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This is pretty much all Hoynes, but there were a few minor Tribe-related notes recently:


i-yankees.com catches up with the case of Eduardo Salcedo, a guy I think we talked about a year or two back:


Remember Eduardo Salcedo? In 2008, it was reported that the Yankees, along with the Cleveland Indians (among others), were in on the Dominican-born, 16-year old shortstop, who was touted as a “potential five-tool player.” Since then, though, news regarding Salcedo, of any kind, has been nonexistent. The news gap, of course, followed the MLB’s announcement that they would be investigating Salcedo’s age (his documentation, specifically). That was in March of 2008 and only now are we hearing that the two-year investigation is finally coming to a close.


According to Jorge Arangure Jr. of ESPN, Salcedo could be cleared by the MLB “sometime this week,” which would then allow him to be bid on by organizations. Interestingly, Arangure lists the Diamondbacks and Braves as teams with a heavy interest in Salcedo, although he does note that there are others intrigued by his talents, as well. The Yankees, however, are not named (and neither are the Indians). Arangure suggests that the now 18-year old shortstop could be inline for a $1.5-2 million bonus upon signing a deal. He also refers to Salcedo’s agent as Edgar Mercedes, which is somewhat odd, since the last we heard of Salcedo, Scott Boras was his representation (perhaps Mercedes works for Boras). Anyway, it will be interesting to see if the Yankees are still in on the Dominican free agent, who, according to one scout quoted by Arangure, might have to transition from shortstop to third base at some point in the future.


Coincidentally, this news follows word that Cuban shortstop, Adeiny Hechevarria, might also be “unblocked” soon.




The terrific Hal McCoy wrote an article about his experience in Arizona the other day:


My good friend, companion and pseudo-chauffeur, Jeff Gordon, and I were eating our free breakfast at the Springhill Suites in Glendale. Two young men walked into the room and one nodded my way. Because of my blurred vision, I didn’t recognize him.


After breakfast, Jeff and I retrieved some gear from the room and headed back down to the lobby. One of the young men stopped me and began rattling off sentence after sentence, all in Spanish.


I took two years of Spanish at Kent State and either the professor stunk or I stunk. Most likely I stunk and didn’t learn a thing. So I didn’t understand a word.


Just to be polite, I finally said, “Yes.” He smiled broadly and pointed toward his friend, who turned out to be lefthanded pitcher Pedro Viola, whom I then recognized.


And I figured it out. They wanted a ride to the ballpark. Viola’s companion was righthanded pitcher Enerio Del Rosario. We, of course, said yes and they scrambled into the back seat of our Dodge Journey SUV.


There was total silence from the back seat for most of the 20-minute ride. I visited the Goodyear Stadium when it was under construction, so I had a general idea where it is - somewhere off west-bound I10 between Phoenix and Los Angeles.


When I recognized something, I used the one Spanish word I remembered. “Aqui (here)?” And Viola would say, “Si.”


We made one false turn. Gordon turned into the parking lot for the Cleveland Indians and Viola said, “No, No. Indians, Indians.” I almost felt like ducking and saying, “Where are the arrows?” But I know that’s politically incorrect and I knew he meant it was the complex occupied by the Cleveland Indians.


But we made it. Now what?




Jeff Zimmerman (with help from Josh Hermsmeyer) took a wonderful look at DL time and how it related to team payroll. Really, really good stuff. In a blog post, Tom Tango wrote this:


Dear Rob Neyer:


You have pull with the media. You know the media loves one-line sound bites. You love to highlight the great work from the young guys. Well, Jeff Zimmerman used the data of Josh Hermsmeyer to tell us that of the $18.6 billion in salaries paid out from 2002-09, that $2.9 billion went to guys on the disabled list, which is 15.5% of the payroll. Blare that out in a headline, please.


Thanks, Tom


Could not agree more.





And here's Hoynes:


Breaking down the big questions as the Cleveland Indians prepare for spring training: Analysis

By Paul Hoynes, The Plain Dealer

February 20, 2010, 8:08PM


Spring training is here. Where did the winter go?


There's still evidence of it on neighborhood streets and roofs, but in Goodyear, Ariz., a snowflake doesn't stand a chance. Maybe the winter has been hidden from view because of the frantic pace of the Indians' off-season maneuvering.


Excuse me, there was no maneuvering.


Seattle maneuvered. So did the Angels, Rangers, A's, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Orioles. The Twins were busy. The same with Detroit, the White Sox and Royals. The Pirates, Nationals, Reds, Astros, Giants and Diamondbacks had people coming and going at a rapid rate.


