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

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

Giddy-Up

Friday nights game in Louisville had the feel of a playoff game.  The Indians slipped past Louisville 3-2 thanks to an 8th inning solo shot by OF John Bowker and the 99 mph heat from LHP Justin Wilson.  The win keeps the Indians 4 games out in the wild card race and the Bats drop three games behind the Tribe in the standings.  It was the 1st of 8 straight games between clubs and the start of their elimination series.  The Indians would like to win 6 out of 8 and knock the Bats out of the playoff race and they can do the same to the Tribe.  The worst case for both clubs is a split and they effectively knock each other out of the wild card race.  Game one went to the Indians thanks to the 15th home run of the season by Bowker.  “He (Edinson Volquez) threw me a change-up and I was able to stay on it long enough to drive it out of the yard.  It was a big hit, but the bigger story was the job Willie did in the 9th.”  Willie, is Justin Wilson who earned his first career save by hitting 99 mph on the gun 4 separate times.  More on his night in a moment, game two between the clubs is tonight from Louisville Slugger Field at 6:05.

SAYING GOOD-BYE

Hours before Friday’s first pitch I was sitting in Dean Treanor’s office talking about his line up.  During our conversation closer Tim Wood walked in, looked at Dean and said “I’ve been designated.”  I got off of the couch and walked out closing the door behind me.  I wish I was not in there for that sentence and it was a harsh reminder about the business side of the game just hours before the Indians were to play their biggest series of the season.  The Pittsburgh Pirates had to make the move on their 40 man roster to add RHP Ross Ohlendorf.  The Pirates felt that Wood was the man they could remove to make room for Ohlendorf and designated him for assignment.  Now Wood could be claimed by another Major League team and be added to their 40 man roster or the Pirates have 10 days to work out a trade.  Wood could return to the Indians as a minor league player in a little more than a week if he is not claimed or traded.  The move hit Dean pretty hard and Tim even harder.

“He is having such a great year and he is an even better person.  Woody holds that bullpen together and he is the closer of the team.  It’s tough on him and right now tough on our bullpen.”  Back in the clubhouse Wood was saying his good-byes.  He can’t be with the team during the process and decided to fly home to Florida.  By the time I got to him his eyes were red and he quietly told me “it’s a business and I understand that, but this is the series we need and I can’t help.  I can’t pitch today and that hurts more than anything.”  As wood left the younger players wished him good luck while the veterans offered him words of encouragement.  Wood leaves with a league leading 23 saves he has saved 9 of the Indians 17 wins since the All-Star break.  The consensus in the clubhouse is that he will claimed by another team and my guess is the Pirates would prefer to trade him.  We will see if he returns or if he signs elsewhere.  One thing if for sure, 2011 was one of the best seasons for Tim Wood

WHO IS NEXT?

Without Wood the Indians turned to Wilson to close out Friday’s game.  It was the first save opportunity in the 23 year-olds career and only the 4th relief appearance of his career.  Dean will take it on a game by game basis because he isn’t sure if someone can go three days in row like Tim Wood.  “There is the key with Woody, he is the only  guy who can go three straight days and close out three straight days.”  Other options for the end of the game will include RHP Jared Hughes, LHP Daniel Moskos, and LHP Justin Thomas.  

Justin Wilson was moved to the bullpen last week after not producing as a starting pitcher.  His last win was June 22 and his last win as a starting pitcher was June 12.  The Pirates and Indians brass got together and decided to make the move to the bullpen and after Friday night he may never start again.  As one Indians player told me “he can forget ever seeing the first inning again.”  Wilson created a buzz on Monday night when he came out of the bullpen and hit 97 on the radar gun.  He pitched two scoreless innings and was on cloud nine afterwards.  “I just let it fly and went after guys.  The hardest part is warming up in the bullpen with the fans right next to you.  I thought one would get away and hit somebody.”  After the game on Monday he told me the next time he was going to throw as hard has he could and try to hit 100.  Friday night he would get his chance and the stadium gun clocked him at 103.  I was standing in the tunnel behind home plate getting ready for the post-game interview and happen to be next to a couple of scouts.  After the stadium gun clocked him at 103 I looked at them and they each turned their gun to show me 99.  Justin Wilson just struck out a left-handed batter with a 99 mph fastball.  Good-bye starting roll…hello bullpen.  He retired the next two hitters and earned his first career save and the Indians nailed down a 3-2 win. 

Rudy Owens was sitting in the stands charting and couldn’t contain his excitement during the 9th inning.  “I freaked when he hit 99 on the gun.  My palms were sweating I was so excited.  I had him at 99 four times and it was incredible.  Seriously it was incredible and awesome.”  On a day when the Indians lost their closer they may have found another and the Pirates may have found a flame throwing left-hander.

