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April 30, 2007  

One month down and the Tribe is alone in first.

What to do with Fausto Carmona?

Andy Marte returns to the field in Buffalo.

Jared Goedert continues to rake in the County.

Full report tomorrow in the CIR.


April 28, 2007  

CIR 4-28  
What a great day for Cleveland sports. The Tribe has won six in a row, there's a great matchup between Sowers and Bedard tonight, the Cavs look to go 3-up on the Wiz, and there's this little thing called the NFL Draft all weekend. If only the weather wasn't so cold and miserable (again).

Looks like the Browns are going to take Joe Thomas at number three. Can't complain about that although Adrian Peterson rates slightly higher on my draft board. An astute friend of mine recently noted that teams do not trade or let stud left tackles escape via free agency so, if you want one, you need to draft one. I think that may be factoring into the Browns decision.

Tony Grossi notes that the Browns are interested in moving up into the late first to acquire a player they like who does not appear to likely be available when they pick at #36 in the second. I'm hoping this is an attempt to further bolster the line with the likes of OGs Ben Grubbs, Justin Blalock, or Aaron Sears. A first day haul of Thomas and Grubbs to go along with Steinbach and, hopefully Bentley, would give the Browns a formidable line for years to come. You'd also give Charlie Frye and Jamal Lewis an improved line for this year and, if neither ends up in the plans for '08 and beyond, you at least (in theory) have the offensive line in place to go with the QB or RB you add through trade, free agency or the '08 draft.

Sleeper pick for the second: Anthony Spencer, DE/LB from Pittsburgh to tutor under McGinest and team with Wimbley as a dynamic pair of pass rushers from the outside.

Somehow they also need to bring in another running back and one or two cornerbacks. A late round selection on a QB with the right size and arm is always a smart pick as well. Look for Jeff Rowe or Jordan Palmer in the 5th or 6th. Let them sit for a few years, show off their arm in preseason games, and you never know when you have the next Scott Mitchell, Matt Hasselbeck, Aaron Brooks, or Matt Schaub on your hands.

Go Tribe!
Go Cavs!
Go Browns!


April 27, 2007  

CIR 4-27  
Somehow, despite losing four games to old man winter, playing three "home" games in Milly-wa-kay, the loss of one starter, nagging injuries to several other players, and being ranked last in fielding percentage (.975), 9th in runs scored (91), and 9th in ERA (4.30), the Indians have persevered and have rattled off five wins in a row and stand alone atop the Central Division at 12-7.

Shin Soo Choo continues to impress since his recall from Buffalo earlier in the week, throwing out Kenny Lofton at the plate yesterday in a game-changing play while also banging out two knocks at the dish. In four games, Choo is hitting .385 (5-for-13) with four RBI and five runs scored and his aggressiveness in the field and at the plate has been infectious. David Dellucci, meanwhile, continues to be day-to-day with a strained left calf and has now missed five consecutive games.

Young pitchers stepping up, Fernando Cabrera is unscored upon in 10.2 innings and has allowed just four hits and three walks while striking out 15. Cabrera tells David Briggs on that (last year) "I didn't trust my fastball, I wanted to be too fine". Jason Davis has allowed one run in seven innings while Tom Mastny has a 2.89 ERA in 9.1 innings with 10 strikeouts. The three are a big reason why the Indians bullpen ranks third in the AL with a 3.19 ERA in 59.1 innings (even with JoBo's 6 runs in 2/3 of an inning in the Bronx).

Through 19 games, Josh Barfield is hitting 125/164/203/367 (8-for-64). Through 22 games, Kevin Kouzmanoff is hitting 125/197/214/411 (7-for-56) and is sharing time with Russ Branyan.

For comparisions sake (to Barfield), Brandon Phillips hit 231/268/346/614 in April 2003. My goodness, was it really that long ago? Phillips, incidentally, is hitting 235/313/459/772 with 5 homers and 5 stolen bases for the Reds.

Cliff Lee makes his final rehab start in Akron tonight.

Be thankful the Indians are missing Daniel Cabrera and Adam Loewen this weekend, although the Sowers-Bedard matchup on Saturday should be an entertaining duel between two of the best young left-handers in the circuit. Although they've lost four in a row, the Birds young pitching makes them an interesting ballclub. Either Jaret Wright (shoulder, ready to be activated off DL) or Jeremy Guthrie is scheduled to start on Sunday.

In a week that saw two of his fellow 2001 draft classmates traded out of the organization, JD Martin rebounded from a rough outing last Saturday (7R in 2.2 IP) with a five inning, one-run start against Erie yesterday in game two of the Aeros double-dip with the SeaWolves. Martin (2-2, 6.32) recorded his second victory in scattering three hits and a pair of walks while striking out five.

Reid Santos ran his scoreless streak to 10 innings in support of Martin in relief. Santos has punched out 10 on the season while allowing just three hits and three walks.

Brian Barton (293/432/569/992) had three hits on the afternoon, including his third homerun and a double. Barton now has 9 XBH (5-2B, 1-3B, 3-HR) with 19 strikeouts and 9 walks in 58 at-bats.

Aeros left-hander Chuck Lofgren is the focus of the scout's view on today. One note: "Lofgren uses a four-pitch mix, starting with a fastball that ranges in velocity anywhere from 88-95 mph. He also throws a curveball, slider and changeup, the latter two of which have made significant strides since the midseason mark of last year at Kinston". The 21-year old Lofgren, ranked as the Indians number four prospect by BA, is 2-2 with a 4.05 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 20 innings this season.

Speaking of that 2001 draft class from a few paragraphs above, Alan Horne (who spurned the Indians to matriculate to the University of Mississippi) threw six innings of one-run ball yesterday for Trenton (NYY) and is now 3-0 with a 3.18 ERA and 28 punchouts in 22.2 innings.

