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September 30, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Thursday, September 30
Note: No update on Kyle Denney as I write this. Hopefully, that means everything is fine and he's on his way to Minnesota.
As the off-season rapidly approaches, the Indians brass continues to let out little hints as to which direction they may head at certain positions. Some of this we've been speculating about for awhile but it's worth noting again now that it's coming from the decision-makes in the organization. The latest bit of info came yesterday when Eric Wedge told the local papers that "It would be tough for us to have two new guys (Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Phillips) out there". So now the question becomes, which of the young guys would be out there and who would be manning the other spot?
Giving this a quick breakdown (we'll have plenty of time to discuss this more in-depth in the upcoming months), if Peralta starts at shortstop that would open the door for the return of Ronnie Belliard at second, a move of either Casey Blake or Aaron Boone to second, or the signing of a veteran free-agent. If Phillips starts at second, that could allow for the return of Omar Vizquel at short. A veteran free-agent signing is possible but I can't see the Indians not bringing back Vizquel if Peralta is not the starter. Can you? The above is all based on the assumption of Peralta being viewed primarily as a shortstop and Phillips as a second basemen. Of course, Casey Blake could also see time in the outfield (if Matt Lawton is traded) or first basemen (spelling Ben Broussard) so the Indians have a lot of options as to how they can and will proceed.
As for Belliard, Paul Hoynes noted in the PD the other day that Belliard could command $4-5 million in arbitration and speculated the Indians could offer him a two-to-three year deal (hopefully for less dollars) with Mark Shapiro saying "Belliard is a genuine option". Hey, Belliard has been a pleasant surprise for the Indians this year and has earned every penny of the $1.1 million the Indians are paying him but if he makes more than $2 million next year with any team (not just the Indians), the front office executive who makes that decision needs to have his medicine cabinet checked for the crazy pills.
This is no knock against Belliard. He's had a solid season (.280/.347/.419/.768) but even with the hot start (.417 in April) and all the doubles (47) his .768 OPS falls right in line with the .788 OPS he posted in Milwaukee in 2001 and the .760 OPS he posted in Colorado last year. In other words, he's not having a career year, he's having an average year (for him). He was a good signing (for the price) and has had a good year (for the price as well as compared to the low expectations many of us had for him) but he's not worth $4-5 million, let alone $2 million in today's market. I'd just as soon slide over Casey Blake or turn the position over to Brandon Phillips and allocate that money to the pitching staff or other needs. Fortunately, I don't see the Indians giving us a repeat of Ricky Gutierrez (i.e., overpaying for an average middle infielder) this off-season if we're talking about those kinds of dollars. I think they've learned that lesson.
Let it also be noted that Mark Shapiro was quoted in the PD on Wednesday as saying that he could "go that way" in regards to starting both Phillips and Peralta and noted that Oakland is likely to win their division with a pair of inexperienced starters, former Indian Marco Scutaro and rookie Bobby Crosby, up the middle. Now this could be the truth or merely GMspeak to keep all options open. What it really hints at is how fluid the situation could be based on the number of options the Indians have and may present themselves in the off-season.
Oh yeah, Eric Wedge also said that both Peralta and Phillips could both make the opening day roster with one serving in a utility role. If that's the case, John McDonald is going to have a fight on his hands once again this spring.
Jody Gerut's knee surgery went well on Monday and he's expected to need six-to-nine months of recovery time. Early speculation would have Gerut rounding into shape late in spring training before heading out on a rehab assignment in April and then ready for the big leagues in May. Knowing Gerut, however, and how hard he works in the off-season, I wouldn't be surprised if he tries to accelerate that timeline. Whether the Indians go along with that or choose to remain cautious with the outfielder will be interesting to see late next spring. As of right now, I think we should assume that Jody will not be ready for opening day which opens an outfield (or just an extra) roster spot for someone (Ryan Ludwick, Josh Phelps, ???).
Hey, how about that sweep? Sure, it's the Royals but a sweep is a sweep. The Tribe now stands just one game under .500 (79-80) as they enter the final three games of the season in Minnesota. Fortunately, Johan Santana made his final start of the season yesterday against the Yankees so at least we don't have to face that buzzsaw. Of course, the ageless Terry Mulholland (1.29 in 14 IP vs. the Tribe this year) takes the mound Friday and the Indians haven't been able to solve him this year. Maybe the third time will be the charm!
CIR UPDATE: Kyle Denney shot on team bus
Kyle Denney was struck by a bullet last night as the Indians team bus was on its way from Kaufmann Stadium to the Kansas City airport. Denney was on the second team bus and the bullet struck him on the right calf. Before nailing Denney, the bullet went through the pants of Ryan Ludwick, who was not injured. The AP reported that the bullet was fired into the passenger side of the bus. The Indians trainers removed the bullet from Denney's calf on the bus and he was then taken to a hospital for evaluation after the bus reached the airport. Incredibly enough, Paul Hoynes notes in the Plain Dealer that Denney was wearing a USC cheerleader's outfit with high white boots as part of a traditional rookie hazing ritual, of which Indians Director of Media Relations Bart Swain was quoted as saying that "our trainers said the boots may have saved Kyle from further injury". Denney, who allowed two runs in four innings last night in the Indians 5-2 victory over Kansas City, is expected to rejoin the team today in Minnesota. Needless to say, this could have been much, much worse. Thankfully, everyone looks like they're going to be all right. More in the next CIR.
September 29, 2004
CIR UPDATE: 50 years ago today...
Willie Mays made "The Catch" in game one of the 1954 World Series. "The Catch" that helped the Giants take game one and go onto an eventual sweep of the Indians. The same Indians that had won a record 111 games during the regular season and were considered unbeatable entering the World Series. As many times as you've seen the highlight, do you know the actual circumstances it was made under? I must admit that I was a little murky on the details myself so let's set the stage.
It's game one of the World Series. The Indians have runners on first and second, hall-of-famers Al Rosen (single) and Larry Doby (leadoff walk) respectively, in the top of the eighth inning of a 2-2 game. Giants Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher plays the precentages and brings in left-handed reliever Don Liddle to face Indians slugger Vic Wertz, who had already singled twice and doubled in the game. Liddle gets ahead of Wertz 1-2 in the count and then layes one over the plate which Wertz drives to deep centerfield. It looks like the Tribe has just broken open the game but...enter Mays and his over the shoulder catch. Rosen and Doby scamper back to their bases and the Giants have one away in the top of the 8th instead of trailing 4-2.
What's usually forgotten (or not talked about once the highlight is shown) is that the Indians ended up loading the bases that inning. Dale Mitchell walked after a series of pinch-hitting and pinch-pitching (tm) substitutions so the Tribe had the bases juiced with only one out. Alas, it was not meant to be as Dave Pope looked at strike three and then Jim Hegan flew out to left. The game eventually went into extras with the Giants winning it on a Dusty Rhodes pinch-hit three-run homerun in the bottom of the tenth. Rhodes would later go on to have two more pinch hits in the series as well as a mammoth homerun in game two that reportedly went off the right field facade at the top of the old stadium. That's a freakin' blast, my friends.
At any rate, 50 years ago today, Willie Mays began the unfortunate Cleveland tradition of infamous named plays/events that went against us. "The Catch" later begat "The Trade" or "The Curse of the Rock", "Red Right 88", "The Drive", "The Fumble", and "The Shot". My god, is it any wonder that ESPN named Cleveland the most tortured sports city in America. And it all started fifty years ago today. Say Hey!
CIR UPDATE: Adam Miller #4 in Sally League
Adam Miller was ranked as the number four prospect in the South Atlantic League by Baseball America coming in just behind mega-prospects Delmon Young, Ian Stewart, and Lastings Milledge. One manager was quoted as saying that Miller was the elite pitcher in the league while BA's John Manuel stated in the accompanying online chat that Miller was one of the top five pitching prospects in all the minor leagues. Did you catch that, ALL of the minor leagues. Even though he only made eight starts (not including the playoffs) in the Carolina League, it's going to be interesting to see if/where Miller is ranked in that circuit when the rankings are released next week. If Grady Sizemore is #1 in the system, then Miller is #1A. That's a pretty impressive combo to have sitting atop your organizational list. Miller is scheduled to open next season in Akron which will be a nice challenge for a kid only two years removed from high school.
No other Captains made the Sally League top 20 but recognize that this is a 16- team league so its very difficult to crack the top 20. BA also noted that this was the deepest prospect class the circuit has seen since Vlad Guerrero and Andruw Jones in 1995.
More in the next CIR which should be posted tomorrow.
September 27, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Monday, September 27
If there was ever a doubt that yesterday was the home finale for Omar Vizquel as an Indian in Jacobs Field, I think Eric Wedge cemented that fact when he removed Omar in the top of the 9th inning, allowing the shortstop to leave the field as the center of the fans thunderous applause. It was a nice gesture, a fitting gesture, and an appropriate ending for one of the Indians' all-time greats. While his final home game may have been unspectacular in both the final score (a 6-2 loss) and his performance (one hit in four trips to the plate), Vizquel went out in typical Omar style with a slow grounder to second that he nearly beat out with a head-first slide into the bag. Whether you love him or hate him for making those types of plays over the years, it was a fitting end, in my opinion, for Omar's final at-bat as an Indian at the Jake. Thanks for the memories Omar!
If you believe in signs, note the symbolic changing of the guard up the middle that took place when Jhonny Peralta replaced Vizquel at short in the top of 9th. I'll choose to accept Peralta's error three batters later as a case of a young player's yips on an emotional day rather than some sort of freakish omen or warning from the baseball gods.
Do you think it's a coincidence that John McDonald was also in the starting lineup for the home finale? Like Omar, Johnny Mac may be a victim of the numbers crunch in the infield this off-season/next spring. As it stands right now, Ben Broussard, Travis Hafner, Casey Blake, and Aaron Boone are guaranteed roster spots with Johnny Peralta and Ronnie Belliard the likely keystone combo up the middle. Add in two catchers and four outfielders and that leaves one extra spot (provided the Indians carry 12 pitchers as has been their norm the last few years) for McDonald and Brandon Phillips to battle for the utility infielder role not to mention Lou Merloni and Josh Phelps and/or Ryan Ludwick as a right-handed stick off the bench. Every spring it seems that McDonald has to fight for his roster spot and next year looks no different with increased competition to boot. As much as McDonald brings to the field with his incredible glove and to the clubhouse with his presence, character, and attitude, I would not be surprised to see the Indians go in a different direction with that role next season. If so, it was a nice gesture by the Indians letting Johnny Mac start his final home game at the Jake.
