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August 30, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Ludwick up, Sizemore down
The Indians optioned Grady Sizemore to Buffalo today and called up Ryan Ludwick to take his place on the roster. After a hot start, Sizemore was hitting just .213 (19-for-89) for the Indians while Ludwick was batting .281 with 8 homeruns in Buffalo. More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Monday, August 30
Congrats to the Bisons on clinching the division title over the weekend. Kinston remains one game up on Winston-Salem with three games scheduled against the Worthogs this week. The Scrappers have fallen to four games out in the wildcard chase in the NY-Penn League. Akron, Lake County, and Burlington have been eliminated from the playoff chase.
Check out the crazy weekend the K-Tribe had. First, their game on Friday was postponed due to 15-20 players on Wilmington coming down with the stomach flu. Postponed? What the heck kind of league is this? If this were our softball league, the hated Zemitos would have demanded a forfeit. At any rate, Friday's game was postponed for a Sunday double-header. They managed to get Saturday's game in but it started an hour late due to rain. Yesterday, a Brad Snyder homer in the bottom of the 7th tied the game at four whereupon the game was suspended in the eighth due to rain. So, today, the K-Tribe will be playing a triple-header of sorts. They'll complete Sunday's suspended game, makeup Friday's rainout, and then play the scheduled Monday game. Can Todd Pennington save all three games? How cool would that be? Let's play (and pitch) three! Of course, with the remains of Tropical Storm Gaston in the area, who knows if they'll be able to get in those games either. Crazy.
Ryan Goleski tied Russ Branyan (since traded to Milwaukee) for the organizational lead in homeruns when he belted his 25th longball yesterday in the Captains 8-1 victory over Delmarva. Goleski's twenty-five big flys are tied for fourth in the Sally League and his 93 RBIs are tied for fifth. Overall, the slugger is hitting .294/.365/.516/881 with 20 doubles, 49 walks, and 93 strikeouts. Not a bad full-season debut for the 22-year old out of Eastern Michigan.
Tony Sipp continues to mow 'em down in scary fashion in the Valley as he punched out 10 in five innings on Saturday night in the Scrappers 8-2 victory over Jamestown. Sipp has now struck out 65 in 38.2 innings for a rate of 15.31 K/9 IP. That's filthy. In his last four outings, Sipp has struck out 10 in five innings, 9 in five innings, 8 in five innings, and 9 in four innings. Care to guess what's coming in his next outing?
Here's a couple of minor league moves that I forgot to mention last week: Nate Grindell was promoted from Akron to Buffalo where he's hitting .383 with a pair of dingers for the Bisons. Grindell, who can become a minor-league free-agent after the season and whom I'm going to assume will leave the organization for greener pastures, was hitting .287/.341/.413 with six homers in Akron. Replacing Grindell in Akron is Kinston outfielder JJ Sherrill who was hitting .238/.334/.404 with 12 homers for the K-Tribe. Since the promotion, JJ is hitting .176 for the Aeros with 20 strikeouts in 51 at-bats. Ouch. Jim Warden was moved from Lake County to Akron where he's allowed four runs in 2.1 innings (15.43). The big right-hander had struck out 63 in 54 innings (3.00, 13 saves) for the Captains.
Lou Merloni's rehab assignment ended after two games after he felt discomfort in his right elbow. No word on when he's scheduled to return but this makes it easier to add him back onto the active roster once they expand to 40 on Wednesday.
Paul Hoynes noted in the Plain Dealer that John Mirabelli is headed to Japan to scout the Japanese leagues with a specific eye focused on help for the bullpen. Given the success of Shingo Takatsu (49.1IP, 30H, 2.17 ERA, .173 BBA) with the White Sox and Akinori Otsuka (61.2IP< 44H, 73K, 2.04 ERA, .197 BAA) with the Padres this season, I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of teams look to the Far East this off-season. More on this in an upcoming report.
With Mirabelli headed towards the rising sun, Felix Fermin (El Gato) will represent the Indians at Kendry Morales' workout in the Dominican Republic on Wednesday. The Mets recently signed Cuban right-hander Alay Soler, 24, to a three-year, $2.4 million contract but I would expect the bidding for Morales to be more expensive.
Scott Stewart has joined the Dodgers bullpen after being called up over the weekend. Stew had allowed one run in 3-2/3 innings for the Dodgers triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas after being acquired from the Tribe. Coincidentally, Maicer Izturis, whom the Indians traded to Montreal (along with Ryan Church) for Stewart last off-season, was called up by the Expos. Izturis was hitting .338/.428/.423/.851 with 57 walks (versus just 30 strikeouts) and 14 steals in triple-A. He'll likely see time at short while Alex Gonzalez is out with a wrist injury. Izturis went 1-for-3 with a walk in his debut on Friday and followed that up with a pair of doubles on Saturday.
Steve Kline was placed on the 15-day DL by the Cardinals with a groin injury but is expected to be ready for the playoffs. Kline was enjoying another fine season out of the 'pen for Tony Larussa, posting a 1.86 ERA and .216 BAA in 48.1 innings and was his usual stellar self against lefties, limiting them to a .150 BAA and .458 OPS this season. Since leaving the Indians in a July 1997 trade deadline deal for Jeff Juden, Kline has become one of the better (i.e., dependable) relievers in baseball, posting seven consecutive seasons with an ERA under 4.00. He's also pretty good at flicking sunflower seeds.
The Astros placed Dan Miceli (4.03, .251, 68K, 67IP) on the DL with conjunctivitis. Is that Pink Eye? That's what one wire report had listed as his ailment. The Astros also designated David Weathers (4.52, .283) for assignment. Dave Maurer was similarly designated for assignment by the Blue Jays. Giving up eight runs in 1-1/3 innings will do that to you.
It's an off-day for the Indians today although I'm not sure how much fun it's going to be roaming the streets of New York City today. Hope they packed their PS2s for the trip.
August 27, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Mahoning Valley PDC extended
The Indians also extended their PDC with Mahoning Valley for two more years through the 2006 season.
CIR UPDATE: Tadano and Guthrie get the call
The Indians recalled Kaz Tadano from Buffalo and (surprise) Jeremy Guthrie from Akron today. Fernando Cabrera was optioned to Buffalo and Chad Durbin was designated for assignment. More in the next CIR.
CIR UPDATE: Indians in Akron through 2008
The Indians and Aeros agreed to a four-year extension of their Player Development Contract (PDC) through 2008. 2005 will mark the 17th year in which the Aeros have served as the double-A affiliate of the Tribe, the first eight of which were played in Canton before Canal Park opened in 1997.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, August 27
If you're still reeling from Chad Durbin's start last night (6R in 2/3 IP), check out what the kids did down on the farm...
Francisco Cruceta, rebounding from a 7-walk outing in his last appearance, tossed seven scoreless innings in combining with Brian Tallet on a 9-0 shutout of Rochester. Cruceta (6-4, 2.89) walked only one while scattering three hits and punching out three.
Nick Pesco, fresh off a 10-strikeout spot start in Akron, debuted with a bang in Kinston, punching out eight in five innings while allowing just two hits and a walk and no runs. In his last two starts (both at higher levels), Pesco has struck 18 in ten scoreless innings while allowing just five hits and two walks. Maybe the Sally League wasn't presenting enough of a challenge for him? Over his last six starts (including the two above), Pesco has a 2.09 ERA in 30 innings with 44 strikeouts and just 23 hits and eight walks allowed. Oh yeah, the K-Tribe won 7-2 over Frederick.
Justin Hoyman, this years second round pick out of Florida, allowed one run in three innings of work in the Valley, walking none and permitting two knocks. The Scrappers ended losing a tough as Aberdeen rallied for six runs in the eighth inning for a 7-6 victory, dealing a serious blow to the good guys wild-card hopes.
Paul Lubrano, June draftee and college senior from Jawga, twirled five innings of one-run ball for the B-Tribe, striking out five, while allowing three hits and three free passes. Like their short-season brethren, the B-Tribe lost a rough one in the late innings when Adrian Schau served up a ninth inning gopherball.
Pierre Luc-Marceau, acquired from Les Expos for Jeriome Robertson, did not allow a run in 4.2 innings on the bump for Lake County, striking out three, walking three, and being reached for five basehits. It wasn't ce magnifique, but it got the job down.
Even the worst outing of the night, from Andrew Brown in Akron, wasn't really a pounding as the right-hander allowed three runs in five innings on five hits and a pair of walks.
Overall, the six starters on the farm posted a 1.52 ERA in 29.2 innings of work, striking out 21 while allowing 20 hits and issuing 10 free passes. Not a bad day's work from the bunch.
With Rick White extended yesterday, the Tribe will likely be making a move (or two) to add some reinforcements to the bullpen. It seems likely that a player already on the 40 would be involved so that means you're probably looking at Cliff Bartosh, Brian Tallet (pitched two innings yesterday), and Kaz Tadano (went five innings on Monday). Hey, Jeremy Guthrie is on the 40, as well, down in Akron. I'll assume that White does not have any options remaining, so unless they elect to wash their hands of him and designate him for assignment, I wouldn't be surprised to see Fernando Cabrera (two innings yesterday) optioned back to Buffalo with one of the Bisons hurlers joining the Tribe. That's just a quick thought.
August 26, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Thursday, August 26
The streak is dead
The streak is dead
The streak is dead
I have no idea where that came from.
With the streak snapped, thanks to a "gutsy and great" if it worked and "what the heck was he thinking" if it didn't type-of-play from Coco Crisp, the Tribe is now back at .500 and headed into a four-game series at home against the Jake. The Sox are also reeling, losing seven of their last ten, so the opportunity presents itself once again for the Tribe to right themselves and move a couple of games over the .500 mark. Although scoreboard watching is no longer as relevant as it was a scant week ago, just note in your mind that the Twins play a hot Texas team tonight before heading to Anaheim to face an even hotter Angels team over the weekend. I'm not suggesting that the Indians are still in the race (eight games out says it all) but in this crazy, roller-coaster season, with seven games still to play against the Twins, quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised by anything that happens from here on out.
I'd only be behind this if they played on the videoboard the clip from Christmas Vacation with Grandpa Griswold bellowing "SQUIRRELLLLLLLLL".
Lou Merloni (right elbow) began a rehab assignment in the Valley on Tuesday, banging out three hits, including a longball, in the Scrappers 7-5 victory over Aberdeen. He was hitless in four at-bats last night. I'd be surprised if we saw Louuuuuuuuuuuuu activated before rosters expand on September 1. Although, now that I think about it, if Josh Phelps has an option left, they could do something there and re-call Phelps on 9/1 or later (I believe that optioned players have to stay in the minors for ten days but I'm not sure if that applies after September 1).
