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November 27, 2003  

CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Thursday, November 27  

(with apologies to Adam Sandler)

Love to eat turkey

Love to eat tur-r-r-keyyyyy

Love to eat turkey cuz it's good
with Stadium Mustard like a Tribe fan should
cuz its turkey
to eat
so good

Turkey for me, turkey for you
the New York Yankees we love to boo
Love to eat the turkey at the table
why are all the Tribe games shown on cable

Eat the turkey all night long
what the heck is up with this stupid song
Turkey-turkey doo, turkey-turkey that
with the bases loaded, I want Tabler at the bat a special night
Contending....would be DY-NO-MITE
That's right

Turkey with gravey and the cranberries
can't believe David Justice divorced Halle Berry
Turkey for you and turkey for me
the handsomest Indian was Brook Jacoby (Hi Jeff)

OOOOO white meat and dark meat you just can't lose
Slider fell off the bullpen and he got a bruise
Turkey in the oven and the buns in the toaster
I'll neva take down my Joe Charboneau poster

Wrap the turkey up in aluminum foil
Gaylord Perry used to doctor the ball with baby oil
Turkey and sweet potato pie
Oscar Gamble's afro was oh so high

OOOOO turkey for the girls and turkey for the boys
Jacobs Field crowds make lots of noise
Gobble gobble goo and gobble gobble giggle
I remember when beer only cost two nickels

OHHHH, I love turkey on Thanksgiving



November 26, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: Brian Anderson to sign with Royals  
MLB radio is reporting that the Royals are expected to announce the re-signing of Brian Anderson this afternoon, along with Joe Randa and Curt Leskanic.


November 21, 2003  

CLEVELAND INDIANS ROSTER -- Friday, November 21  

The Indians added Danys Baez, Grady Sizemore, Mariano Gomez, Ivan Ochoa, and Corey Smith to the 40-man roster on Thursday as they finalized their major and minor league rosters in preparation for the Rule 5 draft in December.

For Baez, he remains a Cleveland Indian and the question now becomes at what price? The Indians are standing firm in their belief that because Baez went unclaimed on waivers by every team in baseball and the Indians did not exercise the option on his current (or old) contract, the 20% maximum paycut allowable under the collective bargaining agreement no longer applies since he was assigned a minor league contract when the Indians outrighted him to Buffalo earlier this week. Now that he's back on the big league roster, the Indians believe that they can deal with him the same as any other player that is ineligible for arbitration and free agency. Of course, the players association is likely to challenge this turn of events and Doug Pappas from Baseball Prospectus thinks that the Union is likely to win any grievance that they may file.

So what happens from here? Key dates to remember are December 20 and March 10. The first is the date by which the Indians must tender Baez a contract for the 2004 season and the second is the date that the Indians can renew Baez' contract at a salary of their choice. A grievance is not likely to be filed until the Indians tender Baez a contract and his agent and the union see what salary the Indians are offering. If it's more than a 20% cut from the $5 million Baez was scheduled to make in 2004 before the Indians declined their option, expect paperwork to be filed. Hopefully, the Indians and Baez' camp can come to some sort of an agreement in the meantime and prevent this from developing into an even uglier scenario than it currently is.

The addition of Sizemore comes as no surprise after the 21-year old established himself as the Indians top prospect thanks to a stellar .304/.373/.480/.853 campaign in Akron that included 26 doubles, 11 triples, and 13 homeruns. In addition he was named the MVP of the Futures Game, named to the Eastern League All-Star team, and hit .412 in leading the Aeros to the Eastern League championship. Sizemore continued his fine play in the fall with Team USA as he hit .393 with three triples and a longball and served as the squad's primary number three hitter. He'll start next season in Buffalo where the Indians logjam of outfielders at the major league level will likely allow him a full season of triple-A seasoning before he's ready to contend for a spot in the big leagues in 2005. That's not to say that he couldn't force himself into the big league picture this season but there's no need to rush him, especially when the Indians need to figure out what some of the other kids can do at the major league level.

Left-hander Mariano Gomez is probably the least heralded of the Indians lower-level pitching prospects but that's more a reflection of his foreign born status and the high draft picks spent on the hurlers around him than it is a reflection of Gomez's talent. Signed out of Honduras in the summer of 1999 at the age of 16, the 6-6" Gomez took the unusual route of making his professional debut in the States the following season. Pitching mainly out of the rotation for the B-Tribe the lanky southpaw went 0-5 in 13 appearances (11 starts) but a decent 4.31 ERA (and 18 unearned runs) hid the fact that Gomez allowed 77 hits in 54.1 innings while striking out just 30. Those numbers should probably not be too surprising, however, when you consider that it was his first season in pro ball and he was a 17-year old kid dealing with a strange country, language, and culture.

Returning to Burlington in 2001, Gomez pitched much better despite a nearly two run increase in his ERA to 6.07. Once again making 13 appearances (12 starts), Gomez went 2-8 but saw his H/IP ratio fall to 67 hits in 59.1 innings and his K/IP ratio rise to 57 punchouts in 59 frames while walking 21. He also allowed three less longballs in five more innings. It was definite progress and the Indians rewarded him with a promotion to low-A Columbus (now Lake County) for 2002 where he spent the first two months pitching out of the Redstixx bullpen before moving into the rotation in June. With the big four high school right-handers (JD Martin, Dan Denham, Travis Foley, and Jake Dittler) overshadowing him, all Gomez did was post a 1.79 ERA in his 13 starts for the Redstixx, finishing the season with an 8-2 record and a 2.75 ERA in 111-1/3 innings (106H, 40BB, 98K). His dominance continued in the playoffs where he pitched the Redstixx to a decisive game five victory in the first round with six innings of one-run ball and had the Stixx within three innings of the Sally League Championship after tossing six shutout frames in the championship game.

Promoted to Kinston this year, Gomez remained in the rotation and went 6-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 18 starts (100.2 IP, 91H, 38W, 69K) that included a 1-0 shutout victory over Myrtle Beach on April 19 in which he allowed only a leadoff double before retiring the next 18 batters he faced. Tendonitis in his left hand ended his season in mid-July but he pitched in the Instructional League in Florida this fall and is expected to be 100% for the start of spring training. He'll likely spend 2004 as a mainstay of the Aeros rotation.

Kinston shortstop Ivan Ochoa is the biggest surprise of the additions, although that's due more to who was NOT added (Wily Taveras, Hector Luna) than it does with his own personal qualifications. Ochoa is the classic "good-field, no-hit" young shortstop with speed that is always prized in the Rule 5 draft. Why for? Because players like that can actually serve a purpose as a defensive replacement/pinch runner which makes them easier to carry on a major league roster for an entire season (which is required of rule 5 selections). Couple that with how difficult it is to find and develop major league caliber shortstops and you can see why general managers are always targeting or protecting players like this. Perhaps that was the determining factor as to why Ochoa was protected over Taveras and Luna, he was the most likely of the three to be selected and, more importantly, the most likely of the three to not be returned to the Indians.

