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March 31, 2006  

CIR UPDATE: Tribe to add GCL Team  
Among other interesting notes (more on that in another report), Chris Kline reports in the Baseball America Spring Training Daily Dish that the Indians are close to adding a rookie-level Gulf Coast League team that would play in Winter Haven this summer. Mark Shapiro was quoted as saying that "the Appalachian League is becoming more and more of a college league, so we want to bring a team in where our younger picks and Latin players will be able to compete on a level playing field.". That uneven playing field was often reflected in the B-Tribe's W-L record, not that winning and losing is driving this decision. If this goes through, the Indians would join the Mets as the only teams with eight minor league affiliates (Buffalo, Akron, Kinston, Lake County, Mahoning Valley, Burlington, GCL Indians, and the VSL Indians (Venezuela)). Late note: the GCL Indians are listed as an affiliate on I can't remember the last time the Indians had a "complex" team, whether in the GCL (Florida) or AZL (Arizona).

CIR UPDATE: Florida Atlantic Indians?  
The Palm Beach Post reports today that Florida Atlantic University is interested in having the Indians move their spring training facilities to the FAU campus in Boca Raton after FAU officials contacted several teams last October and the Indians apparently expressed the most interest. While talks appear to be in a very preliminary stage, the article does note that a decision would need to reached by October 1 in order to secure state funding for the project, which would then be ready for the 2008 Grapefruit League season. If the Tribe were to move to Boca, the closest teams would be the Orioles in Fort Lauderdale and the Marlins and Cardinals in Jupiter. Apopka, FL (north of Orlando) and Cape Coral (Fort Myers area) are also reportedly considering projects to lure the Indians to town.


March 30, 2006  

Danny Graves, Kelly Shoppach, and Ramon Vazquez are in. Einar Diaz, Steve Karsay, and Brandon Phillips are out. Jason Davis waits in Buffalo. Grady Sizemore picks up the check at dinner. That's the short-short version of yesterday's events in Winter Haven. 27 players remain in big league camp with Tim Laker and Jason Dubois slated to be the final cuts. DuBois will be optioned to Buffalo while Laker's fate may depend on whether Diaz accepts an assignment to Buffalo. Today's a busy day for me so the long version will have to wait for tomorrow. In other news...

Franklin Gutierrez has a bruised left wrist after being hit on the hand by a pitch in a minor league game on Monday.

Two nice performances from the Kinston staff: Scott Lewis spun four scoreless innings on Tuesday, striking out two and allowing four hits while Chuck Lofgren tossed five scoreless innings on Wednesday, allowing one hit and three walks while punching out six. Lofgren's outing came in a camp game against his Kinston teammates.

John Farrell told the Kinston Free Press that Michael Aubrey may start the season in Kinston as the DH or in extended spring training to allow him to get stronger.

Anthony Lunetta and Kieran Mattison have been released according to the Kinston Free Press. Lunetta, drafted twice by the Indians (42nd, 1999, HS) (9th, 2003, USC) hit .239/.321/.339/.660 with nine homeruns in his three years with the Tribe. Mattison, who was acquired from the Royals along with Trey Dyson in the Brian Anderson trade in August 2003, had a solid season last year for Lake County, saving 24 games, and posting a 3.52 ERA in 46 innings.

Jim Thome homered twice yesterday and has now blasted six longballs since Sunday. Good thing he's getting this out of his system before Sunday night.

Jeff Kent signed a one-year, $11.5 million extension with the Dodgers. The deal also includes a $9 million club option for 2008.

Marquis Grissom announced his retirement after hitting just .200 this spring for the Cubs. The 38-year old Grissom was the 1997 ALCS MVP with the Indians thanks to a memorable 8th inning Game two homerun off of Armando Benetiz. He retires as one of just seven players in major league history with 2000 hits (2251), 200 homeruns (227), and 200 stolen bases (429), joining hall-of-famers Joe Morgan and Paul Molitor and future hall-of-famers Craig Biggio, Roberto Alomar, Barry Bonds, and Rickey Henderson. A two-time all-star and four-time gold glove winner, Grissom played for seven teams in his long career, finishing with career averages of .272/.318/.415/.733.

Ryan Church was "shocked" by his optioning to triple-A by the Nationals. After hitting .287/.353/.466/.819 in 268 at-bats last year, Church was beaten out by Brandon Watson and Marlon Byrd for a spot in the DC outfield.

Jim Brower has made the Orioles opening day roster. Mike Edwards was re-assigned by the Pirates, Francisco Cruceta and Jose Morban were re-assigned by the Mariners. Kane Davis was waived by the Pirates.


March 29, 2006  

CIR UPDATE: Graves, Shoppach Round out Roster  
Anthony Castrovince reports on that Danny Graves and Kelly Shoppach have been told that they will be on the opening day roster. Jason Davis will be optioned to Buffalo while Steve Karsay and Einar Diaz will be designated for assignment. Ramon Vazquez will also head north with the big league club with Brandon Phillips set to be traded as noted in the previous update. More in the next CIR.

CIR UPDATE: Phillips to be Traded?  
Anthony Castrovince reports on that the Indians have informed Brandon Phillips that he is being traded to another club. No details on which club that may be. More in the next CIR.

CIR UPDATE: Indians Sign Grady for Six Years  
The Indians signed Grady Sizemore to a six-year, $23.45 million contract today. The deal is the most guaranteed money for a player with less than two years of major league service. It also includes a club option for a seventh season that would raise the value of the contract to $31.45 million through 2012. More in the next CIR.


March 28, 2006  

With five exhibition games remaining before Opening Night, the final roster decisions (backup catcher, utility infielder, seventh reliever, and backup outfielder) are expected within the next couple of days. Since I'm going to be traveling on Thursday, expect a flurry of moves on the 30th.

Ramon Vazquez had an 0-fer(4) yesterday, lowering his average to .241 for the spring. Brandon Phillips got into the game at short but did not have an AB listed in the boxscore.

Todd Hollandsworth (CF) (.209) and Jason Dubois (LF/RF) (.442) both went 1-for-3.

Neither Kelly Shoppach or Einar Diaz saw action.

Danny Graves gave up two hits but did not allow a run. Steve Karsay was scheduled to pitch the 9th but never got the chance with the home Phillies victorious. He'll pitch today.

Aaron Boone continues to enjoy a fine spring, belting his fourth homerun and seeing his averages rise to .405/.458/.762.

Veteran left-hander Felix Heredia was signed to a minor league contract after being released by the Diamondbacks (4G, 10.80 ERA) earlier this week. He will (potentially) offer some left-handed insurance in triple-A should anything happen to Scott Sauerbeck while also (potentially) stopping the Indians from having to rush Tony Sipp or Rafael Perez. The Indians will be Heredia's 8th organization as he's also seen time with the Marlins, Cubs, Blue Jays, Reds, Yankees, Mets, and Snakes. He sat out most of last year after surgery in July for an aneurysm in his left shoulder. Perhaps that explains his struggles on the mound in 2004 (6.28 ERA, 47G). Going back to 2002-03, however, Heredia was solid out of the pen, posting a 3.00 ERA for the Reds in '03. Oh yeah, if and when he's called up to the big leagues, he'll have to serve a 10 game suspension for steroids (October 2005). So much for that injury insurance, huh? Still, not a bad no-risk signing by the Tribe.

The Bisons remain unbeaten (7-0-1) this spring after a 13-5 victory over Round Rock yesterday. Andy Marte homered while Ben Francisco and Jake Gautreau doubled. Joe Inglett (.448) had another knock. Jake Dittler allowed five runs on six hits and a pair of walks while striking out six in five innings on the bump. On Sunday, Ryan Garko belted a homerun in a camp game versus Akron. Kaz Tadano struck out four in two frames.

David Hall reports in the Kinston Free Press that Matt Knox and Justin Pekarek have retired. Knox (13th, 2001, Millersville U) spent his first three years with the Indians as a corner infielder. A switch to the mound in 2004 saw Knox dominate in the Valley, striking out 61 in 40 innings with a 2.25 ERA, as a key component of the NY-Penn League champion Scrappers staff. An elbow injury limited him to seven appearances last year. Pekarek (8th, 2004, Cornhusker U) had a strong season in the Valley last year, striking out 43 in 30 innings with a 3.50 ERA, before moving up to Kinston and a spot start in Akron. Jensen Lewis notes in his column that Pekarek has battled with a bone condition in his pitching arm for the past three years that resulted in the southpaw pitching with a lot of pain.

Hall also notes that Todd Pennington and JJ Sherrill have been released by the Indians. Pennington (46th, 2001, SE Missouri St) had a stellar career with the Tribe in the low minors, posting a career 2.39 ERA with 58 saves in 154 games that includes 252 striekouts in 195.2 innings. "Dominating" does not do his 2003 Captains season justice as he posted a 0.72 ERA with 20 saves and 65 strikeouts in 37.1 innings of work. So why the lack of love? Pennington's right-handed and a soft-tosser, and he had control issues (52 walks in 74 innings) at the higher levels (high-A and AA), and he turns 26 in April. Still, the numbers he posted were (are) impressive. Sherrill (23rd, 1998, Sac CCC) didn't play much in 2005 (23G) after seeing regular duty in the outfield at the A-Ball level from 2002-04. His best season was in 2002 with Columbus (Lake County) when he hit .236/.373/.397/.770 with 13 homeruns and was always somewhere in the boxscore, whether it be with a hit, walk, hit by pitch, stolen base, sacrifice, etc.