FULL HOUSE:

OF Alex Presley and SS Chase d’Arnaud are with the team on rehab assignment.  Both players were on the Indians opening day roster and were promoted to the Pirates in June.  They join OF Jose Tabata and RHP Chris Leroux as current Pirates on rehab assignment.  Add them with the current crop of Triple-A players on the DL and the Indians dressed 31 players Friday night.  There are currently 33 with the traveling party and the two players who didn’t dress were pitchers sitting in the stands charting.  A triple-A roster calls for 24 active players and rehab players don’t count towards the 24.  Needless to say, but it will be a packed bus ride home after the 4 games in Louisville conclude Monday night. 

Presley and d’Arnaud were in joking moods as they walked into the clubhouse.  Both said they timed their rehab to help with the playoff push and Presley is 62 plate appearance away from qualilfing for the IL batting crown.  “I’ll probably hurt my average over the next few games than add to my total.”  Presley’s last game with the Tribe as on June 25 and he was hitting .336.  His batting average sat atop the league standings until just a few days ago.  He will need 389 plate appearances to qualify for the crown.  He will likely fall short of that and give Matt Hague a chance at the crown.  The Indians 1B is hitting .321 and is .001 behind Charlotte’s Alejandro De Aza.  De Aza is currently with the White Sox and has enough plate appearances to qualify for the crown.  “I really want that hitting title.  It’s not going to be easy, but I think it would cool if I can lead the league in hitting.”  It’s a another race worth watching.

THE BEST:

Visiting teams circle the Indianapolis/Louisville trip for several reasons.  Both cities offer so much in food and nightlife and the stadiums are two of the best in the league.  More than that is the service you receive in the visiting clubhouses.  Jeremy Martin and his assistant Luke Bosso handle the visiting side at Victory Field and provide one of the best stops in the league.  The key is service, food, cleanliness, and did I say service?  You are dealing with baseball players who from time to time will send you out for an item or two and it’s your job to accommodate them.  Jeremy gets it done in Indy and the players appreciate it. 

Matt Gallant is the visiting clubby in Louisville and he runs the best and tighest ship in the business.  The layout is perfect with three tables, three couches, and the table in the middle of the clubhouse  provides the pre-game and post-game spreads.  I don’t eat any of the pre or post-game spreads.  Now from time to time I may grab a roll or have a small bowl of mac-n-cheese like I did on Thursday afternoon in Columbus.  But you’ll never see me grab a full plate and sit down to eat a meal after or before a game.  It’s for the players and besides I have to keep my figure.  With all of that said, Matt serves up chili once a series and I can’t keep my hands off.  He puts his chili in a crock pot and you have the fixin’s of your choice.  Jalapeno’s, cheese, sour cream, and additional hot sauce are there for you to choose from.  If you take a poll among the Indians players Matt Gallant and his staff win going away as the best clubhouse they visit. 

*****

Hope you can tune into tonight’s broadcast.  The Indians will look to move a season best 8 game over .500 and keep pace in the wild card race.  First pitch from the ‘ville is at 6:05 with pre-game coverage at 5:45 on SportsRadio 1260 WNDE.  You can find the Tribe online at wnde.com or on your iheartradio app.

Cowboys and Indians

My hotel room view of Toledo

Only 28 games remain for the 2011 Indianapolis Indians and the club hits the road for a three city 8 game road trip.  At 60-56 the Tribe is 5 games out in the wild card race.  Twenty-four of the remaining 28 games are against the West Division with 12 of the 24 against the Louisville Btas.  Will the Tribe make it to the post season for the first time since 2006?  It will not be easy and even if the Indians win 18 or 19 of their final games they will still need other teams to stumble and fall back to the pack.  Since 2005 the wild card winner has won at least 77 games.  Here are the win totals since ’05: 78, 79, 77, 85, 81, and 79.  You can do the math and see that the ’11 campaign comes down to the final 4 weeks of the season.  I believe the Indians want to make the playoffs for two reasons.  The postseason is a goal for manager Dean Treanor.  He manages to win and he comes to the park each day to win and push his players to win.  The players check the standings everyday and see their time is running out.  They will push hard the next four weeks for themselves and their skipper.

The other driving force is to prove the early season critics wrong.  Most of the players walked into the Indians clubhouse with championship rings from the past two seasons.  The core of the opening day roster won Class-A rings in  ’09 and a Double-A ring in ’10.  After the 1-8 start it was clear the young players were in over their heads and in for what looked like a long season.  I’ll admit that during the third week of the season I worried they wouldn’t win 50 games.  Over time the hitters adjusted and the pitching improved and it’s a reflection of the coaching staff and the character of the players.  A trip to the postseason would be memorable, but at the least it would be nice to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2006.

