Is this thing on?

A play-by-play guy trying to survive in a mid-major world

Archive for the month “June, 2009”

Good-bye Garrett Jones…WHAT A DAY!

 

G jones.JPGIndians slugger Garrett Jones is on his way to Pittsburgh.  Today the Pirates traded OF/DH Eric Hinske to the New York Yankees for a pair of 23 year olds.  Jones has been called up to replace Hinske on the Bucs 25 man roster.  This season Jones was hitting .307 (9th in the IL) with a team leading 12 home runs (T4th in the IL) and 49 runs batted in (3rd in the IL). The International League All-Star team will be announced on Thursday and Garrett Jones deserves a bid, but I’m sure he’ll take the promotion to the Big Leagues ahead of the Triple-A All-Star game.  All the best to Garrett Jones…he will be missed. 

The players acquired from the Yankees are OF/C Eric Fryer and RHP Casey Erickson.  They are expected to join the Pirates lower levels.  I expected the Indians to activate OF/1B Larry Broadway from the disabled list to take the spot vacated by Jones.  This month Indianapolis has sent OF Andrew McCutchen, OF/1B Steve Pearce, OF Garrett Jones, and RHP Virgil Vasquez to Pittsburgh.  When you add in the loss of 3B Neil Walker to the DL, the Tribe have lost four starters and a reliable pitcher within the past 25 days.  The loss of the four batters means the club is missing 41% of their hits, 59% of their home runs, 47% of their RBI’s, and 41% of their total runs scored.  We’ll see if that loss is too much for the Indians to overcome.

On another note this is the fourth time within a year the Pirates have dealt with the New York Yankees.  The first move was the July ’08 deal that brought RHP Ross Ohlendorf, RHP Daniel McCutchen, RHP Jeff Karstens, and OF Jose Tabata to the Pirates for OF Xavier Nady and RHP Damaso Marte.  This past May Pittsburgh sent RHP Romulo Sanchez to the Yankees Triple-A club for RHP Eric Hacker and shortly there after the Bucs claimed RHP Steven Jackson off waivers.  The pitching thin Yankees have sent six pitchers to the Pirates for…squat.

Here is a quick note from one of last night’s offensive stars Chris Barnwell.  Although his personality is such that you would not be able to tell, but Chris is off to one of the slowest starts in his career.  Last night Barnwell broke out of a 3 for 45 slump (only 5 strikeouts) with three hits and he scored a pair of runs in the Indians 6-5 win over Toledo.  Barnwell has emerged as one of the clubhouse leaders and he has a competitive edge to him that will keep you on your toes.  There is another side to Barnwell and he has asked me to provide my readers with a link that is very important to him.

Chris and his family has set up a scholarship fund in the memory of his dad Timothy.  They have a goal of $25,000 and are slowly moving forward.  A few days ago he asked me to spread the word to the masses and I promised him I’ll do it when he busts out with some hits.  Well, he held up his end of the bargain so I’m going to hold up mine.  I did joke with him that if everyone who reads my blog donated one dollar he would have…a buck.  In all seriousness, please take a look at the website and anything beyond that is very much appreciated and will go a long way.

I’ll post the Indians line-up later on this afternoon.  Brad Lincoln will make his Victory Field debut and make just his second career Triple-A start.  

2:45 UPDATE:

A lot is happening right now with the Indians parent club.  Both the Post-Gazette and By Gosh are reporting that another trade is in the works.  Jen Langosch goes on to say the next trade may move another player from the Indians to the Pirates.  Stay tuned

Take a look at today’s line-up and compare it to the Tribe’s line-up on June 1st.  Quite a few changes this month.

 June 30, 2009                            June 1, 2009

 

Pedro Lopez      LF                    Andrew McCutchen        CF

Chris Barnwell   3B                    Jeff Salazar                   LF

Jeff Salazar       CF                    Garrett Jones                 RF

Erik Kratz          C                      Steve Pearce                 1B

Brian Myrow      1B                    Neil Walker                   3B

Hector Gimenez DH                   Erik Kratz                      C

Larry Broadway  RF                    Larry Broadway              DH

Luis Cruz          SS                    Shelby Ford                   2B

Shelby Ford       2B                    Brian Bixler                   SS   

If more moves come about, I’ll keep you up to date.  One big note is tonight’s game will be televised on Comcast Cable channel 81 and Brighthouse Cable channel 2.  TV coverage begins at 7:00 and the two cable companies have signed on to carry 18 of the remaining home games with the opportunity to add even more.  So for those of you who can’t pick us up on the North Side of Indy can now enjoy the Tribe from the comforts of your home.  

3:00 UPDATE:

It’s always great to catch up with some former players.  It looks like one is back in the International League. 

4:45 UPDATE:  

Someone check the calender and make sure today is June 30th and not July 30th.  Although the trading deadline is a month away the Pirates have made two separate trades.  Along with the Hinske deal the Pirates have officially traded Nyjer Morgan (Indians ’07-’08) and Sean Burnett (’06, ’07, ’08) to the Washington Nationals.  In return the Bucs receive OF Lastings Milledge and RHP Joel Hanrahan.  Hanrahan will go into the Pirates ‘pen to replace Burnett and Milledge will report to the Pirates spring training site to continue his rehab assignment and then join the Indians in a week to 10 days.

Just minutes ago OF Jeff Salazar left the middle of batting practice and he is on the way to Pittsburgh.  Salazar can be added to the roster without the Pirates making a move.  He is hoping to make it to PNC Park before the end of the game.  (Good luck Jeff, watch out for Columbus traffic)

Salazar is hitting .265 with 10 home runs and 36 runs batted in.  He was also a perfect 16 for 16 in stolen bases.  This will be the third Big League stop for Salazar who has time with Colorado and Arizona.