Signed out of Venezuela in 2000, Ochoa hit .344 in the VSL that summer before making his stateside debut in 2001 at Burlington. Two extra base hits and a .216 average in 176 at-bats identified the weakness in Ochoa's game but his glove work began to draw rave reviews. The Indians pushed him to low-A ball in 2002 where he continued to struggle at the plate, hitting .169 as late as July 2, before finishing with a .217 average and 12 extra base hits in 125 games. One harbinger of hope was the 54 walks in 391 at-bats that indicated he had somewhat of a clue at the plate despite his low averages. Ochoa also swiped 47 bases in 57 attempts and was named the best defensive shortstop in the South Atlantic League by Baseball America. Once again pushed up a level in 2003, Ochoa spent the first month and a half on the Kinston disabled list with a sore hamstring that he irritated in an exhibition game the day before the opener. He returned on May 12 with two hits in his high-A debut and stayed hot at the plate for the next three weeks before the hamstring forced him back on the DL and resulted in Ochoa missing the first three weeks of June. When he returned, Ochoa resumed hitting and pushed his average to .406 on June 29 and was hitting .345 when I wrote the following on July 24...

"Ivan Ochoa is another Kinston hitter who continues to impress as he singled twice last night to raise his average to .345 for the season. When combined with his .435 OBP, good speed, and excellent glove at shortstop, Ochoa is making a strong case to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason. He's been bothered by a nagging hamstring all season so the 139 ABs is a relatively small sample but the improvement from a career .217 average in the States is remarkable. And while he's still not showing a lot of power (.424 SLG), his nine doubles this season have already tied his career high. Keep your eye on Ochoa the rest of the second-half."

Had I known the whammy that I laid on Ochoa after typing that, I would have kept my mouth shut as Ivan went into a funk at the plate for the remainder of the season, finishing at .253/.336/.314 with 12 doubles, 3 triples, 31 walks, and 67 strikeouts in 296 at-bats. Still, those numbers are a big leap forward from previous seasons and despite the hamstring problems, he still managed to swipe 28 bases in 38 attempts and was once again praised for his glove work. So much so, in fact, that the Indians believe that Ochoa could play shortstop defensively in the big leagues right now but it's obvious that he's going to have to make big strides at the plate before he's ready to face major league pitching. The three factors working in his favor towards that end are youth, the fact that he already possesses some degree of plate discipline, and his speed (think Willie Mays Hays and keeping the ball on the ground). The one factor working against him is the line of shortstop prospects (Chris De La Cruz, Eider Torres, Brandon Pinckney) behind him that may continue to push him up levels in order to get everyone the at-bats that they need to continue their development. Ochoa will likely start at Akron in 2004 and it's going to be interesting to see if he can continue the improvement at the plate he showed last season against a higher level of competition.

P.S. Did you notice that I made it through this entire write-up without comparing him to Omar Vizquel.

Corey Smith is the fifth addition to the 40 and his promotion ended weeks of "will they" or "won't they" speculation regarding the former first round pick. Taking a look at his numbers below, you can see why the "won't they" camp felt that Smith would not be considered worthy of protecting from the rule 5 draft. His power numbers have dropped the last three years, he's still striking out a lot, and his defensive has not improved since rookie ball.

That's all true, but the "will they" camp will counter that by saying that the Indians have aggressively pushed Smith through the system and as a result, he's been one of the youngest players at every level he has played. While his homeruns may have been down at Akron last year, his slugging percentage remained the same despite the higher level of competition, he posted the highest batting average of his career, and he cut his strikeouts by nearly a third while maintaining a steady walk rate. That's improvement, even if it's not a quantum leap. He also hit .350 over the 38 games and followed that up with a .367 average in the post-season. It's true he continued to struggle defensively but over half of those errors were committed in the first two months of the season and John Farrell was quoted recently as saying that Smith made great strides in the field in the Arizona Fall League. Combine that with his raw tools and (yes) his first round pick status and you have a player worthy of consideration for the 40-man roster. Ok, here are those career numbers for Corey Smith:

2000 BUR 57 207 53 8 2 4 39 27 50 32 .256 .342 .372 .814
2001 COL 130 500 130 26 5 18 85 37 149 45 .260 .311 .440 .751
2002 KIN 134 505 129 29 2 13 67 59 141 34 .255 .341 .398 .739
2003 AKR 127 473 128 27 3 9 64 50 99 45 .271 .340 .397 .737

My only question regarding Smith is whether or not another team would have selected him in the Rule 5 draft? He obviously is not ready to play in the field at the major league level and his bat remains a question mark, even with the improvements noted above. He could not serve as a defensive replacement or a pinch-runner and I'm not even sure that he would qualify as pop off the bench right now. A team selecting him would be making a major projection off his raw tools and would essentially be carrying a 24-man roster for the entire season. They would also be taking away a year of development from Corey when the one thing that he needs most is continued at-bats and chances in the field. I would not be surprised at all to see Smith return to Akron to start next season. In fact, I would be surprised if he didn't. What Corey needs now is an opportunity to return to a comfortable setting and build his confidence, an opportunity to consolidate his skills against a familiar level of competition, and an opportunity to dominate.

So with the addition of the above five players, the Indians 40-man roster now stands at 39...

Danys Baez, Rafael Betancourt, Fernando Cabrera, Jack Cressend, Francisco Cruceta, Jason Davis, Chad Durbin, Mariano Gomez, Jeremy Guthrie, Cliff Lee, David Riske, C.C. Sabathia, Carl Sadler, Jason Stanford, Brian Tallet, Billy Traber, Jake Westbrook, Bob Wickman

Josh Bard, Tim Laker, Victor Martinez

Casey Blake, Ben Broussard, Ricky Gutierrez, Travis Hafner, John McDonald, Ivan Ochoa, Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Phillips, Corey Smith, Omar Vizquel

Milton Bradley, Ryan Church, Coco Crisp, Alex Escobar, Jody Gerut, Matt Lawton, Ryan Ludwick, Grady Sizemore

Note that continues to list Luis Garcia on the Indians roster despite the fact that he is a six-year free agent and the East Valley Tribune (AZ) is reporting that he signed a minor league contract with the Diamondbacks yesterday.

