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July 30, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, July 30
The non-waiver trade deadline is Saturday at 4:00 PM ET and, by all accounts, it looks like the Indians are going to let it pass without making a move. That doesn't mean there aren't a few small rumors floating around though....
Jim Ingraham speculated in the LMJ on Thursday that the Indians had a scout in Miami on Wednesday to check out Marlins reliever Matt Perisho. Perisho has resurrected his career as a LOOGY with the Marlins, holding lefties to averages of .164/.281/.364/.645 this season, after once being regarded as a pretty fair prospect in the mid-to-late nineties with the Angels and Rangers. On Wednesday, Perisho struck out lefties Bobby Abreu and Jim Thome but also gave up hits to righties Placido Polanco and Pat Burrell while walking lefty Ricky Ledee. Overall this year, Perisho has a 3.73 ERA in 31.1 innings with 20 walks and 29 strikeouts. Here's hoping the Indians real intended target was Marlins starter Brad Penny, who has a 3.15 ERA and a .249 BAA in 21 starts for the Fish this year (131.1IP, 124H, 39BB, 105K). Penny has been rumored to be on the block due to the large jump in salary ($3.725 million in 2004) that he is expected to command in arbitration this offseason. Note that Penny will be eligible for free-agency after the 2005 season. The Marlins have been rumored to be interested in Matt Lawton and a swap of projected similar 2005 salaries may be an interesting exchange.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Rick White's name has surfaced in the Giants search for a reliever. The rag also lists Jody Gerut as a left-handed outfielder the Giants may be interested in but note his expected high price tag. Note that Giants GM Brian Sabean was at Jacobs Field on Tuesday, ostensibly to check out Tigers closer Ugueth Urbina but, perhaps, to evaluate some other players as well. Or maybe he just wanted a good chicken waffle. Note that White did not pitch but Urbina did work an inning late in a meaningless 10-6 game.
Jason Stanford underwent successful Tommy John surgery in Birmingham yesterday and the Indians official release noted that he will begin rehab in Cleveland this Saturday. That's pretty quick, don't you think? The surgery was performed by Dr.Andrews and Indians team surgeon Dr.Mark Schickendantz. No official word on Stanford's projected return but 9-12 months is a typical recovery period.
With Grady Sizemore in Cleveland and Russell Branyan in Milwaukee, Jason Tyner was signed to a minor-league contract and he debuted with a pair of hits and a pair of RBIs on Wednesday for the Bisons. Tyner is a 27-year old outfielder who most recently played for the Braves triple-A affiliate in Richmond, hitting .288 with 18 stolen bases, before asking for, and being granted, his release this past Sunday. Once upon a time, Tyner was a top prospect with the Mets (1999 BA #9, 2000 BA #8) who hit .313 with 62 walks and 49 stolen bases for double-A Binghamton in 1999. Traded to the Devil Rays in 2000 in a deal also involving current Indian Rick White, Tyner spent the next three years on the Tampa-Durham shuttle, although he did titillate fantasy leaguers in 2001 when he hit .280 with 31 stolen bases in 2001 for the Rays. What has prevented Tyner from being a permanent fixture in the big leagues is his Kuiperian power, as in a career slugging percentage of .299 and 27 extra-base hits in just under 800 major league at-bats. Like Kuiper, who hit his off of Steve Stone at the old stadium, Tyner only has one professional big fly, with that coming in game number 708 of his career on May 6 of this year off of Jim Mann of the Columbus Clippers. He also has struggled to get on base in the bigs as evidenced by his .294 career OBP. You can't teach speed, though, and Tyner has plenty of it. If he can bulk up enough to drive the ball occasionally, Tyner could still have a future in the bigs as a backup outfielder.
I wonder if this signing hints that Mark Little has refused (or will refuse) an assignment to Buffalo.
Scott Stewart tossed another scoreless inning for Buffalo last night.
Cliff Bartosh is also throwing the ball well as he's unscored upon in his last ten appearances for the Bisons. He recorded three of four outs on Wednesday via the whiff.
They don't come much hotter than K-Tribe third basemen Pat Osborn who's sizzling through a 15-game hitting streak, hitting .475 (28-for-59) that includes six doubles, two longballs, and 12 RBIs. Osborn is now stroking at a .363/.434/.604/1.038 clip this season with seven longballs in 51 games this season. If he had stayed healthy all year (hammies), it would have been interesting to see if the Indians would have promoted him to Akron like they did with former teammates Michael Aubrey and Ryan Garko. If he's keeps hitting like this, though, he may force that move sooner rather than later. What that means to Corey Smith in Akron remains to be seen. Such a move would also allow Kevin Kouzmanoff to move from Lake County to Kinston. Osborn will need to be added to the 40-man roster in November or risk being selected in the Rule 5 draft.
The Mets have reportedly become the front-runner in the Kris Benson sweepstakes, although that's liable to change twenty more times before tomorrow afternoon. Needless to say, keeping him out of Minnesota would be a good thing for the Indians.
Shane Spencer was suspended by the Mets after his DUI.
Former Tribe farmhands Rickie Morton (Quebec) and Rick Elder (Elmira) are playing in the independent Northeast League.
Jesus Sanchez, potential LOOGY, signed with the Blue Jays.
Scott Erickson was released by the Mets after posting a 7.88 ERA in two major league starts and a 4.50 ERA in eight triple-A starts. The Tribe was rumored to be interested in signing Erickson as a free-agent this past off-season.
52-50 with three games in KC this weekend. Tremendous opportunity to stay hot and climb further into the race.
I blog for the ladies on ladies night.
July 28, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Wednesday, July 28
Answer: Five games out.
Question: By how many games do the Indians trail the wildcard leading Red Sox?
For point of reference, the Tribe is 5-1/2 games behind the first-place Twins. Interesting, no?
Schedule watching: The Indians next seven games are against teams with a below .500 record. 26 of their next 29 following that are against above .500 teams with the Tribe scheduled to play 15 games against the three current AL division leaders (New York, Minnesota, Texas) and games against the White Sox and Angels thrown in for good measure. That's a tough haul for any team.
Coco's leaping catch against the wall may have been the best I've seen this year. Very Lofton-in-his-prime-esque.
Bob Wickman striking out the side in the 9th while throwing in the mid-90s was very nice to see.
Brandon Phillips extended his hitting streak to 13 games last night with a pair of hits in the Bisons 2-1 loss to Toledo. Phillips has now hit in 34 of his last 36 games (.364) and has raised his averages to .320/.381/.436/.817 for the season.
Fausto Carmona is back on track, tossing eight strong innings in the Aeros 8-3 win over Altoona last night. Carmona (4-5, 4.39) allowed three runs (two earned) while walking none, striking out five, and permitting seven baseknocks.
Aeros closer Lee Gronkiewicz is the subject of this article on mlb.com. Gronk is enjoying another solid season out of the bullpen in Akron, recording 14 saves with a 3.49 ERA in 49 innings with 59 punchouts. That K/IP ratio is the best of his career which is all the more impressive considering that he's doing it in his first season at the double-A level. An undrafted free-agent, Gronkiewicz has steadily advanced through the Indians system one level at a time since signing in the summer of 2001, turning himself into a legitimate bullpen prospect in the process. John Farrell compares him to former Royals closer Jeff Montgomery in the above article, which is pretty high praise indeed considering that Montgomery racked up 304 saves in his major league career. Even though he doesn't throw hard (low 90s), Gronkiewicz could be a sleeper Rule 5 pick this December. I wouldn't be surprised to see him spend some time in the AFL this fall to see how he fares against advanced bats.
Chris Niesel met the first stiff resistance of his brief pro career last night when he allowed five runs in his Lake County debut. Niesel worked the first four frames and managed to strike out six but also gave up nine hits while walking one. The Captains did rally for the win, though, thanks to the bat of....
Kevin Kouzmanoff rapped out four hits, including two doubles, and drove in five runs in the Captains 9-5 victory over Lexington yesterday. The Kouz now has 31 doubles, good for second in the South Atlantic League, and he's hitting .319/.390/.515/.905 with 64 RBIs for the season. That .319 average is eighth in the circuit and his 115 hits and 46 extra-base hits are good for third in each of those categories. Kouzmanoff turned 23 this past Sunday so temper those numbers with the understanding that he is viewed as old for the Sally League in the eyes and minds of most prospect-watchers. Still, it's an impressive full-season debut for last years 6th round pick out of Nevada-Reno.
Aaron Laffey, sent to the MV to make room for Niesel in the LC, fared much better in his Mahoning Valley debut, tossing six scoreless innings while not walking a batter and permitting just four basehits.
Ryan Garko and Adam Miller crack the honorable mention list in this weeks Prospect Hot Sheet.
Reports out of Minnesota still say that the Twins are the front-runners to acquire Kris Benson from the Pirates but that Doug Mientkiewicz is not involved in that deal, although he is expected to be traded in the next couple of days. Interesting.
This time of year always brings crazy trade rumors but two that I particularly got a good chuckle out of were Casey Kotchman (Angels) for Benson and Scott Kazmir (Mets) for Victor Zambrano (Devil Rays).
Any chance the Indians can get in on the talks for Giants closer prospect David Aardsma? How about Brewers reliever Luis Vizcaino?
According to Jayson Stark, the Mariners have decided to make Ron Villone unavailable. Why?
I wonder how much Carl Pavano is going to command on the free-agent market this winter?
Former Indian Dave Elder has been impressive in the independent Atlantic League for the Somerset Patriots, posting a 1.34 ERA in 21 appearances with 37 strikeouts in 33.2 innings. Elder pitched well for the Tribe in the minor leagues but ran into elbow problems which ultimately led to his release. He also pitched briefly for the Braves double-A affiliate in Greenville this year before being released. With numbers like the above, however, I think a return to the organized ranks is likely this offseason. In case you forgot, Elder is the player the Indians received from Texas in the John Rocker deal.
Shane Spencer is back in the news, this time being charged with a DUI in Port St.Lucie, Florida. This is the second time that Spencer has run afoul of the law in the past five months as he and Karim Garcia were involved in a fight with a pizza deliveryman during spring training, also in Port St.Lucie.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Indians and Osceola County officials are scheduled to meet this week to discuss a potential relocation of the Indians spring training home to DisneyWorld. On the surface, a move to the Mouse sounds great but I haven't heard too many fan-friendly comments about the Wide World of Sports complex.
Don't forget that the Twins and White Sox play this afternoon at 2:05 ET. I recommend Gameday on mlb.com to follow the action.
