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Ah, February. I can hardly believe it's only three weeks til Mike Redmond and Jason Grilli take the field in Goodyear.


Anyway, here's the latest Indians Inbox from Castro. Love the last question.




How in the world is this team going to compete in the American League, in view of the moves it has made during the offseason?


Let's take a recap: We hire Manny Acta, the former manager of the Nationals. We acquire Brian Bixler, Mark Grudzielanek, Austen Kearns, Shelley Duncan and Mike Redmond. We don't have an ace pitcher. We don't have a cleanup hitter. We don't have a real No. 2 or No. 3 pitcher. Our best young hitter, Matt LaPorta, is hurt. And we are signing utility players approaching 40 years old. Should Tribe fans be anything but depressed about the upcoming season?

-- Joseph D., New York


Anybody surprised by the inactivity this offseason clearly wasn't paying attention to what was going on at the Trade Deadline last year. This is a rebuilding season in every sense, as a new coaching staff will be working with a young and developing unit.


Heck, even the manager is developing, as his career .385 winning percentage indicates.


The Indians lost 97 games last year, and a good portion of those losses came with reigning Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee and All-Star catcher Victor Martinez still around. Contention in 2010 is clearly not a serious expectation, and adding high-priced free agents to the mix would have run counter to the concept. If the Indians were going to do that, they wouldn't have traded away the affordable contracts of Lee and Martinez in the first place.


I know Acta really likes reliever Saul Rivera from the time they were together in Washington. Manny always called him a "workhorse." Also, Saul had a great winter season in Puerto Rico as a closer. I know we have a closer, but what are the chances Rivera will make the 25-man roster?

-- Raul R., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.


Any time a manager has a past working relationship with a player and knows what he can expect, that goes a long way. Rivera has an out clause in his contract that allows him to leave the organization if he's not on the active roster by May 15. Before he hit a rough patch in '09, Rivera was a durable and fairly dependable reliever in the Nationals' bullpen from 2006-08. And as you mentioned, Raul, his numbers in winter ball (2.29 ERA and 11 saves in 19 appearances) were strong.


I would expect Acta to give Rivera a look at the Major League level at some point in the first six weeks of the 2010 season. I'd also keep an eye out for Jason Grilli, another non-roster reliever coming to camp.


Now that the Twins have signed Jim Thome to a $1.5 million contract, I'm wondering if the Indians' front office gave any thought to signing him? Granted, you're not going to be getting an everyday player, but can't Mark Shapiro think of the fans for once and let Thome finish his career in Cleveland?

-- Garth L., Columbus, Ohio


The Indians say they gave thought to this, but I can't imagine that thought lasting more than a few seconds. Aside from a little marketing buzz, Thome would have made absolutely no sense for this team. Forget for a moment that they have very little money to spend in free agency (though even a $1.5 million contract would have taken up the bulk of their winter expenditures). The Indians already have a left-handed-hitting DH in Travis Hafner. He's eating up more than one-sixth of the payroll for 2010, and this figures to be his first healthy season in three years.


While I know for a fact that Thome would love to finish his career here, the situation has to make at least a modicum of sense for the Tribe, and that's simply not the case here, at present.


I just read the story about Kenny Lofton being inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame. As I looked down the list, I noticed Gaylord Perry is not on it. Any insight, as I believe his Indians credentials exceed many that are on that list?

-- Steve J., Greensboro, N.C.


I was told Perry received a number of votes from the panel that selected the 2010 class, but Lofton edged him. It could be that the Indians wanted Lofton to have his moment alone. I would be surprised if Perry isn't inducted next year, as he's probably the most obvious omission from the list of Indians Hall of Famers. He was definitely on my ballot.


I noticed in a recent post regarding Indians catchers that Matt McBride wasn't mentioned. He's doing as well as some of the catchers mentioned in the article.

-- Dean S., Goshen, Ind.


