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March 31, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Sunday, March 31
WAHOO!! IT'S OPENING DAY!!
Isn't this the best time of year? The Final Four, Opening Day, Rotisserie League Drafts. For a baseball and sports fan, it really doesn't get any better than this. Much better writers than I can speak more eloquently on the magic of opening day so let me simply offer my ten predictions for the Indians 2002 season and say...Enjoy Opening Day!!
1) Milton Bradley will flash signs of his immense potential and frustrate us with his inconsistency. But by the end of the year, he will be regarded as a cornerstone of the Indians rebuilding process and one of the top young centerfielders in the American League
2) Travis Fryman will provide solid defense but struggle at the plate all year causing the Indians to buy out his option in the offseason and pursue free-agent Scott Rolen.
3) Brady Anderson will be released before the All-Star break.
4) Bob Wickman will be the lone Indians representative on the All-Star team
5) It will be business as usual for Russ Branyan. Short hot streaks of massive production but long stretches of ineffectiveness will reduce him to the role of spot-starter and pinchhitter.
6) CC Sabathia will not suffer a sophomore slump but continued problems with his control will allow Danys Baez to have an overall better season. Ryan Drese will make it through the entire season as the Indians #5 starter but will have a roller coaster year.
7) Ricky Gutierrez will not make fans forget Roberto Alomar but his defense will be solid, his offense sufficient, and he will be a fan favorite by the end of the year.
8) Milton Bradley will be the Indians leadoff hitter by the all-star break.
9) The Indians late-inning bullpen will be a strength but the middle innings (5th and 6th) will be a troublesome spot all season. David Riske will supplant Paul Shuey as the Indians primary late-inning setup man and Alex Herrera will be a factor in the second half.
10) The Indians will win the American League Central with a record of 86-76 and lose in the first round of the playoffs to the New York Yankees.
For the record, the Indians finished the exhibition season with a record of 15-17. Omar Vizqual led the team in hitting with a .408 average and tied with Ellis Burks for the team lead in RBIs with 17. Burks and Russ Branyan tied for the team lead in HRs with 4 apiece. Bob Wickman and David Riske led the relievers in ERA at 0.00 and 0.75 respectively and Danys Baez led the starters with an ERA of 3.22.
Sheldon Ocker is reporting that Scott Radinsky is talking with the White Sox and may sign a contract with them this week. Additionally, Peter Gammons reports in his latest Diamond Notes over on espn.com that Radinsky kept his arm loose the past week by throwing balls against a dumpster at the local Walmart in Winter Haven.
Gammons also notes in his 2002 predictions column that an "astute baseball person" says that John McDonald is already the best defensive shortstop in the American League.
Tim Laker, recovering from pancreatic surgery, is scheduled to report to Winter Haven on April 15. A very tentative return date of mid-May is possible.
Former Indian Ron Villone will start on Opening Day for the Pirates. Former Tribe lefty Andrew Lorraine was sent to the minors by the Brewers who also placed former Indian Paul Rigdon on the 15-day DL.
Have a great OPENING DAY!!
March 29, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Saturday, March 30
1 Day until Opening Day!!
Some quick Tribe newsbites for Opening Day Eve....
Jaret Wright's latest MRI revealed nothing new and he was examined by a vascular specialist and a nuerologist this week to determine if a blood clot or aneurysm was responsible for the pain in his shoulder. The results were negative.
Charlie Manuel has still not officially decided between Josh Bard and Eddie Perez as the backup catcher. A decision is expected following today's game against the Dodgers.
Tim Drew pitched six innings of one run ball allowing only five hits in a minor league game.
Carlos Baerga made the Boston Red Sox as a backup utility infielder.
The Canton Repository notes that former Indian minor leaguer Pork Chop Pough will be made indy baseball this season in Nashua, NH.
The Akron Beacon Journal has their Indians preview out today. Check it out.
Mike Sweeney signed a 5 year, $55 million contract with the Royals yesterday. Sweeney is a heck of player with a career average of .302, 99 HRs and an OPS of .862. This doesn't compare, however, to Jim Thome with a career average of .285, 282 HRs, and an OPS of .966. Granted, Sweeney is three years younger than Thome but I think the $11mil per season establishes the low end for Thome's contract negotiations this offseason.
When the Indians arrived in Winter Haven, I gave a list of 20 questions that needed to be answered this spring. After a month and a half of camp and 30+ intrasquad and exhibition games, here are the answers.
1) Can Danys Baez make the transition to the rotation?
Spring training numbers can often be deceiving, but you certainly have to be encouraged by the numbers posted by Baez in his five starts. A 3.32 ERA in 19 innings pitched was backed up by only 3 walks, 16 strikeouts and 0 home runs. Best of all, nary a word was heard this spring concerning Baez which means that everything was working according to plan. Baez had a very good spring and is ready to assume his spot in the rotation.
1a) Does Milton Bradley have game?
Bradley had some early struggles in the field and with nagging injuries but rebounded to have a very solid camp. He's currently hitting .276 and has displayed some signs of plate discipline which is important if he is eventually going to fill the leadoff spot. He did have a one-game audition at the top of the lineup late in camp but it looks like the Tribe is going to stick to its plans and break him in slowly towards the bottom of the order. Overall, Milton displayed the skills that the Tribe thinks will develop into one of the better centerfielders in the American League and it's time to give him 500 ABs and see what happens.
3) Can Eddie teach?
Listening to the radio broadcasts, Tom Hamilton and company had plenty of encouraging things to say about the work that Eddie Murray had done this spring with the hitters. The early returns are encouraging, but time will tell.
4) Will Omar buy into the "new energy" sell?
Perhaps it's the "new energy" philosophy, perhaps it's the Hall of Fame talk, but Omar looked rejuvenated this spring in leading the team with a .400 batting average and displaying a vigor for the game that had been missing in previous seasons.
5) Can Ryan Drese pitch every 5th day?
Drese easily won the 5th starter competition with a workmanlike spring. As I mentioned yesterday, there is some concern with the amount of baserunners he allowed but, overall, it's time to give him the ball every 5th day.
6) Is Travis healthy?
Travis' health was never in question but that's really all that you can take away that's positive about his spring. Although he has shown signs of life in the last week, Travis is hitting below .200 in 56 ABs with only two extra base hits. These are hardly the numbers you would expect from your number five hitter.
7) Can CC avoid the sophomore slump?
Despite concerns about his weight, CC had an excellent camp and looks ready to improve upon his freshman season. The extra poundage will remain a concern until it starts to melt away.
8) Alomar Returns?
The Alex Escobar injury was the biggest setback of camp, especially after the fine start he was having (5 for 10) and how he had taken to Eddie Murray's tutelage. With his rehab expected to last 4-6 months, it will be October before Escobar can pickup a bat again and that means the 2002 season is a lost one for Alex Escobar. Billy Traber showed flashes of his potential and is ticketed to start the season in double-A Akron. Earl Snyder was a spring surprise, showing good power and solid defense at 1B and 3B. Aside from the Escobar injury, the early returns were encouraging but there's a long way to go before this trade can be properly evaluated.
9) Is this the year Bartolo breaks out?
Bartolo seemed to sleepwalk through camp, turning it on when he needed to, and turning it off when he wasn't all that interested in being out there. He showed up overweight again this year and really gave no signs he was ready to embrace the role of staff ace and set an example for the other young pitchers to follow. Could this be his breakout year? Absolutely. But he gave no signs this spring that it's forthcoming.
10) Can Matt Lawton add lift to his swing without sacrificing BA?
Lawton only had 4 extra basehits in 65 ABs with no homeruns so there were no signs that he was looking to increase his power this year. Of course, with Lawton expected to leadoff a majority of the season, adding power might not be what the Indians are asking him to do this season.
11) Is Jolbert sitting pretty?
Jolbert is targeted for an April 15-30 return date and, by all accounts, his recovery is proceeding on schedule. With a full 25-man roster, the Indians will have an interesting decision to make when he returns.
12) Who will backup Einar Diaz?
The injury to Ed Taubensee made this one of the hottest topics of the spring. After being impressed by rookie Josh Bard (11 for 33), the Indians decided he would be better off playing everyday in triple-A Buffalo and brought in veteran Eddie Perez to backup Einar. With the number of young pitchers on the roster, a solid "catch-and-throw-and-call-a-good-game" guy like Perez might be a better presence on the roster than the "good-hit, no-field" game of Taubensee.
13) Can Finley still chuck it?
He made it through camp without any health concerns which, at his age, makes his spring a success.
14) How quickly will the Indians cut bait?
This question was specifically targeted at Brady Anderson and Wil Cordero and both players will open the season on the opening-day roster. Cordero had a solid camp but Brady really tailed off in the last two weeks and is hitting .203 in 64 ABs. The Indians also kept Charles Nagy on board despite his awful spring due to his contract.
15) Where does David Riske fit in?
David Riske had the best camp of any pitcher this spring. In 12 innings, he was virtually unhittable, giving up only 3 hits and 1 run. After starting the spring working two inning outings, Riske has now settled into a late-inning role and will team with Paul Shuey as the primary setup men to Bob Wickman.
16) What's up with Jaret and Charlie?
Jaret Wright looked impressive early in camp but then was shutdown after feeling pain in his shoulder. He's currently awaiting the results of an MRI to determine the cause of the pain and what the next step (or setback) in his recovery may be. Charles Nagy made it through camp in one piece but his velocity is in the low-to-mid 80s and he got hit very hard (41 hits in 23 innings). Due to his contract, he'll open the season on the active roster but you have to wonder how many beatings he will take before agreeing to be placed on the DL. Neither will contribute much to the Indians this season and both could be facing career-ending decisions in the next few months.
17) Will there be a second lefty in the pen?
It was Scott Radinsky's job to lose and lose it he did. Some will attribute his release to the Indians unwillingness to cut Charles Nagy and eat his contract, but I attribute it to a 14.31 ERA and 14 baserunners allowed in 5-2/3 innings. His velocity was down and he did not demonstrate much of an ability to get lefties out consistently. Alex Herrera pitched a scoreless 5 innings early in camp and he will be waiting at triple-A Buffalo should Charlie Manuel decide he needs that second lefty.