COWBOY UP:

The Indians and Toledo Mud Hens have a great rivalry and this year Toledo has the early bragging rights winning 8 of the 15 meetings.  There are still 6 games to be played and for a few players there is more than bragging rights on the line.

There are a total of 5 former Oklahoma State Cowboys who have played in this series.  Indians 1B Matt Hague, SS Jordy Mercer, and C Jason Jaramillo all played ball at Okie St.  Hens LHP Andy Oliver and CF Jeff Salazar also wore the black and orange during their college career.  Hague played only one year in Stillwater after playing the first three years of his college career at Washington. “It was the best decision I could have made.  I took some heat when I left UW because I’m from there, but I wanted a chance to play for a National Championship and OSU was the stop.”  Hague was also considering Clemson and Texas, but a hard sell by Jordy Mercer brought him Oklahoma State.  “I first met Matt during summer ball and I knew he would love the school.  We were going to have a good team why would you go to Clemson or UT when you can play for the Cowboys?” 

“We were loaded that year and Jordy was right.  It was awesome, we were ranked 5th in the county (2008 season) and Oliver was a stud.  So many of the guys on that team were drafted and are still playing pro ball.  I can’t believe we were upset before Omaha,  that still upsets me to this day.”  Hague and his Cowboys were knocked off the weekend before the College World Series. 

It was the only season Hague would play in the Big 12 and while Mercer has a solid full career for the Cowboys.  “Baseball is the third spot at the school.  Football is the money-maker and basketball has had some nice runs, but for my money Oklahoma State is a baseball school.”  Mercer was a pitcher and SS and he has been Hague’s teammate ever since.  “It was neat and exciting when Hague and I were drafted by the Pirates (both picked in June 2008).  He a great friend of mine and I’m glad he came to OSU.”

A HALL OF FAME TEAMMATE:

Over the weekend Deion Sanders was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  (Side note, I’m from Akron and the pro football Hall of Fame might be my favorite place on earth.  Please go visit if you’ve never had the chance)  “Prime Time” won two Super Bowls and should be regarded as one of, if not the best cover corner to every play the game.  In addition to his NFL career Sanders was a pretty good baseball player and once hit a home run in the ’93 World Series and scored a touchdown in the same week. 

Indians hitting coach Jeff Branson and Sanders played together during their Cincinnati days.  “Deion was a great teammate.  All of that extra prime time stuff was just an act.  In the clubhouse he was just one of the guys and a real solid hard worker.”  Branson does admit that between the lines Deion was a showman and prime time, but behind closed doors he was the absolute opposite.  “Prime time was how he made his money and I personally didn’t think he particularly enjoyed the limelight.  After games all of the reporters would come to him and he quickly pushed them over to the guys who did something that night.  He was a private guy and if he could have dedicated his full time to baseball he would have been real good.”  While other baseball players went to winter ball or worked on their swing during, Deion was carving out his Hall of Fame football career.

“The thing about Deion was his speed.  I have never seen a faster baseball player and it was not just to first base, but his speed from first to third or home was incredible.  He was so fast that when he rounded second he as actually running sideways trying to turn towards third.  He was just an incredible athlete and you know what he was strong.  I know he didnt’ tackle much in the NFL and he used to tell me that he didn’t paid to tackle.  Say what you want about his toughness, but he was strong and always doing push-ups.  I didn’t always see him in the weight room, but you could usually find him in the corner of the clubhouse doing push-ups.”

It was nice to hear the stories that Branson had to about Deion.  What he remembers the most is the way he treated people.  “He joked quite a bit, but was never really loud or brash.  Remember now, I was just a part-time player and he treated me the same way he treated Barry (Larkin).

During the Reds affiliation days the big club would come to Indy for an exhibition game.  During one of those exhibition games the Reds and Triple-A Indians took part in home run derby.  The winner…”Prime Time” of course. 

NEWS AND NOTES: 

Saturday the Pirates recalled RHP Brad Lincoln and optioned LHP Tony Watson back to Indy.  Tony is with the team and rode on the bus to Toledo.  Tony’s last game with the Indians was June 5th and during his two month Major League run he appeared in 25 games striking out 23 in 26.1 innings.  Wastson was a surprise call-up and he proved himself to be a big league pitcher.  Watson will now pitch out of the Indians bullpen while the Tribe will likely insert Sean Gallagher into the spot held down by Lincoln.