Wes Hodges (311/313/578/890) is raking in Kinston, going 4-for-4 with a longball (#2) and two RBI in the K-Tribe's 10-6 win over Lynchburg yesterday. Hodges is 10-for-18 (.556) with a double, two triples, a dinger, and 9 RBI in his last five games. Caution, just 1 walk versus 15 strikeouts in 45 at-bats.

Matt McBride (367/475/469/944) has three multiple-hit games out of his last five after rapping out a double and single in the Captains 5-3 victory over Hagerstown yesterday. McBride now has five doubles and is showing nice discipline at the plate with 10 walks versus 8 strikeouts.

Carlos Rivero doubled twice for the Captains to raise his averages to 258/303/306/609 for the season. Rivero, a 18-year old shortstop from Venezuela (nice size - 6'3", 198) is hitting .361 (13-for-36) over his last ten games.


April 26, 2007  

CIR 4-26  
Cliff Lee will make his final rehab start tomorrow for the Aeros with a goal of working up to the 80-85 pitch range. If all goes as planned, he should make his first start for the Indians on May 4 in Baltimore, settling into the rotation between Jake Westbrook and Jeremy Sowers. Sheldon Ocker, incidentally, noted in the ABJ that Lee will be unveiling a slider upon his return to the bigs.

So what to do with Fausto Carmona? Well, let's see how he does on Sunday against the Birds (and probable starter Jeremy Guthrie) before we jump to any conclusions. I will say that he was as dominating on Tuesday as I have seen from an Indians starter in some time. The sequence against Torii Hunter was just plan nasty as was the pitch that sawed off Mike Cuddyer (with a heckuva play by Mike Rouse to boot). I'm torn between using Carmona's stuff to further shorten the game in the mid-to-late innings and letting him continue to develop into a potential frontline starter down in Buffalo for at least the first half. If he continues to pitch at this level (or relatively close), is there a scenario where the Indians could find themselves in a situation where they could look at moving Paul Byrd for a similarly priced, similarly contracted (free agent to be with a buyout) third basemen or other need over the summer and then move Carmona back into the rotation? Of course, you'd have to find a team in need of a veteran starter with the right expendable veteran in return but it's a thought. High levels of performance from your ready for the bigs kids open up possibilities that previously did not exist.

Matt Miller is still down in the Haven and his rehab (forearm) is going "slower than expected" according to Eric Wedge.

Picking up where we left off yesterday down on the farm...

David Huff turned in another gem for Kinston, tossing six innings of one-hit, one-run ball (with the lone run coming via the longball) in the K-Tribe's 3-2 victory over Lynchburg on Tuesday. The outing was the fourth straight in which the left-hander had allowed one earned run or less. In 19 innings this season, Huff (2-0, 1.42) is limiting opposing hitters to a .200 BAA and has been especially tough on lefties, retiring all nine that he has faced.

Jeffrey Stevens increased his scoreless streak to 14 innings (18 K) with a scoreless inning of work on Tuesday in which he struck out the side.

Wes Hodges has raised his average to .244 after a recent three-game stretch in which he hit .500 (5-for-10) with a double and triple and drove in seven runs.

Down in the County, Steven Wright faced the minimum through five innings on Tuesday, finishing with eight strikeouts, no walks, and just two hits allowed in six innings on the bump in the Captains's 3-0 shutout of Hagerstown on Tuesday. The outing was a major leap in performance from his previous start, also against H-Town, in which the right-hander was tagged for 8 runs in 2.2 innings. Baseball is a game of adjustments, huh?

Jared Geodert (316/480/684/1.164) belted his 6th longball in support of Wright and now stands second in the Sally League in that department as well as OPS while continuing to pace the circuit in free passes (18).

Jonathan Van Every (.471, 4 XBH, 11 RBI, 4W) and Aaron Laffey (2-0, 1.50, 12 IP, 9 K) were named player and pitcher of the week respectively for the Eastern League.

The Bisons activated Trent Durrington off the disabled list.

Two right-handers from the high school pitching heavy 2001 draft have been traded to the Oakland A's in separate deals. Travis Foley was dealt to Oakland for future considerations. In six seasons with the Indians organization, the 4th round pick out of Butler HS (KY) in 2001, was 39-28 with a 3.51 ERA in 507.2 innings (476K, 198 W). His best season came in his full-season debut in 2002 with the Columbus Redstixx when he went 13-4 with a 2.82 ERA, striking out 138 in 137.1 innings while allowing just 108 hits. Moved to the bullpen in 2004, Foley underwent elbow surgery in October of that year and then spent the last two seasons working effectively out of the Aeros bullpen. Foley joins double-A Midland in the Texas League where he has a 2.25 ERA in three appearances. Kaz Tadano (1-1, 4.24), incidentally, is one of the starters in the Rockhounds rotation.

Dan Denham was dealt to the A's on Tuesday for a PTBNL or cash considerations. Once ranked as high as number four (2002) on the Indians prospect list by Baseball America, Denham was the first selection (17th overall - 3 picks before Jeremy Sowers who did not sign with the Reds) by the Indians in the 2001 draft and the first of four high school right-handers taken with their first five picks (Alan Horne (DNS), JD Martin (Akron), Jake Dittler (Akron)). After signing for $1,860,000, Denham has spent the last six years in the Indians organization, going 47-40 with a 4.44 ERA in 147 appearances (129 GS). His best season came in 2004 with the Aeros where he went 9-7 with a 2.15 ERA, allowing just 115 hits in 140 innings while striking out 108. A late season promotion to Buffalo that year resulted in three rough outings and Denham was not the same over the past two seasons, eventually moving to the bullpen last summer. Traded out of extended spring training, Denham will report to triple-A Sacramento in the PCL.