18) What will happen to Johnny Mac?
What didn't happen to Johnny Mac? After an emergency appendectomy and an amazingly quick recovery, McDonald played his way onto the roster and displayed all the defensive skills that have been his calling card throughout his minor league career. It will be interesting to see how the return of Jolbert Cabrera affects his roster position in the next 3-4 weeks.
19) Will free agency awaken Cordero?
Wil Cordero reported to camp in excellent shape and had a very solid spring. As one of the few right-handed bats on the roster, Cordero may have moved from "contract keeper" to an important part of the lineup. Although he says his offseason workout regimen was inspired by his desire to not embarrass his children at the beach, methinks his impending free agency had a little something to do with it as well.
20) Will the fans still care?
The fans still care, as evidenced by the 2.3 million tickets sold so far, but with tickets still available for every game, it looks like many are taking the wait-and-see approach before embracing this team.
Have a great day!!
WKNR personality John Antus passed away this morning of an apparant heart attack. Antis was a longtime Cleveland radio personality who most recently headlined the 10th inning show following Indians game on WKNR. My thoughts and prayers go out to the Antus family. He was 49.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Friday, March 29
2 Days until Opening Day!!
Not a whole lot of news today as the Indians 25-man roster has been finalized and the team is heading west to play the Dodgers for two exhibition games on Friday and Saturday and then open the season against the Angels on Sunday night. Incidentally, that game will be televised on ESPN2 as ESPN will be showing the women's national championship game.
Barring any injuries the next two days, here's the Indians opening-day roster:
CATCHER: Einar Diaz, Eddie Perez
INFIELDERS: Jim Thome, Ricky Gutierrez, Omar Vizqual, Travis Fryman, John McDonald
OUTFIELDERS: Ellis Burks, Matt Lawton, Milton Bradley, Russ Branyan, Brady Anderson, Wil Cordero
STARTERS: Bartolo Colon, CC Sabathia, Chuck Finley, Danys Baez, Ryan Drese
RELIEVERS: Bob Wickman, Paul Shuey, David Riske, Ricardo Rincon, Jerrod Riggan, Mark Wohlers, Charles Nagy
DL: Jaret Wright (shoulder), Jake Westbrook (elbow), Ed Taubensee (back), Alex Escobar (knee), Jolbert Cabrera (buttocks)
Mike Lansing, Jose Mercedes, and Omar Olivares have agreed to report to Buffalo with the option to leave at any time if another team offers them a major league contract. They may also have a clause in their contracts that includes a date by which the Indians have to promote them to the big leagues or they can leave for another organization.
Karim Garcia has also reportedly cleared waivers and agreed to report to Buffalo but the Indians have not given any official word on this yet.
As mentioned a few days ago, Brooks Kieschnick was officially released by the Indians after the Tribe decided they were not interested in him as a pitcher.
The Indians and Jim Thome have stopped talking about a new contract and will resume negotiations after the season. This is not unexpected and follows the pattern the Indians have established in recent years with Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, and Juan Gonzalez. Of course, we all know what happened with those three. The only bright spot here is that the Indians should have some money available to sign Thome to the expected $11-$13mil/year market price thanks to the expiring contracts of Charles Nagy ($6mil), Chuck Finley ($5mil), and Wil Cordero ($4mil). The Indians will also probably buy out the $6mil option on Jaret Wright which cuts the payroll by $21 million and should allow for a little spending (we hope).
Peter Gammons makes a brief mention of Omar Vizqual's Hall of Fame candidacy in his latest espn.com mailbag. He also references the excellent Baseball Immortals website. If you check it out, be sure and sign up for the Around The Majors e-mail reports.
Have a great day!!
March 28, 2002
The Browns released their 2002 Schedule today. Highlights include a nationally televised preseason game against the Packers on August 26, a nationally televised Sunday night game against the Ravens on October 6 and (my assumption) two national 4:15 Sunday afternoon games against the Buccaneers (Oct 13) and Ravens (Dec 22).
The Indians traded Donzell McDonald to the Kansas City Royals today for a player to be named later. McDonald hit .300 (9-for-30) this spring after signing a minor-league contract with the Tribe in the offseason. He had previously been with the Yankees and his brother, Darnell, is a former top prospect with the Orioles
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Thursday, March 28
3 days until Opening Day!!
The Indians released Karim Garcia yesterday but left the door open for his return to the organization on a minor league contract. Garcia has already cleared outright waivers and once he clears release waivers, which is expected to be a formality, he will be free to negotiate a deal with any club. Garcia was bothered with a sore left shoulder early in camp but rebounded to hit .323 with two homeruns and 10 RBI (3rd on the team) at the time of his release. He has indicated he will accept an assignment to Buffalo if an opening at the major league level with another club is not available. With the lack of position players in the system, the Indians need a player like Garcia waiting in Buffalo. The release cost the Indians $200,000 of the $450,000 contract he signed in the offseason
Mike Lansing has also reportedly been told of his release and is checking his options before deciding whether to accept the Indians offer of a minor league contract.
While some are attributing the release of Scott Radinsky to Charles Nagy's contract, Mark Shapiro is quoted in the ABJ as saying that Radinsky was topping out at 88mph this spring and was consistently throwing between 84-87mph which is down from the 91mph he was clocked at in his final outing last season. I think the Indians also realize that there are several teams that have an excess of lefty relievers that will become available via the waiver wire or as free agents in the next few days and they will probably add one or two as triple-A insurance. Releasing Radinsky cost the Indians $200,000 of his $600,000 contract and it is still possible he will accept an assignment to triple-A Buffalo.
On the surface, Ryan Drese had another nice start yesterday giving up 2 runs in 5 innings. As a matter of caution, though, please also note the 10 baserunners allowed (7 hits and 3 walks). For the spring, Drese pitched 27 innings and allowed 42 baserunners (33 hits, 9 walks) which suggests his baptism as a full-time American League starter might not be as smooth as his 4-1 record and 4.00 ERA this spring might indicate. It also suggests that the bullpen is going to be relied on heavily in Drese's starts to bail him out of jams and keep the inherited runners on the bases and off the scoreboard.
In their weekly transaction analysis, Baseball Prospectus has an interesting note, that I was unaware of, regarding the relationship between new bench coach Jeff Datz and Russ Branyan.
Matt Lawton is the subject of an article on mlb.com.
For those reading the PD boxscore this morning, the Berroa (RF) leading off for the Indians is really Jolbert Cabrera. I had to do a double-take on that one myself before realizing this wasn't the second coming of Geronimo Berroa.
Jose Rosado resigned with the Royals yesterday on a minor league contract.
And finally, as anxious as I am for the start of the season, I have to admit I am really going to miss listening to Tribe games at work in the afternoon. With games available on radio and via the internet all through March, will it be more than a mere coincidence if the economy starts to pick up in April?
Have a great day!
March 27, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Wednesday, March 27
4 days until opening day!!
Scott Radinsky was cut yesterday after posting a 14.29 ERA in 5-2/3 innings this spring while giving up 8 hits, 6 walks, and allowing opposing hitters a .450 batting average. If he clears waivers, Radinsky could report to Buffalo but Charlie Manual was quoted as saying that it seemed like he wanted to explore other options. After the spring he had, you have to wonder how many teams are going to show interest, although lefties generally have a shelflife comparable to a Twinkie (mmmm....Twinkies). The move does leave Ricardo Rincon as the only lefty in the bullpen so here's some numbers on how the righties in the pen have fared against lefties recently...
AB BA OPS
Bob Wickman 381 .244 .666 (1999-2001)
Jerrod Riggan 76 .276 .795 (2001)
David Riske 28 .143 .656 (2001)
Paul Shuey 357 .232 .645 (1999-2001)
Mark Wohlers 106 .236 .760 (2001)
While Charlie would probably prefer to have another lefty available, for the most part, the Indians relievers have had success against lefties and should be able to handle the load.
Chris Coste was also designated for assignment and will report to Buffalo.
Jolbert Cabrera made his first appearance in a major league exhibition game, playing three innings and popping up in one AB. He should play in the next two games in Florida and then stay in extended spring training until Buffalo and Akron head north for the start of their seasons.
The Morning Journal reports that Ryan Drese will work out of the bullpen for the first week of the season and will not be sent down to Buffalo to get in his normal work. This removes any possibility of either Jose Mercedes or Omar Olivares sneaking onto the roster to start the season. The ABJ also noted that Mercedes may have the option of going to Japan if he turns down the Indians minor league deal.
David Riske is the subject of an ABJ article on the 56th round draft pick that made good.
Jim Ingraham has a commentary on the five bright spots in camp this spring.
Roger Brown quotes Ray Negron, Indians assistant from 1998-2001, as saying "Believe me, Charlie Maher (Indians team psychologist) would have made Ruben Rivera an All-Star for the Indians". If that's the case, Maher is definitely in the wrong profession and should make the switch to dugout as a hitting coach for being able to convince Rivera to lay off the curveballs in the dirt and develop a little plate discipline.
Brown also notes that baseball insiders would not be surprised if the Indians acquired prospect Jack Cust from the Rockies sometime this season. Cust is the powerhitting outfielder that Dan O'Dowd stole from the Diamondbacks this winter and is generally regarded as one of the best hitting prospects in the minors. Think Russ Branyan with 100+ walks and a legitimate clue at the plate. It's been widely speculated that the Rockies acquired him to use as trade bait for an American League team since his defense, or lack thereof, makes him best suited for a DH role, but the Rockies have made it known all spring that they are going to give him a chance to prove himself in the outfield. It's pure speculation at this point, but if the Indians have an opportunity to nab Cust, they should go for it.
The Indians traded catcher Edgar Cruz (.205 in 33 ABs at single-A Columbus) to the Phillies for a player to be named later.
Minorleaguebaseball.com is reporting that the Indians released RF Tommy Bost, RHP JD Brammer, C Neil Garcia, RHP Rich Matsko, C Javier Ochoa, and RHP Matt Skyles. The Indians also did some shuffling of minor league rosters and Scott Pratt, Corey Erickson, Nate Grindell, Chris Reinkie, and Jason Fitzgerald will return to Akron for the 2002 season.
