Sunday night was a low point for us Indians fans but I refused to get sour with them. We just lost to the Twins. Carlos Carrasco was rumored to be certain to go to the DL after leaving the game with elbow tightness adding to Mitch Talbot, already being there. The Indians had lost their third in a row and had been swept by the Twins, the team picked by most, I have read, to win the AL Central again. The Indians were just not playing good baseball. Should I jump off this bandwagon too? Instead of joining many fans, I tweeted the first comment to Manny Acta and the second comment to the fans.
@Mactriber_11 Hopefully the day off and the home cooking will help turn things around. Hang in there! It was much better than yesterday.
#Indians fans, the next homestand is a great opp. for #winning in the division against the #Royals and #Tigers. #GoTribe2011 #dontgiveup
I really believed that this week would tell a lot about the Tribe and wanted them to seize the opportunity to defend their current 1st place status and not just dismiss it as a fluke. I did not want the fans to just give up this early after a slight fall. I thought the Indians were playing well enough to win in most of their games. They could actually be much better than the 14-8 current standing. I believe most fans agree with this.
Last night, the Indians showed the fire that has made them 14-8. With Kansas City and Detroit breathing down their neck and their 1st place status all but over, they came out and gave the performance they needed to give.
Aggressive in the first three innings, they grabbed the lead, a stat that proves to be victorious for the Indians almost every time. The Indians offense was also aided by the homerun, 5 in total including 2 by Jack Hannahan, who I affectionately label Jack “themanwhocan”, on Twitter. Grady Sizemore was hitting extra base hits like crazy, with a homerun and two doubles. Thanks to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer for the following information: Grady now has as many extra base hits in 8 games as he had in 2010 in 33 games. Shin Soo Choo and Matt LaPorta also added homeruns. The highlight for me came in the pitching however.
There was the news pregame that Wednesday (today) might prove Carlos Carrasco to be okay. This helped Indians fans like me to feel better. During the game, the pitching shut down the Royals for the first three innings with ease. However for me, the highlight of the game came when Vinnie Pestano came in with the score 7-4 and the bases loaded full of Royals and none out. Vinnie retired the Royals in order without giving up a run.
This performance by Pestano was for me the overall reason why the Indians deserve to be 14-8 atop the AL Central Standings, something for the moment that I truly hope can last.
To make a team out of Spring training is a blessing. All reports say that the Cleveland Indians are going to announce the players that will make up the bench at the start of the 2011 campaign.
Shelley Duncan and Travis Buck Reserve outfielders
If someone told me to choose the MVP for Spring, I would choose Travis Buck. The man led the team in hits throughout the Spring and was second in runs batted in behind Shin-Soo Choo. Granted, the ball travels better in AZ than in Cleveland but I saw it more for his leadership. Need a hit, need a sacrifice, need a RBI, he would deliver. Travis Buck also provides some major league experience.
Shelley Duncan which some of the media like to nickname a rock star is also another leader on this team. My favorite memory for Shelley came against the Yankees last year. Shelley, a former Yankee, came up to launch a home run and make the score look better than it did. To hit a homer off the bench or get a key hit takes an ability to stay mentally sharp in each and every game. Also, Shelley provides some leadership off the bench.
What about the other guys? For players like Chad Huffman, who is my personal choice, the at bats needed to stay sharp require him to be in the lineup every day. This opportunity will be realized better down in the minors. I think everyone can agree the former Yankee would look nice as an everyday outfielder for the Tribe someday. I think it is great to have some depth in the organization again.
Also Ezequiel Carrera was another good pickup. He will also get more playing time in the minors and continue to develop making our minor leagues deeper. This has been the organization’s goal throughout the rebuilding process. Depth is the key to any great team especially when you do not have the deep pockets to keep free agents as frustrating as that is to us fans.
Adam Everett, reserve infielder
Adam Everett won this job based on experience, the fact that Donald was hurt and Jayson Nix was struggling at the plate. Adam is one that can help to give any of the infielders an off day and can fill in for some innings. Based on the alternatives in camp, I am glad and more confident in seeing Adam Everett’s name there ready to back up the starters. Cord Phelps and Luis Valbuena need more development in the minors. A personal note about Valbuena. I went down to AAA Columbus to see the Clippers. Luis Valbuena led off the game I went to against the Pawtucket Red Sox. He was really hitting the ball well. I said to my wife at the time, “I wonder why he can’t be this consistent up in Cleveland” Consistency is the key, something I think Everett is more ready to give as a reserve infielder.
Lou Marson, backup catcher
Many fans like myself look at the stats for Spring training and see last year’s performance by Lou Marson and wonder why Lou is again on the major league roster instead of my personal choice, Paul Phillips. After all, Marson only had 4 hits in 28 at bats while Phillips had 12 hits in 29 at bats. The word I have read from the reporters close to the organization is “defense.” Lou Marson is here for defense, not offense. He has experience also with our staff from last year. Also, I believe by releasing him or sending him down to the minors now would tell the fans that we gave away our former Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee for Carlos Carrasco, our #2 starter and a permanent minor leaguer in Marson, if he was sent down. The Indians are not ready to call Marson a bust yet.
