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March 30, 2005  

CIR UPDATE: Tribe Talent Ranked 7th  
Baseball America ranked the Indians seventh in their annual organizational talent rankings. The Tribe trails the Angels, Dodgers, Brewers, Twins, Braves, and Rockies. Aquick quote: "While Indians’ depth has waned, righthander Adam Miller gives them an elite pitching prospect." Rankings such as these always have to be taken with a grain of salt but it is nice to see the Indians overall talent is held in high regard.

CIR UPDATE: Dish on Sowers  
Jeremy Sowers is the focus of Baseball America's Spring Training Dish today.


March 28, 2005  

CIR UPDATE: More Roster Moves  
Justice B.Hill notes on that the Indians optioned Brian Tallet to Buffalo and assigned Paul Shuey and Jason Bere to minor league camp. Hill also notes that Steve Watkins will be assigned to Buffalo and join the Bisons starting rotation. I'll take that to mean that Watkins will stay with the Tribe the remainder of the week in case of injury. More interestingly, Hill reports that Cliff Bartosh is out of options and the Indians are looking at trade possibilities for the left-hander. If nothing can be worked out, Bartosh would then likely be designated for assignment and exposed to waivers. If he clears, the Indians could then attempt to outright him to Buffalo. I say attempt because I believe that Bartosh has been designated previously which is how the Indians acquired him via waivers in December 2003 from the Padres. Hmmm, I could have sworn that he had one option remaining. Serves me right for leaving my media guide at home.

CIR UPDATE: Tribe goes BOGO  
The Indians are offering a special "Buy One, Get One" ticket offer through 1:00 PM ET tomorrow (Tuesday). Check out for more details.

It's official. Juan Gonzalez will be the Indians rightfielder on opening day and has beaten out Grady Sizemore for the final outfield spot on the opening day roster. Not a big surprise, given the speculation that it was Gonzalez' job as long as he could demonstrate he was healthy but between his sore hammy and the impressive play of Grady Sizemore, there was enough variablesin the equation to suspect the Indians could go a different way with this decision. The difference between the two comes down to presence. Or, rather, Gonzalez' .595 slugging percentage versus Sizemore .418 slugging percentage this spring. Juan Gone adds a presence to the Indians lineup that Sizemore simply cannot at this stage in his career; the ability to drive the ball, put balls in the seats, and be an imposing force in the middle of the lineup. This is absolutely nothing against Sizemore, who is without a doubt the Indians number one overall position player prospect, but just reflects that they are very much different players at different points in their careers.

Is this the right move? I think so. By all accounts, Gonzalez can still hit and is in good shape. If he can perform at 75% of his 2001 level (last season with the Indians), the Indians will be in very good shape. If he doesn't (slumps, injured, mopes), the interesting question will be how long the Indians stick with him before moving onto Plan B? Unlike the Brady Anderson experiment of 2002 (.162 BA, 34G), the Indians do have a very solid Plan B in either Sizemore or Ludwick. The Tribe cut bait on that line (Brady) in mid-May and if Gonzalez struggles, will they make a move that early in the case as well?. Gonzalez doesn't exactly have the reputation of being a model clubhouse presence, especially when times are tough, so the fear has to be what kind of negativity he would (could) bring to the clubhouse before the Indians say enough and move on. Let's hope it doesn't come to that. The Tribe definitely has a need for a right-handed power bat in the middle of its lineup. Right now, it belongs to Juan Gonzalez.

To Sizemore's credit, he was disappointed in the news and stated as much. As much as it's nice to hear a young player take the party line, it's also encouraging to hear the competitiveness in a player come out especially when they've had a good spring. More to Sizemore's credit will be if he takes this demotion back to Buffalo as incentive and puts together a monster season.

The Indians also formally announced that Jhonny Peralta will open the season as the starting shortstop although this has been but a mere formaility for the past several weeks. Brandon Phillips will be optioned to Buffalo this weekend. Why keep him around or, rather, why delay the optioning? In case of an injury to Peralta, Jose Hernandez, or Alex Cora, Phillips will be available to break camp with the big league club.