July 27, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Robertson Designated
As speculated earlier today, the Indians designated Jeriome Robertson for assignment to create a roster spot for Brian Tallet, who was activated off the 60-day DL and optioned to Akron. The Tribe now has 10 days to trade, release, or outright Robertson to the minor leagues provided that he is not claimed on waivers. I'm pretty sure that Robertson has not previously been designated so he should not have the right to refuse assignment if the Indians outright him to Buffalo.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, July 27
What is it with the Tigers? I'm having 1980s flashbacks. Is Alan Trammell secretly inserting Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon, Tom Brookens, and Johnny Wockenfuss into the lineup? Was that really Mike Maroth on the mound or was it Frank Tanana? C'mon now!
Brian Tallet allowed a pair of runs on Sunday in two innings of work for the Aeros. In ten rehab appearances, Tallet has a 5.69 ERA with 16 hits and seven walks allowed over 12.2 innings. His 30-day rehab assignment should be coming to an end this week (I believe his first appearance was June 30 in the Valley) so the Indians will need to make a decision regarding his status. If they intend to let Tallet keep pitching this year (and there's no indication that they won't), he'll need to be added back onto to the 40-man roster since he's currently on the 60-day DL and, thus, off the 40. The Indians currently have a full 40-man roster so someone will have to either be designated for assignment or traded to create room for Tallet. Unless the Tribe wants to try and sneak a prospect like Corey Smith (struggling) or Mariano Gomez (injured) through waivers (and I can't see them doing that), the prime candidate for "something" to happen would be Jeriome Robertson who's back in Buffalo and has not pitched well at all this season for the Indians or Bisons. The Indians may also wait and see how Scott Elarton fares in his start tomorrow night with Elarton a candidate for "something" if he struggles. Under this scenario, Chad Durbin would move into Elarton's spot in the rotation. Either way, Tallet would likely then be added back to the 40 and optioned to either Akron or Buffalo to continue his recovery from the TJ. I suppose it's also possible that the Indians could simply pull Tallet back from his rehab assignment, keep him on the 60-day disabled list, and shut him down for the season (or a couple of weeks). This scenario would likely only come into play if Tallet was experiencing soreness in the elbow but I haven't heard anything in that regard so I would think that this type of decision would be highly unlikely.
Jason Davis turned in a good, but strange, start on Saturday for Buffalo. While he worked eight innings and allowed just four hits and one unearned run to cross the platem he also walked four and did not strike out a batter. How many times have you seen a pitcher throw eight innings of one-run ball without striking anyone out? Not many. I saw some reports label this as a "dominating" start but I'm not sure how you Davis could have dominated without striking out a guy unless he recorded 20 of 24 outs via the groundball and needed just 80 pitches to work through eight innings. To me, that would be dominating since it would infer that he was working with nice sink, getting ahead in the count, and inducing a lot of groundball outs. In actuality, though, he walked four which hints he had some control problems and was removed from the game after eight innings which hints that he reached his pitch count. To be fair, I have no idea how many groundball outs he recorded. So, good start? Absolutely. Dominating start? I don't think so.
Russ Branyan was traded to Mil-e-wa-kay for cash and not a PTBNL as I think I reported yesterday. I wouldn't get your hopes up that this will allow the Tribe to add some salary for the stretch run as the money exchanged is likely to be a very small sum. Branyan will see time at 3B and in the OF for the Brewers who are desperate for someone who can hit the ball out of the yard. To make room on their roster, the Brue Crue designated former Indian Chris Magruder for assignment.
Incidentally, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes that Branyan had a clause allowing him to go to the major leagues with another team if he wasn't in the big leagues with Cleveland by June 1. The Red Sox were also reportedly interested in Branyan, according to the JS.
Argenis Reyes extended his hitting streak to 16 games yesterday with a pair of doubles in the Scrappers 6-2 loss to Batavia. Reyes has now hit in 16 straight games during which he's raked at a .394 clip (28-for-71) and raised his average to .313 for the season. The 21-year old infielder is in his fourth season in the Indians organization, second in the States, and first in the Valley.
Another hot stick in the Valley is second basemen Marshall Szabo who's hitting .346 since being drafted in the 17th round out of the University of Georgia this June. Szabo had four hits last night for the Scrappers.
The Twins are reportedly close to sending Doug Mientkiewicz, Mike Restovich, and a prospect to the Pirates for Kris Benson. Much to the delight of Pirates GM Dave Littlefield, Benson has pitched extremely well (3.01 ERA in 10 starts) the past two months with the exception of last nights outing against the Braves. He'll be a nice addition to the Twins staff for the stretch. Plus, Justin Morneau finally gets a regular spot in the lineup to the joy of fantasy leaguers everywhere.
Peter Gammons noted on espn.com that Boston (and several other teams) have inquired about Brandon Phillips. Unless it's an overwhelming offer, I say no thanks.
Paul Hoynes reports in the Plain Dealer that the Indians have reportedly offered Jeremy Sowers a $2.2 million bonus (which is the same bonus paid to number five overall pick Mark Rogers by the Brewers) while Sowers (the number six overall pick) wants more (unspecified how much more). Consequently, it doesn't look like Sowers will pitch for the Indians this summer but I'm not all that worried that the Tribe will be unable to get him signed (yet). I would expect sometime in August that the two sides will agree on a deal somewhere in the $2.2-$2.6 million range and Sowers will debut in the Instructional League this fall. This is simply too much money for Sowers to turn down as it's unlikely he would be offered anywhere near that amount if he returned to school and re-entered the draft next June as a senior when he has very little negotiating leverage.
Sowers' Vanderbilt teammate and Indians 14th pick Jeff Sues is posting some dominating numbers in the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League this summer, going 4-1 with a 1.12 ERA in seven appearances with 44 strikeouts in 40 innings and just 20 hits and 15 walks allowed. He also tossed a no-hitter in which he walked three and punched out eight. I have no idea what level of competition he's facing in the ACBL but those numbers are certainly impressive (and driving up his bonus demands, I'm sure). Sues was a draft-eligible sophomore this past June and is expected to return to Vanderbilt as a junior this fall.
Hey, congrats to former Indian Dennis Eckersley on his induction into the Hall of Fame over the weekend!
July 26, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Branyan dealt for cash
ESPN is reporting that Russell Branyan was dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers for cash. No word on how much moolah will actually change hands.
CIR UPDATE: The Dish on Miller
More on Adam Miller's Kinston debut from the Daily Dish.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Monday, July 26
(sweep, sweep) (sweep, sweep)
Ahh, the floor looks much better with those pesky Royals all swept up.
The Tribe has finally climbed over the .500 mountain at 50-49 and the view is simply glorious. With the Tigers in town for three and the Royals (worst record in AL) and Blue Jays (third worst record in AL) lined up for the next six on the road after that, the opportunity is definitely there for the Tribe to stay hot. We've talked a lot over the past two weeks about the Tribe being at 54-50 by the end of the month and a 4-1 finish would get them there. Looking beyond that, a 6-3 stretch over these next nine games would place them at 56-52 headed into the new Comiskey Park for a big four-game series against the White Sox. How great would that series be if the Tribe came to town four or five games over .500?
Tremendous outing from Chad Durbin on Saturday. Now the question becomes, do they keep him in the rotation (likely in place of Scott Elarton), keep him in the bullpen (in long relief), or return him to Buffalo to start every fifth day? Since Durbin does not have any options remaining, he would have to be designated and clear waivers which may not be such a sure thing after Saturday. I think the Royals may have an interest in him after being shutdown like that, don't you? My bet is that he sticks with the Tribe in a long relief role.
How soon before I can get a #24 Sizemore jersey?
As I noted on Friday, Ben Broussard doesn't seem to fit into the Indians long-term plans based on their current and future roster configurations at the corner positions but he will definitely fit into some teams long-term plans if he keeps delivering big knocks like he did over the weekend. That was great to see.
Jason Stanford is officially done for the season as he'll undergo exploratory surgery this week in Birmingham (Dr.Andrews) that is expected to turn into Tommy John surgery (ligament transplant) once the good doctor takes a look inside his elbow. Needless to say, this is a tough blow for Stanford who had an excellent opportunity to cement himself as a rotation fixure this season. With the recovery time from the TJ typically 9-12 months, I think his 2005 season is in jeopardy as well. A good comparison for his recovery timetable could be Brian Tallet who underwent TJ surgery last August and is currently on a rehab assignment with Akron. Stanford will be the third Indian left-hander (Tallet and Traber) to undergo Tommy John surgery within the past 12 months. Whoever said that you can never have enough pitching was a wise man indeed.
Bad news for Bisons fans as Russ Branyan was dealt to Milwaukee yesterday for a PTBNL. Despite putting up impressive numbers with the Bisons (.288/.374/.591/.965, 25 HRs) since being acquired from the Braves in April for Scott Sturkie, the 28-year old Branyan did not fit into the Indians long-term plans. It does sound like he may get another shot at the bigs with the Brewers so this is a good career move for Branyan. Not so much for the first-place Bisons, however, who have lost Grady Sizemore and now Branyan from the lineup since taking over the division lead. As for the PTBNL, I suspect it may largely hinge on how well Branyan performs with the Brue Crue but, more than likely, it will be a fringe prospect or organizational.
Ryan Garko continues to hit in Akron, blasting his first homerun yesterday in the Aeros 8-3 victory over Reading. The 2003 third round pick also singled and walked and is now hitting .340 (16-for-47) with four doubles and six walks for the Aeros. I don't think any player in the system has raised his prospect status more than Garko this year.
Adam Miller struggled with his control in his high-A debut yesterday for Kinston but still tossed 4-2/3 innings of scoreless ball before reaching his pitch count. Miller struck out five while allowing just three hits and two walks but Kinston.com notes that he was working deep into counts throughout the game. Dan Eisentrager and Todd Pennington finished with 4-1/3 scoreless innings of relief for a 5-0 K-Tribe victory.
Dan Cevette nearly matched Miller in his debut for low-A Lake County as he tossed four scoreless innings before running into trouble in the top of the fifth. Cevette served up a couple of big-flys and left the game after 4-2/3 with eight hits and four runs allowed while walking one and striking out a pair.
Joining Cevette in the Lake County rotation will be Chris Niesel who was promoted from the Valley over the weekend. The Golden Domer (9th round pick) has been nothing short of dominant (2-0, 2.30 ERA, 27.1IP, 13H, 4BB, 20K) since signing with the Tribe in June and becomes the first member of the 2004 draft class to reach a full-season league.
Sent down to make room for Cevette and Niesel were Aaron Laffey and Nelson Hiraldo, who will report to Mahoning Valley. Both have shown flashes of dominance this season but need to work on their consistency. Laffey (3-7, 6.53 ERA, 73IP, 79H, 44BB, 67K) will likely join the Scrappers rotation while Hiraldo (6-5, 5.38, 72IP, 82H, 26BB, 66K) will likely work multiple innings out of the bullpen.