The Bullpen Reserves
With the Indians, the opportunity to have a staff like the Phillies with 5 former #1 starters on other clubs is never going to happen if we want to compete under the current owners Larry and Paul Dolan. Whether we like it or not as fans, this is the current state of the Indians and the economy. I have learned to be grateful for the ability to still have a Major League Baseball team to cheer. The starting rotation is not going to be spot on every game so it is vital to have a strong bullpen. I really like the pitchers the organization has selected.
Justin Germano is a pitcher I followed when he was with the San Diego Padres. He pitched in 7 games this Spring and never gave up a run. He seems to fit the role we need to clean up the messes that starters may get the team into from time to time. Hopefully we wont see him too often this year. However I am confident he can be that long relief the team wants.
Frank Herrmann was also selected for the bullpen. I really liked what I saw out of this kid this Spring. He kept his ERA down and pitched more innings so far. He is one that can give you a couple innings to help hold and sustain a lead, keep a team in a ballgame to bridge the gap trying to get to Chris Perez for the save or give us a chance to make a comeback like we did in the 1990’s.
Every time I heard this guy was coming into the game, I was confident. He kept his ERA down in all 8 games that he pitched in, shutting down the opposition. His ERA was 1.17, striking out 11 in 7.2 innings pitched. Talk about attacking the strike zone! Way to go, Vinnie!
In conclusion, granted it is early and some of these pitchers and reserve players were chosen due to injuries to other players. I would like to say to all those chosen, make it the goal to prove to the fans and organization that they made the right choice to choose you among the others. Manny Acta said he wanted the best 25 guys out there come Opening Day. I really believe that given the roster at the current time, these are the best 25 guys. Hopefully, this will translate to competing, winning more than losing and proving to the fans that 2007 was not just a lucky acorn found by a blind squirrel. Hopefully this can be a winning organization from top to bottom that begins anew on Friday April 1st, 2011.
The joy of Spring gives people a sign of life, new beginning, a chance to start over, become better. It is this wish I hope for Miguel Cabrera, Austin Kearns and Coco Crisp. In my previous blog, I gave sincere praise to Mr. Crisp. It was shortly after I posted the entry that Mr. Crisp was the third player caught with a DUI. I just hope that these three gentlemen and others find what Spring is supposed to be about beyond the game of baseball off the field as well as on it. It is easy for me to preach because I don’t drink but I do have my addictions that are known to God alone. I fight them every day once I address them and can only address them with God’s help. Hopefully, these ballplayers can address their problems with God, family and friends to guide them also.
Also in my previous blog, I addressed the pitching and how wonderful it was so far to see pitchers go out there and put their work in rather successfully. Yesterday’s game was different. Masterson was not masterful as he he gave up 2 runs and 2 hits in 2 innings pitched. What troubled me more than this was the amount of walks that he had: 3 of them.
Jordan Bastian, the MLB.com beat reporter for the Tribe mentioned after the game on Twitter that Justin Masterson loved bowling. I responded back to him without a response that Masterson was now throwing more strikes in bowling than in baseball at this time. Well, yesterday’s performance showed it anyway.
On a positive note for the Tribe, the combination of Drew Pomerantz, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano pitched the following line 3 innings pitched 1 walk allowed and 5 strikeouts with no runs allowed. This is what I call relief. I really hope this attack of the strike zone can continue. Way to go so far!
DEAL WITH SEATTLE
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Movement off the field of play saw one of my favorite players traded away to Seattle yesterday in Aaron Laffey. Hopefully he will find an opportunity to compete for a starting role with former Indians manager Eric Wedge and former pitching coach Carl Willis reunited with Aaron. I really wish Aaron well and enjoyed meeting him briefly at Progressive Field. I really think he has potential. I just hope he does not do well against us, of course.>
In return, the Indians received Matt Lawson. Two things I thought about, when first reading the news on Twitter, was Matt Lawton and the former local food mart, Lawson’s which was bought out some time ago. However, Matt Lawson is not related to either thought.
In case, one wants to know more, Matt Lawson was one of the prospects who was received by Seattle when they traded Cliff Lee to Texas. His history has him playing 2nd base or shortstop but not at third. Hopefully, he will continue to blossom in the Indians’ farm system.
Later today, the Indians take their squad to face a split-squad Ranger squad in Surprise. I remember in their debut year in Goodyear seeing the Royals there against the Tribe. It is a beautiful park. Hopefully there will be little to no surprises for the Tribe to face when playing Texas. Neftali Feliz is scheduled to get some work against Cleveland as well as Derek Holland a AAA pitcher battling for a spot in the rotation for the defending American League champions. For the Tribe, the Rangers game will be a litmus test and hopefully will be fun to see how we match up with them.
Next game against