While the middle infield remains unsettled (at least publicly) heading into the off-season, Paul Hoynes reported in the Plain Dealer on Saturday that Ben Broussard is Eric Wedge's man at first base with the inference being that Broussard will be the starting first basemen next season. While this would appear to clarify one off-season question (who's on first), it does raise the question of how Josh Phelps and, perhaps, Ryan Ludwick will fit onto the roster. But we'll save that discussion for a later date(s). Broussard has earned the starting role thanks to a summer of clutch hits and a June-to-August stretch in which the lefty hit .306/.389/.573/.962 with 15 doubles, 12 homeruns, and 46 RBIs. Those numbers were highlighted by a red-hot August in which Broussard belted six longballs and posted a 1.060 OPS. Despite slumping in September (.215/.710), Broussard has apparently shown enough this season to be considered the starter heading into the off-season. If that statement sounds somewhat pessimistic (if that's the right word) or sarcastic (not the intent but maybe that's the better word), it's only made in the sense that the Indians have a lot of options on the infield corners and Broussard's trade value is as high as it's ever been right now. He'll be 28 next opening day, just entering his prime offensive years, and has even shown the ability to hit lefties this season, raking at a .371/.435/.694/1.128 clip this season in 62 at-bats (note the small sample size). Of course, those are all reasons why you would want to keep him too. And let's be honest, no organization ever says "we're going to trade him while the getting's good" so a deal remains a possibility although the Indians don't appear to be the type of organization who go back on the word if they tell a player they're starting or have a certain role (and that's a good thing). That said, Broussard does not fit the traditional profile of the American League power-hitting first basemen but, then again, the Indians lineup isn't exactly structured in a traditional American League power-driven manner. We'll have plenty of opportunity to discuss Broussard and all the options at the infield corners over the next five months but just note that, as it stands right now, Ben Broussard looks to be your opening day first basemen in 2005. It's nice to have one off-season question answered, isn't it?
In the bullpen, Hoynsie reported on Sunday that the Indians have informed Bob Wickman that it's his call on whether he wants to return next season. Based on Wickman's comments, "I finally finished a season healthy. My family got a good opportunity to watch me. Do I want to take a chance on getting hurt again next year and embarrassing myself and putting the Indians or another club in a jam? That's the big question.", it sounds like he might be contemplating retirement or am I just reading too much into those statements. After re-reading it, it sure sounds to me like someone who's unsure whether he wants to pitch at all next season, let alone with the Indians. Wickman will be a free-agent this off-season and he did indicate over the summer that he would be interested in a club-friendly (i.e., incentive-based) contract for 2005 out of loyalty to the Indians for sticking with him through his injuries, so if he does pitch in 2005, I'm going to speculate that it's probably going to be with the Tribe. Note that since signing a three-year, $15 million deal with the Indians in November 2001, Wickman has appeared in just 63 games. Since his return in July, Wick has a 4.73 ERA with 32 hits allowed in 26.2 innings but he's saved 11 games in 12 opportunities which, despite some edge-of-the-seat closings, is, by far, the best percentage by an Indians closer this season. Eric Wedge also indicated over the weekend that he does not see Jason Davis closing next year but I would interpret that as closing out of spring training. That would seem to open the door for an experienced closer like Wickman, or perhaps even Bobby Howry, to begin the season as the closer with Jason Davis, or another reliever, being groomed as closer-in-waiting. If the Indians and Wickman can agree on terms, I would not be surprised to see Wick at the back of the bullpen again next spring. If so, it's not a move without risk given his sometimes shaky performance this season but he would be the veteran closer this team lacked early this season. As with Broussard above, we'll have plenty of time for further discussion on the bullpen in the upcoming months.
On the injury front, Jody Gerut will have knee surgery to repair a torn ACL and Kaz Tadano's back is feeling better after resting for two weeks. Whether he'll undergo surgery is still undecided.
5-1 for 81-81. Six games to go.
September 24, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, September 24
With the Indians home schedule wrapping up against the Twins, here's 10 reasons why you should be at the Jake this weekend.
1) Adios, Senor Vizquel
Barring a surprise this off-season, these will likely be the final three opportunities for you to see Omar Vizquel play at the Jake in an Indians uniform. He's the last link to the "era of champions", the only Indians shortstop the Jacobs Field dirt has ever known, and a potential hall-of-famer whose defensive wizardry we're unlikely to see again on a regular basis. Thanks for the memories, Omar!
2) Three in a row.
Don't look now but the Indians have won three in a row. Depending on how much the Twins rest their regulars (they're battling Oakland/Anaheim for home-field advantage) since they've already clinched, the Tribe may have a nice opportunity to take a couple this weekend.
3) Strong Finish (.500 or bust)
At 75-78, the Indians need to go 6-3 over their last nine games to finish the season at .500. A strong finish builds momentum into 2005, especially with six games remaining against the first-place Twins.
4) The weather is here, the baseball is beautiful
A slight modification of one of my favorite Jimmy Buffett tunes but you get the point. Put off the yardwork for a weekend. The weather should be great and it's your last chance to check out a ballgame before the weather turns and we all head inside for the winter. You don't need a better reason than that, do you?
5) Coco es muy Loco
Over his last four games, Coco Crisp is hitting .562 (9-for-16) and has raised his average to just south of the magical .300 mark at .295. Compare his numbers (.295/.341/.444/.785) with Milton Bradley's (.266/.350/.415/.765) and then recognize that we also landed two of our probable top ten prospects in Franklin Gutierrez and Andrew Brown in the Bradley deal. Very nice. I'd still like to see Coco walk more and secure a position at the top of the lineup, his late-season rise in OBP is more of a reflection of his increased BA than an increased walk rate (which has remained relatively stable), but his strong finish over the last two months has certainly placed him in a position where he should be playing everyday in 2005.
6) Peek into the Future
Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta (maybe at 3B?), Brandon Phillips, and Francisco Cruceta will all be on display this weekend. Jason Davis will likely be coming out of the 'pen throwing 100 mph cheese. Jeremy Guthrie and Fernando Cabrera too, give or take three-to-six miles per hour. They'll all factor heavily in the Indians off-season moves and they'll all spend time in the bigs next year. The future is now.
7) Johan Santana
If you go tonight, you can check out the probable American League Cy Young winner in action. Simply put, there has been no better pitcher in baseball over the past six weeks. Since August 12, Santana has a microscopic 0.77 ERA covering 58 innings and eight starts. He's struck out 71 while walking only seven with 35 hits. The southpaw also carries a 30-inning scoreless streak into tonight's start against the Tribe. If he shuts down the Indians, you'll witness a part of history. If the Tribe beats him up, you'll walk out of the Jake with a smile on your face knowing the good guys raked against this years Cy Young. Either way, you're a winner.
8) Free Stuff
It's free appreciation weekend. They're giving away stuff. Take the kids, they'll love whatever they get. Plus, you (and the kids) can run the bases on Sunday.
9) A Place to Think
You know, with the above said, it's probably going to be pretty empty down there and you'll likely have some room to stretch out and do some thinking while you're watching batting practice or the players warm-up before the game. Where might your mind wander? Maybe to whether Matt Lawton will return next year or be dealt for pitching? Maybe to whether either Casey Blake or Aaron Boone can play the outfield to fit them both into the lineup? Maybe to Ronnie Belliard and where he fits into the mix with Peralta and Phillips ready for the show? Maybe to who's going to close next year and is this the home farewell for Bob Wickman? Maybe to David Riske and whether the Indians can afford to pay the arbitration-eligible reliever next season or could/should those dollars be allocated elsewhere? Maybe to Matt Miller, Bobby Howry, Rafael Betancourt, and all the other relievers and how different the makeup of bullpen may look next spring in Winter Haven? Maybe to Josh Phelps and Ryan Ludwick and how their right-handed power bats fit into the mix? Maybe to the free-agent market and what pitchers may fall into the Indians price range? Maybe to the scoreboard to see if Matt Clement is throwing for the Cubs. Hey, he's a free-agent, isn't he? Sure is, just be careful about that back. Or, maybe, your thoughts will simply be "where's the beer guy?". That'll work too.
10) They're your team
Whether they win or lose, the Indians are your team. Through the ups and downs of this roller coaster season, the Tribe has provided us with six months of excitement and whetted our appetite for what is to come. That performance deserves a tip of the cap at the end of the season. Get out to the park one more time and let 'em know how you feel (and that we're expecting big things in 2005).
September 23, 2004
CIR UPDATE: BA Top 20 Lists
Baseball America has started the process of unveiling their annual League Top 20 Prospect lists. Today, the NY-Penn League hit the website. Your champion Mahoning Valley Scrappers placed three players within the top 20. Left-hander Tony Sipp was ranked #8 with Mike Butia coming in at #12 and Argenis Reyes at #18. Sipp continues to be a nice scouting find for the Indians, both in terms of his performance (74K in 43IP) and in getting him signed after he fell to the 45th round due to signability concerns. Butia was noted as a masher who has a good approach to the plate. Reyes, who seemingly had a hit in every game, was touted as a potential leadoff hitter if he can draw more walks.
Juan Valdes (#18) was the lone Burlington player to crack the Appy League top 20. Scouts and managers raved about his speed and defensive skills but noted that his bat (contact and strength) needs to be improved. Valdes' set of tools makes him a player to watch next year in Lake County.
One thing to note about these league top 20 lists is that they're not all created equal. Or, rather, making the top 20 list is an easier accomplishment in some leagues than others. For example, the Carolina League only has eight teams while the South Atlantic League has sixteen teams. If you figure 25 players per team, being in the top 20 of the 200 Carolina League players places you in the top 10% whereas a top 20 ranking amongst the 400 Sally League players places you in the top 5% in that circuit. This is simply an example for illustration purposes. Also recognize that leagues can have down years in terms of prospects so being in the top five one year may not be as impressive an accomplishment as in other years. The same can be said about team prospect lists as well. Just because the Red Sox (a weak system) have a #3 prospect and the Indians (a strong system) have a #3 prospect does not necessarily mean that they are equally well-regarded prospects. The rankings are just a reflection of the overall strength and depth of the particular team, or league for the league prospect lists. They are interesting to read and discuss, however, and they do represent a barometer for where a player may stand in relation to other prospects but the rankings do need to be taken into context.
