Is this thing on?

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

Archive for the month “March, 2009”

The Infield is set

Early this morning the Pittsburgh Pirates sent Brian Bixler and Andrew McCutchen to Indianapolis.  Both players were having a spring worthy of making the opening day roster.  Bixler appeared to be the favorite for a final utility bench spot.  More info will come from the Pirates later today, but it appears this is a “playing time” move.  The organization may feel it is better to have Bixler play short and 2nd everyday in Indy than sit on the big league bench.  McCutchen’s move is all about the business of baseball.  By placing him on the Pirates roster later this summer gives them a full extra year of his service.  So instead of 6 years of Pittsburgh service, he can get 6 1/2 years of playing time.  It’s a move the Reds made with Jay Bruce a year ago and if McCutchen continues his spring training pace with the Indians…he’ll be in Pittsburgh by the middle of May. 

As of today the infield will have Steve Pearce at first, Shelby Ford at second, Brian Bixler at short, and Neil Walker at third.  Robinzon Diaz is the Tribe’s catcher and Andrew McCutchen will play in centerfield.  The Pirates still have to make 10 more moves this week.  

10:00 UPDATE Here is the latest on the moves today from Dejan Kovacevic of the Post-Gazette:

Neal Huntington discusses both moves: “We made two very difficult moves today. In both instances, the player reaffirmed our belief in their ceiling as everyday to above-average major league players. They’ve shown us signs of things to come for the future. But they’ve also shown us that work remains for each player. Both players had very strong spring trainings, but we think about the body of work, what they did last year, what they did this offseason. As we try to make logical, rational decisions for what’s best for the organization, we felt like it was the right decision to have them continue their development in Indianapolis.”

On McCutchen specifically: “He slowly but surely has ticked off a lot of the elements we wanted to see from him. The defense, the patience at the plate, all have been strong. We still have to work on the base-stealing, on the bunting, so that, when he does struggle, he can pull that third baseman in and find his way on base.”

It was not at all unusual to see Andrew working on his bunting an hour or two before regular batting practice.  I really want to see how much he has improved because a year ago it was a problem.  Once he adds that to his offensive arsenal his numbers will jump.


McCutchen took the demotion well: “You’re knockin’ at the door, you’re just waiting for them to open it. That’s where I’m at, and I’ll just go from there. … They told me to just keep doing what I’m doing: Don’t change my approach. Don’t change anything. Don’t go down there and feel like you have to hit .400 to make it to the big league team. … This was just more of a reassurance here of what I worked on in the offseason. I had some guys help me with certain things, and I brought it here to spring training. I feel good with where I’m at.” ,,, I asked McCutchen if he felt he outperformed people who might make the team. “No, I don’t look at it that way at all. I did what I could, and I felt like, hey, it was up to them to make the decision. It’s not up to me. All I can do is go out there and show them what I have. I believe I made the decision tough because, coming into spring training, I don’t believe I had any chance at all. But I think I made it hard on ’em. I’m good with that.”



McCutchens 5 spot and a peek at the Indians Roster

Andrew McCutchen went off today in spring training action vs. Philadelphia.  He is likely to start the season as the Indianapolis Indians centerfielder, but for now he is tearing it up in Spring Training.  McCutchen went 5-5 with a home run and three doubles.  His first four hits came off of Jamie Moyer with his fifth off of Brad Lidge.  In 25 spring games he is batting .308 with two home runs and 7RBIs. 


Even with his performance today, you can still expect the Pirates top outfield prospect to be the Tribe’s leadoff hitter on April 9th.  The reason is basic business.  This comes from Dejan Kovacevic in his game recap for the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:


…management’s stance is that he needs more seasoning with Class AAA Indianapolis. For another, if he is held off the roster for part of the coming season, the team can retain his major league rights for an additional year down the road


Earlier this morning the Pirates announced a few more moves.  Steve Pearce and Robinzon Diaz have been assigned to AAA.  You will see both of them in the opening day line up.  Diaz will be the Tribe’s starting catcher after Pittsburgh made Jason Jaramillo (off season trade involving Ronny Paulino) the back-up to Ryan Doumit.  Diaz spent the final week of the ’08 season with the Indians after an August trade with Toronto.  Pearce will be the Indians everyday first baseman.  A year ago he made the move to right field and he was never comfortable in the field or at the plate.  Today he said all the right things to Jenifer Langosh:


I’m just going to go down and take it serious,” Pearce said, just before leaving McKechnie Field on Saturday morning. “It’s hard right now. I wouldn’t get the at-bats if I were to make the team. And without constant at-bats, I don’t think I can be the best I can be. I need the at-bats to find a sort of comfort zone and then let the rest play out.”


