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

Archive for the month “April, 2010”

15 innings and overcoming a 6 run deficit

This is my fifth season in the Indians radio booth and I’m having trouble recalling another three game stretch like the one I just witnessed.  The Indians have won 5 straight games to improve to 10-10.  Every season has pivotal moments that can define a season.  The Indians will play 144 games and often times 4 or 5 games will make or break a season.  For the Indians their first defining game was Monday night and it lasted 15 innings.

The Indians and Louisville Bats started Monday’s game at 7:06 with Bats lefty Travis Wood firing a strike to Jose Tabata.  Over the next hour and 20 minutes the game would move into the 7th inning.  The Indians led 2-0 heading into the bottom of the 7th with starting pitcher Donnie Veal working on a 2 hit shutout.  After a walk, skipper Frank Kremblas took the ball from Veal and turned the game over to reliever Anthony Claggett.  The first man Claggett faced launched a game tying home run and the wild night was just beginning.  The Indians took a two run lead in the 8th inning thanks to a Louisville throwing error and a wild pitch.  Claggett and the Tribe would give the lead right back with another game tying two run home run…now the real fun begins

9th INNING:

The Indians are retired in order and Corey Hamman enters the game fresh off the disabled list.  He gives up a lead-off double forcing the Indians to intentionally walk the next batter.  A sacrifice bunt leads to another intentional walk loading the bases with only one out.  “I didn’t want to walk the bases loaded, but it did make sense at the time.”  Hamman would strike out Drew Sutton with three fastballs.  “The last two were balls, but he went after them and bailed me out.  The next guy Heisey (Chris Heisey) did the same thing and chased pitches that were out of the zone.”  Heisey had a 3-2 count with two outs and the bases loaded and fouled off three pitches that appeared to be up and out of zone.  He did not want to walk, wanting instead to win the game with a hit.  Big mistake, chasing one too many, he popped out to right field to end the inning.

10th INNING:

Once again the Indians went down 1-2-3 and once again Corey Hamman gave up an extra base hit.  This hit was a two out triple; the next batter was Louisville’s best hitter Chris Valaika.  Valaika was 2-4 and had a batting average of .353.  The man on deck was 0-2 and hitting .048…so the call is to walk Valaika and pitch to Wladimir Balentin right?  Manager Frank Kremblas never considered it and Hamman was on the mound with the game on the line.  Valaika did what all good hitters do and he worked the count into his favor.  Hamman came at him with a fast ball and the pitch was crushed to right centerfield.  Hamman thought the game was over.  “As soon as he hit it figured that’s it, but then I saw (Jose Tabata) Tabby running back towards the wall I was hoping he had a chance.”  Tabata sprinted back towards the right centerfield wall and at the last second he reached up and the ball popped out of his glove.  It went straight into the air and as Tabata fell to the ground he made a juggling catch to save the game.  Steve Pearce was playing in right field and couldn’t believe Tabata made the catch.  “I saw him juggle it and when he caught it, I went nuts.  I started to wave my arms to really sell the umpires that he made the catch.  He did catch it, but you never know with umpires.”  

11th INNING:

You know the drill…the Indians hitters went down in order and then Corey Hamman gave up a one out double.  When the Bats and Indians play there is no designated hitter.  The two National League affiliates play by NL rules and by the 11th both benches were getting thin.  Louisville skipper Rick Sweet had to pinch hit for his pitcher and he called on left handed hitting Danny Dorn.  Hamman easily won the lefty-lefty match-up and when Drew Sutton flied out the left field the score remained tied at 4.  In innings 9 through 11…all 9 Indians hitters were retired while the Bats left 5 runners on base and 4 of them in scoring position. 

12th INNING:

Corey Hamman has been walking the tight rope throwing three stressful innings.  However, there are not many options for Kremblas, so Hamman steps to the plate to lead off the 12th inning.  Hamman coaxes a walk giving the Indians their first base runner since the 8th inning.  Hamman stands at first base and does not know the signs.  INF Brian Friday, who was lifted in a double switch after the 7th inning, is coaching at first base and has to whisper the signs to Hamman.  Friday sees Kremblas show the sign for a hit and run.  Friday asks for the sign again to make sure he didn’t miss anything, “A hit and run?  Ok, but I wanted to make sure.” With Hamman on the bag and Louisville’s first baseman there to hold the runner close; Friday is whispering to Hamman that it’s a hit and run.  Now, Hamman does not have a stolen base in his career nor has he even attempted a stolen base.  As soon as the pitch to batter Argenis Diaz flies, Friday begins screaming “Go, go, go…” and Hamman takes off.  Diaz swings and misses with the catcher’s throw sailing to the right of second base.  Hamman slides wide of the bag to avoid the tag, but is called out when the Bats second baseman places a swipe tag on Hamman.  Or so we thought….turns out the tag was off by at least a foot, but the umpire was out of position and made an assumption call.  The next two batters would make outs sending the game to the bottom of the 12th inning.  From there Corey Hamman would retire the side in order and move the game to the 13th inning.

