Is this thing on?

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

11-11-11

The Todd Howard era finally gets underway and this time the games and the stats will count.  After winning both exhibition games the IUPUI Jaguars will tip of their regular season against the Anderson University Ravens.  With all due respect to the Ravens, tonight’s game will have the look and feel of a regular season game, but this should be a cupcake for the Jags.  The two teams are meeting for the 3rd straight year, but this game is a IUPUI regular season game for the first time since 1997.  IUPUI has won the last two years by an average margin of 25 points.  The game counts for the Jags, but it’s an exhibition for the visitors.  Tonight I expect a win and don’t expect too many questions to be answered.  The real test will be on Tuesday night when the Jaguars hit the road to play Arkansas Little Rock.

A NEW ERA

Coach Howard is not changing much, but he is making sure that the program reflects his style and beliefs.  The tradition and rock solid foundation that was laid down by Ron Hunter is still there with a little tweaking by the new head coach.  First there was the first ever open Red-White Scrimmage and a few days later he invited every former player to take in a Saturday morning practice.  That was a huge hit with the team and the players.  (A more indepth look at that practice will be coming your way early next week.)  So Todd has added some new events, but the one thing everyone will notice this season is the new uniforms.

L-R Seniors Christian Siakam, Stephen Thomas, Alex Young

The uniforms have been changed for the first time in several seasons and the team will sport white, black, and gold uniforms.  The new uniforms are by NIKE and the players absolutely love them.  Alex Young likes the change.  “The uni’s are smooth and comfy and what I like is this has a coach Howard look to it.  The new look says it’s a new time and the coach Howard era is here”

Howard is trying to become the first IUPUI head coach to win his debut since Mel Garland won his debut in 1979.  Now, to be fair only two other coaches have been on sidelines since Garland was the head coach.  Bob Lovell lost his debut in 1982 and Hunter fell in his debut back in 1994.

The team will be busy once the season tips tonight.  They will play Tuesday at Little-Rock then a week from tonight against Horizon League foe Milwaukee.  Less than 48 hours after tipping off in Milwaukee the fellas will be home for a Sunday afternoon game vs. Eastern Michigan.  Wednesday November 23rd is the first of two match-ups against Ball State and three days later it’s back home for Texas Southern.  November concludes with a trip to DC against the Georgetown Hoyas.  Add it all up and including tonight the Jaguars will play 7 times over the next 18 days.

MAKING HIS CASE:

All eyes this season will be on Summit League preseason player of the year Alex Young.  AY5 joins George Hill as the only player to take home the preseason honors.  Here is where he ranks among the university’s all-time greats:

Career Points:

Carlos Knox                      ’94-’98                   2,556

Aldray Gibson                 ’83-’87                  2,454

Jesse Bingham                ’85-’89                  1,928

Alex Young                       ’08-present         1,633

–couple of things on this list…Knox is the untouchable number and he is did it in only THREE SEASONS.  Plus, how good was the Gibson/Bingham duo in the mid-eighties?

Career Rebounding:

Alex pulled down 211 rebounds a year ago.  He enters this season with 479 career rebounds.  Another season of 200 boards and he will end up his career in the top 5.

Don Carlisle                     ’97-’01                   769

Brandon Cole                  ’02-’06                  703

Jesse Bingham               ’85-’89                  703

Charles Price                   ’97-’02                   688

Tony Long                        ’87-’91                   639

Alex Young (13th)           ’08-present          479

Minutes Played (D1 only):

Brandon Cole                  ’02-’06                  3,717

Leroy Nobles                   ’07-’11                   3,479

Matt Crenshaw               ’00-’04                  3,477

Alex Young (7th)             ’08-present         3,053

–AY totaled over 1200 minutes during the 2010-2011 season, so it’s a pretty good bet that he will be the all-time leader in minutes played.  He could eclipse the mark on January 12 at home vs. Southern Utah.

You can see where Young ranks in some pretty heavy categories.  Another number for you…Young and Christian Siakam (5th year Senior) have been a part of 60 wins in their
career.  Not sure where that ranks in the all-time D1 list, but wouldn’t it be nice to see them end up with 85 for their career?

INJURY UPDATE:

Senior Stephen Thomas is not expected to play tonight, but he may suit up for Tuesday’s game at Little-Rock.  “I have been living in the training room from sun up to sun down.  I’m feeling better each day and my goal is play on Tuesday.”  The point guard severly sprained his right ankle at the end of the first exhibition game.  The timeline has always been 2-3 weeks and if he plays on Tuesday that puts him in the 2 week category.  Thomas is working hard, but it still may not be enough.  Coach Howard is cautiously optimistic.  “He is feeling better, but when you are coming back you can feel great and then plateau.  We need to make sure that he isn’t at the plateau and to him 50% feels like 100% when it clearly is not.  Once he can prove to the Jess (Jessica Shaefer, IUPUI Athletic Trainer) that he is healthy and improving we will give him a look.”

WHERE CAN I FIND THE GAME?

Tonight’s game can be watched online at IUPUIJAGS.com and you can hear the play-by-play for free at WNDE.com.  Due to a prior scheduling conflict this game will not be on the radio dial.  It was expected and you can expect to find the Jags on their new home 1260 am on Tuesday night from Little-Rock.