Lots of movement this week down on the farm.
Chris Clapinski was placed on the Bisons DL with right elbow inflammation with no word on whether he is done for the year. Clapinski was enjoying a fine season for the Bisons, hitting .310/.390/.489/.879 with 24 doubles, 11 homeruns and 18 stolen bases. Note that the SBs were a career high and he was just one off his career best in doubles (25) and homeruns (12). Corey Smith was promoted from Akron to Buffalo to replace Clapinski on the Bisons roster. He had a single in four trips to the dish in his triple-A debut yesterday. Corey was hitting .249/.351/.422/.773 with 14 doubles, 18 homeruns, 62 walks, and 102 strikeouts in Akron. He had also committed 36 errors in the field, although the majority of those came in the first half of the season. In his last 58 games with the Aeros, Smith hit .303 with nine homeruns. Replacing Smith in Akron is Lake County third-basemen Kevin Kouzmanoff. The Sally League All-Star was hitting .321/.389/.518/.907 with 14 longballs for the Captains. His .321 average ranked sixth in the circuit and he was third in doubles (33) and fourth in hits (144). Kouz is certainly deserving of a promotion, and has been for sometime, but it's interesting that he got the call instead of a player from Kinston. More than likely, the Tribe brass did not want to break-up the K-Tribe as they head into the Carolina League playoffs. That's cool. Concluding this series of promotions, Burlington third baseman Derrick Peterson was promoted to Lake County to replace Kouzmanoff on the Captains roster. Peterson, selected in the 20th round out of Eastern Michigan this June, struggled at the plate early but has since raised his averages to .275/.389/.383/.772 thanks to a .373 stretch over his last 19 games. He joins fellow former EMU Eagle Ryan Goleski in Eastlake.
Chris Clem was also promoted to Lake County, although he's making the move from Eastwood Field in the Valley. The 20-year old Australian was hitting .217/.310/.268 with a homerun for the Scrappers. Clem replaces infielder Luis Cotto (.264) who was moved up to Kinston. Cotto replaces infielder Anthony Lunetta (.211) who was moved up to Akron.
Derrick Van Dusen was promoted from Kinston to Akron. The last link in the Brian Giles trade (Giles for Van Dusen?) pitched well in nine starts for the K-Tribe (6-0, 1.64, 49.1IP, 38H) after struggling out of the bullpen in Akron (1-2, 5.11, 44IP, 52H) during the first half of the season. DVD replaces Jeremy Guthrie in the Aeros rotation. Replacing Van Dusen in the Kinston rotation will be Nick Pesco who was promoted from Lake County. Fresh off his 10-strikeout performance in a spot-start for Akron, Pesco was 6-7 with 3.91 ERA in 21 starts for Lake County (109IP, 96H, 30BB, 97K). Reid Santos replaces Pesco in the Lake County rotation. His 3.07 ERA was fourth in the Appy League as were his 60 strikeouts and 58.2 innings pitched. The southpaw made his full-season debut last night, allowing two runs on six hits and a walk in five innings while striking out three.
Brian Tallet was moved up to Buffalo as his recovery from Tommy John surgery continues. Tallet was 1-1 with 5.32 ERA in 23.2 innings (24 strikeouts) for the Bisons but had thrown the ball much better of late. Even though the Bisons are headed to the playoffs, I would not be surprised to see him in Cleveland when rosters expand on September 1.
Ryan Ludwick was named the International League Player of the Week after hitting .444 (12-for-27) with five doubles, four longballs (three in one game), and driving in 12 runs for the Bisons. Overall, Ludwick is hitting an impressive .289/.365/.544/.909 in just under 150 at-bats for the Bisons but has also struck out 48 times. Pro-rated to 600 ABs, that's a major league record 193 whiffs but with 32 homeruns and 56 doubles.
Adam Miller continues to be lights out in Kinston, tossing seven innings of two-hit ball yesterday in the K-Tribe's 9-1 victory over Frederick. He struck out nine, while walking only one, and was charged with one unearned run. In six Carolina League starts, Miller now has a 1.89 ERA with 34 strikeouts in 33.1 innings and has held opposing hitters to a .185 average. Overall, the right-hander has a 2.97 ERA, a .226 BAA, and 140 strikeouts in 124.1 innings pitched this season. With Grady Sizemore in Cleveland (and Jhonny Peralta exhausting his rookie eligibility last season), Miller is the Indians number one prospect in my opinion.
The Bisons lowered their magic number to three with a 3-2 victory over Rochester. Jason Davis tossed seven scoreless innings while striking out six. Josh Bard belted his fourth homerun in support while Jason Tyner banged out three hits.
The K-Tribe won their sixth in a row, 9-1 over Frederick, and maintain a two-game lead over Winston-Salem.
In the Valley, the Scrappers won their fourth in a row, 3-2 over Aberdeen, and have climbed to within a 1/2 game in the wild-card race. Brian Finegan belted a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth for the victory.
The Orioles released Karim Garcia after he hit just .212 (14-for-66) in 23 games since being acquired from the Mets for Mike DeJean.
Julian Tavarez was given a 10-day suspension (he's appealing) for having a foreign substance (pine tar suspected) on his cap. Maybe it was just some BW-3 wing sauce. He does love those wings! Tavarez turned 31 in May and is now pitching for his seventh organization. Where does the time go?
August 25, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Nine and counting
"There's a red moon rising
On the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake
There's a red moon rising
ON the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake
There's an oil barge winding
Down the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake
There's an oil barge winding
Down the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake
Cleveland, city of light, city of magic
Cleveland, city of light, you're calling me
Cleveland, even now I can remember
'Cause the Cuyahoga River
Goes smokin' through my dreams
Burn on, big river, burn on
Burn on, big river, burn on
Now the Lord can make you tumble
And the Lord can make you turn
And the Lord can make you overflow
But the Lord can't make you burn
Burn on, big river, burn on
Burn on, big river, burn on"
Well, maybe it's not that bad. Actually, it's all still pretty good. But nine in a row on the down side is pretty tough to take. At this point, it's going to be easier for the Tribe to pass a kidney stone than it will be for them to pass the Twins. But, it's all still pretty good. So much to discuss, but I have to head up to De-Troit for the day. I plan (hope) to have a regular report ready tomorrow. Talk to you then!
Show 'em my motto...
August 24, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Sowers signs with Tribe
Jeremy Sowers agreed to terms with the Indians and a press conference is scheduled for Friday to formally announce the signing. I would suspect that the delay is to allow for Sowers taking a physical prior to officially signing. Terms were not disclosed but mlb.com quotes John Mirabelli as saying that the Indians never budged from their initial offer which I believe was reported to be in the $2.2 million range. Sowers could have returned to school (the Vandy website says classes begin tomorrow (8/25) but the local papers were reporting September 1 which was the start of Graduate classes and was also the last day to add/drop classes for the current semester so maybe that was it) but he would have lost virtually all of his negotiating leverage if he had entered the draft next June as a senior. At any rate, the Indians first round pick is in the fold and Jeremy Sowers will begin his professional career in the Instructional League this fall.
MLB.com also quotes John Mirabelli as saying that he still hopes to sign Rinaldo Alicano (10th), Brian Logan (11th), and Carlton Smith (21st) from this years draft crop. All of the above three are headed the JUCO route so the Tribe will retain DFE (draft-and-follow) rights until one week prior to the next June draft.
More in the next CIR.
August 23, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Sowers still unsigned
Forgot to mention that Jeremy Sowers remains unsigned as of this writing, although Paul Hoynes noted in the PD yesterday that talks had "intensified". Classes begin at Vanderbilt on Wednesday and the Indians retain the rights to Sowers only until he attends his first class (which may or may not be on Wednesday).
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Monday, August 23
(Today's been pretty hectic so I gotta run with what I got. I tend to write about the big league club last when preparing these reports so that's the reason today's report is minor-league focused.)
Although their 10-game winning streak was snapped over the weekend, the Bisons continue to roll as they've won 11 of their last 12 and hold a commanding 9-1/2 game lead over second-place Scranton. The offense blasted six homeruns (Phillips, Peralta, Young, Ludwick, Abernathy, and Grindell) yesterday in clubbing the Red Barons 14-8.
Kinston swept Potomac over the weekend to make it four wins in a row for the K-Tribe. They now lead second-place Winston-Salem by two games.
The Valley moved one game over .500 yesterday with a 9-5 win over Jamestown and are three games back in the wild-card chase. Tony Sipp struck out nine in five innings on the bump.
Jason Davis only worked a pair of innings for the Bisons on Friday as Mother Nature forcing the game to be postponed until Saturday. I mention this in case you had seen the boxscore and were wondering whether an injury had forced JD to leave the game early.
Aeros shortstop Brandon Pinckney is day-to-day with a left knee bruise and could be out of the lineup for the next five days, according to the Beacon Journal. Pinckney has been one of the more pleasant surprises down on the farm this year as he turned a temporary promotion to Akron into a permanent one with a hot bat and he hasn't stopped hitting yet, currently at a healthy .330/.373/.392/.76 for the Aeros. Combined, between Lake County and Akron, Pinckney is hitting .345 for the season. Not bad for a player who was expected to serve in a utility role in low-A this season.
Jeremy Guthrie has been removed from the Aeros rotation and will spend the rest of the season working out of the bullpen. He debuted in his new role on Saturday by allowing three runs on five hits in 1.1 innings of work. Although Guthrie has struggled this year (8-8, 4.28, 128.1IP, 144H, 16HR in Akron), the timing of the move caught me a little off-guard since he had allowed just two earned runs in previous two starts covering 11 innings. Although, to be fair, his secondary numbers did not necessarily match that level of performance. Guthrie was mentioned in Dennis Manoloff's minor league insider in the PD yesterday and perhaps this quote from a scout hints at the reason for the switch: "This kid has a fastball with life, but he leans on the off-speed pitches way too much. He's got four pitches and it seems like he's bent on throwing all four in each game. But when one or two aren't working, you can't force it." The scout also notes that Guthrie's confidence appears to be down and that he nibbles too much around the corners. Taking all that into account, perhaps the thought here is to move Guthrie into the pen and let him focus on his fastball and get ahead of hitters without having to worry about setting them up for later innings with his secondary pitches. You build up his confidence in this kind of role the last two weeks of the year, let him continue to work on the above over the winter and in spring training, and then let him bring that focus to the mound next spring. At this point, it's worth a shot.