Luis Cruz will replace Salazar in CF tonight…wow, what a day.           

Snell strikes out 17!

Less than 24 hours after Tom Gorzelanny strikes out 12 batters, Ian Snell establishes a Victory Field record by striking out 17 Toledo Mud Hens.  This afternoon Snell walked the first batter of the game and then preceded to strikeout the NEXT 13 BATTERS!  Let that sink in a for a moment…he asked for an option from Pittsburgh (2-8 with an ERA above 5) and set down 13 straight via the K.  His first victim Scott Sizemore looked at a fast ball on the outside corner.  Snell got the next three batters swinging before freezing Brent Dlugach with a heater down the middle of the plate.  The next four batters swung and missed (we’re now up to 9) before Sizemore looked at strike three for the second time.  Snell finished off the 4th inning by striking out Clete Thomas and Jeff Larish.  After getting Larish, Snell turned his back to home plate and pumped his fist.  Why not?  That was his 12th consecutive punch-out.  Number 13 was Brent Clevlen opening up the 5th with a swing and a miss. 

For Ian Snell this afternoon…7 innings pitched, 1 unearned run, 2 hits, 1 walk, and an IL best 17 strikeouts.  It’s only one start, but I wonder if the Pirates phones will be ringing tonight?  Is anyone interested in a 27 year who sat at 94 miles per hour and hit 96 at least a dozen times this afternoon?

I was able to ask him two post game questions before Jason Davis nailed Ian with a towel full of shaving cream.

On striking out 13 straight

“It felt good today and these guys welcomed me with open arms and it felt good to see fresh faces and this crowd was great today.  I loved pitching here in ’05 and today was a great feeling and I’m enjoying it.”

When did you last feel that type of comfort on the mound?

“I haven’t felt like that all year and as soon as I got here they guys made me”

….BOOM!  He was then nailed with shaving cream ending the interview.  In case you are wondering he waited for me to finish calling the 10th inning and was very gracious during the interview.  To be real honest he hasn’t stop smiling since he arrived yesterday. 

I get that same feeling when Ollie Perez was pitching for us in ’06 (By the way he struck out 13 Mud Hens in his first start after an option from Pittsburgh).  Snell, like Perez may be pitching for a trade.  He was awesome today. 

8:00 UPDATE :

Here is more from Ian Snell…

“I just worked off my fastball.  The guys made me feel welcome here.  It was just fun to see this relaxed and fun atmosphere.  Nothing against the guys up there you know they work hard they do everything.  I just have a lot of thoughts going through my head and I just wanted to get my thoughts together and it felt great.  I felt awesome today and they made me feel awesome.”

“It’s just the fans are electric here.  You can tell, even though they don’t say much or cheer much they pay attention to the game.  It was just fun pitching in front of them again.”

“I owe a lot of credit to (Catcher Erik) Kratz.  He did a tremendous job of setting up you know he didn’t set up too early where they can see where I’m going.  He mixed the pitches real well and when I left a pitch up he reminded me you know your elbow is hanging over or your head is bouncing over.  A lot of it had to do with him and I have to give a lot of the credit to him because he did a great job of game-calling.”

 

Gorzelanny strikes out 12

I don’t think I’m sticking my neck out much when I say that Tom Gorzelanny may be named the IL’s pitcher of the week.  This week the 26 year old lefty won both of his starts allowing one earned run (0.90 ERA) and striking out 19 over 10 innings.  Last night Gorzelanny’s fastball ran up to 93 miles per hour and he blew it past several Toledo hitters.  He was lifted after 87 pitches and who knows what his strikeout total would have been if he was fully stretched out.  Remember Tom spent a month in the Pirates bullpen and reclaiming his endurance.  Setting aside the strikeout numbers, the past two starts for Gorzelanny have me thinking about 2006.  His fastball has renewed life and his slider is nearly unhittable.  Well, now I’m just gushing…I’ll stop.  If he is named the League’s pitcher of the week he will become the 1st player for the Indians this season and the first pitcher since Bryan Bullington took home the honor last year for the week of May 19-25.

I’m rolling the dice with my next prediction, but perhaps the Tribe will pull of an awards sweep if CF Jeff Salazar is named the IL’s batter of the week.  Since Monday the 28 year old left-hander is batting .440 (11/25) with 3 home runs and has scored 6 runs.  It’s a long shot for Sally, who is having his best week in over a month.  Entering June he was hitting .279 and saw the average fall as low as .241 on June 22.  This recent stretch has him hitting .259 and vying to become the first Indians hitter to win the League’s weekly honor since Michael Ryan won the award back in ’07 for the week of June 18-24.  If it’s not Salazar look for Toledo’s Clete Thomas to take home the honor.  He is hitting an even .500 (17/34) this week with 6 extra-base hits.   

The Zooperstars were at the Vic last night.  In this picture Harry Canary just wrapped up the the 7th inning stretch.

LHV 014.jpgThroughout the years I have seen plenty of Minor League acts.  For my money the Zooperstars are one of the best entertainment acts out there.  I also like Birdzerk, Myron Noodleman, and even though they are no longer in business the Blues Brothers.  The Blues Brothers hold a special place in my heart because after a game in South Bend they let me drive the “Bluesmobile” a few blocks from South Bend’s Coveleski Stadium to a downtown BW-3.  Some silly copyright law put them out of business a few years back. 