I would love to hear from you a mccauleysd@yahoo.com and you can follow my tweets at twitter.com/ScottDMcCauley

 

 

 

 

 

Did that count?

On Tuesday night Todd Howard and the IUPUI Jaguars took to the court for an exhibition game vs. IU-East.  The Red Wolves from Richmond Indiana entered the game ranked 21st in the NAIA rankings and based on the twitter and fan reactions the Jaguars entered the game ranked 21st in all of college basketball.  IU-East controlled the tempo, hit some shots, and lead the Jags for most of the game.  The home squad finally took control mid way through the 2nd half and took home a 87-77 win.  The fans expected a more lopsided game, but remember it was an exhibition and it is a great way to work out the kinks, and believe me there are kinks.  But nothing to get too worked up about…at least not yet.  The visitors drilled 9 three’s, but IUPUI dominated the glass and points in the paint.  In the end IU-East wore down and Coach Howard survived his first game.  I’m wondering should everyone be down after a 10 point exhibition win?

Look around the Summit League and you will see that preseason favorite Oral Roberts cruised in their exhibition game while UMKC and North Dakota State lost in exhibition play.  After one night are the fans of the ‘Roos and Bisons done with the season?  No, it was an exhibition game and most of the time it means more for the underdog.  Tuesday night IU-East came out firing and had a solid crowd behind them.  Before the Jags knew whats happened they were down and losing a grip on the game with about 13 minutes to play.  About that time Alex Young scored 6 straight points…then Stephen Thomas chipped in and a huge run ended with Greg Rice drilling a three.  For a solid 4 minute stretch, the Jaguars played like a Division I squad and took it to the NAIA Red Wolves.  That’s all it took, a four to five-minute burst and they went on to win.  Now what did we learn in the exhibition game?

True freshman Lyonell Gaines (Louisville, KY) and Marcellus Barksdale (Lexington, KY) will make a difference at some point this season.  Gaines played 18 minutes scoring 7 points and pulled down 6 boards.  Barksdale had 5 points in 13 minutes, but more importantly, both players saw most of their minutes in the second half when it was a tight ballgame.  Physically Gaines is ahead of most freshman and Barksdale is already one of the team’s top defenders.  You could see coach Howard putting different players on the floor to see how they would react to each other.  Remember it’s an exhibition and yes, IUPUI was trying to win in Howard’s debut, but it was a great time to give minutes to the freshman and sophomore transfer Ian Chiles.  Most of Chiles 21 minutes came in the first half as he found himself in the starting lineup.

Alex Young took over the game while letting the offense come to him.  He had only 6 points at the half and finished with a game high 23.  He played excellent defense and had a few really nice passes to set up his teammates.  Sophomore Greg Rice was my wild card at the start of the season and he was a spark on Tuesday.  Injuries have limited him each of the past two seasons and at times he can be a little too fast, but as he proved in high school, he can score in bunches when given the opportunity.  Rice scored 10 points in 17 minutes hitting four of seven shots from the floor.  He is a bulldog on defense and has a score first mentality at the point, but that may have to change.

It was an exhibition games so I’ll let the coaches worry about the sloppy play, missed defensive assignments, and winded players (yup, a few fellas looked a bit gassed out there.)  The one major concern for me was with under a minute to play, 5th year senior point guard Stephen Thomas went down with a severely sprained ankle.  It was a three on two break and instead of passing to either one of the wings, he tried to split two defenders and landed hard on his ankle.  He let out a scream and the Jungle fell silent.  The good news is it isn’t broken (feared initially by the coaches), but the bad news is it could keep him out for a month.  Coach Howard didn’t sleep well Tuesday night because he was worrying about his floor general who scored 19 points on 12 shots in 28 minutes.  Injuries have limited the career of Greg Rice and now an injury may give him a shot at establishing a role.  The time-table for Thomas is 2-4 weeks and the team can only hope this injury doesn’t linger for the length of the season.

I look for better play and flow from the team in their next exhibition game on Monday night vs. Marian University.

NEWS AND NOTES:

I had some audio of Todd Howard and Alex Young, but I didn’t realize that you need to drop some coin to upload audio onto wordpress.  So I can’t upload the goods until I see if the Jags will float me some cash or I’ll have to pony up my own dough.

Here is a quick synopsis of what both men had to say.  Coach Howard said the game was a challenge because of the frantic style IU-East plays.  They roll out five guards and that took away the IUPUI bigs.  (Christian Siakam played only 21 minutes, but did grab 9 boards.)  Once the pace slowed and IUPUI could get IU-East into a set the Jags responded with better defensive rotation and they jumped the passing lanes.

Todd singled out freshman Marcellus Barksdale for his defense and went as far as to say that the young man settled down the Jaguars defense and helped spark the run.  The fans may not realize how good of a scoring team IU-East is and the Jags purposely scheduled this game early to see such a unusual style.

Alex Young didn’t want to say the team came out flat, but he acknowledged the Red Wolves were ready for the challenge and it took the team a while to catch up to speed.  AY was pleased to play with young players and liked the way they responded in tight situations.  I mentioned to Alex that the rest of the league would check the box score to see his numbers and asked if he was ready for that scrutiny.