Jim Ingraham profiles Captains outfielder Juan Valdes in the News-Herald. Despite only hitting a combined .259 at Burlington and Lake County this season, Valdes has opened eyes with his speed (34 SB in 37 SBA in 51 G), tools, and approach to the game. He'll likely still be under the prospect radar entering next season but he's definitely one to keep an eye on. Just don't blink!
The Beaver County Times reports that the Indians are interested in Pirates reliever Brian Meadows. Despite throwing from the right-side, Meadows has been exceptionally effective against left-handers this season, limiting them to averages of .205/.241/.301/.542 (15-for-73), which hints at the Indians reason for inquiry. Overall, the 28-year old Meadows is 2-3 with a 3.47 ERA and .266 BAA for the Pirates. He's a former Marlins prospect who's now with his fourth organization and who converted to the pen last season after spending the majority of his career in the rotation.
Aaron Boone underwent successful knee surgery over the weekend and is expected to be ready for the start of spring training.
Ryan Church had three hits and drove in a pair of runs in his major league debut with the Expos yesterday. He was called up from triple-A over the weekend to replace the injured Nick Johnson. Church, traded to Montreal along with Maicer Izturis for Scott Stewart this past off-season, sizzled all season at triple-A Ottawa, hitting .343/.428/.620/1.048 with 29 doubles, 17 homeruns, 51 walks and 62 strikeouts. He should see plenty of time in the Expos outfield these last six weeks and factor into the mix next year in D.C.
Speaking of Stewart, he was sent to triple-A Las Vegas after the Dodgers acquired Elmer Dessens from the Diamondbacks.
Dave Maurer was called up by the Blue Jays. He pitched in a pair of games for the Indians two years ago.
The Red Sox optioned Earl Snyder back to triple-A. He had a hit in four trips to the dish.
68 years ago today, Bob Feller makes his first major league start at age seventeen. He strikes out 15 St.Louis Browns in the Indians 4-1 victory.
August 20, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, August 20
"Let's put them away"
Think that's what the Twins are thinking today as the prepare for three games against the Tribe in the Dome this weekend?
What a difference a week makes. Last Friday, the Twins staggered into Cleveland on a red-eye flight from Seattle leading the Indians by three games. Two quick blowouts closed the Tribe to withing one game with Sunday's tilt being waged for a share of the division crown. Alas, five days, Terry Muholland, and a raging Ranger offense later, the Tribe limped into Minnesota having lost four straight with only a Yankees ninth-inning rally last night against uber-closer Joe Nathan keeping them from being five games out.
As it stands this morning, the Tribe is four back of the Twins in the Central (still a game in front of the White Sox), four games over .500 at 63-59, and 5-1/2 games behind the Red Sox and Rangers in the wild-card race with the Angels to climb over in between. Taking it one game at a time is all the Indians can do at this point.
So how important is this series? With 37 games, and seven against the Twins remaining, there's still plenty of games to be played for both teams. But with each passing game, that's one less game to make up ground, and leaving Minnesota seven games out after being swept by the Twins would be pretty devastating to the Tribe's playoff chances. Losing two of three would leave them five out and having missed a golden opportunity. Taking two of three and (dare I say it) sweeping the Twins makes it that much tighter but the Twins would still hold the lead. It's important, it's a HUGE opportunity, it starts tonight.
Travis Hafner may be back in the lineup. He sat out Wednesday's finale against the Rangers with a sore elbow (inflammation). Needless to say, the Indians need his presence in the lineup. His first inning homerun off tonight's starter Kyle Lohse set the tone in last Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Twins.
Kyle Denney pitched the Bisons to their 9th consecutive victory with seven strong innings last night against Pawtucket. Denney (9-3, 3.78) allowed just one run (solo homer) and three hits while striking out five. The outing follows a start last Saturday in which the right-hander carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning and came within two outs of making history. Since being pounded for seven runs in 3.2 innings on August 4, Denney has posted a 0.87 ERA in his last three starts, striking out 21 in 20.2 innings while allowing just nine hits and four walks. For the season, he now has a 3.78 ERA with a .246 BAA and has struck out 106 in 121.1 innings while allowing 112 hits and 34 walks. No longer considered a prospect in the eyes of most observers since he turned 27 in July and has yet to pitch in the major leagues, Denney has pitched well enough, in my opinion, to earn a shot at the big leagues with someone in the future. The Indians control his rights through the 2005 season where after he can become a minor league free-agent but if he's not added to the 40 this off-season (and I can't see that happening with all the younger players the Indians need to protect), I would think he would make an attractive rule 5 pick for a team looking for an inexpensive 5th starter / long-man in the bullpen. I know that most Rule 5 picks tend to be toolsy in nature but sometimes I think teams would be better off going for the less sexy but more likely to provide immediate help type of pick, especially if their team has some holes on the big-league roster entering spring training.
The Bisons, incidentally, now hold a 8-1/2 game lead over Scranton with 17 games left to play. I believe their magic number may be down to 10.
Left-hander Shea Douglas was promoted from Akron to Buffalo and debuted yesterday with two scoreless innings for the Bisons. Triple-A represents Douglas' third level in the organization this year as he worked in 24 games for Kinston (3-0, 0.56 ERA, .157 BAA, 32 K, 32.1 IP) before a promotion to Akron (1-0, 4.40 ERA, .228 BAA, 13K, 14.1IP) and now Buffalo. Not a hard-thrower, Douglas has done nothing but dominate out of the bullpen since signing with the Tribe as a 32nd round draft pick out of Southern Miss in 2002. He entered this season with a 1.38 ERA in 49 career games with 157 strikeouts in 124 innings. Rule-5 eligible if not added to the 40 this off-season, these last two weeks offer Douglas the opportunity to make an impression against more advanced bats.
Sandy Martinez' prospect days may be long behind him but the veteran backstop is as hot as any player in the minor leagues at the plate right now as he's gone deep seven times in his last nine games and 11 times in his last 18 games. Over that stretch, Martinez has raised his averages to .262/.541 with a total of 14 big flys for the season.
Jason Cooper belted his first triple-A homer on Wednesday.
Michael Aubrey had two hits, including his sixth homerun and a double, for Akron on Wednesday. He continues to serve as the designated hitter.
Corey Smith (.248/.351/.418/.769) belted his 17th homerun on Wednesday and now has six dingers and 15 ribbies in his last 20 games. The 17 longballs are one shy of his career-high, set in Columbus (low-A) in 2001. Smith went yard nine times for the Aeros last year.
Pat Osborn was named the Carolina League's Topps Player of the Month for July after hitting .412/.483/.627/1.110 (42-for-102) with eight doubles, a triple, and four longballs. He also scored 27 times, plated 14, and stole a pair of bases while replacing the injured Ivan Ochoa at shortstop in the field. Osborn belted his 9th homerun and singled in the K-Tribe's 5-2 victory over Salem yesterday and is now hitting .340/.417/.538/.955 for the season. He's another prospect who will need to be added to the 40 this off-season.
Fellow K-Triber, and yet another 40-man candidate, JD Martin, continues to impress on the mound of late. On Wednesday, Martin took a no-hitter into the sixth and a shutout into the eighth before eventually being charged with a run on two hits and no walks in 7.1 innings on the bump. The outing continued a string of impressive performances as Martin has a 1.86 ERA over his last three starts covering 19.1 innings. For the season, JD is 10-9 with a 4.62 ERA in 128.2 innings pitched (124 H, 39 BB, 83 K) which represent an improvement (albeit slight) over his 2003 numbers in Kinston.
Here's a great stat out of Kinston from the Free Press. Thanks to Ryan Prahm, Todd Pennington, Shea Douglas, Matt Davis, and the rest of the bullies, the K-Tribe was 66-0 this year when leading after seven innings. As all good things must come to an end, their first blown lead came on Wednesday when a pair of runs crossed the plate in the eighth inning of the above mentioned JD Martin's start.
The K-Tribe, incidentally, holds a 1 game lead over Winston-Salem in the Carolina League's Southern Division. Even if the Worthogs manage to overtake them, Kinston is still guaranteed a spot in the playoffs thanks to their first-half championship.
Big Bill Peavey is in the midst of a six-game hitting streak in the LC in which he's stroked at a .417 clip with a dinger and four doubles. Peavey, who's been plagued by injuries since signing with the Tribe three years ago out of USC, is hitting .251/.341/.424 for the Captains with nine big flys.
The Valley's five-game winning streak was snapped last night in Auburn 14-5 but a recent stretch of 10 wins in 12 games have helped the Scrappers climb to within 1-1/2 games of Hudson Valley in the NY-Penn wild-card race.
No update on the unsigned Jeremy Sowers. Classes begin on Wednesday at Vanderbilt. Sowers' Vandy teammate and fellow Tribe draftee Jeff Sues (14th round) was recently named the top prospect in the summer Atlantic Collegiate League by Baseball America.
August 18, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Stewart dealt to LA
The Indians traded Scott Stewart to the Dodgers for a player to be named later or cash considerations. More in the next CIR.
CIR UPDATE: Fernando Cabrera promoted
The Indians called up Fernando Cabrera and optioned Cliff Bartosh to Buffalo. From the official release, "Cabrera has spent the entire 2004 season at AAA Buffalo where he has gone 3-3 with a 4.08 ERA and 5 saves in 41 relief appearances(70.2 IP, 57 H, 37R/32ER,40 BB, 84 SO, 9 HR). Since July 1, he is 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in 16 outings as he has yielded just 6 ER in his last 28.1 innings(15 H, 8 BB, 36 SO). Cabrera has allowed just 3 ER in his last 15.0 innings of work(9 appearances) as he owns a 1.80 ERA(15.0 IP, 7 H, 3 BB, 20 SO) over that time. He will be making his Major League debut wearing #64." I'm looking forward to seeing him pitch. More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Wednesday, August 18
A tip of the cyber-hat (tip) to the Rangers. It's all you can do after a game like that.
Hey, at least we got an Oddibe McDowell mention (last Ranger to hit for the cycle) out of it and you can never have too many of those.
For it's one, two, three times, Ludwick went deep at the Bi-sons game. Heyyyyyyyyyyy! Oddibe Ryan Ludwick last night as he had a game to remember in Pawtucket as he blasted three big-flys, including two in the same inning, to lead the Bisons to their seventh consecutive victory, 13-9 over the PawSox. Both of the same inning jacks (a solo shot and a three-run job) came off Byung Hyun Kim and Ludwick later added a two-run blast to drive in six runs for the game. He's now hitting .287/.364/.508/.872 with 9 doubles and 6 longballs in 33 games for the Bisons.