The roster now appears to be set, although Brian Tallet is doing everything in his power to force his way into one of the final two bullpen spots. The lefty threw three shutout innings against the Tigers on Saturday, lowering his ERA to 0.87 in 10.1 innings this spring. If Tallet is carried north, Matt Miller would appear to be the odd-man out after he struggled again against a left-hander, serving up a two-run to Bobby Higgenson on Saturday and seeing his ERA rise to 8.38 for the spring. To Miller's credit, Eric Wedge has indicated that the side-armer has faced an inordinate amount of lefties this spring which is something that would not generally happen during the regular season. That said, unless Miller is going to serve as a late-inning situational righty (when you already have Bob Howry, Bob Howry, and David Riske to work the 7th and 8th inning from the right side), it might make sense to have a more rounded pitcher to serve as a middle reliever who can work multiple frames. Tallet would seem to fit that bill more so than Miller. Eric Wedge has repeatedly said that Tallet is not out of the picture so, perhaps, this is one act that will play out until the final weekend. It will be interesting to see if Miller is used in more of a regular season role this week to aid in their decision making process.

So, given the above, in terms of roster moves, all that remains to be done in the final week to round out the roster is optioning Brandon Phillips, Cliff Bartosh, and Tallet (or Miller) to Buffalo, assigning Steve Watkins to minor league camp (Buffalo), and assigning Paul Shuey and Jason Bere to minor league camp and, likely, extended spring training or release.

One final note on Gonzalez, by making the opening day roster, he now has a base salary of $600,000. Juan was guaranteed $100k even if he had been released this spring and he will now receive an additional $500k for making the big league club. With incentives, Gonzalez could earn an additional $1.65 million this season. That's a far cry from the $10 million the Indians paid him in 2001. It's also a far cry from the dollars he stands to earn next season as a free-agent if he reaches those incentives and has a good year.

Jake Westbrook took a ground ball off his right palm in a minor league start on Friday but x-rays over the weekend showed no damage. He is not expected to miss a turn as he preps for his first opening day start.

The Tribe signed second basemen Danny Garcia to a minor league contract. Garcia had been released by the Mets earlier this month after previously being removed from their 40-man roster in the off-season. The soon-to-be 25-year old Garcia has a .227 career average in 194 major league at-bats split between 2003 and 2004 with the Mets. How/where he fits in a crowded Buffalo infield remains to be seen.

The Indians also have veteran backstop Fernando Lunar in minor league camp. The 27-year old Lunar has a .224 career average in 237 major league at-bats with his most recent major league experience coming with the Orioles in 2002. He spent the previous two seasons in the PCL with the Roayls (03) and Cubs (04) affiliates. How/where he fits into the Buffalo catching mix remains to be seen.

Arizona released Jose Jimenez. Minnesota sent down Brent Abernathy, Jason Tyner, and Todd Dunwoody. Anaheim farmed out Zach Sorenson while Los Angeles did the same with Derek Thompson. Scott Stewart was sent down by the Mets, Jack Cressend by the Red Sox, Nerio Rodriguez by the Cardinals, Corey Smith by the Padres, and Tony Medrano and Mike Bacsik by the Phillies.


March 24, 2005  

CIR UPDATE: MLB Radio in Winter Haven  
MLB Radio is live from Winter Haven this afternoon and giving the Tribe a lot of love right now.

Cleveland Indians Report: Thursday, March 24  


Hey, Coco Crisp had four more hits yesterday against the Pirates and is now hitting .436 (10-for-39) with anywhere from 6-to-9 of his 10 knocks coming of the two-bag variety depending on what source you check. As I've said before, as Coco goes, so goes the Indians '05 offense. He's going to be a nice sleeper pick in many fantasy leagues over the next few weeks.