Brad Snyder had a day yesterday for the LC, banging out four hits (including two doubles) in the Captains 7-6 come-from-behind victory over Lakewood. The 2003 first-round pick is now hitting .288/.374/.470/.856 with 13 doubles, 10 homeruns, and 50 RBIs after missing approximately 25 games early this season with an eye infection. Snyder has also shown improvement in his BB/K ratio which is at 42 BB / 69 K through 276 ABs versus 41 BB / 82 K through 225 ABs last season in the Valley.
Justin Hoyman passed his physical and officially signed with the Indians on Saturday. He'll report to Mahoning Valley to begin his professional career.
Damian Jackson was designated for assignment by the Royals. Chad Allen was designated by the Rangers. Ricardo Rodriguez (out for the season) was placed on the disabled list by the Rangers. Shane Spencer was placed on the DL by the Mets.
Who does he think he is, Alex Cole?
-- Tom Hamilton on David DeJesus after he was picked off first base yesterday
Great move by Jim Paxson in adding Drew Gooden for Tony Battie. I like what Battie did for the Cavs last year and envisioned him as a poor man's Hot Rod Williams (I'm a Heat now!) off the bench this year but Gooden should fit in nicely. The most amazing thing to me is that Paxson has been able to acquire both Eric Snow and Gooden without moving DeJaun Wagner or dipping into the mid-level exemption. Nice work.
Is it just me or is the PD's coverage of the Cavs disappointing? Missing (in my opinion) in their analysis of the Gooden trade was the following: 1) Does the presence of Hunter mean that Diop is soon to be dealt? I can't see the Cavs keeping two similar bigs with limited skills unless one if stashed on the injured list. I would have to think that one of these guys could bring a veteran character guy to bang for five minutes a game in a trade (at a minimum). 2) If Anderson Varejao was the player the Cavs initially inquired about and if they viewed him as a first-round talent in June, who the heck is he? Who does he compare to? What skills does he bring to the court? Is he going to sign this year or stay in Europe? 3) Jim Paxson says he's not done shaping the roster so what moves remain to be made? Who are the Cavs talking to? Who are other teams shopping? 4) Vin Baker was supposed to come to Cleveland but chose to remain with the Knicks. Why? Who's left on the free-agent market? What veterans could be signed cheap to fill out the bench? For comparison purposes, yesterday the PD had nothing about the Cavs while the ABJ forecast the Z dilemma the Cavs will face in the next offseason. The ABJ coverage of the Cavs just blows away the PD in my opinion.
And finally (I know, enough about the Cavs already), I'm no NBA salary cap expert and I'm sure there are plenty of legalities that would prevent this but what if the Cavs traded Z to Atlanta for a bunch of low salary crap to free up $11 million under the cap (note that Atlanta is well under the cap and could afford to trade for Z). Then we match Utah's offer to Carlos Boozer and sign him to a long-term deal. We then turn around and deal him (and the low salary crap) to Atlanta for Z and a future first round pick. The Hawks get Boozer, the Cavs get a future first, the Jazz get squat, and Boozer is banished to Atlanta. Of course, the players union might have something to say about it not to mention that the Cavs might be viewed as a little un-player friendly by the rank-and-file but, from a fans perspective, that would be soooooooooo sweet. I'm sure the guys at www.carlosloozer.com would dig it.
I'm not sure what I like more about The 4400, the basic premise of the story or the gaping plot holes/jumps and cheesy clichéd acting that would make for a great MST3K project.
July 23, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, July 23
After the damage the Indians did with the sticks in Seattle and Anaheim, with the momentum they carried into this nine-game homestand, how is it possible that they could be shut-out in back-to-back games? Unbelievable. But that's the roller-coaster we've been on all year. The Tribe is now three games under .500 at 46-49 and six games behind the Twins. If they're going to make a move, the next ten games against the Royals and Tigers provide the perfect opportunity.
Per Paul Hoynes and the PD, the last time the Indians were blanked in consecutive games was in 1993 when the Mariners Chris Bosio and Erik Hanson combined to shut down the Tribe on April 27 and April 28. The last time it happened at home was in 1991 when Scott Sanderson (Yankees) and Bill Wegman (Brewers) mastered the Tribe on September 30 and October 1.
Freddy Garcia (acquired from the Mariners in late June) and Carl Everett (acquired from the Expos this week) did in the Tribe last night. Garcia on the mound with seven scoreless frames and Everett at the plate with a pair of two-out RBI singles. Hopefully, it's the Indians making similar moves next summer.
Yesterday, I wrote "the main thought is where does Ryan Ludwick fit into the Indians roster now? Or does he not?" Eric Wedge answered that question when he told the local media that Ludwick has some "physical limitations" that he's working through and has a ways to go before he's ready. Ludwick is recovering from knee surgery so the knees must still be a little balking. At any rate, it doesn't sound like he's going to be up anytime soon and, by that, I mean anytime within the next two-to-four weeks. Ludwick is hitting .311/.340/.467 with a homerun and 11 strikeouts for the Bisons.
Jason Stanford may or may not make his scheduled rehab appearance for Mahoning Valley tonight as he reportedly did experience some soreness after throwing in a simulated game on Monday. If he can't pitch tonight, he'll likely undergo an MRI over the weekend. Depending on how long he's setback (if at all), I think you have to start wondering if Stanford will just be shut down for the rest of the year and maybe just get some work in during the instructional league in the fall.
Saturday's spot-starter will be Chad Durbin, who was promoted from Buffalo and added to the 40-man roster. Jeriome Robertson was optioned to make room for Durbin on the 25-man roster. In nine starts for the Bisons, Durbin had a 3.46 ERA (52IP, 55H, 16BB, 40K). The Tribe has said in the past they want to groom him as a starter (that's why he was in Buffalo) but I wouldn't be surprised if he hangs around in a long relief role if he pitches well. Durbin could also potentially replace Scott Elarton as the fifth starter if the Tribe chooses to go that route.
As bad as it may have been at the Jake last night, it was a glorious evening down on the farm with all six teams coming away victorious. I think that may be the first time that's happened this year. Mahoning Valley has now won 11 of 13 to move into the wildcard position in the NY-Penn League while the K-Tribe has won 10 of 11.
Since accepting his assignment to triple-A, Scott Stewart has thrown seven scoreless innings for the Bisons (7IP, 5H, 2BB, 3K).
Kane Davis was promoted from Akron to Buffalo.
Tyler Minges, getting some regular playing time with Franklin Gutierrez out, has hit in six consecutive games for the Aeros, belting two homeruns, driving in six, and hitting .435 (10-for-23).
Oscar Alvarez was placed on the Aeros DL with shoulder fatigue. The southpaw was quietly enjoying another solid season as a swingman on the Aeros staff, posting a 3.36 ERA in 23 appearances (five starts) with 50 strikeouts in 67 innings (62H, 24BB).
Adam Miller is listed as the scheduled Sunday starter for Kinston.
Fresh off his Player of the Week honors, Jonathan Van Every continues to hit (and get hit) in Kinston, belting his 12th homerun and being pelted by two pitches in the K-Tribe's 3-2 victory over Frederick. Van Every is now hitting .277/.363/.485/848 with 16 doubles and 12 homeruns . He's 24, so he's old for the Carolina League, and still strikes out a lot (85) but JVE's improvement across the board is worth noting considering that he's also moved up a level in competition.
Mayobanex Santana was traded to the A's for a PTBNL. Santana, hitting .143 (4-for-28) with Kinston, was acquired earlier this summer from the Diamondbacks for infielder Todd West.
Ricardo Rodriguez is out for the season after a line drive off the bat of Robb Quinlan yesterday broke his elbow. This is a huge blow to the Rangers and for Rodriguez, who had a 2.03 ERA in five appearances for the Rangers this year, including his three-hit masterpiece against the Indians a few weeks ago. It also continues the string of injuries that has plagued R-Rod the last two years, starting with the hip injury that sidelined him for the second half of 2003 and the appendicitis that sidelined him for a month and a half earlier this season.
Speaking of the Rangers, John Hart has agreed to return as General Manager in 2005 which has caused some upheaval in the front office. Speculation now holds that respected Assistant GM Grady Fuson will leave the organization in the off-season. Check out the excellent Newberg Report for more details.
Jesus Sanchez, the potential LOOGY I mentioned earlier in the week, refused assignment by the Reds and is now a free-agent.
Indian Fever, Be a Believer, With the Cleveland Indians.
CIR UPDATE: Indians going to DisneyWorld?
The Orlando Sentinel reports this morning that the Indians are involved in talks to move their spring training base to DisneyWorld by 2006. The Tribe would share the complex with the Atlanta Braves. While certainly more conveinent for fans who want to combine the Mouse and the Tribe, I have a feeling this arrangement would ultimately be more expensive for Tribe fans. Don't you have to pay just to get into the Wide World of Sports complex?
July 22, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Thursday, July 22
Nothing you can do but tip your hat to Mark Buehrle and head back to the park tonight. As the proverbial baseball wiseman once said, the beauty of this game is that there's always another tomorrow. Still, that was one of the best pitched games I have ever seen. Especially when you consider how hot the Tribe has been with the sticks lately.
So the Grady Sizemore era officially begins with a 14-0 drubbing although, to be fair, Grady had little to do with the outcome of this stinker. Last night will go down next to the Greg Swindell 24-5 blowout back in 1986 as memorable (and forgettable) debut games. Sizemore did get his chance at Buehrle, popping out to second to end the game, but even in that one at-bat, he showed the smooth stroke and quick bat that has him in the big leagues twelve days shy of his 22nd birthday.
Sizemore leaves Buffalo with averages of .292/.361/.442/.803 and 22 doubles, a leadue-leading 8 triples, and seven round-trippers to go along with 37 walks and 12 stolenbases. Additionally, he was fourth in the league in hits (115) and third in the league in runs scored (68). More importantly to the Indians, since May 21, Sizemore was hitting .331 with 25 extra-base hits, had raised his averages 64 points from .228, and was showing no ill effects from the stomach virus that plauged him at the beginning of the season and caused him to lose 15 pounds.
Grady will slot into the Indians four-man outfield rotation with his primary position being in the middle of the diamond. The one knock on Sizemore coming up through the system has been his arm strength (which seems odd considering he was a University of Washington quarterback recruit coming out of high school) but recent reports have indicated that a throwing program has brought improvement in that area so it's going to be interesting to see how his arm plays from the deeper parts of the yard.
