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First off, a few items from the PD:


Cleveland Indians blog: Wedge weary, LaPorta and Valbuena start today against Tigers

Posted by phoynes May 03, 2009 12:52PM

DETROIT -- Rarely has manager Eric Wedge looked as bad following a loss as he did Saturday. He talked analytically and at length about what's wrong with the Indians, but there was a weariness about him that hasn't been there before.


The Indians rallied from a 5-0 deficit to take a 7-6 lead against the Tigers only to see Rafael Betancourt give it all back on Curtis Granderson's two-run homer in the eighth.


"It comes down to three things," said Wedge. "We have to make pitches, we can't miss pitches and we have to make plays."


Here's what Wedge was talking about:


• Aaron Laffey gave up a grand slam to No.9 hitter Adam Everett in the fifth inning on a 3-2 slider right down the middle of the plate.


• Granderson hit Betancourt's thigh-high fastball for a first-pitch homer in the eighth.


• Ben Francisco turned a pitch he should have driven for a hit into a 6-4-3 double play in the sixth with runners on first and second and one out.


• Ryan Garko deserted first base when he thought Placido Polanco's grounder had gotten through the middle of the infield in the eighth. Instead Asdrubal Cabrera grabbed the ball and threw a perfect strike to an unoccupied first base for an error. Polanco scored the third run of the inning on a sacrifice fly.


"It took the evening for me to get over that," said Wedge, Sunday morning. "Then I woke up and separated from it. It takes a lot out of a team. It's more of a gut check for us today. These guys are pretty resilient. It doesn't take anything away from how hard they fought back. We still have a chance to win the series."


• Newcomers Matt LaPorta and Luis Valbuena were in the lineup today. LaPorta, in his big-league debut, will play right field and hit eighth. Valbuena, who made his big league debut with the Mariners last year, was hitting ninth and playing second.


"Valbuena gives us another left-handed hitter against Justin Verlander," said Wedge. "And LaPorta will get a chance to get his feet wet. Verlander doesn't know him, so that could help us."


With Valbuena playing second, Cabrera started at short in place of Jhonny Peralta. LaPorta's start in right, moved Shin-Soo Choo to left and Ben Francisco to the bench. Could Peralta and Francisco, struggling at the plate, lose playing time with the arrival of Valbuena and LaPorta?


"I think Jhonny is getting going," said Wedge. "Benny needs to be more consistent. With Cabrera and Valbuena, we're a little more athletic up the middle. I think that's a good thing."






Hey, Hoynsie: Paul Hoynes answers your Cleveland Indians questions

Posted by jturner May 03, 2009 00:01AM


Hey, Hoynsie: I just heard GM Mark Shapiro on the Tribe pre-game show say, "A lot of things are trending positively in the individual parts." After the Tribe's miserable start, would that comment be comparable to the late great Titanic skipper, Eddie Smith, saying, "Don't worry boys, we only hit one iceberg?" -- Lenny Fitzsimmons, Brooklyn, N.Y.


Hey, Lenny: Maybe Shapiro thought "abandon ship" wouldn't go over well with the Tribe's season ticket holders.


Hey, Hoynsie: I get the feeling the Indians have weathered an early-season storm and may be stronger for it. What are the chances of acquiring another starting pitcher? -- Mike Hatchadorian, Philadelphia.


Hey, Mike: I think starting pitching is probably the least of the Indians' worries. As the front office said throughout spring training, they feel they have enough depth to cover the third, fourth and fifth starters. If something happens to Cliff Lee or Fausto Carmona, their top two starters, they're going to have to grin and bear it.


They could go out and trade for a starter, but if it's a front-end of the rotation guy, it's going to cost the prospects the Indians pumped into the system during last year's fire sale. As for signing a free agent such as Pedro Martinez, the Indians are on the record as saying they don't have enough money in the budget.


Hey, Hoynsie: On April 25 at Progressive Field, a runner stole second with one out and a 3-1 count on Minnesota's Justin Morneau. The next pitch was an RBI single. Obviously Carl Pavano should have walked Morneau and set up the double-play possibility rather than let the Twins' best hitter beat him. Who's responsibility is it to call a pitchout or an "unintentional" intentional walk? -- Joe Winnfield, Columbus.