Hey, no official annoucement on the shortstop position yet but Jhonny Peralta continues to play well, although his error yesterday contributed to the Pirates four-run 4th inning. Peralta is hitting .314 (11-for-35) while Brandon Phillips is hitting .121 (4-for-33). I'd be surprised if we did not see an announcement early next week or over the weekend to allow Peralta to settle in (officially) as the starter.

Hey, Juan Gonzalez played right yesterday (went 1-for-4) and continues to inch closer to convincing the Indians he's ready to go. Grady Sizemore, meanwhile, homered yesterday and continues to impress at the plate and in the field.

Hey, CC Sabathia threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and reported no pain afterwards. He's scheduled to throw again today and remains on track for a mid-April return.

Hey, I haven't talked much about Aaron Boone and Ben Broussard much this spring but both went deep yesterday and are enjoying good camps. For Broussard, this is no surprise as Ben typically starts strong. For Boone, what's most important is that the knee is holding up as his playing time has steadily increased.

Hey, Paul Shuey is expected to start the season in extended spring training as he continues to build arm strength. The local papers noted that Shuey is throwing in the 85-87 range this spring but that he's encouraged by his progress. I believe the Indians and Shuey have a mid-May date by which he can become a free-agent if he's not on the big league roster.

Hey, are we the only family who tells their kids to put on their Paul "Shoeies" before they go outside and play? Probably.

Hey, the Tribe is on the tube today against the Dodgers at 1:00. Scott Elarton makes the start for those fortunate to be on the couch this afternoon.

Hey, I believe they're also on all weekend. FSN Ohio, that is. Check that, the schedule may be Thurs-Fri-Sun-Monday.

Hey, Ben Sheets would look nice in an Indians uniform this July. I'm just saying.

Hey, Ryan Garko keeps on hitting, going 4-for-4 with a triple in the Bisons triple-A game yesterday.

Hey, diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle

Hey, I couldn't resist (sorry).

Hey, Albie Lopez was granted his release from the Pirates yesterday after he requested to be let go if he was not added to the 40-man roster. Lopez, who did not pitch in the bigs last season, had been bothered this spring by a strained calf but had still managed to allow just one run in seven innings of work. Can you believe that Albie will be 34 this August? Man, how time flies. Remember when Lopez and Julian Tavarez and Chad Ogea and Willie Martinez were the future of the Indians staff? That worked out well.

Hey,with Lance Berkman out the first two months of the season, it's looking more and more like Willy Taveras has a good shot at breaking Astros camp as their starting centerfielder. The speedy Willy (or Wily, as I use to consistently write for some reason) is hitting .289 with three doubles and six stolen bases this spring. Last year, Taveras hit .335/.402/.386/.788 with 55 steals for double-A Round Rock after being dealt to the Astros for Jeriome Robertson. That worked out well. Skilled defensively, the challenge for Taveras continues to be whether he can hit enough or, rather, with enough power to make teams respect him at the plate. Taveras only had 16 extra-base hits last year in 409 ABs. Yeah, I know, he can beat out bunt attempts and grounders in the hole, but you still need to be able to drive the ball occasionally into the gap less you aspire to a Jason Tyner career path, albeit with better defense.

Hey, Luke Scott was also traded to the Astros in the Robertson deal and he's also enjoying a fine spring, hitting .423 with three doubles and three longballs. Robertson, incidentally, was dealt to the Expos last summer, signed with Cincinnati this off-season, and is battling for a spot in the Reds rotation this spring.

Hey, another former Indian making an impression in camp this spring is Maicer Izturis, of whom Angels manager Mike Scioscia says he has "no fear of playing him every day" according to Peter Gammons. Izturis has impressed with his defense ("incredible defender") and speed and is hitting .257 (9-for-35). Izturis (along with Ryan Church) was dealt to the Expos for Scott Stewart (that worked out well) last winter and then was dealt by the Expos (along with Juan Rivera) to the Angels this offseason for Jose Guillen.