Hall also notes that a "good source" says that a major leaguer will start on the mound for both Kinston and Buffalo in the April 4 exhibition game at Grainger Stadium. Jason Johnson makes sense but I'm not sure who the other would be.

Jensen Lewis (4IP, 4H, 4R on Monday), Scott Lewis, Joe Ness, Chuck Lofgren, and Sean Smith will open the season in the K-Tribe rotation according to Chris Kline who adds that Chris Gimenez belted a pair of jacks in yesterday's game.

SportsTime Ohio has signed up WOW, Massilon Cable, GLW Broadband, and Clear Picture bringing the eyeball count to approximately 1.9 million.

The LA Daily News reports on the possibility that the Dodgers could leave Vero Beach within the next five years to train in Arizona. With the Indians in a never-ending search for a long-term spring training home, just keep this in the back of your mind.

Aaron Myette was released by the Phillies, Jake Robbins was re-assigned by the Reds, Zach Sorenson was outrighted by the Brewers, Ricky Gutierrez was re-assigned by the Padres, Chris Clapinski and Benji Gil were re-assigned by the Royals, and Ryan Drese (shoulder) was placed on the 15-day DL by the Nationals.


March 27, 2006  

Bullpen day was a success as the Indians defeated the Reds 9-4 to raise their Grapefruit League record to an AL best 18-8-1 for the spring.

Of course, what was really important yesterday was the performance of the three hurlers battling for the final spot in the bullpen. Jason Davis started and worked two scoreless innings, allowing a hit while striking out one. In 16-1/3 innings, Davis now has a 3.31 ERA while allowing 14 hits and four walks while striking out nine. Steve Karsay followed with a scoreless frame, although he allowed a pair of knocks. His ERA stands at 5.54 in 13 innings of work (17H, 2W, 10K, 3HR). Danny Graves worked the 4th and retired the first two batters before serving up a dinger to Austin Kearns, three more hits, two more runs, and a long fly out to the track to end the inning. Graves' ERA rose to 4.26 covering 12.2 innings on the bump (15H, 5W, 5K, 1HR).

It's tough to get a good read on their respective performance level from so far away and little or no TV/radio coverage to see/hear with our own eyes/ears but my thoughts on reading between the lines of the various comments is that of the two veterans Danny Graves has been more consistent and is ready stuff-wise while Steve Karsay has shown flashes of the stuff that made him one of the better relievers in the game but not on a consistent basis. To put it another way, Graves is the safer bet but Karsay, in a month or so, could have more of an impact.

I just wonder if the Indians can afford to carry either of these two in the hopes of them bouncing back once the regular season starts. Neither has been lights out this spring, neither has been particularly effective the last few years either due to injury or just plain old poor performance, and neither should really be trusted with a lead at this point in their respective comebacks. Not to mention that the Indians would likely have to designate a player off their 40 (and potentially lose him via waivers) in order to keep either Graves or Karsay. Not that potentially losing, say, Jason Stanford, would be a devastating blow, but you hate to lose an asset if you don't have to. Of course, if Karsay or Graves turns in a stellar campaign, this discussion is moot, but I think there's a lot of doubt as to how effective either will be once the regular season begins. Jason Davis has presented himself as a viable option with a strong spring, improved secondary pitches, and even though the Indians have said they don't need a true long-man, he can work multiple innings which would be a plus for the staff. Given that neither Karsay or Graves has seized the position, I just wonder how much the Indians are considering just rolling north with Jason Davis and letting the two veterans explore greener pastures. I can understand the need to add another veteran and both Karsay and Graves have closed before (although Graves' reputation was overly inflated by the save count as compared to his actual performance level) but if it takes a month to figure out that they don't have it and it costs us a game or two (or three), that's a game or two (or three) we need to make up on the Sox. That's not to say that Jason Davis couldn't blow a game or two (or three) but you know what I'm saying.

Ultimately, with JD having an option, I think he'll go to Buffalo and lie in wait should either Graves or Karsay struggle or an injury befell another member of the 'pen. As for whether it's Graves or Karsay, I just have a hunch that if Karsay can show consistency with his stuff, and more specifically, with his splitter, which Eric Wedge referred to as a potential separator in the Canton Repository, he's going to have an edge because of his larger potential impact. If not, Graves' overall consistency will win the day.

Note to self: Both Graves and Karsay are scheduled to work again today.

Jason Dubois just keeps hitting, going 2-for-2 yesterday, including a double, to raise his averages to .450/.569/.785 (18-for-40). Odds are still good that Todd Hollandsworth will break camp as the 4th outfielder due to his left-handed stick and ability to play all three outfield position but Dubois has certainly done everything in his power to make the decision difficult for the top brass. If he does get demoted, it will be interesting to see how he handles it after such a strong spring performance.

Brandon Phillips (.324) returned to the lineup yesterday and banged out a hit in three trips to the dish. We should start seeing his name pop up in the out-of-town newspaper rumor mill this week.

Look out Chief Wilson. Grady Sizemore tripled for the 5th time this spring to go along with two other knocks to boost his spring averages to .360/.439/.720.

Cliff Lee allowed four runs on four hits and three walks in six innings of a minor league game yesterday. He should make his final spring start this coming Thursday or Friday in preparation for his April 5 regular season debut.

In an ominous sign for Indians fans, Jim Thome homered on the first two pitches he saw in both his spring training and White Sox debut yesterday. He had sat out all previous exhibition games as the Sox have been cautious in his return from elbow surgery (not to mention his back problems). Needless to say, a healthy Thome adds a formidable force to the South Side lineup.

Mark Little was re-assigned by the Marlins.

MLB Radio is discussing the Dave Stewart karate kick of Pat Corrales. Good times.


March 26, 2006  

T-minus one week until Opening Night in Chicago.

Now, if we can just get this snow to move on, we'll be all set.

Brandon Phillips is scheduled to play today after missing over a week due to strep throat. Paul Hoynes notes that the Rockies may have an interest in Phillips if the Indians elect to roll north with Ramon Vazquez as their utility infielder.

Jake Westbrook looked strong against the Braves on Saturday, allowing one earned run on four hits in six innings of work. In a typical Westbrook outing, his sinker induced 9 ground ball outs.

Just about every member of the bullpen is scheduled to pitch today against the Reds. Jason Davis will start followed by Danny Graves, Matt Miller, Bob Wickman, Guillermo Mota, and Scott Sauerbeck. Cliff Lee, in his normal turn, will pitch in a minor league game. You'll sometimes see a starter work a minor league game to get his work in when the big league club is busing out for a road game but today's game is in the Haven. Is this a bit of a showcase with Davis working two full innings against big league hitting or is this just a quirk in the workload and an opportunity for the Tribe to evaluate the pen in one sitting?

While we're talking about Davis, Mark Schwab noted on WTAM earlier today that Davis' secondary pitches have shown much more life this spring.

Is this the first time this spring that Danny Graves and Steve Karsay have not pitched on the same day?

Todd Hollandsworth struck out twice yesterday as part of a 0-for-5 afternoon to lower his average to .200 (8-for-40) for the spring. Jason Dubois (.421, 16-for-38) remains in camp.

Jeremy Guthrie was optioned to Buffalo yesterday after having, by all accounts, an impressive spring. Guthrie made five appearances, including two scoreless innings on Friday, and posted a 4.00 ERA in nine innings of work, allowing seven hits (two homeruns) and a pair of walks while striking out eight. Eric Wedge was quoted as saying that Guthrie was "very impressive this spring, he's really turned the corner" and praised his confidence and consistency. Similar remarks have been heard from other members of the Indians brass throughout the month. Guthrie will work out of the Bisons rotation and will be the second or third option should the Indians need a depth starter (Sowers may be ahead of Guthrie on the chart but Guthrie's 40 status may make him more practical for one start if Carmona is not available). It's an encouraging spring but the doubting Thomas in me wonders how much of this is coach/GM-speak to facilite interest from other clubs. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but after three years of disappointing performance, I think we're at the stage where we need to see it on a regular basis to believe it. For all concerned, a "he's back" Guthrie would be a very good thing.

Lou Merloni has accepted his assignment and will report to triple-A Buffalo.

Fausto Carmona and Jeremy Sowers continue to look sharp as does the entire Bisons staff this spring. Carmona tossed four scoreless innings (3 hits, four strikeouts) on Friday against Richmond while Sowers worked five scoreless frames (three hits, two strikeouts) yesterday against Toledo while Andrew Brown punched out two in two scoreless innings of relief. The Bisons are unbeaten (6-0-1) through seven games and have a 2.56 ERA in 63.1 innings.