A season ago Pearce appeared in 103 games for the Indians batting .251 with 12 home runs and 60 RBIs.  He played in right field for 67 games batting .243 with an OBP of .300.  Compare those numbers to his .296 average and .366 OBP in 32 games at first base.  I understand it is a smaller sample size.  Pearce had 263 at bats as a left fielder and 98 at first.  Taking the numbers out of the equation you could tell Pearce was a happier baseball player when he was at first base compared to left.  I’m sure some players and managers will say it’s not that big of a deal, but I remember talking with him about it last year and he brought a different attitude to the batting cages and the game when he knew he was at first base. 


The moves today just about fill out the Indians starting infield for April 9th.  Robinzon Diaz will be the opening day catcher.  2008 MVP Neil Walker will be open at third.  Either Brian Bixler or Luis Cruz will be the shortstop.  If the Pirates don’t make a minor trade to strengthen their bench I think Bix will be with the Bucs and Cruz will be with the Tribe.  Switch-hitting Shelby Ford will be the second baseman and we now know Pearce will be at first.  The Pirates have a week to cut their roster from 40 to 25.  So expect more moves this weekend and early next week. 


Here is more on Bixler who is making a favorable impression this spring.  Chuck Finder had this to say about Bixler in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:


He added three hits, two stolen bases and two double plays Tuesday night to a spring portfolio that already placed him amid the spring leaders among regulars in batting average, at .333, and triples, with three. And he also has adapted to second base so adroitly that his utility, his versatility plus his bat off the bench could earn him a roster spot come opening day, rather than a return, at 26, to Class AAA Indianapolis for a third season with management’s intent of playing him every day.


After reading that let’s keep Bixler in Pittsburgh and add C Miguel Perez, INF Pedro Lopez, INF Anderson Machado, and 1B Jason Delaney to the roster.  The outfielders will be Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Jeff Salazar, and I’m not sure about who will be the fourth outfielder.  The names to consider are Nyjer Morgan, Larry Broadway, Adam Boeve, and Ryan Mulhern.  Morgan is likely to be with the Pirates, but he is struggling this spring.  I’m adding him even though it’s 80/20 he’s with the big club.  Broadway was signed this off season and has spent the past two seasons playing for the Columbus Clippers.  Boeve and Mulhern may be the odd men out after spending last year with the Indians.  Just typing that sentence reminds me it’s a business.  I really like Adam, but he appears to be a body more than a prospect.     


The Indians starting rotation will feature right-hander Jimmy Barthmaier, lefty Tom Gorzelanny, righty Virgil Vasquez, right Daniel McCutchen, and the #5 spot is up for grabs.  IF Jason Davis is not in the Pirates bullpen he will be a starter with the Indians.  I think he’ll be in Pittsburgh because he can be counted on for long relief and a starter working deep into games was an issue a year ago.  Some names to consider for the final spot are RHP Ty Taubenheim, RHP Lincoln Holdzkom, and LHP Corey Hamman.  The relievers will included RH Romulo Sanchez, RH Jesse Chavez, RH Brian Slocum, RH Evan Meek (tired arm may be the only reason he is not with the Bucs), LH Dave Davidson, and RH Chris Bootcheck.


A lot will change over the next 7 days.  The team is schedule to arrive in Indianapolis a week from Sunday.  The countdown continues with the Major League opener next Sunday and the Indians opener the following Thursday.  We’ll talk again soon.