March 20, 2005  

CIR UPDATE: More Roster Cuts  
The Indians reduced their spring roster to 41 today when they optioned Fernando Cabrera, Francisco Cruceta, and Kyle Denney to Buffalo, re-assigned Ryan Garko, Kenny Rayborn, Jake Robbins, and Ernie Young to minor league camp, and placed Jody Gerut on the 15-day disabled list. More in the next CIR.


March 19, 2005  

The Tribe reduced the spring training roster by two yesterday when they optioned Franklin Gutierrez and Andrew Brown to Buffalo. Despite impressive springs, the move comes as no big surprise given that neither player was expected to break camp with the big league club. For Gutierrez, the outfielder showcased his speed, arm, and power tools by hitting .588 (10-for-17) with three doubles and playing outstanding defense in the middle of field. For Brown, the right-hander began his conversion to the bullpen by tossing three hitless innings while punching out four. Eric Wedge noted that Brown had made a "strong impression" and was throwing in the mid-90s with strong breaking balls. That's a combination that could be lethal in the back of the pen. Wedge even hinted that Brown could help the big league club later this season. A combination of Brown and Fernando Cabrera will be an imposing duo for International League hitters coming out of the Bisons pen this summer. As for Gutierrez, Andy Call notes in the Canton Repository that Gutierrez is likely headed to Buffalo while Paul Hoynes notes in the PD that Gutierrez appears headed back to Akron, especially if Grady Sizemore starts the year in Buffalo. Myself, I think triple-A is the place for Franklin, although an opportunity to feast on a repeat of double-A pitching for a couple of months until an outfield spot opens in Buffalo may not be such a bad thing.

Rough outing for Denny Stark yesterday as the right-hander allowed 10 runs (9 earned) in 1-2/3 innings in the Indians 11-6 loss to the Braves. Needless to say, his long shot to make the opening day roster just got a whole lot longer. Brian Tallet, meanwhile, continues to pitch well as the left-hander worked two scoreless frames of relief. He's now unscored upon in five innings this spring. Coco Crisp had four hits, including two doubles, while Victor Martinez also banged out a pair of two-baggers.

The Associated Press is reporting that former Indian Robbie Alomar may announce his retirement today after leaving yesterday's exhibition game between Tampa Bay and Toronto after playing just one inning (he struck out and made two errors in the field). The 37-year old Alomar has been bothered by a sore back this spring and yesterday was his first appearance in a game since March 10. Since being traded to the Mets in the 2001 off-season, Alomar has hit just .262/.331/.367/.698 for the Mets, White Sox, and Diamondbacks over the past three years. He also missed two months last year with a broken hand. In three seasons with the Tribe, Alomar hit a combined .323/.405/.515/.920 with 63 homeruns, 309 RBIs, and 106 stolen bases while teaming with Omar Vizquel to arguably form the best double-play combination in baseball history. Dealt after a career best .956 OPS in 2001, you have to hand it to the Indians for knowing when to sell high. His struggles since leaving the North Coast don't, however, make the lack of a return in trade any easier to swallow, but we've been down that path before. If Alomar does retire, he leaves the game 276 hits shy of 3000 (2724 career total) when he once seemed a lock to reach the magical mark. Five years from now, it's going to be interesting to see how his three-year decline to end his career affects his status in the minds of Hall of Fame voters, not to mention some of his other on and off the field incidents. Still, his combination of defense, speed, and pop make him a definite hall of famer in my book.