Joe Inglett continues to rake, going 2-for-2 yesterday preceeded by a 1-for-3 game on Friday that included a pair of walks. Inglett is now hitting a tasty .480 (12-for-25) for the spring as he prepares to enter his potential final year in the organization. The Stanford product and 2000 draft 8th round pick will become a six-year free-agent in the offseason if he's not added to the 40-man roster. While he doesn't have the tools that make scouts drool, all Inglett does is hit, posting a .304 career average that included a .330/.376/.465/.841 campaign for the Bisons last year. He'll again likely serve in a super-sub role for the Bisons. Given his roster status, it will be interesting to see if the Indians find a way to take a look at him in the big leagues this summer to see what they have in Inglett.

Eider Torres is also stroking the ball well in Bisons camp, hitting .391 (9-for-23) for the spring.

Andy Call reports that Matt Whitney blasted two homeruns for the K-Tribe on Friday. After missing significant chunks of the past three years with injury, Whitney appears to be healthy. He'll open the year as the starting third basemen for Kinston.

Paul Hoynes reports in the PD that the Indians may "take a look" at Alfonso Soriano if the Nationals decide to put him on the open market. Given his unhappiness in the outfield and Ronnie Belliard's presence at second base, I'm not sure where Soriano would fit with the Indians. But, hey, it never hurts to kick the tires.

Brent Abernathy was re-assigned by the Brue Crue, Billy Traber was optioned by the Nationals, and Luke Scott was optioned by the Astros.

In a move that might signify the end, Dave Burba was released by the Mariners after posting a 16.20 ERA in three appearances this spring. Burba has enjoyed a long career, 115-87 career record, that featured three strong seasons with the Indians from 1998-2000 in which he went 46-29 with a 4.27 ERA. That's worth about $7 million per year on the open market these days. Don't fret that Burba missed the boat, however. According to, THE Ohio State University product made over $24 million in his 15-year career. Mamas, let your babies grow up to be innings-eaters. As for what the future holds for Burba, "I'm 39, and my kids are 12, 10 and 4. They've had a part-time dad," he said. "If baseball is not going to be the major leagues, then it's time for me to come home and assume my responsibility as a father." Enjoy Dave, and best of luck.


March 25, 2006  

CIR UPDATE: Passan likes the Tribe  
Jeff Passan, Yahoo! Sports national baseball writer and former beat reporter for the Royals, picks the Indians to finish second in the AL Central this year and take the White Sox to seven games in the ALCS.

CIR UPDATE: Guthrie Optioned to Buffalo  
The Indians optioned Jeremy Guthrie to Buffalo today. The right-hander posted a 4.00 ERA in nine innings this spring, allowing seven hits (two homers) and two walks while striking out eight. He'll be one-fifth of the Bisons rotation to start the season. More in the next CIR.


March 24, 2006  

Andy Marte banged out his sixth double of the spring yesterday and drove in the Tribe's lone run as part of a 2-for-4 effort against (one of) his former teams (Braves) and what does he have to show for it this morning? A ticket to ride. To Buffalo. No big surprise, of course, as the Indians have repeatedly said this day was coming. That helped lessen the pressure of being dealt for one of the Indians more popular players but Marte did nothing but impress all spring in the field, at the plate, and in the clubhouse, hitting .359/.381/.590 (14-for-39) with six two-baggers and one longball. He's an injury or slump away in Buffalo.

Likewise is Ryan Garko, who was optioned to triple-A this morning along with Franklin Gutierrez. Garko solidified his position as first basemen in waiting with an impressive spring in the field while hitting .263/.417/.395 with two doubles, one homerun, and six walks (six strikeouts). Gutierrez again flashed his stellar defensive skills and showed an improved eye at the plate despite an unimpressive batting average, hitting .194/.318/.222 with a double and seven walks (eight strikeouts). All three (Garko, Gutierrez, and Marte) will likely be the first call-up at their respective positions and how many teams can boast of that type of talent on stand-by in triple-A?

Jose Flores, Ben Howard, and Lou Merloni were re-assigned to minor league camp to lower the big league camp count to 32 players. Flores seems ticketed for a multiple-position season in Buffalo following in the footsteps of Greg LaRocca and Chris Clapinski. I'm not sure if Merloni has the option of electing free-agency built into his contract but I would not be surprised if he chooses to head elsewhere if his agent can find him a new home. Howard may be the one out of this threesome to impact the big league club out of the 'pen if he can reduce the walks and homeruns. Easier said than done but he does have an interesting arm.

Strep Throat is what has kept Brandon Phillips off the field for a week, although he could resume baseball activities today and see game action over the weekend. How much this setback has affected his roster status is uncertain as it may have been a predetermined decision anyway but it certainly hasn't helped. Phillips has impressed, both on and off the field, hitting .323/.382/.581 (10-for-31) while Ramon Vazquez, who went 0-for-5 yesterday, is now hitting .245/.260/.347 (12-for-49). As discussed yesterday in the update, Phillips' status can/will impact the 40-man roster beyond the utility infielder position.

Victor Martinez is day-to-day with a bruised foot after it was stepped on while covering first in a minor league game on Wednesday. Let's see, the first game he played at first he didn't have a ball hit to him. Game 2, he gets stomped on. Is someone trying to tell the Indians something?

The Tribe receives high marks from Will Carroll in his Team Health Report for Baseball Prospectus.

Guillermo Mota tossed two scoreless innings, giving up one hit, a walk, and striking out two. He's now worked in four games and this was his first multiple inning appearance. The Indians have been extremely cautious with him this spring, giving him 3-4 days between apperances, and it will be interesting to see if they ramp him up and we start seeing Mota on a more frequenct basis the closer we get to April 2.

Jason Stanford worked three hitless innings yesterday for the Bisons, walking two, and punching out three. Edward Mujica also tossed two scoreless frames. Joe Inglett singled and is now hitting .450 (9-for-20). On Wednesday, Jake Dittler struck out eight in five scoreless innings for the Bisons in an intrasquad game against the Aeros. Way back on Tuesday, Ryan Mulhern went yard twice and drove in six runs. Steve Jackson also went deep. Jackson is a 28-year old catcher who spent the past six seasons in the Oakland organization, hitting .181 with Sacramento last year.

The Denver Post reported yesterday that the Indians had expressed interest in first basemen Ryan Shealy although the paper doesn't know when that interest was expressed and does go on to say that the Tribe does not have a good fit for the 25-year old with Ben Broussard and Eduardo Perez currently on the bag. Ryan Garko continues to fly under the radar (for now). Shealy hit .328/.393/.601/.964 with 30 doubles and 26 homeruns for Colorado Springs last year but has a talented and expensive road block in front of him in the form of Todd Helton. More than likely, the Indians inquired about Shealy early in the offseason before they signed Perez and before Garko showed his improvements in the field this spring.

Sports Time Ohio has inked deals with Comcast and Cox and can now be seen in 1.7 of the 2.8 million homes that FSN Ohio was seen in last year. Both DirectTV and Dish Network, not to mention other cable providers, remain in negotiations with the Tribe.

Dwight Gooden admitted to cocaine use and could be looking at prison time (up to five years) in his April 5 sentencing.

Juan Gonzalez is MIA and his agent, Alan Nero, tells the Boston Globe that "We don't know what's in his head. It's sad. I'm worried about him. But you can't help a client you can't communicate with." Gonzalez signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox last weekend but may be having second thoughts after the Sox acquired Wily Mo Pena earlier this week. Nero also confirms that rumors out of Puerto Rico this week that Gonzalez had signed a minor league deal with the A's were inaccurate.

Kyle Denney and Steve Watkins were re-assigned by the Nationals, Nerio Rodriguez by the Pirates, Chad Paronto by the Braves, Andy Tracy by the Orioles, and Chad Durbin, Josh Phelps, and Ryan Ludwick by the Tigers. There will definitely be an ex-Indian flavor in Toledo this summer.

CIR UPDATE: Roster Trimmed by Six  
The Indians optioned Andy Marte, Ryan Garko, and Franklin Gutierrez to triple-A Buffalo and re-assigned Lou Merloni, Jose Flores, and Ben Howard to minor league camp. The cuts leave 32 players in big league camp. More in the next CIR.


March 23, 2006  

CIR UPDATE: Roster Trimmed by Two  
The Indians optioned Andrew Brown and Fausto Carmona to triple-A Buffalo today. The moves leave 38 players remaining in big league camp. With Brown out of the picture (for the time being), that leaves Danny Graves, Steve Karsay, and Jason Davis fighting for the last bullpen spot. One factor to consider with non-roster invitees Graves and Karsay is that their addition to the roster means someone needs to come off the 40. The same with Todd Hollandsworth if he is to serve as the backup outfielder as expected. Brandon Phillips would be one designee since he's out of options and Ramon Vazquez seems to have the upper-hand for the utility infielder role. Phillips, by the way, is still out with a virus and has now missed a week of games. The Tribe hopes to have him back by the weekend. So if Phillips is one, who would be the other designee exposed to waivers? Jason Stanford and Kaz Tadano would seem the likely choices although you could make a case for several others. Of course, if the Indians elect to keep Jason Dubois instead of Hollandsworth, the need for a second designee would be moot. Of course, if the Indians keep Phillips and option Vazquez, they would need a designee since both Phillips and Vazquez would remain on the 40 which brings us back to Stanford and Tadano and others. This doesn't even take into account the possibility of Einar Diaz making the opening day roster which would require a third designee. Kelly Shoppach, I think your spot on the plane north is pretty safe, although I would expect a middle seat in the back with Ana Lucia and the rest of the "tailies". Usually an injury can help make these decisions easier but, fortunately for the Indians, but unfortunately for roster-management purposes, the Indians don't really have any candidates for the 60-day DL which moves a player off the 40 and creates an open roster spot. That's the down side to a healthy spring but who's really going to complain about that? It should be interesting to see how the Tribe sorts this out. More in the next CIR.