INSIDE THE INDIANS CLUBHOUSE:  Pitcher Steven Jackson was in the clubhouse watching the game serving the 2nd of his three games suspension.  “Up to the 12th inning that was the best minor league game I had watched in a long time.  Then things got really interesting.”  As Jackson was watching the game the next day’s starting pitcher Jeremy Powell was beginning to doze off on a clubhouse couch.  He was trying to get some rest for his start and was relaxing in shorts and a t-shirt.  All of a sudden hitting coach Jeff Branson walked in and asked Powell to put on his spikes and come out to the dugout.  “Ok, no big deal, but then Brano asks me if I want to play first base or right field!”  Powell goes on to say “What do you mean?  I have not played the field before.”  Branson left, Jackson started to laugh out loud, and 33 year old Jeremy Powell would get dressed for a night he will never forget.

13th INNING:

The Indians finally break through against the Bats bullpen when catcher Erik Kratz walks with the bases loaded.  The Tribe takes a 5-4 lead heading into the bottom of the 13th inning.  Closer Jean Machi enters the game to pitch and Luke Carlin is the new Indians catcher.  Kratz moved from behind the dish to first base with first baseman Brian Myrow moving to right field.  This move clears the bench of available position players and the double switch removes Steve Pearce from the game.  Right now Pearce is the Indians best hitter, but we will learn later this move had to be made by the Indians skipper.  Machi has been nearly perfect with the Indians allowing only one hit in five appearances.  BOOM!  The first pitch from Machi was sent over the wall in left centerfield by Louisville SS Zack Cozart.  The game was tied at 5.  I had just left the radio booth to handle to post-game interview when I heard the crack of the bat.  I never saw the pitch or the home run, but heard the sound and immediately turned around and walked back into the booth.  Machi would get out of the inning, but the Bats hit their third game tying home run since the 7th inning.

14th INNING:

Both teams have exhausted their benches and the game is now over 4 hours long.  Remember the first 6 and a half innings went by in an hour and 20 minutes with the following 7 and a half innings lasting almost three hours.  The Indians open the 14th with a Diaz single.  Brian Myrow was hit by a pitch and moved to second base on Doug Bernier’s second sacrifice bunt of the game.  The Indians had runners at 2nd and 3rd with one out for Neil Walker.  The Bats decided to intentionally walk Neil.  The first pitch from the Bats reliever was WAAAAYYYY outside and the catcher had to jump up to catch the intentional pitch.  The second intentional pitch sails over the head of the catcher and the Indians take the lead 6-5.  A wild pitch on an intentional walk gives the Indians the lead!  Now with Myrow at third the Bats decided to pitch to Walker and he hits a fly ball to right field.  Myrow tags on the play and is thrown out at the plate.  Unbelievable…the crowd, well those who are left are treated to their 2nd 7th inning stretch.  Louisville comes right back against Machi with a lead-off double.  Two batters later, Juan Francisco hits a fly ball to right field and the runner at third base is tagging at third to score on the play.  Myrow catches the ball and fires home, but it is too late and the game is tied at 6.

15th INNING:

Jose Tabata saved the game back in the 10th inning with a juggling diving catch and now it was time for him to end the game.  The 21 year old blasted a 450 foot home run to left center field giving the Tribe a 7-6 lead.  Tabby told me the first pitch of the at-bat was a cutter that he fouled off his hands.  So he moved closer to the pitcher and the next cutter broke into the barrel of his bat and gave the Indians the lead.  Now it was Machi’s spot to hit, but he was out of gas and Frank Kremblas needed a pinch-hitter.  Here comes Jeremy Powell to the plate.  An hour ago he was ready for bed and now he is batting in the 15th inning.  The first pitch to JP hits him on the right ankle.  The next day’s starting pitcher has just been hit in the ankle and is hobbling down the first base.  “I saw the ball moving towards my feet and I don’t know if I thought it would hit the dirt or what, but I just froze.  The next thing, I’m drilled and it hurt.  It sounded like it hit a bat, but it was my ankle bone.”  The Indians would not score that inning, but could they hold onto this lead?

In the 15th inning pitcher/pinch-hitter Jeremy Powell jogged out to right field and the new Indians pitcher is catcher/first baseman Erik Kratz.  Back in the 13th inning the Indians skipper removed Pearce because if he needed to have a position player pitch it would be Kratz.  So Kratz stayed in the game and Pearce was removed.  It was a move made by Kremblas with an eye towards this inning.  The game on the line and Kratz was looking for the save.  He was looking at doing what two relievers were unable to do.  The first batter of the game hit a bouncer to third that was misplayed into an error.  Oh boy, here we go…up to the plate is Balentin and his .048 batting average.  Kratz features a batting practice fastball and a knuckle ball.  Balentin hits the knuckle ball 10 feet in front of the plate and is thrown out at first base.  Guy is having a really bad year huh?  The tying run moves to 2nd base with Wilkin Castillo walking to the plate.  He tied the game in the 7th with a two run home run and was looking to win in with this trip.  He lifted the Kratz pitch into right field where Jeremy Powell was standing.  “I can’t believe they hit it to me.”  Powell made the catch, the bench erupted, and the runner remained at 2nd base.  “Catching a ball at night is the hardest thing I have ever done in baseball.  I never saw the laces.  The ball was floating and vibrating the entire time it was in the air and I was just hoping it would hit my glove.”  Pinch hitter Corky Miller stepped up to the plate and sent Kratz’s 82 mile and hour fast ball into left field where Neil Walker made the catch.  After 4 hours and 57 minutes the Indianapolis Indians had beat the Louisville Bats 7-6 in 15 innings. 