BA's upcoming schedule includes the South Atlantic League (Sept 28), Carolina League (Sept 30), Eastern League (Oct 4), and the International League (Oct 7).
Hey, two wins in a row for the Tribe. Brilliant!
September 21, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, September 21
The amount of information made available to the general public via the internet is one of the greater achievements of the past 50 years. But every pro has its con. For the better part of an hour, I've been searching for a specific scene/quote from the movie Bull Durham for today's report. On the surface, that doesn't sound too difficult. Just google a Bull Durham transcript and off you go. It's the internet, some superfan has posted it, right?. Right. It's there. The only problem is that it's wrong. Just search for lollyjaggers in the script and you'll see what I mean. I suspect that this is the written script which, unfortuntely, differs from the version that made it onto the big screen and which, unfortunately, doesn't serve my immediate needs. Being the nerd that I am, and not wanting to admit defeat, that set me off on a more thorough search through the deeper reaches of the 'net. From site to site, I surfed, riding the waves through countless pages (why didn't they have classes like this when I was in school?), completely losing track of time. If you've ever conducted this type of search you know how easy it is to do that (did you know that the bat-boy who told Crash to "get a hit" cried when Crash replied "shut up". Apparantly, Kevin Costner ad-libbed the line and the kid thought he was serious). So, that said, what was going to be today's report is not. But I tried. It's a stronger man than I that can surf through movie quote sites and not get sidetracked.
Let me leave you with this. The Tribe is 5-12 in September. They're 9-23 since August 15. This is the second consecutive September (7-18 in '03) in which the Tribe has limped to the finish line. Eric Wedge needs to get this ship righted over the next two weeks to carry some positive vibes into the off-season. With seven games left against Minnesota, they have that opportunity. Even if the Twins (who clinched the division last night) give their regulars some rest over those seven games, a strong performance by the Tribe would be a nice confidence boost headed into 2005.
Francisco Cruceta makes his major league debut tonight. What you should be watching in Cruceta is how he commands his fastball. Whether he throws it for a ball or a strike, of course, but, more importantly, how he commands his fastball within the strike-zone. Is he moving it up and down in the zone, is he hitting the corners or leaving it over the fat part of the outside half of the plate. Throwing strikes is obviously the first step (i.e., control) but where you place that strike within the zone is the key. More than likely, Cruceta will open next season in Buffalo but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he could contend for a rotation spot this spring. Tonight is audition number one for the right-hander.
September 20, 2004
CIR UPDATE: See you tomorrow
Despite my best intentions, today's report will be postponed until tomorrow. I'll talk to you then.
September 18, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Saturday, September 18
The Buffalo Bisons are the 2004 International League champs after defeating Richmond last night 6-1 to win the Governors Cup series three games to one. Evan Thomas allowed a run in the third inning but was otherwise sensational as he limited the Braves to just five hits while walking none and striking out eight. He retired the last 13 batters he faced and 18 of the last 19. I don't think he's headed back to the independent leagues next year. Brian Tallet worked a scoreless ninth to start the celebration. At the plate, the Bisons used a pair of clutch doubles to score five of their six runs. A two-run double by Jason Tyner in the fifth gave the Bisons the lead and then Dusty Wathan followed that with a bases-clearing three-run double in the sixth to extend the Bisons lead to 5-1. Brandon Phillips later followed with a sac fly to complete the scoring. Wathan had a pair of hits while Grady Sizemore reached base three times thanks to a single and a pair of walks. The championship caps a remarkable comeback for a Bisons squad that was nine games under .500 in the late May. Congrats to the Bisons!
The Governors Cup adds to the impressive collection of league titles the Indians farm system has collected this season. Along with Buffalo, Kinston, Mahoning Valley, and the DSL Indians all won their respective league crowns. Winning four of seven leagues is quite an accomplishment. I'm just guessing here but that has to be close to a single-season record for one farm system.
After the Bisons win, Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Phillips, Fernando Cabrera, and Francisco Cruceta were all informed they were being promoted to Cleveland, according to the Buffalo News. No big surprise there as all five are already on the 40-man roster. Cruceta is expected to start for the Tribe on Tuesday.
Joining this group is reliever Jake Robbins, who will have his contract purchased and fill the roster spot made available when Kaz Tadano was placed on the 60-day disabled list a few days ago. The 28-year old Robbins will be making his major league debut after 11 seasons in the minor leagues. The right-hander posted a combined 3.19 ERA and a 1.140 WHIP this year between Akron and Buffalo, allowing just 67 hits in 90.1 innings with 36 walks and 62 strikeouts.
Yesterday, I mentioned, based on media accounts, that Landon Stockman had replaced Travis Foley on the Indians Arizona Fall League contingent. Right after I posted that, however, the Indians released their official press release regarding the AFL and Foley was still listed as among the six. We'll know soon enough with the AFL season scheduled to get underway on October 5.
I'll have more on CC (out for the season with a strained hammy) and Jody Gerut (carted off the field yesterday with a knee injury) on Monday. Let's hope Jody is ok but the fact he was carted off the field doesn't look good.
September 17, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, September 17
The Bisons moved to within one game of the Governors Cup championship after defeating Richmond the last two days to take a two games to one lead in their best of five series. On Wednesday, the Bisons prevailed 4-3 when Jason Tyner came around to score on an error by Mike Hessman (game one hero for Richmond). Grady Sizemore drove in the other three Buffalo runs as he blasted his first homerun of the playoffs and also walked. Dusty Wathan added three baseknocks while Jhonny Peralta reached base four times thanks to two safeties and a pair of walks. Francisco Cruceta worked five innings on the mound, allowing three runs while striking out seven while Fernando Cabrera fanned three in two scoreless innings of relief.
Yesterday, thanks to Hurricane Ivan, the Bisons played a road game in Buffalo as the International League elected to play the final three games of the series in Buffalo instead of incurring the wrath of crazy Ivan in Richmond. The change didn't affect the Bisons bats as they jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the third thanks to a bases-clearing double by Brent Abernathy, who had three hits, including a pair of two-baggers, on the night. Brandon Phillips later added a solo homerun to complete the Bisons scoring and put the good guys up 5-0. Richmond rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fourth off Fausto Carmona but Carmona and three relievers combined to shut down the Braves over the last five innings and held on for the 5-4 victory. Carmona finished with four runs allowed in five innings while Kane Davis punched out four in two frames and Dave Lee and Jake Robbins each working a scoreless inning with Robbins recording his second save of the post-season. In addition to the longball, Phillips also doubled while Ernie Young singled twice. Game four is tonight in Buffalo with Evan Thomas on the mound for the Bisons. You can tune in via sportsjuice.com.
Kaz Tadano was placed on the 60-day DL by the Indians after he was diagnosed with a bulging disc in his back. Whether off-season surgery is required has not yet been determined. The move does free up a 40-man roster spot. I had mistakenly stated earlier in the week prior to Kyle Denney being called up that the 40 was filled but I had forgotten that the designation of Chad Durbin earlier in the month had left the roster count at 39. That's why I need to keep my spreadsheet updated, huh? At any rate, adding Denney set the 40 at 40 but moving Tadano to the 60-day DL lowers the roster count again to 39, leaving room for the addition of a non-40 player from the minor leagues.
Who might that player be? Well, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, Jhonny Peralta, Fernando Cabrera, Francisco Cruceta, and Brian Tallet are already on the 40 so they're not part of this discussion. I'm going to suspect the player will most likely be a pitcher and the candidates from Buffalo would include Jake Robbins, Kenny Rayborn, Dave Lee, and Evan Thomas (among others). If it's a stick, veterans Ernie Young and Brent Abernathy have enjoyed seasons worthy of recall. Or, perhaps, the Tribe will use this as an opportunity to expose one of their prospects who are scheduled to be added to the 40 this off-season to the big leagues a little early. Fausto Carmona and Jason Cooper fall into that category on the Bisons roster. Chris Cooper and Lee Gronkiewicz too but I would think they're less likely candidates. If you're wondering about Ryan Garko, he does not have to be added to the 40 this off-season as he's not eligible for the Rule 5 draft until after the 2005 season so I can't see the Indians using a roster spot on him when they don't have to, especially with how tight the 40 shapes up heading into the off-season. If I'm a betting man (show me to the nickel slots), I'd say it's Carmona followed by Cooper (maybe not since he's headed to the Arizona Fall League), Robbins, and Rayborn.
The Japanese players have gone on strike for the first time in Japanese baseball history after owners refused to give a one-year freeze on the proposed merger of the Orix and Kintetsu franchises. Last week, I had mentioned that the two sides had reached a temporary agreement to continue the season. The strike is for weekend games only and the two sides continue to negotiate. If those two teams do merge, up to 100 players could be out of a job. How many of those players want to play in the US and, more importantly, could play in the US remain to be seen but it's possible that a new market for players could be available this off-season. Just something to keep an eye on. We know the Indians have intensified their scouting efforts in the Far East in advance of this off-season.
Landon Stockman has replaced Travis Foley as one of the six players the Tribe will send to the Arizona Fall League next month, according to John Farrell via the local papers. The 25-year old Stockman signed with the Tribe out of the independent Central League this summer and posted a 1.23 ERA in 16 appearances for the K-Tribe, including 20 strikeouts in 22 innings. It's not typical for a 25-year old class-A pitcher to be sent to Arizona so Stockman has something (live arm, good heat, wipeout slider, killer change) the Tribe wants to take a better look at against more advanced competition. Foley struggled in the playoffs after finishing the season strong in relief for Kinston. He missed most of the season with an elbow injury and I wonder if the Indians are going to shut him down or just decided to have him continue to throw in the Instructional League instead of sending him to Arizona. The other players headed to the AFL are Jake Dittler, Dan Denham, Jason Cooper, Kevin Kouzmanoff (replacing Pat Osborn), and Ryan Garko. I believe that Keith Ramsey and Dave Wallace remain as members of the taxi squad (eligible to play on Wednesday and Saturdays only).