RHP Ross Ohlendorf is expecting to pitch on Tuesday against the Mud Hens.  He could still hear otherwise, but as of Sunday he was gearing up for his third rehab start with the Indians.  “I feel really good and my arm and shoulder are responding each day.  It’s been a long time since I’ve felt good and I will see what the Pirates want to do after my next start.”   He isn’t sure whether he will be a starter or a reliever, but he does acknowledge the final two months of the season are important to him. “ It’s been a long year and it would be nice to finish with some quality appearances and have that to build on this off-season.

Hope you can tune into the Indians of the radio the next two nights.  First pitch from Toledo will be at 7:00 with pre-game coverage at 6:40.  Catch the Indians on 1260 am or at 1260 WNDE on your iheartradio app.   I will be flying solo the next two nights because my broadcast partner Howard Kellman is away with family.  He’ll return on Wednesday and hopefully by then the Indians will be 62-56 and only 3 games out of a wild card spot.  

 

The Dealine Passes

The Major League baseball trading deadline passed yesterday and for the first time in a long time the Indianapolis Indians didn’t have any movement.  The parent club added two veteran bats in 1B Derrek Lee OF Ryan Ludwick and didn’t have to give up anybody from the Triple-A roster.  When the dust settled everything was normal in the Indians clubhouse after a tension filled 24 hours. 

As the Indians prepared to face the Gwinnett Braves on Saturday night the players wondered if a blockbuster deal would send one or two to another organization.  CF Gorkys Hernandez has already been traded twice in his career and he was hoping he would not be packing his bags for the third time.  Gorkys is 23 and in the eyes of manager Dean Treanor has developed more than any player on the Indians roster.  “I had to bench him several times back in April and May.  Now he gets it and runs out ever ball put in play and I wouldn’t want anyone else playing in centerfield.”   (Gorkys proved his abilities in CF when he went back to the wall in left center and robbed a HR from Braves OF Wilkin Ramirez.  The coaches and Gorkys teammates will tell you that right now he’s one of the top CF in all of baseball.)  Following the Indians win on Saturday night Dean called Gorkys into his office and the young OF’s mind was racing as he closed the door.  “I thought I was going up or I was going to be traded.  I didn’t want to be traded and was praying that I was staying here and Dean said I wasn’t going anywhere and I was happy to hear that.”  Dean told Gorkys that he was proud of his play as of late and sooner than later his hard work is going to pay off.  “The reason I don’t want to leave is I envision an outfield of me, (Jose) Tabata, and (Andrew) McCutchen and not a single ball hits the outfield grass.  Do you know how much ground we can cover and the plays we can make?  That’s what I hope for and I’m glad that I’m still a Pirate”

Gorkys stays with the team along with young pitchers Justin Wilson and Rudy Owens.  I only throw their names out there because they worried that they may have been in a deal.  For a lot of the players this was their first experience with the trading deadline.  With the players one step away from the big leagues they realize a trade may open up a spot for them or they could be a trade piece and immediately join a new team in the big leagues.  For a 23-year-old player it can be stressful and when the deadline passed Gorkys could breath easy.  “In the 7th inning I came in and asked Dean what time it was.  Once it was passed 4 and I was still in the game, then I knew I was staying.” 

DERREK LEE

The Pirates traded for Derrek Lee late Saturday night and he returns to the NL Central division.  Lee will make his Pirates debut tonight vs. his former team the Chicago Cubs.  Indians RHP Sean Gallagher was a teammate of Lee’s while with the Cubs.  “D-Lee is a great guy and I’m not just saying this, but he is one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.  He is so professional and a complete class act.”  Sean told me that if he didn’t feel that way he wouldn’t say anything, but he has no problem endorsing Derrek Lee. 

NEWS AND NOTES

The team will have a day off on Wednesday August 3rd and it will be their next to last day off this season.  Fans are often shocked when I tell them the Indians fit their 144 games season into 152 days.  After the day off the Indians will play 28 consecutive days with 16 home games and visits to Columbus, Toledo, and Louisville. 

The Indians finished with a winning record in July.  The Indians have had three straight winning months for the first time since 2005.  If the Indians finish August with a winning mark they will match the ’05 team that had a winning record in each of the seasons first four months.

1B Jeff Clement has arrived and is in the Indians clubhouse.  Clement joined the Indians two years ago when the Pirates made a deal with Seattle.  He had off-season knee surgery and is finally back with the Indians.  Not sure if he will see much time at 1B, but I do expect him to DH in American League games. 

Hope you can join us for tonight’s broadcast on SportsRadio 1260 WNDE.  You can find the Indians at indyindians.com, wnde.com, or on your iheartradio app.

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