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.