March 21, 2006  

With the Indians enjoying a rare off-day yesterday, today it's the Buffalo Bisons report...

Five Bisons had multiple hit games as the good guys ran their spring record to 3-0 with a victory over Richmond yesterday. Eider Torres had three knocks, including a double while Jake Gautreau, Joe Inglett, Todd Donavon, and Ivan Ochoa had two hits apiece. Edward Mujica tossed a pair of scoreless innings in relief.

Hyang-Nam Choi allowed a run on two hits in three innings for the Bisons. Choi is a 35-year old veteran of the Korean leagues who signed a $100,000 minor league deal with the Indians in November. The Korea Times notes that the Indians offered Choi a contract after he threw four scoreless innings against Indian farmhands in instructs this past fall. Choi, who went 2-5 with a 4.10 ERA for the Kia Tigers last year, has apparently been plagued by ankle injuries throughout his once promising career. He's a longshot to help the Tribe this year but an interesting story nonetheless.

Choi is not the only veteran hurler in Bisons camp. Martin Vargas, former Tribe farmhand who has spent the past four years pitching in the Pacific Rim, is back in the organization. The right-hander spent 2002-04 with the Chunichi Dragons of the Japanese League and then won the Korean League championship with the Samsung Lions last year, posting a 5.06 ERA in 128 innings. He also started game 1 of the Konami Cup, which matches the champions of the four Pacific Rim leagues, for the Korean squad.

Rob Bell, former Brave, Red, Ranger, and Devil Ray, is also in minor league camp. Once a top prospect and a feature part of two deals involving Denny Neagle, Bret Boone, and Edwin Encarnacion (among others), Bell has struggled in the big leagues, posting a career 30-34 record with a 5.69 ERA in 121 appearances (108 starts). A propensity for free passes and the longball have been his downfall (as with many a former top prospect). Last year, Bell was an equal opportunity mashee, posting a 8.28 ERA in 25 innings for Tamper and a 7.71 ERA in 44.1 innings for triple-A Durham while battling personal issues that led him to see a sports psychologist. A strong finish, one earned run in his final 15-1/3 innings offers hope for the future as Bell "believes he conquered the anxiety attacks that forced his demotion" according to the St.Petersburg Times. Watch for a nifty breaking pitch (the Bell curve) if you get a chance to see him in action this year. announced that all triple-A games will be available via Gameday this season in the same format as the big league version. Very nice.

Paul Hoynes notes in the Plain Dealer that the Indians are close to adding a Florida team to their farm system which would play in Winter Haven. With the Indians "re-upping" with Kinston through 2008 and seemingly rock-solid with Buffalo, Akron, Lake County, and Mahoning Valley, I would think this hints at a switch from Burlington and the Appalachian League to the Gulf Coast League which is traditionally played at organizational complexes. This flies somewhat in contrast to last summer's general manager vote to disband the two complex leagues (Arizona and Gulf Coast) and turn the Appy League into a co-op league in a cost-cutting move that would have left each organization with one AAA team, one AA team, two full-season A teams, and one short-season A team.

Kenny Rayborn signed with the La New Bears of the Japanese League. He was 3-5 with a 5.06 ERA for the Hiroshima Carp last season after being sold by the Indians mid-season.

Chris Coste is having a strong spring with the Phillies, belting a pair of two-run homers on Saturday, and is emerging as a candidate for a big league roster spot depending on the health of fellow former Indian David Bell. Coste had a big year with the Bisons in 2002, hitting .318/.377/.439/.816.

Congratulations to Japan on their 10-6 victory over Cuba and winning the first World Baseball Classic. I'm already looking forward to 2009.

Cliff Lee, Fernando Cabrera, Danny Graves, Steve Karsay, and Scott Sauerbeck will take the mound today against the Reds in Sarasota.

Napoleon, I'm sure there's a babe out there for you too. Peace out.


March 20, 2006  

Nice article by Anthony Castrovince on this weekend with plenty of updates on Tribe minor leaguers. Among the items of interest...

- John Farrell says a minimum of two months at triple-A would be beneficial for Jeremy Sowers.

- Whenever the Indians have challenged Fausto Carmona, he has responded favorably with an increase in stuff, whether it be velocity or action. For example, Carmona was 6-5 with a 4.07 ERA (90.2IP, 100H) at Akron and then went 7-4, 3.25 (83IP, 76H) upon a second-half promotion to Buffalo. He also flipped three scoreless against the Yankees yesterday, allowing just two hits and no walks while punching out four.

- Jason Stanford needs 2 to 2-1/2 months to build his pitch count and stamina to move himself into the "depth starter' mix.

- Michael Aubrey could play in minor league games by the middle of this week.

- Nick Weglarz (3rd, 2005) will likely start the season in extended spring training due to inflammation in his right wrist suffered during minicamp last month. Weglarz hit .231/.313/.347/.660 with two homeruns for Burlington in his pro debut last summer.

Ryan Mulhern was assigned to minor league camp, lowering the count to 40 players in big league camp. Mulhern was tied for the AL lead in homeruns with four at the time of the assignment and hit .250/.308/.792 (6-for-24) this spring. He'll see time at first and in the outfield this year at either Akron or Buffalo (or both).

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported yesterday that the Indians have inquired about the availability of first basemen / outfielder Craig Wilson. This was a quick mention in a discussion about a reported Matt Clement for Wilson trade which is pretty much moot given the Red Sox acquisition of Wily Mo Pena this morning. Wilson is a right-handed power bat who originally came up as a catcher but is now primarily a DH playing first and the outfield in the National League. He hit .264 with five homeruns in a limited role due to injury last year but had a nice 2004 campaign when he hit .264/.354/.499 with 35 doubles and 29 longballs. Given the Indians current log jam at first base with Ben Broussard, Eduardo Perez, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and Ryan Garko all potentially seeing time at the bag this year, adding Wilson to the mix seems a bit far-fetched. Especially when the Pirates have Sean Casey at first now so a flip of Broussard doesn't make much sense from their stand point either. It would not have surprised me if the Indians had inquired about Wilson in the off-season, before they added Eduardo Perez, so perhaps this is where the "inquiry" comes from. Unless, of course, Fausto Carmona has impressed the Tribe brass so much that they're willing to move Jason Johnson to fill the Pirates veteran starter needs. To complete the Wilson file, note that he's due to make $3.3 million this year and can be a free-agent in the off-season.

Speaking of first base, Victor Martinez played six innings there on Saturday and did not have a ground ball hit to him. The best laid plans and at that. He did go deep though. Why the need for Martinez for first and not DH to give his knees and back a rest? With two catchers on the roster, if Martinez is the DH and needs to go behind the plate, the DH spot is lost. With Martinez at first, he can move behind the plate during the game, and the DH stays intact. Keeping a third catcher would solve that dilemma but that's not easy (or the best thing) to do with a 12 man staff. Martinez returned to the dish yesterday and caught Jason Johnson for the first time. He caught Paul Byrd for the first time on Friday as well.

With Martinez in need of reps behind the plate with the new pitchers on the roster and the annual lengthening of starters playing time as the season nears, the chance to make an impression for Einar Diaz and Kelly Shoppach is slowly dwindling. Einar is having the better spring at the plate, hitting .364 (8-for-22) compared to Shoppach's .083 (2-for-24) but the youngster has looked better defensively and isn't that what being a backup catcher is all about? To his credit, Shoppach has also walked six times, so he's not exactly up there flailing away although the stats don't always tell the story early in camp with wild young pitchers on the mound.

Back to first base, Travis Hafner has looked good defensively this spring and the Indians goal is to play him 30 games in the field this year, according to the view from Pluto. Most of that will come during interleague play when the Indians face off against the NL Central this year. A large part of the Indians success last season was their stellar 15-3 interleague record against the NL West. Repeating that in 2006 will be a challenge against the likes of the Cardinals, Cubs, Reds, and the improving Pirates and Brue Crue. Having Hafner in the lineup for the nine NL park games will be a big plus.

Brandon Phillips (.323/.581 slg, 10-for-31) is day-to-day with the flu. He was scratched from Saturday's game and did not play yesterday. Ramon Vazquez was hitless against the Yanks and is now hitting .256 (10-for-39) for the spring. Terry Pluto noted over the weekend that Vazquez still has an option left so how's this for a scenario, the Indians keep Phillips and option Vazquez to Buffalo? I think that depends solely on how much the Indians feel Phillips has matured and whether he can handle a utility role in which he will likely see limited at-bats sitting behind Jhonny Peralta and Ronnie Belliard. While Phillips would likely provide more pop, more speed, and more overall skills, Vazquez will keep his mouth shut and not be a problem in the clubhouse. When you're talking about only 100-150 at-bats over the course of a season, sometimes the latter is more important for the 25th spot on the roster. Still, Phillips has performed well this spring both on and off the field and it will be interesting to see which direction the Indians elect to go come the end of the month.