“Yeah I ready for the pressure and if they aren’t talking about you, then you haven’t done anything.  People can talk and say whatever they want, but the game isn’t played on paper and we will settle games on the court.”

*****

I’ll fix the audio issue shortly and allow you to hear directly from the players and coaches.  It was only one game and it didn’t count, but you better believe there was relief throughout the locker room the Jags won.  It beats the alternative, just ask the fans for UMKC and North Dakota State.  Heck just ask a Butler Bulldogs fan.

The ballots are in

A little more than 24 hours from now the IUPUI Jaguars will take to the court as the curtain rises on the 2011-2012 basketball season.  Head Coach Todd Howard will make his sideline debut Tuesday night when the Jags face IU-East in exhibition action.  Before the season tips I wanted to share with you my Summit League preseason ballot.  The league sends out a ballot in early October and asks the coaches, media members, and SIDs to vote for the preseason awards.  Media members and SIDs can vote for anyone, while coaches cannot vote for any of their players.  Ballots were due on October 6th and for the second straight season I struggled to place the teams in spots 1-10 and figured out early on the league is stocked with excellent guards and wing players.

Let’s begin with the Summit League preseason player of the year IUPUI Sr. F Alex Young.  I voted for AY5 and was a little surprised he took home the award.  In my mind it was close between Alex and Oral Roberts G/F Dominique Morrison.  The Summit League does not release votes, only the winner and it even surprised Alex that he was tabbed the preseason POY.  “I thought the vote would go to (Reggie) Hamilton (from Oakland) and not to me.  It’s an honor for me and the program, but all you get for it is a larger target on your back.”  My vote went to Alex because 19 times out of 20 he is the best player on the court.  He led the league in scoring and like Morrison will be a heavy favorite to be selected all-Summit first team for the third straight year.  Coach Howard believes that is an honor that is often overlooked.  “How many players and programs can say they have a three-time first team performer?  Not many and that is a huge honor for Alex and I’m proud of him to be named the preseason player of the year because it shows him just how respected he is in this league.  Sometimes as a coach you don’t want your guy to get such an honor to keep them hungry or grounded, but in this case I was rooting for him to take home this award to get him going in the right direction.”

The big key for Alex and the Jaguars is who will compliment his scoring?  Morrison leads a loaded Oral Roberts team while AY and the Jags need to find players who can take over the scoring left by graduating all-league performer LeRoy Nobles.

*****

Here is the Summit League first team as voted on by the coaches, media, and SIDs:

Michael Craion F Oral Roberts; Frank Gaines G IPFW; Reggie Hamilton G Oakland; Dominique Morrison F Oral Roberts; Nate Wolters G South Dakota State; and Alex Young (POY) F IUPUI   

My first team did not match the one voted on and in fact Micheal Craion didn’t even make my 11 man ballot.  He deserved preseason consideration a year ago and lost his sophomore season to a foot injury.  I kept him off of my ballot because I expect other players to have more of an impact than Craion.  Since my vote was cast he scored 14 and pulled down 16 boards in ORU’s Blue-White scrimmage.  There was more too it than the injury.  When the Jags visited ORU late last year I heard Craion was not working hard in coming back from his foot injury.  Perhaps he knew it was a redshirt season and was not putting in the effort other expected.  In any case, the stories shared with me last February did factor in my preseason vote.  If he is back and the player he was a freshman, then he deserves the preseason nod and will be a load down on the blocks.

Here is my first team ballot (in order of vote 1-6):

Alex Young; Dominique Morrision; Reggie Hamilton; Nate Wolters; Damen Bell-Holter C Oral Roberts; and Jordan Dykstra F South Dakota State. 

As you can see I didn’t have Gaines and of course didn’t vote for Craion.  Why Bell-Holter and Dykstra?  Bell-Holter was a pain the rear a year ago for IUPUI and overall he averaged 13.3 ppg shooting 51% while pulling down 7.8 rebouds per game.  I think he is an excellent big man who can pass the ball and clean up the boards.  Dykstra is a terrific player and is only a sophomore.  He scored 11.3 per game shooting 56% from the floor and was 34-66 from behind the arc.  I voted for Dykstra because when the season is over I think he can be a first team performer.  Frankly, my choice for Bell-Holter (5) and Dykstra (6) was not easy based on who I voted 7th and 8th.  I found a log jam in spots 5-8, more on that in a moment.

Here is the Summit League second team voted by the coaches, media and SIDs:

Damen Bell-Holter; Ceola Clark G Western Illlinois; Jordan Dykstra; Warren Niles G Oral Roberts; and Steven Roundtree F Oral Roberts

Now, here is my second team in the order I voted them 7-11:

Steven Roundtree; Frank Gaines; Ceola Clark; Warren Niles; Christian Siakam C IUPUI

While I had Bell-Holter and Dykstra on my first team the rest of the voters placed them on the second team and I’m fine with that.  I think that Roundtree is in the discussion for the back-end of the first team it’s scary to see that Oral Roberts may have 4 of the top 8 players in the league.  For my vote Gaines was a second team performer after putting up 14.6 ppg and snagging 6.2 rebounds per game.  I was not as high on Gaines because IPFW had some excellent shooters last year that opened things up for Gaines.  If he can duplicate his numbers then he will end up a first team performer.  He has to prove to me that he can do that.  (There you go, like he cares what a radio thinks…but I have a vote Frank!)