Why now, you may be asking? Why call up Sizemore when the Indians are (hopefully) in the thick of the division race and he's not going to play everyday? Because as Eric Wedge puts it, the Indians are simply a better team with Sizemore on the roster. When you consider that he's replacing Mark Little, it's kind of hard to argue with that logic. Still, with the team on the verge of contention, or, rather, close enough that winning is still paramount over development, you have to wonder how patient the Indians can (and will) be if Sizemore struggles. We'll see on that.
I also wonder what this promotion means to Ryan Ludwick, who has been billed as the right-handed bat to balance out the lineup. If he's brought up, who goes to make room for him? If it's an outfielder, you're looking at either Jody Gerut or Coco Crisp and I can't see them sending down either of those two (can you?), although Gerut has been struggling at the plate. If it's not an outfielder, then Ludwick becomes the fifth outfielder and how/where is he going to find at-bats on a consistent basis? I didn't even answer the primary thought from that last sentence either in that if it's not an outfielder, who would Ludwick replace on the active roster? Most likely, you're looking at either Lou Merloni or Ben Broussard with the other bench players (Laker, McDonald, other outfielder) locked into defined roles. My hunch tells me that Broussard may be the odd-man out and the bait the Indians use to try and add a small piece (starter/reliever) for the last two months. If you think about it, he really doesn't have a role with the Tribe next year with Aaron Boone likely at third, Casey Blake likely moving to first, Travis Hafner entrenched at DH, and Michael Aubrey coming fast, so Broussard would definitely be expendable under that scenario. The addition of Sizemore adds another left-handed bat to the bench (either Sizemore or Gerut/Crisp when Sizemore is starting) so replacing Broussard with Ludwick would serve to balance out the bench as well as the lineup. Of course, that means first base would be turned over to Hafner and Lou Merloni which raises its own series of concerns/questions. Broussard does have an option left so Buffalo is an option. The Red Sox are reportedly looking for a defensive first baseman so maybe a deal could be worked out there although they're as pitching desperate at the back-end as the Indians right now. Anyways, I'm rambling and need to stop (this is actually the last thing I'm writing in today's report) but the main thought is where does Ryan Ludwick fit into the Indians roster now? Or does he not?
I heard Eric Wedge on the radio yesterday say that Jeriome Robertson is the likely candidate to make the spot-start in Saturday's double-header against the Royals. Of course, Robertson was then called into duty yesterday in relief but since he only threw 23 pitches, I think his arm should be able to bounce back by Saturday. Given his performance (2/3IP, 4H, 4ER, 1 HR), however, I wonder if the Indians are reconsidering that decision. Kyle Denney, although not pitching well in Buffalo recently, has his scheduled turn on Saturday. Heck, maybe they'll stick Rick White out there for four innings and then turn it over to the 'pen. Just kidding (maybe).
The local papers all have varying quotes from Mark Shapiro this morning regarding Mariners closer Eddie Guardado that essentially read (I'll use the PD version) "It's not so much what he is making this year ($4 million), but the fact that he can opt out at the end of this season. Why would we give up a core player for someone who would be leaving at the end of this season?" Guardado, in fact, has a very interesting contract in that he actually signed just a one-year deal that pays him $4 million this year of which $1.5 million is believed to be a signing bonus and the remaining $2.5 million his base salary. What makes it interesting are the two mutual team and player options for 2005 and 2006 that could result in Guardado making a minimum of $13 million or a maximum of $17 million over the total three years of the contract. Next year, the team could pickup his $6 million option for 2005 but if they pass, Guardado could exercise his $4.5 million option to remain with the club. In 2006, it's a $7 million team option and a $4.5 million player option.
Why would the Mariners not pick up his option? For the exact reasons that are playing out this season. The team has tanked and management has launched a rebuilding program that probably does not include a $7 million closer in their plans. Of course, the risk to the team in this contract is that if Guardado was injured or had a poor year and the team passed on the option, Guardado could simply exercise his option and the team would be left with a bad contract. The other risk, which will likely happen this off-season, is that if the Mariners pass (which they likely will) then Guardado could elect to pass on his option and re-enter the free-agent market with the hopes of either receiving a larger contract or a similar contract with a contending team.
So based on Mark Shapiro's comments (and assuming the above contract details are correct), it doesn't sound like the Indians would have much interest in paying Guardado (or likely any closer) $6 million next year and they feel that Guardado would choose to enter the free-agent market instead of exercising his option to play for $4.5 million in 2005. The other thought from the Tribe may simply be why trade (and pay a hefty price) for Guardado now when they'll likely have a chance to sign him to a more standard contract as a free-agent in the off-season.
Mariano Gomez (finger) was placed on the Aeros disabled list yesterday while Joe Dawley was called back from his rehab assignment. Replacing them on the Aeros roster are right-hander Ryan Prahm and southpaw Shea Douglas from Kinston. Both were enjoying stellar years with the K-Tribe. Prahm, who underwent elbow surgery in May 2002, had a miniscule 1.25 ERA and was holding Carolina League hitters to a nasty .163 BAA while striking out over a batter an inning (36IP, 21H, 24BB, 43K). Douglas was even nastier, with a .156 BAA and 0.56 ERA in 16 appearances (32.1IP, 18H, 10BB, 32K). The 25-year old Prahm (undrafted) was old for the Carolina League and he'll be considered old for the Eastern League as well but it will be interesting to see how he fares against the advanced competition. For Douglas, this season represents a continued show of dominance at each level of the organization since he was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2002 draft out of Southern Mississippi. In his 2-1/2 years with the Tribe, Douglas now has a 1.21 career ERA in 65 appearances and has allowed only 95 hits in 156.1 innings pitched. Nasty. He's also struck out 189 in those 156.1 innings while walking 51. Filthy. If you're looking for a sleeper relief prospect, Douglas is your man, but because he doesn't throw particularly hard, he's likely going to have to prove himself at every level. Akron should be a good challenge for him. I suppose it's also worth noting that Douglas will be Rule 5 eligible this December.
Two more Indians earned Player of the Week honors as Jonathan Van Every and Brian Slocum shared the Carolina League award with Lynchburg infielder Brad Eldred. Van Every hit .750 (9-for-12) with six doubles while Slocum picked up a pair of wins while allowing just eight hits in 12 innings.
Pat Osborn had three hits and drove in a run yesterday in the K-Tribe's 9-1 victory over Salem. Osborn is now hitting .338/.414/.552/.966 with 10 doubles and 5 homeruns. He's been battling a sore hammy which has limited him to just 60 games this year but the results when he's been on the field have been encouraging.
Travis Foley will continue his rehab in Kinston after making three appearances for the Scrappers in the Valley. Kieran Mattison (13G, 7.77 ERA) was dispatched to Lake County.
As speculated, Dan Cevette was promoted from the MV to the OC yesterday, according to the Canton Repository. The left-hander was nothing short of sensational with the Scrappers, posting a 1.25 ERA with a .186 BAA in seven appearances while punching out over a batter an inning (36IP, 24H, 6BB, 39K). Temper those numbers just a bit by realizing that this was Cevette's third year in a short season league (but first in the NY-Penn) since he was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft. He's still only 20 so the Sally League will be a good fit for him.
The Burlington Times notes that Mike Woodson is day-to-day with a leg injury and will likely sit out the next two games.
Talks with first-round pick Jeremy Sowers "have stalled" according to John Mirabelli via the Canton Repository with the two sides doubtlessly haggling over bonus figures. It looks like classes begin the week of August 23 at Vanderbilt so the Tribe has a month to get Sowers signed. Less, if they want to get him on the mound yet this summer. More, if Sowers does not enroll for the fall semester. For what it's worth, Sowers compared himself to Mark Buehrle and we all know what he did to the Indians last night. I won't start worrying until sometime around August 15.
Ricky Gutierrez was traded by the Cubs to the Red Sox for a PTBNL. Gutierrez was hitting .368 (25-for-68) for the triple-A Iowa. The Indians are still paying the vast majority of his salary.
Saving the Pitcher and the The Neyer / James Guide to Pitchers finally arrived via Amazon yesterday. Now I just have to find the time to read them!
CIR UPDATE: Hoyman agrees to terms
Florida Today is reporting that second round pick Justin Hoyman and the Indians have agreed to terms on a $725 bonus which is exactly what the picks above and below him signed for as well. Pending results of a physical today and an MRI on Friday, Hoyman is expected to officially sign with the Tribe on Saturday. He'll likely begin his professional career in August with Mahoning Valley before possibly moving onto the Instructional League in the fall. The article also notes that the Indians plan on starting Hoyman out at high-A Kinston next year which is the same path they followed with 2002 second round pick Brian Slocum. Even though we knew this was coming, it's nice to make it official and get Hoyman out on the mound. Jeremy Sowers (1st) and Reinaldo Alicano (10th) remain unsigned among the top ten picks. Overall, the Tribe has now inked 25 of their 50 selections.
July 21, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Dishing on Miller
From Baseball's America Daily Dish: "Low Class A Lake County righthander Adam Miller broke a personal two-game losing streak with his best outing of July. He had eight strikeouts in six shutout innings of a 13-3 win at Lakewood, allowing three hits and one walk to improve to 7-4, 3.33. Miller, a supplemental first-round pick in 2003, has 106 strikeouts and just 28 walks in 92 innings. 'He's got easy power stuff,' said one scout with an American League organization who covers the South Atlantic League. 'The night I saw him, they could have used him in Cleveland. He was 94-95 (mph) with his fastball, he touched 97 and showed a plus slider at 87. The catcher that night just couldn't handle him. He had major league stuff."
CIR UPDATE: Sizemore gets the call
It's official. The Indians called up Grady Sizemore from Buffalo today while designating Mark Little for assignment. it's going to be very interesting to see how the Indians work Sizemore into the lineup. As in, what effect this move may have on a potential Ryan Ludwick promotion or what this means in terms of playing time for Coco Crisp and/or Jody Gerut or if this hints at a forthcoming deal involving an outfielder or, perhaps, Ben Broussard. I also believe that the designation of Little opens a spot on the 40 for Kyle Denney to make a spot start in Saturday's double-header. As if Cliff Lee vs Mark Buehrle wasn't enough reason to watch tonight, now we have the added bonus of Grady Sizemore's major league debut. That is, if he is in the lineup against the left-handed Buehrle. More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Wednesday, July 21
Now that's what I call a road trip. A 4-2 jaunt through Seattle and Anaheim that finds the Tribe returning home one game under .500 (46-47) and just four games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins. They still need to go 8-3 over the next 11 games to get to our bogey number of 54-50 at the end of the month but a favorable schedule lies ahead. Just remember the roller coaster folks.