Protospect Watch lists the following Indians in their prospect positional depth charts: Corey Smith, #12, 3B; John Peralta, #15, SS; Alex Escobar, #14, OF; Billy Traber, #18, LHP; Alex Herrera, #21, LHP; and JD Martin, #15, RHP.
Dave Roberts will be the Dodgers starting centerfielder having best out Marquis Grissom and McKay Christensen. Roberts is hitting .400 this spring with a .512 OBP which is a far cry from the .292 OBP he posted with the Tribe over the last three seasons.
Jose Rosado is reportedly close to resigning with the Royals on a minor league contract.
And finally, Albert Belle will be the subject of an ESPN Sportscentury this Friday at 8 and 11 PM. I have two personal stories about Albert. An accounting professor I had at Cleveland State called Albert one of the brightest students he had ever had in his class and the second is that I played basketball against Albert a few times and let's just say that he makes Rick Mahorn and Charles Oakley look like angels on the court. Say what you want about him though, Albert was one of the best players in Indians history.
Have a great day!!
March 26, 2002
CHECK IT OUT
Baseball Primer is part of the Baseball Think Factory websites that includes the invaluable baseball-reference website. It's baseball for the thinking fan with commentary on the latest baseball news.
Ducksnorts is an interesting weblog that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know about the San Diego Padres (and more). Plus, it's got one of the cooler names around :-)
The Indians made two roster moves today. Scott Radinsky was given his outright release and Chris Coste was reassigned to the minor leagues. Tom Hamilton reported in today's broadcast that Jose Mercedes met with Charlie Manual this morning and has left camp for five days to return to the Dominican Republic to be with his ill mother. This explains the cleaning out of his locker yesterday. In a bit of a surprise, Hamilton also noted that Mercedes is expected to report to triple-A Buffalo when he returns next week. Omar Olivares also met with Manual and is still in camp with no word on whether he has accepted a triple-A assignment.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Tuesday, March 26
5 Days until Opening Day!!
Before we get into the Indians news of the day, let me just give a quick CIR update. For those reading the CIR website, did you know that you can also receive the daily report via e-mail? Just send an e-mail marked "SUBSCRIBE" to IndiansReport@aol.com and you'll be added to the mailing list. For those already receiving the e-mail newsletter, if you're not checking the website, you're missing out on Indians news updates throughout the day as well as reader comments on all the information posted on the website. Check it out when you get the chance!
Of course, the big news yesterday in camp was the pounding that Charles Nagy took at the hands of the Blue Jays, giving up 12 hits, 9 runs (8 earned), and 2 walks while striking out none in 5 innings. For the spring, Nagy finished with a 8.37 ERA, giving up 41 hits in 23-2/3 innings and allowing opposing hitters a .380 batting average. Ouch. After the start, Mark Shapiro reiterated what has been speculated all week and that is the fact that Charles Nagy will make the opening day roster because of his guaranteed $6 million contract and that the decision was made by himself, ownership, and Charlie Manual. The emphasis being on the ownership, I am sure. Nagy will be the 12th pitcher and long reliever which is a role he asked out of last season and was, consequently, placed on the DL. It's doubtful Nagy will simply retire and forfeit the $6mil that is owed him this season. He could agree to be placed on the DL again, collect his paycheck, and allow insurance to cover 80% of Indians costs, which is what I suspect the Indians will be gently suggesting this week. The Morning Journal is also reporting that Nagy mentioned he would be receptive to the Indians buying out his contract for less than $6mil which would allow him to then become a free agent. Mark Shapiro supposedly was unaware of Charlie stating this possibility. As much as I like and respect Charlie, he is fortunate he even made it this far into the spring as a serious roster candidate. Just imagine the potential roster crunch if Jake Westbrook and Jaret Wright had stayed healthy and Scott Radinsky had pitched well. Whatever happens with Charlie, it is nice to see the Indians handling the situation with class. After all that he has done for the organization, he definitely deserves that.
With Charlie being kept as the long reliever, the Indians finally made it official and named Ryan Drese as the 5th starter. It is still to be determined whether he will work in Buffalo until the Indians need him on April 10.
Jose Mercedes, Omar Olivares, and Scott Radinsky appear to be the odd men out on the pitching staff. Charlie Manual and Mark Shapiro are expected to sit down with Mercedes and Olivares today and offer them minor league deals. Mercedes is reported to have already cleaned out his locker which would hint that he is looking at becoming a free agent. Depending on what the Indians do with Ryan Drese, there could be an open roster spot for the first week and a half of the season that could be filled by one of the above three or a position player as well.
Jolbert Cabrera's recovery is going well and he is expected to play in the Indians last two exhibition games in Florida this week. The Indians still have him on an April 15-April 30 timetable and will, most likely, take their time with his return to ensure he is 100% healthy. With the difficulty they are having in cutting down to the final 25, they'll need to pare down again to make room for Jolby and this will also be a factor in how quickly they return him to the major leagues. Don't get me wrong, Cabrera is a definite major leaguer and would have been on the 25 if healthy this spring, but if the Indians can buy an extra week or two with Jolbert on rehab and use that time to evaluate other players at the major league level, don't be surprised if they take that opportunity.
The ABJ is reporting that Karim Garcia has agreed to go to Buffalo to start the season but the Indians must sneak him through waivers first which is a dicey proposition. Garcia is no Barry Bonds, but it would be a shame to lose a young slugger in order to keep a 38-year outfielder on his last legs.
Jaret Wright is scheduled to undergo an anthrogram MRI today in California to determined if there are any circulation problems in the joint.
The ABJ is reporting that the Indians have signed journeymen reliever Brian Edmondson to a minor league contract and he will report to double-A Akron. Edmondson is a former Braves prospect who also had a cup of coffee with the Marlins in the 90s.
The Orange County Register is reporting that the Tigers are no longer interested in Tom Goodwin (due to the Damian Jackson deal) and that the Dodgers are still trying to aggressively trade Goodwin with the Indians among the interested.
Minorleaguebaseball.com is reporting that the Indians released RHP Donnie Suttles and that 3B Jeff Becker voluntarily retired. The site is also listing the Indians as having released Brooks Kieschnick which contradicts reports that he is making the conversion to the mound. Perhaps this is some sort of website red-tape in order to convert him from RF to Pitcher in their database.
John Rocker will start the season as the Rangers closer due to Jeff Zimmerman being out until May 1 with tendinitis in his right elbow. Rocker has a 4.50 ERA in 8 innings this spring and has allowed 18 baserunners (hits and walks) while striking out only 7. That doesn't exactly sound like closer material to me. On the plus side, all has been quiet on the personal front. But it's still early, very early.
If you've never checked out Hacking Mass over on the Baseball Prospectus website, you should give it a try this year. I'll let their site give the detailed explanation as to the rules (and name) but you're basically trying to field the worse possible team of five everyday players in the major leagues. My team name is "We Provide Veteran Leadership Dammit" and my roster is Benito Santiago, Kevin Young, Rey Ordonez, The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer (aka Vinny Castilla), and Brady Anderson (DOH!). Check it out!
And finally, Bud Selig is having a town hall chat over on MLB.com today. Does anyone think it won't be anything but a big love affair type of chat? Yawn.
Have a great day!!
The Indians official website has an article listing all the various injuries that have sidelined players and coaches this spring. They missed the knee injury to Steve Lubratich :-)
March 25, 2002
STOP THE PRESSES
Travis Fryman is 3-for-3 today. He's 4-for-5 now.
Oops...I accidently left Mike Lansing off the report today. While he is not a guaranteed cut, the odds of Lansing breaking camp with the Indians are lessening each day. His only chance is if Manuel decides to carry two utility infielders which would mean the Indians are only going to carry 11 pitchers or 5 outfielders, neither of which is expected.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Monday, March 25
6 days until Opening Day!!
With less than one week until the opener in Anaheim, the Indians still have some roster issues to settle. The powers that be within the organization met Sunday night to determine the final cuts, which are not expected to be revealed until the weekend as the Indians plan on bringing some extra players with them to play against the Dodgers on Friday and Saturday. Let's take a quick look at the players who are guaranteed spots and then we'll get into the roster openings.
CATCHERS (2): Einar Diaz, Eddie Perez
From all accounts, it sounds like Perez has convinced the Indians he is healthy enough be the backup catcher which also allows Josh Bard to play everyday in Buffalo. Peter Gammons has some interesting thoughts on the potential impact Perez may have on CC and Baez in his latest edition of Diamond Notes.
INFIELDERS (5): Jim Thome, Ricky Gutierrez, Omar Vizqual, Travis Fryman, John McDonald
Charlie Manuel has inferred in recent days that Mike Lansing's back problems coupled with the lack of options on Johnny Mac have made this decision easier.
OUTFIELDERS (5): Ellis Burks, Russ Branyan, Milton Bradley, Matt Lawton, Wil Cordero
STARTING PITCHERS (5): Bartolo Colon, CC Sabathia, Chuck Finley, Danys Baez, Ryan Drese
RELIEF PITCHERS (6): Bob Wickman, Paul Shuey, David Riske, Ricardo Rincon, Mark Wohlers, Jerrod Riggan
That adds up to a total of 23 players and 2 open spots. While Charlie Manuel has indicated he might be inclined to break camp with 11 pitchers, Mark Shapiro has said they are taking 12 and if I'm a betting man, I'm putting my money on Shapiro. Charlie has also said he would prefer to have two backup infielders but I suspect the Indians will consider Branyan and Cordero as backups at third and first respectively and only carry McDonald as a backup middle infielder to start the season. So having said all that, who does that leave fighting for the last two spots?