Earlier I mentioned not voting for Craion based on an injury and here I go and vote Ceola Clark 9th overall.  Clark was the reigning defensive player of the year and 1st  team performer entering last season.  An injury robbed him of most of the season and he is back as a 5th year senior.  For me, Clark has proven he can play in this league and because of that got my vote for the 2nd team.  Had Craion been a two-time all league performer than h likely gets my vote, but I held him back because he has only had one year, while Clark has multiple years in the league.  Make sense?  Probably not to ORU fans, sorry.  They will be just fine because another preseason pick Warren Niles is a player I really like even though he has torched the Jags over the years.  He is an easy choice for me and it shows you the depth at guard when a player like Niles who averaged 14.3 per game is the 4th best guard on my ballot.  So, on my ballot ORU had 4 of the top 10 players in the league.

My last pick went to the most improved player during the 2010-2011 season Christian Siakam.  He finished the year with a double-double in 4 of the Jags last five games.  Siakam really grew as a player last year finishing the year with 8.9 ppg and 6.6 rpg.  Over those last five games of the season including two tournament games he scored 15.2 ppg and grabbed 10.4 rpg.  If he does THAT this season, then the Jags will be a team to reckon with and he will be first team all-league.  That is a big THAT and it is something I’m looking forward to finding out.

*****

Picking the preseason finishing order of the Summit League is a Vegas roll of the dice.  For me there is no question that Oral Roberts is the preseason pick.  Scott Sutton’s team returns everybody of importance and based on the 1st and 2nd team they have some talent.

Here is projected finish for the league as voted on by the media, coaches, and SIDs:

Oral Roberts (27 first place votes); Oakland (4); South Dakota State (1); IUPUI; North Dakota State; IPFW; UMKC; Southern Utah, Western Illinois; and South Dakota.

South Dakota is entering their first year in the league and are not eligible for the post season tournament.  The Coyotes return four starters from an 18-15 squad that lost in the Great West Conference tournament championship game a year ago.  Honestly, I didn’t know much about them when my ballot was due.

Here was my projected finish:

Oral Roberts; South Dakota State; Oakland, IUPUI, North Dakota State, South Dakota, IPFW, UMKC, Western Illinois, and Southern Utah. 

After Oral Roberts I struggled to finish 2-10 and picked SDSU based on Wolters and Dykstra plus they have a nice home court advantage.  Now will Wolters get by defenders like he did a year ago and can SDSU replace some excellent departing shooters?  Oakland must to replace two-time player of the year Keith Benson, but retains Hamilton and sharp shooter Travis Bader.  Will OU be athletic enough in the front court and will Reggie Hamilton score 30 a night only to forget about his teammates?  IUPUI has the preseason player of the year and a smooth 5th year senior Stephen Thomas at the point, but will sophomore Donovan Gibbs make a big leap?  The Jags will need to replace the minutes and points of LeRoy Nobles and the minutes of 4 year player John Ashworth.  Will those minutes belong to freshman or is a player like Sophomore Greg Rice ready to step up?

I can see the Jack Rabbits, Grizzlies, and Jaguars finishing anywhere in the 2, 3, or 4 spots.  Then you take your chances in the Summit League tournament and remember that ORU has never won a tournament championship outside of Tulsa.  As for the rest of my picks…I just guessed because you never know what will happen until the season tips off.  The only thing we know, ORU is the league favorite with their three major challengers all featuring game changing players.

In with the new

In central Indiana the Colts are oh-for-the season and college football isn’t exactly stealing the headlines.  Isn’t it time someone stepped up and give the fans something to cheer about?  Well my friends, say hello the college basketball season.  I know right now the mid 60 temps make it tough to think about hoops, but don’t wait for old man winter.  The time to follow your favorite team is now. 

First, let’s get the quick introduction out-of-the-way, shall we?  I am Scott McCauley and this will be my third season as the “Voice of the Jaguars.”  To outsiders this is my first blog entry, but to diehard Jaguars and Indianapolis Indians baseball fans writing has been a hobby of mine for the past three years.  In addition to calling the action for the Jags, I am a broadcaster for the Tribe and decided to move my baseball and basketball blog to one spot.  You can still find my old baseball entries athttp://indyindians.mlblogs.com/ and unfortunately a server change wiped away my entries from last years basketball season.  So to keep things straight and in a forum I can control, this blog was created.  To all of my loyal baseball followers, please take note of the change and hoops fans sign up to follow the Jaguars through the 2011-2012 college basketball season.

The Jags were picked this preseason to finish 4th in the Summit League and senior forward Alex Young was named the league’s preseason player of the year.  In the next couple of days I’ll post for you my preseason ballot and what players were my picks for All-Summit League preseason 1st and 2nd team.  I was a little surprised at the 1st team and will get into that in a couple of days.  This first entry is just a short introduction, but I don’t want to leave you without a little nugget.  Here is a trivia question you can stump all of your buddies with….and even the most knowledgable of college hoops experts. 

