Two days from now you will drive by Victory Field and the stadium lights will be on. The Tribe is planning on practicing under the lights Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. It all leads up to the opener on Thursday night. I will post a link to the Indians ’09 roster as soon as it becomes available.
While we wait on the Indians roster here is a look at where some former players will play in 2009. I can’t promise this list is 100% accurate, but I think it is pretty close. The other night I checked out every Triple-A website and based on spring training notes this is where you may find former players. Lets start with guys who will be playing in the International League this season. Slugger Brad Eldred (’05-’07) will do his usual in Syracuse this year. By Usual I mean .247 average, 28 home runs, 83 RBI, and 145 strikeouts. “Big Country” was an all-star a year ago with Charlotte. Speaking of the Knights John VanBenschoten (’06-’08) is expected to be their opening day starter. JVB signed with the White Sox in the off season and told me recently he was thisclose to figuring things out. He is hoping a change in mechanics will make him more consistant. Former infielder Gookie Dawkins (’06) has a shot at making the Knights roster. Real quick story about Gookie, he SWEARS the Lackawanna Hotel in Scranton is haunted. Now I can’t confirm any of his stories, but he isn’t the first person to make the claim. Claims such as a female lady will float at the end of the bed and watch you sleep. Other stories have old steam engine workers floating the hallways. It is an impressive historic building with huge ceilings and most of the rooms have marble floors. I haven’t come across any ghosts, but Gookie’s claims stay with me and it takes a while to fall asleep.
A trio of former Indians SS JJ Furmaniak (’05-’06), INF Jorge Velandia (’05), and OF Rich Thompson (’05-’06) have been with Lehigh Valley this spring. Another threesome of former players will be in Durham. 1B/OF Chris Richard (’06) will spend his third straight season with the Bulls while Ray Sadler (’05-’06) is back in the IL and will be an outfielder in Durham. What a roller coaster 2008 was for Michel Hernandez. Last September he missed the last week of the regular season because he was placed on the Indians phantom DL. Basically this means there were too many active players and someone needs to fake an injury so the Indians can field a 25 man roster. Well, Hernandez fell on his sword and sat on the Tribe bench to end the year. As the Minor League regular season ended the Tampa Bay Rays experienced a rash of catcher injuries and needed Triple-A help with the Bulls heading to the playoffs. Soooo, Tampa signs Hernandez and he joined Durham last September for the playoffs. Crazy huh, well it’s not over. Hernandez spends about TWO DAYS with Durham before the Rays have ANOTHER catching injury and they decide to call Michel to the Big Leagues. WHAT! Yeah, I know, within two weeks Michel Hernandez goes from the phantom DL on a last place Indians team to the Tampa Bay Rays. He was with them through the end of the season and throughout the playoffs.
Hernandez is the third player from the left leaning over the railing. Incredible journey, he’s back in Durham this season.
2006 Indians MVP Carlos Maldonado (’06-’08) signed this past off season with Boston and will be catching for Pawtucket. I have no clue how much Carlos weighs, but if this past off season was similar to the previous three, he’s big enough to be the run stopper the Colts need. Another catcher Humberto Cota (’07) was in camp with the Reds and if he accepted his assignment will be playing for Louisville. Toledo will have a pair of former players on their roster. It looks like pitcher Ron Chiavacci (’05-’06) and INF Don Kelly (’07) will dress for the Mud Hens on opening night.
There will be plenty of familiar faces dotting the landscape in the International League this season. I’m sure there will be more, but that’s the best I could do with the limited coverage you receive from Minor League spring training games. I can’t let you go without telling you about the former Indians who will be in the Pacific Coast League. I think pitcher Luis Munoz (’07-’08) will be in Tacoma. I’m not completely sure because it could be another Luis Munoz. The only info I have is he is a pitcher in the Mariners system. Relief pitcher Scott Strickland (’07) has been pitching for Albuquerque and INF Josh Wilson (’08) is with Reno. Albuquerque is the Dodgers affiliate, while this will be the first year of baseball in Reno. The Aces are the new Triple-A home for the Diamondbacks.
Indians crowd favorite pitcher Bryan Bullington (’05, ’07-’08) will be pitching in Las Vegas for the Jays Triple-A club. He will not be alone joined by relievers TJ Beam (’08) and Jonah Bayliss (’06-’08). At last check Bayliss was still with the Las Vegas team and has pitched well enough this spring to stay with the team. Finally pitcher Marty McLeary (’06-’07) is will be the fourth former player in the Jays system. All I can say is expect Bully and McLeary to play plenty of golf while TJ and Bayliss will be sitting closer to a Golden Tee than an actual tee. I’m rooting for every one of these guys and can’t wait to catch up with them throughout the year. It’s supposed to be 60 some odd degrees today in Indy so I’m gonna enjoy my last free weekend. The Tribe opener is now five days away.