Former Indians number one pick Alan Horne is the focus of Baseball America's college weekend preview as Horne leads the Florida Gators against his former school Ole Miss on Saturday. If you remember, Horne was the second Indians pick of the 2001 draft (#27 overall) which also featured fellow high school right-handers Dan Denham, Jake Dittler, and Travis Foley. After spurning a reported $1.7 million offer from the Tribe, Horne matriculated to Oxford where he made 12 starts in 2002 while also missing time with a sore back. The following year, the right-hander made only five appearances for the Rebs before being sidelined with an elbow injury that eventually led to Tommy John surgery. After spending last season at Chipola JC in Florida (and being drafted by the Angels in the 30th round), Horne transferred to Gainesville where he has moved into the Gators weekend rotation. BA notes that Horne is now throwing in the low 90s as opposed to the mid-90s when drafted.

Simon Pond was assigned to minor league camp by the Red Sox.


March 17, 2005  

With opening day less than three weeks away, let's check in on the battles for the open roster spots this spring...

While a formal announcement has yet to be made, it's beginning to look more and more like Jhonny Peralta (as expected) will open the season in Chicago as the Indians starting shortstop. Eric Wedge even hinted to the fact earlier in the week when, in his best coachspeak, he stated "nothing has been decided yet, but that's fair to say" when asked if Peralta has an edge over Brandon Phillips. In 23 at-bats this spring, Peralta is hitting .304 with a pair of homeruns (he singled twice yesterday against the Astros). Phillips, meanwhile, is hitting just .130 (3-for-23) in a similar number of at-bats. I wouldn't be surprised if the Indians let this play out until the final week but, then again, I wouldn't be surprised if they make an announcement in the next round of cuts to let Peralta settle in as the starter. Incidentally, backups Jose Hernandez (.400, 6-for-15) and Alex Cora (.381, 8-for-21) are both hitting well this spring.

Juan Gonzalez returned to the lineup (and field) the past two days and the hammy appears to be holding up well. He'll be out of the lineup today against the Blue Jays but back in right field against the Braves on Friday. Gonzo went deep yesterday (second of the spring) and doubled against the Nats on Tuesday. If he's healthy, he's starting in right.

Grady Sizemore has come on after a slow start to camp and is now hitting .290 (9-for-31) with a double and triple this spring, including a pair of hits yesterday. As we've speculated, if Gonzalez heads north, Sizemore, well, he's headed north too, but a little further east on I-90 to Buffalo. That's because Ryan Ludwick continues to play well, hitting .321 (9-for-28) with four doubles and a long ball. More importantly, Ludwick is healthy for the first time in two years, has shown the ability to play all three outfield positions (including centerfield where the Indians have a legitimate backup concern), and is out of options (meaning the Indians would have to expose Ludwick to waivers if they wanted to send him to Buffalo). If Gonzalez is healthy, he starts in right, Ludwick is the 4th outfielder, and Sizemore starts in Buffalo. If Gonzalez is not healthy, Sizemore would likely (or could) start in left with Casey Blake moving to right and Ludwick serving as the 4th outfielder. Or, Ludwick could start in right, Sizemore could still be sent to Buffalo to play everyday, and an NRI like John Rodriguez could sneak onto the roster to start the season. J-Rod, signed out of the Yankees system as a minor league free-agent this offseason, has impressed this spring with a pair of bombs and the ability to play all three outfield positions. He's hitting .333 (7-for-21). More than likely, however, it's going to be Juan Gone in right, Ludwick as the backup, and Grady in Buffalo.

Even with an additional opening in the 'pen with Jason Davis moving into the rotation (albeit temporarily), the bullpen appears to be settled barring a late surprise or injury. Like the shortstop position, no official announcement has been made but Eric Wedge dropped a pretty strong hint earlier this week that Matt Miller and Rafael Betancourt were the favorites for those final two spots. Both pitched well last season for the Tribe (although Betancourt had his share of struggles in the closer role) and both have thrown the ball well this spring. Miller has worked in four games with a 2.25 ERA (4IP-2H-3BB-2K) while BCourt has worked in six games with a 4.50 ERA (6IP-5H-0BB-9K). Note the characteristic strong command and K/BB ratio from Rafael. Both have options remaining (Betancourt 2, Miller 3) so this isn't a situation where they have to be kept or the Indians would likely lose them via waivers. Still, they both pitched well last season, have thrown the ball this spring, and their inclusion on the roster is not a spring surprise. The only decision remaining will be which member of the 'pen gets shuffled off to Buffalo when CC Sabathia returns and Jason Davis moves back into a long relief role. You hate to say it, but even though that will likely be a sooner rather than later decision in mid-April, injuries tend to make these types of decisions easier.