Only 16 games left in the 2004 campaign. For the Tribe (71-75) to reach the .500 mark, they'll need to go 10-6 down the stretch. Nine games remain against Kansas City and Detroit (which helps) along with seven against the first-place Twins. This weekend's three-game set at home against the Royals shapes up as a very big series in the quest for .500.
September 15, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Kinston celebrates!
The Kinston Indians are Carolina League champions after they defeated Wilmington 3-1 tonight. JD Martin went the distance, striking out 10 while scattering four hits and a walk. Congrats to the K-Tribe! More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Wednesday, September 15
As debuts go, Kyle Denney's first start with the Tribe, well, it makes it easier for him to improve in his second start. Of course, that's not too hard to do when you're coming off eight runs and ten hits allowed in 3-1/3 innings. Here's some miscellaneous notes on Denney's debut:
I thought he threw the ball fairly well in the first inning with 18 of 25 pitches for strikes, including retiring Bobby Higgenson, the first batter he faced in the big leagues, on a come-backer. Dmitri Young smoked a double but the other hits weren't hit on a line if I'm recalling correctly.
I did like how, after Young's double, Victor Martinez came out to talk to Denney who then proceeded to strike out Craig Monroe on three pitches (fastball, curve, curve), making him look bad in the process. Note that Martinez caught Denney at Kinston in 2001 and at Akron in the later stages of the 2002 season.
I did not like, however, on the next batter when Denney started fooling around with a 2-2 count on Carlos Pena, staring down signs, stepping off the rubber, looking a runner back, and then not coming close with his next two pitches. I'll chalk that up to rookie jitters.
The Tribe's defense didn't help Denney in the third. While they were not charged errors and, admittedly, they were tough plays, Denney could have been out of the inning 1-2-3 instead of allowing three runs. Ivan Rodriguez started the frame with a single to center that he stretched into a double when Ronnie Belliard dropped the throw from Coco Crisp. It would have been close at second but I think they would have had him. Dmitri Young then sent a ground ball up the middle that went under Ronnie Belliard's glove and into center for a basehit. Belliard did run a long way, both up the middle and in from the outfield, but he should have made the play. This may have been one time where Belliard playing so deep hurt his chances at making the play. The next batter, Craig Monroe, then sent a rocket to centerfield that just eluded Coco Crisp. From my vantage point, it looked like Coco slightly misjudged the ball and had a good shot at it but that's easier said than done, especially when you're running straight back with your back to the ball. As I said, all were tough plays (hence, why they weren't ruled errors) but the Tribe could (and perhaps should) have made all three of them. That's not to let Denney off the hook because he gave up some shots, but that inning, and perhaps the game, might have been a lot different if the defense had come through with some nice (albeit tough) plays.
In that Dmitri Young at-bat above in which he singled, Denney actually had Young (who went 4-for-5 on the night with five ribbies) down 1-2 after a beautiful third pitch curveball that had Young completely fooled. On the next pitch, however, Denney again came back with the curve which Young smoked foul into the Tigers bench and then looked out at Denney as if to say "nice try, kid, I'm onto you". He then singled on the next pitch and homered an inning later off Denney to send him to the showers.
The one thing that Denney did show was nice velocity separation between his fastball and off-speed pitches. He was consistently between 90-91 mph with the heater and 75-78 with the off-speed stuff according to the Jacobs Field mph boards. It should be noted by the fourth inning (around the 70-pitch mark), I noticed that he was down around 88-89 mph with the fastball. I also noticed that there is a one-to-three mph difference between the Jacobs Field gun and the Fox Sports gun. In the second inning while pitching to Bobby Higgenson, Denney was clocked at 93 on the Fox gun and 90 on the Jake gun on one pitch and then 92 Fox, 91 Jake on the next pitch. I think the variance in the variance (if that makes sense) is due to pitch location but just note that the Fox gun may be faster. Or the Jake gun may be slower, whichever you prefer.
Down on the farm, the Bisons dropped game one of their Governors Cup series against Richmond, losing 11-4. The rout was on early as Mike Hessman belted a first inning grand slam off Bisons starter Kenny Rayborn and the Braves went on to score nine times in the 4-1/3 innings credited to Rayborn. On the plus side, Chris Cooper playoff debuted with two perfect innings of relief, including three punchouts. Jhonny Peralta and Grady Sizemore belted homeruns with Sizemore adding a double and triple and falling only a single short of the cycle. Francisco Cruceta takes the mound tonight in game two. This is the final home game in Buffalo with the final three games scheduled to be played in Richmond.
It's "all in" time in Wilmington as the K-Tribe forced a decisive game five tonight with a 4-0 blanking of the Blue Rocks last night. Adam Miller tossed 6-1/3 innings of scoreless ball, striking out five and allowing six hits and a pair of walks and Juan Lara and Landon Stockman combined for 2-2/3 scoreless innings of relief to preserve the shutout. Eider Torres and Brad Snyder started things early for the K-Tribe as Torres doubled to lead-off the game and then came around to score on a Snyder RBI single. Jonathan Van Every later added a solo homerun. Torres had three hits on the night, including a pair of doubles. JD Martin, he of the near perfect game and 21 straight retired in his last start in the decisive game three of the divisional series, takes the mound for Kinston. You can listen to the game via the K-Tribe's website.
Kudos to the Tribe's customer service personnel who were working the left-field gate last night. Upon entering the park, a very nice lady asked if this was our daughter Kelley's first trip to the Jake (it was) and proceeded to give her a little foam baseball, a pack of baseball cards (that Dad forgot to open, d'oh!), and a Slider candy dispenser. I have no idea if this is end of the season stuff that they're giving away, but it's a nice touch and appreciated. As you can imagine, the candy dispenser was the biggest hit of the bunch.
Oh yeah, while the game may have been a stinker, Kelley did learn how to clap along with John Adams drum. That makes the evening a winner in my book.
September 14, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, September 14
Congratulations to the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, who won the NY-Penn League championship last night with a 4-2 victory over Tri-City. It's the first championship in Scrappers history and caps an amazing run that has seen the Scrappers win 24 of their last 31 games, including four in a row in the playoffs, to go from five games under .500 to NYPL champions. The Scrappers jumped on the board first in the third inning, thanks to a Teodoro Encarnacion double, an Argenis Reyes bunt single, and a sacrifice fly from Brian Finegan. Three innings later, they broke the game open by plating three runs in the sixth, two of them coming via wild pitches from Tri-City reliever Paul Estrada and the other on an RBI single by Mike Butia. Justin Hoyman shut down the Valley Cats over the first five frames, limiting them to just five hits and a pair of walks. Nelson Hiraldo took over in relief in the sixth and came within one out of finishing the shutout before he was reached for a single and homerun in the bottom of the ninth. Matt Knox closed things out by retiring the final batter and the celebration began.
Speaking of champions, las felicitaciones a los indios el equipo dominicano de la Liga del Verano a ganar el campeonato de DSL. Hopefully, that says congratulations to the Indians Dominican Summer League team on winning the DSL championship. It's the second straight title for the DSL Tribe and they did in thrilling fashion as they rallied from a two games to one deficit to knock off the Yanquis with the game five clincher taking 15 innings before the good guys finally prevailed 6-5. Outfielder Jose Costanza (21 yrs, 5'9", 150) was named league MVP after hitting .444 with a .486 OBP and an amazing 19 triples. The speedy Costanza also swiped 37 bags, leading his coaches to frequently ask "get a good look, Costanza"? Shortstop Argenis Tavarez was named the postseason MVP. On the mound, 19-year old right-hander Julio Pinto turned in another strong season, going 8-2 with a 1.24 ERA in 87.1 innings, striking out 95 and posting a ridiculous 0.710 WHIP ratio (50H and 12 BB). After pitching well the previous two years in his native Venezuela, I think we'll see Pinto make his stateside debut in Burlington next summer. Another right-hander, Luis Valdez (20 yrs old, 6'4", 175), also had a stellar season on the mound, going 7-2 with a 1.19 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 75.2 innings. He also had a sick WHIP ratio at 0.766 (48H, 10BB). I think we may see valdez debut in the States next year as well. Of the two, the 6'4" Valdez has the pitchers build that teams like to see.
For the third time this season, the K-Tribe fought off elimination to live for another game as they defeated Wilmington 3-1 in game three of their best-of-five series. Brian Slocum struck out eight in 6-2/3 innings of one run ball and three relievers combined to close out the victory. Eider Torres doubled and singled in a run in the ninth. Dennis Malave also had a pair of hits, including an RBI single in the second. Kevin Kouzmanoff (just called up from Lake County to replace the injured Pat Osborn) also singled in a run. Game four, with the K-Tribe trailing two games to one, is tonight in Wilmington. Adam Miller takes the mound for Kinston.
The Bisons open their best-of-five Governors Cup series against Richmond tonight at Dunn Tire Park. The Braves defeated Columbus last night 4-1 to advance to the championship series. Games one and two will be played in Buffalo before the teams head south for the final three games. Kenny Rayborn takes the mound tonight for the Bisons.
Chris Cooper has been added to the Bisons roster. The southpaw, who posted a combined 1.68 ERA with 71 strikeouts in 75 innings at Kinston and Akron this year, will reinforce the Bisons 'pen.
Jim Ingraham may not be a pitching coach but he has an interesting article on grooming minor league pitchers to handle the workload of a major league season in the a href="
Don't forget that Kyle Denney makes his major league debut tonight for the Indians down at the Jake.
September 13, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Indians pass on Urdaneta
The Tigers outrighted Lino Urdaneta, he of the infinite ERA, to triple-A this afternoon. Since he was a Rule 5 pick, Urdaneta first had to clear waivers and then be offered back to the Indians for half of the $50,000 claiming price but it looks like the Tribe chose to pass on bringing him back to the organization. Lino never actually pitched for the Indians as he was signed this past off-season as a minor league free-agent when Tribe scouts saw him throwing in the upper 90s in the Venezuelan winter league. The Tigers saw him too and, subsequently, took a shot on the right-hander in the rule 5 draft. Urdaneta battled elbow problems all season before finally making his memorable major league debut last week when he allowed six runs to score without recording an out. MLB.com notes that 19 other players have a career ERA of infinity with only two full-time pitchers "accomplishing" the feat since World War II. With six runs allowed compared to the three allowed by Fred Bruckbauer and the one run allowed by Gordie Sundin, if Urdaneta never pitches in the bigs again, he may go down in history as the worst pitcher ever. I still say that's kind of cool.