The Indians opted to strike it rich through a bevy of non-guaranteed, minor-league contracts. Maybe it will work in one or two instances, but it's not the recommended way to build a team.


Then again, the Indians say they're beyond the rebuild stage. The 162-game season, which begins April 5 in Chicago, will test a portion of that belief.


Right now new manager Manny Acta and his new coaching staff, starting Sunday, have six weeks -- 43 days, to be exact -- to discover the beginnings of what kind of team they have.


Every team, be they World Series champion or also-ran, enters a new season with unanswered questions or key issues to be resolved. Some of the answers will come in spring training. Others won't be determined until well into the season. Injuries, roster moves and a player's talent will take care of the rest.


Here are the key issues facing the Indians.




Best-case scenario: Acta is able to repeat the small miracle he worked with the Nationals in his rookie season of 2007 when he built a starting rotation from scratch. The Nationals, picked to lose 100 games, went 73-89 and finished fourth in the NL East.


The Indians have given Acta better arms to work than he had in 2007. He still needs to find the right mix.


Worst-case scenario: The Indians resemble the uninspired Nats that some scouts saw under Acta in 2008 and 2009.

What will probably happen: Acta, the first Tribe manager to actually manage somewhere else in the big leagues besides Cleveland since John McNamara in 1990, uses that experience to establish a pressure-free teaching environment where young players can take a deep breath and relax. How many games they win is another question all together.




Best-case scenario: Jake Westbrook's right elbow stays sound and he assumes the No. 1 spot. Fausto Carmona gets his head out of the clouds, his feet back on the ground and has his first winning season since 2007. Justin Masterson proves he's more starter than reliever. David Huff makes it two years in a row with double-digit victories. Aaron Laffey throws more strikes and stays strong the whole season. Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot, Jeremy Sowers and Hector Rondon provide a safety net.


Worst-case scenario: The direct opposite of the above.


What will probably happen: A couple of starters will do well. A couple won't. Consistency and innings pitched will be a problem. The pen, which pitched the third most innings last year in the AL, will once again be overworked.



Best-case scenario: Closer Kerry Wood and set-up men Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp and Joe Smith win the first five jobs. Jensen Lewis, Jamey Wright, Jason Grilli, Mike Gosling, Saul Rivera, Jess Todd, Talbot and Sowers will be the main competitors for the last two spots. There will be more competition in the pen than anywhere else in camp, except for the race to the players' cafeteria for breakfast and lunch.


Worst-case scenario: GM Mark Shapiro gets a deal he can't refuse and trades Wood before opening day. The bullpen, without a pressure-tested closer, is in a state of flux all year.

What will probably happen: Wood will be traded by midseason so he doesn't finish 55 games on the Tribe's watch to vest his $11 million option for 2011. Chris Perez takes over as closer, but he needs time to make the transition. Rafael Perez and Smith have bounce-back seasons, while the revolving door on the pen spins for the second straight year.




Best-case scenario: Veteran backup Mike Redmond pairs with rookies Lou Marson or Wyatt Toregas to keep the position warm until Carlos Santana -- scheduled to play some Cactus League games after breaking the hamate bone in his right hand in winter ball -- arrives from Class AAA Columbus. This is the thinnest the Indians' catching position has been in years.


Worst-case scenario: Marson and Toregas can't handle the everyday job. Santana, meanwhile, stalls in his first year at Class AAA. That means Redmond, 38, has to catch more than anticipated, but as Acta said in January: "I don't worry about his age. He's fresh. When you back up Joe Mauer, you don't play that much."


What will probably happen: Whichever rookie wins the job out of spring training does a decent job with the staff, but doesn't hit much. Redmond gets a chance to earn some of his games-played performance bonuses. Santana makes his big-league debut, but his impact won't be felt until 2011.




Best-case scenario: Michael Brantley picks up where he left off in September with a great spring to win the job. He gives Acta a speed element to put at the bottom of the lineup and link with Grady Sizemore in the No.1 spot. Trevor Crowe will back up Brantley as the fourth outfielder.


Worst-case scenario: Brantley isn't quite ready and needs more time at Columbus. Left field rotates among Crowe, Austin Kearns and Matt LaPorta. Even Shelley Duncan and Jordan Brown get into the act.


What will probably happen: Brantley opens the season in left, struggles and gets optioned to Columbus. He returns and takes over the job.



