw two wild pitches.

Tomlin's start went under the radar not only because he officially has made the rotation, but because Grady Sizemore had quite the eventful day playing five innings in center field and getting three at-bats. He hit a double at the plate and in addition to got some serious action in the field, having to dive for a ball and also chase one down. He came up empty on both situations

At least he got test that knee out. Antonetti talked about his timetable and said that it was difficult because it is based off his progression that they have to basically play by ear with. Acta says he isn't anticipating Grady needing to be ready to play all the time when he is activated. Still they will want to have him at a point where he can play a good portion of the games every week.

"We're not going to hold him down here until he's ready to go every single day," Indians manager Manny Acta said, "because it's very tough to ask him to come up here and play 160 games like he used to, or 155, coming back from this type of surgery"

Choo and Santana both clobbered home runs and Hafner walked twice. Chad Durbin had some issues there in the sixth inning and the bullpen race stays heated with three of the competitors turning in shutout frames. Germano's was the cleanest while Todd and Herrmann gave up hits.
Michael Brantley is ready too.

KEY PERFORMANCES - BOX SCORE -3/27
Michael Brantley: 1/6, R, 2 RBI, 2B
Shin-Soo Choo: 2/5, R, 2 RBI, 2B
Carlos Santana: 1/4, RBI, BB, 2B
Austin Kearns: 3/3, R, BB
Fausto Carmona: 5 IP, 5 H, R (0 ER), BB, 3 K
Vinnie Pestano: 1 IP, H, 2 BB, K

Fausto Carmona is ready to go.

A settling final performance in Arizona for Carmona as he goes five innings without giving up an earned run. Carmona says he is ready for the season and happy about how he's thrown this spring. A confident Carmona could be a dangerous one for other hitters.

Have to feel real good about Fausto Carmona this spring and what he's shown. He definitely is this club's ace.

The Choo-Santana connection was at it again. These two just seem to both be doing their damage on a given day and it is nice to see. So much for Santana taking some of the pressure of Choo, they both seem to be benefiting hitting next to each other this spring.

In other news, Matt LaPorta continued his awful spring with a three-strikeout performance. You'll notice Santana struck out three times as well, but LaPorta left six on base and really has been doing this all spring.

The final tuneup for Carlos Carrasco is at 4:05 PM ET today in Goodyear. The Cubbies visit and Grady Sizemore is expected to be back in the lineup.

[DEFENDING THE DEFENSIBLE]

Much has been written about the horrible defense from last season and how there needed to be a concentrated effort to help out the large number of ground ball pitchers on the staff with some better infield wizardry.

The defense was a main point in one of Terry Pluto's latest notebook scribbles, mentioning that the starting infield has made just one error all spring combined. He also notes that the left-side was particularly bad (Hey Jhonny) and that according to their own stats, the Indians were the worst in the American League.

Terry has a quote from Acta in his latest Talking post, with Acta just oozing with glee about Asdrubal Cabrera and from Terry's vantage point, his defense looks better.

This kid's defense is such a key because he plays the most important position on the infield. You're shortstop should theoretically be your best defender because he has to make the longest throws and sort of be a general out there. Cabrera has always had the knack for making the spectacular play. I've always said he has gold glove caliber defensive abilities (some will disagree) but he hasn't exactly shown it consistently for one reason or another.

I think other than Orlando Cabrera, the other thing that will help Asdrubal and also the entire defense is having someone like Jack Hannahan there. I talked several times in the offseason about just signing Nick Punto to play third, even though he can't hit his weight. Hannahan serves the same purpose and he's done some hitting this spring that makes you think he can be at least serviceable.

"He came and did what was advertised of him," Acta said. "He played terrific defense and he's had a very good camp offensively." 

He is just one of the Indians feel good stories this spring, and they've had several with Travis Buck also making the squad. We all know Hannahan's story by now. What Antonetti says though is true, he came as advertised with the glove and everyone says that and that is a good thing. The more ground that the infield can cover, the better the defense will be. And it is more about that than making errors. Of course you don't want to make a ton of them, but they do happen. It just matters when they happen and if they happen routinely or not. Sometimes an error just happens. Sometimes they happen when they have no reason to.

You don't want them to happen when they have no reason to.

[ROSTER D-DAY]

Today is the day we find out the entire 25-man roster as the Indians say they will finalize everything. The bullpen spot is up for discussion, but Joe Smith has now been ruled out and they still need to name a backup catcher and get the NRI's on the squad.