CIR UPDATE: Kouz headed to the Desert
Baseball America is reporting in the Daily Dish that Pat Osborn has been removed from the Indians Arizona Fall League contingent and has been replaced by Kevin Kouzmanoff. The Dish notes that Osborn has an impingement in his left shoulder. Even if the Indians are being cautious, this doesn't sound good (for Osborn, at least). More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Monday, September 13
Coco, ya gotta take the bat off your shoulders.
Jake Westbrook just continues to impress. One mistake, a homerun to Erubiel Durazo, was all that separated him from Barry Zito in the Athletics 1-0 victory last night. Over his four starts, Westbrook now has a 1.24 ERA (4ER in 29 IP) and has allowed just 22 hits and four walks while recording 53 of 87 outs via the groundball. His 3.27 ERA stands second in the American League to probable Cy Young award winner Johan Santana's 2.85 ERA and his 2.70 GB/FB ratio stands second to only fellow sinker specialist Derek Lowe's 2.94 ratio. Entering the off-season Westbrook is a solid number two in the Indians rotation (maybe number one?) and how many of us would have thought that coming out of spring training this past March? His emergence has been one of the more pleasant and important breakouts in this season of breakouts. Jake (arbitration eligible, I believe) should expect to receive a nice bump in salary this winter.
Kyle Denney is expected to be added to the 40-man roster and start against the Tigers tomorrow night. He'll take Cliff Lee's normal turn in this trip through but the rotation but Lee will then make his next scheduled start. The Indians are just being cautious with the left-hander who has worked a career-high number of innings this season. For Denney, the start will be his major league debut and the culmination of six years of toiling in the Tribe's farm system. Incidentally, the 27-year old Denney becomes the second-oldest member of the Indians rotation with only Scott Elarton (2/23/76) having more rings around the tree. CC (7/21/80) is still the youngest, followed by Cliff Lee (8/30/78), Jake Westbrook (9/29/77), and then Denney (7/27/77).
Since he is not currently on the 40-man roster, someone will have to be removed to make room for Denney on the roster. Perhaps it will be Kazuhito Tadano who is scheduled to undergo an MRI today on his back and could be shutdown for the rest of the season. If so, the Indians could place Kaz on the 60-day DL, thus removing him from the 40, and purchase Denney's contract from Buffalo. Tadano has reportedly been pitching with a sore back all season and more specifically the last 8-12 weeks with spasms in Seattle last week that resulted in the call for the MRI. Let's hope it's nothing an off-season of rest won't cure. A this point, there's no harm in shutting him down for the year.
The Bisons tossed back-to-back shutouts over the weekend to advance to the Governors Cup Final. On Saturday, it was Fausto Carmona and Jake Robbins combining for the 1-0 victory with Carmona tossing eight scoreless innings while scattering five hits and a walk and punching out two. Grady Sizemore drove in the games only run with an RBI single, one of two knocks he had on the day. Jhonny Peralta also had a pair of hits for the good guys. Yesterday, it was former Indy leaguer Evan Thomas' turn to shine as he limited the Bulls to just two hits in eight scoreless innings, punching out six and walking none. Ryan Garko belted a pair of homeruns and Jhonny Peralta, Brent Abernathy, and Jason Cooper had two hits apiece. The Bisons will face the winner of the Columbus-Richmond series which goes to a deciding game five tonight. The first and second game of the Governors Cup will be played in Buffalo on Tuesday and Wednesday with the final three games to be played in either Columbus or Richmond.
The K-Tribe's backs are against the wall in the Mills Cup Championship after they dropped the first two games (at home no less) to Wilmington over the weekend. On Saturday, the Blue Rocks blanked the K-Tribe 4-0 as the little Indians could manage just four basehits against three Wilmington hurlers. Nick Pesco carried a shutout into the sixth inning before being reached for a run and the Blue Rocks later added a trio of runs in the later innings. Yesterday, Keith Ramsey extended his perfect streak to 30 batters by working a 1-2-3 first inning but that quickly came to an end in the second. After the leadoff hitter reached base via an error, Ramsey walked the next hitter which was followed by another error to load the bases. I think you can sense what's coming next and the salami quickly made the score 4-0 Wilmington and they never looked back while going on to win by the final count of 10-1. Shaun Larkin posted Kinston's only run with a solo shot, his second of the post-season. The series now moves to Wilmington for the final three games with Brian Slocum on the mound tonight.
Making matters tougher for the K-Tribe (as if being two games down wasn't hard enough), the Kinston Free Press reports that Pat Osborn has sat out the last two games and may miss the rest of the series with a sore left shoulder. Osborn has apparently been playing with the injury for the last month but aggravated it during the final game of the divisional series against Winston-Salem. When healthy (he's missed approximately 60 games this year due to a nagging hammy), Osborn has been a potent force in the middle of the K-Tribe's lineup, hitting .342/.422/.531/.953 with 10 homeruns in 86 games. How this affects his status for the Arizona Fall League remains to be seen. He's also a candidate to be added to the 40-man roster this season (he's Rule 5 eligible after being picked in the second round out of the University of Florida in 2002) and it's going to be interesting to see what effect (if any) this injury has on that as well. Mark Shapiro has said that the makeup of the 40 is going to be more major-league oriented this off-season so I think there's a good chance that we're going to see more high-A players (like Osborn) exposed to the Rule 5 draft in order to protect players who can provide more immediate help at the major league level. We'll see.
One more game. That's what they're saying in the Valley today after the Scrappers rallied for a 6-5 victory over Tri-City in the opening game of the best-of-three NY Penn Championship series. With the series shifting to Troy, NY tonight for the final two games, the Scrappers are just one win away from their first NYP championship. Brett Parker was the hero after driving home the game-winner in the bottom of the ninth with an RBI single. Chris Gimenez had a big two-run basehit in the seventh when the Scrappers scored three times and took the lead. Matt Knox closed the door by striking out four in two innings of relief. Either Justin Hoyman or Tony Sipp should be on the mound for the Scrappers tonight.
Is there a happier man in Cleveland than Butch Davis this morning? If any coach needed to get off to a good start, it was Butch this season. Good for him, good for DUH BROWNS. Now, let's see if they can keep it going this Sunday in Dallas. Here we go Brownies, here we go! (woof, woof).
September 11, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Saturday, September 11
Don't look now but the Tribe has won three in a row (on the road no less) and climbed back to within one game of .500 at 70-71. Last night, they knocked off the Athletics 4-3 in 12 innings with Casey Blake delivering the big blow with his 26th homerun in the top of the 12th. The A's have now dropped five in a row and hold a slim one game lead over the Angels in the AL West. CC tries to extend both streaks this afternoon.
Blake is now hitting .272/.354/.497/.851 with 31 doubles and the 26 longballs. That .851 OPS ranks 5th in the AL and 11th in MLB amongst some pretty hefty competition that includes non-Bonds MVP candidates Scott Rolen and Adrian Beltre as well as A-Rod, Mike Lowell, Eric Chavez, etc. It's also 17 percentage points higher than Aaron Boone's career best of .834 in 100+ games in 2001. How the Indians fit both Boone and Blake into the lineup next season will be one of the more interesting decisions made by Tribe brass this off-season and next spring.
Did you know that Boone (3/9/73) is five months older than Blake (8/23/73)?
Coco Crisp also went deep last night, his 8th inning blast off Mark Mulder tied the game and sent it to extras and Blake's heroics. The blast was Crisp's 14th of the season, he also singled and walked twice, and raised his averages to .286/.333/.452/.785 with 21 doubles, 14 homeruns, and 61 RBIs for the season. Compare that to the .269/.366/.424/.790 with 22 doubles, 16 homeruns, and 59 RBIs posted by Dodgers centerfielder Milton Bradley and then realize that Bradley has 48 more at-bats than Crisp this season. As much potential as Bradley may have (and may have shown last season), Coco has been just as productive at the plate this season in fewer at-bats. Plus, the Tribe picked up a pair of excellent prospects in Franklin Gutierrez and Andrew Brown to boot. It's still early to declare the Indians a winner in the deal, but, right now, it's advantage Indians. Much as with Casey Blake above, how the Indians fit Crisp into the 2005 lineup will be very interesting to follow this offseason. You're going to hear that type of thought a lot over the next four-five months regarding a number of players on the Indians roster. It's a nice problem to have. If you want to start thinking about a deal packaging some of these "where are they going to play" guys for a top-flight starter or big-time bat, you may be on to something.
Stayin' Alive, stayin' alive. That's what the Bisons managed to do last night in Dunn Tire Park when they rallied for three runs in the final two innings for a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Durham. The Bulls now hold a two games to one lead over the Bisons with game four scheduled for today. Dusty Wathan had the big knock in the 9th, an infield single, to plate the winning run. A frame earlier, it was Brandon Phillips knocking in a run with an RBI groundout followed by Jason Cooper scoring on a wild pitch. Not the sexiest way to win, but we'll take it. Francisco Cruceta carried a no-hitter through 5-2/3 innings and finished with two runs allowed in seven innings on the bump, fanning eight and walking two. Fernando Cabrera picked up the win in relief with two scoreless innings of work. Fausto Carmona takes the hill for the Bisons today in game four.
Four days after Keith Ramsey tossed a perfect game to end the regular season, JD Martin nearly equaled the feat in game three of the K-Tribe's divisional series against Winston-Salem last night. Martin retired the first 21 batters in order as the K-Tribe knocked off the Worthogs 3-1 to advance to the Mills Cup Championship. The right-hander allowed just one hit, a leadoff single in the top of 8th, but quickly doubled him up with a double-play grounder and ended up facing the minimum through eight innings, walking none and punching out seven. Todd Pennington and Juan Lara preserved the win with a shaky ninth but they got the job done. Brad Snyder belted a two-run homer in support of Martin and also doubled. The K-Tribe opens the best-of-five championship series tonight in Kinston against Wilmington.
The third time turned out to be the charm for Tri-City as they defeated Brooklyn 6-1 after two days of rainouts to advance to the NY-Penn League championship series. Game one is at Eastwood Field tomorrow night.