Left-hander Chris Hicks was placed on the suspended list. Last season, Hicks was a combined 8-4 with a 4.91 ERA in 69.2 innings for the County and Kinston.

Scott Elarton (shoulder) is out on a rehab assignment for the Royals.

The Mets signed Micah Schilling, who was let go by the Indians at the end of the spring training. Schilling spent five seasons in the Indians system after signing for $915,000 as the 41st overall pick in the 2002 draft, hitting .242 with 12 homeruns and never making it past high-A Kinston. Viewed as one of the top pure high school hitters in the 2002 draft, Schilling was unable to transfer those skills to pro ball.

Note: Between Jeremy Guthrie ($3,000,000), Denham ($1,860,000), and Schilling ($915,000), that's $5,775,000 of bonus money out the door.

The Orioles placed left-hander Oscar Alvarez on the temporarily inactive list. Travis Driskill was activated off the disabled list by the Astros as was Kane Davis by the Phillies. Wil Cordero was released by the Mets. Keith Ramsey, best remembered for his season-ending perfect game for Kinston in 2004, was released by the Rangers, as was Jose Morban.

Finally, here's the complete list of minor leaguers released by the Indians in spring training (most are lower-level players): Janel Arias, Evandy De Leon, Matt Davis (7th, 03), Daniel Miltenberger (46th, 06), Jason Schutt (10th, 05), Albert Vargas, Thomas Cowley (26th, 05), Charles Knippschild (35th, 04), Derrick Loop (23rd, 06), Brandt Sanders, Michael Storey (23rd, 04), Omar Casillas (16th, 02), Brent Lacy, Brett Kinning (37th, 06), Jose Chavez, Keoni De Renne, Matt Fornasiere (12th, 05), Charles Hargis (22nd, 06), Alfred Ard (30th, 04), Trevor Mortensen (33rd, 05), Brent Thomas (32nd, 05). They also traded Bear Bay to the Rangers for future considerations. Bay, acquired from the Cubs for Cliff Bartosh, went 7-8 with a 4.33 ERA in 133 innings for the Aeros last year. Texas has him pitching for Bakersfield in the high-A California League where's 2-1 with a 3.31 ERA in three starts.


April 25, 2007  

CIR 4-25  
Jason Stanford is human after all after the left-hander allowed his first two runs of the season in the Bisons 10-5 victory over Syracuse yesterday. Working five innings while scattering seven hits and three walks, Stanford notched his third victory while seeing his ERA rise to 1.00. The southpaw has been particularly nasty against lefties, holding them hitless in a combined five innings this season.

Edward Mujica continues to shine in relief with two scoreless innings and three punchouts in support of Stanford to run his season starting scoreless streak to eight innings covering seven appearances.

Make it six consecutive multiple-hit games for Franklin Gutierrez as he rapped out two singles and drove in a run in the Bisons victory. Gutierrez is now hitting 366/396/488/883 and is 13-for-27 (.482) during this streak. Where he fits into the Indians long-term plans remains to be seen with a crowded major league outfield and Shin Soo Choo ahead of him on the depth chart, but when you're in triple-A, you're playing as much for the other 29 major league teams as you are for your current organization. You have to think a team like the Marlins might be doing some sniffing around Gutierrez if he continues to stay hot at the plate.

Ryan Mulhern (271/327/521/848) belted his third homerun to go along with a single.

Down in Akron, Jordan Brown is on a tear as the 2006 Carolina League MVP is on a six-game hitting streak with three consecutive multiple hit games to boot. Last night, Brown (291/391/455/845) was 3-for-4 with a double and a walk in the Aeros 9-2 victory over Erie. On Monday, Brown was also 3-for-4 with a double while on Sunday, Brown reached base five times thanks to two knocks and three walks. That adds up to a Hafneresque 12 times on-base in his last 16 plate appearances.

Rodney Choy Foo (396/473/708/1.181) doubled, tripled, and drove in a pair of runs last night.

Shawn Nottingham retired the first 11 batters he faced and carried a shutout into the 8th inning before giving way to the bullpen after 7-2/3 innings on Tuesday. The southpaw was charged with one run on five hits while walking two and striking out five. That's back-to-back one-run outings for Nottingham.

(Note: Gotta cut it short due to crisis of the day - the following was already done)

Tim Lincecum three 6-1/3 no-hit innings, albeit with six walks, on Monday for triple-A Fresno (SF). In 25 innings, Lincecum is 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA and 32 strikeouts and just 9 hits allowed.

Jeremy Guthrie worked five innings of four-hit ball, allowing two runs (one earned) in his first start for the Orioles. In 13 innings this season, Guthrie has a 2.77 ERA for the Birds. The right-hander was claimed on waivers by Baltimore in January after the Tribe designated him for assignment to open up a spot on the 40-man roster for Trot Nixon.

The Rockies activated Tom Martin from the DL.


April 24, 2007  

CIR UPDATE: BA on Scott Lewis  
Chris Kline takes a look at Aeros left-hander Scott Lewis in today's BA Prospects Blog.

Marte Down, Choo Up, Bullpen Shines, Sowers Solid, Hafner Rakes, Aeros Honored, Lee Closer, Johan Tonight. So much to talk about, so little time. Full report tomorrow.


April 23, 2007  

CIR UPDATE: Whitney Wins it With Blast  
Victory! Matt Whitney's two-run homer (#4) in the top of the 10th won it for the Captains 11-9. The long bus ride back home just got a whole lot shorter.