Have we ever seen a hitter as completely locked in as Travis Hafner is right now? In the six games since the All-Star break, Pronk is slugging an otherworldly 1.458 with an OPS of 2.079 thanks to seven homeruns, including a three-homer feast against the Halos yesterday. The five homeruns that Hafner blasted the last two days tie a major league record and his 11 RBIs over that same span ties an Indians team record that goes back to 1930 and Earl Averill. Not wanting to be cast as "just a slugger" in this spree, Hafner has also walked five times to go along with his .542 average. Pronk is now second in the AL in OPS (1.038), third in slugging (.609), fourth in OBP (.429), fifth in average (.331), second in doubles (30), tied for fifth in RBIs with Victor Martinez (75), and first in hit by pitches (13).
Despite allowing seven hits and three runs in his last two outings, Bob Wickman has been moved into the familiar role of closer with David Riske returning to a setup position. I can't say I blame Eric Wedge for this decision as Riske has been equally shaking his last three times out, including another blown save on Monday against the Angels when he allowed a pair of runs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Whether Wickman is ready or not (11 hits in 5 innings this year) remains to be seen but, at this point, what other options do the Indians have? Riske has been very effective in a setup role and you need to solidify the eighth before you can get to the ninth.
Interestingly enough, Wedge did tell one of the local papers regarding Riske that "I think at some point in time he's going to be a closer." One of the more interesting decisions facing the Indians this offseason will be addressing the bullpen and, specifically, finding themselves a closer. Bob Wickman is not expected to return, unless he's willing to accept a likely offer of a one-year deal with a hefty cut in pay. Riske is an option but, so far, he's demonstrated that he pitches better in a setup role. Who else is there? Rafael Betancourt? Bob Howry? Fernando Cabrera from down on the farm? With those choices, I think an exploration of the free-agent and trade market is very likely. One long-shot candidate that I'll throw out there without saying too much more is Jason Davis. His power arm and inability to work through a lineup multiple times may play well (or better) in the bullpen. Depending on what happens with the back-end of the rotation via trade or free-agency this off-season, the Tribe may have a wealth of candidates, including in-house hurlers Kaz Tadano, Jason Stanford, Brian Tallet, Billy Traber, Francisco Cruceta, Kyle Denney, Fausto Carmona, and Jeremy Guthrie, to foster a move of Davis to the 'pen. Just a thought.
Paul Hoynes noted in the PD this morning that the Tribe had scouts in Seattle this weekend and then sent one birddog out to follow the Mariners triple-A squad in Tacoma. Who might have been on their radar? Left-handers Ron Villone, Mike Myers, and Eddie Guardado are the obvious items of interest for the Tribe at the big league level. Perhaps even former Indy Leaguer George Sherrill who posted some gaudy numbers (62 K, 50.1 IP) in triple-A before recently joining the M's. Myers, incidentally, pitched in three of the four games against the Tribe and has now worked on five consecutive days (July 16-20). I guess you can do that when you only face 13 batters and throw 47 pitches in those five gamse. As for Tacoma, a cache of journeyman worked on Monday with the exception of prospects Cha Seung Bok and Craig Anderson. Anderson is a lefty (bing!) from Australia who switched to the 'pen this year but has not posted impressive numbers. He's young but I'm not sure if he's the lefty the Indians are reportedly looking for. On Tuesday, Gil Meche started for Tacoma (5IP, 6H, 6R, 5BB, 3K) and he might be a guy the Indians are looking at as an inexpensive fifth starter for the remainder of this season. Unfortunately, though, Meche hasn't pitched very well this year (7.06 ERA in 43.1 IP in Seattle and 5.76 ERA in 50 IP in AAA) but that's what would likely make him available cheap. Well, that and the $1.95 million he is slated to make this year which the M's would likely have to eat a large portion of in any deal. Is he any better than Scott Elarton, though? Is it worth trading a prospect, even a fringe one, to find out?
There sure was a lot of talk on the radio last night about Grady Sizemore being imminently promoted to the big leagues. I didn't see anything to that effect in the papers this morning but, for what it's worth, he was out of the Bisons lineup last night.
Jason Stanford is scheduled to make his first rehab appearance for Mahoning Valley on Friday after feeling no side effects from a simulated game on Monday. Stanford will likely make five or six appearances (I believe a pitcher has thirty days to complete an assignment) to build up his arm strength before the Indians consider adding him to the big league rotation. That would place Stanford on course for a mid-to-late August return. Depending on what happens at the major league level, it's also possible that the Indians could simply option him to Buffalo and let him throw every fifth day for the Bisons before bringing him up in September.
Joe Dawley did not record an out in his first rehab appearance in Akron last night. Dawley faced four batters, allowing three hits and a walk before reaching his pitch limit.
Word is that I was wrong about Jose Jimenez possibly making an appearance with the Aeros yesterday. He's been placed on the temporarily inactive list in Buffalo after asking the Indians for two weeks to sort through some personal issues. Once he returns, it will be close to a month since he's last pitched so he'll have to work himself into pitching shape before working himself into starting pitching shape as per the Indians plans. That should give him about two weeks worth of starts before the Bisons season comes to an end in early September ;-).
Brian Tallet worked two innings on Monday for the first time in his rehab assignment, allowing three runs (two earned), two hits and three walks (two intentional) with one strikeout. Two intentional walks seems a little odd. I wonder if the Indians wanted to see him face a lefty(ies) or a specific batter?
Aaron Boone will join the Indians for the next couple of weeks and then head out on a rehab assignment. He's on target for a late August / early September return.
Three Indians were recently named Players of the Week as Victor Martinez took the honors in the AL, Jason Cooper in the Eastern League, and Chris Gimenez in the NY-Penn League. For Martinez, this was his second player of the week award of the year and he picked up this one for hitting .500 (7-for-14) and slugging 1.357 with four homeruns and eight RBIs in the four games following the All-Star break. Cooper hit .571 (8-for-14) while slugging 1.429 with three doubles, three homeruns, 10 RBIs, and six walks. Gimenez raked at a .526 (10-for-19) clip while slugging 1.211 with four longballs and nine RBIs.
Neither Kyle Denney or Jeremy Guthrie, both under consideration for a spot-start on Saturday, fared well in their outings on Monday. Denney allowed five runs on eight hits, including two longballs, and a pair of walks while Guthrie was charged with six runs (five earned) on nine hits in seven innings of work. Denney now has a 5.96 ERA over his last four starts while Guthrie continues to allow more hits than innings pitched in double-A.
With two hits last night in the Bisons 11-6 loss to Richmond, Brandon Phillips has now collected safeties in 28 of his last 30 games and is hitting .369 (45-for-122) over that span to raise his season averages to .308/.369/.420/.789. Phillips also walked twice last night and has 30 walks for the season versus only 39 strikeouts. That's a nice improvement in contact and controlling the strike zone from last season. He's also been moved into the leadoff spot since the All-Star break.
If the 10-12 scouts that have reportedly been watching the Aeros this week were in town to scout Dan Denham, it looks like he may be staying in the Indians organization for awhile after he was pounded for 13 hits and 10 runs in four innings last night. Not that that's a bad thing, Denham staying with the Tribe, just that he probably didn't leave the best impression with his performance.
Apologies to Brandon Pinckney for omitting him from my comment the other day that Ryan Garko joined Michael Aubrey as members of the 2003 draft class in Akron. Of course, Pinckney, a 12th round pick out of Sacramento City College, was the first of this trio to hit Canal Park and his success in Akron has been one of the more pleasant surprises this year down the farm. Originally slotted for a utility role in Lake County, Pinckney hit a sizzling .364/.401/.479/.880 in a rotating role around the infield with the Captains before being promoted to Akron for what was to be a temporary stay due to some injuries on the Aeros roster. All Pinckney did, however, was keep on hitting and that temporary stay has turned permanent as he's currently batting .317/.371/.392/.763 with four doubles for the Aeros. Not a bad full-season debut, huh?
Nate Grindell's prospect days may be behind him but there's no doubt that he is smokin' hot at the plate right now. A single and RBI last night makes it 14 of 15 games in which Grindell has hit safely and in that span he's batting .439 (25-for-57) with eight doubles and 14 RBIs.
John Farrell all but confirmed the fact that Franklin Gutierrez's elbow injury could cause him to miss the rest of season. Farrell was quoted as saying "It's very disappointing, Franklin was on a pace to hit over .300 with 45 doubles". But then, Neal Huntington told the ABJ today that Gutierrez has a bruised ligament and will be out only four weeks. Let's hope so.
Huntington also told the ABJ that the Indians are "playing it safe" with Mariano Gomez (finger) and Michael Aubrey (hammy). Gomez injured his left middle finger on Sunday which forced him to leave the game during his second inning on the bump. Yup, that's the same finger that caused him to miss the second half of last season and a good chunk of the first half this season. Doesn't look like it's anything serious (for now). As for Aubrey, he's not 100% so the Tribe doesn't want to take any chances and placed him on the DL.
Adam Miller and Dan Cevette continue to dominate for the LC and the MV respectively. Miller struck out eight in five scoreless innings for the Captains while Cevette struck out four in four scoreless innings of one-hit ball for the Scrappers last night. It's possible that this could be the last start for each at this level with Miller expected to move up to Kinston and Cevette a likely candidate to replace Miller in the Lake County rotation.
Baseball America's Prospect Pulse reports that 45th round pick Tony Sipp received a $130,000 bonus to forego his senior year at Clemson and sign with the Tribe. Despite his impressive performance in the Cape (1.00 ERA, .220 BAA, 18 IP, 21 K), John Manuel quoted an area scout as saying "I'd heard he threw 90-91 (mph), but he wasn't even throwing that hard when I saw him. I'm at a loss for that one. He's real raw. No one who saw him up there could believe they gave him that kind of money." Sipp continued his dominating summer in his debut with Mahoning Valley when he tossed three innings of one-hit ball with six punchouts last Wednesday.
The Reds signed Homer Bailey yesterday to a reported $2.3 million signing bonus. With Bailey inked, that means that both picks (#5, Mark Rogers, MIL, $2.2mil; #7, Bailey, CIN, $2.3mil) surrounding the Indians selection of Jeremy Sowers have now signed. Interestingly enough, both Bailey and Rogers are high school right-handers while the five remaining unsigned picks among the top 10 are all college pitchers (four right-handers and Sowers). Unless he's waiting to see what the other college pitchers sign for, I would expect to see Sowers sign in the next few weeks for a $2.2-2.3 million bonus.
