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Here's Castro:


Mailbag: Catching jewels too valuable?

MLB.com reporter Anthony Castrovince answers fans' queries

By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com


Honestly, if you had to choose between Kelly Shoppach and Victor Martinez, who would you trade? I came to the conclusion that, when pressed, I would keep Kelly. The clubhouse leadership may be nice with Martinez, but maybe it's time the Indians look slightly into the future and realize that maybe the leadership presence could change.

-- Kevin H., Athens, Ohio


I've written before that the Indians need to consider all possibilities when it comes to improving this club for 2009 and beyond. And, with that, they must be open to hearing offers for their catchers. But I try to dwell in reality, and it's extremely unrealistic that they would deal Martinez at this juncture. He is one of the faces of this franchise, and he has an affordable contract through 2010.


It's easy to be down on Martinez after his injury plagued '08, but you can't forget what he did in 2007, both at the plate (.879 OPS, 25 homers, 114 RBIs) and defensively (thwarted 30 percent of base-stealing attempts). The right elbow and left hamstring problems really affected him last year, and one would figure a healthy Martinez can once again be a middle-of-the-order threat for this club. If it's my team, I don't trade him.


With Carlos Santana and Chris Gimenez in the upper levels of the farm system, the Indians should at least entertain offers for Shoppach, whose trade value has never been higher. Shoppach's strikeouts really concern me. He struck out in 33 percent of his plate appearances in '08 and would have been on target for 200 strikeouts had he been the starter all season.


On the one hand, having two catchers worthy of starting is a luxury the Indians cannot afford given their needs elsewhere. On the other hand (and as convoluted as it might seem), the ongoing worry over Travis Hafner's shoulder and performance and Ryan Garko's inconsistency in '08 make Shoppach and the versatile Martinez, who can easily fit in at first base, all the more valuable.


Do you think it is wise for the Tribe to go after a 41-year-old in Trevor Hoffman? The Indians have to be smart with their money, and if he gets hurt we would be out of a closer and we would lose money, as well.

-- Andrew B., Warrensburg, Mo.


Depends on the contract, I suppose. First off, if the Indians were to be able to sign Hoffman to a one-year deal, I'd say he's well worth the risk that comes with a 41-year-old arm. And if it's a two-year deal in the range of $5 million or $6 million a year, I think that's a contract and a risk this club can stomach.


You're always going to be leery of multiyear deals with relievers, but the market has a way of pushing teams to -- and, quite often, beyond -- their level of risk tolerance. That's certainly the case here.


I like the idea of adding Hoffman to this bullpen. You don't know how his changeup will play out in the American League -- it could catch clubs off-guard or suffer in a stronger offensive environment -- but you do know that this is the type of proven leader the Indians' younger relievers could really stand to learn from. I don't think he'll command an intolerable contract, and I think the relationship the Indians established with him in the winter after the 2005 season will aid their negotiations.


I read the Indians have interest in Orlando Hudson. How likely is he to sign with the Tribe?

-- Paul T., Dublin, Ohio


Hudson, who turns 31 next month, is the premier second baseman available in free agency, and it's been reported that he's looking for a five-year, $50 million deal. Obviously, that would be quite a contractual commitment, but I don't think it's terribly out of line with the Indians' financial plan going forward, especially given the dearth of organizational talent at that position. Shortening the deal and sweetening the pot might be a possibility.


The problem -- as is often the problem in these matters -- is that Hudson is getting interest from some attractive markets, including the Giants and Yankees, and the Tribe could have trouble swaying him.


If it is available, can we get an update on how some of the guys are doing in fall/winter ball?

-- Chris W., Columbus, Ohio


Much like dates with strangers, updates on long-forgotten classmates and YouTube videos of bad musicians, that information is available to you at the click of a mouse, Chris. If you follow this link, you can view the most up-to-date stats for each organization. Note that the Arizona Fall League stats are final.


Third baseman Wes Hodges made the biggest splash in the AFL, where he batted .349 with six homers and 26 RBIs in 25 games. Left-hander Chuck Lofgren gave up 40 runs, 25 of which were earned, in only seven innings of work, so that certainly didn't aid his chances of making the 40-man roster.


In winter ball, Fausto Carmona and Adam Miller combined on a six-hitter with no walks in Aguilas' 7-2 win over Estrellas on Thursday in the Dominican Republic. Carmona went six innings and Miller went three in relief. Miller, who moved to the bullpen nearly two weeks ago, has only given up three earned runs over his last 18 1/3 innings.


As Indians fans, do we have anything to be excited about? It seems like I should switch my loyalties to the Tigers. At least they make moves.

-- Paul A., Beverly Hills, Mich.


Well, you already live in Michigan, so that's a start. But while I understand any fan's frustration when his or her team stands pat, and while it's clear the Indians have several glaring holes that must be addressed this winter, the 2008 Tigers are a prime example that championships are not won in the Hot Stove season.


Well, unless you count bullpen-coach hirings...

With the hiring of Chuck Hernandez as bullpen coach, I realized something. I'm ignorant as to what a bullpen coach does. Can you please give me a moment of clarity?

-- Bob B., Palm Harbor, Fla.