A Change of Plans

A couple of days ago I was planning on taking a guess on the Indians opening day roster.  Well, the plans have changed.  There are some NCAA hoops games on the schedule tonight and an unexpected party has come about, so no roster prediction tonight.  The word is Pittsburgh is planning a massive amount of cuts either tonight or tomorrow and I’ll bring that to you along with a full update on the roster.

Here are a couple of things to keep you busy.  It appears right handed reliever Jesse Chavez is heading back to Pittsburgh.  John Perrotto has a nice piece on Chavey.  A good friend of mine Will Carroll saw Jesse pitch last summer at Victory Field and when Jesse unleashed a 96 mile and hour heater it caught his attention.  Will is not a scout, but he knows baseball and he really liked the way Jesse threw and saw big league velocity.  Numbers with the Pirates roster may push Chavez to Indy, but he’ll get another shot if he pitches like last year.

So today for lunch I left the Indians offices and went over to Lucas Oil Stadium.  It was open practice for tomorrows NCAA Midwest Regional Finals.  Here is a shot of Arizona’s practice.  I was sitting about 10 rows away from the baseline.

NCAA Regional 002.jpg

Notice the court sits about two feet off the ground and I believe center court is on the 50 yard line.  Practice was free and it is always worth a visit.  I’d rather watch the games on spectacular high definition than pony up the money to sit a mile from the court.  Of course that is easy for me to say my favorite school isn’t in Indy.  I would be at the games if they were playing.  


Keep up the comments and I’ve been told to utilize my spell check.  So hang with me and remember first pitch is two weeks from tonight.

Two Plus Weeks Away

Hard to believe the ’09 Indians season starts up two weeks from Thursday.  I’ll be honest folks, the season is around the corner and I’m not even close to being ready.  READY?  C’mon McCauley you’re a radio announcer!  All you need to do is find the radio booth, sit down, and talk!  Well, yeah, but there’s more to it than that.  On Thursday I’m going to take a shot at the Indians opening day roster.  I’m going to cheat a little and use this article by John Perratto to give me a head start.


Over the next two weeks I’ll be familiarizing myself with our possible roster.  It’s not just about media guides and Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook.  Although the handbook is a book I’ll use the entire season.  Most of the players I will know from last year.  Some of the new faces may be old faces from familiar teams.  So I’ll contact other radio announcers and get some info such as demeanor (gotta know what kind of guy he is), ability, and history of injuries.  From there I’ll put together a note card with their career numbers, single season bests, and single game bests.  You’ve better be prepared to talk about anything during a baseball game and maybe there is a story within their career numbers.  For example last year infielder Josh Wilson was approaching 1,000 career minor league hits.  It’s not exactly something you stop a game for, but it did add some levity to the season.  Josh and a few of his teammates put together a countdown on his chase for 1,000.  He eventually got it with a base hit in Columbus.  I gave him a standing “O” from the radio booth hoping he would tip his cap.  Of course he never did because as Josh put it “that’s way too many minor league games.”    


Last year Louisville announcer Jim Kelch showed me a three ring binder he uses to keep track of a players day-by-day numbers.  He said it is a great way to see how a player does against a particular team or when they last hit a home run.  So I decided to give it a try and it was fantastic.  Look, deep down I’m a numbers guy who can look at trends both positive and negative for hours.  So this book just added to my addiction.  I’ll be heading to Kinko’s sometime this week to get my book back together.  I still have last year’s pages and will keep them for reference.  The final step will be getting my highlighters and mechanical pencils.  I’m pretty particular about those items.  It dates back to my first year as a broadcaster.  I wanted a way to better see my scorebook in the sometimes poorly lit Midwest League press boxes.  So I use five different highlighters to mark strikeouts (yellow), walks (pink), hits (blue), stolen bases (orange), and errors (green).  This will be the 7th year of this system and I like it.  It allows me to quickly see K’s, BB’s, or hits and when the game is over the colors can sometimes tell a story.  I have NO idea how other announcers handle their scorebook.  The best way is the way you are most comfortable with. 