Hey, Joe: The play you're referring to happened in the first inning of the Indians' 7-1 loss to the Twins. Most managers aren't going to intentionally walk a hitter even of Morneau's talent so early in the game.


If he singles in a run, you're still down only 1-0 with nine innings to play. Why risk setting up a big inning for the opposition by intentionally walking Morneau? I know Joe Mauer wasn't in the lineup that night, but Jason Kubel, another left-handed hitter, was batting behind Morneau. Kubel has already hit for the cycle this season.


A call for a pitchout or intentional walk originates with the manager. Usually the pitching coach will go to the mound and discuss an intentional walk with the pitcher. Pitchouts and pick-off attempts usually come from the bench by way of the catcher or third base coach.


Hey, Hoynsie: Who is in charge of the amateur draft for the Tribe? Why do you feel we can't seem to draft and develop top-shelf talent? Do we pass on amateurs that command expensive signing bonus? -- Richard Klein, Cleveland.


Hey, Richard: Brad Grant, director of amateur scouting, is in his second year of running the draft for the Indians. He works closely with John Mirabelli, who ran the draft from 2000 through 2007, and is now in charge of the team's scouting operations in the U.S. and the rest of the baseball-playing world.


The Indians haven't gotten a lot of production from their high-round picks over the last several years. They spent an estimated $7 million on the players picked in the 2008 draft to try and change that. No. 1 pick Lonnie Chisenhall was signed for $1.1 million, while pitchers Trey Haley, Zach Putnam, Bryce Stowell, T.J. House and outfielder Tim Fedroff were signed for above-the-slot bonuses.


The Indians also spent for international free agents such as Venezuelan catcher Alex Monsalve and Dominican shortstop Jose Ozoria.


Hey, Hoynsie: What's the scoop on Kelvin De La Cruz, one of the top pitching prospects? He started out great at Class A Kinston and all of a sudden they took him off the roster. The Kinston Free Press says "he's working on some things." -- Mel Myers, St. Louis.


Hey, Mel: De La Cruz has a sore left elbow and has been shut down for at least a month. The injury is similar to what David Huff had about a year and a half ago. The Indians feel surgery can be avoided if De La Cruz is rested now.


Hey, Hoynsie: An optimist will say the Tribe will bounce back in the second half as it has in the past. A pessimist will say the season is lost. What is clear, though, is they are always very slow starters under Eric Wedge. This is no secret, so why hasn't more been done to address this persistent problem? -- Tom Glassman, Cincinnati.


Hey, Tom: You name it, the Indians have tried it to improve their starts. I think they're rooted in Wedge's belief that all games are created equal. He believes in an even-handed approach to the season. In the past, he has stressed quick starts only to see his teams struggle the rest of the season.


Wedge wasn't there when the tortoise raced the hare, but you know how he would have bet.






1. The Indians believe the weakness in the right shoulder of Travis Hafner is something that will go away in a few weeks rest. They realize he had surgery on Oct. 14, 2008 ... so it's not even seven months since the operation. It also is why he should have had it done earlier last season, but that's another story.


2. While the Indians said Hafner's surgery was not major, any surgery to the shoulder is significant. It's a part of the body that can easily become inflamed and lose strength; that's why the Tribe is wise to be careful with Hafner. When he was healthy, he was showing more power than he had in a few years. Bottom on line Hafner: This may not seem serious, but in truth, no one can be sure until he rests it and tries to play again.


3. Like most fans, I was thrilled to see the Indians promote Matt LaPorta. I know he doesn't even have 600 pro at-bats. I know he has only 75 official at-bats in Class AAA. I know he probably can use more seasoning. But I also doubt he will be totally overmatched, and given how Ben Francisco has struggled in left field -- let's look at LaPorta.


4. At Columbus, LaPorta was batting .333 (1.054 OPS) with five homers and 11 extra-base hits in 75 at-bats. He has struck out 10 times. The right-handed batter is hitting .353 vs. lefties, .328 vs. righties and .333 with runners in scoring position. For his career, he is at .314 vs. righties, .237 vs. lefties. This season, all five of his homers are against righties. He looks like a strong, all-around hitter and has done a very respectable job in the outfield. Look for him to platoon with Dave Dellucci at DH, and see some time in left. He probably will got back to the minors when Hafner is healthy, but if he hits ... that can change.