Danny Graves and Steve Karsay each worked back-to-back outings on Friday and Saturday for the first time this spring. Both worked a scoreless inning on Saturday although neither looked particularly impressive. Graves gave up a deep fly to the track and a liner to third while Karsay didn't look like the Karsay of years past. Jason Davis was the most impressive of the bunch with a quick inning and a couple of weak grounders.

Also in that game on Saturday, in the limited amount I was able to catch, Todd Hollandsworth hung in there against a lefty (Wandy Rodriguez) and even though he didn't get on base (line out to third), he went with the pitch on the outside corner of the plate and drove it to the opposite field. Just an at'em ball but a good at-bat nonetheless.

Grady Sizemore singled, ran on a 3-2 pitch, and Jason Michaels drove him home with a double to the gap. I could get used to seeing this.

Japan vs Cuba in the World Baseball Classic final tonight on ESPN. If you haven't been watching, you've missed some great games and a great atmosphere. While the WBC can (and should) be improved in terms of scheduling, the overall concept has been a homerun in this fans opinion.

The Royals have lost closer Mike McDougal for 4-6 weeks with a strain in his upper right arm. This follows the loss of Mark Redman for 4-6 weeks due to knee surgery and Zach Grienke for an undetermined amount of time due to personal issues. I was going to say that their rotation will suffer with the above losses but given how Redman and Grienke pitched last year they may be better off giving the ball to the likes of a JP Howell of Denny Bautista anyway. At any rate, McDougal could be back in time for the Indians April 21-23 series in Kaufmann Stadium. Note that the White Sox have six games against the Royals in April while the Tribe only has three. Although, it's probably a safe bet to say that any time will be a good time to play the Royals this year.

Juan Gone is gone no more after signing a minor league contract with the Red Sox over the weekend. He'll spend the rest of the spring with the big league camp and then reportedly report to Pawtucket. The deal is similar to his 2005 Indians contract with a reported $600k base that can be worth up to $1.1 million if he reaches incentive marks, although he will make less while he's in triple-A. The acquisition of Wily Mo Pena this morning (for Bronson Arroyo) certainly toughens the road ahead for Gonzalez in his quest for two major league at-bats in 2006.

The Reds re-assigned Earl Snyder to minor league camp.


March 17, 2006  

So much of spring training is spent on evaluating prospects and looking to the future, not to mention the focus on the final open roster spots, that's it's often easy to overlook the springs of the veterans in camp. Travis Hafner is making that harder and harder to do.

Pronk blasted his third homerun of the spring yesterday and is now hitting .579/.680/1.211 (11-for-19) with three doubles, three taters, and six walks. That's a 1.891 OPS for those scoring at home. Sure, it's roughly a five-game stretch in the regular season but is there any doubt that Hafner is ready for 2006? Note that Hafner's replacement at first, Ryan Garko, walked twice. Nice production from your first-sackers.

Grady Sizemore tripled and is now hitting .385 (10-for-26) with four doubles and a longball. He's also walked five times.

Elsewhere around the outfield, Casey Blake is hitting .313 with a pair of homers, Jason Michaels is hitting .269 with three doubles and four walks, and Todd Hollandsworth is hitting .250 with a longball. Hollandsworth also made a nifty sliding catch on the track yesterday. Thanks Adelphia and STO.

Ramon Vazquez (.303, 10-for-33) had a pair of hits yesterday, including a double. Brandon Phillips (.345, 10-for-29) singled on Wednesday.

Kelly Shoppach (.095, 2-for-21) had his second hit of the spring yesterday. He's also walked five times with eight strikeouts. Einar Diaz (.421, 8-for-19) singled on Wednesday. He also committed an error and Paul Hoynes notes this morning in the PD that Diaz is 1-for-6 throwing out baserunners this spring.

Eric Wedge was quoted in one of the local papers that he will narrow the final bullpen contestants to two and then make his decision on who best fits the bullpen. I'll take that to mean that the best statistical performer of the spring may not necessarily win the job. Andrew Brown (3.86, 7K, 7 IP) allowed a run in two innings on Wednesday. Jason Davis (4.09, 7K, 11 IP) did the same yesterday against the Twins. There's still a good two weeks to go, but at this point in the spring, Danny Graves looks to be the favorite, Steve Karsay's fate would be undetermined (rehab assignment, accept outright to Buffalo, cut), and Jason Davis and Andrew Brown appear headed to Buffalo to join Edward Mujica and Brian Slocum in a very prospecty Bisons bullpen.

Matt Miller was roughed up for the first time this spring, allowing a three-run homer to Justin Morneau. Just a hunch, but the odds of Miller facing Morneau in the regular season are slimmer than Joey being nominated for an Emmy next year.

Cliff Lee was also roughed up yesterday, allowing five runs on seven hits in four innings. He's attributes it to the "dead arm" period of spring.

The Bisons open exhibition play against the New Orleans Zephyrs today.

Eric Wedge is hopeful that Michael Aubrey will get into a game this weekend.

Franklin Gutierrez is only hitting .185 (he doubled yesterday) but has drawn seven free passes this spring, continuing the encouraging trend he showed in winter ball.

The United States is out of the World Baseball Classic after losing to Mexico 2-1 last night. Former Indian Ricardo Rincon worked a scoreless inning for the victorious Mexican squad. Japan will face Korea in one semifinal matchup with Cuba vs the Dominican Republic in the other.

Victor Martinez, Rafael Betancourt, Eduardo Perez, and Fernando Cabrera should be back in camp today.

"Game Face" magazine, which was the official game-day program of the Indians, will move online this season and be replaced by "Batter Up", a 24-page scorecard / roster sheet that will be handed out as you walk through the gates this year. 24 pages? Ads, Ads, and more Ads. I wonder if you'll get a free car wash if you have Ramon Vazquez's signature on the DirtBGone ad on page 17.

Roy Halladay signed a three-year extension with the Blue Jays, paying him $40 million from 2008-2010 ($10mil, $14.25mil, $15.75mil) and further raising the price of poker.

Travis Driskill was re-assigned by the Blue Jays, Matt White and Aaron Myette by the Phillies, and Alex Escobar by the Nationals.


March 16, 2006  

CIR UPDATE: Six More Cuts  
The Indians thinned the herd a little more today, optioning Kaz Tadano to Buffalo, Brad Snyder to Akron, and re-assigning Armando Camacaro, Todd Donavan, Jake Gautreau, and Joe Inglett to minor league camps. 41 players remain in major league camp. More in the next CIR.


March 15, 2006  

There was little surprise in the first roster cuts announced today by the Indians. Jake Dittler, Edward Mujica, Brian Slocum, and Jason Stanford were optioned to Buffalo, Michael Aubrey and Rafael Perez were optioned to Akron, and Javi Herrera, Tony Sipp, and Jeremy Sowers were re-assigned to minor league camp. The latter three are not on the 40 and therefore get re-assigned and not optioned. 47 players remain in major league camp.

Stanford was hit hard yesterday by the Blue Jays (6 runs, 1.1 innings) and had allowed 11 hits, three homeruns, and five walks in 3.1 innings this spring. He'll continue his TJ recovery with the Bisons. Sowers also threw, in the split-squad game against the Tigers, and struggled through 1-2/3, allowing six hits and two runs. He wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam in the first but, after retiring the first two batters in the second, hit Ramon Santiago on a 0-2 pitch and then allowed four straight baseknocks. All in all, though, his first big league camp was a positive experience.

So, Michael Aubrey is ticketed for Akron. Does that mean Ryan Mulhern is headed to Buffalo or should we expect to see Mulhern in the outfield at Canal Park? Or Dunn Tire Park, for that matter. "Country Strong" as Eric Wedge referred to him this morning, Mulhern belted two longballs yesterday, his third and fourth of the spring, and is hitting/slugging .300/.960 (6-for-20). Not that I'm complaining, but I still can't believe that no one took a shot on him in the Rule 5 Draft last December. Mulhern's bombs, incidentally, came off Kenny Rogers and top prospect Joel Zumaya.

Joining Mulhern in the big fly brigade in Lakeland were Aaron Boone (#2), Ryan Garko (#1), and Casey Blake (#2). Blake is having a fine spring, hitting .310/.394/.586 (9-for-29).

Brandon Phillips took Josh Towers (Blue Jays) deep for his second homerun of the spring. Phillips added a single and is hitting .360 (9-for-25). Ramon Vazquez (.276) doubled against the Tigers.

Even though the wind was blowing out in Tigertown, Danny Graves likely took a step ahead of Steve Karsay yesterday in working two scoreless frames (1H, 0BB, 2K). Karsay served up two longballs and was charged with four runs on five hits in two innings, although he did punch out five. Jason Davis tossed a scoreless frame against the Blue Jays. Andrew Brown is scheduled to pitch today.