About that backup catcher's spot. Lou Marson has been a big disappointment. Now we'll mention LaPorta in a bit and because he is in the plans, the talk is "oh he's working on stuff" or something sugar-coated. Which is perfectly fine, every team does it. But you'll notice when you've got someone fighting for a spot, the attitude shifts from "He's safe, he's just working on things" to "Well, we thought he would do more."


"I know that he expected more, too, himself," Acta said. "We all know that there's more in there than what Lou has shown. Earlier in camp, he swung the bat well. He just got into a little funk later here.

"It's kind of tough in camp, too, because when you're playing four guys, he's not playing every single day and it's kind of tough to not have a good day and wait a day or two more to get out there. He continues to work hard."

Acta did say that he thinks there is "more in there." Which is a sign of faith, but I think we all expected more and are a little disappointed in how he's swung the bat knowing he was the favorite to land the backup role if he just hit.

The Indians also have a utility spot to pick and perhaps that is why Nix, Valbuena, and Everett all got healthy playing time this weekend. Acta said they were in the process of settling on the final moves they need to make for the roster to be set.

One move that I thought they would make based off what was likely going to happen with Josh Rodriguez was give Valbuena the final utility role and send Nix packing. But that whole Josh Rodriguez thing, well the Pirates decided to keep him at the expense of him, well, not actually being ready for the major leagues.

Now, that's just a subjective opinion, but he was in competition for an infield job with Pittsburgh and got out-played at the plate, at least of the opinion of one Pirate beat-reporter. What really happened though is that the Indians really want him back, so they likely refused any sort of trade offer (unless the Pirates made it worth the Tribe's time to complete a deal, which they obviously didn't) and called Pittsburgh's bluff. Basically Pedro Ciriaco outplayed Rodriguez, but again, a player with options loses out.

And now the Pirates are carrying Rodriguez on their 25 man roster, which means he has to stay there, ALL YEAR. Can he do it? Will he end up right back in Columbus? Will he show everyone that the spring numbers were just down and he can handle a backup job at the major league level? Who knows, but right now, he remains property of the Pirates.

Now Rodriguez has turned it up as of late, so the numbers may have not looked good a few weeks ago, but now he's right there with what Ciriaco did this spring. So really, it sounds like it isn't the craziest thing in the world to believe in.

And to finish up talking about the Pirates, no Andy Marte did not make the team. Crisis averted.

Pedro Feliz meanwhile was cut. If there was no Jack Hannahan and Donald got hurt, the Indians might have been in position to swoop in and get him. Third is set with the Wildlife Expert though.

In minor league news the following players were released:

Pitchers: Omar Aguilar, Jeremy Johnson, David Roberts, Julio Ramirez, Vidal Nuno, Takafumi Nakamura, and Casey Gaynor
Catcher Juan Aponte
Outfielders: Kevin Rucker, Trent Baker, and Joel Torres

I'm really sad to see Vidal Nuno get tossed. He was productive as the 50th pick, but it really is a numbers game. So much for Taka Naka and his shuuto pitch.

[ABOUT THAT LINEUP]

There has been much hope from the defense as we talked about, the pitching has looked capable with virtually the same starters returning and a bullpen that looks to have options (or so we thought before injuries, remember that thing about bullpens being unpredictable?)... The one thing though that seems to be on everyone's minds is the offense.

Pluto has mentioned that last year he said the Indians will hit... This year he isn't so sure, but he thinks they'll hit better than they did last year. That's confidence.

Manny Acta feels good about it... I certainly do after seeing a healthy Santana follow a rockin' Choo this spring. Pluto calls the top of the lineup intriguing... It is because it looks to be very capable and probably the backbone of the offense (shouldn't it always be?) with Cabrera putting up a healthy spring performance and being followed by the previously mentioned heavy hitters.

But then the question marks start. One would be about Travis Hafner, the five hitter in the lineup. The concern is how often will he play and if he plays often, will that lead to fatigue and more disappointment? Why hasn't he been hitting for any power what so ever this spring? BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Well Acta, despite what he said earlier, says Hafner feels good and has had a better offseason, so, shackles off, for the most part.

"I'm not worried about Hafner," Acta said. "I think if he stays healthy and plays more often than he has in the last couple of years, which I'm anticipating, I think you can expect him to hit 25 home runs and drive in 90-100 runs."

 And he isn't starting the season with Hafner getting regulated playing time. Sure I think he'll have a plan in place where he gives strategic days off to Travis so he can rest and maybe not face certain lefties that present bad matchups, but I think we're going to see more of Pronk than we thought, if he remains healthy.