The Indians transitioned McBride from catching to an outfield/first base utility role at the Double-A level last season. He didn't catch a single game.


With the Reds joining the Indians in Goodyear, Ariz., this year, how do they split the Spring Training facilities? Are there separate clubhouses, weight rooms, and the like? Do they have to split field time?

-- Jeff H., Columbus, Ohio


The Reds have a separate facility that includes their clubhouse, practice fields, batting cages, etc. The only thing that is shared is the main ballpark, where the Cactus League games take place. The Tribe's facility is about a mile from Goodyear Ballpark, while the Reds' facility is about two miles away. Because they share the ballpark, the Indians and Reds each have three road games that are, essentially, home games.


Can you update us on situation regarding Shin Soo Choo and his military obligation?

-- Brian R., Solon, Ohio


Though Choo turns 28 in July and is obligated to serve two years in the South Korean military before the age of 30, the Indians continue to consider this a non-issue. There are several avenues in which Choo could avoid that obligation. The most likely is that he'd establish residency, not citizenship, in the United States. Another, more difficult scenario: If the Indians allow Choo to participate in the 2010 Asian Games in November and he helps South Korea win the gold medal in baseball, his obligation would be waived by his country.


What will be the Inbox theme for 2010? I'll throw my hat into the ring and go with "The Hangover." How can anyone deny that?

-- Anthony C., Melrose Park, Ill.


Though "The Hangover" is already the working title for NFL Films' documentary of the 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers team that went from Super Bowl triumph to losing to the Browns in a matter of months, I'm willing to give it consideration as an Inbox theme. Any other submissions out there?


How is LaPorta doing after his surgeries? Can we expect him to start at first base for the season opener? The last thing I want to see is Andy Marte in an Indians uniform.

-- Rob, Columbus


The reports on LaPorta's recovery have been nothing but positive, to this point. But I would temper expectations for him to be on the Opening Day roster until we see how he gets through the rigors of Spring Training camp. Remember that the original prognosis for LaPorta's recovery from the October procedures was four to six months. If he has even the slightest setback, the Indians don't have much incentive to push him, so it's possible he could fall toward the back end of that prognosis. We'll see.


Do you think that Jeremy Sowers could switch to the bullpen and be effective? It would seem to me that he could, because he is normally really good the first and second time through the lineup, but the third time through is when hitters start roughing him up. I think he would be a great long reliever. What do you think?

-- Kenny O., St. Marys, Ohio


I'd agree that if Sowers has a future in relief, it's long relief, as he doesn't possess the raw stuff to be a dominant late-inning reliever. He could be one of those guys that mops up the mess when the starter has a rough showing. Yet while such a role might benefit an Indians team with a shaky starting staff, it's not exactly a position of great stability. So it would certainly behoove Sowers to do whatever conditioning or tweaking it takes to last deeper into ballgames and project as a back-of-the-rotation starter.


Sowers is out of Minor League options, so this spring appears to be his last chance to stick with the Tribe.


And finally ...


What was the big deal with LaPorta? He was supposed to be great, but it seems that he was a bust like Tim Couch. Who can we get for him?

-- Jordan W., Akron


Great question, Jordan. I'd answer, but I've got to go scold my unemployed, 5-year-old niece for being a failure in life.


And as much as I can't stand the "THINK OF THE FANS!!" approach...I have to admit the Thome situation is a bit intriguing. Yeah, it would be a completely wasted roster spot, but even I could get behind a Thome farewell tour.

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Now that the Twins have signed Jim Thome to a $1.5 million contract, I'm wondering if the Indians' front office gave any thought to signing him? Granted, you're not going to be getting an everyday player, but can't Mark Shapiro think of the fans for once and let Thome finish his career in Cleveland?

