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.