And Matt LaPorta has caused some concern this spring with his unsteady numbers at the plate. LaPorta says right now it doesn't matter where he hits and Acta has said that he's been working on things all spring, but the concern is there. Still, those numbers do get erased and officially, they don't count, come April 1st.

"Numbers don't say the whole story," Acta said. "He does have a lot of RBIs compared to the other guys. We're just looking for consistency. We're going to throw [the spring numbers] out and start seeing results on April 1 and really judge on that."

Acta admits the inconsistency, but he also dismisses horrific numbers for the most part. One thing Pluto mentions is that LaPorta, Hafner, and yet to mentioned Sizemore are all power hitters if they are healthy and right. He says odds are one will perform, but if two do, the lineup can look good.

Ultimately, he calls the bottom soft and injury prone, from 5 to 9, there are some issues.

And they are definitely looking to get Travis Buck into the mix, and who knows what he'll bring to the table. He certainly won't be as hot as he was in the spring, unless he is just that crazy. The main idea in getting Buck a lot of time early is the decision they'll likely have to make in a few weeks after Opening Day about Grady Sizemore. Someone gots to go and it doesn't look like Kearns or anyone else is in any danger, so it comes down to what does Buck do and do you keep Shelley Duncan?

[RANDOM RUNDOWN]

As mentioned, my Josh Tomlin piece went up, you can read that over at The Cleveland Fan. Terry Pluto also has a nice article on him that details how he went from maybe making the Columbus roster last season, to overwhelmingly being the choice to pick up the final rotation spot in Cleveland this season.

The piece talks about how he worked for a warehouse for $8 bucks an hour during one winter and how he had to sign before his senior year in fear of his draft position falling.

Pluto also noted in his one notebook that Aaron Laffey said he had the best spring of his life and with a 1.80 ERA in ten innings with Seattle, he has made the Opening Day Roster. Good for the Laughing Man, he deserves it.

Two guys who had great springs but got caught up in simple numbers games were the two outfielders, Chad Huffman and Zeke Carrera. Antonetti said Huffman did what he had to do to win a job, but with him it was the numbers game and Acta said it is good that they have tough decisions to make. He's still with the organization though and if there ever is a need, he made an impression.

Carrera made one as well and gave the Indians a lot of confidence about his bat. That's something they were focused on and he definitely produced enough. It can make them feel a lot better about not having Trevor Crowe, who would have been their go-to-guy for a speedy outfielder who can man all the spots. Carrera is younger and has a lot more upside and really, we haven't seen what he's really all about at the next level.

Lonnie Chisenhall will work with Travis Fryman in Columbus, part of the benefit of having Fryman in his new role, you can just send him wherever he is needed. Fryman was Chiz's first professional manager in Mahoning Valley after he got drafted a few years ago.

An infirmary report of sorts... Nick Johnson took some swings on Friday and Acta called it progress. For a guy with a wrist injury, that is definitely progress.

Trevor Crowe was on the flight back to Cleveland with Mark Shapiro, as Shappy noted on Twitter. Crowe is going to have his shoulder re-evaluated. Perhaps that was something getting done today that will lead the Indians to making a decision as to if they will use his 40-man spot by 60-Day DLing him, or not.

Adam Miller would go to Kinston if he gets outs in Extended Spring, as Hoynes notes from Ross Atkins in his latest mailbag.

He hasn't tweeted in a grand while, but I saw both Chad Durbin and Shelley Duncan following Ben Broussard. Which leads us not to the Tribe Tweet of the Day, but the Hilarious Proclamation Made Over Twitter of the Day..

[HILARIOUS PROCLAMATION MADE OVER TWITTER OF THE DAY]


Are you kidding me with this? Why not just say you hold a major league record. Why do you have to say "in the baseball hall of fame." You are clearly not in the baseball Hall of Fame and never will be close to it. And on top of that, what a silly statistic to be known for. Wow so I hit the most pinch-hit grand slam home runs. YOU HIT THREE GRAND SLAMS IN THAT SITUATION! How hard is it for someone like Benny Broussard to hit a pinch-hit grand slam home run? The pitcher is clearly not expecting Broussard to come in and he knows he better pitch to him or else he could be screwed. Plus its Ben Broussard, so if he throws him something hittable, odds are less with him than with someone else that he'll hit it. But clearly that pitcher didn't factor luck into his equation, because Broussard definitely got lucky more times than not.

AND HES TIED! WITH LIKE, THREE OTHER PEOPLE! I really feel bad for saying all this, because Benny was a cool cat when he was with Cleveland, but what a sad claim to make. Just don't make the claim at all man, don't make the claim at all. Also, shave that goatee off, you look silly.

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