DEFINITE CUTS: Greg LaRocca, Bill Selby, Bruce Aven, Chris Coste
12TH PITCHER: Charles Nagy, Omar Olivares, Jose Mercedes, Scott Radinsky
None of the above four have done anything this spring to warrant a spot on the roster. Nagy is the odds-on favorite due to his contract although the Indians would certainly benefit financially if he would spend the season on the DL and let the insurance company pick up 80% of his contract. Radinsky did retire lefty Nick Johnson in his situational role on Saturday although he then walked two batters in his 1/3 of an inning on Sunday. One scenario being discussed is to option Jerrod Riggan to the minors and keep both Nagy and Radinsky on the roster. Another option, as we've discussed previously, is to option Ryan Drese to the minors until they need him to start on April 10 which would give Radinsky and Nagy an extra week and a half to prove they can still be effective against major league hitters. Barring a trade, which is unexpected, I think the decision will boil down to whether or not the Indians can persuade Nagy to retire or go on the DL.
6th OUTFIELDER: Brady Anderson, Karim Garcia
On the surface, Brady has had a decent camp, hitting .241 with a couple of HRs. But after an 11-for-30 start, Brady has gone 2-for-24 at a time in camp when the quality of the pitching has dramatically increased. Karim Garcia, on the other hand, missed the early part of spring due to injury but has returned with a bang, hitting over .300 with power, including a HR off Greg Maddux. From reading the comments made by Charlie Manuel it sounds like Brady Anderson has made the roster which would leave Garcia exposed to waivers, and certain to be claimed by someone, since he is on the 40-man roster and out of minor-league options. The Indians fascination with the Brady experiment continues to both frustrate and fascinate me and the only reasons I can why the Indians are considering keeping him would be as a backup CF (since one does not exist on the roster) and as a potential leadoff hitter, although how many ABs he is going to get if Russ Branyan and Milton Bradley are going to be playing everyday? I would hate to think the Indians would lose a promising young slugger like Karim Garcia to keep a fading Brady Anderson on the roster and who might not make it past the All-Star break.
On that note, the LA Times is reporting the Indians are among several teams interested in centerfielder Tom Goodwin. When I was first read this, my initial response was NO!!!. Goodwin is a journeyman centerfielder with a weak arm who teases teams with his speed-related leadoff abilities but then disappoints them with his career OBP of .335. He has posted an OPS of over .700 twice in his career, .716 in 1999 (.378 OBP) with Texas and a Coors inflated .762 in 2000 which indicates his offensive contributions are marginal at best. The Dodgers have been trying to trade Goodwin and his $3.75mil salary all winter and spring as he is going to be replaced by an ex-Indian platoon of Dave Roberts and Marquis Grissom which does not say much for his current value.
As I speculated on Saturday, with the retirement of Dante Bichette, the Dodgers do have a need for a right-handed backup outfielder and a swap of Cordero ($4mil) for Goodwin ($3.75mil) would meet the Dodgers needs, give the Indians another option in centerfield besides Brady Anderson, and keep the respective payrolls basically intact. With another option in CF and leading off (ugh), the Indians could use this as an opportunity to release Brady Anderson and keep Karim Garcia on the roster. That would make the trade Wil Cordero and Brady Anderson for Tom Goodwin and Karim Garcia and that's a trade I would make immediately. Goodwin backups Bradley and provides speed off the bench and, theoretically, another option at leadoff. Garcia can fill-in at the corners, spell Ellis Burks at DH, and provide power off the bench. Best of all, the Indians don't let another young slugger escape (Burnitz, Giles, Sexson, etc). The more I think about it, the more I hope the LA Times report is accurate.
Is anyone else amused/concerned over pitchcountgate on Saturday? The pressbox had CC Sabathia at 107 pitches while the Indians bench had CC at 88 pitches. Guys, 19 pitches is a lot to lose track of especially with a young arm like CC.
Did anyone else notice the one-game audition in the leadoff spot given to Milton Bradley on Saturday? It may have been a case of maximizing his ABs since he had sat out the previous two games, but as I have been saying all spring, the Indians have to be infatuated with Bradley's mix of speed and power at the top of the lineup, especially considering their other options are Brady "who am I going to steal ABs from today" Anderson and Matt "I need to hit 3rd" Lawton. Alas, Bradley went 0-for-4, but, hopefully, this will not be the last time we see Milton on top of the batting order this season.
Jim Ingraham has an excellent article in the Morning Journal about the Indians vulnerability against left-handed pitching. Fortunately, there are only two lefties, Mark Buehrle and Eric Milton, in the AL Central.
Ellis Burks is confident about the Indians chances this season.
John Hart continues to add to the Rangers interesting clubhouse chemistry, bringing in Ruben Rivera for a 10-day tryout in minor league camp. Baseball-wise, the move does make sense as the Rangers have a lot of organizational depth in the outfield corners but little in centerfield and with Carl Everett's health uncertain they do have a need for a major league centerfielder. If they win, everything will be fine, but if the Rangers struggle, you have to wonder how all these volatile personalities are going to mesh. Sheldon Ocker had an interesting note in Sunday's ABJ about the Indians reported signing of Ruben Rivera last week and how word got leaked to the media. Supposedly someone with Ranger ties to the East Coast media spread the word. Hmmm....
Brooks Kieschnick is scheduled to make his mound debut this week in minor league camp and will start in Akron once it is (or if it is)decided he is ready to pitch in an actual game.
The Reds sent down Jesse Levis and the Padres traded Damian Jackson to the Tigers where he will fill the Jolbert Cabrera super-sub role.
The Rockies released Tony Eusebio over the weekend and he's a name to remember if the Indians look to add another catcher with major league experience. He's a solid catch-and-throw guy with a little pop in his bat. The Orioles placed pitcher Calvin Maduro on the DL and the Baltimore papers are saying that could allow the O's to carry three catchers on the roster, thereby removing Geronimo Gil and Fernando Lunar from the trade market.
Congratulations to Kent State on a fantastic season! It was nice to be talking big-time college basketball in Cleveland for a change. Let's hope Stan Heath decides to hang around the MAC a little longer, although with Huffman, Mitchell, Shaw, etc., all graduating, there may not be a better time for him to "move on up".
Have a great day!!
March 23, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Saturday, March 23
Eddie Perez was in uniform yesterday against his former team, the Braves, and went hitless in one at-bat. Perez is a .258 career hitter whose main strength is defense and the ability to call a good game. For four years he was the "personal" catcher of Greg Maddux and was also the MVP of the 1999 NLCS after an injury to Javy Lopez forced Perez into full-time duty.
If the Indians do not decide to keep him on the major league roster they can offer him a minor league contract which Perez can refuse and become a free-agent. He had previously indicated to the Braves that he would not accept being sent down to the minor leagues and that is the reason why Perez was made available and subsequently traded. The Indians were aware of this and also aware he would most likely have been cut at the end of camp but made the trade now to allow the Indians coaches time to evaluate Perez as part of their decision-making process. Depending on whether Perez makes the major league roster, the Indians will give the Braves a low-level minor leaguer or cash. Perez did have surgery on his right rotator cuff in May 2000 and has not yet regained normal arm strength and that is one reason why the Braves made the trade for Henry Blanco earlier in the week.
At this point, it's a low risk gamble bringing in Perez and my only minor concern is that it would have been preferable to find a catcher with recent AL experience. Mark Shapiro has indicated the Indians may still make another move towards the end of camp and I would expect them to do so even if that catcher is bound for triple-A to mentor Josh Bard. If Perez (or another catcher) starts the season on the opening-day roster they will have to be added to the 40-man and they will use the open spot created when the Indians reworked Tim Laker's contract earlier in the spring.
Ryan Drese had another solid outing yesterday, holding the Braves to 2 runs in 7 innings while walking none. Without officially speaking for Charlie Manual, Mark Shapiro indicated during the radio broadcast yesterday that Drese will be the #5 starter. Big surprise there, I know. One note of caution on Drese, even though he has been pitching well this spring, opponents are hitting over .300 against him.
Shapiro also noted that Charlie Nagy has a role on the club as a swing man in long relief and as a spot starter. He did mention that it was due to his contract, but from all of that, it does sound like Nagy will be the 12th pitcher on the opening day roster. That would leave Omar Oliveras, Jose Mercedes, and Scott Radinsky out of a job unless the Indians choose to send Ryan Drese to Buffalo for the first week and a half of the season until the Indians need the 5th starter on April 10. Which pitcher (or position player) the Indians would take north remains to be seen.
One more note from Mark Shapiro's 8th inning stint in the broadcast booth yesterday is that Bruce Aven has impressed both Shapiro and Charlie Manual this spring with his ability to play anywhere in the OF and solid right-handed bat. He will start the season in Buffalo but will probably be the first callup as an injury replacement. Shapiro has a history with Aven as he was the Tribe's farm director when Aven was working his way up the system in the mid-90s.
Speaking of Radinsky, Charlie Manual still says he has a chance to make the team if he can show signs of life the last week of camp. He did pitch 2/3 of an inning on Thursday without giving up a run but it could/should have been a lot worse as he gave up a double to the wall and a runner was thrown out at home ending the inning.
Jaret Wright was examined by Dr.Yocum in Los Angeles and they found nothing new in his shoulder which could be good news. He may undergo a different type of MRI this week that would allow them to see through the scar tissue which can obscure the picture in a normal MRI.
Milton Bradley has missed the last two games with tendinitis in his right knee. How soon before people start questioning his ability to play with pain? Whispers are already starting to pop up on the radio. When he's out there, he's playing well, but he's got be out there.
Alex Escobar's knee surgery went well and his rehab is expected to take 4-6 months which would put him on target for the instructional league in the fall and winter ball.
A couple of minor league notes...Victor Martinez hit two HRs in a minor league game the other day and Jake Dittler is fine after being hit in the face with a line drive earlier in the week. We should be hearing a lot about these two in the CIR this season.
Dante Bichette retired yesterday after refusing to accept a part-time role with the Dodgers as a backup outfielder. The Dodgers are now looking for a right-handed bat for the bench with their only internal options being triple-A sluggers Phil Hiatt and Mike Kinkade. Could the Indians interest them in Wil Cordero? Besides freeing up some cash, this would also make a roster spot available for Karim Garcia who continued his hot spring by blasting a HR off of Greg Maddux yesterday and going 3 for 3 with 4 RBIs.
