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March 31, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Monday, March 31
Special MLB Preview Edition

My annual look at the major leagues. Judging from my performance in the NCAA tourney pool, I wouldn't put much stock in my prognosticating skills.

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) New York Yankees: They're not as solid as in the past, but they still have a load of talent and the ability to add contracts in midseason.  That's especially important because the Yankees farm system has dried up considerably over the past few years.  I have some concerns with their pitching staff (aging starters, questionable bullpen) but the offense should be one of the best in the league and, again, they can spend to fill whatever holes develop in the first half.

2) Boston Red Sox: I like the moves they've made and it would not surprise me at all to see them bypass the Yankees this year.  David Ortiz and Jeremy Giambi were a nice addition at 1B/DH, not to mention Kevin Millar.  The bullpen has a lot of arms of varying quality and it will be interesting to see how the "no closer" plan plays out.  With all the talent on their roster, it's strange to say that the season could hinge on Casey Fossum, Chad Fox, Bobby Howry, and John Burkett.

3) Toronto Blue Jays: I've seen several sources predict the Blue Jays as a possible surprise team in the AL this year but I think that is a year premature.  They just don't have the starting pitching in my mind to jump them into the 90-win club and I'm not so sure about Chris Woodward as the everyday shortstop.  I do like Vernon Wells in the outfield and their young arms are encouraging but they're a year away from being serious contenders.

4) Baltimore Orioles: I think the Orioles may surprise this year, if only to the extent that they're not going to be as bad as people think.  I think .500 is a realistic goal for the 'Birds.   For some reason I like the arms in their rotation and think Jason Johnson and Sidney Ponson could be poised for breakout years.  Offensively, they have a bunch of grubbily solid hitters but nobody who really jumps out at you.  Keep an eye on Jay Gibbons, he hit 28 homers last year with a bad wrist and he's healthy this season.

5) Tampa Bay Devil Rays:  If Lou Pinella puts Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli atop the lineup, he should be canned on the spot.   I like both prospects but when their combined OBPs barely top .600, that's a red flag that should not be ignored.  The Rays do have some intriguing talent, but the bullpen is a mess, the rotation is littered with question marks, and the offense has very few people who know how to get on base.   There's finally a bright light at the tunnel, but it's going to be another long year in the 'dome.

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) Minnesota Twins:   They could be better than last year.  If Brad Radke and Joe Mays are healthy, Corey Koskie reverts to his 2001 numbers, and Mike Cuddyer and Matt LeCroy fulfill their potential, this club could rack up a bunch of wins.  Of course, those are a lot of "ifs" and the middle part of the bullpen remains a question mark in my mind, but the overall balance (pitching, hitting, defense) of the Twins places them 1st in the central again.

2) Chicago White Sox:  The Sox are going to hit.  Carlos Lee and Joe Crede look poised for breakout years.  Colon and Buehrle are a formidable duo at the front of the rotation.  If either Jon Garland or Danny Wright develop into a 15-game winner, the Sox will pose a strong challenge for the Twins.   Questions remain in the bullpen and I'm not so sure they would have been better off sticking with Keith Foulke instead of trading for Billy Koch.   Defensively, they're awful which isn't going to help the young staff.

3) Cleveland Indians:  If you like Cedar Point, you will enjoy the 2003 Tribe season because it's going to be a roller coaster year.  There will be stretches where this team plays like a contending team and then there will be stretches where they remind us how young they are. See below for more on the Tribe.

4) Kansas City Royals:   Is this the year that Dee Brown finally breaks out?   He's had a pretty good spring.  Their rotation is younger then the Indians with Run Hernandez and Jeremy Affledt earning praise in Arizona.  The bullpen is in worse shape than the Tribe and the doubleplay combination of Angel Berroa and Carlos Febles will result in a lot of outs at the plate.  Still, Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney, and Raul Ibanez are a solid core offensively.   They could finish ahead of the Indians, somewhere in the 75 win range. They could also scrape to win 60 if the young pitchers implode and they deal Beltran and/or Sweeney at the break.

5) Detroit Tigers:  The Tigers are awful.  They have Carlos Pena, Eric Munson, Jeremy Bonderman, Franklin German, and that's it.  The rest of the roster is overpaid, unproductive veterans, and questionable youth.  This franchise is in very bad shape. If you're upset with Dolan and company, just be glad you're not in the Motor City. If they win 65 games this year, that will be a a major accomplishment.

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) Oakland Athletics: The best in the West. How can you not love the Big 3 of Hudson, Zito, and Mulder? I'm a little uncertain about their offense, an injury to either Chavez or Tejada will have serious consequences, but if Jermaine Dye bounces back and Erubial Durazo comes close to his full season prorated numbers, they're going to be very good again.

2) Seattle Mariners: Solid all around, the A's just have a little bit more of everything. How much longer can Jamie Moyer and Edgar Martinez last? They need to keep the kids (Meche, Snelling, Anderson, Soriano) healthy and start fazing them into the lineup.

3) Anaheim Angels: Everything fell into place last season but this is another year. I still have questions about their rotation and the bullpen needs to prove it is more than a one-year wonder. Still, they're solid all around the field and should compete for a wildcard.

4) Texas Rangers: Dynamite offense. No pitching. Sounds just like a John Hart team to me. Adding Mark Teixeira and Hank Blalock to an offense that already includes Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmiero, and Juan Gonzalez is almost unfair. Too bad they're saddled with Doug Glanville leading off. They really need Chan Ho Park, Ismael Valdes, and John Thomson to have good seasons to have any shot in a loaded division.

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) Atlanta Braves: Still the best in the division. I like Hampton and Ortiz but I think they will regret the Paul Byrd signing, especially for those dollars. Leo Mazzone always puts together a solid bullpen. Rob Fick should help an offense that will once again rely on the best outfield in baseball (Chipper Jones, Andruw Jones, Gary Sheffield). The development of Rafael Furcal and Marcus Giles are a big issue for the Braves.

2) Philadelphia Phillies: I would not be surprised at all if they match the hype and win 95 games this year. The offense has the potential to be dynamic with Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome, and Pat Burrell. Jimmy Rollins has to get on base to start the attack. Kevin Millwood is the name but Randy Wolf is the game. The bullpen is a big concern but I like how they are loading up on big league relievers in triple-A. If they can find 2-3 quality guys out of that mess, they will contend.

3) Montreal Expos: Even without Bartolo, this is a pretty good team. Vasquez, El Duque (he needs to get healthy), Livan, and Armas are a pretty solid rotation. Vlad is the man at the plate and Brad Wilkerson and Jose Vidro are tough. If Orlando Cabrera, Michael Barrett, Jeff Leifer, and Fernando Tatis hit and Endy Chavez (or someone) can leadoff and get on-base, the Expos could surprise.

4) New York Mets: This team needs to be blown-up. The outfield could be the worst in baseball (dollars for production). Definitely defensively, maybe even at the plate with Cedeno and Burnitz. The only thing that might save them is their pitching but I think they're going to settle in the 75-85 win range and Steve Phillips will be fired and the roster is going to be turned over (again) this offseason.

5) Florida Marlins: Lot of young talent, especially on the mound. They need AJ Burnett and Brad Penny healthy. Let's see if Josh Beckett breaks out this year with the hype turned down. Not a lot of offense, although they do have plenty of speed with Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo. They need a big bopper for the middle of the lineup.

NL CENTRAL
1) Chicago Cubs: My surprise pick. I love the Cubs rotation. Wood, Prior, Clement, and Zambrano will be among the best by the end of the season. Sammy is Sammy and I think the rest of the offense can contribute enough for this team to win 90 games and the division. Hee Seop Choi and Moises Alou need to contribute in a big way.

2) St.Louis Cardinals: If healthy, they're the class of the division. But they're not and I think injuries and a shaky rotation will haunt the Cardinals all season. They'll definitely be in the mix and could win anywhere from 80-100 games depending on how things break (or don't) for them. I think they'll be somewhere in the middle of that range and battle for the division in a tight race.

3) Houston Astros: If the back of the rotation performs, the Astros could run away with the division. Otherwise, Oswalt and Miller will have to carry the load again. I like the offense and even more so this year with Jeff Kent. The defense is suspect and it will be interesting to see how Craig Biggio does in centerfield. If Richard Hidalgo hits like he has in the past, this offense could be among the leagues best.

4) Cincinnati Reds: Adam Dunn, Ken Griffey Jr, Austin Kearns. That's pretty sweet. Add in Sean Casey, Aaron Boone, and Brandon Larson and this team should be able to put runs on the board. If the pitching can stay healthy and provide solid work, the Reds could surprise. Don Gullett always seems to work wonders with reclamation projects so don't count them out of the race.

5) Pittsburgh Pirates: The Pirates are the first team in the NL Central that I feel do not have a chance at the division title but I think .500 is a very realistic goal for the Bucs this season. Kris Benson, Kip Wells, and Josh Fogg form a solid, young rotation. The lineup is solid, if not unspectacular, around the infield with offseason acquisitions Randall Simon, Kenny Lofton, and Reggie Sanders. The nice thing about these moves is that they're one-year deals and not long-term bloated contracts like Derek Bell and Pat Meares have received in the past. Aramis Ramirez had a great spring and looks ready to mash again. They still have a ways to go before they are contenders but they're not going to be doormats either.

6) Milwaukee Brewers: Here are the doormats. Questionable offense, questionable rotation, questionable bullpen. Richie Sexson, Ben Sheets, and Geoff Jenkins are about it.

NL WEST
1) San Francisco Giants: I love the Giants offseason moves and I think the offense can be even better than last year with Ray Durham at the top of the order. I just wonder if they can get enough out of their pitching staff to win 95 games again. Pac Bell will help.

2) Arizona Diamondbacks: If they stay healthy, they're going to be tough again. But anytime you start talking about a team that has as old of a core group of players as the D-Backs, that if becomes less and less likely. The old guys can still play and they'll be in the mix.

3) Los Angeles Dodgers: I like the Dodgers but something always seems to happen to them (injuries, etc.) and I see them finishing with 90 win and a couple games back. Fred McGriff will be a nice pickup but they're weak up the middle (can you name their starting 2B and SS?) and I need to see Dave Roberts do it again. Adrian Beltre needs to finally have a breakout season.

4) Colorado Rockies: We could see a return to the Blake Street Bombers with Preston Wilson, Charles Johnson, and Jose Hernandez joining Todd Helton and Larry Walker. Of course, those three could also strike out 550 times swinging for the fences. As always, the question mark is the pitching staff and the Rockies already have three starters on the DL (Neagle, Elarton, and Stark). They should be fun to watch but it's going to be another .500 season in Denver.

5) San Diego Padres: Hasn't this latest Padres youth movement taken forever to develop? Losing Phil Nevin and Trevor Hoffman obviously puts a hold on any competitive hopes they may have had this season. Xavier Nady needs to get big league ABs this year. Sean Burroughs needs to finally show the power scouts have forecasted (I don't think that's going to happen).