The best way to describe the bullpen coach is to call him an assistant pitching coach. While his prime focus is working with the relievers, he's certainly not restricted to that area. Like any coach, he looks for tendencies, looks at scouting reports of the opposition and instructs his players where and when he can. That could entail refining a pitch or adding a new one to a guy's repertoire. And, of course, he's responsible for working with relievers warming up during a game.


I was really surprised Scott Radinsky didn't get the bullpen-coach job, and I know I'm not alone in that feeling. The Indians are known to promote from within, and they have raved about the job Radinsky has done with their young arms in Triple-A.


Hernandez, obviously, was a more experienced candidate, and manager Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis like and respect his knowledge of the division. I think this choice basically came down to deciding who was the best complement to Willis' style.


And finally...


Do you think the Indians would be able to sign Guillermo Mota and include him in a package with Andy Marte in a trade for Coco Crisp? I feel like the Indians could really use Crisp's speed at the top of the lineup hitting No. 2 behind Grady Sizemore, plus I love the energy he brings to the game.

-- Adam S., Wadsworth, Ohio


Now that's comedy.


For what it's worth, I think Crisp will benefit from a change of scenery and a less-demanding atmosphere with the Royals. Boston was not a good fit for him.





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Here's nice look at Hodges (I like the excellent and elite thing) and the rest of the crew who participated in the AFL:


AFL offers Hodges another chance

Offensive ability remains unquestioned as he works on defense

By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- One theory, related to the Indians' search for a third baseman, is that the club is merely looking for a short-term stopgap who can keep the position warm for prospect Wes Hodges.


Hodges, by all accounts, has plenty of strides to make on the defensive end before that transition can take place. But his performance in the recently completed Arizona Fall League is further evidence of his offensive skill set.


The 24-year-old Hodges was a menace to AFL pitching, as he batted .349 with six homers, eight doubles and 26 RBIs in 25 games for the Surprise Rafters. He compiled a .956 OPS.


"It seemed every night [Hodges had] two hits, a double and a home run," farm director Ross Atkins said. "The sustained success, on top of an already very long season, is very encouraging."


Hodges spent his season at Double-A Akron, where he was named the Eastern League Rookie of the Year after batting .290 with 29 doubles, 18 homers and a league-leading 97 RBIs.


"He has the ability to have a short stroke and cover the whole plate with power," Atkins said. "He's also advanced from a competitive standpoint. He has no fear. He's not intimidated by the expectations of whoever's pitching or the other uniform. So those two things allow for success."


That success, however, needs to carry over to the defensive end, if Hodges, who made 28 errors for the Aeros this season, is going to have a future at the hot corner for the Indians.


Atkins said Hodges suffered from some arm fatigue early in AFL play. The Indians are encouraged by the strides he made in Arizona, but they still want to see him improve his footwork and timing.


"We're asking a lot of him," Atkins said. "We're asking him to be excellent and elite, not just average. When you're asking guys to make adjustments, it sometimes shows up in errors."


Hodges wasn't the only Indians prospect taking part in the AFL, but his numbers were the only ones that were truly eye-catching from a positive standpoint.


Left-hander Chuck Lofgren's numbers were eye-catching for all the wrong reasons. In 10 relief appearances for the Rafters, Lofgren posted a 32.14 ERA by giving up 40 runs (25 earned) on 19 hits, with three homers, 18 walks and six strikeouts in only seven innings.


Those numbers came after Lofgren, a hard thrower who won 17 games at Class A Kinston in 2006, went 2-6 with a 5.99 ERA for Double-A Akron this season.


Lofgren has dealt with some personal issues at home with his mother's battle with breast cancer. His recent struggles on the mound led to the Indians' decision not to add him to their 40-man roster.


But Atkins said Lofgren remains confident in his abilities.


"Chuck has always been a guy that has that ability to do something you can't teach, and that's attack hitters and be aggressive," Atkins said. "He's done that for so long that it was hard to make adjustments off of that. We actually have been encouraged by how optimistic and positive he's been dealing with these struggles and dealing with not having the same success as he had in A-ball."


Also competing in the AFL for the Tribe were outfielder Stephen Head (.250 average), first baseman Beau Mills (.239 average, two homers, 10 RBIs), shortstop Josh Rodriguez (.169 average), and right-handers Josh Tomlin (2-3, 6.43 ERA), Erik Stiller (0-1, 9.37 ERA), and Neil Wagner (0-1, 5.59 ERA).


Of the pitchers, Tomlin, who went 9-5 with a 2.98 ERA and 109 strikeouts in 102 2/3 innings over 40 appearances at Kinston this year, seems to have attracted the most attention.


"His breaking ball has made strides," Atkins said. "It's got depth and tilt to it. It's become a strikeout pitch, as opposed to a strike pitch."


Head and Wagner, meanwhile, joined Lofgren in going unprotected on the 40-man roster last week.


While the AFL certainly has a developmental function to it, Atkins said it's as much about simple repetition as anything else.


"Arguably," Atkins said, "the best resources we have are at-bats and innings pitched."


And no one took more advantage of the AFL resource than the hot-hitting Hodges.







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Almost hard to believe.....10 years ago I was lugging my son and Wes around to baseball tournaments and baseball camps across the southeast.


I know I will be there if he gets his call-up while the team is in Cleveland....his dad has already told me I am on that short list.


I am pulling for the kid.

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