-- Garth L., Columbus, Ohio


No offense to Garth, but it's high comedy that he elects to ask why Mark Shapiro isn't thinking of the fans while discussing Thome. He clearly remembers Thome as an Indian and he further must clearly remember how Thome left Cleveland. Yet Mark Shapiro is the one not "think(ing) of the fans for once" by not allowing the 39 year old version of Jim Thome to finish his career in Cleveland.


By and large, Cleveland fans are pretty terrific. Still, we can be a sentimental bunch to a fault. An idiotic fault, in the above case.


Speaking of the current LH DH on the team, Hafner spent a few minutes with Prospectus yesterday:


February 1, 2010, 05:00 PM ET

Five Minutes with Travis Hafner

by David Laurila


His production has waned in recent years, but for a handful of seasons Travis Hafner was a monster. Finally given a chance in Cleveland after languishing for six years in the Rangers system despite lusty minor league numbers, Hafner exploded onto the scene as a ready-to-bash 27-year-old. From 2004-2007, the Sykeston, North Dakota product put up an OPS run of .993, 1.003, 1.097, and .837, while averaging 32 home runs and 109 RBI. Hafner talked about his development as a hitter on the final weekend of the 2009 season.


David Laurila: Why have you been a good hitter?


Travis Hafner: I think the main thing is…first you have to be able to control the strike zone and get good pitches to hit. You have to recognize the ball early. I think that my strength helps me. It’s also being able to work hard and trying to get your mechanics as consistent as possible. But, basically you just want to go up there and get a good pitch and put a good swing on it.


DL: At what point did you become a good hitter?


TH: Probably in high A. I changed my mechanics a lot to where I started getting ready for the pitch really early. I used to have like a leg kick and would try to time the pitch, and I just changed that up to get my foot down early to where I’m able to see the ball a lot better. That year I played winter ball in Puerto Rico, where I’d take until I had a strike on me and that helped me to learn the strike zone really well. I think those were the two biggest things that have helped me as a hitter.


DL: You bio in Baseball Prospectus 2002 said, “Travis Hafner can flat out mangle a pitched baseball,” and in 2003 it said, “Now that he’s with a new organization that’s likely to give him a chance, he should be able to do great things.” That was high praise for a mostly undervalued minor leaguer.


TH: If I see a kid in Double-A or Triple-A, I think that I have a pretty good read on whether he has a chance to be a pretty good hitter in the big leagues. That was probably a similar situation there, where you could see a guy having success in the minor leagues and you were kind of projecting it out to how it might translate at the big league level.


DL: Were you ready to hit in the big leagues before you were given a chance to do so?


TH: Well, I was blocked somewhat in Texas. Rafael Palmeiro was there, and we had Teixeira in the organization, and Carlos Pena was in the organization for awhile as well. So, I spent pretty much a full year at every level. I might have been ready earlier, but you just try to make the most out of the opportunity that you’re given. I definitely had enough time in the minor leagues.


DL: Is it possible that the Rangers were guilty of looking too much at what you couldn’t do, and not enough at what you do very well?


TH: In this game, players get labeled all the time, and fair or unfair it seems like once you have that label, it’s tough to shed. So, some teams may do that, but baseball is a game where things can change so much. I mean, you can be a guy with a plain, average swing, and then you get with the right coach and something clicks, and your career takes off. I mean, it would be tough to scout baseball players, I think.


DL: You play for an organization that places a lot of value on statistical analysis. What do numbers mean to you?


TH: First and foremost, you show up to the park every day to try to become a better player and your ultimate goal for that day is to win the game. I think you pay attention…when you play other teams, you pay attention to guy’s stats up on the scoreboard to see how they’re doing. I think numbers are a big part of the game. You can’t really go out and try to put up good numbers, but if you focus on each at bat, your numbers are going to be there.





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Acta is a good teacher.....and that is what this team needs.


Over the course of 162 games, a manager might actually impact 2-3 wins by making some brilliant move.


So let's say Acta doesn't possess that ability. I doubt those 2-3 fewer wins are what are going to be what keeps us from the World Series.