CIR UPDATE: Rally Time in Delmarva  
Three errors and a salami from the Sally's leading slugger Brandon Tripp (441/500/729/1.229) has tied the Captains and Shorebirds at 9 in the bottom of the 8th. [Enberg] Ohhhh, My! [/Enberg]

CIR UPDATE: Captains walking to victory  
In an early-morning tilt, the Captains are rolling 9-2 with Carlton Smith twirling a four-hitter on the mound through five innings. Shorebirds pitchers are at it again with nine walks through six.

CIR 4-23  
(minor league update now, major league update later today)

Cliff Lee made his pitch count for the Bisons on Saturday, throwing 65 pitches in four innings of work, allowing a pair of runs on four hits and a walk while striking out four. He was quickly reached for a run in the first after a double and RBI single but settled down to retire the next three in order. In the second, two more runners reached but Lee worked out of it. A leadoff homer in the third plated his other run allowed but then he settled down to retire the final six batters he faced including a strikeout to end his day on the mound. It's likely that Lee will make one more rehab start (Saturday?) to increase his workload to the 80-85 pitch range before rejoining the Tribe sometime around May 2-4. He's scheduled to throw a bullpen session today in the Metrodome before any decision is reached.

Franklin Gutierrez recorded his fifth straight multiple-hit game yesterday in the Bisons 6-1 loss to Pawtucket. Gutierrez (361/395/500/895) singled twice and drove in the Bisons only run and over his five games is hitting .500 (11-for-22).

Jason Beverlin announced his retirement and the end to his 14-year professional career after Saturday's 5-3 loss to Pawtucket. Bev did not actually pitch on Saturday, instead making his final appearance on Thursday, allowing three runs in two innings in a game in which he took the loss but retired the final three batters he faced. Beverlin spent the previous four years in Japan after making his lone big league appearances (7G, 19.2IP, 8.69 ERA) with the Indians and Tigers in 2002. His roster spot remains open in Buffalo, likely pending a decision on Cliff Lee today.

The Buffalo News also notes that Shaun Larkin was returned to Akron. He was hitless in one at-bat for the Bisons.

Aaron Laffey spun another sensational outing as the lefthander limited Reading to just one run over six innings in the Aeros 14-3 victory over Reading. It was the third consecutive six inning, one run outing for the southpaw to start the season. Laffey scattered four hits and struck out three while issuing no free passes. In three starts covering 18 innings, Laffey is 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA and just 8 hits and 1 walk allowed while striking out 11. He also recorded 11 outs via the groundball yesterday.

Jonathan Van Every was one of three Aeros (Brian Barton, Argenis Reyes) to belt three-run homers in support of Laffey and the 'pen. For JVE (357/441/679/1.120), it was his second longball of the season and part of a four-game stretch in which he's hit .538 (7-for-13) with 8 RBI and 4 walks.

Sent to Akron to work on his bat, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera has taken the message to heart, banging out two more knocks yesterday, including a triple, to raise his averages on the year to 367/436/469/906. Cabrera already has four extra-base hits; the most he's had previously as a professional is 24 in low-A ball in 2004. Last season, Cabrera hit .236 in Tacoma (AAA) and .263 in Buffalo after coming over in the Eduardo Perez deal.

Jeffrey Stevens ran his scoreless streak to 13 innings with two innings of shutout ball on Saturday. The Kinston right-hander (2-0, 0,00) picked up the win and has struck out 15 on the season while walking one and allowing just two basehits.

Wes Hodges (.207) drove in five runs with a triple and single on Saturday.

The Captains Jared Goedert walked eight times over the weekend, including four on Saturday. The Sally Leagues' second leading slugger (.688 SLG, 1.180 OPS) also now leads the circuit in free passes with 17. Not far behind is Ramon Pena (14), Nick Weglarz (12), and Adam Davis (10). The OBP of Captains hitters definitely benefited from the wildness of Delmarva pitchers who issued 12 walks on Saturday (yet won 4-1 thanks to just 3H and 13 LOB) and another nine free passes on Sunday (when they won again 5-4) but were unable to convert all those baserunners to victories.

Lucas Montero was placed on the Captains DL with a broken thumb and Jason Denham was activated out of spring training. Montero was off to a good start this season, hitting 378/429/556/984 with four doubles, two triples, and three stolen bases.

The Blue Jays called up Brian Tallet from triple-A.


April 21, 2007  

CIR 4-21  
Down on the farm...

Edward Mujica worked a scoreless 9th for his 5th save in six appearances as the right-hander closed out the Bisons 6-5 victory in Toledo. Mujica (0.00) has yet to allow a run in six innings and has only been reached for a pair of hits against Ottawa on April 12. He's also struck out seven and walked none.

Adam Miller (2-0, 4.00) started for the Bisons and carried a shutout through three frames before being reached for two in the fourth and three in the fifth, finishing with five runs allowed in five innings on five hits, four walks, and seven strikeouts. Miller has fifteen strikeouts in 18 innings this season.

Franklin Gutierrez (344/382/500/882) had a big day at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a double. In his last four games, Gutierrez is hitting .500 (9-for-18) with two doubles, a dinger, and a pair of walks.

Down in Akron, Chuck Lofgren (2-1, 3.60) punched out seven in five innings of one-run ball to lead the Aeros to a 4-1 victory in Reading. The left-hander scattered four hits and three walks. Lofgren now has 20 strikeouts in 15 innings and is holding opposing hitters to a .196 BAA.

Rodney Choy Foo continues his amazing start to the season as he reached base five times (three singles, two walks) and is now hitting 471/561/735/1.296.

Brian Barton (278/422/556/978) had two hits including his second longball. While he's slugging a healthy .556 (two doubles, a triple, two dingers), he's also struck out 15 times in 36 at-bats.