Kinston shortstop Ivan Ochoa is done for the year, according to the Kinston Free Press. Ochoa recently had labrum surgery on his left shoulder in Cleveland and is expected to be ready for the start of spring training. Added to the 40-man roster last off-season, Ochoa played in just 66 games for the K-Tribe, hitting just .234/.305/.305 with a homerun and 11 stolen bases. The slick-fielding shortstop originally injured the shoulder in late May which caused him to miss almost a month of playing time. He re-injured the shoulder on July 28 and has not played since. Last November, the Indians chose to protect Ochoa over fellow shortstop prospect Hector Luna, who was subsequently snatched up by the Cardinals in the Rule 5 draft and is unlikely to be returned to the Indians. Given Ochoa's performance, his injury, the emergence of Brandon Pinckney in Akron, and the presence of Brandon Phillips and Jhonny Peralta higher up the organizational ladder, oddibe interesting to see if Ochoa maintains his spot on the 40 this off-season.
Brad Snyder has certainly taken to the Carolina League as the outfielder was named CL Player of the Week in his first week in the circuit after hitting .348 with four dingers and eight ribbies in six games for the K-Tribe. Since his promotion from Lake County, Snyder is raking at a .386/.460/.727/1.187 clip through 11 games with three doubles, the four longballs, and six walks. He oddibe a big factor in the Carolina League playoffs for the K-Tribe.
Michael Aubrey returned to the lineup in Akron over the weekend.
Tony Sipp and Matt Knox continue to strike out NY-Penn league hitters in staggering numbers. Sipp has 46 punchouts in 28.2 innings, including eight in five innings yesterday, while Knox has 45 in 28.1 innings, including four in two innings of work yesterday. Sipp (1-1, 4.08) is the left-hander out of Clemson whom the Tribe took a flier on in the 45th round this past June while Knox is a former corner infielder making the conversion to the mound this summer. Both are a long way from Cleveland but those K/IP numbers make these two worth watching.
Baseball America just posted rosters for the Arizona Fall League and the Indians contingent on the Peoria Javelins is as follows: Dan Denham, Travis Foley, Jake Dittler, Ryan Garko, Pat Osborn, and Jason Cooper. Additionally, Dave Wallace and Keith Ramsey are on the taxi squad and eligible to be activated for Wednesday and Saturday games and Kinston manager Torey Lovullo will serve as a bench coach for the Javelins. This is a very strong group of prospects the Tribe is sending to Arizona this fall and it's much stronger than last years squad that included Luke Scott, Corey Smith, Todd Pennington, Kyle Evans, Wallace, etc. To be fair, Grady Sizemore was also in that group but he left to join Team USA early in the AFL season. All but Garko need to be added to the 40-man roster this November with Dittler, Denham, and Cooper strong candidates (if not locks) for the 40. A case can certainly be made for Osborn and Foley too. It won't hurt to showcase all of these guys in front of a horde of baseball execs and scouts for two months either.
Cooper, incidentally, was recently promoted to Buffalo to replace Raul Gonzalez, who is out for the season after breaking his leg last Friday. Cooper struggled in Akron this year, hitting just .239/.321/.424/.745 with 24 doubles, 14 homeruns, and 106 strikeouts after entering the season as one of the Indians best young power prospects. Since the promotion, Coop is 1-for-9 (.111) in three games for the Bisons. Gonzalez sees his year come to a halt with averages of .310/.346/.491/.837 and 9 homeruns for the Bisons. He was also 1-for-11 (.091) during a brief stint with the Indians. Signed as a free-agent after the Mets released him in May, Gonzalez' arrival and red-hot bat (he hit .341 and slugged .647 with 7 homeruns in his first 21 games in Buffalo) sparked the Bisons offense with the won-loss record speaking for itself, the Bisons were 16-24 when he arrived and went 54-28 through his injury (according to the Buffalo News).
Foley, incidentally, has not allowed a run in eight appearances, covering 15 innings, for the K-Tribe. The right-hander has also punched out 15 while walking four and permitting just eight basehits. Foley is recovering from an elbow injury (inflammation) that limited him to just seven starts in Akron this spring.
The White Sox claimed Alex Escobar off waivers and placed him on the DL. More on Escobar in a future report.
Shane Spencer signed with the Yankees and has started rehabbing at their complex in Tamper.
Mike Bacsik made three starts for the Rangers and was designated for assignment. He oddibe able to clear waivers. Paul Abbott did clear waivers and was outrighted to triple-A by the Phillies but he can refuse the assignment. Travis Driskill is another designee, this time by the Rockies.
Sandy Alomar was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the White Sox with a pulled left groin. Alomar is hitting just .239 in 45 games for the Sox this season. Brooks Kieschnick was placed on the 15-day DL with shoulder tendinitis. Herb Perry (knee) was disabled by the Rangers. He's hitting just .223 in 46 games for Texas. I can't believe that Perry turns 35 in September. Curtis Leskanic was activated by the Red Sox. The Sox also called up Earl Snyder, who has enjoyed a monstrous 4A slugger year in Pawtucket, hitting .277/.329/.567/.896 with 36 doubles and 33 homeruns. Over the next two-to-three years, some team is going to end up giving Snyder 300 (or so) at-bats at the major league level. Whether he's able to capitalize on that opportunity likely hinges on whether he can improve his 33 BB / 117 K ratio. Either that or he oddibe able to make some serious yen over in Japan.
From my one-a-day MLB calendar...
"On this date in 1976: The Tigers lose shortstop Tom Veryzer, who injures his left knee sliding into second base and is fitted with a cast. He'll be out for the rest of the season and dip to .197 in 1977. Eleven days later, Detroit will lose another player on a slide into second when third baseman Aurelio Rodriguez severely tears the ligaments in his right ankle, finishing him for the year." Veryzer is one of my all-time favorite Indians. No one made the phantom tag across the bag on the double-play better than Veryzer.
I haven't talked much about the antics of my softball team much this year (you're welcome) but let it be known that last night the mighty Fox extended it's streak of not going two-and-out in the playoffs to 11 consecutive years with a come-from-behind 14-9 victory in the nightcap of a split twin-bill. Trailing 9-2, the Fox bats awoke from their slumber with a monster inning and the pitching and defense took over from there. Next up could be the hated Zemitos, who were last seen heading south to Vero Beach to train for the next round of the playoffs, but more than likely it's a matchup with the worst team in the league, who just happened to beat us twice. Don't argue with my logic on that one, it's very circular, and will only make you nauseous.
When did Bob Costas turn into Dick Clark? The man looks exactly the same as he did 20 years ago. I've never worked in TV (again, you're welcome) but is there an easier job in Athens than what Costas has? Recap what we just saw, intro what's next, cut to commercial. Repeat in 20 minutes. The swimming, gymnastics, and track & field announcers are far more important to my viewing enjoyment than anything that Costas is doing. I understand the need to have a "name" in the main booth but seems to me they could have stuck Matt Lauer or someone with more of a personality than Costas and used Bob for announcing purposes. That's something that oddibe considered for the 2006 winter games.
August 17, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, August 17
Ahh, the beauty of baseball.
Over the past four days, the Indians have come around full circle to where they started. That is, three games behind the Twins in the AL Central. Ok, it's really just 2-1/2 games this morning because Minnesota had yesteday off but the point is that there's always a game the next day. No matter how high you get or how hot you may be, such as when the Indians closed to within one game on Saturday evening, or when you lose the next two and find yourself virtually right back where you started, there's always a game the next day. Of course, with each passing game, the number of next days continues to dwindle but losing two in a row (especially after winning 10 of 11) is not a cause for alarm.
That said, tonight is a big outing for Cliff Lee who needs to be the rotation stopper after CC Sabathia struggled through 6-1/3 innings last night while throwing a season-high 128 pitches. Lee shut down the Rangers back on July 6, limiting them to one run over 6-2/3 innings and he threw the ball well in his last start against Toronto so this is a good opportunity for him to be the guy. The real good news tonight, however, is that the Rangers are throwing Scott Erickson out on the bump and if he's not the cure for what has temporarily ailed the Indians bats, then there's some serious mojo working against the Tribe right now. Erickson has a 7.00 ERA in four starts (two each with the Mets and Rangers) and has allowed a whopping 31 hits and 10 walks in 18 innings in the big leagues this season. I know, grubby veteran, end of his career, Erickson smells like a right-handed Terry Mulholland. I don't think so.
Let's return to those 128 pitches last night. I'm no pitching coach nor am I necessarily a pitch count guy but 128 pitches is a lot of work for six-plus innings. More specficially, CC threw a lot of pitches when he was struggling with his command, and likely his mechanics, both in terms of his overall pitch count and in his final inning, and that's when injuries happen. Pitch counts need to be taken into context. There's a big difference in the amount of stress placed on the arm (over-throwing, poor mechanics, etc) between the type of outing that CC struggled through last night and a 128-pitch outing where the pitcher cruises through nine innings with solid command and mechanics. A big difference. I was away from the TV during the seventh inning (alright, I was watching the Olympics) (yes, men's gymnastics, are you happy?) so I'm not sure if the Indians didn't have anyone ready in the pen or if Eric Wedge just didn't like the matchups against David Riske but I am really surprised that they let him stay out there that long.
Jody Gerut continues to struggle at the plate, 0-for-3 yesterday and hitting .211 since June 1, but his defense has remained sensational all season long. He may be the best right-fielder I've seen at making plays on balls hit towards the line (i.e., going to his left). If his shoulder is still bothering him (don't forget he was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff this past off-season) as some have suggested, he hasn't let on defensively as near as I can tell.
Only 23,551 at the Ballpark last night. I know the Indians are not a major draw (yet) but the Rangers have been in the race all season. Couple that with the Tribe entering last night just 2-1/2 games behind Texas in the wild-card race and I would have thought a few more Dallasites may have been in the seats. Perhaps they're all out at Cowboy camp.
Aaron Boone is done for the season after doctors recommended surgery to clean up some "loose ends" in his knee. According to trainer Lonnie Soloff, the operation should be viewed as a "clean-up" and Boone is expected to be ready for baseball-related activities in December. While it would have been nice for Boone to be available down the stretch, in some respects, this is the best things for all parties. The Indians don't have to worry about finding a 40 and 25-man roster spot for him, they don't have to worry about finding a way to squeeze him into the lineup (i.e., whom do you displace amongst Travis Hafner, Casey Blake, Ronnie Belliard, and Ben Broussard not to mention Lou Merloni and Josh Phelps), and Boone can relax and let the knee return to 100% before he returns to the field next spring.