99.9% of games are won or lost by players. Not by a manager.


If we lose 110 games, 108 of them will be lost by players.



Put another way, Bobby Cox isn't possibly the best manager of this generation because of the slick moves he makes. It's because of the way he handles the players.


At this point you don't what Acta has or doesn't have.


I actually though he did a good job with the Nationals.....a young team with a few good players and a whole bunch of crappy players.....sort of like what we now have in Cleveland.

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they should pay US to go to the games this year. manny acta is a freaking joke he's going to completely wreck this entire organization single-handedly with his incompetency. if we get less than 110 losses it will be a freaking MIRACLE.


Are you seriously predicting that this team will win NO MORE than 52 games this year? I understand that this doesn't appear to be even a playoff team, but 52-110? Simply because you don't like the manager? You gotta be one of the most ignorant baseball fans I've ever known. Give Acta a chance before you jump off the deep end! And give the players on this team a little credit. They are actually a very talented group. Given another year or 2 together and they have potential!

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Are you seriously predicting that this team will win NO MORE than 52 games this year? I understand that this doesn't appear to be even a playoff team, but 52-110? Simply because you don't like the manager? You gotta be one of the most ignorant baseball fans I've ever known. Give Acta a chance before you jump off the deep end! And give the players on this team a little credit. They are actually a very talented group. Given another year or 2 together and they have potential!



97 losses with Cliff Lee and VMart.13 more without them isnt that hard to believe, and hard for me to say but I think the manager position actually got worse. But he can speak spanish so its ok.

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97 losses with Cliff Lee and VMart.13 more without them isnt that hard to believe, and hard for me to say but I think the manager position actually got worse. But he can speak spanish so its ok.


I do understand your concern. But 97 losses with a manager in Wedge that wasn't exactly a great communicator. He clearly had issues motivating, as it took a third of the season before his teams (every season) started showing signs of life. Give Acta a shot. He clearly can communicate with his players. And he really didn't have a whole lot to work with in Washington. This team is more talented than those Nationals. And there's no way he can be less motivational than Wedge.

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Carlos Santana talked with one of ESPN's guys...couple of good answers. Love the bit about Victor.


Do you think the injury has set you back?

Actually having come to Arizona so early has helped me keep in . Right now I'm doing well and in almost perfect shape. Usually I come in a little heavy at the start of camp. I have a difficult time being in shape during the shapeoffseason. But since I have been here at the complex for awhile, I've been able to keep in shape by doing cardio and some bike work.




How did you get better (at catching)?

Luckily, I had a lot of practice because I always had the confidence that I could do it. I had a lot of help from [Dodgers catching coordinator] Travis Barbary. I also focused very much on watching games either on TV or in person and really paying attention to how catchers called a game. The next year, [after I was traded to Cleveland] I took a lot of advice from Victor Martinez. He's my favorite player now. While I was coming up in the minors I was always a fan of his. He had a lot of patience with me and he gave me so much good advice. He told me how he went through some of the same things I was going through. He told me he was happy to show someone who was so eager to learn.


How did it affect you when Martinez was traded to Boston?

I didn't really think anything at that moment when he was traded. But my friends told me to start getting ready because they were probably going to call me up soon. I told everyone to calm down. In a sense, I felt sad too because Victor was such a good friend.


Was it more difficult when the Dodgers traded you in 2008 in exchange for Casey Blake?

It was pretty difficult for me to go to a new team and meet new people and to have to get to know a new staff and new rules. I was able to get through it because Cleveland was so good to me. You always understand that baseball is a business. You never really know what the future holds. Sure the Dodgers gave me the first opportunity, but Cleveland had an interest in me.


How did you find out about the trade?

That day when they traded me I thought it was a dream -- literally. I was at home when my roommate told me that someone from the Dodgers was calling me. One of the Dodgers' team executives was on the phone and said, 'We have traded you to Cleveland in exchange for Casey Blake. We liked what you did but we needed to make this move.'