September 10, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, September 10
The Bisons have their backs to the wall as they dropped game two of their five games series against Durham last night by the score of 7-3. Durham now holds a two games to none lead as the series shifts to Dunn Tire Park in Buffalo for the (hopefully) final three games. Kenny Rayborn carried a shutout, and a 1-0 lead, into the fifth before the Bulls tied the game at one apiece. They then broke the game wide open in the bottom of the sixth by putting a five-spot on the board that included a three-run jack by Jonny Gomes off Lee Gronkiewicz. Brandon Phillips had three hits for the good guys while Jason Tyner and Jhonny Peralta added two hits apiece. Francisco Cruceta takes the mound tonight for the Bisons.
The news was much better down in Kinston as Adam Miller and the K-Tribe staved off elimination with an 8-1 victory over Winston-Salem to tie their divisional series at one apiece. Miller was simply dominating as he shut down the Worthogs for six innings, allowing only a first inning double and three walks while striking out a season-high nine batters. If you've yet to get excited about the young right-hander, feel free to do so now. Offensively, the K-Tribe took advantage of three Winston-Salem errors in the first inning to jump out to a 5-0 lead. Shaun Larkin homered and singled, Eider Torres doubled and singled, and JVE tripled, singled, and walked twice. JD Martin takes the ball tonight in the clincher.
The waiting continues in the Valley as last night's deciding game three between Tri-City and Brooklyn was rained out for the second straight night. They'll try again this evening with the winner headed to Eastwood Field for game one of the NY-Penn Championship series this weekend. As I type this, it's still undecided whether the game will be played Saturday or Sunday. Late note, game one will be Sunday in the Valley.
Rockies left-hander Jeff Francis was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year after a stellar season in which the southpaw went a combined 16-3 with a 2.21 ERA in AA and AAA while striking out 196 batters in 155 innings and allowing just 108 hits and 29 walks. Yes, those are some pretty filthy numbers. From the "what could have been" file, Francis "could" have been an Indian. As originally noted in the CIR in April 2003, "In the latest issue of Baseball America, in a side profile of Red Sox assistant General Manager Josh Byrnes, it's noted in 1999 when Byrnes was working for the Indians, he was watching the 18-and-under Team USA squad play against a Canadian team that had a "gangly left-hander with a loose arm". Byrnes tracked down Francis phone number and called his house and tried to sign him but Francis and his family turned down the offer and he decided to attend school in Canada. Three years later, Byrnes had moved onto Colorado and the Rockies drafted Francis in the 1st round. And as it turns out, the Francis family had saved his answering machine message and his old Cleveland phone number. Incidentally, the player Byrnes was in Tucson to watch play for Team USA, Indians draft pick Jeff Baker, never signed with the Indians and ended being drafted by Byrnes and the Rockies last year. What could have been, huh?" (sigh) Yes, what could have been.
Jayson Stark notes in his latest Rumblings and Grumblings column on espn.com that Cuban defector Kendry Morales may be more of a project than advertised, quoting one scout as saying that "this guy is not an immediate major league player" and another giving this review: "Can't run at all, pretty good stroke, good kid, good approach to hitting, has to play first base". Perhaps that's why the Indians came back from his workout noting that they would not be heavy bidders against the likes of the Yankees and Mets and and that they would have to see Morales play in some games before deciding whether to pursue him.
The Japanese leagues avoided their first strike ever by reaching a last-minute agreement today between the players and owners. The players had threatened to strike this weekend and not play any weekend games for the remainder of the season due to a prospect merger between the Kintetsu Buffalos and Orix Blue Wave that would have likely eliminated a team and 25-75 roster spots counting the major and minor leagues. The owners were also reportedly considering contracting another team to even the league out at 10 teams which would have resulted in a further reduction in roster spots. You can understand why that might have upset the players a little. The agreement reportedly places a one-year freeze on the proposed merger with other details still to be ironed out. I hope they have better luck completing work on those details than the MLB and the MLBPA did on some of the leftovers issues from the last US collective bargaining agreement negotiations such as a worldwide draft and free-agent compensation, but I digress. Coincidentally, John Mirabelli is in the Far East on a scouting trip which may or may not have been directly related to the possibility of 25-150 Japanese players suddenly being out of a job this off-season. At any rate, we know the Tribe is interested in exploring the Japanese market, especially for relievers, and that's a story that we will continue to explore through the off-season.
Speaking of Japan, Earl Snyder was designated for assignment by the Red Sox. I think he's a prime candidate to head overseas next year. Karim Garcia may be headed towards the rising sun as well, according to the New York Post. Meanwhile, Dan Miceli (pink eye) was activated by the Astros.
I'm hopeful for good things for the Browns this season but I'm fearing another 5-11 or 6-10 season. The schedule definitely works in their favor but they're going to have to stay healthy and have breakout seasons from a number of players in order to contend. But hey, it's opening weekend and anything's possible in the NFL these days, so why can't the Browns be this years Carolina? Here we go Brownies, here we go! (woof, woof)
September 09, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Royals pound Urdaneta in debut
Rule 5 pick Lino Urdaneta (out all season with an elbow injury) did not record an out in his major league debut this afternoon for the Tigers. The right-hander faced six batters, giving up five hits and a walk, with all six crossing the plate. That's an infinite ERA if you're scoring at home. It also has to be one of the worst debuts in major league history. I'm sure the good folks at Elias will have some interesting notes for the papers tomorrow. If Urdaneta never pitches in the bigs again, could the Comic Book Guy legitimately refer to him as "worst..pitcher..ever". That's kind of cool, like being the last pick in the draft. I'm mean if you're going to be bad, you might as well be the best (or worst) of the bad, right? Well, maybe not. In the bottom of the 7th, it's the Royals pounding the Tigers 24-3 in Motown.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Thursday, September 9
I can't say Cliff Lee threw the ball well last night because a) I was sleeping, and b) he gave up four runs in five innings, including three longballs BUT it sure is nice to see him get off the schneid and pick up his first victory since July 16 which, coincidentally enough, just happened to be at Safeco Field. To stir your memory, that was the 18-6 slugfest in which the Tribe blasted eight homeruns, including three by Victor Martinez, which kick-started their hot start to the second half of the season. Back to last night, the Tribe won 9-5 with Lee picking up his 11th win (he did strike out six) and Ronnie Belliard (#9) and Jody Gerut (#11) going deep. Coco Crisp (.284) added three hits, including a double. Whether this will serve as a confidence boost that Lee can carry into his final starts remains to be seen, but at least he won't have to hear before each outing how he hasn't won since July 16 and has a X-game losing streak. With three of his final four starts likely to come against Detroit and Kansas City, Lee has an excellent opportunity to build momentum into 2005.
For the Tribe, it's back-to-back wins for the first time in almost a month and it moves them to within two games of .500 as they head into Oakland for a three-game weekend series with the A's. Today brings another off-day which, when coupled with Tuesday's off-day and this upcoming Monday's off-day, gives the Tribe three days of rest within a week. Seems like an odd bit of scheduling, don't you think?
As speculated, Jason Davis has been moved into the bullpen for the final 22 games of the season. No word on who will replace him in the rotation. With the off-days, when they would need another starter is somewhat up in the air. Kaz Tadano is a possibility as are Francisco Cruceta and Kyle Denney down in Buffalo. Keep in mind that Denney is not on the 40 so a roster spot would have to be cleared for him to be added to the big league roster. More on Davis and the 'pen in a future report.
Down on the farm, the Bisons dropped game one of their best-of-five series against Durham last night, losing 2-1. Kyle Denney worked 6-1/3 innings, allowing just one unearned run on seven hits and a pair of hits, but served up the big blow, a sixth inning homerun to Pete LaForest which turned out to be the game-winner. Ryan Garko drove in the Bisons lone run with a sac fly. Game two is tonight in Durham.
The Bisons suffered another loss last night when doctors declared Chris Clapinski out for the playoffs with a strained flexor tendon in his right elbow according to the Buffalo News. Corey Smith was called up from Akron to replace Clapinski on the roster.
Kinston also dropped game one of their divisional series, losing 6-3 to Winston-Salem. Travis Foley, who has been outstanding in relief for the K-Tribe this season, gave up two two-run, two-out homeruns in seventh inning which led to the Worthogs victory. The series shifts to Kinston this evening with the K-Tribe backs against the wall in the short three-game series. Adam Miller takes the mound tonight in game two.
The playoff news is all good coming out of the Valley as the Scrappers swept Auburn two games to none to advance to the NY-Penn League Championship Series. In the 7-3 clinching victory on Monday, Tony Sipp was Sipp-sational again as he punched out six while not allowing an earned run in five innings on the bump. Argenis Reyes and Chris Gimenez drove in three runs apiece with Reyes and Fernando Pacheco each banging out three basehits. The Scrappers opponent in the championship series is still to be decided as game three of the Tri-City and Brooklyn series was rained out last night. They'll try again this evening with the winner headed to Eastwood Field for game one of the best of three championship series on Friday night.
More on Keith Ramsey's perfect game from Baseball America...
"Ramsey needed just 97 pitches to complete the first perfect game...Ramsey, a 10th-round draft pick in 2002 out of Florida, only went to two full counts against Myrtle Beach and struck out five. He only threw two changeups, two splitters and 35 curveballs. The rest were fastballs in the 82-84 mph range. "He was changing speeds and had a good curveball," Hibbard said. "The curveball was probably a little below average, but he was throwing different variations of it and keeping hitters off-balance." This is coming from a lefthander who gave up 16 homers in the first half of the season, when he tended to get too much elevation and wasn't locating properly. "His fastball command has gotten better," Hibbard said. "He works low in the zone and when he does elevate, I think it's surprising elevation."
Even with the perfecto on his resume, because he throws in the low 80s, Ramsey will likely need to prove himself at every level as he moves up the system.