Why only 39? Keeping a spot open allows the Indians to sign a free-agent without having to expose anyone to waivers. With two defined needs (starting pitcher, second basemen) and only one spot on the roster, however, something will have to give and I can see two potential scenarios that could play out over the next several months. The first is that the Indians feel that they have an "assignable player" on the 40 whom they can slide through waivers unclaimed (or whom they don't mind losing when compared to the free-agent being signed) and will simply use that spot for a free-agent signing. The second is that the Indians are going to bargain-shop to fill one of their needs and sign free-agent(s) to minor league contracts so that they don't have to worry about adding them to the 40-man roster until opening day (and that's provided the player makes the Indians opening day roster). At that time, a minimum of two spots will have opened with Billy Traber and Brian Tallet eligible for the 60-day disabled list so juggling roster spots should no longer be an issue.

It's also possible that the Indians could make a selection themselves in the Rule 5 draft but that doesn't really seem likely given all the at-bats that they'll need to find for the kids already on the roster. What I could see them doing is repeating last season where they make a selection (Travis Chapman) and then sell that player to another club (Detroit) and make a little mad money in the process. The Tribe should have the fifth pick in the draft so this remains a distinct possibility.

As for whom we left unprotected, I already mentioned Wily Taveras and Hector Luna above and the entire Bisons roster follows. Keep in mind that all of these players are eligible for the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft and will need to be kept at the major league level for the entire season or be offered back to the Indians.

Carlos De La Cruz, Chris Clapinski, David Lee, Derrick Van Dusen, Dusty Wathan, Eider Torres, Eric Crozier, Ernest Young, Hector Luna, Hector Santana, JJ Sherrill, Jason Bere, Jim Ed Warden, Joe Inglett, Jonathan Van Every, Jose Vargas, Juan Lara, Kenny Rayborn, Kyle Denney, Kyle Evans, Lee Gronkiewicz, Lino Urdaneta, Luis Gonzalez, Luke Scott, Maicer Izturis, Mark Wohlers, Matt White, Oscar Alvarez, Ricardo Rojas, Ryan Larson, Scott Sturkie, Timothy Young, Todd Pennington, Victor Kleine, Wily Taveras, Zach Sorensen

Note that lists Luis Gonzalez on the Bisons roster but I'm pretty sure that he became a six-year free-agent this offseason.

I believe the Indians can have up to 38 players on "reserve" at triple-A so two spots remain open on the Bisons roster.

Taveras has a high probability of being selected and I'd go so far as to say that he could be one of the earlier picks in the draft. Luna is a strong contender to be selected again this year as well. Other names that may draw interest include Kyle Denney, Luke Scott, Maicer Izturis, Eric Crozier, and Matt White. Most of the other guys are either non-prospects or too raw and too far away from the big leagues to be selected.

One of the interesting subplots in teams preparation for the Rule 5 draft is how they juggle their minor league rosters not only for the major league portion of the draft but for the minor league portion as well. While the vast majority of the players selected in the minor league portion rarely amount to anything other than organizational filler, you can infer a lot about what organizations think about their own minor leaguers depending on what roster they are placed on. Remember that players placed on a triple-A roster (Buffalo) can only be selected in the major league portion of the draft ($50000) and must be kept in the big leagues the entire season. Players on a double-A roster (Akron) can only be selected in the triple-A phase of the draft ($12000) and do not have to be returned to the original team. Players on a single-A roster (Kinston, Lake County, etc) can only be selected in the double-A phase of the draft ($4000) and do not have to be returned to the original team. Also remember that players have to be eligible for the Rule 5 draft in the first place so you don't have to worry that the Indians forgot to protect players like Michael Aubrey, Fausto Carmona, Jason Cooper, and Travis Foley. They're not eligible for selection this season.

Taking the above into consideration, the Buffalo roster has some names from the lower levels of the system that you would probably not have suspected would have been worthy of triple-A roster protection in the Rule 5. They include toolsy outfielder Jonathan Van Every (hit .193 in Lake County), catcher turned pitcher Hector Santana (7.40 ERA at Burlington), and left-handed pitcher Juan Lara (5.00 ERA at Lake County). Obviously, performance notwithstanding, the Indians see a tool in these players that they like and feared would have attracted interest in the minor league portion of the draft in which they would have lost these guys permanently if selected.

Conversely, the Akron roster (where players can be selected and don't have to be returned to the Indians) has a few names that you would think would have been on the Buffalo roster.

Adam Cox, Armando Camacaro, Brian Kirby, Bryan Kent, Chris Cooper, Clinton Chauncey, Daniel Guzman, Dennis Malave, Doug Lantz, Honeudis Pereyra, Ignacio Montano, Jim Rickon, Junior Garcia, Kazuhito Tadano, Kevin Martin, Lance Caraccioli, Luis Cotto, Luis Hodge, Marcos Mendoza, Matt Knox, Miguel Quintana, Nate Grindell, Richard Elder, Ryan Prahm, Scott Pratt, Tyler Minges, Victor Valencia

First off, Kazuhito Tadano is not Rule-5 eligible. He's on the Aeros roster because that's where he ended the 2003 season.

How about Lance Caraccioli, though? He's the lefty we acquired for Jolbert Cabrera after showing some promise with the Dodgers. Unfortunately, he never really pitched well with the Indians and now any team can acquire him for $12 grand.

Scott Pratt? Nate Grindell? A pair of solid organizational soldiers who have been pushed aside by the kids. Hopefully, they'll get a chance somewhere else to further their careers.

Note the pecking order in single-A relievers: Scott Sturkie, Carlos De La Cruz, Todd Pennington, and Lee Gronkiewicz (Buffalo) over Chris Cooper, Doug Lantz, and Marcos Mendoza (Akron).

And finally, a quick review of all six minor league rosters on finds Andrew Baxter, Scott Threinen, Cesar Suarez, Eric Johnson, Chris White, Nick Moran, Randy Perez, and Jesus Colmenter absent. Anyone know if they've been released or is this just website error? If they were released, Moran had the brightest future of the bunch but his arm has been pretty much turned into mush the last two years.

Yeah, I'm going way too deep here but what the hell, it's a Friday afternoon and it beats working on the TPS reports.

The Indians made some other moves this week, signing Milton Bradley to an extension, announcing their minor league coaching staffs for 2004, and signing Ernie Young and Chris Clapinski to minor league contracts (did you notice them on the Buffalo roster?) but I think I'll save all that for next week.

Good-bye Rupert, may you resurface in the All-Star Edition of Survivor.

Oh yeah, one more thing. Mark Shapiro was quoted in one of the local papers as saying "and I know for sure that next year will be the toughest for us (in formulating the roster). It will be the greatest challenge.'' Sneaking a peak at the list of players who will need to be protected next year, we find Jason Cooper, Travis Foley, Jake Dittler, Dan Denham, JD Martin, Brian Slocum, Ben Francisco, Nathan Panther, Shaun Larkin, Fausto Carmona, Nelson Hiraldo, Rafael Perez, and Keith Ramsey, among others. Wow.