5. Dellucci had four hits in his first game back from Columbus. He batted .414 for the Clippers, but had only two extra-base hits in 29 at-bats. I just know that David Dellucci is David Dellucci. He is 35, has had trouble staying healthy and has not been productive since the Indians gave him a 3-year, $11 million contract in 2007. He has a career .258 batting average (.779 OPS) in 1,077 major-league games. He also has hit only .235 (.700 OPS) in two years with the Tribe.


6. The biggest disappointments based on their spring performances are Jensen Lewis and Francisco. The Indians gave Francisco the left field job, and he entered Saturday batting .222 (.691 OPS) with two homers and seven RBI. His defense also has been shaky.


7. The problems for Lewis come down to one thing -- control. His fastball is in the 90 mph range, the same as when he saved 13 games after the 2008 All-Star break. He is still using his change-up, so it's not all fastballs. But his fastball is a waist level, and flat. And he does not have enough stuff to survive unless he keeps the ball down. He has now allowed six homers in 11 appearances covering 12 2/3 innings. A year ago, the Indians sent Lewis to Class AAA on May 24 ... and he returned on July 4 a far more effective pitcher.


8. What has saved Lewis from a demotion is no one in the Columbus bullpen has been extremely effective. Since being sent back to the minors, Zach Jackson has a 10.38 ERA in three appearances. John Meloan was picked up in the Casey Blake deal and is considered a real prospect, but his ERA is 5.14 in 14 innings, having allowed three homers.


9. Luis Valbuena was recalled because the Indians began a string of 17 consecutive games Friday in Detroit. The Indians will rest some of their infielders in that span, and they figure Valbuena can receive about five starts. At Columbus, he was hitting .321 (.978 OPS). A lefty hitter, Valbuena was batting .375 vs. righties, .182 vs. lefties. He is supposed to have average range at second base, but a good arm that helps him on the double play pivot.


10. DeRosa -- a real good person to be around -- will be at the Wahoo Club on May 30 at 11 a.m. They meet at Massimo da Milano's on West 25th. For more information, call 216-999-1781.





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Indians have plenty of new options

Cleveland (9-15) at Detroit (12-11), 1:05 p.m. ET

By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com


DETROIT -- The Indians aren't prone to making dramatic roster overhauls like the one they produced this weekend.


In adding prospects Matt LaPorta and Luis Valbuena, veteran outfielder David Dellucci and speedy infielder Josh Barfield to the mix, manager Eric Wedge has a whole new set of options to consider when he makes up his lineups. And when the Indians close out their three-game set with the Tigers on Sunday at Comerica Park, he'll have LaPorta and Valbuena to consider for the first time.


"We're more versatile than before," Wedge said of his reformed club. "Not only in the infield but also in the outfield and how we utilize the DH spot. We're going to be able to do things we want to do with regard to that particular day."


And don't think the slew of moves didn't catch the attention of a team trying to right itself after a rough April.


"We're not trying to send a message," Wedge said. "But our players are smart. They know what's going on. We're not afraid to make changes. We feel we've got the players to be a pretty good ballclub. But if we can get help from Triple-A, we're going to do that, too."


In the first two games of this series, Dellucci has assumed the DH duties left behind by an injured Travis Hafner, and that could continue Sunday, given that Dellucci's swinging a hot bat and the Tigers will start right-hander Justin Verlander.


As far as how quickly LaPorta and Valbuena will get into the mix, Wedge wouldn't reveal his plans for Sunday. But it's safe to assume LaPorta will get his fair share of at-bats and Valbuena could play more than the average utility infielder.


The Indians haven't received much production from outfielder Ben Francisco, and that could open the door to opportunities for LaPorta, who is also an option at first base and at DH.


Meanwhile, Jhonny Peralta's ongoing struggles might put him in more of a fight for at-bats. Wedge could start Valbuena at second base and move Asdrubal Cabrera to short. He can also use Valbuena to spell Mark DeRosa at third.