Jackson Melian was claimed off waivers by the Brewers yesterday. The Devil Rays sent LHP Tom Martin to the minors and the Expos sent RHP Zach Day (traded to get Milton Bradley) to the minors as well. Day had been in contention for the 5th spot in the rotation.
Jose Rosado is still unsigned although he worked out for the Rangers this week and has received a minor league offer from the Royals.
Have a great day (and go Flashes!!)
March 22, 2002
MLB.com has an article on the quick recovery of John McDonald from appendectomy surgery and who also just made a great play in the field against the Braves as I type this.
CHECK THIS OUT
Sandy Alomar is the focus of this article on MLB.com that talks about how important his experience will be for the White Sox young pitching staff this season. Meanwhile, the Chicago papers are reporting that Mark Johnson has a chance to be the opening day catcher.
March 21, 2002
As speculated earlier today, the Indians have acquired Eddie Perez from the Atlanta Braves for a player to be named later. More on this tomorrow in the CIR.
CHECK THIS OUT
As part of their feature series on General Managers Baseball America has a couple of articles on John Hart and Mark Shapiro. It's scary how similar they sound when quoted. I thought the same thing last season when listening to them talk during press conferences. The article also lists a number of former Indians front-office personnel who are now dispersed throughout baseball and compares the 90s Tribe front office to that of the Baltimore Orioles of years past as breeding grounds for future general managers. It's early, but it looks like Billy Beane and the Oakland A's are going to earn that reputation in the 2000s
CHECK IT OUT
It's four blogs in one, all with good stuff....Baseball Junkie.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Thursday, March 21
10 days until Opening Day!
Jeff Datz was hired as the Indians new bench coach, replacing Grady Little who left to manage the Boston Red Sox. Datz has spent the last 10 years with the Indians organization, managing in Watertown, Columbus, Akron, Buffalo and serving as the minor-league field coordinator for the past two seasons. Without knowing much about Datz, other than he has a cool Berman nickname in Jeff "Dippin" Datz, my thoughts mostly focus on why the Indians restricted their search to within the organization.
First of all, with two weeks before opening day, I think it would be difficult to receive permission from another club to talk with one of their coaches, especially for what may be considered a lateral move. Aside from that, though, I think this move speaks a lot about the fact that Charlie Manuel only has one-year remaining on his contract. From Charlie's standpoint, if the Indians get off to a slow start, does he really want to have a potential replacement sitting next to him in the dugout? Why make Mark Shapiro's job easier? From Shapiro's standpoint, it's easier to promote from within and if Charlie is replaced at the end of the season, a new manager can start fresh with his own troops and the Indians are not left with any financial obligations.
Having said all that, I am sure that Jeff Datz is a solid baseball man and is not a bargain-basement hire as what may seem to be implied in my words above. My only concern about Datz is whether or not he has enough experience at the major league level to be a positive influence during the games. After all, he's been in the minors, either managing or overseeing operations, for the past 10 years, although that could also be viewed as a plus since he should be very familiar with the homegrown players on the roster. Time will tell on this hire.
Ryan Drese has finally been declared the front-runner for the 5th spot in the rotation although Charlie Manuel has said he will probably wait until the team leaves Florida next Thursday before making his final decision. Even if Drese is the 5th starter, there is still a good chance that he will be sent down to Buffalo to start the season. Due to off-days on April 1 and 4, the Indians will not have a need for a 5th starter until Wednesday, April 10 against the Twins at home. To keep Drese on schedule every 5th day, he could stay in Florida for a minor league start and then pitch the Bisons opener on April 4 and be right on schedule to make his April 10 start against the Twins.
If Drese is sent down for the first week and a half of the season that would open up another spot on the roster. If the Indians are going to break camp with 12 pitchers, that means there would be 2 open spots. Charles Nagy, Omar Olivares, and Jose Mercedes are currently battling for the last spot in the bullpen but if Drese is sent down, does this mean there would be room for two of them? Or would Charlie prefer to keep an extra utility infielder like Greg LaRocca to allow John McDonald an extra week of recovery. Or perhaps, Karim Garcia can be squeezed onto the roster for some power off the bench. Or maybe, the Tribe can carry 3 catchers (Diaz, Bard, and the yet-to-be-signed veteran insurance) and use that time to evaluate what they have before making a decision. It certainly opens up a wealth of possibilities and it will be interesting to see what the Indians decide to do with it.
Most likely due to the above situation, Omar Olivares is still in camp but is now free to leave at his discretion should he receive an offer from another major league team.
Charlie Manuel was quoted in the Morning Journal as saying that Mark Wohlers can work two innings out of the pen. I interpret that as saying David Riske is definitely going to be used in the later innings and Wohlers is targeted for the 5th and 6th. This is a flip from the talk we heard immediately after the Wohlers signing. You don't pay someone $4mil to work the middle innings, but then they never should have signed him in the first place.
The Brewers and Braves made a trade yesterday that makes Eddie Perez the odd man out in Atlanta and may make him attractive to the Indians as that veteran insurance catcher. Perez, incidentally, is quoted in the Braves mlb.com notes as saying he will not go down to the minors if he is reassigned.
MLB.com has an article on Ricky Gutierrez.
The Morning Journal has some interesting notes on a few of the Indians top prospects. JD Martin is picking up where he left off last season, tossing a perfect four innings (12 up, 12 down) and striking out four while only using 40 pitches in a start against one of the Braves class-A clubs. Earl Snyder is continuing his hot spring, belting two more home runs on Monday and going 3-for-3 on Tuesday. He is a player that is really starting to open some eyes, mine included. And Jake Dittler, the Indians #2 pick last season, was hit in the head by a line drive on the mound and sent to the hospital for observation.
Minorleaguebaseball.com is reporting that the Indians released the following players: Jason Baker (RHP), Christian Bridenbaugh (LHP), Byron Ewing (1B), Neil Hughes (LHP), and Travis Santini (RF). Baker posted respectable numbers for Kinston last season. The site is also reporting that St.Ed's grad Derek Root was released by the Cardinals.
Three former tribe farmhands, Jim Betzsold, Pep Harris, and Joe Roa, were released by the Dodgers, Dodgers, and Marlins respectively.
One name to remember among the minor leaguers released this week is Jackson Melian of the Reds. Melian is a former hyped (not necessarily top) prospect with the Yankees whom the Reds designated for assignment and now have 10 days to trade or release him. Melian is a very toolsy player and may be worth a flier given the lack of outfield prospects in the Indians system.
Have a great day (and Go Flashes!!)
March 20, 2002
The Indians have announced the hiring of Jeff Datz as the new bench coach for Charlie Manual. Datz replaces Grady Little who left to manage the Boston Red Sox.
CHECK THIS OUT
AP wire story on Milton Bradley. Have you noticed that he is starting to appear on more and more "sleeper" lists?
CHECK THIS OUT
Here's a cool blog for general baseball news....Baseball News Blog
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Wednesday, March 20
11 days until Opening Day!
The Jaret Wright saga took a major turn for the worse yesterday after he walked off the mound with pain in his right shoulder after throwing 21 pitches in a minor league game. The Indians are sending him to California to be examined by Dr. Lewis Yocum who performed the previous surgeries on Jaret's shoulder and is the Angels team orthopedist who recently operated on Cubs closer Tom Gordon. If you want to search for the silver lining, Jaret did say that the pain felt similar to the discomfort he experienced in Clearwater on March 9 and which the Indians doctors diagnosed as tendinitis. The obvious negative is that this is the second setback in his comeback and it comes after he's been on a very conservative rehab program. Without a doubt, he will start on the Dl and the Morning Journal has Mark Shapiro quoted as saying "he's a long way from putting himself into our decision-making process." Fortunately, the Indians were not seriously considering Wright as a viable option to make the opening day roster so the immediate impact is nil. Long-term though, it's beginning to look like we may never see the fulfillment of the potential of the pitcher who took the mound in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series and that is very disappointing, both as a baseball and Indians fan.
Continuing with the rehabbing pitchers, Charles Nagy took the mound yesterday and was hit hard again, giving up 8 hits and 4 runs in 5 innings against the Royals. If it weren't for the $6mil guaranteed contract owed to Nagy this season, there is no way he would even be in consideration for a roster spot given his performance this spring and decreased velocity. The Indians will probably take the easy way out and stash him on the DL to start the season which would allow Nagy a few rehab starts in the minor leagues to decide whether or not to continue his comeback and buy the Indians some time before they have to address what could be a nasty PR move in releasing Nagy.
Mark Wohlers and Scott Radinsky continued to make the circa-1992 "Bullpen from Hell" look good as they combined to give up 5 runs in the 7th inning yesterday. I don't envy Charlie Manuel and Mark Shapiro in having to decide amongst Scott Radinsky, Charles Nagy, Omar Olivares, and Jose Mercedes for the last spot in the bullpen. Given those choices, maybe they will just keep Nagy after all. On a side note, Martin Vargas and Alex Herrera, both demoted to triple-A Buffalo, combined for 12 scoreless innings this spring.
The national media is giving a lot of negative press to the Indians interest in Ruben Rivera but I have to agree with Roger Brown in that I don't see what the big deal is with the Indians investigating whether or not he was worth signing to a minor-league contract. I think it's simply a matter of the front office doing their due diligence in reviewing any player that has become available. As for the reports that the Indians had Rivera meet with the Indians team psychologist, isn't it better they did this upfront rather than sign him now and only later confirm that he was not a good fit? I think the Indians did the right thing here and I simply don't understand the criticism.
On the backup catcher front, MLB.com has an article on Josh Bard, PittsburghLive has an article on Pirates catcher Keith Osik and the PD is reporting the Indians are scouting Braves catcher Eddie Perez along with a group of about 14 other catchers that most likely include a number of the players mentioned in the March 16 CIR.
Jolbert Cabrera is scheduled to DH in a minor-league game today and remains on schedule for a mid-April return.
Alex Escobar is scheduled to have surgery on his knee tomorrow in Cleveland.