Best-case scenario: Sizemore (left elbow, left groin) returns to his All-Star, Gold Glove form in center field. LaPorta (left big toe, left hip) establishes himself as an every-day first baseman with the ability to play left or right field.


Worst-case scenario: Sizemore and/or LaPorta break down in spring training and aren't ready for the regular season. Indians scramble to replace them.


What will probably happen: From all reports, Sizemore and LaPorta should have the green light in spring training. They'll be handled carefully, but should be ready to open the season. If not, the Indians' depth will be tested.




Best-case scenario: Despite the Indians' efforts to sign veteran second baseman Orlando Hudson this winter, Valbuena shows he can hit left-handers (.205 last year), improves his on-base percentage (.298) and maintains his extra-base hit ability (38 extra-base hits out of 92 overall last year).


Worst-case scenario: The AL adjusts to Valbuena, but he doesn't adjust back. Hello sophomore jinx.


What will probably happen: Mark Grudzielanek, Brian Bixler, or one of the other utility infielders the Indians have signed will play second when Valbuena needs a break against a left-hander.



Best-case scenario: The left-handed Hagadone, 24, could be banging on the door of Progressive Field by the middle of the 2011 season if he gets through this season healthy and with no performance setbacks. Obtained in the Victor Martinez trade, he's 6-5, 230 and typically throws between 93-94 mph. He can touch 98 mph and is projected as a front-of-the-rotation starter or closer.


Knapp, 19, is coming off right shoulder surgery and it's going to take him longer. The top prospect in the Cliff Lee deal is 6-5, 215 and throws between 93-95 mph. The Indians think he can be a top starter or closer.


Hagadone and Knapp will probably start at Class A Kinston this year, but while Hagadone could progress quickly, Knapp will be on a slower track because of his age and injury. He's got a chance to be in Cleveland late in the 2012 season, but more likely sometime in 2013.


Worst-case scenario: Hagadone and Knapp turn into the second and third coming of Adam Miller.


What will probably happen: Perhaps one of the two gets to Cleveland and pitches well. If they both make it, and pitch to expectations, it will make the Martinez and Lee deals easier to live with.







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A few more things:


Here's a quick look at camp -


Cleveland Indians briefing: Manny Acta feels good vibes on first day

By Paul Hoynes, The Plain Dealer

February 21, 2010, 1:04PM

UPDATED: 3:54 p.m.


GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- This will be a daily briefing of the Indians second spring training in Goodyear, Ariz. We're at 43 days and counting until the regular season opens April 5 in Chicago.



Day one: Indians pitchers and catchers reported to Goodyear, Ariz. today for spring training. Not much fanfare. Most of them have been here for several days if not weeks.


Good vibrations: Manager Manny Acta is impressed by the commitment his players have shown by reporting early to camp..


"It's exciting," said Acta. "So much has been said over the years about the new era ballplayer. These guys nowadays show a big-time commitment to their jobs. For the last week or so, it looks like we have our full squad here already. It's refreshing to see that."


Present and accounted for: Acta said every player who is supposed to be in camp has reported.


Weather: Quiet, rainy, cool. Sun started to break through later in the day.


Face in the crowd: Charlie Nagy, new Tribe Triple-A pitching coach, reported to camp. He came in carrying his gear in his hands. Clubhouse manager Tony Amato kiddingly said, "Nice equipment bag."


Lights, camera action: Fausto Carmona, Rafael Perez and a few other pitchers threw off the mound Sunday morning. New pitching coach Tim Belcher and bullpen coach Scott Radinsky watched.


More access: Autograph hunters will be happy with a move the Indians made this spring. A sidewalk has been built that allows fans to get closer to players as they make their way to and from the main diamond right outside the locker room. Fans and players will be separated by a 4-foot high chain link fence, which won't interfer with autographs or pictures.


Roster breakdown: The Tribe's 40-man roster includes 19 pitchers, five catchers, nine infielders and seven outfielders. There are 19 spring-training invitees, including 10 pitchers, one catcher, six infielders and two outfielders.


If Russell Branyan passes his physical Tuesday, the Indians will have 60 players in camp. Acta said he preferred to wait for official word on Branyan before talking about how he fits into the scheme of things.


Gutter ball: Matt Underwood, Tribe announcer, reported to camp with a broken middle finger on his left hand from a bowling mishap. Underwood and Rick Manning will start a week's worth of shows on SportsTime Ohio Monday at 10 p.m. Manager Manny Acta, Belcher and first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. will be their guests.


Schedule:Pitchers and catchers get their physicals Monday and start official practices Tuesday. Position players report Wednesday.