Both picks (Yovani Gollardo, MIL; BJ Szymanski, CIN) surrounding Indians second rounder Justin Hoyman have also signed for the identical sum of $725,000. I would suspect that's pretty close to what the Indians have on the table and we should see him sign within the next few weeks. In fact, Paul Hoynes reports today in the PD that the two sides are very close to a deal.
BA also notes in their draft database that 4th round pick Chuck Lofgren signed for $650k. It was originally reported that he had signed for between $825-975k.
Karim Garcia was traded from the Mets to the Orioles for reliever Mike DeJean. He'll (attempt to) add some punch to an O's lineup that was looking for an outfielder with both Jay Gibbons and BJ Surhoff on the disabled list. Personally, I would have kept giving those at-bats to Luis Matos, Larry Bigbie, and Jerry Hairston but the O's may not be done dealing from their surplus of young outfielders and second basemen. It also didn't cost them much to bring in Garcia in the form of DeJean so I'm not going to bust their chops too much about it. Garcia was hitting .234/.272/.401/.673 with seven homeruns for the Mets but was made expendable when Richard Hidalgo was acquired from the Astros. He had also spent some time on the disabled list recently with tendinitis in his left wrist.
Paul Shuey's career may be in jeopardy because of a degenerative condition in his right hip that has caused him to sit out all of this season. He recently attempted to go out on a rehab assignment but was pulled back and surgery has now been recommended with an eventual hip replacement may be necessary. Shuey had a solid year with the Dodgers last season, posting a 3.00 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 69 innings while setting up Eric Gagne.
Travis Driskill was called up by the Rockies while Turk Wendell was designated for assignment. Carlos Baerga was activated off the Diamondbacks disabled list.
Say what you want about Jim Paxson but the man knows how to dump salaries. Shaun Kemp, Wesley Person, Carlos Boozer, and now Kevin Ollie. I really like Eric Snow and the versatility, defense, and professionalism he brings to the roster. Great pickup (even though I also like the potential of Kedrick Brown). Now if Paxson can just find a way to turn DeJaun Wagner into a quality big, all might not be lost this year. Hey, what ever happened to the notion that free-agents would be dying to play in Cleveland with LeBron. Maybe we have to win first, huh?
July 20, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Good start in Anaheim
Four straight hits to start the inning, a blown pop-up, a botched pick-off attempt at second, a failure to cover first on a double-play ball, and the Tribe leads 3-0 after the top of the first. Shut 'em down quick in the bottom-half, Jake!
CIR REMINDER: Today's game starts at 4:05
Just a reminder that today is "getaway day" which means the Tribe and Angels are playing an afternoon game at 4:05 PM ET. The CIR returns tomorrow with lots to talk about. You gotta love Pronk!
July 19, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Late Notes
Michael Aubrey was placed on the Aeros DL with a hamstring injury. Joe Dawley is scheduled to make a rehab start for the Aeros on Tuesday. More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Monday, July 19
While it was certainly an exciting weekend in Seattle, coming away with a split does not make it a good weekend. Even though the Tribe remains just 4-1/2 in back of the White Sox, they're still three games under .500 with just 13 games to play in July. If you're keeping score at home, that means the Indians need to go 10-3 over the remainder of the month to get to Mark Shapiro's "stabilized over .500" bogey to add players for the stretch. Not that a hot streak necessarily means you're "stabilized" but a 54-50 record in the AL Central heading into August makes you a contender instead of a pretender in my book.
Jason Stanford threw a simulated game on Saturday and could be ready to begin a minor league rehab assignment within the next week. He's on target for a potential August return.
If the Indians are looking for a one-start only starter for Saturday's double-header, how about Buffalo right-hander Francisco Cruceta? In four games with the Bisons since being promoted from Akron, Cruceta has a 2.25 ERA in 24 innings, including a seven-inning gem on Friday in which he held first-place Scranton to just one run and three hits in picking up his third win. Cruceta is next scheduled to start on Wednesday and that may work against him considering he'd be pitching on seven days rest. Jason Davis pitched last night (6IP, 9H, 4R, 3ER, 1BB, 2K) and would seem to be another obvious choice since he'd be working on five days rest. He's also on the 40 (as is Cruceta) which means the Indians wouldn't have to engage in any roster shenanigans (designations, etc) to give him the start. It will be interesting to see if they go with Davis or elect to keep him in triple-A as planned, even if it would be for just one start. Other options include Chad Durbin (pitched Saturday), Kyle Denney (starting tonight), and Kenny Rayborn (starting Tuesday). Now that I look at it, Denney would be taking his normal turn on Saturday so this might be his best chance to get to the big leagues this year. He's not on the 40 but adding him shouldn't be a problem as he can take the spot of Mark Little who will likely be designated when Ryan Ludwick is called up.
Speaking of Ludwick, he went deep for the Bisons yesterday and is how hitting a combined .283 (17-for-60) between Akron and Buffalo with six doubles and two longballs. He's also striking out once every four at-bats (15 K, 60 ABs) and has walked just twice.
Quick minor league update...
Buffalo: 53-42, 2nd Place, 1 GB
Akron: 43-51, 4th Place, 14 GB
Kinston: 12-9, 2nd, 1.5 GB, won 7 in a row
Lake County: 10-13, T-5th, 5 GB
Mahoning Valley: 13-15, 2nd, 9.5 GB
Burlington: 11-16, 4th, 6 GB
Carl Sadler returned to Akron when Scott Stewart accepted his assignment to Buffalo, recorded one out on Friday night, and then went on the disabled list with a shoulder strain. That's a rough weekend.
Kane Davis took Sadler's place on the Aeros roster.
Word is Jose Jimenez may take the mound for the Aeros on Tuesday.
Jason Cooper has been on fire since returning from the double-A All-Star Game last week as he's hit .571 (8-for-14) with three homeruns, three doubles, four walks, and 10 runs batted in over the past four games. After a poor start, Cooper has raised his averages to .249/.323/.435/.758 with 22 doubles and 11 homeruns. Still disappointing numbers overall but a strong second half looks like it could be in the offing. Cooper is a strong candidate to be added to the 40-man roster in the offseason.
Aeros catcher Brian Luderer announced his retirement last week. With both Dave Wallace and Ryan Garko now in Akron, Luderer was likely facing a demotion to Kinston, significantly reduced playing time, or an outright release. The nine-year veteran spent three years in the Indians organzation after being acquired from the A's in the minor league portion of the 2001 Rule 5 draft and hit .207 in a backup role for the Aeros this season.
Brian Tallet was roughed up a little in a rehab appearance for Akron, allowing a pair of runs on four hits in an inning of work.
Matt Whitney enjoyed a big weekend as he went 5-for-12 (.417) with a pair of homers, a double, and five runs batted in for the Captains. He's now hitting .234/.303/.396 for the season with 10 walks and 48 strikeouts in 111 ABs. Troublesome numbers for sure but let's not forget that he missed almost a season and a half of playing time. Be patient.
Scott Lewis recorded all four of his outs via the strikeout in his professional debut on Saturday for the Scrappers. He also allowed a pair of runs on a walk and two basehits.
Mike Porzio was released from his contract at Buffalo. The southpaw signed with the Tribe this past off-season as a minor league free-agent but injured his shoulder in spring training. He recently began a series of rehab appearances and pitched in one game for the Bisons, allowing seven hits and six runs (two earned) in three innings.
The White Sox struck another blow (the first being the acquisition of Freddy Garcia) to the Indians contending hopes when they acquired Carl Everett from the Expos for a pair of prospects, Jon Rauch and Gary Magewski. He'll help to replace some of the punch the Sox offense has been missing with Frank Thomas on the disabled list. In terms of the prospects dealt, Rauch is a former minor league pitcher of the year who's battled arm problems the past couple of seasons and has never been effective at the major league level while Majewski profiles as a middle inning reliever. From the Expos side, the removal of Everett from the outfield could hasten the promotion of former Indian Ryan Church from triple-A.
Pat Borders was designated for assignment by the Mariners for the 94th time in his career.
Jesus Sanchez was designated by the Reds. Over the past three years, he's held opponents to a .213 batting average so it appears he has some potential as a LOOGY even though he's pitched better as a starter (4.85 ERA) than a reliever (8.33 ERA). Sanchez was once a top prospect with the Mets and Marlins but he's since faded to journeyman status, mostly because he can't get the ball over the plate (4.82 BB / 9 IP). I'm not sure if I'd give up a 40-spot for him but he could be an interesting guy to take a look at on a minor league deal if he clears waivers (not sure if he can refuse assignment and become a free-agent).
All riiiight Hamilton ($1 to Spicoli and Spiez).
July 16, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, July 16
One down (and not in the right column). It doesn't get any easier tonight with Jamie Moyer on the mound. Termendous outing from Jake Westbrook. Nice to see Jody Gerut go deep. It will be interesting to see if he's in the lineup tonight against Moyer. The same with Travis Hafner who had two hits last night. A definite wasted opportunity given Westbrook's performance. Let's see what the weekend brings.
Scott Stewart and Jose Jimenez both accepted their assignments to triple-A and will report to Buffalo. Stewart will continue to work out of the 'pen while Jimenez will join the Bisons rotation. By staying with the Tribe, both will continue to be paid the remainder of their 2004 contracts which will pay Stewart ($850k) approximately $400k and Jimenez ($1.025m) approximately $500k over the second-half of the season. If they had chosen free-agency and signed elsewhere, the best offer they would have likely received would have been a minor league deal that would have paid a prorated share of the major league minimum ($300k) upon recall to the major leagues. Financially, it just made sense for them to stay with the Tribe. As for the future, since they're not on the 40, I would assume that both can become minor league free-agents in the off-season. If they do get added to the 40 later this year, Stewart would remain under the Indians control through the arbitration process while I believe that Jimenez would have enough service time to become a major league free-agent.
Late note: Stephanie Storm reports in the ABJ this morning that Jimenez is in Akron and will throw a couple of games in the bullpen before reporting to Buffalo.
Brian Tallet continues to cruise along in his rehab appearances as he's not allowed an earned run in six appearances, two each for Akron, Lake County, and Mahoning Valley.
Eric Crozier was named the International League Player of the Month for June after he hit .324 and slugged .730 with 8 homeruns and 21 RBIs for the Bisons. Crozier has stayed hot into July as he's raised his averages to .300/.381/.617/.998 with 19 longballs.
In a move that left Carolina League pitchers rejoicing, Ryan Garko received a well-deserved promotion yesterday when he was moved up from Kinston to Akron. The catcher/first-basemen/DH leaves the Carolina League leading the circuit in slugging percentage (.609), tied for second in on-base percentage (.425), fourth in batting average (.328), third in homeruns (16), fifth in runs batted in (57), and tied for fourth in extra-base hits (34). He debuted last night with a double while playing first base for the Aeros. Garko joins Michael Aubrey as the second member of the 2003 draft class to reach double-A. Not bad for a player who was expected to start the season at Lake County.