POST-GAME:

Erik Kratz earned the save and Jeremy Powell made a catch.  The Elias Sports Bureau says that never in a Major League game has a starting catcher earned the save in the same game.  Elias does not keep track of Minor League records, but there can’t be more than a handful of instances where this could happen.  Think about it…the Indians starting catcher pitched a scoreless, hitless inning for a save.  The game featured a total of 507 pitches and ended at 12:03 EST.  When the season is all said and done this may be the win we look back on as the defining win of the season…or is it?

TUESDAY APRIL 27:

Four hours and 27 minutes after the final out the Indians team bus pulled away from the hotel to the Louisville airport.  Some players elected to just stay up, while others tried to sneak in 1 or 2 hours of sleep.  I personally slept from 2:00 to 4:00.  The best line on the bus ride came from Brian Myrow…”Hey, remember when Tabby hit that game winning home run 10 minutes ago?”  The team flew to Chicago and then Providence arriving at the team hotel in Pawtucket 4 and half hours before first pitch.  Jeremy Powell as going to be the starter and he was working on very little sleep and a swollen right ankle.

Powell is a guy that every team needs.  He has been around long enough to know his role and he’ll take the baseball whenever you want.  With his right ankle heavily wrapped, JP went out and allowed just 2 runs in 5 innings of work.  The Indians offense scored 7 runs on 9 hits and the Tribe won two games in the same day.  I was impressed with the way the team put behind them the previous game and long travel to win a game on the road.  When I left park after the 3 hour and 29 minute game I figured the guys would be tired come Wednesday.  Wednesday’s game was schedule for noon…just 12 hours after walking into the hotel room. 

WEDNESDAY APRIL 28:

None of the players were happy at all to have a noon game after the two days the endured.  There isn’t much you can do with the schedule, but play them out.  To make matters worse the wind chill in Rhode Island made the temperature feel more like 32 than the listed 44 degrees.  As expected the Indians got off to a slow start falling behind Pawtucket by a score of 9-3 after just three innings.  They were due to lay an egg after what they had been through and it was going to make for a long afternoon.  Then something happened…and it was a swing that may play a larger role in defining the season than a 15 inning win.  With two outs and the bases loaded in the 5th inning, the Pawtucket starter was one pitch away from gong five and possibly earning his first win of the season.  Brian Myrow was in a 0-2 hole and like he often does, worked the count to 3-2.  BOOM! Myrow’s grand slam brought the Indians back to life and turned a depressing 6 run deficit into a whole new ballgame.  The dugout came alive and the Indians figured since we’re back in it…we might as well win it.  The Tribe would add a run in the 6th inning and they trailed 9-8 going into the 9th inning.  Brian Friday singled and was sacrificed into scoring position by Diaz.  Tabata hit a fly ball to left to that appeared to be deep enough for a sac fly.  However, the wind played tricks on the Paw Sox left fielder and he dropped the ball.  The game was tied and Tabata was standing at second base.  The next batter Neil Walker capped of a 4 hit day with the go ahead single and the Indians erased a 6 run deficit to beat Pawtucket 10-9. 

RECAP:

This recent three day stretch has the entire clubhouse confident and riding high.  The team has won a 15 inning game with their catcher earning a save; won while working on less than 2 hours of sleep; and won a game after trailing by six runs.  33 innings of baseball that took 11 hours and 33 minutes with the Indians outscoring their opponents 24-17.  They have won 5 straight and are 10-10 entering tonight’s game.

NEWS AND NOTES:

2009 MVP Daniel McCutchen will make his Indians 2010 debut.  ‘Cutch was sent down from Pittsburgh after a few bad starts and will be in the Indians rotation for the time being.  Wednesday’s starter Kevin Hart has been placed on the disabled list and it may be a while before his right arm is ready for action.  Steve Pearce is on a tear this month having already set a record with 26 hits this month.  That’s the most hits in April since the Pirates and Indians began working together in 2005.  Pearce has walked 11 times in the past 6 games and yesterday earned a walk on a 16 pitch at-bat.  Neil Walker has 14 hits in his last 8 games with 7 extra base hits.  Jose Tabata had an 11 game hitting streak earlier this year and entering tonight’s game he has a 6 game streak.  Go to Indyindians.com to listen to the game.  First pitch at 6:15 with the pre-game coverage beginning at 5:45

Follow me on Twitter: @ScottDMcCauley   

Catching Up…update on Steve Pearce

The Indians are celebrating their 15th season at Victory Field and the opening night atmosphere went beyond any other opening night.

VIC.jpgOver 11,000 fans were on hand and the only thing that went wrong was the outcome.  The Indians lost 3 out of 4 against the Toledo Mud Hens and enter tonight’s game against Columbus with a 4-8 record.  It is still very early, but a few disturbing trends have developed.  First, the Indians offense has generated more than 4 runs only twice in their first dozen games.  Second, the pitching staff has given up 4 runs or more in a single inning in 5 of the first 12 games.  The Tribe is near the top of the league with 13 home runs, but they have given up 15 big flys.  Needless to say there is room for improvement. 