AL DIVISION CHAMPS: NY Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics
AL WILDCARD: Boston Red Sox
ALCS: Minnesota Twins vs Oakland Athletics
AL CHAMPION: Oakland Athletics

NL DIVISION CHAMPS: Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants
NL WILDCARD: Philadelphia Phillies
NLCS: San Francisco Giants vs Chicago Cubs
NL CHAMPION: San Francisco Giants

WORLD SERIES: Oakland Athletics over San Francisco Giants 4-3

AL MVP: Alex Rodriguez
AL CY YOUNG: Pedro Martinez
AL ROY: Hideki Matsui

NL MVP: Barry Bonds
NL CY YOUNG: Kerry Wood
NL ROY: Hee Seop Choi

The Indians will finish in 3rd place in the American League Central with a 73-89 record. Danys Baez will be the Indians lone representative on the All-Star team. Ellis Burks, Matt Lawton, and Brian Anderson will be traded at the All-Star break. Victor Martinez will DH/C in the second half. Alex Escobar will start in LF in second half so the Indians can evaluate him at the big league level and struggle. Travis Hafner hits but has nagging injuries. Casey Blake does a decent job at third. The bullpen is a shambles save for Baez and David Riske. Billy Traber returns to triple-A and pitches well. Alex Herrera and Dave Elder pitch well in the second half. Jason Bere makes only 15 starts. Brandon Phillips first season is a success but he is a disappointment to fantasy leaguers. Milton Bradley is 20-20 but struggles to get his OBP over .350. Ricardo Rodriguez holds his own in the rotation. Jason Davis struggles but survives. Jeremy Guthrie impresses late in the second half. Roller coaster year but the future continues to look bright.

PLAY BALL!


 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Monday, March 31
Special Spring Training Recap Edition

At the start of spring training, I listed 20 questions that needed to be answered this spring. Here's how the Indians responded after a 19-11 exhibition season that was the second best in baseball.

1) Is it talent or just hype?
To be honest, we probably won't know the answer to this question for a few more years but after seeing the performances of Ricardo Rodriguez, Jason Davis, Billy Traber, Brandon Phillips, Travis Hafner, Ben Broussard, Jody Gerut, Coco Crisp, and Milton Bradley, I think it's safe to say that the Indians have plenty of talent in the system.  We'll start to see if they can perform this afternoon in Camden Yards.

2) Who is Eric Wedge?
Eric Wedge is a leader. He has the support of his troops and is praised throughout baseball as a bright young baseball mind. For his first season as a big league skipper, you would expect to hear no less and it's reassuring that we're at least getting that. He likes "his guys" as was demonstrated with Carl Willis replacing Mike Brown and Tim Laker over AJ Hinch as the backup catcher. He also looks a little like Jim Thome with the mustache saved off. All signs are positive leaving Florida. We'll see if that changes when the Indians are 15 games out in June.

3) Who will be the 4th and 5th starters?
Ricardo Rodriguez (2.08 ERA) and Jason Davis (1.42) emerged from a talented group to earn the final two spots in the rotation.  Billy Traber (1.59) also pitched well and he'll start the season in the Indians bullpen.  Jake Westbrook (1.88) also threw really well this spring and he'll work out of the bullpen as well for the big league club.  Brian Tallet (4.50) only threw eight "A" innings and will return to triple-A to continue to develop a third pitch.   Cliff Lee was sidelined all spring with a strained oblique and Jason Phillips and Mike Thurman were never really in the race. Rodriguez and Davis need to focus on throwing strikes, some concerns in their late spring outings.

4) Can Brandon phil the second base spot?
We're going to find out as Phillips beat out John McDonald and will be in the lineup on opening day.  Phillips hit .277/.385 with a homerun, four doubles, and four steals this spring.  He showed improvement defensively and the Indians were impressed with his maturity on and off the field. The future is now.

5) Casey at the hot corner?
For at least two months, and maybe more.  Blake started slowly, making a few throwing errors in the intrasquad games, but once the exhibition games started he never stopped hitting, finishing with a MLB third best average of .441.  Mark Shapiro has compared him to a Herb Perry type player (1B/3B) with less power and better defense.  Remember that he said that about Earl Snyder too.  I like Blake's chances at a decent season in the bigs (.265-15-65).

6) Can he Karim it for 162 games?
We'll see. Karim had a quiet, but successful, spring, hitting .318/.591 with three homeruns. The key for Karim in 2003 will be his plate discipline. It's going to be difficult for him to have continued success with a BB/K ratio of 6:40 as he did last season.

7) Thomenator to the Hafnerator?
That's what it will be, although Ben Broussard made it interesting before he suffered an oblique strain mid-camp.  Hafner also sat a stretch with a sore wrist but returned early this week and it looks like he will be in the opening day lineup.  For the spring, Hafner hit .375 with five homeruns and five doubles and his .768 slugging percentage ranked 4th in baseball this spring.  Ben Broussard hit .407/.963 with four homeruns before being sidelined.  Neither will replace Jim Thome but it looks like first base is in capable hands.

8) Is Josh Bard ready to play everyday?
It certainly looks that way.  The Indians and the media (local and national) rave about his leadership skills and ability to call a game and handle a pitching staff.  He also hit over .300 this spring with three doubles.

9) Is Milton game for the leadoff spot?
He'll see the first pitch of the season after a very good spring in which he tied for 5th in baseball with six homeruns and hit .369/.677 and stole four bases.  Bradley still needs to show that he can work a count, draw walks, and get on base like a leadoff hitter should but his spring was encouraging. 

10) Can CC deal an ace?
The big fella started slow but had several nice outings towards the end of camp. Even with two years in the bigs under his belt, he's still the youngest member of the rotation.

11) Will Danys be Mariano Rivera?
Baez never worked more than an inning at a time this spring so it remains to be seen if Eric Wedge will stick to his offseason statements that Baez will work in the 8th inning if the situation warrants.  With the Indians bullpen very shaky leaving Florida, I would not be surprised to see Baez serve as his own setup man a few times this season.

12) Will we see the real Matt Lawton?
He started slow but really came on the last week of camp, belting two homers against the Braves and the first dinger in the Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.  His shoulder is still not 100% so it will be interesting to see how it responds in the cold weather that awaits up north.   I'm encouraged at this point.

13) Is Alex Escobar worth the wait?
Who knows?  Escobar only played in seven "A" games this spring, hitting .188 (3-for-16) with a homerun, before he was sent down to triple-A.  To be fair, it's been over a year since he's played in a game that counts so we need to be patient in evaluating him the first half.   By all accounts, the knee appears to be fine so it's now a matter of him improving his plate discipline to take the next step to the big leagues.

14) Can Gutierrez resume his career?
We'll see.  Gutierrez will start the season on the 60-day DL and has stopped all baseball activities and will focus on improving his conditioning after six months of inactivity.  I would be surprised if we see Ricky in Cleveland before the all-star break. 

15) Are the Indians out of options in the bullpen?
Aaron Myette remains with the club thanks to an injury suffered this week.   The Tribe will now have an additional 30-45 days to evaluate him.  David Riske had an outstanding camp (23 K in 12.2 IP) and will probably be the primary setup man for Danys Baez.  Jerrod Riggan did not pitch well and was removed from the 40-man roster.  He cleared waivers and will pitch at Buffalo this year.

16) Was Jeremy Guthrie worth it?
Yes.  Ignore the 27.00 ERA in his one "A" game appearance of the spring, Guthrie was very impressive in "B" games and minor league games.  He'll start the season at double-A Akron.

17) Magruder, Magee, or a surprise?
A surprise.  The Indians elected not to keep a 5th outfielder and will use Karim Garcia as a short-term backup for Milton Bradley in centerfield.  Magee hit well but ended up being traded to Philadelphia for a PTBNL (rumored to be Mike Fyhrie).  Magruder hit .296 but was sent down and ended up breaking his ankle in a minor league game and is out indefinitely.  Bill Selby ended up being the "25th" man on the roster.

18) Who backs up Josh Bard?
Tim Laker beat out AJ Hinch for the right to backup Josh Bard.  Both had nearly identical springs at the plate (Laker .281/.563, 2 HR vs Hinch .286/.571, 2 HR) but, in the end, the familiarity that Eric Wedge has with Tim Laker from last season in Buffalo was probably the difference.  Hinch was traded to the Tigers on Saturday for a PTBNL.

19) How will the Indians juggle the 40?
You never like to see injuries happen but, unfortunately, they do and the Indians were able to take advantage of them to add five non-roster players to the roster without having to expose anybody valuable to waivers.

20) Will the fans care?
Ticket sales are down but we knew that going in. I think the fans, overall, are cautiously optimistic but are definitely taking a wait and see approach. The Indians have the opportunity to start fast with 13 of their first 17 games against Baltimore and Kansas City but the next stretch of 38 games could be brutal as only a three-game set against the Tigers offers any relief. Where the Tribe stands on June 1 will have a huge impact on fan reaction for the rest of the season.

Other things we learned this spring:
It's not time to write off Ben Broussard. If he had stayed healthy, he may have given Travis Hafner a serious run for the starting first base job and/or forced himself onto the roster as the "25th man".

Jody Gerut can play. Gerut nearly played himself onto the roster with a .344/.639 spring that included four doubles, a triple, and four longballs.

Coco Crisp is an exciting possibility at leadoff after hitting .350/.675 with three doubles, two triples, two homeruns and three stolen bases. He also made nice strides defensively in the outfield.

David Riske is ready to assume a setup role in the bullpen after striking out the side in five appearances and mowing down 23 in 12.2 innings. It could be adventurous though (9 walks).

The bullpen is a major concern. Riske's gaudy K numbers aside, he needs to do it for a full season. Terry Mulholland was pounded throughout the spring. Jose Santiago and Carl Sadler had decent ERAs but each allowed more than a hit per inning. Billy Traber needs to show he can make the conversion to the 'pen and Jake Westbrook pitched well but needs to show he can stay healthy.

The Indians led the majors in homeruns (49) and hit (.311 team average) but can they carry it over to the regular season? Milton Bradley and Omar Vizquel need to show they can get on base consistently at the top of the order.

Veterans Ellis Burks, Omar Vizquel, and Shane Spencer are ready to go.

No one knows where the Indians will report to in Florida next spring. It could be Winter Haven or it could be Port Charlotte. Stay tuned.

The kids showed a lot of promise. Now they have to show it on the field when it counts. Play Ball!

 

March 30, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Sunday, March 30

There's still time to sign up for the first CIR prediction contest but the deadline of NOON Monday is fast approaching. We have 65 entries so far, including predictions from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, and a crewman in the Persian Gulf. It's easy to enter this FREE contest, just submit an answer to the following 11 questions and send them to me (just hit reply) or to Andy at aczernek@compuserve.com. The lucky winner will receive $20, a copy of the 2003 CIR Archives, and the satisfaction of being the top Tribe prognosticator in the land. Second place will receive $10 and a copy of the 2003 CIR Archives, third place will receive a copy of the 2003 CIR Archives, and fourth place gets the shaft. You have less that 24 hours to submit your picks. Here's the questions...

HITTING CATEGORIES
1) Highest Batting Average (min 250 ABs)?
2) Most RBIs?
3) Most HRs?
4) Most walks (by hitter)?
5) Most doubles?

PITCHING CATEGORIES
6) Most Wins?
7) Lowest ERA (min 100 IP)?
8) Most strikeouts (by pitcher)?

MISCELLANEOUS CATEGORIES
9) Number of Tribe wins?
10) Total # of players used in 2003?

TIEBREAKER QUESTION
11) Indians home attendance for 2003?