Here is a sample from July 21st vs. Charlotte.  It is easy to count up the Indians 11 hits and 8 strikeouts.  You see Brian Bixler drew the only walk and Matt Kata reached on an error.  Check out the box near the upper right where I write in-game notes.  Tribe manager Trent Jewett was ejected in the 5th inning for arguing a check swing.  It was probably Steve Pearce who tried to check up.


scorebook.jpgFrom there I will test the radio equipment as well as the broadcast lines in the home and visiting radio booths.  Then I’ll be ready for the season.  This week I’ll get my three ring-binder set up, note cards situated, and buy a season worth of highlighters and mechanical pencils.  In my mind I feel rushed, but it’s not that bad when you write it all out.  One of my favorite parts of my job is the preparation.  You just never know what kind of information you will need during a baseball broadcast.  I bet 75% of the info gathered is never used.  But you know what, I’ll have it just in case.         





I’m sitting at home tonight watching all of the NCAA tournament games thanks to March Madness on Demand.  It’s an absolute must and even better with the games on spectacular HD.    Yesterday’s post centered around the Pirates moves and more info has come out today. 

This is from Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Gorzelanny was sent to the Pirate City minor-league camp to begin work on making more consistent his delivery, his breaking ball, his changeup and his fastball command, not to mention his conditioning.

According to GM Neal Huntington:

“While he did great work to get himself in better condition [shedding about 20 pounds], he really just evened the playing field and put himself where he should’ve been all along. We need Tom Gorzelanny to make some adjustments and work his way back to the big leagues and earn a spot in this rotation.”

That my friends is a direct message to Tom Gorzelanny and he may be with the Indians longer than he wishes.  While the move of sending Gorzelanny to the minors was a demotion, the move of cutting Neil Walker from Big League camp was a business move.  From that same article by Chuck Finder:


 Walker was sent down because tomorrow marked the date when his major league service clock could have started were he to get hurt in spring training and spend the year on the disabled list.

“This is the ugly business side,” Huntington said.

“I totally understand it,” Walker said. “They made it clear when the time would come, they would not hesitate to call me up. I showed [this spring] I’m extremely close.”

One player moves with his confidence growing, while another needs to find his.  Just another story about the ups and downs of baseball. 

Some good news today is the Indians had their first minor league spring training games today.  They lost, but it’s not your normal nine inning game…you see there really aren’t any rules.  OF Brandon Moss made a plate appearance in each of the first six innings going 1-5 with a walk.  Moss injured his right thumb back on March 9th and is trying to come back in time for opening day.  RHP Ross Olehdorf gave up 4 runs in 4 innings of work, but is still expected to be the Pirates #4 starter come the start of the season.  Without any rules and true box scores the only info we gain from these games comes from Indians President Max Schumacher.  Max is in Bradenton watching the Indians roster come together.


 Enjoy the hoops and the Indians guarantee to open their season three weeks from tonight at Victory Field. 





March Madness

It has been way too long since we last spoke so let’s start playing catch up shall we?  As expected this week the Pirates have cut several players from Big League camp and assigned them to the minors. On Monday they sent right hander pitcher Jimmy Barthmaier to Indianapolis.  This wasn’t a surprising move and you can expect Jimmy (3 wins with the Tribe a year ago) to be in the starting rotation.  Righty Daniel McCutchen will join the Indians rotation after his move Monday to minor league camp.  Second baseman Shelby Ford was having a solid spring (5-17, HR) until he missed a week with a sprained wrist.  Now he is in minor league camp and expect him to be the Indians opening day second baseman.  The other moves include last year’s #1 pick Pedro Alvarez and pitcher Ronald Uviedo heading to high A Lynchburg.  Jeff Sues and Steve Lerud will be in Altoona while pitcher Juan Mateo will find a home in AA or possibly Indianapolis.


The real action was today when left handed pitcher Tom Gorzelanny was sent to AAA and outfield Jose Tabata was assigned to AA.  First let’s start with the Tabata move which was expected.  When he was in the Spring Training line up he was able to put together some real nice at-bats.  This move to minor league camp will give him the opportunity to play everyday and improve defensively.  Let’s monitor where he plays in the outfield with Andrew McCutchen clearly the centerfielder of the future.  Perhaps Tabata will play where his idol once played.  I believe Indians fans will see Jose Tabata sometime around July 4th.  What this move really does is in all likelihood put Andrew McCutchen in the Indians Opening Day lineup.