Here are some pictures of Coca-Cola Park. 

LHV 010.jpgYou can see from the pictures that they are drawing large crowds and the atmosphere rivals that of Durham and Pawtucket.  The fans were into the game right from the start and even had some clever chants depending on who was at the plate.  The only unusual chant was that of DE-FENSE whenever the Indians would get a guy on base.  I’ve never heard that at a baseball game, but Philly Phan is a little different than most.  Indians 1B Brian Myrow blasted a ball to right field that landed at the bottom of the ‘P’ in PenTele Data sign.  Pigs 1B Andy Tracy says he hasn’t seen too many travel farther than Myrow’s blast.  Check out the grass pattern in this next picture.

LHV 012.jpgThe groundskeeper mowed 7 baseballs in the grass.  The pattern starts at home plate with a ball about three feet in diameter and fans out to right center field.  Each ball is mowed differently giving you the appearance it is spinning out of the yard for a home run.  It’s one of the cooler patterns I’ve seen in a long time.  A year ago the Phillies script ‘P‘ was mowed into the outfield grass.  Indians groundskeeper Joey Stevenson told me the Iron Pigs groundskeeper used to work for the Mets.  While with the Mets he once mowed this classic pattern.

Coca-Cola Park only seats 10,000 fans and that feels like the right capacity with their location to Philadelphia.  When push comes to shove I’ll take Huntington Park in Columbus, but the Pigs new home is a close second.  One more picture for you.

LHV 006.jpgI have an update on the hotel ghost stories.  The feedback was tremendous and I wanted to share with you this comment. 

I used to work valet at the Radisson in Scranton and my manager used to talk about how the place was haunted. He said a cleaning lady encountered a ghost on the 6th floor and ran out the building screaming to never came back again. He said someone jumped off the 6th floor and commit suicide and that ghost haunts the place.  That baseballs players story is scary as hell though!

I hope this helps a little as more proof that the place is haunted. 

Well, well, well it seems the Lackawanna may have itself a permanent visitor.  Thanks for the comment and reading the blog.   

  

A room with a Boo!

Indians fans, you can expect a move or two over the next 24 hours.  This blog isn’t in the business of breaking stories, but rather covering them and I can tell you that RHP Virgil Vasquez was looking good in his travel clothes.  Based on the hand shakes he was receiving, Virgil will be making his Pirates debut either Friday or Sunday.  Vasquez was pulled from his Indians start after just one inning on Tuesday night to make sure he could pitch if need this weekend in Pittsburgh.  It now appears he will be needed. 

The Scranton and Lehigh Valley trips allow the players to stay in the two most historic hotels International League has to offer.  The Radisson Lackawanna Station Hotel in Scranton was built back in 1908 serving as one of the busiest railroad terminals in the East.  In 1977 the six story historic landmark underwent a multi-million dollar makeover becoming the hotel it is today.  The Hotel Bethlehem is the home for road teams when they play Lehigh Valley and it has been in its current form since 1922.  The Hotel Bethlehem is registered with The Historic Hotels of America and stands in the same spot where the original ‘First House of Bethlehem” was built back in 1741.  You can’t help but feel like you’ve been swept back in time when you walk the streets of this quaint historic town.  There are numerous cafes along Main Street and I’ve noticed quite a few players enjoying lunch along the sidewalks.  All of the players agree, the hotels give you a real sense of history, too bad their both HAUNTED…Dun-Dun-Dunnnnnh!

Let’s begin with the Lackawanna Hotel.  I was first made aware of the ghosts back in 2006 by Gookie Dawkins who believed this place was haunted.  Personally I’ve never come in contact with a ghost, but that doesn’t keep me from tossing and turing throughout the night.  A current member of the Indians shared with the team three different ghost stories.  I’m protecting his identity, but I’ll tell you the events took place while he was playing for another IL team.  He says the 6th floor is where all the action is.

The player told us that one night around midnight three of his teammates were walking down the hallway on the 6th floor and encountered a ghost who last leaning over a railing.  The railing overlooked the dinning room that was located six floors below.  The three players stopped dead in their tracks and claim the ghost told them he was killed in a car accident.  As he was talking to them, his head spun around 360 degrees.  The ghost jumped over the railing and the baseball players sprinted to their rooms.  As he was telling us this story we called BS.  He claims the three guys who encountered the ghost were not drinkers, but some of the most Christian players on the team.  All that tells me is they weren’t drunk, but still it’s hard to believe.  The next story involved him.

On the same trip as the head spinning ghost, the current Indians player woke up at 2:00 am and thought he was having a seizure.  He room was freezing cold and couldn’t move his arms because it felt like they were pinned down.  He flexed and couldn’t move and feared his body was locking up.  Then after 20 seconds or so he felt released and immediately broke out into a heavy sweat.  He turned on all the lights and went into the bathroom and saw red marks on is forearms and biceps.  For the next hour he sat on his bed with the lights on until his roommate came back from the bars.  They switched rooms and to this day he believes he was held down by a ghost.

The third and final story came on a different road trip.  Two Latin players were sharing a room on the 6th floor and while one of them was using the bathroom sink the lights went out.  He didn’t think anything of it and turned them back on.  A minute or so later the switch TURNED off.  Now he was freaked and yelled for his rommy to come into the bathroom.  He arrived laughing and took a swipe at the light switch to turn it on with “a little authority”.  The lights turned on and then the switch turned off and on at a rapid pace.  It went up and down for 10 seconds, but it could have been longer because they were running down the hallway searching for another room.