QUICK HITS:

UTIL Neil Walker is slowly becoming a fan favorite.  On Sunday Neil went 3-5 and fell a 3B shy of the cycle.  The young fans in Indy are taking to Neil because has something in common with Colts QB Peyton Manning.  Both wear number 18.  There is no more popular jersey number in the city and Walker happens to wear #18.  “Oh, man I forgot about that (he’s a Steelers fan).  Hey, I’ll take whatever support they’ll give me.” 

You can’t blame the fans in Indy if they are tough on OF Jonathan Van Every.  He is a season ticket holder for the World Champion New Orleans Saints.  He has been on cloud nine since the Saints INT and was surprised to find out Saints special teamer Courtney Roby is an Indy native.  Roby, who went to HS in Indy and played college ball at IU, threw out the first pitch on Saturday night.  Van Every requested to be the catcher and it was one of the few times a player asked for an autograph.  Now, he is trying to get a signed jersery from Roby for his “Saints wall.”

Brad Lincoln suffered the loss last night, but hit 96 miles per hour on the radar gun.  It’s the second straight start he touched 96 and was consistently working between 93-95 mph.  “Link” is expected to start on Saturday, but may take his game to the big leagues.  The Pittsburgh Pirates needs a spot starter Saturday in Houston.  Lincoln just happens to live in Houston and played college ball at the University of Houston.  It’s a start he desperately wants and will have a long week thinking about the possibily.

Pitchers Steven Jackson and Anthony Claggett are waiting for a special package to arrive at Victory Field.  Both players are expecting their New York Yankees World Series rings.  Both players spent time last season with the champs.  Claggett pitching in two games while Jackson spent nearly two weeks in their bullpen  They are hoping the rings will be mailed soon and not given to them when we go to Scranton (Yankees Triple-A affiliate)…that trip is not until June.

Finally, a couple of streaks that are worth mentioning.  OF Jose Tabata has hit safely in 10 straight games.  His 7 stolen bases are most for an Indians player in April since Rajai Davis (12) and Nyjer Morgan (13) were running around in the spring of ’07.  RHP Jean Machi is 2 for two in save situations and is a perfect 8 for 8 since joining the Indians last August.  Machi is the ONLY reliever in the league to have not allowed a hit.  He has work 5 scoreless and hitless innings this season.   

The Columbus Clippers are in town for the first of a quick two game series.  Former Indians MVP Brian Bixler returns to the Vic for the first time since the off season deal took him from the Pirates to the Cleveland Indians organization.

10:45 UPDATE:

A big night for Steve Pearce and the Indians.  The Tribe blasts Columbus by the score of 9-4.  A 7-run 4th inning is the difference and it’s their biggest offensive inning of the young season.  Brian Myrow, Jose Tabata, and Neil Walker all homered in the inning as the Tribe drilled three long balls in a single inning at home for the first time since 2007.  It was more than enough for winning pitcher Donnie Veal (5.2 IP, 3R, 2ER) who picked up his first win of the season. 

Pearce went 3-4 and raised his batting average to .396.  Pearce is tied for the league lead with 19 hits and is tops in the IL with 12 extra-base hits.  The 27 year old will enter play tomorrow 2nd in the IL in batting, 1st in slugging (.771) and 1st in total bases with 37.

The Indians and Clippers will play tomorrow at 11 am.  It is the first to three Baseball in Education games. 

Follow me on Twitter: @ScottDMcCauley

 

Lincoln Delivers for Indians

What a great night for the Indians as the Tribe earned a nine inning shutout at Louisville for the first time since July 5, 2008.  Brad Lincoln was in command from the start and Kevin Hart blew the fastball by the Bats to earn the save.  Hart’s heater was clocked at 94 miles per hour throughout his three innings.  When it was all said and done Lincoln was the star of the game and here is his post game interview:

 

What a Difference five days makes, how did it feel to get back out there on the mound and what was the wait like from Friday to tonight?

 

It was something I needed to bounce back from it was kind of a rough outing for me (Friday) it was uncharacteristic of me to give up what I did in my first outing.  Tonight I came out, pounded the zone with my fastball and fastball command. Then late in the game my curveball was there and I was able to keep them off balance.  We were able to play together as a team and we have a lot of excited pitchers in there because now we don’t have to shag during batting practice tomorrow.

 

Whas there any moment early on that allowed you to settle down during the game?

 

From the 1st inning on, when I was able to command the inside part of the plate that really helped me out.  I only had 3 strikeouts tonight because they were putting the ball in play and my guys made plays.  For me that is a big key if I want to go deep into games.  I need to be efficient with my pitches and I was tonight.

 

Did you have an idea on how tonight would play out? (Scheduled to throw 5 or 6 then be followed by Hart)

 

I don’t worry about that kind of thing.  I don’t worry about pitch counts or where I’m at during the game. If I do that I think I’ll change my mindset.  So I go out there and get ready for the next inning.  I do better when I focus and keep that mental thought process and tonight it worked out.  Then Kevin came in and shut the door.