No update on the unsigned Jeremy Sowers. Classes at Vanderbilt begin August 25 and John Mirabelli was quoted in the local papers as saying that yesterday could be a pivotal day in the negotiations. Remember that the Tribe retains the rights to Sowers until he attends his first class.
Minor league news, notes, and worthless opinions return tomorrow.
August 16, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Monday, August 16
Great weekend for the Tribe. Sure, yesterday was a bit of a downer but taking two out of three from the Twins was a good start to a very challenging portion of the schedule. Now it's off to Texas for three games against the wild-card leading Rangers followed by three games in the Dome against the division-leading Twins. Like I said, challenging. I had hoped to have a regular report ready for today but my schedule this morning dictated otherwise. Talk to you tomorrow!
August 15, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Sunday, August 15
That's all that stands between the Indians and the Twins in the Central Division after the Indians delivered another knockout punch in the first inning yesterday by plating four runs en route to a 7-1 victory in game two of this huge three-game series.
Eight over .500 (63-55), six in a row, and 10 of 11.
It's Chad Durbin vs Terry Mulholland at the Jake this afternoon for the AL Central lead.
More tomorrow in the CIR.
August 14, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Saturday, August 14
Now that's what I call a fast start.
Sparked by a strike-throwing Scott Elarton and an offense that jumped all over Twins starter Carlos Silva for five runs in the first inning, the Indians walloped the Twins 8-2 in game one of their "it's the beginning" three-game series at the Jake. The Tribe closes to within two games of the Twins at 62-55, moves a season-high seven games over .500, has now won five in a row and nine of ten, and stands 2-1/2 games behind the Red Sox in the wild-card race.
The tone was set early in the top of the first when Scott Elarton threw six of his first seven pitches for strikes and 10 of 13 for the inning as he quickly set down the Twins The offense took over from there as Carlos Silva, not throwing first-pitch strikes and looking like he was still suffering from jet lag, was jumped on by the Tribe with the big blows coming in the form of a two-run Victor Martinez double to the right-center gap and a mammoth 450-foot Ben Broussard three-run big fly to the picnic area in centerfield that had the scoreboard reading 5-0 Indians before Ron Gardenhire and company knew what hit them. Even the outs were smoked as Ronnie Belliard nearly decapicated Luis Rivas who make a nice play to throw him out at first and Jody Gerut filed out to the warning track in right-center.
Scott Elarton controlled the game from that point as he continued to pound the strike-zone with 23 of 27 first-pitch strikes and 68 of 100 pitches overall to limit the Twins to two runs over seven innings in notching his second win of the season. Note that those two wins have come in consecutive starts against AL Central rivals, the White Sox and the Twins.
Like Silva, the entire Twins team seemed to be suffering from jet lag, or perhaps shock at the Indians lightning 5-0 strike to start the game, as they made a series of blunders on the bases and in the field that included Torii Hunter being doubled up from first on a fly-out to the wall in left-center (he was already well past second when Matt Lawton hauled in the out), Henry Blanco throwing to second-base on a non-steal by Lawton, and a botched foul ball with the bases loaded in the eighth that fell between a "staring at each other" Michael Cuddyer (3B) and Rob Bowen (C). If Twinsfan didn't think the Indians were for real entering the game, he certainly does now.
Like Broussard (who drove in seven runs over two at-bats on Thursday and Friday), Coco Crisp went deep for the second night in a row, blasting his 10th homerun into the night. Omar Vizquel also enjoyed a day as he had four hits, including a double. Most importantly, the Indians worked deep into the Twins bullpen with longmen Matt Guerrier and Joe Roa each working multiple innings that could render them unavailable for the rest of the series. On that note, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Twins make a move this morning to reinforce the bullpen.
As for the Tribe's pen, Matt Miller and Rick White each worked a scoreless inning and that, coupled with Scott Elarton's fine performance, leaves Bob Wickman and Bob Howry available for duty the next two days.
To say the Indians are firing on all cylinders right now is an understatement. Big crowds (30,000 last night) should be on hand for the next two games. The yard is rocking once again.
August 13, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Friday, August 13
Bring on those Twins!
(Call 216-420-HITS or visit www.indians.com)
Thanks to a pinch salami from Ben Broussard and another stellar performance from the pitching staff, the Indians swept the Blue Jays out of town with a 6-2 victory, extended their winning streak to four games, moved a season-high six games over .500 at 61-55, trail the first-place Twins by three games, and are smack dab in the middle of a pennant race in the middle of August. Life is very, very good for the Indians and Tribe fans right now.
The Twins maintained their three-game lead yesterday with a 6-3 victory over Seattle. The silver lining in that victory for Tribe fans is that Johan Santana was on the mound for the Twins which means that he's going to be watching the weekend series from the dugout. And that's a very good thing.
Pitching matchups for the weekend are as follows: Scott Elarton vs Carlos Silva tonight, Jake Westbrook vs Kyle Lohse on Saturday, and Chad Durbin vs Terry Mulholland on Sunday. As excited as we may be to be facing Silva, Lohse, and Mulholland and not Santana or Brad Radke, recognize that Twinsfan is probably equally excited to be facing Elarton, Westbrook, and Durbin and not CC or Lee. For such a big series, the lack of a marquee pitching matchup is somewhat amusing.
As for this series, it's obviously the most important of the season and a tremendous opportunity for the Tribe to stake their claim in the division race. But with 10 subsequent games scheduled against the Twins, each team will have additional opportunities to reverse whatever happens this weekend. For the trailing team, though, and that's the Indians, it's obviously of more import and a sweep (in the bad way) would be devastating. Not season-ending, but definitely devastating. Taking two of three would be a nice way to head into a killer stretch in which the Tribe plays their next 19 games against teams with above .500 records, including six against the Yankees, four against the White Sox, three more against the Twins, and three against both the Rangers and Angels. That stretch (and not this particular series) could be what makes, or more likely, breaks the Indians season. If they can stay within a few games (or catch) the Twins (who play 16 straight against above .500 clubs), the Tribe will have the opportunity to pickup additional ground in September when they have series against the Mariners, Tigers, and Royals. Of course, the Twins will also be playing sub .500 clubs at that point as well so the schedule is relatively balanced out between the two clubs the rest of the way. And that's your long-term schedule forecast. Back to you Wilma.
But first, the Tribe needs to take care of Carlos Silva and the Twins tonight. I wonder if Minnesota sent Silva ahead to Cleveland a day early instead of making the long Seattle to Cleveland flight that likely arrived in Cleveland sometime in the wee hours this morning. It would be nice to see the Indians jump on what could be a tired Twins team early.
Ben Broussard is rapidly becoming one of my favorite Indians. His pinch-hit grand-slam last night tied a major league record shared by Dave Johnson, Darryl Strawberry, and Mike Ivie and he now has three slams on the season. He also has a 1.236 OPS in August after posting a .915 July and .906 June and is hitting a healthy .283/.386/.460/.846 for the season. I've spent a lot of time these last few weeks speculating as to whether if Broussard is the odd-man out in the Indians 1B/DH mix next season with Aaron Boone on the roster but now I have to start wondering how Broussard CANNOT be in the mix with the way that he's been playing. At any rate, much like the middle infield we discussed earlier in the week, the Indians have a pleasant problem to solve on the corners this off-season as well.
Cliff Lee looked strong in limiting the Jays to just three hits and a pair of runs in six innings on the bump. He also punched out eight. For Lee, it was the first time in his last five outings that he's allowed less than five runs to cross the plate. Let's hope he's battled through his dead arm period (or whatever it was) and is ready for the final eight weeks.
Coco Crisp's 11 pitch at-bat against Ted Lilly in the fifth inning, in which he fouled off five pitches before rocketing his 9th homerun of the year down the left-field line, was a thing of beauty. Aside from the dinger, it pushed Lilly closer to his pitch count at a point in the game when he was cruising along which, ultimately, was the key to the Indians winning the game (knocking Lilly out). Crisp extended his hitting streak to 13 with the blast and is now hitting .277/.323/.431/.754 for the season.
Speaking of Lilly, I don't think he threw a pitch above 75 mph in the first inning. I'm not sure what I expected to see (it was my first opportunity to watch him up close) but seeing him throw junk was not it. Over the first three innings, I was not impressed, but Lilly eventaully settled down (aside from the Crisp homer), started commanding his fastball much better which helped to set up the junk and he cruised. His work in the fourth after giving up leadoff singles to Josh Phelps and Travis Hafner was impressive. Was anyone else surprised that Tim Laker was not laying down a sacrifice in that situation? Maybe he's a "D" bunter or something.
Speaking of Phelps, the newcomer went 1-for-3 in his Indians debut and made several nice scoops on throws to first-base. He'll likely be back in the lineup on Sunday against Terry Mulholland.
John McDonald is the best defensive shortstop I have ever seen. Period.
Alex Escobar cleared waivers and was released by the Indians. He's now free to negotiate as a free-agent. More on Escobar in the next report.
Travis Driskill cleared waivers and was outrighted to triple-A by the Rockies.
Only Buffalo and Mahoning Valley played on the farm yesterday with the Aeros having the day off and Kinston, Lake County, and Burlington cancelled due to rain from Bonnie.
Get yourself down to the yard this weekend.
(Call 216-420-HITS or visit www.indians.com)
August 12, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Thursday, August 12
Can we say that CC is back?
Yesterday brought a second consecutive strong performance from the left-hander as Sabathia carried a perfect game into the fifth before finishing with two runs allowed on five hits and no walks while striking out five in the Tribe's 3-2 victory over the Blue Jays. Coupled with his one-run gem against the White Sox last Friday, CC has now allowed just three runs over his last fourteen innings (1.93 ERA) while striking out 13 and allowing just ten hits and one walk. I really like that one walk stat. His next start will come Monday night against the Rangers in Arlington. That's the same Rangers who have already roughed up CC twice this year and hold the 4th highest OPS in the AL against left-handers. If the big fella's back, there's not much of a better way of showing it than by shutting down the Rangers.
With the win, the Tribe is now a season-high five games over .500 at 60-55 and trail the division-leading Twins by just three games thanks, in part, to some adventurous running by the Mariners Willie Bloomquist in Safeco last night. With the score tied 3-3 in the 9th, Bloomquist was on first base when an errant pick-off attempt by the Twins Juan Rincon allowed him to move up to second. On the next pitch, Bloomquist broke for third, slid hard into third-basemen Corey Koskie, and came around to score when the throw from catcher Henry Blanco either hit him or Koskie and rolled away from the bag. Koskie ended up injuring his wrist on the play and his status was uncertain as of last night although it sounded like it might just be a day-to-day thing. The Tribe is also just 3-1/2 games out of the wildcard and if the above doesn't get you excited, check out these numbers from Jim Ingraham in the News-Herald this morning.