No one at the front desk was willing to discuss ghosts and I couldn’t get anything out of the bartenders or cooks.  I was told by a former waitress at the Lackawanna that the basement and the 6th floors are haunted, but she says she never noticed anything.  All we have are stories from baseball players which have me wondering if this is just baseball folklore.  I can tell you several of the players believe the stories and when we arrived on Friday morning a pitcher moved his room assignment from the 6th floor to the 3rd floor.  Personally, I think I want to believe there are ghosts because it makes the stay more interesting.  Unfortunately, I can’t find any claims on the Internet and have to take the word of baseball players who are know for being the best of the best when it comes to practical jokes.

The Hotel Bethlehem is a different story, it’s haunted by Casper.  There are reports of ghosts, but all of the stories online and from the hotel staff confirm friendly ghosts roam the 9th floor.  Once a year the hotel will embrace the ghosts and offer a weekend package.  The package includes a workshop on finding and recording ghosts, ghost tours through Bethlehem, and of course a complimentary bloody mary at midnight.  I have not heard any stories, but a few guys will have to wait until Friday night to get a good night sleep.

If for whatever reason you have to visit Scranton, PA or Bethlehem, PA I do recommend the hotels.  The staff’s are terrific and the historic feel the both offer creates a relaxing atmosphere.  Don’t let a couple of ghost stories scare you away.

4:30 UPDATE:

Pirates right handed starting pitcher Ian Snell has been optioned to Indianapolis.  Here is the story from Jen Langosch.  Wow, Snell was 11-3 with a 3.70 ERA with Indianapolis in 2005.  That year he threw the only 9 inning no-hitter in Victory Field history on May 15 vs. Norfolk.  Last year Snell signed a 3 year 8.6 million dollar deal with club options for 2011 and 2012. 

11:30 UPDATE:

LHV.jpgThe Indians lost 5-4 tonight against the Iron Pigs.  Here is a picture of LH Donnie Veal warming up at Coca-Cola Park.  Did you see who won the game for the Pirates tonight?  Andrew McCutchen is becoming a Pittsburgh favorite just like he was a fan favorite in Indianapolis.  His game winner came against my favorite team, but I’m thrilled for him and he is having a great start to his Major League career.

Virgil Vasquez is getting the start tomorrow night for the Pirates.  Good luck to Virge and I hope you check Friday’s box score, even if you’re not a Pirates fan.   

           

 

 

Lincoln dazzles in debut

The Indians beat Lehigh Valley 4-1 tonight to make a winner out of Brad Lincoln.  The Pirates 2006 1st round pick took a one-hit shutout into the 7th inning and settled for 6.2 innings of two hit ball giving up just a run and striking out four.  He was better than advertised, mixing a commanding fastball and sharp curveball to cool off one of the leagues hottest teams.  I had a chance to talk with our star of the game immediately after the last out. 

Did you feel today as good as you looked on the mound?

Yeah,besides the first inning, I had the butterflies going when I walked that first guy and that kinda got to me, but I was able to settle down and get into my groove as I have been all year and I was happy to see the guys do their job behind me.  It was a great night.

Was it an advantage for you to be with the team the past three days?

Absolutely, getting in the dugout and feeling the atmosphere at this level was something that I needed.  It’s better than just showing up and stepping right in.  Being able to sit with Ray (Pitching Coach Ray Searage) and watching the hitters allowed me to understand what I need to do to get guys out at this level.  It was a big key for me.

What was your strength tonight?

Being able to command pitches was huge.  Early on I struggled to get strike one, but as it is at any level it tends to be easier when you get ahead and I settled down after the first couple of innings and I was able to do that.  That really helped me. 

How about collecting two hits?

That was exciting.  That’s something I’ve been looking forward to doing.  I was a hitter in college and I was anxious to get in the box and was fortunate to get those knocks, but I’m here to pitch and not here to hit so that was an added bonus.

Did you feel any pressure tonight?

Um, besides the butterfiles, no.  I felt I could compete with the best of them and that’s the way I am.  I’m confident with my stuff and hopefully I showed that tonight.  I’m not afraid of anyone and I’ll go right at anybody and that helped me get through the game.

He was on cloud nine after the game and before the interview I waited for his teammates to congratulate him.  It was really neat to see Jeremy Powell shake his hand and offer him congrats.  Jason Davis gave him a hand shake and offered up some private words.  You could see that his teammates appreciate him and the effort he put forth tonight.

Lincoln just beat a team that had won 11 of their last 13 game, scoring better than 7 runs a game over that stretch.  Tonight he held that team to one hit through 6 innings winning in his Triple-A debut. 

 

Taking 2 and about those boots

The Indianapolis Indians smacked four home runs and won both games in last night’s double-header at Scranton.  With the wins the Tribe snapped a three game losing streak and got some revenge against the Yankees.  Scranton swept a twin bill from the Indians back on May 7th.  Last night’s offensive heroes included OF Garrett Jones (5-7, HR), Erik Kratz (HR), and Jeff Salazar (HR in each game).  On the pitching side of things Tom Gorzelanny (W, 5IP, ER, 7K) won game one and looked very sharp.  He had command of the fastball and didn’t waste anytime in beating the Yanks.  Daniel McCutchen (6IP, 3ER) was a winner in the nightcap and retired the last 9 batters he faced.  It was great to see the players bounc back after sitting for two days.  They didn’t show any rust and bring a little momentum into this upcoming series at Lehigh Valley. 