 

What will the next five days be like following this outing?

 

There is always room for improvement and I will go look at some video to help me see what I did well and what I need to work on and I will take that into my next bullpen.  It is always a thought process of mine to get better and find something that allows me to get better.

 

Through twitter (follow me @ScottDMcCauley) wanted to know if the move to the ‘pen by Hart was a sign of things to come.  He was asked to in a relief role so he can come back on three days rest and pitch on Sunday.  Hart will remain in the Indians rotation and this was a one time thing.  Donnie Veal is tonight’s scheduled starter and yesterday he put on a show during batting practice.  Add Veal to the long list of pitchers who think they are hitters.

 

NEWS AND NOTES:

 

Steve Pearce has opened the season with a 7 game hitting streak.  Pearce has 12 hits over the first 7 games of the season with 8 going for extra-bases.  It’s only one week, but he is playing like a guy who should have made the Pirates opening day roster.  We’ll take him in Indy, but a few guys in Pittsburgh had better start to hit. 

 

Jose Tabata has a six game hitting streak.  The Indians outfielder has not displayed much power but he is 4 for 4 in the stolen base department.  Tabata has played in all but one game this season and Manager Frank Kremblas likes him in the lead-off spot.      

 

The Indians wrap up this 8 game road trip tonight vs. the Bats at 7:05.  Tomorrow is the home opener and game one of a nine game homestand.  I can’t wait to get home tonight…today’s is my daughter’s four month birthday.  I told her to stop growing while I’m on the road and she didn’t listen.  She’s a cutie folks…

 


Maddie 011.jpg

Pace of Play

The Indianapolis Indians are in Louisville for a brief two games series.  The Tribe is 2-4 and unfortunately they are not a bounce here or a break here from being 4-2.  This team is off to a bad start and it may take some time for them to turn it around.  The offense, which was expected to put up some numbers, has been held to 4 runs or less in 5 of 6 games and was shutout last night in Toledo.  It is still very early and the warmer temps in Louisville may be exactly what the team needs.  I know I need it, it’s fantastic here in the ‘ville. 

 

Indians fans can expect the team to eventually score some runs and hopefully the pitching staff will have a chance to catch their breath.  Ever since giving up 17 (gulp) runs on opening night, the pitching staff has been behind the 8 ball.  The bullpen is logging some heavy innings and the opposition has scored at least 5 runs in a single inning in 3 of the first 6 games.  Jeremy Powell told me that the team needs to change what they are doing because they are way too good to be struggling.  What did he mean by that?  “Change the routine, do something different because this needs to end.”  Thanks JP

 

Not everything is as bad as it seems.  1B Steve Pearce is off a great start and has brought an even better attitude to the clubhouse.  Pearce is out of options and either he makes it with the Pirates or he proves his worth to other teams.  When you finally have nothing to lose, you can relax and play baseball.  UTIL Neil Walker is in a similar boat to Pearce and he is more relaxed this season.  Last season Neil went out trying every night to go 4 for 4 and push his way into the Pirates plans.  That didn’t work out.  This season he is prepared to wear an Indians uniform for the long haul as long as he plays everyday.  So far, so good and you can see the results at the plate with an un-Neil like 5 walks and zero strikeouts.  The major surprise is his play at 2B.  I believe Neil’s offensive numbers are better suited for 2B and the early returns are he can play the position.  Pearce told me that Neil does not look like a 1st player at second and former Indians INF Brian Bixler was impressed with a double play Neil turned against Bixler’s Columbus Clippers.  Neat story…on Sunday, Bixler played 2B for Columbus and Neil played 2B for the Indians.  Each inning Bixler marks the dirt with slashes to help position himself for each batter.  When he would return the following inning, Walker had rubbed out the marks and with his spikes would leave a “friendly” message or two to his former roommate.

 

PACE of PLAY: 

 

The Indians first four games against Columbus were all longer than 3 hours with Friday night’s 14-12 Indians win lasting 3 hours and 52 minutes.  It was a NINE inning game.  Pace of play is an issue in the Major Leagues, but in reality it is not a problem in the minors.  The problem with the Columbus series was 66 combined runs and a boat load of base runners.  A couple of year ago the Minor League’s instituted a rule preventing the batter from stepping out of the batters box.  “If a guy wants to constantly dig in, you just ask him if he wants to dig our hit.  The rules on the field should be policed by the players.”  C Erik Kratz went on to say that if you want to speed up the game, then call strikes.  Pitchers Chris Jakaubaskas and Kevin Hart echoed that sentiment.  Both players pitched in the big’s last year and said the high strike is rarely, if ever called.  Expanding the strike zone would help with the pace of the game.  Kratz took it a step farther and asked me who is complaining about the pace of play?  I don’t know the answer.  Is it fans, umpires (Kratz laughed at that one), or the media.  It is a concern to Commissioner Bud Selig and he has one unusual solutions.  That would be to limit the visits a catcher can make to the mound.  Well you could imagine that didn’t sit too well with Kratz.  He admits to wearing out a path from the plate to the mound.  “Terrible idea, there is no way you can take that away from a catcher.  Should I yell to my pitcher that we are going with the 2nd sign?”  He went on to say that most of the visits are not to delay the game, but make sure everyone is on the same page.  If you are not on that page, you will have more hits and more runs and an even longer game. 