Down in Kinston, Kevin Dixon took the loss in a 4-3 defeat to Myrtle Beach despite turning in a quality start (6 IP, 7 H, 3R, 2ER).

Matt Whitney drove in five runs to lead the Captains to a 10-4 victory in the Hage. Whitney doubled twice and belted his third homerun of the season. He's now hitting 375/396/625/1.021 (18-for-48) and has six multiple hit outings in his last 10 games (.410, 16-for-39). After missing all of 2003 due to injury, Whitney (although down a level from last year), is experiencing success for the first time since his rookie campaign in Burlington in 2002. Wow, was it really that long ago?

Detroit placed Jose Mesa on the 15-day DL with a pulled right groin. He had a 20.25 in four appearance for the Tigers this year.


April 20, 2007  

Top of the Ninth  
Top of the 9th, tied 3-3, first and second, 0 outs. Can they finally cash in on an opportunity?

Late Note: Al Reyes just made quick work of David Dellucci.

Later Note: Hafner plates the winner, Borowski goes 1-2-3 in the bottom-half. Ballgame!

CIR 4-20  
Missed Opportunities + Bad Defense + Woeful Starting Pitching + Blowup of Historic Proportions = one bad week in New York. Man, I dislike the Yankees.

Would I have taken Borowski out? Probably not.

Would I have walked A-Rod and taken my chances with Giambi? Probably yes. If for no other reason than to provide the option of a force at any base. A-Rod or Giambi, you're essentially picking your poison either way and I can't say either way is/was the right decision.

It would be nice to have Borowski back on the mound in a save situation tonight but with a CC Sabathia - Edwin Jackson matchup on the docket, I'm thinking (hoping?) (expecting) this one might of the 7-1 variety.

Looking forward to watching the D-Rays and their collection of young talent over the next three days, specifically Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes, and BJ Upton. Keep an eye on Akinori Iwamura. He's the Japanese infielder who the Indians pursued over the off-season but ended up losing the posting right to the Rays. Think he would be an attractive option at the hot corner, right now?

Sean Smith, making his first triple-A start, tossed five scoreless innings in the Bisons 3-1 loss to Toledo. The right-hander scattered three hits and three walks while striking out four.

Shawn Nottingham picked up his first victory of the season with 5-2/3 innings of one-run ball in the Aeros 4-1 victory over Reading. Nottingham (1-1, 4.50) struck out four of the first six hitters he faced and carried a no-hitter into the 6th inning before finally being reached for a pair of knocks. Effectively wild, the southpaw ended up allowing five walks and recorded 11 outs via the flyball. Nottingham was acquired late last season as the PTBNL in the Shin-Soo Choo for Ben Broussard trade.

The ABJ notes that Scott Lewis is still on a 60-70 pitch count early in the season.

Wes Hodges, 2006 second round pick (#69 overall) returned to the Kinston lineup last night, going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, for the first time since April 11. He's been out with a sore hammy.

Stephen Head ripped a bases-loaded double to drive in three runs in the K-Tribe's 8-3 victory over Myrtle Beach. Impressively, he worked the count and fouled off six pitches before clearing the bases, according to the Kinston Free Press. After suffering through a difficult 2006 campaign (235/319/377/696), Head is off to a similar start again this year at 233/313/395/708. Hopefully, an at-bat like the above can serve as the catalyst for better things to come.

Steven Wright, second selection (#56 overall) in last years draft, struggled through the worst outing of his young professional career as Hagerstown pounded the right-hander for eight hits and eight runs in 2-2/3 innings in the Captains 9-5 loss. In his previous outing, Wright had punched out six in four innings of one-run ball.

Rotoworld notes that Jeff Kent's double last night was the 507th of his career and moved him past Babe Ruth into 38th on the all-time list. Maybe it's just me, but seeing Babe Ruth and Jeff Kent in the same sentence/list just seems very odd.

Paul Shuey continues to work on a return to the big leagues, this time with the Mets and their Norfolk affiliate, where he made his first triple-A appearance of the season last night, giving up two runs on four hits in his lone inning on the bump. Shuey last appeared in the big leagues with the Dodgers in 2003.

If A-Rod opts out of his contract this off-season and hits the open market, you have to think the Indians have a shot at him because "we'd all like to flee to the Cleve", according to Jack Donaghy, where "you can club up down in the Flats and have lunch with Little Richard." I say, Cleveland, Hello".


April 19, 2007  

Calvin Murray  
Good read from Jamey Newberg on former Indian first round pick Calvin Murray, who spurned the Tribe in '89. Also of note is a listing of future big leaguers from that Tribe draft class: Jim Thome (13), Brian Giles (17), Alan Embree (5), Curtis Leskanic (8), Jerry DiPoto (3), Kelly Stinnett (11), Jesse Levis (4), Billy Brewer (26), Andy Sheets (33), Bill Wertz (31), Robert Person (25). Note that not all these players signed with the Tribe.

CIR 4-19  
Big leagues aside, the tremendous pitching performances just keep coming for the Indians. In sweeping the night, a perfect 4-0 down on the farm, the foursome of Jason Stanford, Scott Lewis, David Huff, and Carlton Smith combined to allow just two runs on thirteen hits and four walks while striking out 21 in 24 innings of work. That's a 0.75 ERA, a 0.708 WHIP, and four wins my friends.

Starting at the top, Stanford (2-0, 0.00) was nothing short of sensational in twirling a one-hitter over seven innings in the Bisons 4-0 shutout in Toledo. After allowing a lead-off single, the southpaw allowed just four baserunners (two walks, two Luis Rivas errors) while recording the next 21 outs without another knock. He also punched out seven. In two starts, Stannie has yet to allow a run in 13 innings. Incidentally, he's also the first modern-era Bisons to play with the club for seven consecutive years. Finally healthy after missing most of 2004 and 2005 due to two elbow surgeries, Stanford is quietly working his way back into the depth starter and long relief discussions.