I want to share with you two updates on a couple of boots.  The first boot has been on the left foot of Larry Broadway.  Last Wednesday Broadway was accidently spiked when he beat out an infield hit at first base. Since then he has been in a walking boot protecting his stitches.  I spotted Larry this afternoon walking through our hotel without the boot.  He says he is officially out of the boot, but still may be a week away from playing in a game.  Larry isn’t on the DL and he plans on sitting in the dugout tonight.  The injury has forced him to sit in the clubhouse during games. 

While the improvement for Larry is certainly good news the news continues to get better for Tribe closer Chris Bootcheck.  “Booter” converted his 8th consecutive save in game two last night by working a scoreless 7th inning (remember only 7 inning games when you play two).  Bootcheck struck out two raising his season total to 46 in only 31 innings of work.  Booter is 1-0 with 4 saves in his last 9 appearances.  Over that stretch he has worked 8.2 innings of scoreless relief giving up just four hits and striking out 15.  Friends, Chris Bootcheck should be a Triple-A All-Star.  Here is a picture of Bootcheck finishing off Yankees OF prospect Austin Jackson.

SWB 015.jpgThe much anticipated Triple-A debut of RH Brad Lincoln will come tomorrow night.  Tribe pitching coach Ray Searage likes the 65 K’s in 75 inning that Lincoln put up in Double-A Altoona, but wants the ’06 first round pick to know this is a much different level than the one he just dominated.  In just two short days I’ve come to like Lincoln.  He has been sitting back and watching the vets and asking questions in preparation for his start.  It appears he is humble and I’m excited to see him toe the slab tomorrow night. 

The Indians leave PNC Field (new name, but a 20 year old stadium) for Coca-Cola Park.  I’ll have some pictures of CCP later this week, but here are some shots from Scranton’s home.

SWB 019.jpgTom Gorzelanny is set to face Yankees SS Justin Leone.  PNC sits near the base of Montage Mountain.  This place was cut into the mountain side giving it a very unique feel.  Hitters tell me it’s a great place to hit because of the Mountain.  You can really see the ball out of the pitchers hand and it jumps down the lines.

SWB 016.jpgThis view gives you a better idea of where the stadium sits within the mountain.  That is a movie theatre at the top of the mountain and most of the players went there to watch “The Hangover” on Saturday afternoon.  Plenty of movie quotes have been spit out by the guys over the past two days.

 

SWB 011.jpgWhen the Yankees moved their Triple-A team to Scranton the first thing they did was rip up the Astroturf and put down natural grass.  The natural grass is a HUGE improvement not only for the players, but for the look of the stadium.  The dimensions are the same as old Veterans Stadium.  Until the Yanks moved in this was Phillies country.  Ryan Howard won an IL MVP in Scranton and Derek Jeter played an All-Star game here, but unless you have a Phillies media guide you will never know that information.  For some reason when New York rolled into town Scranton management took down anything that had to do with Philly and replaced it with Yankees memorabilia.  These types of moves really bother me.  (Did you know that RB Earnest Byner is in the Baltimore Ravens Ring of Honor?  Did they take his fumble?)  From 1988 through 2006 the Phillies called Scranton home and yet there are pictures of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, and other Yankees greats on their concourse walls.  Come on guys…Really?  There have been several different affiliates come through Indianapolis and the Indians do a terrific job of highlighting the players who were in Indy.  You don’t see pictures of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell at Victory Field because THEY didn’t play for the Tribe.  I understand the boost in merchandise sales and ticket sales the Scranton area received when the Yankees came into town, but the kids and fans in that area need to be reminded of the great stars the called Scranton home. 

Time to go watch some batting practice.  Tonight our pitching match-up has RH Virgil Vasquez on the hill for the Tribe opposite Iron Pigs righty Rodrigo Lopez.  Lehigh Valley took three out of four from the Tribe June 2 through the 5th at Victory Field.

8:30 UPDATE:

So is Virgil Vasquez going to the Big Leagues?  Vasquez started tonight for the Indians and retired the side in order and didn’t show any signs of discomfort.  “VV” needed only 12 pitches to set the Iron Pigs down in order.  When it came time for him to begin the bottom of the 2nd inning he was in the dugout and Ty Taubenheim was in the game. 

Was he hurt?  No, Indians trainer Jose Ministral was in the dugout and I noticed Virgil was there as well and appeared to be joking with teammates.  This is only speculation, but he didn’t appear to be hurt and I noticed in Pittsburgh Pirates starter Ian Snell lasted only 2.2 innings before Jeff Karstens entered the game.  Perhaps the Pirates pulled Virgil because with Karstens pitching in relief the Pirates will need another arm in the bullpen.  That all sounds good, but Virgil was lifted in our game before Snell was lifted in the Bucs game.  This story makes sense, but the timing doesn’t.  In any event I get the feeling Vasquez is on the move…whether it’s Pittsburgh or another organization remains to be seen.

11:00 UPDATE:   

First the good news, everything is fine with Virgil Vasquez.  He was pulled from tonight’s start because he may be needed later this week in Pittsburgh.  Here is what the Pittsburgh Post Gazette has on a potential move.  If the Pirates need Virgil he will make his Pirates debut on Friday, but if he isn’t needed expect him to make his start for the Indians on Sunday.

As for tonight, Lehigh Valley beat the Tribe 6-3.  RHP Brad Lincoln makes his Triple-A debut tomorrow night for Indianapolis. 