Captains outfielder Ryan Goleski was featured in last Thursday's Daily Dish from Baseball America. John Farrell is quoted as saying that Goleski is a "big, physical right fielder who is very athletic and profiles the position well" and that "he comes from a cold weather school and only now is he beginning to unlock his potential by playing every day". The Dish notes that Sally League Managers have been impressed with his bat and rate his arm just below that of Devil Rays uber-prospect Delmon Young which rates a 70 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale. As for Goleski staying in Lake County for the entire season, Farrell says that the Indians wanted him to keep building confidence and play everyday, something he didn't have the luxury of doing while at Eastern Michigan. Goleski finished the season hitting .295/.370/.525/.895 and led the farm system in both homeruns (28) and runs batted in (104). Although his plate discipline will need improvement as he moves up the latter, his 55 walks versus 100 strikeouts is within acceptable levels for a developing power hitter.
Ryan Garko and Tony Sipp "make the team photo" in the final edition of Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet.
Here's the final minor league won-loss records for the Tribe six farm teams:
BUFFALO: 83-61 (.576) (1st Place) (9GA)
AKRON: 63-78 (.447) (5th Place) (22GB)
KINSTON: 45-24 (.652) (1st Place) (4.5GA) (1st Half)
KINSTON: 43-25 (.651) (2nd Place) (1GB) (2nd Half)
LAKE COUNTY: 36-34 (.514) (3rd Place) (5GB) (1st Half)
LAKE COUNTY: 37-32 (.536) (4th Place) (8.5GB) (2nd Half)
MAHONING: 42-34 (.533) (2nd Place) (9GB) (wildcard)
BURLINGTON: 31-35 (.470) (3rd Place) (10.5GB)
OVERALL: 380-323 (.541) (three teams in playoffs)
Wil Cordero was activated off the Marlins DL while the Reds called up Aaron Myette. David Weathers signed with the Marlins after clearing waivers earlier in the week.
September 07, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, September 7
Ten things to watch in September:
1) .500 or bust
With 13 of the Indians remaining 23 games against teams with a below .500 record, can the Tribe (68-71) finish strong and reach (or surpass) the symbolic .500 mark? Note that the Tribe's 5-0 victory over Seattle last night was win number 68 which equals last seasons win total.
2) Farewell to Omar
The last link to the "Era of Champions" plays his final games in an Indians uniform. It would be a HUGE surprise if Vizquel returns to the Tribe this off-season. Enjoy him this month while you can.
3) The next Jake?
Can Jason Davis use the final weeks of 2004 as a springboard back into next years rotation, like Jake Westbrook did in September 2003?
4) Bully Boys
Or will JD make the move to the 'pen as has been hinted at by Tribe brass over the last week or so. Jeremy Guthrie has already begun the transition and more young starters may follow.
5) Lost on ABC, Wednesday, 9/22
The best new show of the season.
6) The Bisons are coming
Once Buffalo's season comes to an end, Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, and Brandon Phillips will all join the big league club. How much playing time they actually receive (which may be directly linked to number one above) is really irrelevant. It's their symbolic arrival and the fact they may never go back that's important.
7) Get Cliff's edge back
The southpaw needs to finish strong and build momentum for 2005.
8) Whither the Wick?
With an expected weak free-agent market for relievers (as the Indians tell it), could Bob Wickman secure a return to Cleveland next season with a strong September?
9) Keep on, keepin' on
That means you Coco Crisp and Ben Broussard. How and where you fit into the Indians plans next year remains to be seen but keep that value (to the Indians and in trade) increasing.
10) Good times down on the farm
Three of the Indians six farm teams are in the playoffs with Buffalo and Kinston having an excellent shot at winning their respective leagues. On that note...
The Scrappers head to Auburn with a one-game lead in their best-of-three divisional series after they knocked off the Doubledays 4-3 last night in the Valley. Justin Hoyman worked a pro-high five innings while limiting Auburn to just one run on four hits and a pair of walks. Mike Hernandez closed with two scoreless innings of relief which were separated by a twenty-five minute delay due to a power outage. Brett Parker tripled in the game-winner in the bottom of the eighth, Fernando Pacheco singed three times, and Tim Montgomery doubled and tripled. Game two is tonight in Auburn.
Buffalo opens it's best-of-five series against Durham in North Carolina on Wednesday. Games one and two will be at Durham with the final three games to be played in Buffalo. Fausto Carmona was called up from Akron and is scheduled to start game four on Saturday. Carmona started the regular season finale for the Bisons yesterday (a 10-5 win) and allowed four runs in six innings.
Kinston also opens its divisional best-of-three series on the road against Winston-Salem on Wednesday. The series moves to Kinston for the final two games on Thursday and Friday.
The Astros called up Willy Taveras who led the Texas League in hitting (.335) and stolen bases (55) after being acquired from the Indians, along with Luke Scott, for Jeriome Robertson late in spring training. Despite hitting .335, Taveras slugging percentage was a paltry .386 as he banged out just 16 extra-base hits in just over 450 plate appearances and that will need to improve if he's ever going to be more than the Dominican Jason Tyner. Not that that's a bad thing but Taveras is going to need to be able to drive the ball into the outfield occasionally to open up the field and allow his humpback liners to fall in for basehits.
Eric Crozier was called up by the Blue Jays. Crozier hit .277 with a homerun and 16 RBIs for Syracuse after being acquired for Josh Phelps last month. He remains in the mix for first-base and designated hitter at-bats in Toronto next season.
The Cubs called up Calvin Murray and, yes, this is the same Calvin Murray who refused to sign with the Indians out of high school when the Tribe selected him in the first round of the 1989 draft. Murray, who was later drafted in the first round by the Giants out of college, is now 33 years old and hit .311/.368/.410 with 7 homeruns and 25 stolen bases for triple-A Iowa this season. In 277 career major league games, Murray has a lifetime .231 batting average and you have to wonder how things might have turned out differently if he had signed with the Tribe. For one, given his speed/leadoff profile, would his presence in the system back in December of 1991 have lessened the Indians interest in acquiring Kenny Lofton from the Astros? Thirteen years after the fact, who knows, but perhaps we all owe a bit of thanks to Murray for his decision to pass on signing with the Tribe. Or maybe, we owe a bit of thanks to the Tribe brass for low-balling his bonus offer. I'll let you decide which one of the two scenarios was more likely.
Steve Karsay (Yanks), Herb Perry (Rangers), Danny Graves (Reds), and Mike Matthews (Reds)were all activated off the disabled list. AJ Hinch was added to the Phillies roster.
Is there anyone, except for annoying Yankeefan, who agrees with Yankees GM Brian ZemitoERRRRRRRCashman in demanding that the Devil Rays forfeit yesterday's game that they missed because of Hurricane Frances? Unbelievable.
I keep hearing WKNR play promotional spots where they tout "we talk sports all the time" or "where we always talk sports, ALWAYS" (their emphasis on ALWAYS, not mine). If that's the case, why is it that the last two Saturdays at 7:30 AM they've been running an infomercial for the memory system (or whatever it's called). In fact, they cut away from ESPN radio (where they are talking sports) to run the infomercial. Here's me thinking they might have on a high school football show or a college football preview show since they ALWAYS talk sports but I guess ALWAYS is all in the interpretation, huh? Perhaps they need some fast-talking guy at the end of their spots to say "Talking sports all the time does not necessarily imply 24-hours of sports-related programming" (you have to say it fast for the true effect).
CIR UPDATE: Ramsey PERFECT
27 up, 27 down. Keith Ramsey ended the Carolina League regular season in fine style on Monday, throwing the first perfect game in Kinston history as the K-Tribe defeated Myrtle Beach 6-0. It was the 9th perfecto in Carolina League history and the first nine-inning perfect game since Marty Bystrom did it for Penisula against Winston-Salem back on August 12, 1978. According to wire reports, Ramsey needed only 97 pitches to complete the gem and was helped by a diving catch by JVE in the 8th inning before a ground-ball out to Pat Osborn made history. For Ramsey, the southpaw finishes the season with a 10-4 record and 3.86 ERA in 24 appearances for the K-Tribe (137.2IP, 139H, 34BB, 95K). Kinston opens the best-of-three playoffs in Winston-Salem on Wednesday.
September 05, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Scrappers go WILD
Mahoning Valley clinched the NY-Penn wild-card with a 7-1 victory over Batavia yesterday. Ryan Knippschild was superb through five innings, allowing just a hit and a walk while punching out five and Matt Knox closed the door with three perfect innings of relief. Chris Gimenez (#10) and Wyatt Toregas (#7) went deep and five hitters had multiple hit games. The Scrappers open their best-of-three series against Auburn in the Valley on Monday.
September 04, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Saturday, September 4
A short minor league update as we head into this labor day weekend. Two of the Indians six farm clubs have qualified for the playoffs with a third making a late change for a wildcard spot. Details below...
The Bisons will open the playoffs on the road this Wednesday in the start of a best-of-five series against Durham. The first two games will be in Durham with the final three being played in Buffalo.
Kinston trails Winston-Salem by one game with three games left to play this weekend. If the K-Tribe moves ahead of the Worthogs, all three games of their divisional playoff series will be played in Kinston (also against the Worthogs). If Winston-Salem remains ahead of the K-Tribe, then game one will be played in Winston-Salem with the final two games being played in Kinston. That series will also begin play on Wednesday.
In the Valley, the Scrappers have moved a half-game ahead in the wild-card race with just one game left to be played today. If they win, they'll likely open the best-of-three divisional series at home against either Auburn or Tri-City on Monday. The next two games would then be played at either Auburn or Tri-City. If the Scrappers lose, they still have a shot at making the playoffs depending on what happens to New Jersey and Hudson Valley in their games today. Ryan Knippschild (3-3, 4.24) is scheduled to take the mound for the Scrappers today in the biggest start of his brief professional career.
Akron and Lake County conclude their seasons on Monday. Neither team will make the playoffs this year after dominating their respective leagues in 2003. The Captains are going out with a bang, however, having won nine in a row.
Burlington concluded its season this past Monday in less than exciting fashion as their game against Bristol was rained out after two innings with the good guys in front 2-0. The cancellation finishes the B-Tribe season with a 31-35 record, good for third place in the Appy League's East Division and 10 games behind first place Danville. Big East Player of the Year PJ Hiser (29th round) led the offense with averages of .322/.374/.588/.962 and nine doubles, four triples, and 10 homeruns. Hiser finished second in slugging (.588), fifth in average (.322), sixth in homers (10), and seventh in total bases (104). He'll need to work on his plate discipline as he moves up a level next year as evidenced by his 14 walks to 53 strikeouts. We talked a lot about Juan Valdes (who's moved up to Lake County) this year and his 21 steals ranked second in the circuit. Among other hitters, Chad Longworth (12th, '02) hit .293/.347/.359 with 12 doubles but no homeruns and 46 strikeouts (versus 13 walks) and Jason Denham (13th, '04) achieved a statistical oddity as he had more walks (21) than hits (15) while hitting just .144 (15-for-104) with 40 strikeouts.