Down in Akron, Scott Lewis (0-0, 1.86) was in stellar form as he shutout the SeaWolves over six innings, facing the minimum through five innings, and allowing just two hits and no walks while striking out four. Interestingly enough, two Seawolves hitters flipped around and batted left-handed against Lewis. The Buckeye alum led the Carolina League in ERA last season at 1.48 while working under a strict pitch count (115.2 IP, 84 H, 28 W, 123 K, .203 BAA, 26 GS). This season, Lewis has no special restrictions on his workload. Asdrubal Cabrera won the game in the bottom of the 10th for the good guys with a walkoff single and the 2-1 victory.

Yet another lefty took center stage in Wilmington as the K-Tribe's David Huff tossed five shutout innings in notching the first victory of his professional career in the Indians 4-0 win over the Blue Rocks. Huff struck out six while walking none and scattering six hits. In three starts this season, the Tribe's first selection in last years draft (39th overall) has a 1.38 ERA while striking out 9 in 13 innings.

Jeffrey Stevens, the PTBNL from the Reds for Brandon Phillips, was strong in relief, tossing three scoreless, one-hit innings while striking out five. The right-hander is now unscored upon in 11 innings this season and has struck out 14 while surrendering just two hits and one walk.

Finally, Carlton Smith, the lone right-hander in our four-headed hurling beast, tossed six innings of two-run ball to lead the Captains to a 7-6 victory in Hagerstown. In picking up his first win of the season, Smith struck out four while walking two and allowing four basehits.

Enjoying strong games at the plate were....

Franklin Gutierrez, 2H, HR (1), W, SB (1), 273/333/409/742
Ben Francisco, 2H, W, 343/452/543/995
Asdrubal Cabrera, 3H, 2B, 371/421/429/850, 9G streak
John Drennen, 4H, HR (1), 268/318/439/757
Matt McBride, 2H, 2B, W, 395/500/500/1.000, 11 RBI
Jared Goedert, 3H, 2B, 2RBI, 316/435/789/1.224, (5 HR)

Cliff Lee is expected to start for Buffalo on Saturday in his third rehab appearance. His last outing came in Winter Haven on Monday, where he threw 51 pitches in working three scoreless innings. Lee is planned to throw 70 pitches on Saturday with another outing likely outing again next Thursday or Friday which would put him in line to rejoin the Indians rotation right around May 1.

Joe Inglett was activated off the Indians disabled list and optioned to Buffalo. He debuted yesterday, going hitless with two strikeouts while playing second base. Inglett is expected to play both the infield and outfield as the Tribe continues to groom him for a super utility role. Trent Durrington (.300, 3-for-10) was placed on the Bisons DL with a lower back strain.

The Marlins signed Thomas Cowley (released in spring training by the Tribe) to a minor league contract. Brent Abernathy was traded from Philadelphia to Washington for future considerations. Jose Hernandez signed a minor league deal with the Pirates. Ricardo Rincon was inked by the Giants. Ivan Ochoa (minor league free agent, signed with the Giants) was placed on the Fresno Grizzlies DL. He was hitting .278 in 18 ABs. The Newberg Report notes that the Rangers have released Jose Morban.


April 18, 2007  

Some interesting articles I wasn't able to include in today's report...

Canton Repository on Wyatt Toregas and his connections to Virginia Tech.

Terry Pluto says Ryan Garko should stay in the lineup.

Jim Ingraham wonders if the Mark Shapiro and Jake Westbrook signings are related.

CIR 4-18  
The only thing good you can say about Jake Westbrook last night is that he didn't hurt himself. And I say that somewhat seriously as the conditions were ripe for such an occurence last night. You have a pitcher dealing with the pressure of his first start after a newly-signed contract, poor conditions on the mound, he doesn't have his best stuff, he's getting pounded, starts to overthrow to compensate, mechanics get slightly out of whack, and that's a recipe for an injured arm. There was one pitch late in his outing where it looked like he reached back for something extra but, fortunately, he was removed pretty quickly after that.

I still can't decide whether Andy Marte's first error was due to his nonchalance or his tentativness in making the play (i.e, trying not to make a bad throw). His second error clearly appeared (to me, at least) to be an attempt at making a play at second (hence his playing the ball on the side). At any rate, they were both ugly. Perhaps not so much as the botched double-play where Peralta couldn't get it out of glove, Barfield double-pumped at the bag, and then proceeded to throw it into row F. They definitely had a shot at doubling up Damon.

Although Victor Martinez hobbling down the line helped, Derek Jeter's get and throw on his grounder up the middle was one of the best plays I've seen in a long time. How many other Dads used that as an example to "never give up on a play" to their kids? Victor likely would have had another hit in the 8th if his legs had been full-strength on the grounder to A-Rod that pulled Mientkiewicz off the bag.

Grady hung in there pretty well against Mike Myers. Is Myers a traditional submariner? Does the camera angle make it seem like he's coming from more outside than he really is? If not, and he's really comes from down under and way outside, I wonder why there are not more right-handers who take same approach? Guys like a Mark Eichhorn, who was pretty successful (with some dominating strat-o cards to boot) back in the mid-to-late eighties.

Was Roberto Hernandez really throwing harder than Fernando Cabrera? Is it just me or have the radar guns seemed low across the board this year? Or, maybe, they've just been high in years past?

They let Chase Wright off the hook. Again. And Again. And Again.

The Bisons fell 5-4 to Toledo. Juan Lara (0-1, 1.80) took the loss in relief while Jeff Harris (3.27) was charged with four runs in six innings. Franklin Gutierrez (.222) singled twice and walked.