No doubt about it, that is sweet.
Hey, will Josh Phelps make his Indians debut tonight against left-hander (and former teammate) Ted Lilly? Methinks, he might.
Will the third time be the charm? Cliff Bartosh certainly hopes so as he's back with the Indians after being recalled from Buffalo yesterday when Lou Merloni was placed on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right knee. Bartosh has thrown the ball well in Buffalo (2.20 ERA, 35 K, 28.2 IP) but his struggles in Cleveland are well documented (9.2 IP, 14H, 8BB, 3HR, 7.45ERA) although he has struck out 14 for a better than Wagner 13.03 K/9IP ratio. Within his last four outings in Buffalo he's been used more situationally (I'll assume via the boxscore) with three of his four outings resulting in less than an inning of work. Strangely enough, he's also been less effective over those outings as he allowed five hits and one run in 2.2 innings versus 4.1 perfect innings and seven strikeouts over his previous four outings. It's going to be interesting to see how Eric Wedge uses him this weekend (and into the future) and whether Bartosh works in the multiple innings or is saved for the later innings and a left-handed stick (Koskie, Morneau, Jones, etc).
Note that fellow Bison southpaw Scott Stewart has also been throwing the ball extremely well and is now unscored upon in his last 13.2 innings (9H, 3BB, 6K) for Buffalo. The fact that he's not on the 40 makes it more difficult for him to get the call.
Getting back to Merloni, the presence of the right-handed hitting Josh Phelps on the roster likely allowed the Indians to feel comfortable with adding another pitcher and giving Merloni a couple of weeks to rest his ailing knee. Unheralded when he signed with the Tribe this past off-season, Looooouuuuuuu has turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Indians as he's posted career numbers virtually across the board with averages of .300/.355/.444/.799 and 12 doubles and 4 longballs while playing a multitude of positions.
Brandon Phillips had his 51 consecutive game on-base streak and seven-game hitting streak snapped when he took an 0-fer last night in the Bisons 7-2 loss to Pawtucket. Through that 51-game stretch, Phillips hit .365 with a .431 OBP according to the Buffalo News.
Michael Aubrey could return to action with the Aeros this weekend according to Baseball America's Daily Dish. Aubrey has been sidelined (with the exception of an appearance in the Futures Game) since July 7 with a sore right hamstring. The Dish quotes John Farrell as saying that Aubrey has been running and hitting and that he'll be limited to DH duties upon his return. To make up for his lost time this year, Aubrey will play in the Instructional League this fall and then in the Dominican League this winter. The latter will be a nice challenge for him.
Brian Tallet tossed two scoreless innings of relief for Akron on Tuesday and has now allowed just one run over his last eight innings of work. I think Tallet is likely to be among the first of the minor leaguers/rehabbers to join the big league club when rosters expand on September 1.
The Kouz was named South Atlantic League Player of the Week for the week ending Thursday, August 5 after he hit .444 (12-for-27) and drove in ten runs for the Captains. Oh yeah, he also belted two longballs. Kouzmanoff is now hitting .324/.391/.513/.904 with 32 doubles and 12 homeruns for Lake County and if not for the presence of Corey Smith in Buffalo and Pat Osborn in Kinston he would likely have been promoted to Kinston already. I can't see what else he has to prove in the Sally League. Osborn, incidentally, has been playing some short with Ivan Ochoa out and, while it may be on a temporary basis, it could prove to be interesting if he shows he can handle the position defensively.
Following up on my "offseason middle infield decisions to be made" thoughts from yesterday, Scot Gregor from the Daily Herald in Chicago writes about the possibility of Omar Vizquel heading to the South Side next season. Gregor cites the attraction of playing for fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen as well as a potential reunion with the brothers Alomar as a possible draw for Vizquel. Didn't Omar have a problem with the Alomars? Or maybe maybe I'm thinking of someone else (not named Mesa).
August 11, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Merloni placed on DL
The Indians placed Lou Merloni on the 15-day DL and recalled Cliff Bartosh from Buffalo. Merloni's elbow has been bothering since last week in Skydome and the official designation is right elbow inflammation. With Josh Phelps around to serve as the right-handed first basemen and pinch-hitter, I think the Tribe saw this as a means of giving Merloni a rest while adding another arm to the pen. Bartosh has been throwing well in Buffalo. More in the next CIR.
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Wednesday, August 11
The race thickens. Or is it quickens? Ahh, who cares. Thanks to Chad Durbin, Ronnie Belliard, and some nifty defense, the Indians now stand a season-high four games over .500, trail the first-place Twins by just four games, and trail the wild-card leading Angels. Rangers, and Red Sox (they're all tied) by just 3-1/2 games. For perspective, on August 11, 2003, the Indians were 50-69 which would find them trailing the '04 Tribe by 11-1/2 games in the standings.
Chad Durbin is now 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts since his recall from Buffalo after tossing seven scoreless innings (7IP, 4H, 3BB, 7K) against the Jays last night. The cynics among you might note that those three starts came against the worst (KC) and fourth-worst (Toronto twice) offenses (in terms of OPS) in the American League but it's a positive sign that he's thrown the ball well against the teams that he's supposed to throw the ball well against. Durbin's next start comes on Sunday against the Twins who rank tenth in the AL in OPS at .747, one spot above the Blue Jays. Depending on how the first two games of the series go, that could be one of the important outings from a Tribe starter this year.
At the risk of seeking a peek towards the upcoming weekend, the Indians three projected starting pitchers line up as Scott Elarton, Jake Westbrook, and Durbin. A few weeks, that might have scared the beejeezus out of me but given the way that Elarton (4.01 ERA last four outings) has kept the Indians in his last four starts and how well Durbin has been throwing the ball of late, the beejeezus is still in me (although it's awfully skittish).
Jhonny Peralta and Brandon Phillips just keep on hitting down in Buffalo. Yesterday, Peralta was 3-for-5 with his 13th longball and three runs batted in while Phillips went 2-for-5 with a double and triple. Peralta is now hitting .337/.391/.509/.900 with 37 doubles and 13 homeruns while Phillips is hitting .320/.384/.447/.831 with 28 doubles and six longballs. Peralta leads the International League in batting average (.337), runs scored (90), and hits (153), while standing second in doubles (37), third in OBP (.391), and fourth in total bases (231). Phillips, meanwhile, has reached base in 51 consecutive games, and ranks sixth in the IL in average (.320) and runs scored (70) and fifth in OBP (.384) and hits (131).
Based on the above, the most difficult decision facing the Indians this off-season may be what to do with Ronnie Belliard. Even though he's not eligible for free-agency, Belliard will be eligible for arbitration with a hefty pay raise likely in the offing. Depending on what that dollar amount equates too, Belliard could certainly become available in trade or, failing that, I think you have to wonder whether or not the Indians will even tender Belliard a contract in December which seems incredibly absurd right now. I can't even begin to stress how important Belliard (hitting .302/.372/.424/.796 with 39 doubles, responsible for both runs last night, and providing great, albeit unorthodox, defense) has been to the club this season but if his asking price is in the $3 million range and you have a replacement in Brandon Phillips lined up who can provide similar production in the field and similar numbers at the plate for the league minimum, that's something you have to think about when you're working within a limited budget.
On the flip side of the coin, however, is the thought that the Indians probably would not want to open the season with essentially three rookies up the middle with Phillips at second, Peralta at short, and Grady Sizemore in center. Note that this assumes that the Indians will not pickup Omar Vizquel's 2005 option thus allowing him to become a free-agent. Under this line of thought, Peralta and Phillips battle it out at short with the loser returning to the minor leagues and a veteran (Belliard, Boone, Blake, someone else) handling second base. It's also possible that one of Phillips or Peralta could be used in a trade this off-season to bring in a starting pitcher or, perhaps, a big bat for the outfield.
At any rate, I think you can see that the Indians have a lot of options and decisions to make in the middle infield this off-season and into next spring training. How Ronnie Belliard fits into mix will be a very interesting story to follow this off-season.
After blasting two homeruns on Monday, Corey Smith remained red-hot at the dish yesterday, banging out four hits, including a double and triple, in the Aeros 4-3 win over New Britain. Corey has now had a hit in 19 of his 23 last games, hitting .350 (29-for-83) over that span to raise his average from the .220s to .251.
Justin Hoyman (2nd round, Florida) tossed two scoreless innings in his professional debut yesterday for the Scrappers, striking out one while permitting a pair of knocks.
First round pick Jeremy Sowers remains unsigned but he did tell the Nashville City Paper earlier this week that he expects to meet with the Indians in the next few days. Keep in mind that classes begin at Vanderbilt on August 25 and the Indians retain the rights to negotiate with Sowers up until he attends his first class.
Paul Hoynes, meanwhile, speculated in the Plain Dealer that the Indians could use the bonus money earmarked for Sowers in an attempt to sign Cuban free-agent Kendry Morales. Morales is a 22 year-old switch-hitter who can play both the infield and outfield corners and was regarded as one of Cuba's best young players. He defected in June by boat and has recently established residency in the Dominican Republic which allows him to bypass the major league draft and become a free-agent. I haven't seen any workout dates established for Morales but I would expect that most teams (including the Indians) will take a look at him with the usual suspects (Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, etc.) among the likely clubs willing to make an offer. I'd toss the Marlins in there, as well, given his Cuban heritage. I'd be surprised if the Indians strongly pursued Morales but I don't think they'd mind if Jeremy Sowers thinks they might.
Aaron Boone has had a small setback with inflammation in his knee which has resulted in his rehab assignment being pushed off for another week (or two). This likely means that Boone will not re-join the Indians until rosters expand in September which helps the Indians in terms of active-roster management but doesn't help them if they want Boone eligible for the playoffs as he would need to be active by August 30. Depending on how close the Indians are in the race in late August, the Boone situation could get interesting.
Rule 5 pick Lino Urdaneta worked two-thirds of an inning, allowing a run, for the Tigers single-A affiliate in Lakeland in his first game action since May (I believe). Urdaneta, who signed with the Tribe as a minor league free-agent last off-season and has never pitched for the Indians, has been plagued by elbow problems (inflammation) since spring training. Even if he's activated in September (when rosters expand), I don't believe that would satisfy the active roster requirements of his Rule 5 status and that those requirements would then carry over to 2005. Whether the Indians are interested in bringing him back at this point is another story.