Congratulations to Einar Diaz and his wife Leslie on the birth of their first daughter over the weekend. This is the second child for the Diaz family.
The Red Sox returned Jamie Brewington to the minors.
And finally, former Indians pitcher Steve Gromek has passed away. Gromek was a member of the 1948 World Series Championship team and had a 17-year career with Indians and Tigers posting a 123-108 record with a 3.41 ERA. Similarity scores at baseball-reference.com compare him to Mike Scott and Joaquin Andujar to give you an idea of the type of career Gromek had.
Have a great day!
March 19, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Tuesday, March 19
The Indians had a day off yesterday so this will be a short report.
If the Indians do not offer Omar Olivares a major-league contract tomorrow, he has the option of leaving camp and becoming a free-agent. Given his performance so far (5.63 ERA in 8 innings), it's doubtful the Indians will guarantee him anything at this point in the spring. It's also doubtful that his performance has impressed a scout from another team to the point where they would be willing to offer him a major-league contract. If Charlie Manuel decides to keep a true long-reliever/spot-starter on the roster, Olivares still has an opportunity to make the club and, because of that, I think he will decide to stay in Indians camp for a little while longer. He will also have the option of accepting a minor-league contract and reporting to Buffalo if the Indians designate him for assignment.
Jose Mercedes is in camp under a similar arrangement but his deadline is next Tuesday, March 26. Like Olivares, Mercedes has done nothing to distinguish himself this spring, posting a 5.14 ERA in 7 innings of work, and faces the same odds as Olivares at making the opening day roster.
Jaret Wright, who was in competition with Olivares and Mercedes, has resumed throwing and is scheduled to pitch in a minor-league game this afternoon. Regardless of how well he pitches, it is expected that he will now either start the season on the DL or in triple-A where the Indians can closely monitor his workload. This is line with what we have been thinking since camp opened and it will probably be the same path that Charlie Nagy follows as well.
Baseball America is reporting that the Indians have signed RHP Bobby Munoz to a minor-league contract. I suspect this is the same Munoz who broke in with the Phillies in the mid-90s, blew out his arm, and has been bouncing around triple-A with the occasional major league appearance ever since. At one time he had a live arm and, while he's always been a starter, perhaps the Indians will take a look at what he can do out of the bullpen. At this stage in his career, it couldn't hurt.
Baseball America is also reporting that Indians minor-leaguers Kyle Moyer (1B) and Andy Larkin (RHP) have retired. Larkin was once a top prospect with the Marlins in the mid-90s who spent last season in the Rockies organization.
The Brewers optioned Marcus Scutaro to triple-AAA Indianapolis and the Mets optioned out LHP Mike Bacsik to triple-AAA Norfolk. Bacsik was involved in the Robbie Alomar deal.
And finally, here's one way to complement your new boss, courtesy of Blue Jays rookie 2B Orlando Hudson. Hudson was quoted as saying new GM J.P. Ricciardi is a "smooth-looking cat... he looks like he was a pimp." Some compliment. "We had a nice little closed-door meeting," Ricciardi says. "I think Orlando will choose his words more carefully. And I don't think 'pimp' will be one of them."
HAVE A GREAT DAY!
March 18, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Monday, March 18
13 days until Opening Day!
Is anyone else ready for some real games to be played? Yesterday's exhibition game on TV was a quick fix, but it only served to whet my appetite for more. March 31 cannot get here soon enough.
It sure was nice seeing John McDonald back on the field and playing again. In his first game back from appendectomy surgery two and a half weeks ago, Johnny Mac knocked out a couple of hits, turned two double plays, and make several nice plays in the field. All in a Saint Patrick's Day work. Out of minor league options, the Indians have indicated that he will be on the opening day roster if healthy. Right now, it looks like he will indeed be ready for opening day barring any complications resulting from McDonald overdoing his rehab and coming back too soon.
So what implications does McDonald's early return have on the roster? For one, if Charlie Manuel is going to carry two utility infielders, as he has indicated throughout camp, it looks like they will be John McDonald and Mike Lansing. Lansing, of course, is contingent on his health as he has been battling back problems for most of camp. Two non-roster invitees, Greg LaRocca and Anthony Medrano, who were potentially battling for the last spot are most likely ticketed for AAA with Medrano being dispatched there yesterday. With Jolbert Cabrera due to return in mid-April, the Indians could also decide to keep only one utility infielder for the first two weeks of the season and use the extra roster spot for an outfielder (Karim Garcia?) or pitcher. Lansing has been flying under the radar for most of camp and it will be interesting to see how the Indians use him these final two weeks of camp.
Charlie Manuel refuses to commit to Ryan Drese as the official #5 start but you have to like his chances after his performance yesterday. Granted, it was the Pirates and their regulars often resemble a triple-A lineup but as a major league pitcher Drese is supposed to be able to handle lineups like that. I saw nothing in his outing yesterday that indicated he was not deserving of the ball every fifth day.
Travis Fryman went deep in the 8th yesterday. He was 2-for-38 prior to that and did not look good in his three previous plate appearances. Hopefully, this will restore some confidence and kickstart Travis out of his slump. Failing that, it may be time to break out the chicken bones. Since Travis is a family man, I would hold off on a slumpbuster for now :-).
The Indians trimmed the roster yesterday, sending 11 players to the minor leagues. Tim Drew, Alex Herrera, Roy Smith, and Martin Vargas were optioned to AAA-Buffalo. Victor Martinez was optioned to AA-Akron. Heath Murray, Jeff D'Amico, Anthony Medrano, Earl Snyder, Todd Dunwoody, and Donzell McDonald were reassigned with their most likely destination being Buffalo.
Of the above group, only Alex Herrera is a surprise and if you had listened to the Indians throughout spring, they had never really indicated that Herrera was a serious contender for the bullpen. I had thought that his strong performance in camp (5 scoreless innings) would have at least earned him an extra week or two of work against big-league regulars, but apparently, the Indians thought otherwise. The reasoning may have nothing to do with Herrera as they may simply prefer to keep a true long reliever (Mercedes, Olivares, Nagy, Wright) on the roster. With three youngsters in the rotation and all of them not likely to pitch more than 6 innings on a consistent basis, the bullpen is going to see a heavy workload, and, especially in the early months, I think they're looking at having someone on board who can pitch 3-4 innings when needed.
The courtship of Ruben Rivera lasted one day as Mark Shapiro looked into it and decided it was a not good fit for the Indians. The Rangers (go figure) are the only team rumored to have talked with Rivera.
Jose Rosado remains a free-agent and the ABJ is reporting that Mark Shapiro has called Rosado's agent but has not been called back yet . It's fairly obvious that Rosado is not going to pitch immediately in the major leagues and I suspect his agent is going to take his time and attempt to play teams off one another in the hopes of landing his client a major league contract with some guaranteed money involved. The Indians have indicated that they are only interested in discussing a minor-league contract.
Jaret Wright is scheduled to pitch on Tuesday amid continuing rumors that the Rangers are close to making an offer for him. Could this turn out to be a showcase start? Take the Internet rumor mill with a HUGE grain of salt, but if the Rangers are truly offering Frank Catalanotto, Mark Shapiro should be falling over himself to make that handshake.
The PD lists Baltimore catchers Geronimo Gil and Fernando Lunar as possible solutions to the Indians backup catcher problem and the Baltimore Sun has an article on this very subject. To summarize, Lunar is the better defensive catcher but is out of options and Gil is the better overall catcher and has an option left. Mike Hargrove is only planning on carrying two catchers and Brook Fordyce is guaranteed one spot due to a bloated contract (second year of 3yr-$7.7mil deal). The PD also lists Scott Servais (SF) and AJ Hinch (KC) as catchers on the Indians short list.
And finally, what is up with Brady Anderson's hair?
March 17, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Sunday, March 17
14 days until Opening Day!
About the only good thing you can say about yesterday's 14-4 loss to the Blue Jays is that none of the three pitchers (Omar Oliveras, Jose Mercedes, and Scott Radinsky) who got bombed figure prominently in the Indians plans for 2002. And if they do, something has gone horribly wrong and the season is mostly likely over with anyway.
Speaking of Radinsky, his performance yesterday, 5 earned runs in 1/3 of an inning, still did not illicit any kind of worrisome comments from Charlie Manuel. The PD had Charlie quoted as saying "Radinsky just got a little wild, I'm looking at him as a situational lefty". A little wild? 2 hits and 3 walks in 1/3 inning is more than a little wild. He has not looked good at all this spring and his velocity is clocking in the low-to-mid 80s. The plan is to give him more work this week specifically against left-handed batters. I still think we're going to see a retirement announcement before the end of the month.
In the meantime, Alex Herrera, continues to show why he is one of the top pure relief prospects in baseball by throwing 5 scoreless innings and only allowing 1 hit with no walks this spring. So why hasn't Herrera been anointed as the second lefty in the pen? Well, for one, he only has pitched 30 innings at the AA level and has yet to pitch in AAA so the Indians are rightly concerned about rushing him to the big leagues too soon. And secondly, Herrera's spring work has been in the later innings which, in the early spring, is typically populated by minor leaguers and fringe major leaguers. The Indians have to be encouraged by his early dominance but I am sure they are withholding judgment until they start seeing him pitch against major league regulars and specifically some of the top AL lefties such as Jason Giambi or Carlos Delgado. As rosters start shrinking and regulars start playing full-games and relievers start moving into their defined roles, Herrera should have an opportunity to prove himself in the next two weeks. Perhaps we'll get to see him face Brian Giles today.
Karim Garcia had another big day in his late bid to make the opening day roster going 3-for-5 with 2 RBIs.
The Beacon Journal is reporting the Indians could be making some roster moves today. The number of players still in camp stands at 48.
The Morning Journal is reporting that the Indians are negotiating with the agent for free-agent OF, and clubhouse thief, Ruben Rivera on a minor-league contract. Given the emphasis placed on clubhouse chemistry by new GM Mark Shapiro, this interest speaks volumes about the Indians lack of outfield depth in the upper levels of the system as well as the concerns they have about Milton Bradley as a full-time player. You have to trust that Shapiro and Company will do their homework and investigate whether Rivera's recent criminal endeavor is a one-time event or the latest in a troublesome pattern of questionable activity. If Rivera should sign with the Indians, we'll dig into his past more in-depth, but know that he is an outstanding defensive centerfielder with enormous physical tools but without a clue on how to use them at the plate.