Sheldon Ocker, incidentally, reports today in the ABJ that perhaps the Indians have not yet decided on a role for Davis if he should be sent down to Buffalo. To my eyes, the Bisons rotation appears full with Fausto Carmona, Jeremy Sowers, Jake Dittler, Jeremy Guthrie and a fifth spot for one of either Jason Stanford, Jason Young, Dan Denham, Rob Bell, Ken Schrom, etc.

Former Aeros closer Lee Gronkiewicz, lost to the Blue Jays in the 2004 Rule 5 minor league phase, worked a scoreless inning against his former club yesterday. Gronk is now unscored upon in five innings this spring. This follows a sensational 2005 in which the right-hander saved 30 games between AA and AAA while posting a 1.75 ERA in 66.2 innings (45H, 23BB, 71K). If/when he makes his big league debut, I'm bidding $1.

Ronnie Belliard and the Dominican Republic advanced to the World Baseball Classic semifinals last night with a 2-1 victory over Venezuela. Victor Martinez walked twice in the loss and he and Rafael Betancourt should return to Tribe camp shortly.

With Japan's win over Mexico yesterday, the US needs a Korea win over Japan tonight to have a chance to advance with a win over Mexico tomorrow. If Japan wins and holds Korea to seven or less runs, Japan and Korea will advance due to tie-breaker rules and make the US-Mexico game tomorrow irrelevant.

Sportstime Ohio and Adelphia have agreed to terms and the first game will be televised tomorrow night at 8:00 on Channel 17 (Cleveland and suburbs). Agreements still need to be reached with DirectTV, Dish Network, Cox, Armstrong, WOW, Massillon, and Insight. FSN was carried in 2.8 million homes and STO is now carried in 1.5 million homes. The carriers do have a point in their negotiations. With 520 hours of Indians programming (130 games plus pre and post-game shows), what are they going to air the remaining 8,240 hours of the year? That's a lot of Omar y Amigos reruns.

Former Indian Dwight Gooden was arrested yesterday for violating terms of his parole. He reportedly admitted cocaine use to his probation officer after failing a drug screen. Gooden received three years probation after fleeing a DUI stop last August. Twenty years ago, the Doc was the talk of baseball after a 24-4, 1.53 Cy Young season in 1985.


March 14, 2006  

Sometimes all you need is a little push. Maybe that's a little too extreme for the sake of this discussion but Aaron Boone (Andy Marte) and Einar Diaz (Kelly Shoppach) certainly had big days yesterday and have enjoyed themselves a fine first two weeks of exhibition games. Boone belted a pair of homeruns as part of a 3-for-3 day to raise his average to .500 (9-for-18) for the spring while Diaz is now hitting .437 (7-for-16) after doubling and blasting his first big fly in yesterday's 8-7 win over Tamper. Small sample sizes, for sure, but, like, it's, like, an encouraging sign.

Andrew Brown tossed a scoreless inning yesterday, striking out two and walking one (seven K's in five frames). Danny Graves and Steve Karsay will throw today against the Tigers in Lakeland.

Ramon Vazquez (.269) and Brandon Phillips (.318) each singled. Vazquez committed an error in the field.

Jason Dubois (.409) went yard for the second time and doubled.

Victor Martinez belted a grand-slam in the 8th inning to help Venezuela to a 6-0 victory over Puerto Rico last night in the WBC. Rafael Betancourt worked 2/3 of an inning with a walk for the victors while Fernando Cabrera worked a scoreless ninth for Puerto Rico. Ronnie Belliard (playing third base) went 1-for-2 in the DR's 7-3 victory over Cuba. All four teams in this pool are now 1-1 so the winners of the upcoming Domincan Republic v Venezuela and Puerto Rico v Cuba games will advance to the semifinal.

Who was it who said the field appeared heavily slanted for the US to make the semifinals? A 7-3 loss last night to Korea now leaves the US with a must-win game against Mexico and, quite possibly, some help required to reach the semis.

Here's an interesting idea on the future of the WBC.

Tim Lincecum, an unsigned 42nd round flyer out of U-W last June, is off to a fast start this season, striking out 49 in 29 innings for the Huskies. This follows a stellar summer performance in the Cape Cod league where he posted a league-leading 0.69 ERA and allowed just 14 hits in 39 innings while punching out 68. Unfortunately, the Indians lost all rights to the right-hander once he returned to school. Lincecum was a draft-eligible sophomore and used that leverage as part of a reported seven-figure price tag which the Indians ultimately passed on. Both BA and BP had notes on Lincecum this week with BA quoting a scout as saying "I call him 'Plastic Man' because of his delivery and his arm, it just bounces back so well," a scout with an American League club said. "He's like Roy Oswalt in some ways. His fastball against Arkansas--on three days' rest--was 91-96 mph, sitting 93-94. He's been up to 97 and 98 at times this year. He's been really good, and he holds his stuff deep into games" while BP quotes another scout as saying "I’m not sure I’d risk a first-round pick on him because of the mechanics and control,” said a scout with a National League team. “He could get big league hitters out right now, but he might walk in three runs before he does it.”

Even though it's a long way off, it's never too early to take a peek at the upcoming June draft. The Indians will hold the 25th pick in each round this year. It's the latest they've drafted since picking 22nd in the 2002 draft (Jeremy Guthrie). They will not have a first round pick, having lost that as compensation to the Angels for signing Paul Byrd but they will have five selections in the first 74 picks. They'll select #38 (supplemental first for Bob Howry), #55 (Rangers second round pick for Kevin Millwood, #56 (Cubs second round pick for Bob Howry), #68 (Indians own second round pick), and #74 (supplemental second for Scott Elarton).

The Phillies may be showcasing former Indian Ricardo Rodriguez who is out of options this spring.

Tyler Minges was re-assigned to minor league camp by the Red Sox. Minges had a huge year (.324/.392/.564/.956, 34 2B, 19 HR) for double-AA Springfield (SL) last year after leaving the Tribe as a six-year free-agent. Before you get all worked up, keep in mind that Minges was 25 and in his third tour of duty against double-A pitching. Still, an impressive season for the former Tribe farmhand.

Looks like the end is near for Tiger Stadium. Shame they can't seem to find a way to preserve the old yard.


March 13, 2006  

Eric Wedge announced the order of the rotation and it as follows: CC Sabathia, Jake Westbrook, Cliff Lee, Paul Byrd, Jason Johnson. No major surprises here as the left-handers and the sinkerballers are separated. Johnson will "miss" his first start due to off-days in the first week of the season but, after that, the plans are to have Johnson start every fifth game with the other four getting an extra day of rest. Paul Byrd, incidentally, will be your home opener starter.

As part of this announcement, Eric Wedge indicated that Jeremy Sowers and Fausto Carmona will be first in line as replacement starters in Buffalo. Carmona's 40-status may give him an edge if for no other reason than that. Jason Davis, currently battling for the final spot in the bullpen, will continue working out of the 'pen if he is sent to Buffalo to start the season. I'm not necessarily sold on Davis as either a starter or reliever but I am glad that they're apparantly going to let him pitch in one role from the start of the season instead of moving him back and forth between starting and relieving. It is a long season, though.

Interesting note from Sheldon Ocker in the ABJ this morning concerning Bob Wickman. Turns out that Wick, renowned for his sinker, seldom threw the pitch last year due to pain when he threw it. Yet somehow, he managed to convert 45 of 50 save opportunities to the amazement of sabremetric analysts everywhere. The sinker is returning to his portfolio as he tested it in the off-season and (I would assume in spring training) has not felt any pain thus far. My two thoughts, does this mean we're getting an improved Bob Wickman for 2006 or should we be fearful that the return of the sinker will land him on the disabled list in May?

Steve Karsay told the Canton Repository that it's not likely he would accept an assignment to Buffalo if he doesn't break camp with the big league club. Similarly, Danny Graves can elect to become a free-agent on April 1 if he's not on the big league roster. Both worked an inning yesterday with Karsay being charged with an unearned run. The numbers, which starting anew from this point on will start to mean a lot more, through March 12...

Jason Davis: 4.50, 4G, 8IP, 8H, 2W, 5K, 1HR
Danny Graves: 3.60, 5G, 5-5-2-2-0
Steve Karsay: 5.40, 5G, 5-4-1-3-1
Andrew Brown: 4.50, 4G, 4-4-2-5-1

Guillermo Mota allowed a hit and did not walk or strike out a batter in one inning yesterday. He's next scheduled to pitch on Thursday (March 16). If the Indians do plan on getting him 10-11 innings this spring, he's going to be working quite a bit the last two weeks of camp.

Brandon Phillips returned to the lineup after fouling a ball off his shin.