 

What is baseball to do with the length of games?  The main issue appears to be with all the equipment adjusting that is done in between pitches.  I suggested to a few players removing the armor, but that was quickly shot down by Kratz.  “So I’m going to send my pitcher with the golden elbow to the plate unprotected?  OK, allow pitchers to wear the gear.  Kratz responded, “Then Pedro Alvarez can’t wear a pad to protect his elbow?”  There is no good answer other than to call more strikes.  Is the pace of baseball too long?

 

Here are some numbers from the past four seasons:

 

2006          2:40

2007          2:46

2008          2:47

2009          2:48

 

Why has there been an 8 minute increase over the past four seasons?  Indians media intern guru Chris Binnall did the work and when he emailed me the results I was sitting in the dugout.  So I asked Neil Walker why he thinks there has been an increase.  He says there could be a few reasons, but the main one is the new stadiums.  Huntington Park in Columbus is a much different park from the deep outfield walls at the old Cooper Stadium.  For the past few years Indians coaches have told me the league pitching keeps getting worse and maybe they are right.  Remember the length of the game may not bother you, it’s the pace that can turn fans off.    

 

We will follow the time of games throughout the season.  Here tonight’s game beginning at 7:05 at Indyindians.com

 

Follow me on Twitter:  @ScottDMcCauley                  

What the?…Pedro Update

The Indianapolis Indians 2010 opener went exactly like the 2009 opener…it was a dud.  At least this year the egg was laid on the road and not in front of 9,000 Indians fans.  A year ago the Tribe lost to Toledo 16-5 and last night suffered a 17-4 set back against the Columbus Clippers.  By no means will this define the season, but the blow out was far from what I expected.

Pirates #1 prospect Pedro Alvarez lived up to the hype.  He smoked a rising liner out of Huntington Park last night in just his second Triple-A at bat.  The 3-2 pitch was smacked over the 328 sign and left he yard in less than 2 seconds.  Erik Kratz says we have not seen anything yet.  As powerful and awesome as the home run was, Kratz tells me that Pedro’s power to all fields especially center is rdiculous.  I’ll get a great look at this young mans power today during batting practice.

Here is Pedro’s blast. Pedro HR Col.mp3

Kevin Hart made his Indians debut.  The righty did not figure in the decision in large part because he was ejected after his first pitch in the 4th inning sailed behind Clippers C Carlos Santana.  Hart was retaliating after Indians 2B Brian Friday was hit for the 2nd time in the top of the 4th.  Friday was hit on the left shoulder during his first at bat and during his second AB a Carlos Carrasco pitch bounced of the top of his helmet.  The Indians were upset about the pitch and Hart sent the message.  

After Hart was ejected things quickly went downhill.  Jeremy Powell came in and Santana crushed a home run that was as impressive as Pedro’s.  Wes Hodges followed up with a solo shot and the back-to-back jacks gave Columbus a lead they would never lose.  After the game the hitters felt like they left some runs on the bases and the Indians did have a chance to make it a game in the 7th inning, but could not get the big hit.  After they left 2 on base in the 7th, the Clippers put it away with 8 runs coming off reliever Vinnie Chulk

Last night Neil Walker played in left field for the first time in his career.  Neil had some shaky moments in left and did make some nice plays.  The glaring mistake was having a routine fly ball land five feet to his left.  He appeared to be in the right spot, but must have lost track of the baseball.  He was not the only player to misplay a ball; Brandon Jones dropped a ball hit into right centerfield.  Jones did collect a couple of hits, including a double.       

The team will try and bounce back tonight with Brad Lincoln getting the baseball.  “Link” is the Pirates #1 pitching prospect and was a 6 game winner with the Indians a year ago.  I’ll be updating this entry with some afternoon pictures.  I’ll snap a shot of the new batting helmets the minor legue players are wearing and give you a look from behing the batting cage.

12:15 AM UPDATE:

The Indians pick up their first win of the season tonight by out slugging Columbus 14-12.  The two clubs combine for 32 hits (18 by the Indians), 9 home runs (4 by Indy), and the 9-inning game took 3 hours and 52 minutes to play.  Right now Huntington Park is playing so small that the Clippers SS hit his first home run in three seasons.  

The big story from tonight is the power of Pedro Alvarez.  He hit two home runs tonight and drove in 5 runs.  His three run home run in the 5th inning put the Indians ahead for good.  His swing is so smooth and the power from that free and easy swing is insane.  This guy is the real deal and is making this park look like my backyard.

“I try to keep it simple and not try to do too much.  That’s when your swing gets long or you start to tighten up.  It’s weird you say to keep it loose and easy, but in reality you are swinging hard and you want fluidity.  I’m just trying to put a good swing on the ball and not try and do too much.”

You hear it so often from a player “just trying to put the ball in play.”  You know what, I believe Pedro.  His swing looks like an easy line drive swing, but the ball explodes off of his back.  Pedro is built, he’s not muscular, but has thick legs.  He must get a lot of power from his core.  I can’t wait to see what he does tomorrow night.  