Scott Pratt had a pair of hits in the double-A All-Star game.
A spy reports that Franklin Gutierrez's elbow injury may be season-ending. Let's hope not. I haven't seen anything official from the Tribe on Gutierrez.
Eider Torres banged out four hits in the K-Tribe's double-header sweep of Salem yesterday and has now hit safely in 23 of his last 30 games to raise his average to .309 for the season. Over that span, the fleet-footed second basemen has hit .350 (43-for-123) with 12 doubles and 14 stolen bases. Rule 5 eligible, Torres is building a case for himself to be considered "40-worthy" in the off-season.
Kieran Mattison was placed on the Kinston DL with inflammation in his right triceps. Acquired in the Brian Anderson deal last summer, Mattison has a 7.77 ERA in 13 appearances for the K-Tribe this year.
The K-Tribe added first-basemen Pat Magness to their roster. He had been released by the Marlins double-A affiliate Carolina last week after hitting .211 with five homeruns for the Mudcats. Orginally drafted by the Marlins out of Wichita State in the 12th round of the 2000 draft, the 26-year old Magness enjoyed his best season in the Florida State League in 2002 when he hit .292 with 16 homeruns.
Nick Pesco turned in another strong outing for the Captains this past Monday as the big right-hander tossed five scoreless innings in a 3-1 victory over Kannapolis. Over his past eight starts, Pesco has fashioned a 1.44 ERA while allowing just 30 hits and 9 walks in 43.2 innings with 30 strikeouts.
It was feast or famine last night for Travis Foley in a rehab appearance for Mahoning Valley as the right-hander recorded both of his outs via the punchout but also walked three batters, all of whom came around to score. Foley had previously worked two innings earlier in the week for the Scrappers, allowing a run on three hits. He's recovering from a strained ligament in his right elbow that has kept him on the sidelines since mid-May.
Dan Cevette continues to shine in the Valley as he worked five scoreless innings last night to lower his ERA to a sensational 1.41 in six appearances. He's now struck out 35 (three last night) in 32 innings and has allowed only 23 hits and just five walks. A promotion to Lake County cannot be far off.
Chris Gimenez blasted his NY-Penn leading 6th homerun last night, to go along with a single and double, and is now hitting .298/.404/.583/.987 for the Scrappers.
Chuck Lofgren struck out three but also served up a three-run jack in his pro debut, finishing with four runs allowed in one inning on the bump. The Burlington Times noted that he was throwing 96 mph. Think the southpaw had the adreniline flowing a little that night?
Tony Sipp fared much better in his debut as he struck out six in the Valley while allowing just one hit and no walks in three innings in the Scrappers 11-2 victory over Johnstown on Tuesday. For Sipp, this is just a continuance of the dominance he displayed in the Cape Cod League this summer.
The Indians signed 30th round pick Alfred Ard, an outfielder from Southern University. In signing with the Tribe, Ard is passing on his final season of football eligibility where he was a first-team All-SWAC wide receiver (51 rec, 886 yds, 11 TD) for the Jaguars. Due to his football commitments, "Double A" only played two years of organized baseball at Southern. Sounds toolsy.
The Indians have now signed 24 of their 50 selections. Jeremy Sowers (1st) and Justin Hoyman (2nd) will eventually bring that total to 26. Aside from those two, the only non-flier or non-DFE remaining would be 10th round pick Reinaldo Alicano from Puerto Rico.
Jose Cruz was released from Mahoning Valley. Since being drafted in the 36th round of the 2001 draft out of Puerto Rico, Cruz never made it out of the short-season leagues and hit .237 with six homeruns in just under 400 career ABs for the Tribe. He was hitting .225 with a longball for the Scrappers this year.
Ellis Burks underwent knee surgery and will be out until September. The Mets activated Karim Garcia from the disabled list. Nick Bierbrodt cleared waivers and was sent to the Rangers triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. Joe Winkelsas announced his retirement.
I agree with Terry Pluto, let's bring in The Mailman.
July 15, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Thursday, July 15
The Indians open the second-half of the season tonight in Seattle three games under .500 at 42-45 and trailing the first place White Sox by 5-1/2 games. With only 17 games remaining before the July 31 trade deadline, the Tribe has their work cut out for them if they are to "stablize" themselves two or three games over .500 for Mark Shapiro to add to the roster for the stretch run. Fortunately for the Indians, they have a very favorable schedule lined up for the rest of the month with only two games scheduled against a team with a .500 record, and I'm not talking about the White Sox. Check this out...
The month starts with four games in Seattle against the Mariners. The same Mariners who have the second worst record in the American League at 32-54, the same Mariners who are 19-22 at home, the same Mariners who have lost nine in a row, and the same Mariners who recently designated Rich Aurilia for assignment and are expected to do the same with John Olerud today. This is a franchise reeling and the Tribe has a golden opportunity to take three or four in Safeco this weekend.
Next up is Anaheim for two games against the Angels. These are the two over .500 games that I'm talking about as the Angels are 47-40 and 23-18 at home. A split here would be fine.
Thankfully, the second game in Anaheim is an afternoon affair as the Tribe then returns home for a pair of games against the first-place White Sox. Wait a minute, if the Sox are in first place, how can these not be games against a team with an above .500 record? It's true that the Sox are 46-38 for the season but they're also a below .500 18-21 on the road while the Tribe is 26-20 at home. Admittedly, I may be having some fun with the numbers but the point is that the Sox have not played well on the road while the Tribe has played well at home. The Indians need to win both games here although a split is better than being swept. Man, do I have an astute command of the obvious, or what?.
The Royals come to town next for four games over the weekend, including a double-dip on Saturday. Kansas City has the worst record in the American League and have been absolutely absymal on the road with a 12-30 record in the first half. It's another opportunity for the Tribe to feast.
Following the Royals, it's the Tigers who visit the Jake for three games. They're currently tied with the Tribe for third in the central and enter the second-half with a 21-26 record on the road. Another edge to the Tribe.
That concludes the nine game homestand and sends the Indians out on the road to Kansas City for three games against the Royals (two in July and one in August) and into the trade deadline. KC has played better at home (19-24) than on the road but this is still a pretty bad ballclub the Indians will be facing to round out the month.
So that's a total of 10 games against the two worst clubs in the American League, five games at home against two clubs who have played under .500 on the road, and two games against a team with an above .500 record. If the Tribe goes 10-7 over these 17 games, they'll end the month right at .500 at 52-52. An 11-6 mark puts them at 53-51 and a 12-5 stretch puts them at 54-50. Is that asking too much from this club? Possibly. 12 wins would mean the Indians played .700 ball but when you look at the schedule, it's certainly possible, isn't it?
The opportunity is there.
The second-half starts tonight.
P.S. Paul Sullivan revisits Batgate on its 10th anniversary in the Chicago Tribune.
July 14, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Jimenez outrighted to Buffalo
Jose Jimenez cleared waivers and was outrighted to Buffalo. The official release says that he will assume a spot in the Bisons rotation. More in the next CIR.
CIR UPDATE: Peralta is Hot
Despite being in a state of "BA Purgatory", Jhonny Peralta earns a special mention on the latest Prospect Hot Sheet from Baseball America. Ryan Garko makes the honorable mention list.
July 13, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Dishing up some Sizemore
A Q&A with Grady Sizemore is featured in today's installment of Baseball America's Daily Dish. Sizemore was also named as the #7 prospect in the game by BA in a mid-season top 25 update. Franklin Gutierrez (#22) and Michael Aubrey (#23) also made the list.
July 12, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Stewart sticks with Tribe
Scott Stewart has accepted an assignment to Buffalo and will report there after the All-Star break. More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Monday, July 12
If I had told you on opening day that the Indians would be 42-45 at the All-Star break, would you have been happy? After all, that's a marked increase from last season when they were 41-53 at the break. Even better, the Tribe was 11 games out last July while they trail the first-place White Sox by only 5-1/2 games this year. Not bad for a club that most fans thought would be hovering around the 70 win mark again this year, huh?
An encouraging first-half ended with an outstanding effort by Cliff Lee yesterday in shutting down the Athletics for seven innings after the debacle on Saturday night. He may have been bypassed for the All-Star team this year but I have a feeling there's going to be plenty of All-Star oppprtunities in Mr. Lee's future.
I can's say enough about the return of Bob Wickman. Three games, three innings pitched, no runs allowed, three Tribe wins. David Riske has similarly looked strong the last two outings in recording back-to-back saves. With Rafael Betancourt back on board (activated this weekend with Cliff Bartosh optioned to Buffalo), the bullpen now sets up as Riske closing with Wickman, Raffy, Howry, and Miller in the 7th and 8th and White and Robertson working the middle innings and long relief. I'm not about to say I'm no longer worried about the 'pen but I'm cautiously optimistic they're going to have a strong second half.
Congratulations to Jake Westbrook on being named to the American League All-Star Team as a replacement for Curt Schilling. Westbrook heads to Houston with the 3rd best ERA in the American League at 3.21 and with his trusty sinker in hand, which has allowed him to post the second highest GB/FB ratio in the league at 2.70. He's also been extremely economical with his pitches as his 14.8 P/IP ranks 5th in the circuit. It's been an amazing first-half for Jake and an honor well-deserved. I hope he sees action tomorrow night.
Speaking of All-Star activity, Michael Aubrey struck out and Fausto Carmona did not make an appearance in the Futures Game yesteday which was won by the U.S. squad 4-3. Former Indians Willy Taveras was hitless in two trips to the dish.
Bad news out of Buffalo as Alex Escobar is out for the season after an examination revealed that surgery is required to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. The injury ends a strange and disappointing season for Escobar in which he showed an improved eye at the plate (23 BBs in 152 ABs versus 31 BBs in 538 ABs last year) but failed to show any of the power (.309 SLG, 1 HR) that has titillated scouts for years. A demotion to Buffalo enabled Escobar to re-discover his power stroke as he belted four longballs and was slugging .556 but the foot injury puts an end to all that. For the record, Escobar finishes the season hitting .211/.318/.309/.627 with 8 doubles and 1 homerun in 152 at-bats for the Indians and .286/.348/.556/.904 with 5 doubles and 4 homeruns in 63 at-bats for the Bisons. He is expected to be ready for the start of the spring training.