Have a good weekend everyone!


November 20, 2003  

CIR UPDATE: 40-man Roster  
The Indians purchased the contracts of pitcher Danys Baez from Buffalo of the International League (AAA), infielder Corey Smith and outfielder Grady Sizemore from Akron of the Eastern League (AA) and pitcher Mariano Gomez and infielder Ivan Ochoa from Kinston of the Carolina League (A) and added them to the 40-man roster. More in the next CIR.

CIR UPDATE: Ron Belliard  
The Denver Post reports that the Rockies have waived second basemen Ronnie Belliard after attempting to work out a trade with the Indians. More in the next CIR.

P.S. Are the Indians EVER going to announce what prospects are being added to the 40?


November 19, 2003  

CIR UPDATE -- Milton Bradley signs 2004 contract  
The Indians avoided arbitration with Milton Bradley as they agreed to a one-year contract today. Terms were not disclosed. More in the next CIR.

CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Wednesday November 19  

Lots of Tribe news to get to from the last week. We'll start with a quick look at the available free-agents and move on from there. Real quick, though, the 40-man roster needs to be finalized tomorrow in preparation for the Rule 5 draft. Currently, there are 34 players on the 40 and Grady Sizemore is the only definite to be added. Mariano Gomez is a strong candidate and Danys Baez (see below) may be added as well. Other candidates include Corey Smith, Hector Luna, Kyle Denney, and a bunch of other prospects. More on this tomorrow when the finalized roster is announced. Ok, onto the free agents...

1B--Carlos Baerga, Ron Coomer, Wayne Cage, Tony Clark, Wil Cordero, Julio Franco, Matt Franco, Andres Galarraga, Mark Grace, Eric Karros, Travis Lee, Dave McCarty, Fred McGriff, Rafael Palmeiro, J.T. Snow, Scott Spiezio

Not much of interest here for the Tribe this year. Lots of familiar names though. Palmiero would make a nice Eddie Murrayesque signing, don't you think? Maybe next year.

2B--Roberto Alomar, Jay Bell, Luis Castillo, Miguel Cairo, Andy Fox, Mark Grudzielanek, Denny Hocking, Pat Meares, Jack Perconte, Jeff Reboulet, Pokey Reese, Terry Shumpert, Fernando Vina, Jose Vizcaino, Todd Walker, Eric Young, Mark McLemore, Rey Sanchez, Chris Stynes, Shane Halter, Yobal Duenas

Does anyone else get the sense that every team in baseball needs to find a second basemen this winter?

Forget about Castillo and Walker, they're way out of the Indians price range, especially with the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets involved.

In a bit of good news, you can remove Andy Fox and Jose Vizcaino from the above list as Fox signed a minor league deal with the Rangers and Vizcaino inked a one-year deal with the Astros.

Shane Halter remains available (gulp).

The Indians did reportedly hold discussions with the Diamondbacks regarding Junior Spivey but the Diamondbacks will likely need Spivey to pry Richie Sexson from Milwaukee or Derrick Lee from Florida.

Robbie Alomar is the wildcard in this class. Is he through or does he have a few good years left in him? What if you could sign him for one year at $2.5 million with a bunch of incentives? That's something you would at least have to think about it, right?

I've always been a little partial to Chris Stynes.

I've never been partial to Pokey Reese but if you can get him super cheap (like $500k), the defense he would bring up the middle would seriously make me consider him as a one-year filler. I'd rather help the pitching staff then waste money on...

Mark Grudzielanek? Phhhppt. I'm not typing that for 162 games next year. You can lump him in with Vina, EY, Vina, and McLemore. Fading vets who will probably want far more than they're actually worth (even in a buyers market). I would just as soon take a shot on a six-year free agent like Brent Butler, but that's just me.

I wonder what's going on with the Cuban defector Duenas?

The Angels will reportedly NOT non-tender Adam Kennedy which removes an important name from the market. Even is Kennedy would have likely been out of the Indians price range, his inclusion in the market would have pushed another player down towards the Indians dollars.

SS--Rich Aurilia, Mike Bordick, Royce Clayton, Deivi Cruz, Chris Gomez, Tony Graffanino, Rey Ordonez, Miguel Tejada, Tom Veryzer, Jose Vizcaino, Tony Womack

Tony Graffanino is a name that has been linked to the Indians this offseason. He's a career utility infielder who has never had more than 300 at-bats at the big league level. He can play anywhere in the infield and has a little pop, a little speed, and he hit lefties pretty well last year (.889 OPS). Unfortunately, he was awful against righties with a .510 OPS and his three-year splits show a similar trend, although not as severe. Let's see, lefty starters in the AL Central: Milton, Santana, Rogers, Maroth, Buehrle, Anderson, George, Gobble, who else am I missing? The White Sox apparently want to keep him so we'll see how much he intends to test the market.

Deivi Cruz, Chris Gomez, and Tony Womack are awful but they'll likely be in the Indians price range.

3B--Tony Batista, Vinny Castilla, Lenny Harris, Brook Jacoby, Greg Norton, Joe Randa, Fernando Tatis, Robin Ventura, Todd Zeile

Casey Blake is better than (or relatively close) to the majority of the above players and he's a heck of a lot cheaper to boot. The only interest the Indians may have in any of the above guys is if they were considering moving that player (or Blake) to second base. I can't see that happening with the above group.

LF--Jeromy Burnitz, Rickey Henderson, Todd Hollandsworth, Von Hayes, Raul Ibanez, Brian Jordan, Al Martin, Troy O'Leary, Shannon Stewart, B.J. Surhoff, Rondell White, Gerald Williams

CF--Marvin Benard, Mike Cameron, Carl Everett, Doug Glanville, Tom Goodwin, Jeffrey Hammonds, Kenny Lofton, Eric Owens, Mitch Webster

RF--Darren Bragg, Jose Cruz Jr., Juan Gonzalez, Ben Grieve, Vladimir Guerrero, Jose Guillen, Felix Jose, John Mabry, Orlando Merced, Raul Mondesi, Jorge Orta, Orlando Palmeiro, Eduardo Perez, Reggie Sanders, Gary Sheffield, Matt Stairs, Mark Sweeney, Michael Tucker, John Vander Wal

The presence of Jody Gerut, Milton Bradley, Matt Lawton, Coco Crisp, Ryan Ludwick, and Alex Escobar make a Shane Spencer type signing highly unlikely this season.

Why do I have a feeling that Marvin Benard is going to be in the Bisons starting outfield?