The Buffalo News reports that Shin Soo Choo (shin) and Brad Snyder (ankle) are day-to-day with minor injuries.

Akron knocked off Erie 5-1 as Aaron Laffey (1-0, 1.50) turned in his second consecutive strong outing. Carrying a no-hitter while facing the minimum through four innings, Laffey allowed a run on a pair of knocks in the 5th before retiring the last five hitters he faced. The southpaw punched out eight in his six frames on the bump while allowing just the two hits, a walk, and the one run. In his first two starts, Laffey has posted identical six inning, two-hit, one-walk, one-run outings. Nice. Last season, Laffey (who just turned 22 on Sunday), went 8-3 with a 3.53 ERA in 19 starts for the Aeros (112.1IP, 121H, 33W, 61K) after a promotion from Kinston.

Trevor Crowe's batting average (.161) continues to hover below the Mendoza Line, although he did go 1-for-3 last night, but in his last three games he's reached base five times (twice last night) via the free pass. So while he was 1-for-8 (.125) in terms of BA in those three contests, he was 6-for-14 (.429) in terms of OBP which is pretty tasty for a leadoff hitter. In short, the hits just aren't falling right now but it doesn't appear that he's overmatched (7 BB / 9 K) or has changed his approach.

Rodney Choy Foo (.464) extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single.

As good as Laffey was in Akron, Frank Herrmann (1-0, 0.00) was one better in Wilmington as the Hah-vad right-hander pitched the K-Tribe to a 4-1 victory over the Blue Rocks. Herrmann retired the first two batters he faced, gave up a single, and then sat down the next 16 hitters in order before being removed from the game prior to the start of the seventh inning. No walks, no runs, one hit, and six punchouts on the night. Combined with his six scoreless innings in his '07 debut (also against Wilmington), Herrmann is now unscored upon in 12 innings this season. Last year, in 26 starts for the County, the undrafted free-agent signee was 4-6 with a 3.90 ERA (122.1 IP, 122H, 47W, 89K).

Ahh, the one who got away. Tim Lincecum, the Indians 42nd round pick in 2005 as a draft-eligible sophomore out of Washington, who spurned the Tribe's reported $1 million bonus offer to return to school for another year (and higher draft slot and money) remains virtually unhittable in triple-A this year, striking out 11 last night for Fresno in 6-2/3 innings of three-hit ball. In three starts, Lincecum has not allowed a run in 18 innings while striking out 28, and allowing just nine hits and five walks. If he continues to perform even close to this level, you have to believe that the only thing keeping him down on the farm is service time considerations.

Is there anyone on TV who has ever looked more ridiculous and unconfortable in a suit than John Kruk? Not even George Zimmerman could like the way he looks. I guarantee it.


April 17, 2007  

Yankee Stadium Forecast  
Doesn't look good for tonight (Hourly Weather Forecast for Yankee Stadium).

Lovin' Choy Foo  
Rodney Choy Foo gets some love from the Baseball America Prospect Hot Sheet in recognition of his hot start to the season. A start, incidentally, which also earned him Eastern League Player of the Week honors after he hit .524 (11-21) with two homers, a double, a triple, and three walks while scoring six times and knocking in nine.

Farm Report  
Ben Francisco and Ryan Mulhern went deep as the Bisons rolled 17-1 over the Clippers in C-Bus. For Francisco (286/412/500/912), it was his first longball of the season while Mulhern (370/433/704/1.137) did yard work for the second time this year. Hector Luna (292) and Jason Cooper (400) had three hits apiece. Brian Slocum worked five innings of one-run ball, striking out seven, in picking up the win.

JD Martin lasted three innings as Akron fell 6-4 to Erie. Martin (1-1, 3.38) allowed three runs on six hits in his three frames on the bump. Kyle Collins was touched for three runs in 1.2 innings of relief. Rodney Choy Foo (.500) and four other Aeros rapped out knocks in a game delayed by rain two times.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Hector Rondon twirled six innings of two-hit, shutout ball to lead the Captains to a 8-0 whitewash of Lexington in the opener of their double-dip with the Legends. Rondon (1-0, 5.91) retired 11 of the 12 batters he faced while permitting just two walks and striking out two. Jared Goedert (265/405/765/1.169) went yard for the 5th time and drove in a pair. Matt McBride (.382) also had two hits.

In the nightcap, the Captains late rally fell short as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Legends. Mike Eisenberg was charged with all four Lexington runs in four innings on the mound. Matt Whitney (361/400/556/956) singled twice and drove in a run.


April 16, 2007  

Captains take Game One  
The Captains took game one of their double-dip against Lexington today, shutting out the Legends 8-0. Hector Rondon tossed a two-hitter over six scoreless frames while punching out two and walking a pair. Jared Goedert went deep for the 5th time. You can tune in to game two via MiLB Gameday Audio.

CIR 4-16  
Some random notes as the CIR begins the rehab process back to the bigs with a one inning (or four paragraph) outing from extended spring training...

Mark Shapiro told the beats that "we do not plan on playing home games someplace else" in regards to the rescheduling of the four-game Indians-Mariners series snowed out over opening weekend. Looking at the two teams schedules, both have open dates today (Apr 16) along with May 14, May 21, June 11, July 9-11 (All-Star Break), August 16, and September 24. Of those dates, May 21 and June 11 look like the best bets for one (or two) games to be played on either (or both) dates. For the May date, the Indians play in Cincinnati on the 20th and then travel to KC for the 22nd while Seattle hosts the Padres on the 20th and then travel to Tampa Bay on the 22nd. For both clubs, a stop in Cleveland seems likely on the 21st. Likewise, for the June date, the Indians are in Cincinnati on the 10th and travel to Florida for the 12th while the Mariners are in San Diego on the 10th and travel to Wrigleyville for the the 12th. A stop in Cleveland on the 11th seems likely here as well. The other common dates (May 14, August 16, September 24) would result in one team making a roundtrip West Coast flight for just one game which seems somewhat unlikely or, rather, something both clubs would likely prefer to avoid at all costs. A best estimate right now would be doubledips and a fan "2-for-1" on May 21 and/or June 11 with the possible exception of MLB holding back a game to be played on October 1 on an "as needed basis". My only other thought due to the lengthy amount of time it is taking to reschedule these games is that MLB is trying to rearrange other series to better accommodate these makeup games and provide for more favorable travel plans.