Now let’s get to Gorzelanny. I am not going to break down the numbers and tell you why I think he is in Indy.  I’ll tell you what…look for yourself and take a look at the strikeouts and walk totals from the past two years.  Don’t worry about the ERA as much as the lack of command from a guy who was the best left-handed pitcher in the International League back in 2006.  Heck in 2007 Gorzelanny was a fan vote away from making the ’07 All-Star game.  It’s a stunning fall, but one that only he can turn around.  I had a gut feeling on Monday that Gorzelanny was going to be the Indians opening day starter.  At first I thought it was all the food I had over the weekend (thank you in-laws), but his spring outings told me he was going along the same path as a year ago.  When Gorzo was optioned from the Bucs to the Indians he put up solid numbers.  Yet at the end of each outing he didn’t pass the eye test.  He didn’t seem like the dominate lefty we saw in ’06.  He was GOOD last year, but not GREAT like he was in ’06.  I expect him to have success with the Indians giving him a shot at reclaiming a spot in the Pirates rotation. 


The other moves today included ’08 Indians MVP Neil Walker and reliever Dave Davidson heading the AAA camp.  Brian Slocum was assigned to minor league camp today after he and Davidson combined to walk 6 batters in a single inning Monday vs. Tampa.  I’ve discussed Davidson and the moves give him and Walker the chance to play in the minors and not ride the bench during Big League camp.  Does all this camp stuff make sense?  When Spring Training began the Pirates has 50 some odd guys on the team.  They need to trim their roster to 25 by opening day. You do that by assigning players to different minor league teams.  This basically means they go across the street and play spring training games against other minor league players. 


These recent moves give us a clearer picture of the 2009 Indianapolis Indians opening day roster.  Right now you can expect Gorzelanny, Barthmaier, and McCutchen to be in the rotation.  This by the way is an awesome one-two-three punch for an AAA rotation.  The word in Pittsburgh is Ross Ohlendorf, Jeff Karstens, and Virgil Vasquez will vie for the final two spots in the Pirates rotation.  If I was a betting man, I would say Vasquez will be in Indy.  The former Toledo Mud Hen is a control pitcher that will have success in a pitchers park like Victory Field.  But hey you never know, a year ago free agent Phil Dumatrait was ticketed to Indy and spends the entire year in the Big Leagues.  Let ’em decide on the mound and the one left out will have to suck it up and get the job done here.


As of today there are about 35 guys who could end up with the Indians.  We will gain an even clearer picture in the upcoming days.         


Adding some color

Thanks to everyone who has dropped by to read the blog and especially those of you who have left comments.  I’ll be putting up a post soon answering your questions.


After three entries I figured it was time to add a little flavor.  The current temperature outside is 24 degrees, but with the sun shining I say it could pass for 35.  I just ran out from the ticket office and snapped a couple of shots from the 2nd level.  They are from my cell phone.


You can see part of a tractor on the right side of the picture.  Our head groundskeeper Joey Stevenson and his assitant Evan Buckley are doing some work on the track around the field.  In a recent staff meeting Joey told us he will open up the sprinkler systems in the next week or so and he has already mowed twice.  Does the grass look like your front yard?


Victory Field 001.jpg Here’s another shot and do you notice anything missing?  The skyline in right field has changed a bit.


Victory Field 003.jpg


Is Romulo out of shape?

As expected the first wave of Major League cuts were announced today by the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Right-handed reliever Romulo Sanchez was assigned to Indianapolis making him our first official member of the ’09 Tribe.  Congrats Romulo apparently you earned it during the winter.


Pirates GM Neal Huntington on Romulo:


“He’s got a lot of delivery work to do, and we felt that it was best that he do that outside of major league camp, with the way he came into spring training. He’s got a great arm and still has a future with us, but he’ll have to work his way back to the majors. He wasn’t in line to make this club.”