C--Sandy Alomar Jr., Brad Ausmus, Pat Borders, Mike DiFelice, John Flaherty, Brook Fordyce, Joe Girardi, Bill Haselman, Javier Lopez, Brent Mayne, Keith Osik, Eduardo Perez, Todd Pratt, Tom Prince, Benito Santiago, Kelly Stinnett, Scooter Tucker, Chris Widger, Gregg Zaun

With Victor Martinez, Josh Bard, and Tim Laker on the 40, it's likely that Mark Shapiro will not be dipping his fishing pole into these tepid waters. They've also resigned Dusty Wathan and Victor Valencia to minor league contracts so it looks like the catching spot is filled in the upper reaches of the organization.

Sandy Alomar has reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with the White Sox.

DH--Albert Belle, Ellis Burks, Dean Palmer, Ruben Sierra

It's going to be interesting to see how much attention Ellis commands in the market. More important, perhaps, will be how much interest Ellis has in an incentive-laden contract that may involve part-time duty.

P--Terry Adams, Antonio Alfonseca, Kevin Alvarez, Brian Anderson, Kevin Appier, Andy Ashby, Paul Assenmacher, Pedro Astacio, Miguel Batista, Rod Beck, Armando Benitez, Dave Burba, John Burkett, Chris Carpenter, Hector Carrasco, Roger Clemens, Bartolo Colon, Mike DeJean, Cal Eldred, Kelvim Escobar, Shawn Estes, Scott Erickson, Jeff Fassero, Keith Foulke, Chad Fox, John Franco, Tom Gordon, Jason Grimsley, Eddie Guardado, Mark Guthrie, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, LaTroy Hawkins, Neal Heaton, Rick Helling, Dustin Hermanson, Pat Hentgen, Felix Heredia, Roberto Hernandez, Sterling Hitchcock, Darren Holmes, Todd Jones, Steve Kline, Curtis Leskanic, Al Levine, Cory Lidle, Kerry Ligtenberg, Jose Lima, Graeme Lloyd, Greg Maddux, Tom Martin, Kent Mercker, Jose Mesa, Jose Mercedes, Dan Miceli, Kevin Millwood, Brian Moehler, Terry Mulholland, Mike Myers, Jeff Nelson, Darren Oliver, Jesse Orosco, Antonio Osuna, Lance Painter, Robert Person, Andy Pettitte, Dan Plesac, Eric Plunk, Sidney Ponson, Paul Quantrill, Rick Reed, Steve Reed, Shane Reynolds, Arthur Rhodes, Ricardo Rincon, Todd Ritchie, Kenny Rogers, Glendon Rusch, Steve Sparks, Russ Springer, Garrett Stephenson, Scott Sullivan, Jeff Suppan, Julian Tavarez, John Thomson, Mike Timlin, Brett Tomko, Ugueth Urbina, Ismael Valdes, Todd Van Poppel, Dave Veres, Ron Villone, David Wells, Turk Wendell, Gabe White, Rick White, Mike Williams, Tim Worrell, Jamey Wright

John Halama signed a one-year deal with the Devil Rays. He's a name that has been linked to the Indians in previous year trade talks.

Pat Hentgen signed a one-year, $2.2 million deal with the Blue Jays. John Thomson has reportedly turned down a two-year, $5 million offer from the Rangers. The above dollar amounts seem a little high to me, at least when compared to last year.

I don't advocate this signing, but I would be bidding $1 on Glendon Rusch in the NCRL auction next year if he ends up in Cleveland.

Brian Anderson has reportedly been offered a two-year deal by the Kansas City Royals and that significantly reduces the Indians chances of resigning the left-hander. Anderson went so far as to say, "Until they sit down and say, Here's what we're offering you on a multi-year deal, I don't want to speak with them". I know Anderson is a fan favorite but when you look at the numbers closely, he really didn't pitch much better in 2003 than he did in 2002. He still gave up over a hit per inning, had a poor K/IP and K/BB ratio, gave up a bunch of homeruns, and his averages against were nearly identical.

2002 AZ 35 24 156.0 174  86 83 23 32 81 4.79 .284 .314 .467 .781
2003 -- 32 31 197.2 212 110 83 27 43 87 3.78 .279 .315 .458 .774

Yes, his ERA was a full run lower (3.78 vs 4.79) but he also gave up an amazing 27 more unearned runs in 2003 than in 2002. Did he pitch better with the Indians in 2003 than the D-Backs in 2002? Yes, but not by all that much if you ask me. If the Royals are going to give him guaranteed money for two years, more power to them. BA is a solid 4th-5th starter but I wouldn't offer him a multi-year deal in this market.

As for relievers the Indians are pursuing, Paul Hoynes noted in the PD that the Tribe is interested in right-handers Chad Fox and Ricky Bottalico. Fox is a guy that we've talked about before and, when healthy, he can be dominating. Unfortunately, though, he's rarely healthy. Bottalico closed with the Phillies in the mid-90s but he's been scuffling around from organization to organization over the last few years, most recently with the Diamondbacks last year. He really hasn't pitched well since 1997 and I suspect if he's signed it may be on a split major/minor contract like Jose Santiago last year.

Kerry Ligtenberg is a free-agent after the Orioles declined to exercise the club option on his contract and he's a reliever that I would love to see the Indians pursue for the soon-to-be vacant (or maybe not) Danys Baez role in the bullpen. In six major league seasons, Ligtenberg has a career 3.11 ERA and has averaged just under one strikeout per inning. As setup men go, he's about as solid (if not spectacular) as they come. Unfortunately, if Mike Timlin can command $2.5 million (resigned with the Red Sox), I think Ligtenberg may be out of the Indians price range. By the way, when is Timlin finally going to retire and fulfill his pitching coach destiny?

For more free-agent info, check out the Sportsline Rumor Mill, ESPN Top 50 Free Agents, and Pro Sports Daily MLB Rumors.

I think I forgot to mention in an earlier report that Cliff Lee had hernia surgery in early October and is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.

Jody Gerut finished fourth in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting, finishing behind Angel Berroa of the Royals, Hideki Matsui of the Yankees, and Rocco Baldelli of the Devil Rays. Gerut was not first on any ballot but did garner six second and two third place votes. Gerut was named to the Topps All-Rookie Team where he beat out Matsui to join Baldelli and the Brewers Scott Podsednik in the outfield.

Eric Wedge picked up two third place votes in the AL Manager of the Year voting that was won by former Tribe backstop and current Royals skipper Tony Pena. With all due respect to Pena, if the Royals were in the AL East or West, the Royals breakout season would have been a nice, but largely overlooked, component of the 2003 season.