Needless to say, the loss of Escobar removes a potentially valuable trade chip the Indians may have held for this summer and in the off-season. That's not to say that Escobar could have commanded the type of talent in return that he could have fetched several years ago when he was a more highly-regarded prospect, because he couldn't. Escobar's value, in trade, for the Indians was that he played a position in which the Indians have a lot of depth and, therefore, could be deemed expendable in trade. Now the Indians will likely have to accept less in an Escobar trade (because he's injured) or they'll have to include someone else in the deal which may or may not be something they want to do. Tough break for Escobar. Tough break for the Tribe. Depending on what happens with the off-season, I could still see him breaking camp with the Indians as an extra outfielder. In fact, that may be where he profiles best right now anyway, a good defensive backup outfielder who can play all three outfield positions and provide some pop and speed off the bench. There's definite value (perhaps not so much in trade, however) in that type of player for a soon-to-be contending team like the Indians and a lot of players have enjoyed long careers with similar skills.
Andrew Brown flashed the form with which he dominated the Southern League earlier this year when he struck out eight in five innings of work in the Aeros 1-0 loss to Erie yesterday. Brown allowed just the one run and did not walk a batter while scattering four hits. That's the type of performance the Tribe envisioned when they tabbed him as the PTBNL in the Milton Bradley deal. Hopefully, this signifies that his right arm is no longer fatigued, which disabled him for a few weeks last month. Dennis Manoloff listed Jeremy Guthrie, Fausto Carmona, Fernando Cabrera, Adam Miller, and Jake Dittler as the Indians top five pitching prospects in the Plain Dealer yesterday but a healthy Brown would certainly fit into that mix as well.
By the way, Manoloff noted that Miller's velocity has increased from 90-93 mph to 94-97 mph and that he had five pitches clocked between 98-100 mph in the South Atlantic League All-Star game last month. That's just filthy.
The Indians purchased the contract of right-hander Landon Stockman from the Amarillo Dillas of the Central League and assigned him to Kinston where he debuted with a scoreless inning yesterday. Stockman was originally a 13th round pick of the Tigers in 2001 draft out of Kennesaw State and had a couple of decent years in relief for the Tigers before being released this spring and hooking up with the indy leagues. In 18 appearances for the Dillas, Stockman had a 4.21 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 25.2 innings.
Chris Niesel continues to be nasty in the Valley as he tossed five innings of two-hit ball yesterday in the Scrappers 7-3 victory over Batavia. The former Golden Domer has now retired 40 of the 47 batters he's faced this year and has allowed just three hits and three walks in 13.1 innings with 16 punchouts. Nasty.
July 09, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Louuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!
Merloni comes through with the big first-pitch, two-run pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 9th to give the Indians a 5-4 come from behind victory over the Athletics. This team never gives up! Louuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu!!
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, July 9
Yesterday was not a good day for the Tribe. The bats were silent, the pitching was awful, and former Indian Ricardo Rodriguez notched his first complete game and first shutout against his former squad. Not a good day. To top it all off, the Indians finally made the decision to send Jason Davis down to Buffalo which could mean we're going to be stuck with a couple more Scott Elarton starts. Not a good day. (but more on that later).
The Tribe has now dropped three of four, seven of ten, and stand four games under .500 and seven games behind the surging Twins who have won four in a row. To say these next three games against the Athletics are important is the obvious. To say a sweep of these three games is needed is more accurate.
If the Tribe is to contend in the second-half, they'll have to do it without Jason Davis who was optioned to Buffalo after a first-half in which the right-hander posted the worst batting average against (.322), the worst on-base percentage against (.383), the sixth worst slugging percentage against (.472), the worst walks/hits to innings pitched ratio (1.78), the seventh worse strikeout/walk ratio (1.38), and threw the fourth most pitches per innings pitched (17.1) amongst regular American League starters. He also posted the fifth worst ERA (6.00) although he has expensive company at the bottom of that category in Derek Lowe, Sidney Ponson, and Bartolo Colon.
2004 actually started out fairly well for Davis as he allowed no more than three earned runs in four of his first five starts although he never pitched more than 6-2/3 in any of those outings. Hey, I said fairly well. His next five starts forecast the inconsistency that would plague Davis throughout the first half as he allowed five runs in each of those outings before rebounding with back-to-back strong starts in which he allowed just three earned runs in 13-1/3 innings. From there, it was one good start, one bad start. Or maybe, two bad starts and one good start. Either way, there were certainly more bad than good and his final three starts (after he had held the Braves to two runs and four hits in seven innings on June 20) in which he allowed 16 runs in 16 innings and never made it out of the sixth inning in any of those appearances sealed his fate.
Eric Wedge says that Davis needs to be more efficient with his fastball and develop a consistent release point, which is a mechanical issue that can often cause trouble for taller pitchers. I think he also needs to develop a strikeout pitch and learn how to finish off hitters as his low K/IP ratio (62 K's in 102 innings) would attest to. Those numbers are all the more surprising, or worrisome, when you consider he throws in the mid-to-upper 90s. At any rate, this is a good move for the Indians as well as Davis. He certainly wasn't helping the club win now at the big league level and the added pressure of the Indians trying to remain in the AL Central race probably wasn't helping matters either. At Buffalo, Davis should be able to work on his mechanics in a non-pressure environment and, hopefully, restore his confidence and right the ship. Or so the thinking goes.
Here's a couple of quirky stats for you. Opposing #8 hitters were hitting .457 against Davis while the #3 and #4 hitters in the lineup were hitting .226 and .292 against him. Does that indicate a lack of focus throughout the lineup? Additionally, opposing hitters were hitting Davis at a .303/.796 clip through the first three innings and a .346/.923 clip in innings four through six. Does that indicate he can only work through the lineup once? Does that indicate he tires quickly? Maybe. But what that mostly tells me is that hitters weren't fooled the first time through the lineup as evidenced by the .303 average and in their second and third trips to the dish they waited Davis out (remember he threw the 4th most pitches per innings in the AL) until he left a pitch over the plate and then teed off on him. For the record, Davis heads to triple-A with a 2-6 record and 6.00 ERA in 18 starts for the Tribe, allowing 137 hits and 45 walks in 102 innings while striking out 62. This will be Davis' first appearance in triple-A as he jumped right from Akron to Cleveland late in 2002.
Cliff Bartosh was recalled from Buffalo to take Davis' spot on the roster. His stay may last as long as it takes Rafael Betancourt to be activated off the disabled list. Unless, they choose to farm out Jeriome Robertson for Betancourt. We'll see. Betancourt is scheduled to make a rehab appearance this weekend.
Kaz Tadano will assume Davis' spot in the rotation after the all-star break. He worked three scoreless innings of relief yesterday before tiring in the 8th, giving up five runs, including three on Babe Dellucci's second homer of the game. Scott Elarton took the loss after allowing five runs in four innings, serving up three meatballs in the process. Elarton now has a 5.96 ERA and 18 walks in six starts for the Tribe and while the experiment may have been worthwhile, it may be time to pull the plug and move on. Jason Stanford could be ready by the end of the month but I wouldn't mind seeing Kyle Denney get a couple of starts in the meantime.
Eric Crozier reached the .300 mark last night in Buffalo with a pair of hits, including his 15th double of the season. More impressively, Crozier now has an OPS of 1.000 thanks to a .382 OBP and .618 SLG percentage with 18 longballs. Yeah, he turns 26 next month but he's posting career numbers across the board in his first taste of triple-A which is encouraging. If he's not added to the 40-man roster in the off-season, I would think he'd make for an attractive Rule 5 pick in December, not to mention some interesting trade bait.
There's hot and then there's "Peralta hot" as the sweet swinging shortstop belted two more homeruns last night, giving him four in his last four games and seven in his last eight games. Peralta now has nine longballs on the season and is slugging .500 with a .985 OPS. Niiiiiiiice. Say what you want Szabo, but the man is hot.
Dan Denham picked up his second win in four double-A starts last night when he limited Reading to just one unearned run in six innings of work in the Aeros 6-1 victory over the Phillies. Included in that performance was two strikeouts of Phillies slugger Ryan Howard who has belted an astonishing 33 homeruns already this year. Denham now has a 2.53 ERA in four starts for Akron and has allowed just 15 hits in 21.1 innings. It's worth noting that his command needs work as he's walked 13 while striking out 14.
Brian Tallet worked another scoreless innings in relief of Denham last night.
Brad Snyder is quietly putting together a solid full-season debut in Lake County as he belted his 9th homerun last night in the Captains 4-3 loss to Lexington. Despite missing the first 20-some games of the year with an eye infection, the 2003 first round pick is now hitting .282/.383/.480/.863 with 23 extra-base hits, including those nine big flys. While he's still striking out a lot (57 in 227 ABs), it's down from 2003 (82 in 225 ABs) and he's still walking quite a bit (35 walks). I hope to see continued improvement in the second half and wouldn't be surprised if a promotion to Kinston is in the works later this month.
How about a Rule 5 update? Luis Gonzalez has seen his playing time diminish of late with the hot play of Aaron Miles in Colorado and is hitting .255/.298/.423/.721 with 7 homeruns for the Rockies. Hector Luna remains on the Cardinals roster as a backup infielder, seeing time in 41 games but receiving only 75 at-bats in which he's hitting .240 with a pair of homeruns. Lino Urdaneta is on the Tigers 60-day disabled list with a sore right elbow and I have a feeling he may be done for the year but I have nothing to base that on other than my own speculation. Matt White, whom the Rockies returned to the Indians who later traded him to Kansas City, has a 4.79 ERA and 19 walks in 20.2 innings for Omaha in triple-A. And finally, Willy Taveras, who was traded to the Astros for Jeriome Robertson, has 32 steals and is hitting .342 (but with just eight extra-base hits) for double-A Round Rock and will play for the World Team in the Futures Game on Sunday.
If Carlos Boozer ends up with the Jazz, Jim Paxson needs to be fired. I don't care if Carlos bam-boozered the team and went back on his word, this travesty happened on Paxson's watch and he needs to be held accountable. If not just for failing to exercise Boozer's option or failing to read Boozer's intentions correctly, it's for signing Kevin Ollie and Ira Newble to those ridiculous contracts last summer that may ultimately prevent the Cavs from clearing enough space under the cap to match the Jazz' offer. The NBA really needs to re-examine the rules surrounding players like Boozer and Gilbert Arenas last year (when he left Golden State for Washington) and offer teams some protection (or better options) should they strike gold with a second-round pick. Say what you want about the Indians, but I have no doubt that if a similar situation were to ever befell the Tribe, Mark Shapiro, Chris Antonetti, and Neal Huntington would have contingency plans A,B, and C lined up and ready to go. I have grave doubts over whether the Cavs are doing anything but scrambling this morning. This may be one of the worst moments in Cleveland sports history and that's saying a lot.