Doug Miller from MLB.com takes a look at options available to various teams:


Take the Cleveland Indians. They have right-hander Mitch Talbot and lefty Jeremy Sowers competing for two open spots in the rotation, and both of them are out of options, which could put them in a good spot if the Tribe won't risk losing them.


But potentially more interesting is the situation of the once-highly touted third-base prospect, Andy Marte.


Marte, 26, was out of options last year and removed from the Indians' roster, but he wasn't claimed off waivers and ended up having a good enough year at Triple-A Columbus (.327 BA/.369 OBP/.593 SLG) that the Indians added him to the 25-man roster in late July. This year he's in limbo again, with no options left and no guaranteed roster spot. Then again, after his big season in the Minors last year, he might have a better chance of being claimed if he doesn't make the big club on Opening Day.






Here's Pluto's look at the Tribe:


About the Tribe ...


1. One reason is the Indians will have the second-lowest payroll in the American League is what happened last season. They added $14 million in payroll above their budget when signing free agent Kerry Wood and trading prospects for veteran infielder Mark DeRosa. When the team started poorly and almost immediately dropped out of contention, fans naturally stayed away. It also became apparent that the Indians overestimated their talent.


2. The decision to cut back from an $81 million payroll in 2009 (ranked 15th) to about $65 million (ranked about 27th) comes from two discouraging seasons in 2008 ($79 million) and 2009. In 2007, the Indians won 96 games and were one game away from the World Series with a $61 million payroll. So ownership increased it by about 20 percent. But there was no payoff on the field.


3. Ownership says the Indians lost about $10 million last season, down from $14 million after the trades of Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee. A much smaller loss is projected for this year. The team has 135 suites, and only about half are sold. A real problem has been the inability to have consecutive winning records since 2000-01. The 93-69 record in 2005 was followed by a 78-84 season. In 2007, they were 96-66, then 81-81 and 65-97 the next two years. It takes a couple of contending seasons in a row to attract the casual fan.


4. Promoting Chris Antonetti to general manager by the end of 2010 is no surprise. Antonetti has been handling much of the daily GM duties for at least a year. He began his career with Montreal, and then became Mark Shapiro's assistant in 2002. He has worked for two teams on tight budgets, so that is an advantage in terms of avoiding the frustration that occurs when an executive from a big-market team takes over one of baseball's poorer franchises.


5. While Shapiro agreed to the hiring of Manny Acta, it was Antonetti who led the search for the new Indians manager -- and who made the first recommendation to hire Acta. The hope is with Antonetti assuming even more of the GM duties while working with Acta, perhaps the Indians can have a fresher view of the current players and how best to use them.


6. Promoting Shapiro to president is a natural progression, his father being veteran sports agent Ron Shapiro. His background is in the business of sports. It also gives him a new challenge, which he wanted. After 2007, Antonetti had turned down an offer to be the St. Louis Cardinals' GM. He also turned down chances to interview for GM positions with the Reds, Phillies and Diamondbacks in the past few seasons. The Indians believed he was ready to take over the GM duties here.






No surprise here, ESPN reports that Buehrle will start against the good guys on opening day:


It will be Buehrle's eighth Opening Day start, making him the White Sox career leader. Buehrle had been tied with Sox legendary left-hander Billy Pierce.


"I think Mark feels very, very good," Guillen said. "I think he earned that spot."


Right-handed pitcher Jake Peavy, whom the Sox acquired in a trade with the San Diego Padres last season, was Guillen's other possible choice. But Peavy said recently he wanted Buehrle to get the Opening Day assignment.


"I think he is deserving. ... It's his staff," Peavy said. "He has been the face of this franchise for such a long time."


Buehrle threw a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, but he won only two the rest of the way and finished 13-10 with a 3.84 ERA.


"I hope he doesn't throw another no-hitter," Guillen joked. "Please don't. We were in first place when that happened."


The White Sox were tied for first when Buehrle fired his perfect game, but they lost a doubleheader to the Detroit Tigers the next day and never regained first place.






Sad news about former Indian Jim Bibby:


Hard-throwing right-hander Jim Bibby, who pitched for the Indians from 1975-77, died at age 65 on Tuesday night in Lynchburg, Va.


The cause was not disclosed. The family said a statement would be released later.


The 6-5 Bibby went 111-101 with a 3.76 earned run average for four teams in a major league career that began in 1972. The Indians traded Hall of Fame pitcher Gaylord Perry to the Texas Rangers for Bibby, pitchers Rick Waits and Jackie Brown and $100,000 on June 13, 1975.