The USA will not be represented in the baseball competition at the 2004 Olympics in Athens after Mexico knocked off the USA 2-1 in the quarterfinals despite Jason Stanford tossing five innings of one-run ball for the Red, White, and Blue. The good guys were done in by a ninth inning homerun by former Indians farmhand Luis Garcia which propelled the Mexicans into the semifinals where they eventually lost to Canada. The Canadians will join Cuba as the North American representatives in Athens. Team USA finished the tournament with a 3-1 record and outscored their opponents 34-2 in four games but it was not enough. Baseball America has a good article about what went wrong for Team USA. Stanford finished the Qualifying tournament and exhibition play with a 2.86 ERA in 28.1 innings, striking out 14, walking four, and allowing 23 hits. Grady Sizemore finished with a .393 average (22-for-56) with three triples, a homer, and two stolen bases. He hit .231 (3-for-13) in the qualifying tournament.

The Arizona Fall League concluded on Saturday with the Mesa Solar Sox's 7-2 victory over the Mesa Desert Dogs in the AFL championship game. None of the Indians contingent earned postseason honors (or BA top 20 prospects honors) but Kyle Evans impressed with a 2.45 ERA and .197 BAA in 29.1 innings (23H, 8W, 18K). Luke Scott also had a strong fall as he slugged .352/.403/.634 (25-for-71) with six doubles and four longballs in 71 at-bats (with 20 strikeouts). Rodney Choy Foo hit .243/.316/.257 (17-for-70) with a double. Corey Smith finished with a bang, going 3-for-3 in the final game of the regular season, to finish at .238/.289/.343 (25-for-105) with six doubles, a homer, 27 strikeouts, and six errors. Dave Wallace hit .192 (5-for-26) in limited duty and Ryan Church hit .400 (6-for-15) before being sidelined with a sore hamstring. On the mound, Todd Pennington finished with a 5.00 ERA in nine innings with nine strikeouts and five walks and Michael Hernandez allowed two earned runs in two innings.

Paul Hoynes reported in the Plain Dealer that the Indians will no longer participate in the Venezuelan Summer League and have begun the process of consolidating their Dominican and Venezuelan baseball schools into one facility in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. That facility, which was being used by the Diamondbacks, will replace the Tribe's existing schools in Santiago, D.R. and Venezuela. The Indians will still maintain a presence in Venezuela for tryout purposes but all players signed will play in the Dominican. Ross Atkins, the Indians director of Latin American operations, was quoted as saying that this has been a two-year undertaking and that the Indians will have 2-1/2 fields and the facility is all-inclusive with its own power and water and dormitory for 64 players. The Indians San Felipe team has dominated the last two years and notable Venezuelan signees include Victor Martinez, Alex Herrera, Maicer Izturis, and Ivan Ochoa, among others. Felix Fermin was also named the Indians Latin American Scouting Director. While this move will likely save the Indians some money, I think it has as much to do with that as it does with the political turmoil in Venezuela that has disrupted the baseball season in the past.

Baseball America recently issued a draft report card for the Indians in which they noted that Michael Aubrey had the best pro debut, Brad Snyder is the best athlete, Aubrey is the best pure hitter (second overall in the entire draft), Ryan Goleski has the most raw power, Juan Valdes is the fastest runner, Javi Herrera and Brandon Pinckney are the best defensive players, Adam Miller (90-95 mph), Scott Roehl (90-95 mph), and Nick Pesco (94 mph and third best overall DFE signing) have the best fastball, Matt Davis has the best breaking pitch, Aubrey is the closest to the big leagues, and Aaron Laffey was the best late-round pick. Unlike previous seasons, the Indians were not considered to have one of the five best drafts (due in part to them not having multiple picks in the early rounds this season) although
it should be noted that the true measure of a successful draft does not come until three-four years down the road.

Josh Boyd ranked ten impact six-year free agents from last season for Baseball America and I'm a little surprised that Casey Blake and Rafael Betancourt did not make the list.

Justice B. Hill reports on that Matt Whitney had an appointment scheduled yesterday with the Indians team doctors with the hopes that X-rays will show that he's ready to resume full-time baseball activities. Let's hope so. I'm looking forward to seeing him in action in Lake County next year.

Both the Plain Dealer and the Philadelphia Inquirer are reporting that the Indians and Phillies have discussed Danys Baez with the Phillies looking for a setup man for new closer Billy Wagner. I suppose there's also the possibility that Baez could fit into their starting rotation as well. The Inquirer speculates that the Phillies would not likely acquire Baez from the Indians until he becomes a free-agent but I'll choose to interpret that strange wording to mean that Phillies GM Ed Wade prefers to wait until the Indians deadline for resigning Baez has passed before offering anything of substantial value.

And it's now official, the Indians did not exercise their $5 million option on Danys Baez for 2004 and will pay him a $500k buyout.

In a more recent development, the Indians outrighted Baez to triple-A on Monday and removed him from the 40-man roster. My initial reaction was that this officially signaled the end of Baez's tenure in Cleveland with the reasoning being that the Indians knew they were going to non-tender him on December 20 so they might as well use his 40-man roster spot to protect an additional prospect from the Rule 5 draft. That could very well still be the case but media reports are now speculating that since Baez is off the 40, and no longer governed by the collective bargaining agreement, the maximum 20% paycut allowable under the CBA no longer applies to Baez. So instead of paying him $4.1 million (the max cut allowed from the $5 million Baez earned in 2003), the Indians can now negotiate a lower priced contract that is more in line with Baez' service time (two plus years and no arbitration). Interesting.

So what happens next? Well, the Indians have until Thursday to finalize their 40-man roster in preparation for the Rule 5 Draft. If the above holds true and Baez' original contract is no longer in play, expect the Tribe to add Baez back to the 40 otherwise he would be exposed to the Rule 5 draft where he would likely be the first selection. If the above does not hold true, however, and the Indians would still be on the hook for a minimum $4.1 million contract for 2004, I suspect we would see the Indians expose him to the Rule 5 draft. What if the Indians would be on the hook for the $4.1 million but other teams would not? Dude, you're blowing my mind. Let's just wait and see what happens but I'm cautiously optimistic that Baez will remain with the Indians next year (at a good price) and that's a good thing.

Incidentally, Baez could not refuse the assignment because he has less than three years major league service time, has not previously been assigned, and has less than six seasons of major/minor league service. If this works, and that's a big if because you know that Baez' agent Joe Cubas and the union will likely challenge this move, bravo to the Indians for finding a way to keep a good young arm in the organization.

Kenny Rayborn resigned with the Indians on a minor league contract. Rayborn went 4-1 with a 2.05 ERA down the stretch for Akron last season after signing out of the independent Central League. He also made one start in Buffalo, allowing two runs in six innings. He'll likely slot into an open rotation spot next year in Akron or Buffalo and his opening day fate will likely be based on the performance and health of the kids surrounding him.