Spring Training is over. Camden Yards and the start of the season awaits. Eric Wedge's first 25-man opening day roster is set. Here's how it breaks down:

CATCHERS (2): Josh Bard, Tim Laker

INFIELDERS (6): Travis Hafner, Brandon Phillips, Omar Vizquel, Casey Blake, John McDonald, Bill Selby

OUTFIELDERS (5): Matt Lawton, Milton Bradley, Karim Garcia, Shane Spencer, Ellis Burks

STARTERS (5): CC Sabathia, Ricardo Rodriguez, Jason Davis, Jason Bere, Brian Anderson

RELIEVERS (7): Danys Baez, David Riske, Jose Santiago, Jake Westbrook, Carl Sadler, Billy Traber, Terry Mulholland

To reach the 25-man limit, the Indians placed Aaron Myette on the 15-day DL, designated Dave Burba for assignment, optioned Jody Gerut to triple-A Buffalo, and placed Ricky Gutierrez, Bob Wickman, Cliff Lee, and Mark Wohlers on the 60-day DL. The contracts of Casey Blake, Billy Traber, Tim Laker, Bill Selby, and Jose Santiago were purchased from triple-A Buffalo and the five were added to the 40-man roster which now stands at a full 40 players.

Mark Shapiro was true to his word as he dealt AJ Hinch to the Tigers for a player to be named later. Hinch will be the everyday catcher for triple-A Toledo but with only Brandon Inge and Matt Walbeck ahead of him in Detroit, he stands a pretty good shot at seeing major league at-bats this season. FWIW, the PTBNL in any deal must be named within six months of the transaction date.

Dave Burba was not so lucky as Mark Shapiro was unable to deal him over the weekend so he's headed to triple-A Buffalo to wait for an opening in Cleveland or another organization. It sounds like he's willing to give it a month and then reevaluate his status then.

Hector Luna was designated for assignment by the Devil Rays. Before he can be offered back to the Indians, he'll need to clear waivers over the weekend. If another team claims him, they will be bound by the Rule 5 requirements of keeping Luna on the major league roster for the entire season. I would be surprised if Luna is claimed and even more surprised if he's not starting at shortstop in Akron in the next week or so. That would be good news for the Tribe.

Mike Brown has declined the Indians offer to remain in the organization as a special assistant. Brown was fired as the Indians pitching coach on March 19 but with the season about to start and all coaching vacancies filled, he'll probably have to wait until the end of the season to start looking for another job. The Indians will pay his salary this season.

Paul Hoynes notes in the PD that Shane Spencer's shoulder is still bothering him and it is affecting his throwing from the outfield.

Interesting notes from John Farrell in the Plain Dealer's preview of the Lake County Captains on Saturday. Among the nuggets, Farrell stated that JJ Sherrill is a Ray Durham type who needs to cut down on his strikeouts (126 in 107 games last year), Nathan Panther came on this spring and is an athletic, Steve Finley type, Dan Denham was one of the most exciting pitchers in camp, and Fausto Carmona could be the Jason Davis of 2003 and that he threw 72% of his pitches for strikes last year which is unusual for a pitcher his age (19).

The March 26 edition of the Spring Training Dish noted that Travis Foley has a sore triceps and could be out a month.

Lots of former Indians in the transaction columns. Paul Byrd was placed on the 15-day DL with elbow tendinitis by the Braves. Matt White was placed on the 15-day DL with a strained right elbow (or oblique strain depending on what source you read), retroactive to March 19, by the Red Sox. Albert Belle was placed on the 60-day DL by the Orioles in a procedural move that ensures insurance will cover a majority of his contract. Derek Thompson was officially placed on the 15-day DL by the Dodgers. He'll miss the entire 2003 season and only have to spend 90 days on the Dodgers major league roster next season per the Rule 5 requirements. Steve Karsay was placed on the 15-day DL by the Yankees.

Ryan Drese was optioned to triple-A but he'll be back when the Rangers need a fifth starter in the next two weeks. Calvin Murray and Gookie Dawkins were assigned to the minors by the Dodgers. Will the Indians make a run at Gookie again? Tim Drew was sent to triple-A by the Expos. Dave Hollins, Jesse Levis, and Jim Crowell were sent down by the Phillies. Travis Driskill was sent down by the Orioles. Jim Brower was sent to the minors by the Giants. The Braves sent down Donzell McDonald. Ron Villone was sent down by the Diamondbacks who also designated Greg Swindell for assignment and released Mike Jackson (might the Indians be interested?).

Eddie Perez made the Brewers roster. Carlos Baerga made the D-Backs roster. Jay Bell made the Mets roster. Pat Borders made the Mariners roster. Julian Tavarez made the Pirates roster. Jose Cabrera signed a minor league contract with the Phillies. Rudy Seanez signed a minor league contract with the Rangers. Brian Edmondson was released by the Tigers.

GAME RECAPS
FRIDAY: The Tribe beat the Reds 6-1 as Ricardo Rodriguez needed only 68 pitches to throw seven shutout innings against the Reds in the Great American Ballpark opener in a sensational final tuneup for the start of the season. He scattered four hits, walked two, struck out one, and hit Austin Kearns in the 2nd inning, buzzed Ken Griffey Jr in the 3rd, and knocked down Brandon Larson in the 4th. Griffey jawed at Rodriguez after his at-bat in the 3rd. Jake Westbrook and Danys Baez tossed a scoreless inning apiece. Matt Lawton (#4) and Milton Bradley (#6) went deep and Omar Vizquel doubled.

SATURDAY: The Indians defeated the Reds 3-1 to sweep the two-game GABP opening series and finish spring training with an American League second best 19-11 record. Brian Anderson had his best "A" game outing of the spring as he struck out six in five innings, allowing one run on three hits and three walks. Billy Traber, Carl Sadler, Jose Santiago, and David Riske combined for four scoreless innings of relief. Travis Hafner blasted his 5th homerun of the spring , Shane Spencer and Brian Anderson (?) doubled. Tyler Minges, playing in his hometown, doubled and singled in three at-bats and Milton Bradley and Grady Sizemore drove in runs with a sac fly.

 

March 28, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Friday, March 28

The Tribe concluded the Florida portion of spring training with a 6-5 victory over the Tigers. Their spring record now stands at an American League second best 17-11 and they'll be in Cincinnati today and tomorrow to help open the new Great American Ballpark with the final two games of the spring.

Aaron Myette reportedly strained his right quad on Wednesday and appears headed for the 15-day disabled list to start the season. How convenient for the Indians in that they can now delay their decision on Myette (he's out of options) until his extended spring stay and subsequent rehab assignment is finished sometime in mid-to-late April.

This news means that Billy Traber would seem to have the final spot in the bullpen locked up, or so you would think. The Indians, apparently, are searching the waiver wire for another reliever so nothing is set in stone just yet. Yesterday, I mentioned Mike Herges and Al Levine. Today, I'll throw Travis Phelps, released by the Devil Rays, into the mix. Personally, I would promote Dave Elder, send Traber to the minors, and be done with it. But that's just me.

Traber, incidentally, did not allow an earned run (two unearned) in two innings yesterday. He allowed three hits and walked a batter.

Dave Burba gave up a two run homer in two innings of work. He's been asked if he'll report to triple-A. Apparantly, no one is nibbling at the Burba bait.

Kinston.com previews the K-Tribe opening day roster. Here's how it breaks down...

As we learned the other day, the rotation will be Travis Foley, JD Martin, Brian Slocum, Nick Moran, and Mariano Gomez. In the bullpen, Lee Gronkiewicz will be the closer with Kazuhito Tadano, Victor Kliene, Nate Fernley, Chris Cooper, Doug Lantz, Brandon Matheny, Dan Neil, and Scott Sturkie rounding out the relief corp. I know that's too many pitchers for the active roster.

In the infield, Bill Peavey, Eider Torres, Ivan Ochoa, and Pat Osborn will start around the horn. Rodney Choy Foo will fill in all over the infield. Ben Margalski and Armando Camacaro will be behind the plate. Brian Kirby will backup at first base, catcher, and also see time as the DH.

The outfield will be crowded with Luke Scott (LF), Wily Taveras (CF), and Brian Wright (RF) starting and Brian Jenkins, Dennis Malave, and Miguel Quintana serving as backups. Ben Francisco will further crowd the situation when he returns sometime in May.

Moving down a level, the News-Herald has a preview of the Lake County Captains opening day roster which is expected to consist of 11 pitchers, two catchers, six infielders and five outfielders. Here's how the Captains's roster breaks down....

Dan Denham, Jake Dittler, Keith Ramsey, Juan Lara and Sean Smith will comprise the starting rotation. Fausto Carmona will start in place of Dittler while he recovers from a muscle strain in his lower abdomen. The bullpen isn't finalized but the paper quotes Luis Rivera as saying he's liked what he has seen from Blake Allen, Carlos De La Cruz, Dan Eisentrager, Kevin Martin, Jeff Pennington and Honeudis Pereyra this spring.

Around the horn in the infield, Matt Knox (two homers yesterday) Micah Schilling, Chris De La Cruz, and Shaun Larkin (position change) are expected to be the starters. Bryan Kent (see below) and Jesus Colmenter will be the backups. Dave Wallace and Clayton McCullough will share the catching duties.

In the outfield, Jason Cooper will start in left and Ricardo Rojas will start in center. One of JJ Sherrill, Jonathan Van Every, and Nathan Panther will be the starting right fielder with the other two serving as backups.

Thoughts/Surprises on the roster assignments: Bill Peavey in Kinston (thought he was headed to LC). JJ Sherrill staying in the Sally League (numbers victim in crowded Kinston outfield). Brian Jenkins in Kinston (Torey Lovullo noted in the article that he has power hitter potential). Jason Cooper in LC (he should move quickly if he hits and I think he will). From the articles in the past week in the News Herald and Kinston.com, the Indians seem like they're pretty high on Matt Knox (even if he is starting in LC instead of Kinston). Blake Allen is moving to the pen in LC. Victor Kliene skipping a level and moving to the pen in Kinston. Mike Conroy looks like he's headed for a third year of short-season ball. Alex Requena and Tyler Minges are headed to Akron. Whither Mike Hernandez? Shane Wallace? Shea Douglas? Rick Elder? Joe Inglett? Hmmm...

Bryan Kent was acquired from the Red Sox in a minor league deal and he'll be a backup infielder for Lake County. I haven't seen this officially, but Baseball America notes that Kenton Myers was outrighted to the Red Sox South Atlantic League team so I think we can assume that the deal was Bryan Kent for Kenton Myers. The 24-year old Kent was selected by the Sox in the 27th round of the 2001 draft and hit .239/.293/.321 with two homeruns in 318 at-bats last season. Myers was selected by the Indians in the 23rd round of the 2001 draft and hit .232 in 112 at-bats during his two years with the Tribe.

Rickie Morton, Benj Sampson, Hank Thoms, Jorge Moreno, and Jeff Davis were released by the Indians. Morton is the biggest surprise in this group as he had hit 25 homeruns in his first two years in the Indians system and has power potential. Last season, he struggled at the plate (.239/.302/.416, 13 HRs) in the Carolina League (college player skipping a level, sound familiar?) but reportedly had a good spring according to Kinston.com. Torey Lovullo simply said that Morton did not fit into the current plans of the Indians. I wonder if his suspension for violation of team rules last year played into this decision? Morton was the Indians 25th pick in the 2001 draft. The rest of the cuts are no big surprise. Moreno has tools but hit only .206/.283/.307 for Kinston last year and the Indians have a ton of outfielders who have passed him by. Thoms pitched well for the K-Tribe last season (5-2, 2.43) but he's a soft-tossing right-hander who will turn 27 in June and the Indians have too many young, more promising, arms that need those innings. Davis only made two appearances for Burlington last season after being selected in the 31st round out of the University of Kansas and Benj Sampson was a minor league free agent signee this past offseason who was attempting to comeback from injury.