Franklin Gutierrez continues to be the talk of camp, hitting a sizzling .588 (10-for-17) with three doubles and showing impressive skills in the outfield. For you Bisons fans, an outfield of Gutierrez and Sizemore will be fun to watch this summer.

Brian Tallet continues his return from Tommy John surgery, tossing three scoreless innings this spring. Given the above bullpen scenario, Tallet appears to be a long-shot to break camp with the big league club, although Indians brass continues to publicly state that he remains in the picture. More interestingly, however, was this comment from Mark Shapiro who said in regards to Tallet not making the club, "the logical thing would be for him to start at Buffalo so we could bring him up at some point during the season and use him as either a starter or reliever". Sorting out that Buffalo rotation will be one of the more interesting decisions made by the Tribe late in the camp. Among the contenders (in no particular order) are Tallet, Kyle Denney, Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Bere, Billy Traber, Francisco Cruceta, Denny Stark, and Kenny Rayborn. I'm assuming that Kaz Tadano will work in the 'pen and Fausto Carmona will start the season in Akron. You know, now that I think about it, with Tallet, Traber, and Bere all recovery from injuries, I wonder if we may see a situation where Tallet and Traber both "start" for the Bisons (i.e., Traber works the first four innings and Tallet the next four), at least until they build up arm strength and can work starters innings. Denney, Guthrie, and Cruceta would appear to have three spots locked up with the other two likely some mix of rehabees and spot starters / long relievers.

As strange as it may seem, with 17 days until the start of the season, the Indians roster appears to be set. Barring injury or a late surprise, the Indians 25-man roster on opening day should be:

Catchers: Josh Bard, Victor Martinez
Infield: Ben Broussard, Ronnie Belliard, Jhonny Peralta, Aaron Boone, Jose Hernandez, Alex Cora, Travis Hafner
Outfield: Casey Blake, Coco Crisp, Juan Gonzalez, Ryan Ludwick
Rotation: Jake Westbrook, Kevin Millwood, Cliff Lee, Scott Elarton, Jason Davis
Bullpen: Bob Wickman, David Riske, Arthru Rhodes, Bob Howry, Scott Sauerbeck, Matt Miller, Rafael Betancourt

Speaking of things being set, the Indians coaching staff is set through 2006 as all Tribe coaches were given extensions through the '06 season. The Tribe's top brass is also now set through 2007 as Eric Wedge joined Mark Shapiro and company with an extension through the '07 season. The deal also includes club options for 2008 and 2009.

Former Indian Dwight Gooden was arrested this past weekend on domestic violence charges for allegeldy hitting his girlfriend. Gooden currently works as a special assistant for the Yankees.

The Reds assigned Travis Chapman to minor league camp.


March 14, 2005  

CIR UPDATE: Roster Cut by 10  
The Indians reduced the spring training roster count by 10 this morning when they optioned Jeremy Guthrie and Fausto Carmona to Buffalo, optioned Jake Dittler to Akron, and re-assigned non-roster invitees Javi Herrera, Jose Morban, Jake Gautreau, Mariano Gomez, Billy Traber, Darnell McDonald, and Dave Wallace to minor league camp. No big surprises among this group. Perhaps Guthrie if only for how early in spring he weas sent down. Traber too, although he just needs innings to build his arm strength and minor league camp is the place to do it. 51 players remain in camp with the big league club. More in the next CIR.