Which active player enters this college basketball season with the most career points? 

I’ll give you a hint…he doesn’t play for UCONN.  Or North Carolina, or Duke, or Ohio State…he plays in the state of Indiana.  Purdue’s Robbie Hummel?  Nope.  Some guy from Notre Dame?  Nope, it’s IUPUI’s Alex Young.  (C’mon, really?  The fact is straight from @EdHoldaway and the IUPUI sports information department.)  Alex has scored 1,633 points in his career and is the Jaguars all-time Division I leading scorer.  Think about that, he set the DI mark his junior year! 

AY can play and so can the rest of the Jags.  You can see them in action tonight beginning at 7:00 for the first annual Red-White scrimmage.  It’s free and your first look at college hoops and the Jaguars. 

Thanks for finding the blog and it will feature photos, audio, video, and an inside look at the IUPUI Jaguars search for an NCAA tournament bid.  Along the way I plan on catching up with some baseball players to see how they are spending their off-season.  This is a new home and a new look, but I’ll try my best to bring you quality you expect.

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.

Heat from Hughes

Thursday night 26 year-old right pitcher Jared Hughes put his stamp on the 2011 season.  The hard throwing righty inherited two runners in scoring position with only one out in a 1 run game late against the Charlotte Knights.  Indians skipper Dean Treanor brought Hughes in to protect the lead for starter Garrett Olson.  “We needed outs and Hughes can get us a strikeout or a ground ball and for me it was an easy call to bring him in.”  The Indians lost the first two games in the series and in the 6th inning the games was on the line.  Hughes made it look easy sandwiching two strikeouts around an intentional walk and the Knights left the bases loaded sending the Indians to the win.  Where did Hughes come from and will he help the Pittsburgh Pirates this season?  His teammates think so.

1B Matt Hague has been a teammate with Hughes for several seasons.  “He was incredible tonight and he has incredible stuff.  It’s a legit 95 miles per hour sinker and he has to be on the Pirates radar.”  Pirates catcher Ryan Doumit is rehabbing with the Indians and he was able to catch Hughes for the first time in that critical 6th inning.  “That was impressive and he has some good (stuff), real good (stuff).  It’s like Mike Crotta, but it’s heavy and he pounded the bottom of the zone.  I liked it and it left an impression on me.” 

Hughes joined the Indians in early June after beginning the season as a starting pitcher for Double-A Altoona.  The Indians didn’t need a starter so they put Hughes into the bullpen and he immediately opened some eyes.  LHP Brian Burres was shocked the first time Hughes pitched in a game.  “I’m charting in the stands and his first few sinkers were 91 and 92 and then all of a sudden he pours a fastball in at 96.  Where did that come from?”  Well, Hughes where did that come from?  “I’ve always had that in my reserve, but didn’t use it as a starter.  My job as a starter was to go deep into games and out of the bullpen you can run on adrenaline and it’s a short stint.  I bring a lot of energy out to the mound.  I’m always pumped coming out of the ‘pen and my adrenaline level gives me a certain edge.” 

In 19 games for the Indians Hughes is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 23.1 innings of work.  Over 60% of the balls put in play against Hughes are on the ground and the young man picked a great year to make a splash in Triple-A.  This is his 6th year with the Pirates and Pittsburgh will have to protect him or he will be exposed in the Rule V draft.  Each of the past two seasons he has not been protected and been passed over in the Rule V.  19 appearances doesn’t guarantee a September call-up or even a spot on the 40 man roster, but if he isn’t protected come this December some team may be intrigued by the big right-hander who has 96 miles per hour in reserve.

Yours truly standing next to big man, photo by Ross Ohlendorf

WHAT WILL HAPPEN THIS YEAR?

The MLB trading deadline is fast approaching and for the past 5 seasons the deadline has always affected the Indianapolis Indians.  Beginning in 2006 when the Pirates traded Indians LHP Oliver Perez and promoted CF Chris Duffy.  The real shocker was back in 2007 when CF Rajai Davis was pulled in the middle of batting practice.  I remember Rajai slowly walking back to the dugout and he quietly said, “I think I’ve been traded.”  Where?  “I don’t know, but I was told to stop taking BP.”  Minutes later we found out he was heading to San Fransisco for veteran RHP Matt Morris.

The biggest deal was back in 2008 when the Pirates, Red Sox, and Dodgers made a deal that sent Jason Bay from Pittsburgh to Boston and Manny Ramirez from the Sox to Hollywood.  At the time the Indians were in Toledo and as the 4 o’clock deadline approached work spread in the clubhouse that Bay was heading to Tampa Bay for RHP Jeff Niemann and SS Reid Brignac.  I’ll be honest, I thought that was going to be a pretty good deal.  We had faced Niemann and he was pretty good and when healthy Brignac was the best SS in the IL.  Turns out, that was not the deal.  At the final minute the three team deal went through and while myself and the players tried to recall remember OF Brandon Moss & RHP Craig Hansen, 3B Neil Walker stewed in the dugout.  What I’ll remember the most from the ’08 trade was Walker’s reaction.  Less than two months earlier the Pirates drafted 3B Pedro Alvarez and now they acquired a player who plays that exact same position as Walker. Needless to say Walker was not a happy camper.  Two years later Walker switched positions for the third time in his career and is now Bucs everyday 2B.