The Dallas Morning News is reporting that Dom Chiti, Rangers top scout for evaluating trade prospects, is in Winter Haven to check out Jaret Wright. If the name sounds familiar, that's because Chiti was among the Indians baseball personnel who followed John Hart to Arlington in the offseason. The Rangers have made it known they are looking for pitching and after failing to land Sydney Ponson from the Orioles and Chris Carpenter from the Blue Jays, they are now reportedly turning their attention to Wright. No mention is made of what the Rangers may be offering in return but they do have an abundance of outfielders and corner players and a package involving 3B Mike Lamb and/or slugging OF prospect Kevin Mench may be an interesting proposal for the talented, but oft-injured Wright. With CC, Baez, and Drese having passed Wright in the rotation, Billy Traber and Tim Drew in AAA, and a host of young talent in the lower minors, maybe the Tribe could afford to deal Wright to improve the offense. It's certainly an interesting thought.
The PD mentions John Flaherty of the Devil Rays as a potential backup catcher for the Indians with the key being the D-Rays paying part of his salary. Flaherty made $3mil last season and his contract is the main reason why Tampa was unable to trade him at the deadline last summer or this offseason.
Kenny Lofton is off to a fine start with the White Sox this spring, hitting .429 with 3 steals. With the gaping hole at the top of the Indians lineup, nah, nevermind. It was still the right move in letting Kenny sign elsewhere.
Carlos Baerga is also off to a good start with the Red Sox this spring and made a quick impression on new manager Grady Little.
The Indians-Pirates game is on Fox Sports Net this afternoon at 1:00 PM. Ryan Drese gets the start for the Tribe.
Have a great day (and how 'bout them Flashes!!)
March 16, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Saturday, March 16
15 days until Opening Day!
As suspected, the Indians learned yesterday that Eddie Taubensee will be out for the next 2-3 months with two degenerative discs in his back. Doctors have recommended rest and a reevaluation to determine if surgery is necessary. Mark Shapiro referred to Taubensee's condition as potentially career-threatening or career-altering as it is possible that he may not be able to catch but could play another position in the field (1B) or DH. I don't have a medical degree but I do know that anytime you start talking about back pain and disc problems it is very likely that this is a condition that will remain with the person for the remainder of their lives. Taubensee as a hitter is decent enough for catcher, but nothing to get excited about as a first basemen or DH. After 15 years in baseball and a solid major league career, I hope that Eddie looks at what is best for his family and his long-term health instead of trying to squeeze another year or two out of an obviously protesting body. Taubensee was acquired from the Reds in December 2000 for Jim Brower and Robert Pugmire and hit .250 with three HRs last season with the Indians.
The injury to Taubensee has suddenly made catcher Josh Bard the story of camp. Unknown two weeks ago, here's some background information on the Indians new backup catcher. Josh Bard was drafted by the Rockies in the third round of the 1999 draft out of Texas Tech, where he hit .353 and led the Big 12 conference in doubles his final season. Bard spent the 2000 season in the high-A Carolina League where he hit .285 with two HRs and a .711 OPS in 309 ABs. He also had a triple-A cup of coffee with Colorado Springs where he played in four games and hit .235 in what I suspect was a chain reaction promotion due to September callups by the Rockies. Bard then started the 2001 season at AA Carolina before being traded to the Indians in the Jacob Cruz deal in June, where he split time at Mahoning Valley, Akron, and Buffalo hitting a combined .273 with 6 HRs in 242 ABs in the Tribe system, displaying the most power of his career. Generally regarded as being sound defensively with a good arm and the ability to handle a pitching staff, the question has always been whether he will hit enough to make the major leagues. For that reason, Bard has never been listed amongst the top prospects in either the Rockies or Indians organization by Baseball America, Top Prospect Alert, Protospect Watch, StrikeThree, or MLBprospect, although he did earn a C+ grade from John Sickels in the 2001 minor league scouting notebook (where a lot of the above information was obtained). Off to a good start this spring, hitting .429, Bard has the defensive qualities the Indians are looking for in a backup catcher, but the hitting questions still linger. More than likely, the Indians will bring in a veteran catcher in the next two weeks to either backup Einar Diaz or serve as triple-A insurance. Even if Bard starts the season at AAA, it would not surprise me to see the Indians bring in another catcher to serve as insurance for the big club while serving as a mentor to Josh. My gut says that the Indians catching depth will look like this in April.
CLE: Einar Diaz, Trade or Waiver Wire pickup
BUFF: Josh Bard, Trade or Waiver Wire pickup
AKR: Victor Martinez, Chris Coste
For what it's worth, Rotoworld.com lists John Flaherty, Alberto Castillo, Ramon Castro, and Chris Widger as potential acquisition targets by the Indians. Flaherty has a contract that the Indians will probably not be interested in. Castro is a decent prospect with the Marlins who may be out of options and could be dealt or force the Fish to make Mike Redmond available, who would be my preferred choice. Castillo and Widger are in Yankees camp and battling Todd Greene and Bobby Estalella for the backups spot to Jorge Posada.
Charles Nagy got hit hard in his start on Thursday and now has two good starts and two bad starts this spring. Reports of his velocity are starting to make the press and the numbers are not good at 84-86 mph. Granted, Charlie has never been a hard thrower but at that velocity, you need to have perfect location or a trick delivery that makes 85mph look like 93mph in order to succeed. He'll have another couple of starts to state his case but the most likely scenario remains that he will start the season on the DL with a rehab assignment in Akron or Buffalo. You have to admire his character in continuing his comeback but the odds are starting to stack against him. MLB.com has an article about Charlie on the website today.
Another rehabbing pitcher, Jaret Wright, has started throwing long toss and will have a bullpen session this weekend.
Scott Radinsky is scheduled to pitch against the Blue Jays today in his first outing in eight days. Reports of decreased velocity from 91mph (late last season) to 84-85mph (last spring outing) were the reason for the minor shutdown. Alex Herrera continues to stake a claim on Radinsky's roster spot with another scoreless inning against the Expos yesterday.
Mark Wohlers continues to get hit hard, having now given up 10 runs in 9-2/3 innings this spring. If it weren't for his two-year contract, there is no doubt that Wohlers would have pitched himself off the club this spring. Charlie is publicly stating he is not worried, but I don't think we're going to be seeing Wohlers in late inning situations come April.
Another O-fer for Travis, who is now 2-for-35 this spring.
I didn't have to Ask Hoynsie, but he came through with an explanation as to the lack of playing time for Karim Garcia this spring. It appears that Karim has been suffering from a sore left shoulder, has been playing in minor league games, and is almost ready to start throwing again. Garcia was a candidate to start the season with the Indians but it appears he will be headed back to AAA to start the season. I believe that he is out of options and could conceivably sign with another organization but it looks like he is happy with the Indians organization and I expect him to be in Buffalo in April.
The Lorain Journal is reporting that Brooks Kieschnick is going to make the switch from 1B/OF to pitcher. Kieschnick was a first-team All American at Texas in 1993 posting a 16-4 record with a 3.25 ERA and 3 saves and also starring as a power-hitting OF. The Cubs drafted him in the first round in 1993 and made him a hitter only. The Indians reassigned Kieschnick to Buffalo on Tuesday and reports are that he initiated this move after realizing his career as a hitter has stalled at the triple-A level.
Jose Rosado cleared waivers on Wednesday and is now free to sign with any team. The Indians have indicated an interest but only if he's willing to spend time in the minor leagues.
Rick Reed dropped his trade demand on Friday and will remain with the Minnesota Twins this season giving the Twins a formidable front four of Brad Radke, Eric Milton, Joe Mays, and Reed. Reed is guaranteed salaries of $7mil in 2002 and $8mil in 2003 with an option for $8mil in 2004 that is automatically picked up if he pitches 197-2/3 innings in 2003.
The Indians released thousands of tickets that had been reserved for groups and potential season ticket holders and put them on sale yesterday at all ticket outlets. All games are available, including previously thought to be sold out games such as opening day. I think I heard Tom Hamilton note during yesterday's broadcast that the Indians had sold 2.3 million tickets for this season which is certainly an impressive amount, but nowhere near seasons past.
Have a great day!
March 14, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Thursday, March 14
17 days until Opening Day!
The Indians defeated a split-squad Yankees team yesterday 11-5. CC Sabathia pitched 4 scoreless innings. David Riske continued to be lights out with a 9-pitch, strike out the side, ninth inning. Milton Bradley (1), Karim Garcia (1), and Earl Snyder (3) hit wind-aided homers. Omar Vizqual led off and was 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs. Overall, the Tribe knocked out 17 hits against a trio of Yankee minor leaguers.
Eddie Taubensee is headed to Los Angeles to have his back examined after sitting out the last week with tightness and spasms. His condition is so uncertain that he could be out for a week or he could be out for the rest of the season. Taubensee has always played with back pain but is having problems getting loose behind the plate and is also having problems swinging the bat. Mark Shapiro is quoted in the ABJ as saying "If Eddie can't catch, he will have to go on the disabled list. He's our backup catcher. He doesn't have another role. So we're in the process of evaluating whether his injury will allow him to catch.'' This has opened the door for Josh Bard and he has responded to the challenge by hitting .421 (8 for 19) this spring. I'll have a more in-depth look at Josh tomorrow.
Whether or not the Tribe wants to break camp with a youngster who has played only 10 games in AAA is still to be determined. Mark Shapiro has let it be known that the Indians are going to closely monitor the waiver wire and roster cutdowns towards the end of spring and that may fill up the recently opened spot on the 40-man roster. Here's a quick list of some catchers who may be available come the end of the spring.