INJURY NOTES:

Erik Kratz left early tonight after feeling a light pinch in his right hamstring.  He will likely sit tomorrow night, but shouldn’t miss much more than that.  The news is a little worse for OF Brandon Jones.  He was a late scratch tonight because of a bad reaction to his contact solution.  Both Kratz and Jones are day-to-day.

I promised a picture of the new helmets.  Here is a picture of Tribe strength coach Bar Malik.

 

 

Bar.jpg 

The 2010 Indians

The Indianapolis Indians 2010 schedule was released last September.  For months I have know that on April 8th the Tribe will be playing the Columbus Clippers at Huntington Park.  There is a schedule near my Victory Field desk and everyday I’m reminded there will be an 8 game road trip beginning Thursday the 8th.  Looking at a schedule and counting down the days is not enough to prepare you for another baseball season. 

 

Last night I threw enough clothes into a suitcase to get me through the next week and I hope I didn’t forget anything.  Turns out, I’m not the only one who felt a little rushed this morning.  A few of the coaches walked onto this morning’s bus convinced they forgot something.  Last year the Tribe opened at home and the week affords you the chance to get your feet wet and ease into the long season.  This year the Indians will visit three cities over 8 days and jump feet first into this 2010 season.

 

Let’s meet the latest edition of the Indians.  For the second straight year Frank Kremblas is the skipper and Jeff Branson returns as the hitting coach.  The newest face in the clubhouse is pitching coach Dean Treanor.  Dean has been a manager as recently as 2008 and last season spent the year as the pitching coach for the Altoona Curve.

 

RHP Brian Bass is an Indian for the first time in his career.  A season ago he made 48 appearances out the Baltimore Orioles bullpen.  Bass will pitch out of Tribe ‘pen this season.

 

LHP Brian Burres will be in the starting rotation.  He pitched in Las Vegas a year ago and pitched in 2 games last year for the Blue Jays.  Burres will start on Monday at Toledo.  Last year in Vegas his teammates included former Indians Jonah Bayliss, Bryan Bullington, and TJ Beam.

 

RHP Vinnie Chulk was one of the final cuts in spring training.  I have seen Chulk a couple of times most recently with Columbus.  Chulk has good career numbers and will pitch out of the bullpen.

 

RHP Anthony Claggett was acquired late last season from the Yankees.  Claggett can start or pitch out of the bullpen.  He’ll go to the ‘pen for now.  He is one of FOUR players on this years roster (soon to be FIVE when Daniel McCutchen joins the team next week) who the Pirates acquired from the Yankees.

 

RHP Kevin Hart is tonight’s opening day starter.  He battled McCutchen for the Pirates #5 spot and will have plenty of run with the Indians.  Hart will get his chances this year with the Pirates and had solid minor league numbers.  The Pirates acquired him from the Cubs last July as a part of the Tom Gorzelanny deal.   

 

RHP Steven Jackson returns the Indians bullpen.  He has a good sinker, but last year didn’t pitch well for the Indians.  He has big league stuff and if he puts it together this year will return to the Pirates ‘pen.

 

RHP Chris Jakubauskas is a starter and will pitch on Sunday afternoon.  I am hoping he has a nickname or there is some way we can shorten his last name.  CJ (how’s that?) pitched in 35 games last year for Seattle.  My guess is he is starting in Indy to keep his arm stretched out as long relief insurance for the Pirates.

 

RHP Jeff Karstens pitched for the Indians late last year on a rehab assignment.  He was dropped of the Pirates 40 man roster and will have to earn a return visit.  I think he can do it.  Karstens has always had good minor league numbers and I expect the same this year.

 

RHP Brad Lincoln has already been called “Franchise” more than I can count.  The Texan went 6-2 last year with the Indians and pitched better than his 4.70 ERA would indicate.  Kevin Hart may be the next man up, but Lincoln is the pitching prospect Pirates fan are waiting on.  He will be in the Tribe starting rotation for most of this season.  His first start is tomorrow night. 

 

RHP Jean Machi had terrific numbers in winter ball.  Machi had a 2.12 ERA in 13 relief appearances last year with the Tribe.  He is penciled in as this year’s closer.

 

RHP Jeremy Powell returns to the Indians.  The veteran will turn 34 this June and has plenty left in the tank.  A year ago Ray Searage told me JP was the pitching staff’s MVP.  Powell will start and pitch in long relief.  He knows he needs to be the most dependable guy in the ‘pen because of all the different things he can do.

 

LHP Donnie Veal is looking to make a leap this summer.  A rule 5 pick in the winter of 2008 pushed Donnie to the Pirates ML roster.  He was not ready for bigs and when he made a rehab appearance with the Indians in June it was his first career triple A game.  Veal was a reliever last year and will be a starter this year.  His ’10 debut will be on Saturday night.  I’m curious to see how he does for two reasons.  First, he was one of the pitching stars in the Arizona Fall League.  It’s not something to get all that excited about, but proves he can make the transition from ‘pen to starter.  The major reason I’m curious is Veal had control issues as a reliever.  It felt like every batter he faced went to a full count.  You can’t have that as a starter and maybe I’ll see a different pitcher than I did a year ago.