The line that jumps out to me is the “way he came into spring training.”  That is a nice little tag at the end of a very specific line.  Dejan Kovacevic from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette feels this is a message-sending demotion.  He compares it to a similar move last year with relief pitcher Josh Sharpless, who was eventually cut from the team.  Word last year was that Sharpless was out of shape and that may be what we are to take from the quote today about Romulo.  I will take Dejan at his word because he is there and I’m not.  Last year as the players first arrived in Indy I asked several of them about Sharpless.  Basically I wanted to know if he did in fact come into camp out of shape.  They all said not from a conditioning standpoint, but he was not up to speed from an arm standpoint.  I was told he was always near the front in team sprints and was in capable shape.  Maybe it was players sticking up for another player, but they felt like it was a raw deal he was given last spring.  I do know Sharpless was not in the Bucs plans and he was an example of some kind.  Romulo was by no means lights out last year and it helps that he has an option left.  (He has one for next year as well so we may be back here in 12 months.) I expect him to have success with the Tribe and get a shot some time this season in Pittsburgh.  His stuff tells me that will be the case, but he will need to keep his head on straight.  For now Indians pitching Coach Ray Searage can work with Romulo.  If Romulo needs to get into shape Bar Malik will make sure that happens.  Who can forget the job he did with Carlos Maldonado in 2006?  Carlos won the team’s MVP award that year appearing in 100 games behind the plate and losing almost 30 pounds.


The other players cut were non-roster invitees.  So LHP Daniel Haigwood, INF Pedro Lopez, and C Miguel Perez will be assigned to AA or AAA camp.  Lopez and Perez may end up with the Indians.  The next round of cuts is expected sometime next week.


It was 70 degrees yesterday in the Circle City.  You could not have drawn up a better March day than the one we had yesterday and today wasn’t too bad either.  Now, you would think with all the sunshine I would have been tending to some yard work or cleaning out the garage…something.  Instead I tuned into the World Baseball Classic and even with the Pitt/UCONN college hoops match-up I couldn’t turn away from the Netherlands upset of the Dominican Republic.  I was pulling for the Dutch for a couple of reasons.  Number one they were big-time underdogs with hardly any Major Leaguers compared to the Dominican Republic.  Number two the Dutch had Yurendell DeCaster playing at third and Bam-Bam Meulens coaching on the bench.  DeCaster played for the Indians from ’05-’07.  Last year he was played for Columbus and this season he may end up in Toledo (I believe he’s with Detroit this spring).  He is a great dude and a really good player.  I felt like he should have been given more of a shot to be a utility player in Pittsburgh, but that’s probably because I like the guy and didn’t look at it from an X’s and O’s point of view.  Anyway, I wanted the underdogs to win.  As for Bam-Bam he was the Tribe’s hitting coach the past four seasons and this year will be the hitting coach for the Fresno Grizzlies.  Bam-Bam is the King of Curacao.  He was the countries first Major Leaguer and every kid on the island has come through his baseball academy…including DeCaster.  If you watched the game you could clearly see they were overmatched.  They had to use four relievers after Sidney Ponson (Sidney Ponson!) lasted four innings.  The Netherlands scored three runs in the first and somehow that held up.  I’ll tell you what, if that game is 8-3, 7-1, 5-0 in favor of the Dominican Republic, I would have changed the channel.  When former Pirate Jose Bautista struck out I didn’t yell or scream like the Netherlands players, but believe me I was thrilled watching De and Bam-Bam celebrate.  That’s a monumental win and a huge deal for their island.  That was just for starters.

Up next was the US and Canada and man that was a great game.  Jimmy Rollins had a terrific play to take away an infield hit in the 9th and the US hit some big blasts including Adam Dunn taking a low offering to the opposite field for the deciding runs.  Even though Canada lost, two things stood out.  Some kid named Phillipe Aumont was a beast.  The 6-7 right-hander was drafted 11th overall in 2007 by Seattle.  He hit 96 on the TV radar gun and for the most part (he missed with a fastball to Dustin Pedroia who did what big leaguers are supposed to do and one hopped a double off the wall) had solid control.  He looked very composed for someone who turned 20 in January.  With the bags juiced, Aumont retired David Wright (soft liner) then struck out Kevin Youkilis (check swing) and Curtis Granderson to get out of the inning.  From what we saw in his inning of work he is going to be on the fast track to Seattle.  Aumont was tough and had a terrific curve. 