March 10, 2005  

Another day, another injury concern. After a quiet start to camp, this is starting to get a little ridiculous. Of course, this latest hit probably shouldn't be much of a surprise given his injury history but when Juan Gonzalez is expected to be your starting right fielder and he's missed the last few games with a tight hamstring and he's still listed as day-to-day and his health is already in question and hamstring injuries tend to linger if not given proper rest and you wonder how you can give him proper rest while still getting enough at-bats to make a decision on whether he's North-worthy, well, it's an issue. Not to mention a really long sentence. It's still early enough to be overly concerned (perhaps that's too strong of a word given the Indians other outfield options) but if Juan Gone cannot return to the field and play every day this spring the Indians are going to have a tough decision to make regarding whether he's ready to play everyday in the regular season.

Then again, maybe they won't. Although it's still early, Ryan Ludwick is off to a fine start, hitting .429 (6-for-14) with two doubles and a homer and, most importantly, running well and showing no ill effects of the two knee surgeries that sidelined him for most of 2004. Depending on Gonzalez' health and the play of Grady Sizemore (.154, 2-for-13), Ludwick could play himself into a much larger role than anticipated entering the spring. The first key is Gonzalez. If he's healthy, he's the starting right fielder. You can't see him accepting a backup role, can you? Me neither. If he's not healthy, then the second key is Sizemore. If he plays well and convinces Eric Wedge and company that he's ready, he'll likely be the starting left fielder with Casey Blake moving to right (Coco is a lock in center). That leaves Ludwick in a fourth outfielder role. If, however, Sizemore struggles this spring, and the brass decides to send him to Buffalo to play full-time, that would obviously seem to leave right field open for Ludwick given the scenario above. Still a long way to go, but the Indians do have options if Gonzalez cannot get back onto the field. Like I said, it's early, but if the hammy problems linger, it's going to be interesting to see how long the Indians wait before cutting bait and moving on to more fertile waters.

With yesterday's rainout, Jason Davis will start today against the Devil Rays in St.Pete. Incidentally, I heard Tom Hamilton mention on WTAM that Davis has been working on a changeup this off-season/spring which could be "quite a weapon". Indeed. The development of an off-speed pitch and forcing hitters to not sit back on the heater would go a long way towards improving Davis' fortunes as a big league starter. His likely short-stint in the rotation to open the season aside, a season in the 'pen to develop and refine the change would be a nice stepping stone to Davis moving into a more prominent role on the staff next season.

Also scheduled to work in St.Pete are Matt Miller, Denny Stark, Cliff Bartosh, Rafael Betancourt, and Brian Tallet, who are all in competition for the (now) final two spots in the 'pen. Interesting that the Indians chose to throw them all in the same game since they're also playing against the Nationals in the Haven in a split-squad game. Cliff Lee starts for the Tribe in that one. Additionally, Jason Bere and Billy Traber (among others) will work in a simulated game to get their innings in.

With pitchers starting to extend out to three innings (and beyond next week), I would expect to see the first roster cut this weekend.

In case you missed it, 10 Dominican minor leaguers have been permanently banned from receiving visas to enter the United States (thus ending their U.S. career) after they were caught participating in a fraudulent marriage scam over the off-season. An additional 30 players are still under investigation according to Baseball America. No word yet on whether any Tribe farmhands are involved.

The Devil Rays assigned Earl Snyder to minor league camp.


March 08, 2005  


The Big Fella is going to be all right. That's the news from Winter Haven after the Tribe announced that CC Sabathia has a mild sprain of the right oblique muscle (abdominal muscle towards the bottom of the rib cage) and will be shut down for the next seven days. Of course, this means that Sabathia will not start the opener on April 4 in Chicago but the news could have been far worse. After his one week shutdown, CC will then participate in a seven day long-toss program followed by seven days of throwing off a mound. If you track that schedule forward from March 5 (the day he was injured) or March 7 (yesterday's announcement), the earliest that it appears that CC will pitch in a game is either March 26 or March 28 which is the last week of spring training. I would expect to see him make one (maybe two) appearances this spring and then remain in extended spring training to build up his arm strength. Given that, I would be very surprised if he does not start the season on the DL which makes a rehab appearance in Akron or Buffalo a distinct possibility in early April.