Sean Swedlow was placed on the voluntary retired list. He was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2000 draft and never lived up to expectations, hitting .232/.299/.333 with 9 homeruns for Columbus last year before leaving the team midseason. Only Corey Smith (1st) and Brian Tallet (2nd) remain with the organization from the Indians first six picks in the 2000 draft. Derek Thompson (1st) was selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Dodgers, Mark Folsom was released last season, Swedlow has retired, and Adam Cox was released last year (check that, maybe Cox is still around). All is not lost for this draft class, however, as Smith, Tallet, Ryan Church (14th), and Eric Crozier (41st), among others, still have a shot at the big leagues. Crozier hit six homers in his first two weeks of camp, according to today's Plain Dealer.
   
Baseball America updated the list of players whose ages and names have changed as a result of increased scrutiny of visa applications and paperwork. No major changes for the Indians but there are a few more Tribesmen on the list.

The Twins released Jose Cabrera (refused assignment?), the Pirates released David Miller, and Heath Murray's contract was voided by the Cubs (injury?). Chad Allen was sent down by the Marlins. Chris Coste was sent down by the Red Sox. Brady Anderson accepted an assignment to triple-A by the Padres. Why?

Shane Reynolds was a surprise release by the Astros. He was on the list of veteran starters the Indians pursued in the offseason before signing Brian Anderson and Jason Bere.

The old 2-for-1's are back. Kind of. And with a different sponsor. But the gist of the promotion is the same. The Indians and Pepsi announced that fans can purchase half-price Bleacher tickets for all April & May home games (excluding opening day) by presenting a Pepsi can at the Cleveland Indians Team Shops or Gate B at Jacobs Field on the day of the game. The special half-price bleacher offer will appear on Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Sierra Mist cans in the Cleveland area.  Not exactly the same as the old Coke two liter 2-for-1 offers but pretty close. The view from the Bleachers isn't that bad so this is a pretty good deal for the budget-minded consumer like myself.

Ricardo Rodriguez will take the mound against Ryan Dempster in the first game at the new Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. Jason Davis will throw in a minor league game in Florida.

 

March 27, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Thursday, March 27

What if I told you that player profiles for all 6000+ players in the major and minor leagues could be at your fingertips (or a click of the mouse)? What if I told you that those profiles would include career minor league stats for all current MLB players and thousands of minor leaguers? What if I then told you that these same profiles also included tons of college statistics as well? Too good to be true? Nope. Just check out the Baseball Cube 2003 Player Register available from our friends at sports-wired.com. I referenced it frequently during a strato-o-matic draft over the weekend and I can't recommend it enough. The Baseball Cube 2003 Player Register is a worthy addition to any fans stat collection. Check it out!

24 down, 1 to go.

That's how the opening day roster breaks down with three exhibition games left after a series of moves and announcements yesterday. Only the Aaron Myette vs Billy Traber battle for the final bullpen spot remains to be decided. Traber is scheduled to pitch today and we could hear an announcement shortly thereafter. Here's what the Indians did yesterday.

AJ Hinch was assigned to minor league camp which means that Tim Laker will start the season as the backup catcher to Josh Bard. Both had decent springs at the plate, Hinch hitting .286 (8-for-28) with 2 homeruns and Laker hitting .250 (7-for-28) with a dinger, but in the end I think it came down to the fact that Laker was a Wedge guy. Hinch has a clause in his contract that requires the Indians to move him if another team shows interest and Mark Shapiro has indicated that he will do that without any compensation in return. Nice guy. I like Hinch and I hope he remains in the organization but I think he will draw interest from another club.

Bill Selby was told that he has made the team as the "25th man" and will serve as a backup infielder, outfielder, and pinchhitter. He won't officially be added to the roster (contracted purchased from triple-A Buffalo) until after Saturday's game just in case of an injury.

This means that Jody Gerut will start the season in Buffalo, although he'll travel with the team to Cincinnati and be ready to join the opening day roster in case one of the Tribe outfielders is injured over the weekend. Mark Shapiro stated that Gerut was a victim of his own good spring which basically means that his performance changed the Indians view on him from a potential backup outfielder to a potential everyday player. He'll join a crowded outfield in Buffalo that includes Alex Escobar, Coco Crisp, and Luis Garcia. One of those four will most likely rotate through the DH spot on a game-by-game basis.

Chad Paronto was optioned to Buffalo after posting a 6.00 ERA in seven appearances this spring.

Zach Sorensen was assigned to minor league camp. He had a pretty good spring, hitting .292/.458 with two doubles and a triple.

Jack Cressend was assigned to minor league camp. He is expected to be ready to pitch in 2-3 weeks according to the LMJ.

Ben Broussard was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to March 14. He hit off the tee yesterday, took some soft toss swings, and will start the season on a rehab assignment in Buffalo. Of course, this means that Travis Hafner will be the starting first basemen. Well, as long as he is healthy. He returned to the lineup yesterday and banged out two hits and drove in a run.

Four non-roster players (Tim Laker, Casey Blake, Bill Selby, Jose Santiago) will be on the opening day roster which means that four spots will need to be cleared for them. The Indians already have one open spot with Jerrod Riggan being designated for assignment earlier in the week. Other spots will be created by placing Cliff Lee, Mark Wohlers, Bob Wickman, and Ricky Gutierrez on the 60-day disabled list. The extra spot could be used by NRI Billy Traber if he starts in the Indians bullpen.

Jason Beverlin was, in fact, sold to the Yakult Swallows with the ABJ noting that the Swallows paid the Tribe $250,000.

Peter Gammons lists the breakout of Brandon Phillips among the 10 things to watch in 2003. He goes on to note that the haul of Brandon Phillips, Cliff Lee, and Grady Sizemore in the Bartolo Colon deal will go down as one of the great modern deals. Let's hope so.

Some yahoo wrote into Ask BA about the differences between Indians signee Kazuhito Tadano and Rockies signee Yasuke Arakawa. It's noted that Tadano signed for less than $100,000 and Arakawa in the low six figures which I find interesting after you read the scouting reports and find that Tadano is two years younger and throws harder. Baseball Guru has is the definitive reference on Japanese baseball and you can find more information there on Tadano.

Lots of former Indians in the transaction column yesterday. The Tigers returned Rule 5 draftee Travis Chapman to the Phillies. Not only did that cost them $25,000 for the Rule 5 pick but they also paid the Indians an estimated $100,000 to select him on their behalf. The Brewers sent Cleveland native Mike Buddie and Brooks Kieschnick to the minors. The Twins sent Jose Cabrera to triple-A. The Blue Jays did the same with Bruce Aven. Trenidad Hubbard was sent to heaven, errrrr Iowa, by the Cubs. Mike Matthews was claimed off waivers by the Padres. Troy Cameron was released by the Rockies.

Two pitchers who were released yesterday and might catch the Indians eye are Matt Herges and Al Levine. Both are around the league average in BB/9 so they somewhat fit the "strikethrower" that Mark Shapiro has said he wants in the bullpen. Both have also had recent success in the big leagues although they are your prototypical replacement level reliever. It's just a matter of catching them in a hot year. You may recall in December when I questioned why the Pirates would trade two prospects to the Expos for Herges? Uhh, that looks even worse now. Another released pitcher is the Rangers Danny Kolb who is not a strikethrower but has the live arm that will warrant him a look somewhere.

Dave Burba will start against the Tigers today in another showcase outing designed to attract interest from other clubs (specifically the Tigers?). He'll be followed by Billy Traber and Terry Mulholland. After the game, the Tribe will leave Florida and head to Cincinnati to help open the new Great American Ballpark, or GAB(bo) as I like to refer to it.

Sorry, no recaps today.

Don't forget to send in your predictions for the CIR Prediction contest. The contest is FREE to enter and first prize is $20 and a copy of the 2003 CIR archives. There is simply no excuse not to enter this contest! You have until NOON on Monday to submit your entries to Andy at aczernek@compuserve.com. See the March 25 post on the CIR website for further details.

 

March 26, 2003  

 
CIR UPDATE
MLB.com is reporting that the Indians did, in fact, sell the rights to Jason Beverlin to the Yakult Swallows. No word yet on the purchase price.


 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Wednesday, March 26

Meeting, meetings, and more meetings, that's been my morning and afternoon. So instead of skipping a day, I'm just going to send out this abbreviated report. Anything that is missing will follow tomorrow.

Over thirty entries have been submitted in the CIR Prediction contest, but Andy says he wants more, more, more!! The contest is FREE to enter and first prize is $20 and a copy of the 2003 CIR archives. There is simply no excuse not to enter this contest! You have until NOON on Monday to submit your entries to Andy at aczernek@compuserve.com. See the March 25 post on the CIR website for further details.

The Indians traded Wendell Magee to the Phillies yesterday for a player to be named later, which is expected to be journeyman pitcher Mike Fyhrie, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Magee had a good spring for the Tribe (.381/.667, 3 2B, 1 HR) and was expected to contend for a fifth outfield spot before the Indians decided to either go younger (Jody Gerut) or with an extra infielder (Bill Selby). He was ticketed for triple-A and a crowded outfield that would have also included Alex Escobar, Coco Crisp, Luis Garcia, and perhaps Jody Gerut. If you're wondering why the Indians would move him after the Chris Magruder injury, Magee had a clause in his contract that required the Indians to trade or release him if another team showed interest, according to the Plain Dealer. Obviously, this is not a big loss.

Mike Fyhrie is a 33-year old right-handed finesse pitcher who was originally drafted in the 12th round of the 1991 draft by the Kansas City Royals. FWIW, Matt Lawton was also taken in the 12th round of the same draft. Anyway, Fyhrie made his major league debut with the Mets in 1996 and then bounced around to Japan, the Mets, Anaheim, Oakland, the Cubs, and back to Oakland again last season where he posted a 2-4 record and a 4.44 ERA (48.2 IP, 46 H, 20 W, 29 K) in 16 appearances for the A's. He also was 7-2 with a 2.33 ERA (77.1 IP, 61 H, 23 W, 68K) for triple-A Sacramento last year. Fyhrie's best major league season was in 2000 when he posted a 2.39 ERA in 52.2 innings for the Angels. He has a 2-11 record and a 4.00 ERA in 175.1 major league innings. Interestingly enough, his three-year trends (2000-2002) indicate that he is a "reverse right" (you strato guys know what I''m talking about), meaning that he pitches better against lefties (.228 average) than righties (.276). This spring, Fyhrie was hit pretty hard in Florida, posting a Mulhollandesque 18.69 ERA in four appearances. Since he can start and relieve, I suspect that Fyhrie will fill the "4A" veteran spot starter/reliever role that was expected to be filled by Mike Thurman (refused assignment, signed with Yankees) or Jason Beverlin (signed with Japan, see below) in Buffalo this season.

Jason Beverlin signed a one-year, $350,000 contract with the Yakult Swallows to pitch in Japan this season. He had a 6.00 ERA in three appearances for the Indians this spring. It's interesting that there's no mention of a trade or compensation to the Indians since I believe that Beverlin was still in big-league camp with the Tribe and still a member of their organization. Usually these types of deals are reported as the player being sold to the Japanese team, like the Brewers did yesterday with Jose Fernandez. That makes me wonder if this "deal" is some sort of "finders fee" compensation for the Indians recent signing of Japanese pitcher Kazuhito Tadano. Remember, the Swallows and the Indians have a working agreement and it's been thought that the Indians pursued Tadano based on the Swallows recommendation. Regardless, I think this is a good move for Beverlin as he's basically been branded a "4A" pitcher at this stage of his career and this move could allow him to make a lot more money if he pitches well. Sayonara.

Hector Luna remains in the running for a spot on the Devil Rays roster, although his four errors yesterday did not help his cause. The St.Petersburg Times notes that all four errors came in a two-inning span, including consecutive plays in the fourth inning.