Another pitcher who stood out is one I better see in Indy this season, lefty Dave Davidson.  Davidson, who will turn 25 April 23, finished the ’07 season with the Indians and then that year made the jump to Pittsburgh.  From what I remember he could get guys with a curveball that he threw from different angles.  Sometimes it would look like a slider more than a curve.  I liked his make-up and expected him to be in the Indians ‘pen a year ago, but it never happened.  He spent the entire season in AA Altoona until the Summer Olympics where he pitched for Team Canada.  Here’s what I can tell you about Davidson.  He is on the Pirates 40-man roster and pitching for Canada is a HUGE DEAL to him.  Maybe it was the prospects of going to the Olympics and I can in no way blame a guy for chasing that dream, but I was shocked he didn’t pitch in Indy.  As I watched him grind yesterday and strike out Chipper Jones to leave the bases loaded I kept wondering why this guy is living in AA.  I’m telling you when I saw him in ’07, I figured his next year was to be in AAA and then make the move, but it never happened.  Last summer a few of his teammates from Altoona were promoted to Indy and I asked them about Davidson.  You know the usual, how’s he doing…how’s his stuff…why is he there?  For the most part the players didn’t know why he was kept in AA, but they did share with me that Davidson was really gearing up for the Olympics.  It was all he would talk about and when the time came for him to join his fellow countrymen for the pre-Olympic schedule he was gone from Altoona.  He needs to be in Indy this season.  I really liked what I saw from him two years ago, but last year I was given the impression there were more important things than Altoona.  Dave is a really likeable guy and had some great stories about how he began playing baseball in a hockey country.  It was all due to the Blue Jays winning back-to-back titles when he was a youngster and that fueled his dream.  I think he has good stuff and we saw that yesterday in the WBC.  I also think he has the right make-up and can’t wait to see him this season to see if last year was another year of seasoning at the AA level or a lost year getting ready for the Olympics. 

Finally, the Pirates are expected to make some cuts this week.  They will be sending guys from Big League camp to Minor League camp.  I’ll keep you up to date on most of the moves, but this will give us an opportunity to figure out who may be with the Indians on Opening Day.  One guy who may be on the way is Jimmy Barthmaier.  He won 7 games a year ago for the Indians and was roughed up Friday vs. Tampa Bay in Spring Training action. 

This comes from Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette:

Also today, general manager Neal Huntington said the first cuts of the spring will come “early next week,” with a larger wave a week later.

Huntington said, too, that Jimmy Barthmaier, owner of an 18.69 ERA, is off the list of rotation candidates. The field remains at eight, Huntington said, reiterating that only Paul Maholm is a lock, with Ian Snell and Zach Duke right behind, but adding Virgil Vasquez to a field that already included Ohlendorf, Tom Gorzelanny, Jeff Karstens and Daniel McCutchen.

So there you go.  As the battle continues for the Pirates roster, we’ll be figuring out who may be wearing the Indians uniform April 9th vs. Toledo.





Is this thing on?  We’ll find out soon enough as today is the day we launch a comprehensive look into the upcoming season of Indianapolis Indians baseball.  I am both nervous and excited to have this forum.  Over the next 7 months we are going to take you on a journey through the International League.  You will be with me every step of the way from Opening Night vs. Toledo to the final game of the year September 7th at Louisville. 

Over the past couple of days I’ve struggled with how to open the website.  I thought about opening with a summary of what to expect this year and then leave you with a tease for an upcoming post.  I’ve decided to nix that idea.  I think you’ll figure out after a few stops that you’ll need to add me to your favorites list.  So let’s go ahead and get started with a little piece creatively call “Exchanging Emails.”

In 2008 Neil Walker took home the Indians team MVP award.  The Pittsburgh native was the Pirates first round pick in 2004 out of Pine-Richland High School.  He moved from behind the plate to third base in spring training 2007.  Last year was his first full season at Triple A and he was added to the forty-man roster this offseason.

Q: I just received the Pirates release on you and 25 others signing one-year deals.  Can you tell us how this worksSimilar to Manny Ramirez balking at 45 mil or so and going from there?