 

          

 

Lincoln has joined the Indians

Brad Lincoln (1-5, 2.28 ERA, 65K, 75IP) left Double-A Altoona early this morning and walked into the visiting clubhouse around 10:45 am.  Lincoln is expected to join the Indians starting rotation, but I have not been told when he will pitch or who moves to the bullpen.  It’s only speculation, but Lincoln may replace Ty Taubenheim and if that’s the case Lincoln would start for the Indians Wednesday evening at Lehigh Valley.  He told me he was tired from the two short plan flights and to my surprise he is shorter than I expected.  I didn’t anticipate him standing 6-3, but he is only about 5-10.  (I should have checked, he’s only listed at 5-11) We spoke for a couple of minutes and he seems like a nice enough guy and his numbers prove that he belongs in Triple-A.

Today’s scheduled double-header is currently on hold.  PNC Field has taken on too much rain and the grounds crew is currently using leaf blowers to dry up the wet and sloppy outfield grass. 

SWB 010.jpgThat picture is from the radio booth and you may be able to make out the three members of the grounds crew drying the right field grass.  The Indians are scheduled to start LH Tom Gorzelanny in game one and RH Daniel McCutchen in game 2. 

Dejan Kovacevic has a nice article on Andrew McCutchen and Nyjer Morgan.  This is a neat little back story on the great picture of the two speedsters.  Since the Pirates began their working agreement with Indianapolis, Indians fans have been treated to some terrific centerfielders.  How about this list of the men who have patrolled center since 2005; Chris Duffy (’05, ’06, ’08), Nate McLouth (’05), Rich Thompson (’05, ’06), Rajai Davis (’06, ’07), Nyjer Morgan (’07, ’08), and Andrew McCutchen (’07, ’08, ’09).  That is an awesome list featuring terrific fielders and some blazers.  I was not with the Indians during the 2005 season, but from all accounts Chris Duffy is the best defensive centerfielder of the group.  When you combine his ability to read the ball of the bat and his routes you have a gold glove centerfielder.  Yes, even he is even better than reigning NL gold glover Nate McLouth.  Too bad Duffy was a knucklehead, but that’s a topic for another day.  When it comes to defense I’m told none of the men listed above were better than Duffy.

The conversation gets exciting when you talk about the speed of this group.  All of them can run and the sleeper speedster is Rich Thompson, but there is no denying Davis, Morgan, and McCutchen are the three fastest of this group.  I have had the pleasure of watching all three guys and in my opinion it’s McCutchen #1, Davis #1A, and Morgan #2.  The fastest runner to first base was Nyjer Morgan (left-handed hitter) and I believe he was the best base stealer.  NO ONE in baseball runs faster than Andrew McCutchen does from 1st base to 3rd base.  Dejan’s article in the today’s Post-Gazette does a nice job of explaining why ‘Cutch is so good at running the bases.  Here’s a hint for youngsters…he practiced running the bases.  I loved watching McCutchen run the bases and marvel the amount of stand-up triples he has this season.  It seems he never needs to slide into the third base.  With all of that said, Rajai Davis would give ‘Cutch a run for his money.  I believe in a straight line race Davis is the fastest of the three.  Davis is a true sprinter who can flat our fly on the bases.  Someone in Pittsburgh has to tell me if Davis, Morgan, and McCutchen ever dueled in a sprinting contest during spring training.  My guess is Morgan finishes third with a photo finish between Davis and McCutchen. 

News and Notes: 

If we play today the Indians will look to snap a three game losing streak.  The Tribe has lost five of their last six games and currently sits 5.5 games behind Louisville.  The Bats are 14-5 this month jumping from third place to first place, 5 games clear of 2nd place Columbus. 

I took at deeper look at the Indians DH situation.  Due to the Pirates playing in the NL, the Indians have never had a true DH slugger.  For a time Brad Eldred was that guy, but even he played at first base.  I have always felt the Indians were at a disadvantage when they play a team like Scranton or Toledo.  Those squads can get away with signing an aging free agent and have them DH every game.  Well the Indians have used several different players in a DH role.  The DH has been needed in 38 of 66 games and the combined numbers include a batting average of .208 (25/120), 2 homers and 14 runs batted in.  Ugh, how ugly is that?  On the flip side pitchers are batting .170 (9/53) with 2 extra-base hits and 6 runs batted in.  Don’t get me wrong, a pitcher is not going to add to your offense, but this illustrates the lack of production from the Tribe’s DH spot.  What can I say, I had some time in the hotel room last night and when I get bored I like to research numbers. 

Hopefully we’ll play sometime this afternoon.  I want to wish everyone a very happy and safe Father’s Day.  I placed the call to my Dad earlier today and when I get back home we are going to hit the links. 

2:00 UPDATE:   

The field is still unplayable.  They just announced today’s DH has been postponed and a DH is scheduled for tomorrow at 5:35.  That means the Indians will only play three of the scheduled four games and the Indians season has been cut from 144 games to 143.  I still get paid for 144 game right?  

Steve Pearce is called up

Minutes after Friday’s loss at Scranton Steve Pearce was informed that he was flying to Denver to join the Pittsburgh Pirates.  It wasn’t hard to figure out that something was up when Pearce was moved from 1B to RF just minutes before Thursday’s game vs. Gwinnett.  The move to the outfield pushes Pearce to the big leagues, but don’t for one minute believe he likes the move from first base.  He was in the outfield for all of spring training, but near the end the Pirates told him would only be at 1B and that was the case until Thursday.  Pearce had not shagged in the outfield or put on his outfielder glove until Thursday.  So when I saw him in right I immediately knew that he was the next player to get a promotion.  Steve and his teammates knew what was up when they saw the move.  