Bibby compiled a 30-29 record in the next 2 1/2 seasons with the Indians, with four saves, a 3.36 ERA and 63 starts among his 95 appearances.


The way the Indians lost Bibby was symbolic of that era's financially-strapped Cleveland franchise. Bibby's 1977 contract with the Indians included a $10,000 bonus if he made at least 30 starts. He pitched in 37 games, making exactly 30 starts. The Indians failed to pay Bibby the money on time, and while the team was in spring training for the 1978 season, an arbitrator ruled that Bibby be declared a free agent.


Bibby signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. He helped them win the 1979 World Series, going 12-4 with a 2.81 ERA, then posting a 2.08 ERA in three postseason starts -- including two in the World Series against the Baltimore Orioles -- although he wasn't credited with a decision.


Bibby pitched the first no-hitter in Rangers history, a 6-0 win over Oakland in 1973. He had a 19-19 record with Texas in 1974, and went 19-6 and made the National League all-star team with the Pirates in 1980.


Bibby's brother, Henry, 60, played nine seasons in the NBA.






Here's Ken Griffey talking trash to a couple of former Indians:


Three days before position players are required to report, Griffey arrived at the Seattle Mariners’ spring training complex Friday morning and spread his presence throughout the clubhouse, where any player was fair game for his humor.


To new third baseman Chone Figgins: “You looked a lot bigger in red.”


To center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who signed a four-year $20.25 million contract over the winter: “I’ll be getting some of your money now that you got that big contract.” (Griffey is the judge of the team’s kangaroo court)


Pointing to new pitcher Cliff Lee: “I’m going to throw bunting practice to pitchers this year. That guy might get one behind his back.”


Six years ago, Lee was suspended for six games after throwing a pitch behind Griffey during an interleague game between the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds.






And finally, a good dose of Ask Hoynsie:


Hey, Hoynsie: I was surprised to read that the Indians have offered Russell Branyan a $2 million contract (plus incentives). Would it make more sense for the Indians to spend the remainder of their off-season budget to target a starting pitcher who could throw 170-190 innings? I know the Indians have a plethora of young starters, but they could use someone who could take the workload off of the bullpen and who could add stability to the rotation. That avenue may provide the Indians with more value than a platoon player who will hit .250 and strike out 150 times. Braden Looper, Jarrod Washburn, and Livan Hernandez are still on the market. -- David Bruno, Chagrin Falls.


Hey, David: I know they had some interest in Washburn, but he had a knee problem last year and would probably cost more than Branyan. Looper won 14 games last year with Milwaukee. He's still not signed, but I'm guessing he's out of the Tribe's price range. They weren't high on Hernandez.


I've been told that unless they could acquire a pitcher who was clearly an upgrade over their current stock of starters, they didn't see the benefit of doing it. Their pursuit of Branyan is a way to try and improve the team in another way.


Hey, Hoynsie: It was pretty depressing that the Tribe had no money to spend this off-season. With the contracts of Kerry Wood, Jake Westbrook, and Jhonny Peralta coming off the books at the end of the 2010 season, that frees up roughly $25 million. What are the odds the Tribe tries to use a good portion of that to keep Grady Sizemore? Or would they perhaps go after a free agent pitcher such as Josh Beckett, or dare I say it, Cliff Lee? -- Greg Matthews, Tolland, Conn.


Hey, Greg: They could use that money to try and give Sizemore an extension, but he's signed through 2011 with a club option for 2012. I'm sure Sizemore's performance this season will play a role in that possibility as well.


If you think Lee or Beckett are coming here as free-agent pitchers after this season, you need to sit down and relax. You've been shoveling too much snow.


Hey, Hoynsie: Obviously you would have to agree that the Indians' biggest free-agent signing this winter was Mike Redmond. I was just curious as to what, exactly, his reputation is as far as mentoring young catchers. Wasn't he with the Twins when Joe Mauer was just getting started? -- Joe Cepec, Dublin.


Hey, Joe: I've heard nothing but good things about Redmond and his ability to work with pitchers and catchers. He's a good hitter against left-handers as well. Just ask CC Sabathia.


Hey, Hoynsie: With the ownership spending no money on the Indians and headed for a fourth-place finish at best in the AL Central, should the city of Cleveland be trying to find new ownership? Also since the Dolans own the New York Knicks and the Indians, could they not be spending money on the Indians so they could have more money to spend this summer on LeBron James to get him to New York? -- Wayne Schultz, Westlake


Hey, Wayne: The city of Cleveland has enough problems without trying to find a buyer for the Indians. Besides, Larry and Paul Dolan, from what I've been told, have no intention of selling the club.