Down on the farm yesterday, Adam Miller and Rafael Perez combined for a double-header sweep of the Clippers yesterday to improve the Bisons' record to a league best 6-1 mark. All other games involving Indians farm clubs were rained out. Miller (2-0, 2.77) retired 11 of the last 12 in tossing a 7-inning complete game while allowing one run on six hits and no walks while punching out six. Perez (1-0, 1.69) allowed a pair of runs in five frames, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out one. BA notes that it's time to work Adam Miller into the conversation with Phillip Hughes and Homer Bailey when talking about the best minors best pitching prospects.

The Indians signed former first round pick Tim Drew to a minor league contact according to Baseball America. He had been in spring training on a tryout basis after being out of baseball last season while recovering from a shoulder injury. Since being dealt to Montreal for Grady Sizemore, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips (les Expos also received a stocky (no, powerful) right-hander whose name currently escapes me...), Drew bounced around the senior circuit from Montreal to Atlanta to Colorado, accumulating a 2-4 record with a 7.02 ERA in 35 games, which includes his two brief stints with the Indians in 2000 and 2001. It's expected he'll report to Buffalo if/when he's healthy enough to leave extended spring training.

Final my count, the Indians are already committed for $34.45 million in 2009 (Jake, Dellucci, Victor, Lee, Peralta, and Grady) and $36.20 million in 2010 (Jake, Victor, Lee, Peralta, and Grady). Signing both CC and Travis may double both of those numbers to the $68-72 million range. As a point of reference, this years opening day payroll was $61-62 million. More in the next CIR.


April 02, 2007  

CIR 4-2  
Monday, April 2, 2007

The 10 keys to the Indians 2007 season:

1) Joe Borowski
If he can close 36 of 43 games like he did last season for the Fish, the Indians should be all right. The bullpen starts with the closer and Borowski is the key to having the rest of the 'pen settle into place.

2) Jhonny Peralta
The Indians don't need Peralta to be the number three hitter he was in '05. They just need him to be average defensively in the field and improve upon last years' numbers at the plate. All signs were positive this spring. Add an expected defensive improvement over last year from Josh Barfield and Andy Marte to this note as well.

3) Eric Wedge
Entering a "make-or-break" season without an extension, how will he handle a front office and fan base with high expectations, another (potential) slow start to the season, another (potential) rocky bullpen, and a clubhouse increasingly influenced by money, fame, and contract status?

4) The Setup Crew
Roberto Hernandez is 74 years old. True, he pitched in 66 games last year for the Pirates but at less than an inning per appearance, he was somewhat nursed situationally through those outings. The odds of Hernandez working another 66 games in late-inning situations seems quite low to these eyes. One (or two) of Rafael Betancourt, Fernando Cabrera, and Jason Davis will need to emerge in the 7th and 8th inning to get the ball to Borowski. If they don't, Edward Mujica and Tony Sipp are waiting in Buffalo.

5) Mark Shapiro
If the bullpen struggles early, how long can he (will he) wait before shaking things up? Note to self - Davis and Cabrera are out of options. Note to self (II) - Chad Cordero.

6) Consistently Offensive
The Indians are going to score a lot of runs. How those runs are distributed is the key to victory. I realize that you can't "save runs" in a blowout but winning a game 13-2 and losing the next 2-1 only makes you look good in the year-end run differential of 14-4 for the stats guys. The net result is still 1 win and 1 loss. The offense is already good enough to win games 10-8. They need to be good enough (i.e. manufacture runs) to win games 3-2.

7) The Bank of Dolan
With Keith Foulke donning the dark socks and Bermuda shorts of retirement, you would think that Mark Shapiro has $5 million of funny money to play with come July (if not sooner). How available that money truly is and how much Shapiro may be allowed to exceed that in multiple deals will be the topic of endless sports radio "discussions" this summer.

8) Jake Westbrook
Throwing out numbers here, who can blame Westbrook for passing on a 2-year, $24 million extension (with a likely team option for a third year) in leiu of an expected 5-year, $60 million deal he is likely to receive on the free-agent market in December. Facing those kinds of dollars and the endless questions from the media after every poor start on whether his impending free-agency is impacting his performance on the mound, does he start to overthrow and leave the sinker over the plate without its natural tailing action?

9) Adam Miller
Perhaps more a key to 2008 and beyond, Miller's performance in 2007 will go a long way towards the Indians ability to sign either Jake Westbrook and/or CC Sabathia to long-term deals. A Miller in the fold for 3-4 years at club-friendly rates will nicely balance out a $12 million Westbrook or $15-16 Sabathia. Feel free to add Fausto Carmona and Jeremy Sowers to this discussion as well.

10) Staying Alive
All the above said, the true keys to success for any major league team is the health of its best players and the same is no less true for the Indians. Although the Tribe has built up a lot of depth on both the big league roster and in triple-A, injuries to the "Big Four" of Grady Sizemore, Travis Hafner, Victor Martinez, and CC Sabathia would have an obviously crippling effect on the Indians hopes for contention.


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