Our travel attire calls for slacks and a dress shirt.  Pearce came prepared by wearing his suit jacket on the trip.  You see a suit jacket is required in the Majors and in the back of Pearce’s mind he knew the call was coming and it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.  I wish him all the best to and I hope he is in the Pirates line-up each and every day.  Someone let Andrew McCutchen know that he’ll need to shade more towards right and put on his track shoes because he may need to cover some of Pearce’s space in right field.  Once the word was out that Pearce was getting the call the rest of the Indians wanted to know what move the Pirates made.  Everyone knew that no one was hurt and that the Bucs would have to make a move.  Pittsburgh designated OF Craig Monroe for assignment and he is not only removed from the 25 man roster, but the 40 man roster as well.  So as of today there is a spot that can be filled by OF Garrett Jones (.293/10HR/42RBI/.333OBP) or RHP Chris Bootcheck (1-2/10SV/30IP/44K) or RHP Mike Koplove (1-3/6SV/0.91ERA/1.04WHIP).  Anyone of those guys can be added and the Pirates will not have to remove anyone who is currently on the 40 man roster.

The loss of Pearce leaves a huge hole in the Indians line-up.  Already this month the Tribe has lost McCutchen (a deserved promotion), Neil Walker (currently on DL), and Pearce.  (Add up the numbers and the Tribe has lost 31% of their hits, 31% of their runs scored, 44% of their home runs, and 35% of their runs batted in.)  The main issue the Indians are facing is there isn’t anyone at Double-A who can move to Indy and make an impact.  With OF/1B Larry Broadway in a walking boot and the loss of Pearce the Indians will have only ONE position player available on the bench.  Now, I think the Tribe can get away with this while playing Scranton, but come Tuesday when we will be playing by National League rules the Indians will need a player.  Or we will continue to see pitchers wearing spikes and getting pinch-hit at-bats.  I’m sure someone will move from Double-A, but if there is an available vet don’t be surprised if there is a deal similar to the one last week that brought Chris Snelling to the Pirates for future considerations.  The real lack of minor league depth is another reason why players like Nate McLouth are dealt and I expect more deals to happen.

The excitement of the Pearce promotion put a cap to a pretty good day.  For the first time since the late 60′s the Indians boarded a private chartered plane.  The last road trip brought us the debut of the sleeper bus and this road trip features a charter.

SWB 005.jpgInstead of the usual 5 am wake-up call and connecting flights, the Indians boarded a bus at 9:15 am and drove right up to their plane that would take team directly to Scranton-Wilkes Barre.  Every one of the players (with the exception of one who will remain nameless…let’s just say he isn’t a very good flyer and his screams with each little bump were a bit unnerving) loved the charter and it really is making this trip special.  A huge thank you to the Indians front office for thinking outside the box and putting the team on a private plane. 

This eight game road trip has us in Scranton through Monday and then a four game series begins on Tuesday at Lehigh Valley.  Scranton reminds me a little of South Bend, Indiana.  I lived in the Bend for parts of ’98, ’00, and  ’01. South Bend is only 90 miles from Chicago and it is an easy drive.  Benders love Notre Dame, but they also love their Chicago sports and from time to time act like they are from the big city.  That’s the impression I get when I come to Scranton.  It’s only 128 miles to the Bronx and you can reach New York City in less than two hours.  Needless to say there are a TON of New York Yankees fans here and several different eateries that offer some great New York options.  This is one of my favorites…

SWB 004.jpgSal’s always has great specials and the conversation is this joint is top notch.  Yesterday the US Open was on their 19 inch television and these to old codgers were cheering on Phil and Tiger like they were in the galleries.  Of course any golfer who hit a wayward shot would be hammered by the guys and they would share a story about some of their wildest golf shots.  Scranton is nicknamed “The Electric City” and has moved into the pop culture thanks the NBC’s “The Office.”  Overall this is one of my favorite cities because of the people, the food, and our hotel.   

I’ll have more on the hotel, but let me warn you that I have THREE different ghost stories to share with you.  I’m not going to put any names to the stories, but this hotel has a history of ghosts and a current member of the Indians SWEARS he was touched by a ghost a couple of years back.  More on that later…here’s hoping we play tonight.  The weather calls for a ton of rain and the field can’t take much more.  Scranton had games on Wednesday and Thursday washed out and the field was a bit sloppy last night.  It has been raining all day, but hopefully it will stop sometime before 7:05. 

8:30 UPDATE:    

I am currently sitting in the haunted hotel.  Tonight’s game was postponed due to rain.  The Yankees front office made the decision this afternoon at 3:45…a good 3 hours before the scheduled first pitch. 

SWB 008.jpgIn this picture you can see the umpires gathering in centerfield.  They were checking out the playing surface and with the forecast and loose grass this game was banged very early.  Right now it is pouring and the more rain we get tonight makes it less likely we play tomorrow.  The surface at PNC Field has taken too much rain this week and the outfield is a swamp.  I say it’s 50-50 we play tomorrow’s scheduled double-header.  Game one is set for 1:05 pm. 

So tonight I’m relaxing in the room and I think I’ll watch Charlie Morton and the Pirates.  Recently promoted Steve Pearce is not in the Bucs line-up and skipper John Russell says the plan is to have Pearce some of the bench and not immediately move into the line-up.  That sounds about right…call up a 26 year-old that has a better bat than your current RF and let him sit so all the confidence he picked up this month can vanish while he gets 10 at-bats over the next week.  Maybe his lack of time in the outfield is the reason for not being in the line-up and over the next handful of days Pearce will gain some level of comfort and then get some consistent at-bats. 