Larry Dolan's brother, Charles, bought the Knicks and Charles' son, Jim, is the current CEO. Supposedly there is no crossover ownership between the two groups. Besides, in my limited understanding of NBA rules, the Cavs can pay James more money than any other team to keep him if he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.


One more thing, why would James want to play for a team as bad as the Knicks?


Hey, Hoynsie: Do you think the Indians would explore offering a highly rated prospect to any team willing to take the albatross contracts of both Kerry Wood and Travis Hafner? -- Michael Dlugos, Chicago.


Hey, Michael:A deal like that would depend on how much of Wood and Hafner's contracts the other team would be willing to take. The more money it assumed, the higher the value of the prospect would be.


But to do a deal like that, there has to be value involved. Wood has value, but I think the Indians would like him to increase that with a good first half before they consider moving him. Hafner, who has over $40 million left on his contract, has little value because he's been hurt for two years.


What team would willingly take on two contracts like that?


Hey, Hoynsie: Can you explain why the Tribe settled for so little in trading Victor Martinez and Cliff Lee considering that each had 1 1/2 years left on their contracts at a reasonable cost? Why not wait until after the season when there may have been more clubs interested? -- Joseph Bernard, Cleveland.


Hey, Joseph: It's hard to say that more clubs would have been interested this winter. Martinez and Lee were traded at the height of divisional races. Lee helped the Phillies get to the World Series. Martinez helped Boston reach the postseason.


During the winter, the desire of other teams to acquire Martinez or Lee might not have been as strong.


If you've noticed, Philadelphia GM Ruben Amaro has been criticized for the players he received from Seattle in exchange for Lee this winter after acquiring Roy Halladay. Some baseball people feel Lee brought the Indians more than he brought the Phillies.


Hey, Hoynsie: When's the last time you spoke to Albert Belle? Do you think he'll ever come back to Cleveland to get honored before a game? I don't think he realizes how much we appreciated him as a player. -- Tom Smith, Akron.


Hey, Tom: I have not had the pleasure of talking to Mr. Belle since late last season. It's always a delight to hear from him. There isn't much that goes on with the Indians that he doesn't know about.


I think Belle belongs in the Indians' Hall of Fame. I voted for him this winter. I think the fans would love to see him honored, but I'm not so sure about the current organization, since he takes them to task at every opportunity.


Belle could solve that problem by becoming an investor in the Tribe. Paul Dolan said last season that they'd consider taking on a partner. Sounds like a match made in heaven.





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Great stuff, Bean. Could use more Bryce Harper, though.


And what is becoming a spring tradition almost as good as the Major League DVD, Castro's Excruciating Minutiae is back.




From Sunday...


  • Russell Branyan will be here Tuesday to take the physical examination that would complete his one-year, $2 million deal with the Indians. It's no slam dunk, of course, as the Indians are rigorous in their demands for such an exam and Branyan dealt with a back problem that sidelined him the last month of the '09 season in Seattle. But all reports indicate that Branyan has made significant progress with the back.
  • How are the Indians planning to use Branyan? That's a bit of a mystery, and Manny Acta wasn't coughing up any clues. "Let's wait until everything becomes official," Acta said. "Then we'll answer all those questions."
  • It could be that the left-handed Branyan and the right-handed Matt LaPorta share first base. Or LaPorta could go back to left field and bump Michael Brantley, who might be due for a little more seasoning at Triple-A Columbus. Or maybe Branyan bounces around between first base, third base and left field (though he hasn't played third since 2008 and the outfield since 2007, so that seems a bit doubtful).
  • Acta has indicated all winter that LaPorta will see the bulk of his time this season at first base, because that's where his big league future lies. However, every time I asked Mark Shapiro about LaPorta, Shapiro said left field remains a possibility for him, depending on what the Indians do this winter. Keep in mind that LaPorta hadn't played first in his professional career prior to last season, and he was still a work in progress at the position at season's end.
  • In a perfect world, who would be Acta's first baseman? "In a perfect world," he said, "Albert Pujols."
  • Regarding second base, Acta said Luis Valbuena enters camp as the everyday starter at the spot, and he's interested in seeing how Valbuena fares against left-handed pitching in Cactus League play. "We're not in the business of developing platoon players at 24 years old," Acta said. "We're going to give him opportunities [against lefties]."
  • Acta said Jake Westbrook, nearly two years removed from Tommy John surgery, should have no restrictions this spring.
  • Nearly every member of the 59-player spring roster (Branyan would make 60) is already here, even though position players aren't due to report until Wednesday and the first full-squad workout won't take place until Friday. "I'm excited," Acta said. "For me to show up a week before pitchers and catchers report and to see [Travis] Hafner, [Grady] Sizemore, [shin-Soo] Choo and [Asdrubal] Cabrera on the field one week before they're supposed to be on the field excites me."
  • By the time I arrived at the complex around noon local time today, virtually all of the players had shuffled out. I'm told it was a light workout day, with much more activity on Saturday. The big league coaching staff went into a meeting at 2 p.m. that was expected to last several hours.
  • The Indians are wearing new batting practice caps this year. No Chief Wahoo. No script "I." These blue caps feature the old-school, block "C" in red lettering, with a red brim.
  • Speaking of uniforms, if you're looking to run out and buy an Acta jersey, he's wearing No. 11. The No. 14 he wore in Washington is spoken for in these parts. It's Larry Doby's retired number.