On the mound, Reid Santos (promoted to Lake County) finished second in the league in ERA (2.78), second in WHIP (1.070), and fourth in strikeouts (67). Josh Harris (42nd, '04, Lamar Univ) finished fourth in saves (7) and posted a 1.41 ERA with 40 strikeouts and just six walks in 32 innings pitched. Chuck Lofgren (4th, '04) struck out 23 in 22.1 innings with a 6.04 ERA in nine starts and Gerson Mercedes struck out 62 in 59 innings with 16 walks and a 5.05 ERA in 13 starts.
Jim Ingraham reviews the Indians minor league all-stars in the LMJ.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday weekend (and the Tribe manages to win a few from the Angels)!
September 01, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Wednesday, September 1
One year ago today, the Cleveland Indians entered September in fourth place of the American League Central, fourteen games under .500 (62-76), and 11 games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox. Flash forward 366 days later (it is a leap year, right?), and the Tribe enters the final month of the baseball season in second place in the AL Central, one game over .500 (67-66), seven games behind the first-place Minnesota Twins, and coming off back-to-back shutout victories including a historic 22-0 drubbing of the Yankees in The House that Ruth Built last night. What a difference a year makes, huh?
As I've said before, I'm under no false illusion that the Indians are "back in the race" but the way this roller coaster season has cascaded up and down all year, I would not be surprised by anything that happens to this team the rest of the way out. If you're looking for a bogey to focus on, 88 wins is as good a number as any right now. That's how many "W's" that Minnesota (currently 72-58) would end up with if they played .500 ball the rest of the way. For the Tribe, that necessitates a 21-8 finishing run. Impossible? Perhaps. But the way this season has gone, anything is possible.
Back to last night, the Tribe's 22-0 victory set so many records that the good folks at Elias are likely sleeping in this morning. It was the worst shutout loss in Yankees history, the worst Yankees loss since the Indians battered them 24-6 in 1928, and the final margin tied for the largest modern-era (post-1900) shutout win in major league history. For the record, it was 22 runs on 22 hits, five doubles, a triple, three homeruns, and nine walks, everyone in the starting lineup reached base at least once, and Jody Gerut (#10), Victor Martinez (#21), and Coco Crisp (#13) went deep.
Oh yeah, and Omar Vizquel singled, singled, doubled, singled, doubled, and singled to tie an American League record with six hits in a single game. His bid for AL immortality ended with a fly-out to right in the 9th inning. Vizquel is the first Indian since Jorge Orta (one of my all-time favorites) banged out five singles and a double on Sunday, June 15, 1980. Other highlights from that game, a 14-5 victory over the Twins at the Stadium include a seven RBI game from Toby Harrah who needed only a double for the cycle and three doubles from Grover. 25,182 witnessed the feat which means it had to be either Father's Day, Bat Day, or both. It's 24 years ago, but I can vividly recall watching the highlights of Orta's performance on This Week in Baseball the following Saturday. How about that!
Lost in the bombardment was another strong performance by Jake Westbrook who held the Bombers scoreless in seven innings on the bump. It's his second straight outing against the Yankees and he's held one of the most powerful offenses in baseball to one earned run over 13 innings in the past week. Jeremy Guthrie finished with two scoreless frames and Tribe hurlers have now thrown 21 straight scoreless innings over the past three games.
Lou Merloni, Josh Bard, and Cliff Bartosh are the first wave of September reinforcements called up by the Tribe as they were all added to the active roster this morning. As we've talked about before, teams can carry up to 40 active players (instead of the normal 25) beginning September 1.
For Bard, who was expected to start the season as the Indians backup catcher, the promotion marks a return to the bigs after he missed the first three months of the year with a sports hernia injury and then spent the last two months in the minors on a rehab assignment and then as the Bisons starting catcher. In 156 at-bats with the Bisons, Bard was hitting .263/.310/.404/.714 with ten doubles, four homeruns, 11 walks, and 23 strikeouts. He'll spell Victor Martinez behind the plate with an increase in playing time likely if/when the Indians fall completely out of the race. Bard remains a potentially valuable trade chip for the Indians this off-season.
For Bartosh, this marks his fourth stint with the Indians this year. While his major league numbers are far from impressive (6.17 ERA, 11.2IP, 17H, 8 BB), Bartosh has thrown the ball extremely well in Buffalo, posting a 2.80 ERA and a .197 BAA in 35.1 innings with 46 strikeouts and just 26 hits and 8 walks allowed. If you listen to Eric Wedge, it's just a matter of Bartosh trusting his stuff at the major league level. Needless to say, it's another opportunity for the southpaw and it may be his last, as well, as Bartosh is a guy who could find his 40-man roster spot in jeopardy this off-season.
Merloni was activated off the disabled list although I'm unsure as to his immediate availability since he was pulled back from his rehab assignment in the Valley after experiencing discomfort in his elbow.
The Indians still have not named a starter for Saturday's game against Anahiem although Jason Davis remains the favorite to receive the start. Coincidentally enough, Davis started Monday for Buffalo (5.1IP, 9H, 3ER, 2BB, 10K) which puts him right in line to start for the Tribe on his normal four days rest. If the Indians elect to go a different route, Kaz Tadano seems the likely option although that's dependent on how much he's used (if at all) over the next three days. If Davis is the guy, why didn't the Indians just call him today when rosters expanded? Good question. Maybe they didn't want to tip their hand to the Angels, maybe it's a procedural thing in case of injury since he's not needed until Saturday, or maybe they're just not sure who's going to get the start. We'll see.
Jhonny Peralta's sensational season in Buffalo was rewarded yesterday when he was named the MVP of the International League. Also named as the IL's All-Star shortstop, Peralta currently leads the IL in hits (179) and runs (108), is second in batting average (.333), second in doubles (44), third in total bases (272), fifth in extra-bases hits (61), sixth in RBIs (95), and eighth in on-base percentage (.389). He's also banged out 15 longballs and is slugging .506 with a .895 OPS. Spectacularly consistent all-season, Peralta's batting average hasn't fallen below .320 since April 20 and he's had 55 multi-hit games while putting together three 10-game hitting streaks and a 14-gamer. I've enjoyed watching Omar Vizquel over the years as much as any Indians fan, but Jhonny Peralta is the Indians shortstop of the future and the future needs to start next year.
Ernie Young joined Peralta on the IL All-Star team in recognition of a season in which the veteran has mashed at a .301/.368/.550/.918 clip with 26 doubles, 25 longballs, and 95 runs batted in. Brought in as a middle of the order force to protect the young trio of Peralta, Phillips, and Sizemore, Young has done all that and more this year.
Skipper Marty Brown was also honered as he was named the IL Manager of the Year. This is the second time that Brown has received such honors as he was also named the NYP Manager of the Year in 1997 and the third time in five years (Joel Skinner 2000, Eric Wedge 2001) that the award has gone to a Bisons skipper. Brown presided over a Bisons charge that saw the team go 57-29 over its last 86 games to grab the Northern Division crown.
Sandy Martinez was traded to Boston in a cash transaction. Even though he was assigned to triple-A Pawtucket, Martinez is expected to be called up today and serve as the Red Sox' third catcher in September. Like fellow backstop Mike Engelberg, Sandy had been murdering the ball of late, slugging .584 with 17 homeruns for the Bisons in just 197 at-bats.
With Bard in Cleveland and Martinez soon to be in Beantown, Dusty Wathan is temporarily the lone catcher on the Bisons roster. A reinforcement from Akron should arrive today and I would not be surprised if that player turns out to be Ryan Garko. Such a move would cap a tremendous season in which Garko has risen from a projected start at Lake County to one of the premier hitting prospects in the Indians system. I know what you're thinking, but since he doesn't need to be added to the 40 this off-season, I don't think we'll be seeing Garko in Cleveland this month.
Jason Bere (remember him?) pitched three innings for the Aeros yesterday in his first appearance of the season. Bere had been a contender for the 5th starter role this spring but an elbow injury (surgery on April 20) has sidelined him up until now. Since signing with the Indians, Bere has made two starts for the big league club, both in April of 2003, although he was on a minor league contract this year at minimal expense. Ryan Garko told the ABJ that Bere was throwing 86-87 yesterday and the paper also noted that although Bere worked three scoreless frames, he allowed hits to the first three batters he faced before working out of a jam in the first inning. Still, the fact he returned to the mound at all this season makes this outing a success for the right-hander. Where (or if) he fits into the Indians future plans remains to be seen this off-season but it wouldn't surprise me to see him re-sign on a minor league deal, go to camp as a spring invitee, and spend next season in Buffalo rebuilding his arm strength and serving as triple-A insurance (provided he's healthy, of course).
The White Sox released Mike Jackson who recently pitched in his 1000th major league game and stands eighth all-time in appearances with 1,005. In 45 games for the Sox, Jackson was 2-0 with a 5.01 ERA. The right-hander pitched three seasons (1997-1999) for the Indians, saving a total of 94 games for the Tribe after displanting Jose Mesa as the closer in 1998. Jackson turns 40 in December and you have to wonder if his career has reached the end of the road. A good career is it has been though. How different would the Indians season have been this year if they had a reliever the caliber of Jackson (circa '97-99) standing guard at the back of the 'pen?
Pat Borders was dealt from the Mariners to the Twins, for whom he'll serve as the third-string catcher behind Joe Mauer and Henry Blanco.
There are three things in life that I can guarantee. Death, taxes, and the Fox will play in September (much to the chagrin of Granddaddy Rahm). That's right folks, the mighty Foxers kept their playoff hopes alive with a hard-fought 8-6 victory over Slam Jams to advance to the Final Four. Clutch hitting, aggresive base-running, tough defense, and a strong (meatball-free) performance from Big Daddy powered the victory. Next up: Johnny and his Ringers. The only reason you shouldn't be there is if you're in jail. And if you are, break out.