The Indians didn’t add anyone to the roster today and we will have to wait to see if we get someone to take Pearce’s roster spot.  Hopefully I’ll have some pictures from tomorrows game and not of the PNC Field tarp.

     

Catching up and shuttin it down

Earlier this afternoon I had the chance to catch-up with my former broadcast partner Jim Clark.  Jim is the voice of the Akron Aeros and we worked together during the 2002 baseball season.  Jim has been broadcasting long enough that from time to time he can take a few road trips off and spend time with his family.  He is no where near close to stepping down, but a few extra days off here and there will really re-charge the battery.  It is not uncommon for radio announcers to be around for decades.  I’m not sure when a broadcaster figures it’s time to hang it up because you could work until your dying day.  (A diminishing skill set in sports means it’s time to shut it down, while a diminishing skill set for a broadcaster can sometime make him more lovable.)  It’s a little different for the men who play the game.  The few lucky ones are able to retire on their terms, but for most players the game forces you into retirement.  I’m reminded about that when I walk through the Indianapolis Indians clubhouse.  Often times Triple-A is the final stop before the teams stop calling and you are forced to face a life without baseball.  This past off season may have been the cruelest of them all.  Due to the economic climate a lot of very good minor league players never found jobs because teams were playing it safe with their money.  For example OF Kevin Thompson (29 yrs. old), 2B Luis Ordaz (.311 avg. ’08), OF/1B Ryan Mulhern (Independent ball?), RHP Mike Thompson (27 yrs. old), RHP Marino Salas (27), and RHP Brian Rogers (25) all played for the Indians last year and as of today are not playing baseball.  I didn’t add OF Adam Boeve to the list only because I’m not sure if the Pirates released him or if he is still recovering from dizzy spells that cut short his ’08 season.  This is a cruel game and on more than one occasion when I’ve asked a current member of the Indians squad why they signed a minor league deal with Pittsburgh, I’ve been told there weren’t many offers out there.  Sooner or later this ride will end and it likely ends on someone else’s terms.  Unless you are Adam Melhuse

Last night the 37 year-old Indians catcher walked into manager Frank Kremblas‘ office and Adam told Frank he can’t play the game of baseball anymore.  The switch-hitter signed a minor league deal with the Pirates in early May and joined the Indians on May 8th.  Melhuse was released at the end of spring training and settled in for his life without baseball.  It wasn’t on his terms because he was cut, but after playing pro ball since 1993 and spending parts of 8 seasons in the bigs, he was comfortable with hanging it up.  When the Pirates needed catching depth they dialed Melhuse and he took them up on the offer.  Melhuse knew this would be his final year and this was a way to go out on his terms.  Unfortunately for Melhuse and the Indians he never got it going and the end came sooner than later.  The time away in April took his mind from the game and that was too much for him to overcome.  As recently as two weeks ago Melhuse told me he was having trouble knocking off the mental rust.  He was struggling to get mentally prepared for games and could never catch up at the plate.  Physically Melhuse was in great shape, but it was too late and his mind was ready for retirement.  Melhuse and Eric Kratz were splitting time and playing every other day.  In the end that was too much for Melhuse and June 15, 2009 was his last day as a baseball player.  He was last in the line-up on June 14th going 1-3 with a run and a double. Did anyone notice if he asked for the ball?

All the best to Adam and his wife and perhaps we’ll see him later on down the line.  He never mentioned anything about coaching, but he was a catcher

7:30 UPDATE:

The weather has been a major issue this baseball season.  For the 13th time this season the Indians are waiting out a rain delay.  Tonight’s scheduled game with the Gwinnett Braves is already 30 minutes behind schedule and the rain has NOT let up for almost three hours.  The forecast for tomorrow isn’t any better and the Indians front office is waiting as long as they can, but this doesn’t look good. 

rain.jpgLike I said earlier 13 of the scheduled 64 games have been delayed at some point due to rain.  To take that even farther, we have had FIVE postponements so 18 of 64 scheduled games have been affected by rain.  We are hoping to play our 35th home game of the year, but this is the 7th to be delayed and when you add the 4 postponements you are looking at 11 of 35 games affected by rain.  As of this afternoon the tarp crew had pulled the tarp 41 times!  Forty-one times the tarp has been put of the field for 35 games!  That’s enough tarp pulls for a entire season let alone for two months.  Enough is enough.

They love the sunflower seeds

The Indy Indians were able to outlast an hour and thirty-five minute rain delay and the Norfolk Tides last night.  (If you click on the link please visit the game highlights located under the picture of Larry Broadway and check out Erik Kratz amazing slide at home plate to give the Indians the lead)  I left Victory Field a little after midnight and tuned the radio to 1100 AM to listen to the Cleveland Indians wrap-up show.  I’m not sure why I do it because usually I catch the final two innings and that is when the Cleveland bullpen blows it.  During the show the host teased the Indians win by saying Shin-Soo Choo hits a game winner off Byrd.  Noticed I typed B-y-r-d because I thought the Royals signed free agent pitcher Paul Byrd and he blew the game.  Uh-no…

He actually had the game winning hit OFF A SEAGULL!   The only reason I share this with you is to give you an idea of what it is like to play the Buffalo Bisons.  This link will take you to the video of last night’s play and the home plate camera shot shows nearly twenty seagulls planted in front of Coco Crisp.  That is exactly what it is like when you play the Bisons.  As a matter of fact a bloop hit to right center in the Indy Indians recent set at Buffalo did hit a seagull.  That hit didn’t change the game the way this one did last night. 

NOON UPDATE:

One of my favorite websites has come up with a Tale Of The Tape

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