Mark Shapiro says there will be "significant cuts" after the split-squad game on Tuesday. That's significant in volume, not in who finds the pink slip in their locker. With pitchers working deeper into games and position players getting more at-bats against major league pitching, it's the annual thinning of the herd and re-assignment of the minor leaguers

David DeJesus agreed to a 5-year, $13.8 million contract extension with the Royals that includes a club option for 2011. Consider this a barometer for the Indians negotiations with Grady Sizemore. For comparision purposes (keep in mind that DeJesus had 461 ABs and Sizemore 640 ABs)

DeJesus: .293/.359/.445/.804, 31 2B, 6 3B, 9 HR, 5 SB
Sizemore: .289/.348/.484/.832, 37 2B, 11 3B, 22 HR, 22 SB

Speaking of the Royals, Scott Elarton has been named their opening day starter.

Tampa Bay sent Jack Cressend to minor league camp. Mike Bacsik and Jim Crowell were re-assigned by the Nationals.

In the WBC yesterday, aside from a great US-Japan game that was full of controversy, Victor Martinez was the only Indian to play, going 0-for-3 with a walk in Venezuela's 7-2 loss to Cuba. Omar had two big fielding miscues (botched double-plays) which contributed to the Venezuela loss. With Puerto Rico upsetting the Dominican Republic 7-1 (talk about energy in the stadium), only one of the loaded Venezuela and Dominican Republic squads can possibly advance to the semifinal round. It's getting interesting. By the way, is it just me or is the field slightly (heavily) slanted towards the US making it to the finals?

All I can say is WOW to the Browns weekend. God bless Phil Savage. My only complaint (to the local papers), how much cap room do we have left? Even a quick estimate would be worth a note.

I remember the day when I thought Billy Packer was sane.


March 10, 2006  

Breaking News: The Indians have signed Jhonny Peralta to a five-year contract through the 2010 season that includes a club option for 2011. Terms have not yet been disclosed. I'll have to double-check in the old media guide tonight, but this deal will likely carry Peralta through his arbitration years with the 2011 option taking care of his first year of free-agency. More in the next CIR.

Jason Johnson was hit hard by the Nationals yesterday, giving up nine hits and four runs in three innings of work. Andy Call notes in the Canton Repository that Johnson's two-seamer, a pitch he just learned last year from Tigers pitching coach Bob Cluck, has become his primary weapon that Johnson estimates he throws 80% of the time. I don't know why but it strikes me as odd that a new pitch could so quickly become the dominant part of your repotiore. Not necessarily the "out pitch", like a split-finger, but the dominant pitch you throw. On the plus side, continued refinement of the "sinker" offers room for growth over past performance, which, if the 80% estimate is accurate would indicate that Johnson is a different pitcher than in years past which lessens the impact of past performance as a predictor of future performance. If Johnson posts a big year (or marked improvement from years past) you now know the likely reason why and you can give the proper kudos to the Indians scouts and staff. If you're in the giving mood, a jelly of the month club subscription is always nice. It is, after all, the gift that keeps on giving.

Speaking of two-seamers, notes that Fausto Carmona is working on a two-seamer to induce more ground balls. The right-hander tossed three scoreless innings on Wednesday against the Mets (disclaimer: it was a minor-league laden Mets split-squad lineup).

Andy Marte took AJ Burnett deep as part of a 4-for-4 afternoon on Wednesday. Marte is hitting .500 (8-for-16) and slugging .938 this spring. Barring injury, however, Tribe officials insist there is no way that Marte can force himself onto the opening day roster. If he's still hitting .500 on March 28, I wonder if that stance will change.

Brandon Phillips is hitting .400 (6-for-15) while Ramon Vasquez is at .316 (6-for-19).

Einar Diaz is hitting .333 (4-for-12) while Kelly Shoppach is hitting .111 (1-for-9).

Guillmero Mota worked a scoreless inning against the Mets on Wednesday (see above lineup disclaimer) but the important thing is that he did not feel any pain or discomfort afterwards. He's scheduled to throw a bullpen session today and then pitch again on Sunday against the Yankees. Of course, the big test will be later in the spring when he starts making back-to-back appearances. By my quick count, Bobby Howry made 17 back-to-back appearances last year with a few of those being of the back-to-back-to-back variety. If Mota is going to own the eighth, he's going to have to be able to work on consecutive days. The development of Rafael Betancourt and Fernando Cabrera should not be forgotten in this discussion.

Danny Graves, Steve Karsay, and Andrew Brown are all scheduled to take the mound this afternoon. Jason Davis allowed a run in two frames yesterday.

Trevor Crowe and Ben Francisco are the first roster cuts of the spring as the pair were re-assigned to minor league camp. Crowe is ticketed to begin the season in Kinston while Francisco is headed to Buffalo.

Speaking of cuts, Sheldon Ocker notes that Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro have opposing views as to the timeframe of the makeup of the roster. Wedge reportedly wants to determine the final roster as quickly as possible while Shapiro was quoted yesterday as saying that "(for multiple reasons), the roster decisions will go down to the last 2-3 days." I think it's likely that the composition of the final roster may well be known early amongst the top brass but the public pronouncement (and final cuts) will not be made until the final days to allow Shapiro and company to try and work any deals for "bubble" players like Brandon Phillips, Einar Diaz, Danny Graves, Steve Karsay, etc. It also provides the Indians with insurance in case there is an injury to a final roster guy and one of the "cuts" is needed to head north.

Matt Miller told the Canton Repository that he's ahead of where he projected himself and "at this point, I have to think I'll be ready for the season". From comments previously made by the Indians, I wasn't aware this was much in doubt. Here's a scenario that I could see playing itself out to the very end if a decision cannot be made between Danny Graves and Steve Karsay. Jason Davis is optioned to Buffalo and Miller is placed on the DL, sent to Buffalo on rehab to start the season, and the Tribe buys itself another 10-15 games to sort out the final two spots in the 'pen.

Michael Aubrey took batting practice three days ago and the ABJ quoted Mark Shapiro as saying that he's on track to "break camp with a minor league team". Interesting that he didn't mention a specific team.

No Indians played in the WBC yesterday but they're all headed to round two this weekend as Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic have all advanced. The United States needs to knock off South Africa today to move into the second round. Canada and Adam Stern (how could you not root for a guy having the best game of his life on the biggest stage of his life) will likely be left at home despite upsetting the U.S. earlier in the week.

Was that Billy Traber who tossed four innings of one-hit ball against the Indians yesterday?


March 08, 2006  

Hey, we're in first place! Alone atop the Grapefruit League! Does it get any better than this? I submit that it does not.

Ryan Garko continues to shine at the plate with back-to-back two-hit games. Progress continues at first with Mark Shapiro quoted in the LMJ as saying "He sure doesn't look like a guy who is learning the position and defense is the only issue with him. I don't think there's any question he can hit in the big leagues right now." Whammy be dropped as Garko dropped two pop-ups yesterday. Still, the praise for his growth in the field has been coming from all corners which is a very encouraging sign.

Lou Merloni returned to action on Tuesday and banged out a single in two trips to the dish. Ramon Vazquez and Brandon Phillips each went 1-for-4.

Steve Karsay and Danny Graves both flipped a scoreless inning.

Guillermo Mota is scheduled to make his Indians debut today in the Haven against the Mets. "Being cautious" is the reason he's been held out of games until this point. He's still expected to work 10-11 innings before heading north which will be comparable to the other relievers on the staff. Also scheduled to pitch are Paul Byrd, Bob Wickman, Fausto Carmona, and Matt Miller. In the split-squad game in Dunedin against the Blue Jays, Jeremy Sowers, Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Dittler, Rafael Perez, and Andrew Brown are scheduled to take the hill.

In the WBC yesterday, Ronnie Belliard had a RBI single in the Dominican Republic's 11-5 victory over Venezuela. Belliard did not start but entered the game as Alfonso "Don't Call Me An Outfielder" Soriano's replacement. Victor Martinez was 0-3 with a walk for Venezuela while serving as the DH (Ramon Hernandez was the catcher). Former Indian Omar Vizquel led off for Venezuela and had three hits, including a double. Willy Taveras started in the center for the DR and was hitless in four at-bats with a walk. Bartolo Colon (DR) tossed two scoreless innings while Julian Tavarez work 1-1/3 scoreless in relief.

Fernando Cabrera closed out Puerto Rico's 2-1 victory over Panama with a scoreless ninth that featured two punchouts. While most of the talk surrounding the WBC has been the potential negatives (mainly injuries), the experience that Cabrera is picking up closing for his nation's team could be invaluable later in the season for the Tribe. Fellow Tribesmen Eduardo Perez did not play. Jose Santiago (yikes!) picked up the win with 1-2/3 innings of scoreless relief.

The United States shutout Mexico 2-0 behind seven different hurlers. While there are no current Indians on either squad, former Indians dotted the Mexican lineup with Karim Garcia leading off (?) and going 2-for-4, Luis Garcia hitless in two at-bats, and Ricardo Rincon and David Cortes each working a scoreless stint in relief.

Next up for the US is Canada at 4:00 PM ET today. Puerto Rico takes on the Netherlands at 7:30 and Venezuela faces off against Italy at 7:00. Cuba, incidentally, makes it's WBC debut this afternoon at 1:00. You can follow the action at

Stephanie Storm has an interesting article on Aeros right-hander Bear Bay in the ABJ. Among the interesting tidbits, Bay is 100% for spring training after being shutdown in August with a muscle tear in his ribcage, John Farrell says that Bay has three quality pitches, a good feel for pitching, is composed on the mound, and has a competitive edge, and Bay's goal is to make it to AAA by the end of year. Bay was a combined 9-8 with a 3.86 ERA in 23 starts for Kinston and Akron last year (130.2IP, 127H, 28BB, 125K). Overall, the K/IP and K/BB ratios are impressive although there was a significant increase in Bay's BB/IP ratio when he moved up to Akron.