Matt White has been advised by a doctor to stop even light workouts which further increases the odds of him starting the season on the Red Sox disabled list, according to the Boston Globe. What a lucky break for the Sox that their Rule 5 guy just happens to pull a ribcage muscle (oblique?) when they're having a hard enough time finding room on the roster for all the relievers they have in camp :-).

Former Indian Jim Brower was sent from Montreal to San Francisco as part of the Livan Hernandez deal.

Kinston.com reports that Ben Francisco will be out at least six weeks with a broken bone in his left wrist. He'll be in Baltimore on Thursday for surgery. Tough break for Ben and the K-Tribe.

 

March 25, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Tuesday, March 25
Special Contest Edition

The CIR is proud to announce the first CIR Prediction contest. This contest is FREE and open to all Tribe and baseball fans. All you need to do is submit an answer to the 11 questions below and you are entered in the contest. It's that simple! The lucky winner will receive $20, a copy of the 2003 CIR Archives, and the satisfaction of being the top Tribe prognosticator in the land. Second place will receive $10 and a copy of the 2003 CIR Archives, third place will receive a copy of the 2003 CIR Archives, and fourth place gets the shaft. Entries are due no later than NOON (EST) on Monday, March 31 so get your predictions in ASAP! The categories and rules follow below. Good luck to everyone!!

For each question, submit one answer. Entries must be mailed to Andy at aczernek@compuserve.com. One entry per person is allowed. Please make the subject read "CIR contest" and don't forget to include your name when you submit your picks. Do not send word or excel attachments. Those messages will be deleted due to virus concerns. Do not send picks to me as I make no guarantees that I will forward them to Andy.

HITTING CATEGORIES
1) Highest Batting Average (min 250 ABs)?
2) Most RBIs?
3) Most HRs?
4) Most walks (by hitter)?
5) Most doubles?

PITCHING CATEGORIES
6) Most Wins?
7) Lowest ERA (min 100 IP)?
8) Most strikeouts (by pitcher)?

MISCELLANEOUS CATEGORIES
9) Number of Tribe wins?
10) Total # of players used in 2003?

TIEBREAKER QUESTION
11) Indians home attendance for 2003?

For the hitting and pitching categories, the scoring breaks down as follows...
10 points: Your player leads the team in that category.
5 points: Your player finishes second on the team in that category.
3 points: Your player finishes third on the team in that category.

Example: Karim Garcia is your choice to lead the Indians in Home Runs this season.
If Karim Garcia leads with 35 homers, you get 10 points.
If Karim Garcia is second with 28 HRs, you get 5 points.
If Karim Garcia is third with 18 HRs, you get 3 points.
If Karim Garcia is fourth with 16 HRs, you get 0 points.

For the miscellaneous category, the scoring breaks down as follows...
10 points: You guess the exact number of wins or players
5 points: Within +/- 2 of the actual wins or players
3 points: Within +/- 4 of the actual wins or players

Example: You say the Indians are going to win 75 games this year.
If the Indians win 75 games, you get 10 points
If the Indians win 77 games, you get 5 points
If the Indians win 78 games, you get 3 points
If the Indians win 80 games, you get 0 points.

The tiebreaker will be used in the event that two or more people tie after the results are calculated for the first 10 questions. The winner will be the person with the closest guess to the Indians actual home attendance for 2003. It's ok to go over, this is not the showcase showdown.

Only stats accumulated with the Cleveland Indians will count. Minor league, National League, and other American League stats will not be counted in the official totals.

Contest void where prohibited (sorry Tennessee). Names and e-mail addresses will not be sold or distributed and will be used for identification purposes only. Pregnant women and individuals suffering from hemorrhoids should consult their physician before entering this contest.

Good Luck to everyone!!


 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Tuesday, March 25

The Browns beat the Falcons last night 22-0.

Ha Ha Ha Ha......I am so frigging clever.

What a game for the first TV broadcast of the year. Actually, what a first inning because I suspect most people started surfing after the 10 spot was put on the board. Or if you're like me, the two little bosses of the house make you switch over to Spongebob to keep the peace :-)

Jason Davis was impressive again with five scoreless innings which lowered his ERA to 1.42 in 19 innings this spring. He did walk four batters (entered the game with 1 walk in 14 innings) but he did not let that hurt him last night. I have no doubt he will be go for double-digits in the NCRL draft next weekend.

I liked how Omar hustled to first and beat out a doubleplay attempt. Let's hope that lasts the whole season.

It was interesting to see minor leaguers JJ Sherrill and Alex Requena see some action. Tough to get a read on them with one or two at-bats but at least I have a visual for reference when reading the boxscores. Sherrill is small, small, s-m-all.

More on the game in the recaps below.

The ABJ notes that Brian Anderson is working on a slider for his third pitch. The Canton Repository notes that Jason Davis is also working on a slider to complement his fastball and split.

Travis Hafner hit off a tee yesterday, will take batting practice today, and should return to game duty tomorrow. At least, that's the plan according to the Beacon Journal.

Chris Magruder broke his wrist in two places and is out indefinitely. An injury is never a good thing but this should help to reduce the congestion in a crowded Buffalo outfield.

Eric Wedge confirmed that Ricky Gutierrez will not play in any "A" games this week and will start the season in extended spring training. He'll then report to Buffalo to see how his neck handles the cold weather. There's no need to rush him back into the lineup, good for the Indians to take the cautious approach. I keep hearing that he'll be ready to play in games by mid-April but I'm not sure if that is minor league games or big league games.

Ken Rowe will be the pitching coach at Kinston this year. He was scheduled to serve in the same capacity in the Valley.

Travis Foley threw three perfect innings and Kazuhito Tadano struck out the side in a minor league intrasquad game yesterday according to Kinston.com.

The Canton Repository notes that Matt Whitney is scheduled to have his cast removed from his left leg on Thursday. He'll be fitted for a protective boot.

Charles Nagy's bid to be the Padres 5th starter ended when he was assigned to minor league camp by the Padres. Nagy had a 3.97 ERA in three appearances this spring but he suffered a bruised right forearm when he was struck by a line drive last Wednesday and has not thrown since.   He has accepted the assignment to Portland and Padres GM Kevin Towers was quoted as saying that he probably won't be down there for more than 30 days.  That makes me wonder if Nagy has some sort of an option in his contract where he can become a free agent if he's not in the big leagues by X date.  Similar to what Mike Lansing had with the Indians last year.

Jason Jacome was released by the Diamondbacks. Rob Pugmire was released by the Reds. Jed Hansen was optioned to triple-A by the Brewers.

Anyone know if the 2003 media guide has hit the Indians Team Shops yet?

If you're a Westcoaster, the West Coast Indians Backers club is planning a group outing to the May 8 Indians-Angels game in Anaheim and to the June 6-8 Indians-Diamondbacks series in Phoenix.  They have a bunch of other stuff planned and it sounds like it will be a fun weekend.  Contact Ed at Edgold14@aol.com for further information.

The NFL announced that the Browns will host the Colts in week one of the NFL Season.  The full schedule will be announced in the next few weeks.

The breakup of the SWC (Slow White Conference) is complete with Bay, Fairview Park, and Rocky River leaving to join a new conference of smaller schools. Rumor has it that Lakewood and Berea are interested in joining the SWC. No word on an 8th team. North Olmsted is doomed.

Jason Bere takes the mound in Winter Haven against the Astros today. He'll be followed by Jake Westbrook and Danys Baez. David Riske will pitch in a minor league game. Fox Sports Net will televise the game at 1:05.

GAME RECAPS
TUESDAY: The Tribe pounded the Braves 22-0, putting up a 10-spot in the first and battering Braves starter Jason Marquis for 13 runs. Matt Lawton belted two three-run homers (#2-3), singled, and drove in seven runs. Going down the lineup, Milton Bradley singled twice. Omar Vizquel singled twice and doubled. Shane Spencer doubled and drove in two runs. Josh Bard doubled twice to plate three runs. Zach Sorenson drove in two and singled. John McDonald, Jody Gerut, and Bill Selby each doubled. JJ Sherrill and Alex Requena singled. Brandon Phillips was the only regular who did not have a basehit. Jason Davis pitched five scoreless innings, striking out two, walking four, and allowing five hits. Danys Baez pitched the sixth inning in an attempt to have him face the Braves starters and worked a scoreless frame, striking out two. Billy Traber walked three and struck out two in two innings of work and Chad Paronto pitched a scoreless final inning.

Brian Anderson threw eight shutout innings and allowed only three hits in a double-A game.

 

March 24, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Monday, March 24

One week until opening day. Wahoo!

Meanwhile, our soldiers, British soldiers, Iraqi soldiers, and Iraqi civilians are dying half a world away. Only the truly psychotic would say Wahoo to that, regardless of whether you support the war or not. I freely admit that I feel guilty (maybe that's too strong, how about awkward?) when my internal thoughts switch from the war to which teams might be interested in Dave Burba. But, life must go on. I also realize that you are not reading this for my political views so just let me point you to two blogs that are worth bookmarking: The Agonist (incredible update frequency) and Dear Raed (I believe this is written from within Baghdad).

David Riske and Casey Blake have been told that they have made the Indians opening day roster. No big surprise for either player if you've been reading the CIR regularly. Blake has hit .477/.864 with seven doubles and two homeruns this spring and will also serve as first-base insurance (played there yesterday) should Travis Hafner not be able to answer the bell. Riske has had a dominating (19 strikeouts in 9.1 innings) but adventurous (9 walks) spring and I would be surprised if he is not pressed into a late-inning role in support of Danys Baez.

Terry Pluto gushes over Ricardo Rodriguez and his six scoreless innings against the Reds yesterday.

The announcements leave only four spots still to be decided:

Backup catcher (Tim Laker or AJ Hinch)
Bullpen (2): (Billy Traber, Aaron Myette, Jose Santiago, Carl Paronto)
Last Position Player: (Bill Selby, Jody Gerut, Ricky Gutierrez)

Laker, Traber, Myette, and Selby remain the front-runners for those spots.

I include Traber among the "undecided" because Mark Shapiro is quoted in the ABJ as saying that his conversion to the bullpen is not yet official and will continue to be evaluated over the next six days. If he does not start the season in Cleveland, he will join the starting rotation in Buffalo. If that happens, it will be interesting to see if the Indians decide between Santiago or Paronto for the final spot or reconsider the recently demoted Dave Elder. Note that I am assuming that Aaron Myette has a spot wrapped up.

Dave Burba may be drawing interest from the Tigers and other clubs in need of pitching (or a veteran presence, for whatever that's worth). Burba was showcased in a two-inning start against the Tigers on Saturday and pitched well as he struck out three and did not allow a run.

Ricky Gutierrez will probably start the season on extended spring training according to Eric Wedge and could be ready to be activated by mid-April

Travis Hafner (sprained wrist) is hoping to return to the lineup tomorrow.

The ABJ notes that Ben Broussard has less than a 50-50 chance of playing in a game before camp breaks. The LMJ reports that Mark Shapiro hopes Broussard can play on Wednesday.

Bob Wickman made 40 throws on Saturday with a "light" baseball. What the heck is that? A nerf ball? The next step is for Wick to play catch with a real baseball. I have the same hopes for James this summer.

Cliff Lee is scheduled to throw off a mound for the first time this week. Lee is expecting to report to Buffalo or Akron on a rehab assignment sometime around May 6.

Chris Magruder severely injured his wrist (maybe even broke it) while making a diving catch in a minor league game, according to the LMJ. He'll have tests done today.