And today...


  • As you may have seen on the Indians.com site, Jeremy Sowers' rotation hopes will probably take a hit because of the left shoulder inflammation he's dealing with. He said the shoulder gave him some trouble off an on throughout the '09 season, and he came here a month early to get treatment for it. Sowers estimated that he'll be "a couple weeks" behind his teammates in camp, which has to hurt his chances of a starting job. Acta estimated that Sowers will be "a week to 10 days" behind.
  • Even if he doesn't make the rotation, Sowers, who is out of Minor League options, might have a chance of landing in the bullpen, though his stuff is hardly suited for the role. Still, given the expected problems in the rotation this season, I wouldn't rule out the possibility of the Indians carrying a guy like Sowers as a long man.
  • Shin-Soo Choo says he hopes to participate in the 2010 Asian Games in November. If the South Korean baseball team wins the gold medal in that event, its members would likely receive an exemption from their two-year obligation to the Korean military. Obviously, that's something that appeals to Choo. He's spoken about this situation with the Indians, and it will likely be revisted at season's end. He'd like to get their permission to participate. Here's the full story on Choo.
  • Top prospect Carlos Santana, who had surgery to remove a broken hamate bone in his right hand in December, said he has no restrictions and should be ready to play when the Cactus League season opens next week. It will be interesting to see if Santana's power is affected by that surgery this season.
  • Jhonny Peralta's been around here long enough to know that players often get moved in the final guaranteed year of their contracts. And given Peralta, who is due to make $4.6 million this year, is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, he's curious to see what happens. "I don't know what they're going to do," he said, "but I want to be here. I don't know what's on their mind. There's nothing I can do about it. I'll just try to play how I play."
  • Peralta became a father over the winter. His wife Molly gave birth to a daughter, Analise, in October. "It's a great experience," he said of fatherhood.
  • Peralta still sounds a bit mystified over how the third base situation played out last year. "In Spring Training, they didn't say to me that I'd be playing third base [during the season]," he said. "Then one day in the middle of the season, they say I'm playing third base."
  • Anthony Reyes, who had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery and an ulnar nerve transposition surgery last June, said his arm feels stable and strong. He's throwing long toss right now. He's not sure when he'll start throwing off a mound. Reyes probably won't be a big league option until July, at the absolute earliest.
  • Chris Gimenez raved about his Venezuelan winter ball experience. He left for Venezuela in November, just eight days after he and his wife, Kelly, were married. "I told my wife [going to winter ball] was our honeymoon," he said. "She probably loved that. ... I was a little worried about here down there, a tall, skinny white girl walking around. But everything went great." Gimenez admitted he needed the winter ball grooming time because he found his offensive performance in the second half last year to be "embarrassing."
  • Gimenez is still being groomed as a super utility type. He's probably one of the guys on the bubble when/if the Indians have to clear a spot on the 40-man for Russell Branyan.
  • Speaking of Branyan, I'd expect that deal to be made official on Wednesday, if he passes Tuesday's physical exam. It usually takes a day to process the results of those tests.
  • Jamey Wright is roughly 9 feet tall, give or take a few feet.
  • The pre-camp meetings the began today serve to let a player know where he stands coming into the season. Acta said he didn't have these meetings in Washington, but he loves the idea. "It's tremendous," he said. "It's a step toward building communication and making things clear to every one of the guys."
  • The pitchers and catchers will hold their first official workout Tuesday morning. Position players officially report Wednesday, even though they all seem to be here already.
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I'm sure this will make some people happy...