Before Peralta had a 2-for-5 night with his first homer of the season Friday, Wedge had considered benching him for two or three days to clear his head. But Peralta followed that up with an 0-for-5 showing Saturday.


"I worry, because I'm missing a lot of balls right now," Peralta said. "I see on the video tape that I'm [swinging] a little later on the fastball. I've never missed a lot of fastballs before. I need to start swinging earlier."


The Indians don't view Valbuena as a long-term utilityman but rather as a potential starter. So his presence, like that of LaPorta, has potential to impact the lineup going forward.








Indians notebook

Peralta out of the dumps,hits homer

Published on Sunday, May 03, 2009


Jhonny Peralta had been batting .059 during a nine-game slump before hitting a solo homer and adding an RBI single Friday night.


The home run snapped Peralta's tie with Woody Held, making him the Indians' all-time home run hitter as a shortstop with 86.


''I wasn't paying attention to that,'' Peralta said. ''I'm just trying to hit the ball. I was worrying because my swing was a little slow on fastballs. I never missed a lot of fastballs before, so I looked at a lot of video.''


Peralta thinks the April weather might have been a factor in his slide. Coming into this season, his career average in the first month of the season was .230.


''I don't like to hit when it's cold,'' he said. ''I feel better when the weather is hot, but I don't know if that was the problem.''


ALMOST TARDY — Matt LaPorta, Luis Valbuena and Josh Barfield ran the risk of being late for their first day on the job after being called up from Columbus late Friday night.


All three were on a nonstop flight from Durham (where the Clippers were playing the Bulls) that was scheduled to leave at 8:30 a.m. but was canceled. Eventually, the players were rebooked on a flight that went through Chicago before landing in Detroit at 1:40 p.m., only two hours before the start of Saturday's game.


''Josh was in the big leagues before, and he kind of knew what we had to do,'' LaPorta said.


JUST WONDERING — La Porta couldn't figure out why he was playing first base instead of the outfield Friday night for the Clippers.


''I haven't played first for a year, since the Futures Game,'' LaPorta said. ''But I didn't think anything of it. After the game, I walked back to the hotel and when I got there, they [manager Torey Lovullo] had called five times.''


LaPorta returned to the ballpark, where Lovullo told him he was going to the big leagues. That's when it became clear why he played first. It will be an option for manager Eric Wedge.


''I forgot to pack my first baseman's glove, so it's back in Columbus,'' LaPorta said. ''I borrowed Andy Marte's last night.''


TICKETS ANYONE? — LaPorta did not have to spend his first day in the majors without his family.


When he learned he was being promoted from Triple-A, he called his parents and his wife, Dara, who had left Columbus for a wedding in Florida.


''My parents, my wife, my uncle Rick, they're all here,'' LaPorta said. ''My parents flew from Orlando, my wife from Tampa and my uncle came from Fort Lauderdale.''


ASSIGNMENTS — Wedge will use LaPorta in left, right and first base in addition to DH. Barfield can play second base and the outfield, and Valbuena will play second, third and short.


MEDICAL UPDATES — Jake Westbrook (Tommy John) twice threw batting practice in Goodyear, Ariz., for the first time since his surgery and is scheduled to do it again Monday and Friday.


''If all goes well, he will get his first game activity, pitching one inning [20 pitches] next Monday,'' head trainer Lonnie Soloff said.


Jamey Carroll (broken finger) is taking groundballs and began a hitting program, which has advanced to swinging at balls on a tee. He is scheduled to take batting practice in Toronto Monday or Tuesday. If he has no setbacks, he will be sent on a rehab assignment after the Tribe returns home late in the week.


Scott Lewis (left elbow strain) is throwing bullpens in Goodyear, and Joe Smith (right strained rotator cuff) will begin playing catch early this week.


''He has shown significant improvement since Wednesday [when he sustained the injury],'' Soloff said of Smith.


TWO SURGERIES TWICE AS GOOD — Why does Adam Miller need two operations to repair his right middle finger?


''Dr. [Tom] Graham thinks that's the best way to minimize the formation of scar tissue in the finger,'' Soloff said.