Chris Kline projects the opening day K-Tribe roster on Kinston.com. Kline reports that the rotation is expected to be Travis Foley, Mariano Gomez, J.D. Martin, Brian Slocum and Nick Moran.   Luke Scott, Wily Taveras, Ben Francisco, and Brian Wright are expected to man the outfield. In the infield, Matt Knox and Rickie Morton are battling for first base with Eider Torres at second, Ivan Ochoa at short, and Pat Osborn at third. Ben Margalski and Armando Camacaro will be behind the plate.

Quick thoughts: While I'm disappointed that it's looks like I'm not going to be able to watch Eider Torres in Eastlake this summer, it's exciting that the Indians have enough confidence in his abilities to move him directly to high-A ball for his full-season debut. This could simply be a product of the Indians needing to find at-bats for all their middle infield prospects (Torres, Chris De La Cruz, Micah Schilling) with Torres being the most advanced in the Tribe's eyes. I hope it works out. Brian Slocum, Ben Francisco, Brian Wright and Pat Osborn will be making similar jumps but that's less surprising for college players.

David Glasier reports in the Lake Herald that Dan Denham, Jake Dittler, Keith Ramsey, and Sean Smith are officially in the Lake County Captains rotation.

Interesting note from Tom Hamilton during yesterday's game. Apparently, the Indians and Reds had agreed to a Bartolo Colon trade but talks fell apart when Jim Bowden could not get the ok to add Colon's salary. The interesting part is that Austin Kearns was involved in the deal. Tasty. I suspect that pitchers Josh Hall and Bobby Basham and infielder Edwin Encarnacion may have also been involved in those talks.

Peter Gammons notes that Kevin Millar has asked the Red Sox to give Browns third-string quarterback Josh Booty a tryout as a pitcher. Millar was teammates with Booty on the Marlins.

Former Indians pitcher Harry Eisenstat has died at the age of 89. Eisenstat pitched for the Indians from 1939-1942, posting a 10-13 record and 3.21 ERA in 103 appearances. In addition to the Tribe, Eisenstat pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1935-1937) and Detroit Tigers (1938-1939) and finished his career with a 25-27 record and a 3.83 ERA. The local papers noted that Eisenstat is best known as the winning pitcher (for Detroit) in the 1938 game when Bob Feller became the first pitcher to strike out 18 batters in one game. Eisenstat took a no-hitter into the 8th inning of that game which the Tigers ended up winning 4-1.

My NCAA pool is in shambles and I am being ridiculed from all corners. Other than that, this has been an exciting tourney.

My NL draft went moderately well over the weekend. I'm in full rebuilding mode and picked up some nice young talent in Lyle Overbay, Brett Myers, John Patterson, and Joey Thurston to go along with veterans Ken Griffey Jr and Chipper Jones. I only wish there had been more (unprotected) young talent in our draft this year. My minor league draft was excellent, though, with Jason Stokes, Scott Kazmir, Brad Nelson, and Angel Guzman all being added to the farm system.

We're going to Disneyworld. For real. Jason Davis will take the mound for the Indians as they travel to the Disney Complex for a game against the Braves. Billy Traber, Aaron Myette, Chad Paronto, and Danys Baez are also scheduled to pitch. Tonight's game will be televised on Fox Sports Net at 7:05. Brian Anderson will throw in a minor league game.

GAME RECAPS
FRIDAY: Rained out. Tim Laker turned on the sprinkler system so the Tribe minor leaguers could hook up with a bunch of figure skaters.

SATURDAY: The Indians blew out the Tigers 10-3 in Winter Haven as they blasted five homeruns. Milton Bradley knocked out numbers 4 and 5 on the spring to drive in four runs. Karim Garcia (#2), Matt Lawton (#1), and Ellis Burks (#1) also went deep. Casey Blake doubled once and singled three times as part of a 4-for-4 afternoon. He also stole a base. Jody Gerut doubled, and Omar Vizquel, AJ Hinch, and John McDonald added basehits. Dave Burba started for the Tribe and pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three. Aaron Myette and Jake Westbrook allowed a run in their two innings of work. Jose Santiago was touched for a run in one inning. David Riske struck out the side (again), and Danys Baez worked a scoreless final frame.

SUNDAY: The Indians shutout the Reds 2-0 in Sarasota behind the strong pitching of Ricardo Rodriguez, who threw six scoreless innings, scattering only four hits and walking three while striking out five. Terry Pluto notes in the linked column above that three of the hits against Rodriguez came off a bloop, a broken bat, and an infield grounder. Jose Santiago and Carl Sadler tossed a scoreless inning apiece, as did David Riske who struck out the side for the 5th time in his last six outings. Shane Spencer belted his third homer of the spring. He also singled. Matt Lawton added two hits, as did Karim Garcia who singled and doubled. John McDonald had the Indians only other baseknock.

 

March 22, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Saturday, March 22

Ten years ago today, the Indians lost two members of their organization in a spring training boating accident on Little Lake Nellie in Florida that left another member of the organization scarred for life. The following is a brief tribute to their careers. The Beacon Journal has an excellent four-part story that looks back at the tragedy and what became of the survivors if you're interested in a more detailed account.

Steve Olin pitched four seasons (1989-1992) for the Indians, posting a 16-19 record with 48 saves and a 3.10 ERA. In his last two seasons, Olin emerged as the Indians closer, saving 29 games in 1992 while also working an uncloser like 88.1 innings. He had a 2.34 ERA and a 8-5 record that year. One of the last truly effective submariners, it's safe to say that Olin would have been a large part of the Indians championship teams of the mid-90s. He died on March 22, 1993.

Tim Crews was signed as a free agent in the 1992 offseason and never actually appeared in a major league game for the Indians. Prior to joining the Tribe, Crews had spent his entire career in the Dodgers organization where he posted a 11-13 record and a 3.44 ERA covering 281 games from 1987-1992. His best season came in 1990 when he provided quality relief for Tommy Lasorda, posting a 2.77 ERA in 107.1 innings. He died on March 23, 1993.

Bob Ojeda was also signed in the 1992 offseason as a free agent and was expected to bring a little veteran leadership to a young rotation. Suffering from survivor's guilt after the accident, Ojeda only appeared in nine games for the Indians and did not really pitch all that bad, posting a 4.40 ERA and a 2-1 record in 43 innings. He left the Tribe organization in the following offseason, eventually signing with the Yankees and making two starts before calling it quits. Ojeda pitched for the Red Sox, Mets, Dodgers, Indians, and Yankees over the course of a 15-year career in which he finished with a 115-98 record and a 3.65 ERA. His best season came with the 1986 world champion New Yawk Mets when he went 18-5 with a 2.57 ERA. Ojeda survived the 1993 accident and is currently a coach in the Mets minor league system.

 

March 21, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Friday, March 21

Eric Wedge was quoted earlier in the week as saying that he wanted the 25-man opening day roster finalized before the Indians leave for Cincinnati next Thursday. The Tribe took a step towards making that a reality by sending eight players to the minor league camp yesterday afternoon. Coco Crisp was optioned to Buffalo, Jerrod Riggan was removed from the 40-man roster and outrighted to Buffalo, and non-roster invitees Jason Boyd, Dave Elder, Greg LaRocca, Wendell Magee, Chris Magruder, and Jason Phillips were reassigned to minor league camp. All will start the season in Buffalo. The moves leave 38 players in camp with 35 active if you discount the injured law firm of Wickman, Wohlers, and Lee.

Four of the cuts were no surprise. Mark Shapiro made it known throughout the spring that they want Coco to play everyday and he'll have that opportunity in triple-A. Boyd pitched well but he needed others to blow up this spring and that didn't happen. LaRocca became a victim of Casey Blake's hot spring, and Jason Phillips is still recovering from offseason surgery and never really hit his stride this spring.

The other four cuts are surprising to the following degree...

Chris Magruder and Wendell Magee were believed to be battling for the 5th outfielder role due to their ability to play centerfield. With both being cut today, does that mean that Jody Gerut will break camp as the 5th outfielder or does it represent the Indians decision to only carry four outfielders (Lawton, Bradley, Garcia, Spencer) on the roster and use the extra space for another infielder (like Ricky Gutierrez). Or could they be looking at Bill Selby as the 25th man who can serve as an extra infielder and play the outfield as well.

Dave Elder has pitched extremely well this spring, no runs in 8 innings and a .115 average against, but in the end the decision may have simply come down to the fact that Elder could be sent to the minor leagues (minor league contract off the 40) and Aaron Myette could not (out of options and good chance he would be claimed on waivers). This is surprising only in the fact that Elder had pitched so well and he had finally started to receive a little attention in the press.

The fact that Jerrod Riggan was designated for assignment is not surprising. The fact that he apparently made it through waivers is somewhat surprising although maybe not as much as one would have thought at the beginning of February given how he has pitched this spring. What I find surprising in this move is the fact that they removed him from the 40-man roster. If he was out of the options (as I believe and have detailed in the CIR the past month), this move is very obvious. If he was not out of options (as the Indians stated early in camp), then the question becomes why was he removed from the 40? Was it simply because the Indians thought they could get him through waivers and it would clear up a spot to be used in the future? Does this hint that the Indians may be making a waiver claim in the next few days that will use this spot? Or does it hint that four non-roster players will be on the opening day roster and this is the final spot that needs to be cleared (remember that three spots will be freed if Bob Wickman, Mark Wohlers, and Cliff Lee all start the season on the 60-day disabled list).

So if four NRIs are going to make the opening day roster, who will they be? Well, we know that one will be either AJ Hinch or Tim Laker as the backup catcher. The second will most likely be Billy Traber working out of the bullpen. Casey Blake is a likely candidate for the third spot, especially since he can fill in at first base if Travis Hafner's wrist injury is worse than originally thought (let's hope not). It's been speculated all spring that another spot would be used for either Chris Magruder or Wendell Magee as the 5th outfielder and backup centerfielder but with both of them being sent down yesterday, they are removed from the picture. I think we have to now consider the possibility that Bill Selby has a legitimate shot at breaking camp as the 25th man as a backup infielder/outfielder and pinch-hitter. That's not something that I'm particularly happy about but I think that's the direction the Indians appear to be leaning. Let's hope that they have their eyes on a waiver claim or trade (like Ruben Mateo of whom I speculated on last week) and that's what the Riggan spot would be used for. Of course, if either Mark Wohlers or Cliff Lee are not placed on the 60-day DL then the above discussion is pretty well moot, so you have to keep that in the back of your mind as well.

With the above cuts and recent comments by Eric Wedge, the opening day roster is slowly rounding into shape.

C (2): Josh Bard and Tim Laker or AJ Hinch
IF (6): Travis Hafner, Brandon Phillips, Omar Vizquel, Casey Blake, John McDonald, Bill Selby
OF (4): Matt Lawton, Milton Bradley, Karim Garcia, Shane Spencer
DH (1): Ellis Burks
SP (5): CC Sabathia, Ricardo Rodriguez, Brian Anderson, Jason Davis, Jason Bere
RP (7): Danys Baez, Terry Mulholland, Jake Westbrook, Billy Traber, Carl Sadler, David Riske, Aaron Myette

In the backup catcher battle, Hinch is hitting .318/.682 with a pair of doubles and homeruns while Laker is hitting .292/.542 with three doubles and a dinger. If the offensive numbers are similar, I think Laker has the edge due to his familiarity with Eric Wedge and the Tribe young hurlers.