When I got off the phone I didn't believe it. I called a friend to see if he had heard that I had gotten traded. It was like 7 a.m. when the Dodgers called so I wasn't sure if it had been real or if it was a dream. My roommate and I turned on the TV and saw it was true. But I still didn't believe it. I went to the clubhouse that day and people were congratulating me and wishing me good luck. I called my agent and he hadn't heard about it. But he then called someone and then called me back and told me it was true. He told me that I shouldn't be upset by the news.


Back to the present. When do you think you'll be able to play in games again?

Right now I'm not sure what schedule they have for me. The team, like I am, is focused on rehabilitation. We're trying to do everything we can to be ready for the season. After that we'll see what happens.


And Castro with a good piece on Brantley


The dumbest thing Michael Brantley ever did?


He didn't have to think long and hard about the question.


Dumb and Brantley had one of their rare get-togethers the day he decided to show off his golf skills in the front yard.


Brantley is a promising prospect for the Cleveland Indians now, but, at the time of this story, he was a 14-year-old kid with nothing better to do than demonstrate to a friend his ability to loft a ball over a neighboring home.


He dropped the ball on his front lawn, drew the club back and then unwound rapidly.


Trouble was, Brantley overestimated his abilities.


"I didn't quite make it over the house," he said, a tad embarrassed even now. "I hit the roof. And in the process of hitting the roof, our next-door neighbor was a cop, and he was just going on duty. So he saw me swing a golf club, hit it and hit the roof. He came marching over, and I was so scared he was going to tell my mom and dad."


Did he?


"He sure did," Brantley said glumly. "I got in trouble for at least a month."


Of course, on the list of dumb things that 14-year-old boys do, Brantley's little tale ranks definitively low.


And that's pretty much the point.


There is an air about the 22-year-old Brantley, who projects as the Tribe's regular left fielder in 2010, that defies his youth. Always has been, in fact.


"I've always been told I'm mature for my age," he said. "That if you didn't know and had to guess, you'd think I was older. That's all due to how I was raised, growing up. I was always around older guys, and it taught me to grow up faster."


These were no ordinary "older guys." These were professional ballplayers and coaches. The young Brantley was surrounded by them because his father, Mickey, was himself a big league outfielder and, in Michael's youth, a coach at the Major and Minor League levels in the Giants, Mets and Blue Jays systems.


"I learned their maturity and ways, and I just kind of copied that," Michael said.


All those learning experiences culminated in what transpired last September, when Brantley received his first promotion to the Majors and played and acted as if he had been there his entire life. Though he did not have a dominant season at the Triple-A level, he was a natural with the Tribe, collecting a hit in his first eight games and reaching base safely in 25 of 28 games played.


This was, the Indians hope, the first step toward Brantley fulfilling the promise that made them target him in the July 2008 trade that sent CC Sabathia to the Brewers. Brantley came to the organization as a much-heralded prospect who some think can one day step into the leadoff role full-time.


But if you're around Brantley, you get the sense that he didn't have to turn to baseball to be successful. His gumption and work ethic lead one to believe he would have been a success at any chosen career path.


His lack of pretension about his talents is also palpable.


"My mother and father really taught me the value of a dollar," he said.


And what wasn't taught, Brantley learned.


He'd say he learned it the hard way by busing tables in high school at a TGI Friday's near his Port St. Lucie, Fla., home. It was an inglorious occupation that Brantley still thinks about when he sees the money fans invest into their favorite sports teams.


"It was hard-earned sweat," he said of that job. "Nobody wants to work at a restaurant. But I was around people all the time and got great people skills from it. And it was hard work. I had to go in each day and bust my butt just to make a couple dollars so I could buy a pair of shoes or go to the school dance. What I learned is how hard it is to earn a dollar."