In 2009 the Indians were in Norfolk at the deadline and the Tribe watched two starting pitchers get traded away.  The first was LHP Tom Gorzelanny and I was there when he got the phone call.  The team had a day game and later that night a group of us went to dinner at Outback.  Near the end of dinner Gorzo’s phone rang and he was told that he was traded to the Cubs.  A week later he was pitching in Wrigley Field and Jose Ascanio was in an Indians uniform making his Pirates debut.  Two years later Indians fans would get to see the third player the Pirates received in that deal; Josh Harrison.

The day after Gorzelanny was traded RHP Ian Snell was shipped to Seattle.  I snapped this picture of Snell watching ESPN discuss the trade:

Ian Snell learns more about his '09 trade

In return the Indians received former 1st round pick Jeff Clement.  He arrived in Norfolk the next day and Clement made quite a debut hitting a home run to right field in his first at-bat and then hitting one out to left field in his second at -bat.  In 2010 the Indians again were in Norfolk, VA and once again the clubhouse was filled with players carrying bags without the Pirates logo.  Last year SS Pedro Ciriaco brought in his Arizona bag while RHP Joe Martinez and OF John Bowker brought their Giants bags into the clubhouse.

That’s five seasons and five significant moves within the Indians clubhouse.  Stick around and see what happens in the next 48 hours.

NEWS AND NOTES:

Ryan Doumit continues to rehab with the Indians.  The Pirates catcher landed on the DL back on May 30 and is expected to bus with the team to Gwinnett after tonight’s game.  The Pirates have mapped out a plan for Doumit and he is required to pinch-hit in at least one game before he can will be activated.  For Doumit this is the 3rd consecutive year he has rehabbed with the Indians and looks like the first time he will not play in the OF.  This years plan calls for him to only C and DH and he will likely be activated after the weekend.

RHP Ross Ohlendorf will start tonight for the Indians.  Like Doumit, Ross the Boss is rehabbing for the Pirates.  He pitched on 8.2 innings before landing on the Pirates disabled list on April 9th.  He is not expected to have a full 100 pitch count, but the last time out he was allowed to throw 60 pitches.  If he is able to pitch 5 or 6 innings then the Indians will use their bullpen the rest of the way.  However, if for some reason Ohlendorf has a short outing LHP Rudy Owens will be in the bullpen to pick him up.  Ohlendorf faces the Charlotte Knights tonight at 7:15 on Sportsradio 1260 WNDE.  You can listen out of the Indianapolis market on your iheartradio app.   

37 games remain for the Indians and they are 4.5 games out in the wild card race.  After tonight’s game with Charlotte the Indians will play 4 against the G-Braves.  The Indians are 4 games behind Gwinnett in the wild card race so they will have a chance to jump in the standings.

When Miggy Met Gorkys

Indianapolis Indians centerfielder Gorkys Hernandez is only 23 years old, but he is playing in his third organization.  There is no question he has the talents and abilities to become a long time big leaguer; how many players can say they have been invited to play in the MLB Futures game for three different organizations?  The question and perhaps the reason that the speedy and gifted Hernandez has bounced from Detroit to Atlanta to Pittsburgh is his attitude.  From time to time Gorkys Hernandez has thrown his bat, his helmet, argue with umpires, and generally act out in childish ways.  At times those acts overshadow his baseball abilities.

In 2009 the Pittsburgh Pirates sent All-Star CF Nate McLouth to the Atlanta Braves in return for three minor league players.  One of the players was Gorkys Hernandez and the 21 year-old was sent to Double-A Altoona.  During a game with the Curve an animated Hernandez complained to an umpire and then proceeded to toss things around in the dugout.  Miguel Perez was there and remembers the outburst.  “It was quite a show he put on that day, but in the end he was embarrassing himself.”  Miguel Perez was a catcher on the 2009 Altoona team and didn’t like the attitude of the new young centerfielder.  “Back in the clubhouse I sat down next to him and asked who are you?  Do you know where you are playing?”  Gorkys gave Miguel a confused look and said Double-A.  “Exactly, you are in Double-A.  You haven’t done anything in this game and there is no reason for you to act the way you do.  In the higher levels and the big leagues, guys don’t act like you.”  Miguel Perez has been playing pro ball since 2001 and since 2006 he has never played in more than 57 games, but he grew tired of watching a fellow Venezuela player hold him self back.  “It was the first time I had ever spoken to Gorkys and I told him that the only person who will keep him out of the big leagues is himself.  He can’t act like that and expect to succeed.  At the time I’m not sure if another player had ever talked to him like that.  I could tell he didn’t like it.” 

A couple of days later while shagging fly balls during batting practice the top prospect walked over to the back-up catcher.  “I wanted to know his story and where he has played and I found out that he played in the big leagues with the Reds.”  At one time Miguel Perez was a catching prospect with the Cincinnati Reds and made his debut in September of 2006.  He played in only 2 games and went 0-3.  It remains the only time he has played in the Major Leagues.  For Gorkys that was enough and soon the two of them became inseparable.  “Gorkys asked to be my roommate so we roomed on the road and we shared an apartment.  I didn’t walk over to him that day to find a friend, but to get him to act more professionally.” 