10 players still need to be cut before camp breaks and off the top of my head, I can come up with nine of them: Jason Beverlin, Jose Santiago, Dave Burba, Alex Herrera, Chad Paronto, Alex Herrera, Zach Sorensen, Ben Broussard, Jody Gerut, and Tim Laker or AJ Hinch. I'm sure one of you good folks will point out the 10th player.

Of course, the big news of the week was the firing of Mike Brown and the promotion of Carl Willis as pitching coach. That set off a chain reaction of pitching coach promotions in which Terry Clark moves up to Buffalo and Steve Lyons moves up to Akron. The other assignments within the system have not yet been decided. The Indians say that it comes down to a simple personality conflict between Brown and Wedge and I think that I believe them. Brown is Shapiro's guy and Willis has been Wedgie's pitching coach the last two years at Buffalo. I think Wedge probably wanted to make this move when he was hired but agreed to give Brown a chance at the request of Shapiro. It didn't work and they made the change. Simple as that. I don't have a problem with the move and I'm glad they did it now instead of in the middle of the season when the political ramifications in the clubhouse could have been a lot worse.

Mike Brown was offered the opportunity to stay in the organization as a special assistant to Mark Shapiro but has not yet decided whether he is going to accept that role. Interestingly enough, Shapiro was quoted as saying that Brown is responsible for creating the organization's pitching policies when he served as the minor league pitching coordinator from 1995-2001 prior to joining Charlie Manuel's staff last season.

Oops, I forgot to mention that Eric Wedge confirmed that Carl Sadler had wrapped up a spot in the bullpen.

Be a little concerned with the news that Travis Hafner has a sore left wrist. It's an injury that has bothered Hafner in the past and one of those nagging injuries that can last all season and really hamper a player at the plate. Both Casey Blake and Shane Spencer can fill in at first if Hafner requires any time off.

Eric Wedge has set the Indians rotation with CC Sabathia followed by Ricardo Rodriguez, Brian Anderson, Jason Davis, and Jason Bere. Don't read too much into Rodriguez being the "number two" starter. It's simply a move designed to separate the two rookies (Rodriguez and Davis) and provide some relief to the bullpen. At least that's the party line. While true, and a smart move, you would have a hard time convincing me that Rodriguez is not actually the second best starter among that group right now.

Ricky Gutierrez continues to make strides in his bid to make the opening day roster as he played seven innings at third base in a minor league game on Thursday. The next step will be getting him into an "A" game and that should happen early next week, if not this weekend. With only one week left in camp, I find it very doubtful that Gutierrez can show enough to make the opening day roster but I wouldn't discount anything at this point.

Mike Thurman refused his assignment to minor league camp and is free to sign with another team. The Indians also released Brant Brown and Matt Wade according to minorleaguebaseball.com. The Brown release is not a surprise, in fact I speculated whether he would make it through the spring when he signed, as the Indians simply have no room for him in triple-A. Wade was the Indians 13th round pick in the 1998 draft and he never made it above single-A in his four years in the Indians organization.

The March 18 edition of the Spring Training Dish from Baseball America noted that David Wallace is the best Tribe catching prospect behind the big two of Josh Bard and Victor Martinez and that Wallace shows tremendous raw power and plus arm strength. Hmmm. Wallace also played some quarterback at Vanderbilt where he threw for 678 yards as a freshman in 1998.

The Canton Repository noted that the Indians claimed former Reds shortstop Gookie Dawkins on waivers earlier in the week but he ended up being awarded to the Dodgers as their National League claim took precedence over the Indians. Gookie was once a top prospect of the Reds but like so many of their other "top" prospects, he failed miserably, hitting .167 in 96 major league at-bats spread over three seasons. So much for the Gookie and Pookie dream double-play combination, huh? I suspect the Tribe was interested in having him play second in Buffalo or short in Akron.

The Red Sox traded Rule 5 pick Javier Lopez to the Rockies earlier in the week which increases the odds that Matt White will stick on the opening day roster.

Russ Branyan was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Reds. He had surgery after tearing his labrum in winterball.

Marcus Scutaro was sent to the minors by the New York Mets.  Paul Abbott was done the same by the Diamondbacks.

The Akron Aeros announced that all their games will be broadcast by AM 1350 this year.

The first-ever CIR fantasy league draft was held on Thursday and I think I did pretty well. Here's my roster and keep in mind that this is a 10-team, 5x5, AL only league.

C: Dan Wilson, Mark Johnson
IF: Aubrey Huff, Adam Kennedy, Alex Rodriguez, Troy Glaus, Carlos Febles, David Ortiz
OF: Carlos Lee, Trot Nixon, Chris Singleton, Kevin Mench, Bobby Kielty
UT: Travis Hafner
SP: Mark Mulder, Joel Piniero, John Lackey, Joe Mays, Colby Lewis
RP: Keith Foulke, Eddie Guardado, Francisco Rodriguez, Jesus Colome

Good power with A-Rod and Glaus with support from Lee, Nixon, Huff, and Ortiz. Mench and Hafner will add to that group if they develop as hoped. I'm lacking in speed but Kennedy and Singleton offer hope. I really need Febles do have a decent year. On the mound, I think I have four starters with a solid chance at 15 wins apiece and two solid closers. Lots of youth on the mound with Lewis, K-Rod, and Colome but they'll be quick FAAB fodder if they don't pan out. Should be an interesting league, it looks like there's some good baseball minds in this group.

Dave Burba will start for the Tribe tomorrow in what may be a showcase start for any team looking to add a veteran starter or reliever. He'll be followed by Jake Westbrook, Aaron Myette, David Riske, and Carl Sadler. You fantasy leaguers keep an eye on Tigers starting pitcher Jeremy Bonderman. If you're in a keeper league, he's someone you will want to target as a late pickup.

GAME RECAPS
TUESDAY: We're going to Disney World! Day off for the big leaguers. Ricardo Rodriguez allowed one run on four hits in 6-2/3 innings in a minor league game. Billy Traber was charged with an unearned run in two innings as he began his transition to the bullpen.

WEDNESDAY: The Tribe lost to the Yankees 4-1 as Cuban import Jose Contreas struck out eight and held the Indians to four hits in 5-2/3 innings in his best outing of the spring. Omar Vizquel, Ellis Burks, Matt Lawton, and Karim Garcia were the only Tribe hitters who managed basehits. Travis Hafner struck out three times. Brian Anderson allowed four runs in five innings. He did strike out six. Aaron Myette tossed a scoreless frame and David Riske worked two scoreless, albeit adventurous innings, striking out four and walking three.

THURSDAY: The Indians lost to the Astros 13-4 as Terry Mulholland was pounded for 11 runs in 1-2/3 innings. Hey, at least he got his work in. Jake Westbrook allowed his first run of the spring in 1-1/3 innings. Dave Burba was charged with a run in one inning of work. Dave Elder tossed two scoreless frames and Chad Paronto and Danys Baez worked a scoreless inning apiece. At the plate, Shane Spencer belted his second homer. Jody Gerut had two hits. Coco Crisp singled and stole a base and Chris Magruder had three hits.

Quick weekend publishing note: There will be a short Saturday report and nothing on Sunday (my NL draft is Saturday night). The CIR will resume its normal schedule on Monday.


 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Friday, March 21

This will be a very brief report. A more detailed review of the last couple of days will follow either this evening or tomorrow morning.

The Indians cut their roster by eight this morning, optioning Coco Crisp to triple-A, designating Jerrod Riggan for assignment, and reassigning Jason Boyd, Dave Elder, Greg LaRocca, Wendell Magee, Chris Magruder, and Jason Phillips to minor league camp. The cuts leave 38 players still in major league camp and that total includes the injured lawfirm of Wickman, Wohlers, and Lee.

Quick comments on the above moves...

Jerrod Riggan is now removed from the 40-man roster. I'm not sure whether he still has to clear waivers or he's already passed through unclaimed. This is a move that we've speculated would happen since the beginning of spring so it should not come as much of a surprise.

With Wendell Magee, Chris Magruder, and Coco Crisp sent down, does this mean that Jody Gerut is the 5th outfielder? Or does this mean the Indians are leaning towards keeping a 6th infielder (Bill Selby?) and Gerut will be sent down later in camp? Or does this mean that Ricky Gutierrez will be ready to go for opening day? Remember, both Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro have stated that they want both Crisp and Gerut to play everyday. Hmmm....

Dave Elder is unscored upon this spring but he still gets sent down. Chalk that up to Elder already being off the 40 and Aaron Myette being out of options. Don't be surprised if the Indians are quietly shopping Myette to teams looking for bullpen help. Elder could be back.

More in the next report.

P.S. The first day of the NCAA tourney was not kind to me or bracket.

 

March 20, 2003  

 
WELCOME
Greetings to all those visiting from the Langa List. If you've never checked it out, the Langa List is an excellent free newsletter on Windows which all sorts of tips, tricks, and hints for the novice and pro. I strongly recommend it.


 
CIR UPDATE
We need one more team for the CIR Fantasy League. The league ID is 85473, the password is "sabathia" and the draft time is TODAY at 12:25 pm EST.

There's also still time to submit your brackets in the FREE CIR Tournament Challenge on ESPN.com. The first round starts today at NOON so get those picks in now!


 

March 18, 2003  

 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Tuesday, March 18

There's still time to join the first-ever CIR NCAA Tournament Challenge on ESPN. It's free to enter and the first place finisher will receive a copy of the 2002 CIR Archives. The group is CIR POOL and the password is LAWTON. I have Kentucky over Louisville in the finals. Fill out your brackets today!

Brandon Phillips is in. Travis Hafner should be next.

Phillips was named the Indians starting second basemen yesterday after a spring in which he has hit .333/.487 (13-for-39) with three doubles, a homerun, and three stolen bases and shown marked improvements on and off the field. Eric Wedge stated that Phillips will hit towards the bottom of the order to start the season. Sorry Frankie, but you're going to have to bid on him. The decision moves John McDonald, having a good spring himself with a .409 (9-for-22) average, back into a utility role for which he is best suited anyway.

Hafner continues to mash, belting his 4th homerun of the spring yesterday to go along with a double and single to raise his average to a MLB fourth best .439 (18-for-41) and his slugging to a MLB second best .902. His four homeruns are tied for fifth this spring. His main competition, Ben Broussard, missed his fourth consecutive game with a strained oblique muscle and I think it's looking pretty likely that Ben will be headed to triple-A to start the season.

With John McDonald settled into the utility spot, that should pretty much eliminate whatever hopes that either Bill Selby or Greg LaRocca had of making the opening day roster. The way the roster looks to be structured (2 C, 5 OF, 1 DH, 12 P), that leaves room for five infielders with Hafner/Broussard, Phillips, Omar, and McDonald guaranteed four spots. The remaining spot will most likely be filled by the starting third basemen and whether that is Casey Blake (.485/.970, 10 extra base hits) or Ricky Gutierrez remains to be seen. What I would like to see happen is Blake receive the starting nod and Guiterrez sent on a rehab assignment to Akron or Buffalo to ease his transition back into regular playing time. There's no need to rush Ricky back and there's certainly no harm in seeing what Blake can do with three weeks of consistent at-bats.

The Indians optioned Alex Escobar, Alex Herrera, Brian Tallet, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta to Buffalo yesterday. Escobar will play RF according to the Morning Journal. They also reassigned Mike Thurman to minor league camp. The moves leave the Indians with 46 players still in big-league camp if you include the injured Bob Wickman, Mark Wohlers, and Cliff Lee.

The Morning Journal reports that Kazuhito Tadano threw two scoreless innings in his exhibition debut in an outing for the Lake County Captains.

Marshall McDougall was officially sent to the minors by the Rangers.