Now that he gets paid to do what he loves -- with the possibility of some hefty payments coming down the road -- Brantley remembers those lessons. And when he talks about his offseason, in which he has supplemented his winter conditioning with regular fishing trips and rounds of golf, he knows how blessed he is.


"Baseball's a mentally tiring sport," he said. "When I'm out there fishing or golfing, it really relaxes me. Who can say they can do that two or three times a week? I can, and I'm very fortunate."


Brantley is young enough that this perspective hasn't been challenged considerably yet. It will be, in time, and he's aware of the trappings of success and how they can change a person.


But the kid who was once scolded by the officer next door likes to keep his mistakes to a minimum and his head on straight.


"I'm always going to go about my life just like I am now," he said. "I enjoy playing for the fans. I'll shake every hand I can. Seeing smiles on kids' faces and playing for the fans? That's what this game is all about."

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As for Acta....it seems he's passing the test so far. All the players seem to love him and he's looking good in interviews. Fans on Acta...


Before asking a question of Manny Acta at a Town Hall session Monday night, an Indians season-ticket holder took his moment at the microphone to start an ovation for the new Tribe skipper.


Acta, of course, has yet to win a game with the Indians, so the applause might have been a bit premature, as Acta himself acknowledge.


"We'll see about that ovation," Acta joked, "in September."


Still, it was clear right then that personality has already won Acta some points in these parts. And in this question-and-answer session at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School, in front of about 500 fans and the SportsTime Ohio cameras, the Indians put that personality on display with the intent of reaching out to their fans. Acta was here to generate interest in the 2010 season and to field queries from fans about a variety of topics, both broad and direct. The results will be aired on STO next week.


What the fans saw was what the Indians saw last fall, when they considered dozens of candidates for their managerial vacancy and landed on Acta, the owner of a 158-252 career managerial record with the Nationals.


While the jury is still out as to whether Acta can be successful at this level and in this "reloading" setting in which the Indians are operating, his engaging style of communication and his knowledge about the game in its current state are already winning some folks over. The applause proved as much.


So, what exactly is Acta saying that has some fans feeling optimistic about a ballclub that finished in a tie for last place in the AL Central and traded away its two biggest stars last season?


Well, for one, Acta has demonstrated obvious enthusiasm for the players coming down the pipeline. He name-drops prospects as if he's moonlighting as an editor of Baseball America. Mere minutes into Monday's event, he was talking up the likes of Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall and Nick Hagadone, none of whom will be on the Tribe's Opening Day roster, but each of whom could become cornerstone players down the road.


"Fans don't know about these guys because they haven't been interviewed for the job here," Acta joked. "I did my homework. When I meet these guys, I tell them, 'I made my decision [to come to Cleveland] based on you guys.' We have a chance to put a good club together like we had in the '90s."


But once that club is assembled, what kind of manager is Acta? One season-ticket holder inquired about Acta's policy on bunting, noting that his predecessor, Eric Wedge, tended to avoid the tactic.


This would have been an opportunity for Acta to simply tell the fan what he wanted to hear, but instead he turned the tables on him, asking him if he would let one of his best hitters bunt with a man on first and none out in order to get the runner into scoring position. The fan answered in the affirmative, and Acta quickly told him he was wrong, before launching into his sabermetric-aided beliefs. He said unless the hitter in question is batting below .240, the stats suggest that you're better off letting the hitter swing away.


"People think it's the absolute right thing to bunt [in that situation]," Acta said, "but you need to check the stats. Back in the day, we didn't have computers, we didn't have Twitter, we didn't have Facebook. They've come up with some things that make you open your eyes and not play like Casey Stengel used to play."


When it comes to his philosophy on the basepaths, Acta said he's a "common-sense guy" who will base his tactics on his personnel. And he believes he has the personnel to be aggressive.


"We have a chance to be not a normal AL club," he said. "We have guys like [Grady] Sizemore, [Asdrubal] Cabrera, [Trevor] Crowe and [shin-Soo] Choo. We have a team that can run and run effectively."