The Tribe's two other Rule 5 draftees, Hector Luna and Luis Gonzalez, remain with their new clubs and would appear locks to complete the season at the major league level. Luna is hitting .247 (24-for-97) with two homeruns for the Cardinals and has a decent shot at a World Series ring while Gonzalez is hitting .267/.310/.432/.742 with 8 homeruns for the Rockies but has really seen his playing time diminish over the last month.
Remember Giovanni Carrara? He of the 8.00 ERA in nine innings this spring with the Tribe before being released at the end of March? Well, Carrara has resurfaced in Los Angeles where he has a 1.14 ERA in 13 appearances for the Dodgers with 25 punchouts in 23.2 innings. He'll likely play a more important role in the 'pen down the stretch as everyone moves up an inning with Guillermo Mota traded to Florida. Carrara enjoyed the best seasons of his big league career with the Dodgers in 2001 and 2002.
Ouch. Eddie Guardado has a torn rotator cuff that will likely require season-ending surgery and which could cause him to miss a good chunk of the 2005 season. Looks like he'll be picking up that $4.5 million player option for next year, huh? Perhaps it was all just fan speculation and hope but the Indians were mentioned as possible suitors for Guardado earlier this year. How fitting it would have been, however, for America's most tortured sports city to have something like this happen right after trading for him? Thank goodness we dodged that bullet.
Nick Bierbrodt failed his physical and had his contract voided by the Reds. Travis Driskill (Rockies), Paul Abbott (Phillies), and Jamie Brown (Red Sox) were all designated for assignment. Jon Nunnally was released from his personal services contract with the McBain organization of the prominent CCARBL and signed a minor league contract with the Brewers.
August 10, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Tuesday, August 10
"This one's over"
That's what I told myself last night when I fell asleep with the Tribe up 8-0 through the middle of the sixth and Jake Westbrook cruising with a two-hitter.
Yeah, I should have known better.
A 13-11 victory by the little offense that could returns the Tribe to Jacobs Field with a 58-55 record, standing alone in second place in the AL Central, and trailing the first-place Twins by five games, who just happen to be coming to town this weekend for a three-game series. More on that in a bit. Oh yeah, they're also just 4-1/2 games behind the wild-card leading Angels.
Before the Tribe can do battle with the Twins, however there's the matter of a three-game set starting tonight at the Jake against the Blue Jays. These are the very same Blue Jays who took two of four from the Tribe last week in Skydome and who, along with the Royals, had the Tribe on a four-game losing streak that could have made the 6-5 road trip much more impressive if the Tribe had managed to win a pair of those games (and they certainly had their chances).
With the Twins looming on the immediate horizon and the Indians scheduled to play Minnesota an amazing 13 of their final 49 games (26.5%) the opportunity will definitely be there for the Tribe to make up ground in the division race. That is, however, if they do not overlook the immediate task at hand which is the Toronto Blue Jays. Coming off an hard-fought, emotional victory last night against the White Sox, these are the games where Eric Wedge earns his pay as it's going to be very interesting to see what type of focus this club brings to the field tonight. This three-game set is all about focus. Focusing on the immediate three games in front of you and not focusing on the immediate three games against the Twins this weekend. Chad Durbin sets the tone with the first pitch tonight.
To be continued (I gotta run)...
August 09, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Schedule
The next CIR will be posted on Tuesday. See you then!
August 08, 2004
CIR UPDATE: Escobar designated
The Indians designated Alex Escobar for assignment and optioned Kaz Tadano to Buffalo. The moves allow Josh Phelps to be added to the 25 and 40 man rosters. More in the next CIR.
August 07, 2004
CLEVELAND INDIANS REPORT: Saturday, August 7
While it wasn't the stretch run addition that many Indians fans had been hoping for, the Indians did make a very interesting trade yesterday with the Blue Jays in which they acquired right-handed hitting 1B/DH Josh Phelps from the Toronto Blue Jays yesterday in exchange for Bisons first basemen Eric Crozier. Phelps is a former top prospect with the Jays who has never fulfilled the promise of his 2002 debut but who has long been a target of the Indians front office. The trade raises many questions as Phelps moves onto a roster that is already loaded with 1B/DH types in Travis Hafner, Ben Broussard, and Lou Merloni with the organizations two top hitting prospects (left in the minors with Grady in Cleveland) in Michael Aubrey and Ryan Garko coming up fast through the system. Before we get into those questions, however, let's take a look at the two players involved in the deal.
Josh Phelps is a 26-year old, 6-3", 220 pound right-handed batter who was originally drafted by the Blue Jays in the 10th round of the 1996 draft. Like most catchers, he struggled making the adjustments to the pro game at the plate before finally breaking out in 1999 at Dunedin of the Florida State League, hitting .328 with 20 homeruns. That earned him a number five Blue Jay prospect ranking from Baseball America entering the 2000 season but he struggled in his first exposure to double-A pitching and slid to the #11 spot entering the 2001 campaign. That year is the season that put Phelps on the prospect map as he absolutely crushed Southern League pitchers to the tune of a .292 average, 36 doubles, and 31 homeruns. Promoted to triple-A in 2002 and carrying the badge of the Blue Jays number one prospect, Phelps continued to pound, hitting .292/.380/.658/1.038 with 20 doubles and 24 homeruns in half a season before being promoted to the big leagues. The raking didn't stop as Phelps torched big league hurlers with averages of .292/.362/.562/1.028, 20 doubles, and 15 homeruns over the second half. By this time Phelps had been moved out from behind the plate and into a 1B/DH role and a solid, if not spectacular, 2003 season followed in which Phelps hit .268/.358/.470/.828 with 18 doubles and 20 longballs in just under 400 at-bats. This season, Phelps' numbers were down across the board as he was hitting .237/.296/.417/.713 with 13 doubles and 12 homeruns in just under 300 at-bats for the Jays.
Hidden amongst Phelps' numbers above are two issues which have caused his year-to-year decline in performance since his 2002 rookie season. With the exception of his breakout 2001 double-A campaign, Phelps has posted poor BB/K ratios which indicate that he does not command the strike zone when he's at the plate. In that 2001 season, Phelps walked 80 times versus 127 strikeouts which is easily the best of his career. In 1999, however, even though he mashed at .328 with 19 homeruns, his ratio was 28 BB / 104 K. In 2002 when he mashed at triple-A and in the majors, it was 32 BB / 83 K in AAA and 19 BB / 82 K in the bigs. Last year it was 39 BB / 115 K and this season Phelps has 18 walks versus 73 strikeouts. As we've talked about many times, the ability to control the strike zone (not necessarily walk a lot) is a strong indicator of future success and what appears to be happening is that the book has been written on Phelps and he has not been able to make the necessary adjustments. The ability to control the strike zone goes a long way towards helping a hitter be able to make those adjustments.
The other split that has plagued Phelps throughout his major league tenure is his inability to hit right-handers. After tagging them with a .315 average and 14 homeruns in his 2002 debut, Phelps dropped to a .239 average in 2003 and was hitting just .188 with a .543 OPS this season against righties. That's an astonishing number and limits Phelps to a strict platoon role against left-handers. I suspect we'll see Phelps spending a lot of quality time with Eddie Murray over the next two months.
Eric Crozier is a product of the Indians much-maligned 1999 draft who was snagged as a late round find in the 41st round out of Norfolk State. After struggling in his first two years in the system, Crozier broke out in the first half of 2002 when he hit .326/.423/.508/.931 with 16 doubles and 9 homeruns in Kinston. Although he hit .296 for Akron after a mid-season promotion, he failed to show the power (one homerun) and command of the strike zone (21 BB / 50 K) that he had displayed at Kinston. Returning to Akron last season, Crozier played with a back problem (two hairline fractures in his spine) the whole year, hitting .245/.344/.455/.799 with 19 homeruns. The homers were a career high but just 10 doubles and the low BA kept him off the Indians 40-man roster where he went unclaimed in the Rule 5 draft this past December. Crozier enjoyed a hot spring training this spring which landed him in Buffalo to start the season. His bat caught fire in June and he's stayed hot ever since, posting career numbers across the board with averages of .297/.375/.571/946 and 21 doubles and 20 homeruns. His BB/K ratios have also been acceptable with 36 walks and 67 strikeouts. Never viewed as a serious prospect prior to this season, Crozier turns 26 on Wednesday.
So now that we know the players involved, let's review some of the questions that this deal raises...
1) Where does Phelps fit on the 25-man active roster? Justice B.Hill of mlb.com quotes Mark Shapiro as saying that it's possible the Indians could carry only 11 pitchers until rosters expand on September 1 or "we've got a couple of guys hobbling (DL) or we have some alternate guys we can option" Let's take these one at a time.
If they elect to go with 11 pitchers, that means that one reliever will be sent to Buffalo or traded. Let's not forget that Rick White has been mentioned as being a person of interest to the Giants. Barring that, someone is going to be sent down. Bob Wickman, David Riske, and Bob Howry are pretty safe. Rafael Betancourt, aside from his no-out blowup against the Blue Jays this week, did not allow a run in 8-2/3 innings in July and has been throwing the ball well of late. Matt Miller worked two scoreless frames against the Jays but has allowed runs in four of his previous five outings. Kaz Tadano is the current long-man in the 'pen but hasn't pitched since his last start on Sunday. All of the above three have options remaining so the process of removing them from the 25 is not an issue. If it's Tadano, though, and he may be the most likely of the group, the Indians will then be looking for one (or two) of the above group to offer some length in the middle innings. Rick White is my initial thought for moving into that role. Optioning a pitcher to triple-A, however, does not address how they are going to add Phelps to the 40 which we'll get to in a minute.
Who among the Indians is hobbling? Victor Martinez has a sore hammy but you're not going to replace him on the roster with Josh Phelps who hasn't caught in the big leagues since 2001. Lou Merloni sat out Thursday but was back in the lineup tonight against the Sox and banged out two hits. Jody Gerut? Maybe his shoulder is bothering him enough to warrant a trip to the DL. His .221 batting average since June 1 might have something to do with that as well. Disabling Gerut won't address how they are going to add Phelps to the 40, however, unless they place him on the 60-day DL, which would mean that he's done for the season. Any trip to the DL by Gerut would also mean that the Tribe would essentially be playing with three outfielders (Lawton, Sizemore, and Gerut) with Lou Merloni serving as the fourth. That's not an alignment I can see lasting if one of the starting three is forced to sit out more than a game or two.