Former Indian Chris Haney announced his retirement last week. The left-hander spent two seasons (1999 and 2000) in Cleveland, going 0-2 with a 4.83 ERA in 41 innings. Over his 11 year career (1991-2002), Haney pitched for the Expos, Royals, Cubs, Tribe, and Red Sox and amassed a 38-52 record with a 5.08 ERA.

MLB.com is reporting that the Devil Rays have released Lee Stevens.

Padres right-hander Jay Witasick joins Indians farmhand Matt Whitney in the running for most bizarre injury of the year when he strained his right elbow while throwing out the garbage. The following quote from manager Bruce Bochy says it all. "They were heavy, had some watermelon in them, apparently."

The Indians are off today but Ricardo Rodriguez, Carl Sadler, Jason Boyd, and Billy Traber are scheduled to pitch in a minor league game. Tomorrow, the Tribe will face the Yankees.

GAME RECAPS
MONDAY: The Indians lost 9-4 to Boston. Jason Bere started with three scoreless innings before being pounded for five runs in the 4th inning, including back-to-back jacks to Nomar Garciaparra and Manny Ramirez. He worked five innings total, allowing the five runs on nine hits and a walk while striking out two. Chad Paronto did not help his chances at making the roster as he allowed four runs in two innings. He also hit two batters. Dave Elder finished with a scoreless 9th inning. Travis Hafner needed only a double for the cycle as he homered (#4), tripled, and singled and drove in two runs. Brandon Phillips celebrated being named the starting second basemen with a double and single. Casey Blake and Tim Laker doubled. John McDonald stole a base.

 

March 17, 2003  

 
CIR UPDATE
The Indians optioned Alex Escobar, Alex Herrera, Brian Tallet, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta to Buffalo and Mike Thurman was assigned to minor league camp. The moves leave 46 players in camp, 43 if you discount the injured Bob Wickman, Mark Wohlers, and Cliff Lee.


 
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT
Monday, March 17

Three days until the Big Dance. One week until my NL draft. Two weeks until opening day. Three weeks until my AL draft. It's a great time of year.

Speaking of the tourney, I created a free ESPN tournament challenge group called CIR Pool. If you're interested in competing against your fellow Tribe fans, the password to join is lawton. Groups may be limited to 50 members so sign up early. First place will receive a free copy of the 2002 CIR Archives. And while I'm plugging the archive, let me also remind you that the CIR bookstore is the place to buy gifts for the baseball fan in your life. Every purchase you make at Amazon.com when linking through the CIR bookstore results in a small referral fee for the CIR and helps to keep the newsletter and website free of charge. Thanks for your support!

And while I'm plugging, don't forget to check out the Baseball Derby which is a free stakes game tailored to baseball. The windows are open for a few more days, don't get shut out ($1 to Northfield).

Jason Davis has officially been named as the 5th member of the Indians rotation after having a "dominant" spring (as described by Mark Shapiro). Note that he's the 5th member and not necessarily the 5th starter as the exact lineup is still to be determined. You saw the stats yesterday and it's no surprise that Davis is the choice.

What was a surprise in yesterday's announcement is the apparent decision to have Billy Traber start the season in the Indians bullpen. This is not set in stone as Traber needs to demonstrate that he can adapt to the change in roles but the young left-hander has been announced as a front-runner for one of the four remaining bullpen spots. Mark Shapiro was quoted as saying that there is very little left for Traber to do developmentally at triple-A and I interpret that as saying that Traber does not have any flaws mechanically, with the running game, or in the number (and type) of pitches in his arsenal and the last stage in his development is simply to let him get big league hitters out. Numerous teams have let their young starters develop in the bullpen before moving them into the rotation for good and this should not be viewed as a sign that Traber's days as a starter are over. It's an interesting move and I don't think it's going to be a problem getting him consistent work which is sometimes the issue with young pitchers in the bullpen.

Traber would join Danys Baez, Terry Mulholland, and Jake Westbook in the pen. One spot has all but been officially confirmed for Carl Sadler and David Riske appears to have finally claimed one of the other spots thanks to two excellent back-to-back outings in which he struck out the side in both appearances. That would leave one spot remaining on the staff with Aaron Myette, David Elder, Jerrod Riggan, Jose Santiago, Jason Phillips, Dave Burba, Alex Herrera, Jason Boyd, and Chad Paronto all in the mix to a varying degree. Phillips was specifically mentioned by Mark Shapiro in the Canton Repository. Myette is out of the options and you would think his arm would be worth an extended look. Elder has pitched well. Herrera looks like less of a possibility with fellow southpaws Mulholland, Sadler, and Traber already on board. Riggan has an option remaining according to the Indians but I think they've all been used up. A trade from this depth is a possibility with San Diego being a potential partner as their pitching staff has been hit hard by injuries this spring (see Jaret Wright note below). Brian Tallet is out of the mix after Mark Shapiro indicated that the Tribe wants him to continue to develop as a starter in Buffalo.

The other interesting factor in moving Traber to the bullpen is that since he is not on the 40-man roster, someone will need to be removed to clear a space for him. We've discussed at length this spring the number of different directions the Indians can take to make this happen but it looks like four spots (Traber, backup catcher, 5th outfielder, third base) will need to be created with only three players (Wickman, Wohlers, Lee) able to be put on the 60-day disabled list. That means one player would need to be removed from the 40 either via trade or assignment and I think a reliever (Myette, Riggan, Paronto) would be the most likely candidate.

Brian Giles for Derrick Van Dusen?

I know it's moot to actually think about a trade like that so long after it happened but it's not a pretty picture when you follow the linkage from Brian Giles to Ricardo Rincon to Marshall McDougall to Derrick Van Dusen.

Van Dusen was acquired from the Rangers yesterday for Marshall McDougall, whom the Rangers had selected out of the Indians organization in the Rule 5 draft in December. If you remember from earlier in the week, the Rangers had offered McDougall back to the Indians for half of the $50,000 purchase price they originally paid in December per the Rule 5 requirements. Instead of simply taking McDougall back, however, the Tribe and Rangers agreed on a deal in which the Indians acquired Van Dusen and the Rangers acquired McDougall free of any Rule 5 major league roster requirements. This allows the Rangers to send him to the minor leagues where I suspect he will be groomed into a super sub role in relief of Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira, and Michael Young. McDougall ends his Indians career before it really started as he was bothered by injuries late last season after being acquired from the A's and he ended up with only 23 at-bats in the Tribe organization, hitting .348 with a homerun.

Derrick Van Dusen is a 6'3", 185 pound, 21-year old left-handed pitcher who was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 5th round of the 2000 draft out of Riverside CC. After signing with the M's, he spent most of 2000 working out of the bullpen and struck out a healthy 82 hitters in 56 innings in his pro debut. Van Dusen moved into the rotation with a promotion to the Midwest League in 2001 and posted a solid 3.19 ERA in 18 starts, going 5-4 and striking out 103 in 96 innings while walking 24. Promoted to the high-A California League to start 2002, Van Dusen turned in nearly identical numbers in 20 starts, striking out 118 in 124.2 innings while walking 36 and posting a 3.10 ERA and a 7-6 record. That performance earned him a promotion to double-A as well as the attention of the Texas Rangers who acquired in a trade deadline deal for Ismael Valdes. He stayed in double-A with the Rangers (switched teams in the Texas League) and his overall numbers indicate that he struggled with the more advanced hitters, posting a 5.59 ERA in 37 innings with a poor 15:22 BB:K ratio while allowing 45 hits and splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen. In the Arizona Fall League that trend continued as he posted a 4.35 ERA in 13 appearances covering 20.2 innings and allowing 24 hits and 10 walks while striking out 17. To be fair, Van Dusen was one of the youngest pitchers in double-A last season at age 20. He works with a 85-88 mph fastball with a plus slider and change. Baseball America adds that he developed a pause in his windup last year to add an element of deception to his delivery. He'll start the season in Akron although I'm not sure if he's ticketed for the rotation or bullpen. I think it would be interesting to see how he fares in the rotation sandwiched between power arms Jeremy Guthrie, Francisco Cruceta, and Fernando Cabrera. Right now, he's a marginal prospect (even more so in the Indians loaded system) and the finesse guys always face the "double-A litmus test". If he passes the test, he'll move up in the prospect ranks.

Ben Broussard is expected to miss a few more games with a strained oblique muscle. Meanwhile, Travis Hafner keeps raking.

Great story on the Indians today in the spring training dish from Baseball America. The Tribe's player development focus is discussed along with a listing of the 15 prospects who did not make the Indians top 30 list.

Peter Gammons says things look bright for the Tribe in his latest Diamond Notes column. Bill Selby (?) forecasts a breakout year for Luis Garcia in the same column. Gammons also notes that Rule 5 pick Matt White (stats in yesterday's CIR) is drawing interest from other clubs so even if the Red Sox don't keep him, it's likely he'll be claimed on waivers.

Paul Hoynes notes in "Hey Hoynsie" today that the Indians will attempt to trade Dave Burba if he's not going to make the big league club. Ken Rosenthal notes in the Sporting News Inside Dish that the Angels may be looking for an experienced starting pitcher to stash at triple-A as depth to protect against injuries. Sound like a match?

Jaret Wright is expected to start the season on the Padres disabled list with a strained oblique muscle. Did that muscle even exist 15 years ago? I don't remember hearing about it.

Charles Nagy has moved into contention for the 5th spot in the Padres rotation after tossing four scoreless innings last week. In "A" games this spring, Nagy has a 3.86 ERA in seven innings but has allowed 11 hits. Francisco Cordova (yes, the guy who used to be with the Pirates) is Nagy's main competition and he has a 13.03 ERA so far this spring.

Mark Budzinski was sent to the minors by the Brewers. Roy Smith was farmed out by the A's.

Jason Bere takes the mound for the Indians in Fort Myers this afternoon against the Red Sox. David Elder and Chad Paronto are also scheduled to work. Brian Tallet, Jose Santiago, and Danys Baez will pitch in a minor league game.

I listened to the entire Cavs game yesterday on the radio. Yes, I thought the Indians were going to be on. And yes, my timing was perfect (122-95 win). What a game, though, and I'm glad I got to spend an afternoon with Joe Tait, whose excellence is largely forgotten thanks to the sorry state of the organization. I'm thoroughly behind the rebuilding effort and I like the talent the Cavs have on the roster but rock-bottom is tough no matter how much you sugar coat it. I consider myself a die-hard fan but even I didn't know that DeJaun Wagner was injured, let alone going to be out for the rest of the season. This from a guy who refuses to let his wife throw away his Cavs garbage can (old logo) and still has his late 80's blue Cavs jacket in the closet. I hope Jim Paxson can find a coach who can teach and command respect from his players this offseason. I don't buy the notion that it has to be a young former player either, just look what Hubie Brown has done in Memphis. The Cavs have too much talent on the roster to not show a large improvement next season, LeBron or not. C'mon Cavs, gotta make it happen!

GAME RECAPS
SUNDAY: The Indians fell to the Devil Rays 3-2 in Winter Haven. CC Sabathia tossed six strong innings as he held the Rays to just one run in six innings, scattering four hits while walking only one. Aaron Myette was charged with the loss after allowing two runs in the 8th inning. Dave Burba tossed a scoreless frame and David Riske struck out the side for the second consecutive outing. At the plate, the Indians managed only six hits, one of which was Brandon Phillips first longball of the spring. Travis Hafner doubled and Zach Sorenson tripled. Omar Vizquel, Ellis Burks, and Josh Bard added basehits. Rule 5 pick Hector Luna was 1-for-2 for the D-Rays.

 


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