Acta plans to be equally aggressive in getting the Indians to avoid one of the slow starts that often plagued the teams managed by Wedge.


"We have to make sure our guys are aware of what's going on," Acta said. "Even in Spring Training, we need to stress that winning is important. I feel better going to the showers after we win, even if it's an exhibition."


Once the cameras clicked off, Acta didn't want to leave. He continued to field questions and sign autographs for those who stuck around.


One fan asked him if his bilingual abilities will help him deal with the Latin players. Acta revealed that sometimes Latin players are misunderstood. They are groomed in their culture to put their head down when being spoken to by an elder, and this courtesy is often misinterpreted as disrespect.


"It's a totally different culture," he said. "I know that. I'm not going to take it personally, because that's the way we were taught. But we have to keep encouraging these guys to adjust to our culture. That's the role we play."


And in a long season -- the kind of season the Indians could indeed have in 2010 -- Acta said it's important that he not get overly emotional.


"We are trained to not let too many things stop us from sleeping," he said. "It's a 162-game season. You can drop a ball through your legs and take a beating. But in baseball, the very next day you can get a game-winning hit. If you do have things that keep you up at night every night, you'll die. There are worries, obviously. Like our starting rotation. But it's not like you're not going to sleep. You're hoping these guys are going to get better, and I always hope for the best."


The fans here hope for the best, too, of course. And they seemed quick to take the optimistic Acta at his word. One fan remarked, "I'm glad we beat the Astros to the punch and hired you," and Acta was once again quick with a quip.


"September," he said with a smile.





Players on Acta (+ staff)...


CLEVELAND: They've known for months who their new manager is, but it wasn't until this week that many of the Indians' younger players finally met Manny Acta in person.


Acta arrived at a snow-covered Progressive Field this week to participate in the Indians' press tour and took advantage of a little downtime by meeting one-on-one with some of the Indians' up-and-coming young players.


Outfielder Michael Brantley, who made his major-league debut last year in the final month of the season and batted .313 in 28 games, hopes to win the left-field job out of spring training.


He met with Acta for the first time Tuesday to talk about what he needs to do to start the season with the big club.


''He is such an awesome person, hopefully I get to play for him,'' said Brantley, who came to the Indians as the final piece of the CC Sabathia trade to the Milwaukee Brewers in 2008.


''We sat down to talk for a half hour and it only felt like it was five minutes,'' Brantley said. ''It was a normal conversation you usually don't have with a manager at that time. It didn't even feel like I was talking to a manager. It was more like a friend, and that's what you want, to be able to walk up to your coaches and have a normal conversation.''


Left-handed pitcher David Huff, who won 11 games in his rookie season last year, also left his first meeting with Acta on Tuesday impressed.


''The passion he had in everything he said to me, it just motivated me,'' Huff said. ''Honestly, I wish spring training started tomorrow.''


Huff also has the bonus of being reunited with two familiar faces from his time in the minor leagues, Tim Belcher (the new pitching coach) and Scott Radinsky (the new bullpen coach).


''[belcher] is the ultimate competitor when it comes to pitching,'' Huff said. ''I worked with him a little bit in the minors when he'd come to town. And I've been working with Scott Radinsky pretty much for two years. I'm excited to get started because we have a really good staff.''


Left-handed reliever Tony Sipp also is thrilled to have a familiar supporting staff.


''Belcher is a guy I've always respected,'' said Sipp, who was 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 46 appearances last year with the Tribe. ''He's been in the game awhile and has been where I'm trying to get to. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do for me.''


But it's Radinsky, who spent the past three seasons as the Indians' Triple-A pitching coach, who really knows Sipp best.


''We came up through [low Class-A] Lake County together,'' Sipp said. ''It seems like when I move up, he moves up. So he's the guy I'm really looking forward to sitting down with and spending most of my time with in the bullpen. He's a great guy. I can't say enough about him.''