Miguel Perez photo by Bill Gentry

Perez played for the Indians during the 2009 and he has a very easy-going personality.  He is always upbeat and greets everybody with a smile.  I found it out of character for him to step up to a player like Gorkys and set him straight, turns out I was wrong.  “I guess most of the places I have been I have been looked as a leader.  Maybe it is because I’m a catcher, I don’t know, but I do my best to keep people accountable.”  Sounds like a leader to me and to Indians manager Dean Treanor.  “Miggy is great behind the plate.  What I like is the way he deals with pitchers and he can be a calming influence when things are not going your way.  Plus, I see that way he fits into our clubhouse.” 

The team was in Toledo Ohio when I first noticed the relationship between Miguel and Gorkys.  Gorkys has been with the Indians all season and for Miguel it was only his first week with the 2011 team.  The Indians bullpen melted down late in a 7-1 loss at Toledo and after my on the field interview I made my way through the Indians dugout and down the hallway.  The entire team walked int the clubhouse, but Gorkys waited for Miguel in the dugout as he gathered up his catching gear.  I was behind the two players as they walked from the dugout to a hallway that would lead them to the clubhouse.  In the hallway five kids in wheel chairs and their parents approached.  The kids were heading to the dugout and their parents were going to push them around the bases before other kids could run the bases.  They thought the team had completely passed by and the parents tried to turn the bulky wheelchairs so the two players could pass by.  Gorkys had his head down and walked by the kids when all of a sudden I heard Miguel “Gorkys, come here.”  The 23 year-old stopped and with the loss still stinging, turned and walked back towards the kids.  I watched Gorkys and Miguel kneel down, and let the kids wear their gloves and hold their bats.  Two parents covered their mouths and wiped away their tears.  Unfortunately not all of the kids could hold a bat or put on a glove so Miguel placed his catching mask on a kid and place his bat in another’s lap.  The only sound was the kids laughing and I’m not sure who had the bigger smiles; the kids or Miguel and Gorkys.  A very simple gesture gave the families a special memory.   After a minute, the two Indians were in the clubhouse and the kids took to the diamond. 

The two Venezuelans still room together and just the other day Miguel had to set Gorkys straight after he became frustrated.  “He can be frustrated, but not in the dugout where everyone can see him.  He’ll be ready for the big leagues when he begins to act like a big league player and that day will be very soon.  I mean do you see the way he plays centerfield?  He’s a unbelievable player and he’s my good friend.”  Even if their paths never crossed, Gorkys would be a prospect in Triple-A, but thanks to Miguel Perez he can shed the prospect tag and become a Major League player and person.

Goryks makes the catch, photo by Bill Gentry

HEAT WAVE:

A July heat wave has hit the midwest and Indianapolis is under a heat advisory.  Over the next few days the humidity will make it feel like 100-110 degrees.  It’s hot in the radio booth and in the stands, so how do the players do it?  Athletic Trainer Bryan Housand  knows the key is hydration.  “There are several ice towels in the dugout and they are for anyone who needs one.  Plus, we made sure the players are full of electrolytes.”  Gatorade has cornered the hydration market.  The Indians players will take a packet of Gatorade Electrolyte powder and mix it with a bottle of water.  That way when they sweat they are still keeping the nutrients they need.  “The whole key is to make sure they take the powder and just keep drinking fluids.” 

Steve Pearce is rehabbing with the Indians and was playing in Florida prior to joining the Tribe.  “Everyday is hot in Bradenton.  I don’t mind this heat and I can get used to this more than trying to adjust and play in 30 or 40 degree weather.”  Not only is Housand busy keeping the players hydrated, but he is dealing with two Pittsburgh Pirates.  Pearce and Pirates SS Ronny Cedeno are currently with the team and could be activated by the Pirates by the weekend.  This is the fifth season Pearce has worn an Indians uniform and according to him the first time in a while he’s been healthy.  “My off-season knee surgery was needed and I’m feeling great.  I’m ready when the Pirates need me and my job will be to help them win games and stay healthy.”  Pearce went on the Pirates DL May 29 with a partially torn right calf muscle.  Cedeno suffered a concussion while playing SS and was place on the new 7 day concussion disabled list.  He has been out for more than seven days, but says he is ready to rejoin the Pirates. 

On Sunday in Columbus 6 Indians players who saw action were on the Pirates opening day roster.  They were Pearce, Cedeno, John Bowker, Pedro Alvarez, Garrett Olson, and Josh Rodriguez.  While at the same time the Pirates had SEVEN players from the Indians opening day roster.  It is always the Triple-A teams job to prepare players for the big leagues and Dean and his staff have done just that.

Hope you can join us for the tonight’s broadcast.  The Indians are facing the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox Triple-A affiliate.  The Indians enter play Tuesday night 5 games out in the wild card race.  Pre-game coverage on SportsRadio 1260 am begins at 6:45 with LHP Rudy Owens delivering the first pitch at 7:05.