Graham inserted a silicone rod in the finger, because scar tissue cannot form on it. If scar tissue does develop, it might restrict the range of motion and strength of the finger and jeopardize Miller's career.


FARM FACTS — Jordan Brown homered, doubled and singled twice, driving in three runs, as Columbus routed Durham 14-1. Valbuena, Marte and Chris Gimenez also homered, Gimenez and Valbuena collecting three RBI apiece and Marte driving in four runs. Michael Aubrey had three hits to raise his average to .421. Michael Huff (4-0, 3.21 ERA) worked six scoreless innings, allowing four hits. . . . Nate Recknagel had four hits and Abner Abreu had three, driving in two runs, as Lake County defeated Kannapolis 8-4.





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From one of Neyer's recent chats on ESPN, he gave his opinion on Wedge:


Rich (Boston, MA): Do you have a cure for the Indians? Please tell me it involves sacking Eric Wedge.


SportsNation Rob Neyer: I don't think Wedge is the problem, but someone else might be a part of the solution.


Could not agree more.


For all the grief Wedge receives, at least he's never done anything as batshit crazy as Jerry Manuel did this past week. You can't make this stuff up:

Decision to pinch hit for Ramon Castro backfires on New York Mets' Jerry Manuel

Posted by bcosta April 29, 2009 18:53PM


NEW YORK -- The Mets had Johan Santana starting and J.J. Putz and Francisco Rodriguez ready in the bullpen. And yet, after three hours at Citi Field, it came to this:


Omir Santos, a career minor-leaguer, running through a corridor in the underbelly of Citi Field -- in full catching pads -- to get from the bullpen to the dugout to pinch hit with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning.


Santos flied out to complete a 4-3 loss to the Florida Marlins, which immediately raised the question: Why did manager Jerry Manuel call on Santos, who was warming up reliever Bobby Parnell, to pinch hit for Ramon Castro, who had two hits already?


Manuel said it had more to do with Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom being a power pitcher than anything else.


"I thought Santos had a better shot," Manuel said. "I think Santos has a little shorter swing, and when you have a little shorter swing, it's easier to get to a guy that's throwing in the upper 90s. If it would have been a different, let's say, a sinker-slider guy, then Ramon would have continued to hit."


There were several reasons why the Mets' last hope of winning came down to the choice between Castro and Santos.


They had squandered just about every other chance to score with men on base, finishing 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position and leaving 14 on base. David Wright continued his sluggish start, striking out twice and grounding into a double play.


Although Santana pitched well, giving up two runs in seven innings, Putz did not. He blew the Mets' one-run lead by giving up two runs in the eighth inning, the second time in less than 24 hours that the Mets' bullpen failed to preserve a lead.


Plus, Manuel had already used Gary Sheffield and Jeremy Reed to pinch hit, and Alex Cora and Fernando Tatis were starting in place of Luis Castillo and Carlos Delgado, who were unavailable because of injuries.


So with the Mets one base hit away from taking two out of three in the series, and one out away from going into their weekend series at Philadelphia on a sour note, it came to this: Castro or Santos?


Castro was already standing in the on-deck circle when he was called back to the dugout -- a move that surprised him "a little bit," he said in the understatement of the day.


"He's the manager," Castro said, with frustration apparent in his face, if not in his words. "That's his decision."


At around the same time, the phone rang in the Mets' bullpen. Coach Randy Niemann picked up, and immediately relayed the word to Santos, who could hardly believe it.


He had to go through a long tunnel and into the Mets' clubhouse to get to the dugout, and he had to get there quickly. But he also had to be careful.


"I was wearing cleats and the floor was kind of slippery," Santos said.


Santos was called in to pinch hit in a similar situation during a spring training game on March 26 against the Cardinals -- and hit a two-run homer. It was a little easier then, with the bullpen being on the third-base side of the field, and the Mets leading in the seventh inning. But Santos said he felt prepared Wednesday. He said he took six or seven practice swings, then stepped into the box.


"I was ready," Santos said. "I was seeing the ball good. I just needed a pitch that I can hit good."


He got one -- an inside fastball on a 1-1 count from Lindstrom -- but didn't hit it well. He popped out to Marlins shortstop Alfredo Amezaga, and the second-guessing began.






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