Victor Valencia also will return after signing a minor league contract with the Tribe. Valencia spent most of last season in Akron where he hit .251/.319/.444 with nine homeruns. He'll likely split time behind the dish again next year in either Buffalo or Akron.

Baseball America reports in its latest issue that left-handed reliever Tim Young has signed a minor league contract with the Indians. If the name sounds familiar, it's because Young has actually pitched in the Indians organization although his official stats generally don't reflect that. Young was acquired from the Red Sox in September 2002 to fill out the Bisons playoff roster and he even picked up a save for the Bisons in the playoffs. The 30-year old signed with Toronto last season and posted a 6.75 ERA in 19 appearances for Syracuse before being released in June. He finished the season in the Rockies organization, posting a 2.49 ERA in 29 appearances, striking out 27 in 25.1 innings. He's a longshot major league LOOGY and likely nothing more than triple-A filler.

Paul Hoynes reported in the Plain Dealer that the Indians signed former Dodger right-hander Lino Urdanetta to a minor league contract. Urdanetta is a 6-1", 168 pound, 24-year old who posted a 4.29 ERA in 44 appearances in double-A last season with an 0-8 record, 6 saves, and 42 strikeouts, 24 walks, and 68 hits allowed in 65 innings. Signed out of Venezuela when he was 17 in 1996, Urdanetta made his Stateside debut in 1999 and has spent the last two seasons in double-A. A quick google finds that he served up the game-winning homer in the 2002 Florida State League all-star game. Urdanetta was signed on the recommendation of the Tribe's double-A pitching coach Steve Lyons. Hey, Rafael Betancourt was signed in a similar manner last season and look what happened there. Can lightning strike twice?

Elias released this years free-agent compensation rankings and Ellis Burks is a Type A free-agent while Terry Mulholland is a no-compensation free agent. Before you get excited about picking up a couple of draft picks if/when another team signs Burks this offseason, recognize that for the Indians to receive any compensation for Burks they will have to offer him arbitration by the December 7 deadline and there is zero chance that is going to happen. Why? Burks is likely to receive far more dollars in arbitration than on the open market meaning that he would likely accept the Indians offer thus sticking the Indians with a contract they really don't want or can't afford (your choice). Why would Burks accept? For the reason above coupled with the fact that there are very few teams that would be willing to pony up two draft picks for a 39-year old designated hitter coming off serious surgery.

The New York Post reports that Mets are interested in free-agent Jose Santiago. What's more absurd, the Mets interest in Santiago, the fact that the Post thought this news-worthy enough to print, or the fact that I did.

Dan Miceli became the first of 210 free-agents to sign this offseason when he agreed to a reported $600k, one-year deal with the Astros. Miceli punched out 19 in 15 innings with a 1.20 ERA for the Indians this year before being included in the Karim Garcia trade with the Yankees.

Tom Martin was rewarded with a 2-year, $3.2 million contract from the Dodgers after posting a 3.53 ERA with 51 punchouts in 51 innings last year. Contracts like this always amuse me. Martin has had exactly two good seasons (1997 and 2003) in a 14-year career and yet somehow the Dodgers decided that was worth guaranteed jack for two years. Insane.

Paul Abbott signed a one-year contract with the Devil Rays.

Chris Magruder signed a minor league contract with the Milwaukee Brewers as he aspires to be the 2004 version of Scott Podsednik. Jacob Cruz also signed a minor league deal with the Brue Crue as Bob Melvin attempts to corner the market on former Tribe outfielders. He missed out on two, however, as Mark Budzinski signed a minor league contract with the Phillies and Trenidad Hubbard inked a minor league deal with the Cubs. Corey Erickson and Shane Wallace signed minor league contracts with the Cardinals. Dave Keller will serve as a minor league hitting instructor for the Cubs next season.

Jamie Brown was added to the Red Sox 40-man roster.

If you remember when Jacobs Field opened in 1994, a group of companies dubbed the "Founders Club" signed ten-year leases for their respective suites. Flash forward to present day and one of the more interesting negotiations facing the Indians this offseason was the expiration of those leases on their big money suites. Last week, the Indians announced that 17 of 20 Founders Club suites have been renewed and 23 of 26 suites in total have been renewed. I have no idea if these are 10-year deals or what the total dollars may calculate out to, but this conversion rate (while admittedly probably spun by the Indians) is very good news for the organization. As much as we all may disdain the corporateness of professional sports and the golf-clapping fans it usually attracts, money keeps the organization running and this type of money is crucial in today's environment.

The Indians also announced that their 12 Days of Christmas will return this season with scheduled appearances by Jody Gerut, Milton Bradley, Jason Davis, John McDonald, Cliff Lee, Ryan Ludwick, Victor Martinez, Billy Traber, Brian Tallet, Rafael Betancourt, Jhonny Peralta, Tom Hamilton, Matt Underwood, Slider, and former Indians Travis Fryman and Mike Hargrove. You can check out the detailed schedule at the above link.

And speaking of Grover, did you see that the Indians are considering offering him a "interim" position in the organization until he finds another managing job? I'm all for it. I loved him as a player and I loved him as a manager. It would be great to have him back.

Don't forget to vote for Tom Hamilton, Herb Score, Rick Manning, Mike Hegan, and Joe Tait in the Ford C. Frick voting conducted by the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Why does anyone care about what Bernie Kosar thinks about the Browns? Since when did he become the be-all, end-all of football knowledge? Just wondering. I still don't understand the Kevin Johnson release but at least they won last week.

I haven't been this excited about the Cavs since the early 90s. Gotta make it happen.


November 17, 2003  

CIR UPDATE - Baez Outrighted to Buffalo  
The Indians outrighted Danys Baez to Buffalo. More tomorrow in the CIR.


November 07, 2003  

CIR UPDATE - Jason Stanford Pitching Today  
The U.S. quarterfinal matchup against Mexico has been moved to a 3:00 PM EST start time according to Baseball America. Jason Stanford will start for the U.S. and you can follow the action LIVE at the USA Baseball website.


November 06, 2003  

CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT -- Thursday, November 6  

Mark Shapiro laid out his offseason plans for the Akron-Beacon Journal and they are as follows: 1) Second Baseman, 2) Setup man (if Danys Baez is gone), and 3) Starting pitcher. I think we can add left-handed reliever as number four although judging by the above priority list it seems likely like they will be shopping in the deep discount aisle (i.e., minor league free agents and/or non-roster invitees) to fill that spot. Not that they won't for the former three but maybe we can think of them as shopping at Walmart while the latter would be like shopping at Big Lots. If that doesn't get you pumped up for the offseason, I don't know what will. :-)

Wait a minute, yes I do, how about this..