Jake Westbrook has already been named the Indians replacement starter for the opener on the South Side. Jason Davis will likely step in as the 5th starter until CC returns. Barring rainouts, it looks like Davis will make the April 10 start in Detroit (where he had a 11.32 ERA in two starts last season) with his next turn likely on April 16 provided that CC is not yet ready to rejoin the rotation.

If CC does start the season on the DL and if JD does move into the rotation (albeit temporarily), that would appear to open up a (temporary) bullpen spot for one of Matt Miller, Rafael Betancourt, Cliff Bartosh, Fernando Cabrera, Denny Stark, etc., so the competition for the final bullpen spot could carry over into the first few weeks of the season.

In other mound news, at least he's not in pain. That's about all you can say about Kevin Millwood's debut yesterday after the right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits in one inning on the bump. This is where you insert the coachspeak that the first week of spring training games don't mean anything. 'Tis true. If Millwood is getting rocked in three weeks, then you can crank up the concern. Oh yeah, the Tribe lost this one to the Blue Jays 12-9. Oh yeah (part two), Johnny Mac made two errors for Toronto. Say what?

In the other split-squad affair yesterday, Jake Westbrook didn't allow an earned run in three innings in the Tribe's 3-1 win over the Yankees.

The ABJ has a nice article on Brandon Pinckney and the importance of $70 in meal money to a minor leaguer. Pinckney, incidentally, is slated to begin the season as the Aeros starting shortstop. He also belted a homer on Sunday for the big league club.

Chad Durbin was assigned to minor league camp by the Nationals.


March 06, 2005  

CIR UPDATE: CC Scratched  
CC Sabathia was scratched from his start today against the Tigers after feeling tightness while warming up before the game. Cliff Lee started in his place and worked a pair of scoreless frames. No word on how long Sabathia may be out or if this is just a precautionary move early in the spring.

CIR UPDATE: Adam Miller out 6 weeks  
John Farrell announced at a press conference today that Adam Miller will be shut down for the next six weeks with a strained ligament in his elbow. I believe another MRI will be taken at that time and, if all looks good, he'll go on a throwing program for the next 4-to-6 weeks before returning to game action, likely in a rehab type situation (i.e., limited innings, etc). As Farrell put it, it's a "temporary interruption" for Miller and the Indians do not believe that he'll need to go under the knife. Based on the above time timetable, it sounds like it will be late May or June before Miller makes his 2005 debut. Expect the Indians to be rightly cautious with their top prospect. Once again, as Farrell put it, hopefully six years from now, this six week shutdown will be a forgotten blip in his career.

Other nuggets from Farrell's interview on WTAM...
- Adam Miller is a legit 100mph pitcher as he hit triple digits four or five times in Kinston and then again in an all-star game.
- Miller works consistently in the 95-97 mph range with a slider that can reach 92 mph. That is simply nasty.
- He's also a "fearless competitor" with tremendous focus.
- As for fears that overuse of the slider could damage the elbow, Farrell cautioned that not only do the Indians hold their young arms to strict pitch counts but they also hold them to a strict distribution of pitches within that pitch count (i.e., Miller is not throwing 50% sliders).
- The purpose for the control of distribution of pitches is to help prevent injuries but also to allow development and command of the fastball.


March 03, 2005  

CIR UPDATE: Hafner Goes Deep  
Travis Hafner just belted a two-run blast to give the Indians a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Welcome back Pronk!

The Tribe opens the 2005 exhibition season in about 15 minutes against the Astros. Now if only I could find some radio reception in this cold war era concerte bunker I get to call an office. Didn't stream spring training games for free the last few years? It's Jake Westbrook (and a cast of thousands) against Peter Munro (and a cast of thousands). Enjoy!


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