Ha-ha well for me since I am a first year forty man roster guy, I have received a slight raise from the normal salary of those in the minor leagues not on the roster. Once you are placed on the 40 man roster, the salary goes up, and if you were to be placed on the major league roster, you automatically make the major league minimum.

Q: I know staying in Pittsburgh and getting rest was a big plus this offseason.  I’m not saying the ‘Burgh isn’t a vacation destination, but did you take any memorable trips this winter?

I do love being in Pittsburgh and as crazy as it sounds I enjoy the seasons, even winter. I did a few trips this off-season, and the most memorable was a trip to Boston. I had never been there and stayed downtown. The rich history and great structures there are incredible. There are a ton of places to see, you can easily walk everywhere, and hearing the Boston accent is always pretty amusing. I definitely recommend a trip for anyone who has never gone.

Q: I’m reading this spring that Andrew McCutcheon is stronger.  How big does Pocket Hercules look after packing 10 lbs of muscle on top of muscle?  Is he catching up to Pearce?

Well apparently Andrew has put on 30 pounds of muscle the past two years coming into camp. At this rate he will be 5’11, 250 pounds in two years, ha-ha. No, Andrew came into camp in terrific shape as always, and I think he is definitely going to take his game to a new level this year. It’s so much fun to play with a guy as talented as he is, because of his ability to do so much.  He can run, he can hit for power, hit for average, bunt, throw, he is definitely what they call a five tool talent and I hope to have the chance to play with him for many years to come. But if he keeps putting on pounds and pounds of muscle he might be trying out in camp with the Colts at Linebacker soon, ha-ha.

Q: What stands out to you when you see 133games/.242avg/16HR/80RBI/.280OBP/694OPS/19 errors?

It is definitely a mixed feeling when you look at my numbers on paper. If you asked me what kind of year I had, not including numbers, I would have told you I had a very productive year, and I truly believe I did. I think I dug myself such a big hole early on in the year that it made me press for a lot of the season. Instead of focusing on hitting the ball hard and having a good approach, I tend to think when things were going bad that I needed to get 4 hits in a game just to get my batting average back. I have learned through a year like that, from an average standpoint, that it is best to take it one day a time and stay focused on having good at-bats and playing as hard as you can. From a defensive standpoint I finally got myself to a place where I could relax and let my natural ability take over. All the mechanical and placement things have come and passed and now I can trust myself to be in the right position and just play.  Overall, I definitely learned a lot from last year, and hope to build upon it in all categories this season. Outside of the average, those numbers look pretty good to me.

Q: What stand out to me are the games played and 19 errors.  Your defensive growth from ’07 to ’08 was remarkable.  I see where Jamie Dixon was at Spring Training for a day.  Anyone else of note who has stopped by?  What would you say to Mike Tomlin or Santonio Holmes if they dropped by?

If Tomlin or Santonio stopped by I would absolutely congratulate them on a tremendous year. I would ask Tomlin for any kind of advice on being a competitor, because he is such an upbeat guy.  I’d probably ask Santonio what was going through his mind when the ball was in the air on the game-winning touchdown catch. No-one else of note has come to visit camp yet, usually Dick Vitale stops by at some point so I’m hoping to meet him.

Q: What did you wear to the Super Bowl?  Tell me again what the last 3 minutes were like again?  Never a doubt right?

I wore a Hines Ward jersey to the game, my usual for a Sunday Steelers game. Hines is always the hardest worker on the field, some call him dirty, I call him tough, but no-one can question his effort. I had the opportunity to go to the Super Bowl and throughout the whole game I felt there was no chance we were going to lose, until I saw Larry Fitzgerald sprinting to a TD. I think I was still in shock while the Steelers were driving down in the final minutes, but had no doubt Big Ben could bring home number 6 for the city of Pittsburgh. Just another day at work for the Steelers.

SOLID!  How is that for an opening entry?  Thanks to Neil for sitting though the emails during spring training.  I’m glad he’s getting some work at third.  We all know the numbers games that Neil faces, but I’m wishing him all the best.    


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