From Castro's twitter


"Grady Sizemore told Matt Underwood of STO that he's moving to No. 2 spot of the #Indians lineup. Asdrubal Cabrera will lead off"




I suppose the full lineup should be something like...












Love the top 3, at least. I've always thought Choo would be a better hitter at the 3-hole than Grady. He might never reach 30 HR, but I love his blend of power, contact and patience hitting 3rd.

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I'm sure this will make some people happy...


From Castro's twitter


"Grady Sizemore told Matt Underwood of STO that he's moving to No. 2 spot of the #Indians lineup. Asdrubal Cabrera will lead off"




I suppose the full lineup should be something like...












Love the top 3, at least. I've always thought Choo would be a better hitter at the 3-hole than Grady. He might never reach 30 HR, but I love his blend of power, contact and patience hitting 3rd.



I like it too.


I am a old school guy who feels the leadoff hitter in any game should have a primary focus of making the pitcher throw 9 pitches, which means taking some called strikes.


Let Cabrera be the guy who tries to work a walk and give Grady some better protection with Choo and allow him to drive the ball more.


If Cabrera doesn't get on to lead the game, Grady still has a shot of getting on with less than 2 outs, allowing you to try to run him if you want....assuming Acta is a normal manager and doesn't like the 3rd out to be on the basepaths early in the game.

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Great stuff, Bean. Could use more Bryce Harper, though.


Ask and you shall receive!


Doubts about phenom Bryce Harper

March, 6, 2010

8:16 AM ET


Tim Tebow must haunt some NFL evaluators these days. He is the draft-eligible quarterback who promises to make you look either really smart or really dumb, because he is so well-known to casual fans, because his athleticism and his leadership skills are so well-known, and because his mechanical flaws have been so detailed.


Imagine if you're running the Jacksonville Jaguars and you pass on a couple of opportunities to take the Florida Gators product in the draft -- and then, in a couple of years, he cleans up his throwing motion and becomes a star in the NFL, a Tom Brady-like figure. Forevermore, you will have to listen to this: How in the world could you pass up Tebow? Everybody knew he was a monster athlete and a leader of men.


And, on the other hand, if you are running the Jags and you reach to take him, and he fails to develop, then you will get wrecked in the court of public opinion with this: What, are you an idiot? Everybody knew his throwing motion was a problem.


Well, in June, some baseball general managers and scouting directors are going to face their own Tim Tebow quandary, and his name is Bryce Harper.


The young slugging catcher made the cover of Sports Illustrated last year, and given his set of tools and skills, there was an attempt to co-opt the notion that Harper, and not Stephen Strasburg, was the LeBron James of amateur baseball. Because of Harper's tremendous bat speed, his size, his raw power.


But with Strasburg, as with LeBron James, there was no doubt: He was the best pitching prospect anybody could remember. Harper, on the other hand, has become a figure of great debate in the scouting community. Yes, the tremendous bat speed is there -- and yes, scouts are noting privately that Harper tends to swing and miss a whole lot more than great young hitters usually do. So far this spring, while playing at Southern Nevada, a junior college, he has 15 strikeouts in 56 at-bats and is hitting .356.


Joe Mauer's swing, as a high school kid, was smooth, easy, natural. Harper's swing, some scouts are saying, is violent, with the mechanics of his legs and hips a concern.


The scouts see how hard he plays; one scout compared his playing style to that of Kirk Gibson. But they wonder if he will be a guy who tries too hard, and whether he will cope with the inherent failure in baseball, given the pressure that he will face.


Yes, he is big -- but the scouts wonder if he is too big, and if the hype about him came too quickly.


Scouts see reasons why the Washington Nationals could take him with the first pick in the draft. But on the other hand, scouts also see reasons why they would pass. "Last year, at this time, there was no doubt -- Strasburg was far and away the best player in the draft," said one talent evaluator. "I don't think that's the case here."


In truth, Harper scares some evaluators -- to the point that some teams are hoping that some other team, like the Nationals, takes him early in the draft. Because they recognize the possibility that Harper could become a star, and they don't want to listen to years of second-guessing for their decision to pass on him.


He figures to go somewhere in the top 10 picks in the draft. He might go first; he might fall. And as with Tebow, someone is going to look very smart or very dumb, because his potential strengths and flaws are all on the table for everyone to see.





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