Sipp isn't the only young player to come to Cleveland to rave about Radinsky's help in the minors.


''Sometimes a good coach is the one that knows when not to bother you,'' Sipp said. ''[Radinsky] knows how to sit back and let you be a kid out there. But also when he sees something getting out of hand or something that needs fine-tuned a little more, he'll come out and talk to you.''


What makes Radinsky unique is his different approach to helping players who are struggling.


''It's not always in a traditional way,'' Sipp said, recounting the time early last season when he was sent back to Triple-A Columbus for work on his change-up. ''[Radinsky] told me to stub my big toe in the ground. I was like, 'What?' It didn't make sense at first. But I tried it and it worked.''


When Sipp rejoined the Indians in May after help from Radinsky, he stayed with the club for the remainder of the season.


Wednesday, however, it was time for Sipp to finally meet the other guy who will play a big role in his success at the major-league level.


''As soon as [Acta] came toward me, he started joking around right off,'' Sipp said. ''And that's what I'd kind of heard of him. But before Wednesday, all I had to really to go on was what Wikipedia had on him.


''Having a guy who likes to laugh, it takes pressure off the younger guys. We're already nervous going into [the season with a new coaching staff], so having a guy like him who can ease that transition makes it all the easier. With such a young team, it's a perfect opportunity for a new manager to come in and mold us the way he sees fit.''

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I do understand your concern. But 97 losses with a manager in Wedge that wasn't exactly a great communicator. He clearly had issues motivating, as it took a third of the season before his teams (every season) started showing signs of life. Give Acta a shot. He clearly can communicate with his players. And he really didn't have a whole lot to work with in Washington. This team is more talented than those Nationals. And there's no way he can be less motivational than Wedge.



I hope Acta takes us to the 'ship..just don't see it happening. I just cant see getting excited about a guy who had a below .400 winning percentage in the NL.. Plus the way you hear fans talk about the guy he has no idea how to "manage" a game, he's all about the numbers..

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I hope Acta takes us to the 'ship..just don't see it happening. I just cant see getting excited about a guy who had a below .400 winning percentage in the NL.. Plus the way you hear fans talk about the guy he has no idea how to "manage" a game, he's all about the numbers..


This is about bunting, isn't it?

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I hope Acta takes us to the 'ship..just don't see it happening. I just cant see getting excited about a guy who had a below .400 winning percentage in the NL.. Plus the way you hear fans talk about the guy he has no idea how to "manage" a game, he's all about the numbers..


See, I've "listened" to several fans on the net and most all agree with you when it comes to Acta's ability to manage a game. By most all accounts, it's lacking to be sure. However, there are a bunch of guys on one side who swear that he's nothing more than a walking/talking calculator when it comes to in-game decisions. Then there's an equal-sized bunch on the other side who yell at the man for ignoring statistics in favor of "believing" in his player.


A guy over at BBTF - Chris Needham - also has a gig over at nbcwashington.com - has been a frequent critic of Acta. Needham is well-versed when it comes to advanced stats and he's written more than a few times that he was disappointed that Acta talked a good game when it came to game theory. However, he would inevitably ignore the numbers and instead rely on his gut.


Or as he wrote on 10/26/09:


The problem with Acta is that he's such a positive person (think of a happy Buck O'Neil) that he manages as if everything is going to come up with the best-case scenario in a game that's built on failure.


You see this especially with the relievers. "Hey, I know we're only up by 1, but I'm sure that my 6th, 7th and 8th-inning guys can bridge the gap!"


He assumes that players are going to succeed in their roles, no matter what, even if all evidence to that point has shown that they're not capable.


Here's a link to an article of his just prior to the dismissal of Acta:




Obviously, I'm hoping like mad Acta does well. I'm also questioning comments that say he's "all about" numbers or instinct.



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