Back From the Break

The Indianapolis Indians entered the All-Star break with a walk-off HR from LF John Bowker and returned from the three-day break with a 1st inning HR from the same man.  The 2011 Indians will not fade from the playoff race and with 51 games to play are 3.5 games out in the wild card race and surging in the West Division. The club has won 4 straight games and is seeking a playoff berth for the first time since 2006.  There is still a lot of baseball to play and as Indians fans have learned over the years the team roster is very fluid and no one really knows who will be in the lineup next week, the next two weeks, or one month from now.  The only thing you can count on is this team will play all out and is a direct reflexion of the skipper Dean Treanor.  I’m ready for the ride and I’m sure you are too.

For the first time in 18 years the Pittsburgh Pirates are in a serious playoff race of their own and their season will have a direct effect on the Tribe.  The parent club is expecting the return of OF Jose Tabata, SS Ronny Cedeno, and INF Steve Pearce.  All three players are currently on the disabled list and when they are activated who comes back to Indianapolis?  Will the Pirates made a deal to acquire a player and in return will the Indians lose players?  Like I said there is a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of moves are expected by the time we wrap up July.

One of the walking wounded Steve Pearce played for the Indians on Thursday night.  He was the DH going 1-5 with a long home run to left field.  “That swing felt great and for the most part I was comfortable at the plate tonight.”  The long time Indian was placed on the Pirates DL May 29 with a partial tear in his right calf.  Add the calf injury to the long line of ailments for the right-handed hitter.  “I had knee surgery last season and I’m telling you for first time in two years my knee feels great.  It was tough to play through and eventually I had to clean it up and I feel great.”  I have always liked Pearce because he is enthusiastic and is always trying to make himself better.  Rarely do you come across a player who tinkers with his swing as much as Pearce.  “I have to be comfortable at the plate and in a short time I’ve found a good comfort level at the plate”  During his first at-bat I noticed a chance in his batting stance.  “I changed my hands because I needed to relax at the plate.  I made the move at the beginning of the season because I was not playing everyday and I was having trouble finding the right set position for my hands.  My timing was off and I kept adjusting my hands to get them in the right starting position.  So I decided to flatten my bat and it allowed me to relax and I always found the right spot so I knew my hands were in the proper position for each pitch.”   

He does not know how long he will rehab with the Indians and I expect him to play a game or two at 1B and at 3B during his rehab.  “I’m here everyday and when they say times up then hopefully I’ll go to Pittsburgh.”  The Pirates minor league players have to show the full sock while Major League players usually don’t show any socks and have the bottom on their pants rest on the shoe tops.  Pearce conformed and showed his socks, but he wouldn’t give up his Pirates batting helmet.  “It’s the rule to show the socks right?  So I’ll do that, but no chance I’m wearing that double (ear) flapped helmet.” 

*****

Did you tune into the Triple-A All-Star game on Wednesday night?  Matt Hague was the IL’s starting 1B and the MLB Network decided to mic up “Chatty Matty.”  Not only did the network come up with a great idea, but they found the perfect player.  “I talk to everybody who comes over to first base.  I was loving the mic and they (MLB Network) told me it was great and to keep it up.  We should do it in Indy.”  Hague’s current teammates don’t think that is a good idea and knew that Hague would be a perfect candidate for the mic, but there was one problem.  I’ll let LHP Brian Burres explain, “he is constantly spitting.  pfft, pfft, pfft, hey man what’s up, pfft, pfft, you hit that ball well, pfft, pfft, can you see ok is there a pfft, pfft, glare?  pfft, pfft.  He was good, but enough with the seeds.” 

“Do I really do that?  Oh well, I was told it was gold and that’s good enough for me.”  Hague had a great time in the game won by the IL 3-0 and he enjoyed playing with players he competes against.  “It was cool to get to know (Columbus 2B Jason) Kipnis and (Louisville C Devon) Mesoraco.  We play them so much during the year and it’s cool to see that they are good dudes.”  Who was Hague’s favorite teammate during the All-Star game?  “Without a doubt it was (Erik) Kratz.  Kratzy, it nuts and so funny.  I would love to spend a season with him.  He knows a ton about the game and you could see that he was one of the leaders in the clubhouse.”  The former Indians C played in his third straight All-Star game representing Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night.

*****

While Matt and Dean spent the All-Star break in Salt Lake several players took advantage of the break to return home and relax.  After Sunday’s walk-off win several players dashed to the airport to catch flights home.  Some headed to California, Texas, Florida, and Chicago with a few deciding to stay and relax in Indy.  No matter what the plans were it is a time to recharge the battery.  Most of the players took their mind off of baseball and used the break as a physical and mental vacation.  As a matter of fact most of the player didn’t tune into the ML Home Run Derby or the MLB All-Star game.  Turns out, that is the last thing they want to pay attention to during the break.  Can’t blame them, they need the break and now it’s time to finish off the 2011 season in winning fashion.

Hope you can tune into the broadcasts this weekend.  The Indians and West Leading Columbus Clippers will play Friday night at 7:05, Saturday at 7:05, and Sunday evening at 5:05.  All the games are on SportsRadio 1260 AM, Indyindians.com, or the iheartradio app.  After the series with Columbus the team will head home for an 8 game homestand, their longest at home since the first week in June.  The Indians will play Charlotte for four and then square off with Rochester for four game.

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