Jorge Fabregas, Jamie Burke (Anaheim), AJ Hinch, Hector Ortiz, Danny Ardoin (KC), Alberto Castillo, Bobby Estalella, Chris Widger (NYY), John Flaherty, Sal Fasano (TB), Pat Borders (Tex), Mike DeFelice (SL), Scott Servais (SF), Todd Pratt (Phil), Randy Knorr (Mont), Marcus Jensen (Mil), Chris Tremie (Hou), Charlie Greene (Hou), Carlos Hernandez, Gary Bennett (Col), Jesse Levis (Cin), Chad Moeller, Rod Barajas (Az)
Certainly, none of the above are anything to get excited about, but several of them could adequately fill the role of backup catcher. Ideally the Indians would be looking for a veteran with defensive skills who can call a decent game and has recent AL experience. Any offensive contribution would be a plus. Alberto Castillo, Mike DeFelice, and Chris Widger meet the above requirements and are also going to have a difficult time finding room on their respective clubs opening day roster. The asking price should be in the form of a low-level minor leaguer although with Taubensee's condition well-known throughout the game, you can expect GMs to try to take advantage of the situation.
A name to remember if the Indians decide to find a more permanent solution at backup catcher is Mike Redmond of the Marlins. Stuck behind Charles Johnson, Redmond is a .294 hitter over 700+ career ABs and punishes lefties. He has a reputation for calling a good game and has a decent arm behind the plate. With four years of major league service, Redmond is entering the stage of his career where he might be pricing himself too high for a cash-conscious organization like the Marlins. With CJ entrenched as the #1backstop and solid prospect Ramon Castro ready at AAA, the Marlins may be ready to move Redmond for help at another position. If I was Mark Shapiro, this is the player I would be inquiring about first.
Two additional names that would almost certainly interest the Indians are Mark Johnson and Josh Paul of the White Sox. Both should be out of minor league options and the White Sox are going to have decide if they want to carry both Johnson and Paul along with Sandy Alomar on the opening day roster. Both catchers are relatively young and have some skills with the bat and behind the plate. It's doubtful the Sox would trade with their division rival but stranger things have happened.
Karim Garcia, no longer forgotten, went deep yesterday.
John McDonald is scheduled to play in a minor league game today and the ABJ is reporting that Mark Shapiro thinks McDonald could be ready by opening day. Jolbert Cabrera is scheduled to play in a minor league game next Wednesday and his timetable is still targeted for a return date in mid-April.
Is anyone else starting to get concerned about Milton Bradley? Another miscue in the outfield yesterday now has his count (I believe) at 5 drops, lost in sun, or miscommunications with another outfielder. While digging through some archives for my AL rotisserie league, I found this scouting report I sent out after seeing Bradley play in the spring of 2000... "MILTON BRADLEY: Million dollar talent, $.10 cent head. Led off the 9th against a new pitcher. One pitch, ground-out to short. I don't think things have changed much. Get to work Eddie, the Tribe needs Bradley to turn his tools into performance this season.
Baseball America has updated their list of players with revised birthdates. The Indians currently hold the lead with 7 players affected and this does not include Jose Cabrera, who was originally drafted by the Indians, Enrique Wilson, who spent many years in the Indians minor league system, and Julio Franco, who made his major league debut with the Tribe almost 20 years ago (can it be that long?). The soon to be an answer to a trivia question, Marcus Agramonte, holds the lead with 6 candles being added to his birthday cake. Marcus used to play in the Rangers organization but they immediately released him after they found out he could qualify for social security.
Danny Peoples, traded to the Mets in the Robbie Alomar deal, was released by the Mets yesterday and is free to sign with any team. Peoples was stuck behind Mo Vaughn and a slew of similar type players the Mets already had time and money invested in at AAA Norfolk.
And finally, how 'bout them Flashes!! Ok, it's only the first half, but they look impressive so far.
Have a great day!
March 13, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Wednesday, March 13
18 days until Opening Day!
In the Indians spring training beat report on MLB.com, Charlie Manuel is quoted as saying that he wants Scott Radinsky to get stronger and that he has not shown the velocity he has had in the past. This helps to explain the rough start this spring as well as the reason why Radinsky has not pitched since last Friday. Once one of the premier left-handed setup pitchers in the game back in the 90s with the White Sox and Dodgers, Radinsky has only pitched 68 innings (major and minor league) over the past three years due to shoulder and elbow injuries. After 1000+ innings, 2 major surgeries, and a 15-year career, this could simply be all that is left in the tank. With the emergence of Alex Herrera this spring, the need to carry Radinsky as the second lefty in the pen has been greatly reduced. It will be interesting to see how much he pitches in the next two weeks and, if the velocity does not increase, it would not surprise me at all if we see a retirement announcement before the Tribe heads north.
Is it time to start worrying about Travis Fryman? You always want to give veterans the benefit of the doubt in the spring but he's now hitting just .071 (2-for-28) this spring and when combined with his listless performance at the plate in the second half last year, the Indians could be looking at a major hole in the lineup at 3B. Keep the faith for now but the last week of camp will be a telling sign if Travis is ready. There is a glimmer of hope at 3B, though, as the Indians are having Earl Snyder work out at third this spring. Snyder, acquired from the Mets in the Alomar trade, is primarily a first basemen but has been compared to a "Herb Perry with power" by some Indians officials and has opened some eyes this spring, hitting .357 (5 for 14) with 2 HRs. He'll start the season in Buffalo but could be a serviceable replacement and serve the dual purpose of keeping Russ Branyan away from the hot corner.
Greg LaRocca continues to impress in his bid for a backup utility infield spot, hitting his third HR of the spring against the Astros yesterday. Charlie Manuel is quoted in the ABJ that if the Indians keep two backup infielders either LaRocca or Anthony Medrano will make the opening day roster. Charlie also notes that he thinks that LaRocca can provide more power while Medrano can play anywhere in the infield or outfield (similar to Jolbert Cabrera).
Is Karim Garcia the forgotten man of camp? After his hot September last season, he was expected to contend for the last OF spot this spring, but has only 3 ABs in "A" games. I guess it's time to "Ask Hoynsie" :-)
Brooks Kieschnick was reassigned to the minor league camp after hitting .182 (2 for 11) with a HR. He'll play some combination of 1B/LF/DH for AAA Buffalo.
Today's game against the Yankees is on WTAM 1100 and is also cybercast on mlb.com
And finally, the one that got away. Paul DePodesta is 29 years old, plays pranks on Mark Shapiro, and is the top general manager prospect in baseball after starting his career interning with the Indians. He's also the subject of the linked article on espn.com.
Have a great day!
March 12, 2002
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Tuesday, March 12
Grady Little has left to manage the Boston Red Sox and Charlie Manuel is looking for a new bench coach. According to the PD, the role of the bench coach is to run spring training drills and provide game-day preparation, such as matchup sheets, during the regular season. It is expected that this opening will be filled within the organization with Eric Wedge (AAA Buffalo manager) and Jeff Datz (minor league field coordinator) as the front-runner. It's possible they could move an existing coach to the bench and bring in someone to take over their roles but Mike Brown is not going to leave the pitching staff, Eddie Murray was brought in specifically to work with the hitters, and Robby Thompson is in his first season as a coach. The only real possibility amongst the existing coaches would be Luis Issac due to his experience at the major league level and Joel Skinner who has minor league managerial experience and has some big-league coaching experience as well. A decision is expected within the next 3-5 days.
John McDonald, two weeks removed from appendectomy surgery, took light batting practice yesterday and is two weeks ahead of schedule in his recovery. He is still not expected to be ready for opening day. Mike Lansing is cautiously being returned to active duty after last weeks bout with back spasms. Greg LaRocca and Anthony Medrano continue to battle for a possible utility infielder role.
Scott Radinsky was told at the start of camp that the second lefty in the pen's job was his to lose and he might be doing just that as he has struggled in posting a 6.00 ERA in 3 innings of work giving up 4 hits and 2 walks. His longshot competition, Alex Herrera, threw another scoreless inning yesterday and has now pitched four scoreless and hitless innings with two strikeouts this spring. Of course, early spring numbers must be taken with a grain of salt, especially numbers posted in the late innings where the hitters are typically AA and AAA players, but if Herrera can continue his hot spring and Radinsky continues to struggle, it could get interesting towards the end of camp. Of some note, Radinsky has not pitched in an "A" game since Friday while Herrera pitched Saturday and Monday.
Bartolo Colon had a solid outing yesterday (5 IP, 3H, 2R, 1BB, 4K) and there was an interesting note in the Beacon Journal which stated that Mike Brown had moved Bartolo into the middle of the pitching rubber in order to get him to pitch inside more often. If you can picture Bartolo on the mound from last season, he would stand on the far left side of the rubber and it's understandable how he would have difficulty working the inside corner effectively. This is a minor adjustment, but sometimes it's the little things like this that can transform a good pitcher into a great pitcher. With Bartolo's heat, if he can put the fastball under the hitters wrists consistently, he could be looking at a breakout season.
Don't expect the Indians to be in market for OF Ruben Rivera who was released by the Yankees last night. In case you missed it, Rivera, who was signed for $1mil, stole a glove and hat from Derek Jeter's locker and sold it to a memorablia dealer for $2500. Why someone with that kind of contract would have the need to steal for $2500 is beyond me, but you can believe that that kind of character flaw does not fit into the new chemistry of the Indians "energy" clubhouse.
One player the Indians may have an interest in is recently released White Sox OF Julio Ramirez who is an excellent defensive centerfielder with good wheels, some pop, and plate discipline that can make Russ Branyan look like Mike Hargrove at the plate. Once a highly-regarded prospect with the Marlins, Ramirez has been beset by injuries and strikeouts the last two seasons. Does this sound eerily like Alex Escobar or what? At any rate, the tools are there and he's the kind of player you'd like to stash away in AAA and see if your minor league instructors can get through to them where other organizations could not.
MLB is offering free radio broadcasts throughout spring training. Today's Indians and Astros is available by clicking here.
And finally, MLB has a nice story about former Indians centerfielder Brett Butler who is back in Dodgers camp as a minor league instructor after winning his battle with throat cancer. It's nice to see Brett back in the game.
Have a great day!!