Shane Halter has filed for free agency and he tells the Detroit Free Press that "Cleveland has inquired". Say it ain't so, Mark.

Monday is the first day that teams can talk money with other teams free-agents. Next week we'll talk more about the players who will likely be on the Indians wish list and, more importantly, who will likely be in their price range. Don't forget that there will likely be another group of players granted free-agency on December 20 when they are non-tendered contracts by their existing teams and those players will factor heavily into the Indians offseason shopping plans.

The Tribe did resign three of their own free agents this week as Mark Wohlers, Jason Bere and David Lee agreed to minor league deals with an invite to spring training in Winter Haven. Bere is recovering from June shoulder surgery and will compete for a spot in the rotation. Lee is likely triple-A insurance but should have a long-shot opportunity to compete for a spot in the bullpen. I like his chances to have an impact in the Indians pen sometime next season, his minor league numbers are intriguing (61 K in 60 IP, .212 BAA in the PCL). Wohlers is likely out until midseason (at the earliest) after his August Tommy John surgery. All are low-risk signings and Lee is an interesting NRI bullpen guy but Wohlers and Bere just reek of negative mojo and I would have very much preferred to not be writing about them next March. But like I said, there's very risk little risk involved from the Indians standpoint so we'll see what happens. There's certainly no harm in bringing them in for a look and that's the attitude you have to take when you talk about non-roster invitees no matter how ugly they may be on the surface. You never know when you're going to get lucky.

Ricky Gutierrez, Omar Vizquel, Ryan Ludwick, and Bob Wickman were activated from the 60-day disabled list and added to the 40-man roster which now stands at 35. The Tribe has until November 20 to finalize the 40 in preparation for the Rule 5 draft in December. Expect Grady Sizemore and Mariano Gomez to be added to the roster in the next two weeks. The remaining three spots are still to be determined.

November 15 remains the deadline for the Indians to pick up the $5 million option on Danys Baez contract for 2004. I forgot which paper this was mentioned in but apparently if the Indians buy out his option, it will cost them $500k to do so. As we've previously discussed, the Indians are deciding whether to decline the option and bring him back at the maximum 20% paycut allowable under the collective bargaining agreement, $4.1 million, or decline the option, non-tender him on December 20, and attempt to resign him as a free-agent. The difference between the option ($5 mil) and the buyout/max-cut ($4.1 million + $500k) is only $400k which is small enough that you have to think that the Indians are simply deciding whether or not to bring him back at all.

An interesting note in one of the papers this week (sorry I forgot which one again) mentioned that the Indians gave Baez' agent Joe Cubas permission at midseason last year to shop Baez and find a trade partner but nothing materialized from that. Taking all the above into consideration, I think it's very unlikely that Danys Baez will become a free-agent after the Indians decline his option and non-tender him a contract. The general managers meetings are next week in Phoenix and you can expect Mark Shapiro and company to be working the crowd to find a new home for Baez and I would not be surprised to see something happen. One team that will not have an interest in Baez is the Philadelphia Phillies after they acquired Billy Wagner from the Astros earlier this week.

Luke Scott and Kyle Evans were named Player and Pitcher of the Week in the Arizona Fall League for the week of 10/27-11/01. Scott belted three longballs and drove in six runs while Evans tossed a five-inning one-hit gem. Through November 5, Scott was hitting .333/.379/.685 with four homeruns and 17 strikeouts in 54 at-bats. Rodney Choy Foo was hitting .286/.369/.304 with a double and seven walks. Corey Smith was hitting .204/.250/.323 with six doubles, 23 strikeouts in 93 at-bats, and six errors in the field. Dave Wallace was hitting .278 in limited duty. On the mound, Evans has a 3-1 record and 1.80 ERA in six starts. His H/IP ratio is encouraging at 17 hits in 25 innings but his K/IP ratio is lacking with only 11 punchouts in 25 frames. Todd Pennington has eight strikeouts in eight innings with five walks allowed and a 3.38 ERA. Michael Hernandez has not pitched since early in the AFL season. Anyone knows if he's injured?

The AFL did not play on Thursday after Reds prospect Dernell Stenson was found dead in a Phoenix suburb after being shot and run over on Wednesday. Stenson spent a couple of years in my AL minor league farm system and my condolences go out to the Stenson family.

Grady Sizemore went 2-for-9 with three runs scored, three walks, and two stolen bases as the United States went 3-0 in pool play (winning by a combined 20-0 score) in the Olympic Qualifying tournament in Panama. As reported last night, Jason Stanford was sensational in the tourney opener as he shutout Nicaragua through seven innings on just two hits. He's a candidate to start the quarterfinal matchup on Friday against Mexico or the semifinal match against either Canada or Columbia on Saturday should the U.S. be victorious tomorrow. You can follow the action live on

It's looking more and more likely that Buddy Bell and Eddie Murray will remain with the Indians for 2004. Bell had been a candidate for the vacant White Sox managerial position that was filled this week with the hiring of former Sox shortstop Ozzie Guillen. Murray was a candidate to replace Mike Hargrove in Baltimore but the Washington Post reports that the Birds have narrowed the field to Sam Perlozzo, Rich Dauer, and Lee Mazzilli. Joel Skinner has been rumored to be a candidate in Boston but has yet to interview for the position to the best of my knowledge.

The Cardinals declined their 2004 options on 2B Fernando Vina and Ps Jeff Fassero and Chris Carpenter. Vina will probably be a little too pricey for the Indians but Fassero and Carpenter could merit a non-roster invite to spring training depending on health.

Todd Walker is expected to be high on the Indians second base wish list although with the Bergen Record reporting that both the Yankees and Mets are showing interest in the second-sacker, he's likely to be priced well above the Indians comfort level.

Felix Heredia declined his player option with the Yankees and is now a free-agent. He's a name to remember for the vacant left-handed role in the bullpen.

The Reds officially released Ryan Dempster. File him in the potential 2004 rehab signee folder.

Edgar Martinez resigned with Seattle for one more year, thus removing the Mariners from the list of potential suitors for Ellis Burks.

Rick Waits was named the Mets minor league pitching coordinator.

Herb Score, Tom Hamilton, John Sanders, Rick Manning, Mike Hegan, and Joe Tait have been nominated for the 2004 Ford Frick award, an honor that is awarded each year to a broadcaster for his major contributions to the game of baseball. For the first time, fans have the opportunity to participate in the voting via the baseball hall of fame website. Voting runs through December 1 and you can submit one ballot per day. The final 2004 Ford C. Frick Award ballot, including the three fan selections, will be announced in December. I cast my ballot for Herb, Tom, and Joe.


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