 

C Erik Kratz returns to the Indians after posting career numbers in 2009.  Kratz wasthisclose to making the Pirates opening day roster.  He is not a prospect (and never has been), but last year he played himself into a guy who can help the Pirates.  A year ago he went from a back-up to an All-Star and will open this year as the primary catcher.

 

C Luke Carlin is a switch-hitting catcher from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  He played in 10 games with the D-backs.  Carlin played for Canada in last year’s World Baseball Classic and while with the Padres he caught Greg Maddux’s 350th career win.  How cool is that?

 

3B Pedro Alvarez is the best prospect in the Pirates organization.  Do you remember the buzz surrounding Andrew McCutchen?  Whenever ‘Cutch made a great catch or ripped a triple he would always get a standing “O” from the Victory Field crowd.  Well, the hype surrounding Pedro is 10 times greater than what you saw with McCutchen.  The fans in Pittsburgh are ready for Pedro RIGHT NOW and after watching batting practice on Tuesday, I can see why.  The #2 overall pick in 2008 has a great demeanor and if you want to see him this summer; get to the park early.  He may not be playing 3B for the Indians in July. 

**this may be asking too much, but with the parks the team is playing in the next week…I say he’ll have 3 home runs by the time we get back.

 

INF Doug Bernier played for Scranton last season and will play all over for the Indians.  Can I add him to the list of players acquired by the Yankees?  The others came to the team via trade or claimed on waivers.  Bernier is a free agent, but he does come from the Yankees.  He will open the season on the DL.

 

SS Argenis Diaz may be the best defensive SS in the International League.  Diaz played in 43 games with the Indians last summer after a trade with the Red Sox.

 

2B Brian Friday looks exactly like former Indians MVP Brian Bixler.  Now before Indians fans get excited and Pirates fans look for a knife; I’m only talking about their appearance.  Friday is built like Bixler and he was wearing #3.  Friday will make this Triple-A debut tonight.  Bixler will make his debut with Columbus tonight after getting dumped by the Pirates.

 

1B Steve Pearce is now out of options and it’s put up or hit the road time.  He looks like he is in great shape and in addition to first, he will play some outfield.  This will be the 4th year he will wear an Indians uniform.  What more can I say?  We know he’ll be solid at first, disinterested in the outfield, and hit with men on base. 

 

UTIL Neil Walker is back in Indianapolis, but it’s a much different feel from past years.  IN 2008 Walker was name the Indians MVP and last year he appeared to be on the brink of the big leagues.  I’m sure that feels like a lifetime ago.  This year the former #1 pick will play at 3B (once a week), 2B (once a week), 1B (maybe), and the OF (plenty).  For good measure he brought his catching gear, but that’s got to be the last place he wants to play.  All that Neil knows is he will play everyday.  He just doesn’t know which of his four gloves to use.

 

OF Brandon Jones is in his first season with the Pirates.  He comes from the Braves system and I have seen him in both Richmond and Gwinnet.  Big time power and Indians fans have witnessed it first hand.  In 2008 Jones BLASTED a home run off Bryan Bullington into centerfield pine trees.  Jones will play everyday in the outfield.

 

OF Brian Myrow was the Indians 2nd half MVP and has led his league (PCL ’07, ’08, IL ’09) in OBP the past three seasons.  I see Myrow as more of a DH and fill-in guy with the Indians.  Either way, this team is better with him in the line-up.  There are more priority guys on the roster, but you will have to convince me there are better hitters.

 

OF Brandon Moss was a late spring cut and is back in the Triple-A for the first time since 2007.  Moss was an all-star slugger while with Pawtucket.  Former manager Trent Jewitt (now with Syracuse) LOVED Moss.  Trent felt like his power was unmatched at that time and his hands were a difference maker.  Moss never did hit enough with the Pirates, but I’m looking forward to watching him play.  From what I hear he is a great guy.

 

OF Jose Tabata made his Triple-A debut last year at the age of 20.  Whether you believe that age or not is up to you.  I can tell you the young man from Venezuela has been playing in the State since he was 16.  There is no doubt he is more polished than a normal 21 year old.  Last year I was impressed with his speed and ability to hit to all fields.  He needs to develop power and he needs to develop that this year. 

 

OF Jonathan Van Every is expected to be an everyday outfielder.  Van Every was an All-Star with Pawtucket back in 2008.  He clubbed 26 home runs that season, but injuries prevented a breakout 2009.  Van Every and I have spoke once before…he was the star of the game in the 2008 opener.  Pawtucket beat the Indians thanks to his play. 

 

I think this can be a special year for the Indians.  How about a line-up that includes Tabata, Alvarez, Myrow, Walker, Jones, Moss, Van Every, and Kratz?  Of course you don’t win anything on paper and this is the minor leagues.  It’s the Indians job to prepare today’s players for the big leagues.  When they are ready, they’ll be plucked away and another player will step in.  So let’s sit back and get ready for an exciting start to the season. 

 

First pitch tonight is at 7:05 from Huntington Park.  Kevin Hart makes his Indians debut against Clippers right-hander Carlos Carrasco. 

 

Follow me on twitter: @ScottDMcCauley         

          

 

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