So who does Mark Shapiro mean when he says "alternate guys we can option". Gerut, for one, falls into that category. So does Coco Crisp, for that matter, but I can't see Coco going anywhere given the way he's been playing of late (including the big three-run blast tonight). You John McDonald fans can rest easy, Johnny Mac has no options remaining and would almost certainly be claimed on waivers if the Indians tried to sneak him through. Lou Merloni is also out of options. So who does that leave? Ben Broussard has an option left and would seem to be the odd man out given that Hafner is a power left-handed bat and Phelps is a power right-handed bat but how do you option out a player who has a 900+ OPS over the past three months? Could a Broussard trade be in the works? Possibly, but what are the odds that Broussard would clear waivers? Pretty slim. Unless the Indians use that as a means of working a deal involving Broussard similar to what the Blue Jays did with Phelps.
2) Who goes to make room for Phelps on the 40-man roster? Much like the 25, there's a number of different options here so we'll address those one at a time as well.
A trade (like perhaps Rick White to the Giants, which is pure speculation on my part) for a non-40 prospect would clear up a spot. Because anyone traded would have to clear waivers first, you're either looking at a player with a hefty contract or a replacement-level player that won't hold much interest for other teams. The matter is further complicated in dealing with an NL team because I believe that all AL teams have to pass on a player and then NL teams (in reverse order of the current standings) have to pass before the player can be dealt (to the team that claimed him). So, using Rick White to the Giants as an example, White would have to clear through the 14 AL teams and 10 NL teams before the Giants can place a claim. That's why you see only certain types of players dealt in August and it's also why you see a lot of PTBNLs or "guys who would likely be claimed now but can be traded in the offseason without having to go through waivers".
Another option is to place a player on the 60-day disabled list, thus removing him from the 40. Unfortunately, everyone on the Indians DL (Billy Traber, Jason Stanford, Aaron Boone, and Joe Dawley) is already on the 60-day so they don't have anyone on the 15-day DL that they can slide over to clear up a roster spot. To complicate matters, don't forget that a roster spot will need to be created for Aaron Boone when he returns in September. For what it's worth, I think this Phelps deal pretty much precludes Boone from returning before the active rosters expand to 40 on September 1. Anyway, if they disable a player (Gerut?) they could move him directly onto the 60-day DL to open a spot but that player would then be unavailable for the rest of the season.
Short of the above two methods, the Indians can also designate a player for assignment off the 40-man roster. As we've discussed many times, the player would then be exposed to waivers and if he clears, the Indians would then have 10 days to trade, release, or outright him to the minor leagues. If the player has been designated before, he would then have the right to refuse outright assignment to the minors and elect to become a free-agent. This late in the season (less than one month in the minor league season), I'm not sure how viable an option becoming a free agent would be unless you want to spend the rest of August with the wife and kids.
So who might be a candidate for designation? For one, any of the above players with or without options and we've discussed the merits of removing them from the roster. Minor leaguers such as Ivan Ochoa (injured and struggling at Kinston), Mariano Gomez (injured at Akron), Corey Smith (struggling in Akron) might be candidates as well. We talked about the merits of removing Smith from the 40 in Friday's report. Keep in mind, that any team could claim these guys on waivers, add them to their 40, and option them to the minors and the Indians wouldn't receive any compensation. Most 40s are relatively tight at this point in the season but most teams have some flexibility (via the methods above) to create a spot for a prospect they like. There's no doubt that the Indians will face a roster squeeze this offseason and if they go this route with one of the above three it may simply be a case of doing it now or in November. By doing it now they may simply think they have a better chance of sliding a player through than in November.
How's this for a crazy idea? What about designating Tim Laker for assignment to create room for Phelps? That would take care of the 40-man roster but would require another move to add a catcher to the roster. That could be accomplished by recalling Josh Bard (.254/.320/.343) from Buffalo and optioning someone (a pitcher?) to triple-A. Just a thought.
3) Where is Phelps going to get his at-bats? The guy kills lefties and is killed by righties. That's a start. So, let's say he's in the lineup (1B or DH) against lefties, which puts one of Travis Hafner, Ben Broussard, and Lou Merloni at first and the other two on the bench. I can't see them cutting Hafner's at-bats much (if at all) so that means either Hafner or Phelps would be at first which isn't the best thing defensively for the Indians, especially if Jake Westbrook is on the mound. Furthermore, how does this affect Victor Martinez getting out from behind the plate but staying in the lineup as the DH? Against lefties, you're probably looking at Hafner/Phelps at 1B/DH and Martinez behind the plate. Against righties, Hafner at 1B/DH, Broussard at 1B if Hafner DHs, or Hafner at 1B if Martinez at DH. Phelps and Merloni slide in as hunched per Eric Wedge.
4) Where does Phelps fit in the 2005 plans? As complicated as the above scenario may be for including Phelps in the lineup this year, consider that next year Aaron Boone enters the mix which could move Casey Blake over to first base with Travis Hafner moving into a full-time DH role. What that means for Phelps and where he would get consistent at-bats remains to be seen. The above would also certainly seem to leave Ben Broussard as the odd man out as well as Lou Merloni considering that John McDonald would be a much more valuable utility infielder with his defensive ability up the middle and Phelps on the bench to offer right-handed punch (which Merloni now offers). Under that line of thought, Phelps replaces Merloni on the roster and Boone would then replace Broussard. Taking that a step further, your 2005 infield could look like Hafner, Blake, Boone, Phelps, McDonald, Peralta (Vizquel), Phillips (Belliard).
5) Can we afford Phelps in 2005? I believe that Phelps will have 2-1/2 years of MLB service time after this season and will not be arbitration-eligible this unless he falls into the Super-17 category (the 17 two-year players with the most MLB service time) but I don't think that's going to be the case. I could be wrong, though, so we'll see what the Indians official announcement has to say about this. If he's not arb-eligible, the Indians can obviously afford him. If he is eligible for arbitration, without looking at the numbers for comparable players, I could see him playing next season somewhere in the $1 million range and perhaps more. His power numbers will help in that regard. The Indians can obviously afford that but with every dollar sacred, the Indians can ill afford to make a mistake in how, and to whom, they allocate Larry Dolan's money.
6) How does this affect Ryan Ludwick? For this season, probably not much as it doesn't appear that Ludwick is going to be recalled until the rosters expand in September. If he is, considering the difficulties in adding Phelps, something out of the norm would have to happen to create a spot for him. For 2005, with Phelps a 1B and Ludwick an OF, on the surface it doesn't appear that it would affect him that much. But with Ludwick likely battling for a reserve outfield role, the presence of another right-handed power bat on the bench will definitely affect him if the decision comes down to carrying a seventh infielder (Phelps) or a fifth outfielder (Ludwick). A lot can change between now and next April, however.
7) How did Phelps clear waivers? Apparently, he didn't. The Blue Jays placed Phelps on waivers and I'll assume it was to move him in a trade. The Indians placed a claim on him and the two sides negotiated a deal for the Indians to acquire him. If the Blue Jays had not wanted to part with Phelps, they could have recalled him from waivers as I don't believe that August waivers are irrevocable, unless it's the second time they try to slide a player through. So, I think it's pretty obvious that the Jays were looking to move Phelps but it doesn't look like the intended target was the Indians. Or maybe it was, we'll see what reports come out in the press over the next couple of days. Keep in mind, that most players end up on the waiver wire at some point in August as teams look to see which players make it through unclaimed and can then be dealt. If they are claimed, the team can then recall the player from waivers and no one is any the wiser. The danger in claiming a player (or blocking him) just to keep him from being traded is that the waiving team may simply say "go ahead and take him" which is what happened to the Padres a few years ago when they placed a blocking claim on Randy Myers and were forced to take on his $6 million salary when the Blue Jays (I think) said "he's all yours, (com)padre".
8) Why was Crozier expendable? The problem that Crozier faced with the Indians was Travis Hafner, Michael Aubrey, and Ryan Garko. Hafner is already entrenched as one of the best young hitters in the American League while Aubrey and Garko are younger than Crozier (who turns 26 next Wednesday) and coming fast. One (or both) will likely spend a considerable amount of time in Buffalo next season. Crozier has played some outfield (first in the Arizona Fall League in 2002) and then this season with the Bisons but he faces the same logjam in front and below him in the outfield. Because of that, it's unlikely that Crozier would have been added to the 40-man roster this off-season and he almost assuredly would have been selected in the Rule 5 draft this December. In short, Crozier was expendable and his improvement at the plate this season allowed the Indians to move him for help. By the way, this is a very good career move for Crozier who should have an opportunity to compete for major league at-bats next season with Carlos Delgado a free-agent and unlikely to return. That's an opportunity he likely would not have received in Cleveland.
9) Ok, he was expendable but so was Ryan Church (.345/.435/.612/1.047) and Maicer Izturis (.350/.434/.427/.861) and look what they're doing in triple-A. Good point.
10) Did we get good value for Crozier? When evaluating Crozier, recognize that on one hand, you've got a player with a 900+ OPS and 21 homeruns in his first season at triple-A while on the other hand you've got a player who's 26 years old and has never played in the major leagues. Both of those hands are Crozier lest there be any confusion in what I'm trying to say there. Could Crozier be a late bloomer? Sure. But 26-year olds in triple-A who have never been viewed as a prospect and have never sniffed the major leagues don't usually bring a high return in trade. In Phelps, the Indians have landed a player three months older than Crozier with 2-1/2 years of big league experience and legitimate major league power skills. I think they got pretty good value for Crozier.
11) Is this a good trade for the Indians? I think it is. In the short term, Phelps is an upgrade in the lineup against left-handers, spelling either Ben Broussard or Travis Hafner, for a club that is 18-24 against left-handers this season (note that they beat Mark Buerhle last night). In the long-term, Phelps is a player with 30-35 homerun potential from the right side which is something that the organization lacks. If you want to think of him as potentially a right-handed version of Travis Hafner, that's fine, given the size, position, and power skills of both players. Recognize, however, that Phelps lacks the plate discipline pedigree that Hafner brought with him to the big leagues. At a minimum, Phelps looks like an excellent platoon bat against left-handers and there's always value in having a guy like that on your bench if you spot him into the lineup well. It doesn't help that he'll likely be at a club-friendly price for next season while providing that "eat lefties" stick off the bench. If he doesn't fit into the teams plans, he still has decent trade value, perhaps more than a player like Crozier, and can be used to fill another hole on the roster. Good move by Mark Shapiro. Good move for the Indians.
P.S. In what may have been the most important game of the year, CC Sabathia came through with a huge outing and the bullpen was sensational. Belliard's play to end the game was beautifully instinctual and I wish the Browns OL blocked as well as did Tim Laker did on that play. Great, great game. Let's hope they can build on it tonight.