Dan Cevette makes Baseball America's 31st team in the mag's annual collection of prospect reports that didn't make the annual Prospect Handbook. Cevette isn't necessarily number 31 on the Indians list but, as BA puts it, part of a "random collection of talent with a wide variance in quality". The statement "when he's healthy, there's a lot to like" says it all.


March 06, 2006  

It's early, but here's how the contestants for the few open spots on the roster are faring through the first five games of the spring.....

At backup catcher, Kelly Shoppach is 1-for-4 while Einar Diaz is 1-for-3. Terry Pluto reports that Diaz may not accept an assignment to Buffalo if he doesn't break camp with the big league club.

Ramon Vazquez (.300, 3-for-10, 5 RBI) and Brandon Phillips (.571, 4-for-7, HR) have both started off hot at the plate. As discussed previously, the better the out-of-options Phillips plays, the more attractive he looks to the Tribe and other clubs. Lou Merloni, meanwhile, is day-to-day after being hit on the wrist by a pitch.

Andrew Brown continues to assert himself for the final bullpen spot, punching out two more in a scoreless inning yesterday. In three innings this spring (including an intrasquad game) Brown has recorded 7 of 9 outs via the punchout. Steve Karsay (2 IP, 3H, 3R, 1BB, 0K, 1HR) and Danny Graves (2IP, 3H, 2R, 2BB, 0K) have virtually identical lines through two appearances. Jason Davis (9.00) will work today against the Mets. For those with access, the Tribe and Mets are on ESPN and this afternoon.

Jason Dubois is off to a strong start, hitting .500 with a pair of doubles and a long ball. He's going to be part of an interesting outfield in Buffalo with Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Cooper, and Ben Francisco.

Overheard on the radio courtesy of Tom Hamilton, Ryan Garko has looked good at first base and is farther along defensively then the Indians expected this early in camp. Could he show enough with the glove to warrant the Indians keeping him on the opening day roster? Doubtful, but the improving glove warrants the question of how much triple-A seasoning will he require before he's deemed major league ready in the field?

Speaking of first base, Michael Aubrey is slowly ramping up baseball activities, according to, after re-aggravating his back while running early in camp.

Rafael Betancourt, Victor Martinez, and the Venezuelan team face off against Ronnie Belliard and the Dominican Republic squad in the pool D opener of the World Baseball Classic tomorrow in Orlando (Disney Complex). Fernando Cabrera, Eduardo Perez, and Puerto Rico open pool C play against Panama tomorrow in San Juan. The U.S. opens pool B play tomorrow against Mexico in Phoenix.

The Tribe has extended its affiliation with Kinston for two more years and the extension will lengthen the relationship between the two clubs to 22 years through 2008.. John Farrell was quoted in the Kinston Free Press as saying that aside from the strong support provided by K-Tribe management, the playing surface at Grainger Stadium is regarded as one of the best in the minor leagues and that the 8-team Carolina League circuit provides the Tribe brass the opportunity to see how players make adjustments at the plate and on the mound since they face other teams more frequently than in other leagues. Interesting.

All 40 on the 40 are under contract with Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, Matt Miller, Jason Stanford, and Brandon Phillips coming to terms over the weekend. Interestingly enough, the Indians official release notes the former four "signed 2006 contracts" while the Indians "renewed" Brandon Phillips deal. I take that to mean that Phillips is playing for the same jack as last season while the others got a bump in pay. For Sizemore and Lee (and Jhonny Peralta), the signing could be a mere prelude to a long-term deal later this spting.


March 02, 2006  

With the grapefruit opener behind us (hey, we're 1-0!), it's time to wrap up the CIR's annual look at the players who have descended upon Winter Haven by reviewing the rest of the pitchers in camp.


JASON DAVIS: Could be the odd man out for no other reason then he has an option left. If veterans Steve Karsay and/or Danny Graves throws well this spring, you have to think that one of them is going to get the nod and Davis will fall victim to the numbers game. If he does get sent to Buffalo, is he a starter or reliever? I think the Indians need to make a decision and let him run with it. While he has an option to burn this year, the Tribe could find themselves with an interesting decision come next spring.

DANNY GRAVES: Hasn't been the same since the Reds moved him into the rotation in 2003 with disastrous results (5.33, 169 IP, 204 H, 60 K). Saved a lot of games but numbers weren't exactly closer-worthy. Worked a lot of innings for the Reds, does he have anything left in the tank? Will he accept an assignment to Buffalo to resurrect his career?

STEVE KARSAY: Four straight years of 76+ innings from 1999-2002 as one of the best relievers in the game. Just 80 innings since due to shoulder problems. When healthy, he's been far more dominant than Graves. But that's the rub, "when healthy". Got raked in a short stint with Texas last year but did strike out 30 in 29 AAA innings. Like Graves, will he work in Buffalo and wait for the call?

ANDREW BROWN: Longshot to break camp with the club but may be the best of the bunch by the end of the year. Fastball/slider combo plays well in the 'pen and he punched out 81 in 69.2 innings in his first year out of the rotation. Should be a big part of the 2007 and beyond big league relief corps.

KAZ TADANO: Admittedly, Kaz is a longshot but he's a personal fave so I'm giving him a shot. Pitched well down the stretch in his final 8 appearances for the Bisons, allowing no earned runs and striking out 17 in 11 innings. Has split time between the rotation and 'pen the last two years. Like Davis, a defined role is in need. Given his ability to work 3-4 innings, he may be the best suited of the bunch for the long-man role.


JEREMY SOWERS: Everything the Indians thought he would be when they picked him #1 in the 2004 draft. Pounds the strike zone, commands all his pitches, and has a poise on the mound beyond his years. Will be two hours away in Buffalo (they drive fast when they get called up).

FAUSTO CARMONA: Pitched better in AAA (3.25, 83IP, 76H, 15BB, 49K) than AA (4.07, 90.2IP, 100H, 20BB, 57K). Doesn't miss many bats so success at the next level may not be immediate. Strange trends over his last four stops, less dominant (K/9 dropped) and giving up more longballs (HR/9) but allowing less baserunners (BB/9 and H/9 dropped).

K/9: 7.33 (Kin 04), 6.52 (Akr 04), 5.66 (Akr 05), 5.31 (Buf (05)
HR/9: 0.77, 0.31, 0.69, 1.08
BB/9: 2.57, 2.17, 1.99, 1.63
H/9: 8.61, 12.79, 9.93, 8.23

JAKE DITTLER: Hasn't been the same since his 2003 breakout season due to back and shoulder problems. Tossing a career-high number of innings last year was a positive. Now the performance needs to follow.

JEREMY GUTHRIE: Still a prospect? 5.85 ERA in 47 career AAA appearances says otherwise. Is a switch to the 'pen in the offing?


BRIAN SLOCUM: Took to the 'pen in the Arizona Fall League, holding hitters to a .192 BAA and striking out 19 in 20 innings. Tough on righties last year (.231), the right-hander also posted a career-best K/IP ratio (95K in 102.1IP).

TONY SIPP: May be the most well-known single-A reliever in recent memory. Struck out 120 in 116.1 innings. Will start in Akron and could move quick.

RAFAEL PEREZ: Split time between the rotation and bullpen last year in Akron although most observes feel Perez will eventually find a home in the 'pen. 1.75 ERA in 66.2 innings in Akron with just 53 hits and 12 walks allowed. Another southpaw who could move quick this year. With Scott Sauerbeck the only lefty in the bigs, there's not much impeding a quick ascent.

EDWARD MUJICA: Took to the 'pen like the Crab Man to Berzerker. In 60.1 innings split between Kinston and Akron, Mujica struck out 65 while walking just five batters. Five.


JASON STANFORD: Almost two years removed from the TJ, the question most likely to be asked this spring is "he's still around"? When last we saw Stannie, he was coming off a 3.60 ERA in 50 major league innings in 2003. Two years, two surgeries, and 38 innings later, Stanford is the forgotten man amongst the pitchers this spring. Ticketed for Buffalo and a year of attempting to revive his career.

BEN HOWARD: Former Padres top prospect with a big arm (mid-90s) who has control problems, falls behind in the count, and serves up a lot of gopher balls. Still young enough (27) to "find it" and turn in 2-3 good years out of the 'pen. Arm will keep getting him chances, it's the Indians turn to see if they can get him to click.

CIR UPDATE: Play Ball!  
Ronnie Belliard just blasted a three-run homer and the Tribe leads the Astros 5-1 in the grapefruit league opener. Play Ball!

Andy Marte just ripped his first hit as an Indian into left-field.

After giving up a leadoff triple, Andrew Brown just struck out the side in the sixth. Counting Tuesday's intrasquad game, that's five punchouts in two innings for the right-hander.


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