Is this thing on?

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

Archive for the month “April, 2009”

Bullpen Dominates while Walker gets the Glory

It looks like the rain is going to hold off tonight and the Indians will face the new look Columbus Clippers.  The Clips are now affiliated with the Cleveland Indians and appear to be loaded with prospects.  How about yesterday’s marathon 14-inning game?  The Tribe avoids a sweep and more importantly get their first win of the season.  Neil Walker will grab the headlines thanks to his game winning double, scoring Brian Bixler from first base.  If you look deeper, the Indians bullpen was the reason this club is not 0-4.  Romulo Sanchez, Dave Davidson, Chris Bootcheck, Evan Meek, Juan Mateo, and Jeremy Powell combined for 9 shutout innings of relief.  Romulo threw the ball hard.  I’m talking real hard; running the in-house radar gun up to 95 miles per hour on more than a few occasions.  Others who stood out include Bootcheck who struck out 4 of the six batters he faced.  He has retired 12 of the 13 batters he’s faced striking out 7.  Finally, Juan Mateo proves he doesn’t need to be dominating double-A batters.  Keep him in Indy and if he pounds the strike zone with 94+ mph heat, he may fit into the Bucs ‘pen or work as trade bait.

 

I thought that starter Daniel McCutchen looked solid, but he usually gives up one and sometimes two home runs a game.  Toledo first baseman Ryan Roberson just missed a three run bomb in the 4th that may have been an early inning back breaker.  The ball exploded off Roberson’s bat and appeared to be on its way out, but didn’t carry and Jason Delaney made a one handed catch near the wall.  McCutchen was locating the fastball and his curve was buckling righties.  He recorded 7 strikeouts in 5 innings.  Due to the long game yesterday Yoslan Herrera has been called up from Altoona as an extra arm.  He replaces McCutchen on the roster.  Don’t expect him to go into the rotation.  He is here for long relief and McCutchen will make his next scheduled start on Friday vs. Louisville. 

 

By Gosh Jen Langosch stopped by the Indians radio booth yesterday.  She was there with her boyfriend (who by the way really out kicked his coverage) and wanted to check out the Pirates Triple-A squad before she made her way back home to Pittsburgh for today’s opener.  We did the usual, complimenting each others blog and talked about the injury to Tribe starter Jimmy Barthmaier.  We should know the extent of his injury this week and I’m guessing it’s not going to be real good news.  Anyway, I told Jen I probably wouldn’t be posting the Indians daily line-up on the blog and she appeared to be disappointed.  So now I’m wondering if I need to post the line-up card before each game.  You can always find the Indians line-up online, but maybe it would be easier if I post the line-up for the faithful.  No line-up for you today, but I can tell you Virgil Vasquez will make his Indians debut facing Jeremy Sowers and the Clippers.

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Happy Easter

Sunshine and 54 degrees at Victory Field.

Happy Easter 001.jpgDaniel McCutchen is on the mound for the Indians and is set to throw his first pitch of the ’09 season to Toledo 2B Will Rhymes.  It was a fastball for a strike. 

About Last Night

It sure started out the right way.  Andrew McCutchen and Brian Bixler opened up the Indians half of the first inning with back-to-back triples.  From there, it was all downhill.  What can you say after a 16-5 opening day thumping?  I have to post something and it may surprise you that I had fun last night.  The weather was perfect; no wind and 59 degrees for a game time temp.  There was plenty of offense and the ball was jumping off the bats unlike any game from a year ago.  I’m not sure if it was one of those lively nights or the construction for the new JW Marriot beyond the left field wall had something to do with it.  Hey I know the score was ugly, but I didn’t care. 

 

Last nights game was exciting because it was opening day and the crowd was into it all throughout.  (Thank you Fireworks)  The game took me back to the 2007 BCS championship game between Florida and Ohio State.  I’m a Buckeye fan and when Ted Ginn took it to the house I was ready to celebrate.  Like the Indians jumping out to a 2 run lead, everything was downhill from there for the sweater vest.  Even though OSU lost, I couldn’t get too upset because earlier that day a brand new 50-inch plasma with spectacular high definition was delivered and hooked up.  So I watched the beat down in amazement because of my TV.  Last night was the same.  I watched a beat down, but all the excitement of opening day overshadowed the game. 

 

The really good news is the Buckeyes had to live with that loss until the following season while the great game of baseball gives the Indians a chance to respond tonight with Jimmy Barthmaier.    

 

Opening Day

First pitch is tonight at 7:00.  this picture was taken at 9:50 and you can see the grounds crew is busy with the game still nine hours away.  Jason Davis gets the pearl for the Tribe, while Chirs Lambert is on the bump for Toledo. 

Opening Day 002.jpgMore info and pictures to come later.  One more thing, thanks to Bucsdugout.com for the shout on his site yesterday.

1:45 PM UPDATE:  I’m sitting in the radio booth giving the equipment one final test.  Really I’m just trying to relax.  I’m feeling really anxious and I have a lot of nervous energy.  I’ll be this way until it’s time to put on the headset.  It’s opening night and the first of 144 broadcasts.  What can I say?  As of now, I’m nervous, but it feels great.  Right now Jason Delaney is working out with a medicine ball.  He is in left field tossing it to strength coach Bar Malik.  The grounds crews is watering the infield and I expect the players to start making their way on the diamond within the hour.  Here is the Indians roster for tonight.  Talk to you later 

5:00 PM UPDATE:

Jones BP.jpgThat’s Garrett Jones in the batting cage.  A perfect afternoon for BP.  The temps were in the mid-60’s and the sun was bathing the field.  Here are the line-ups for tonights games.  Now, don’t get spoiled, I’m not going to do this for every game, but tonight is the opener:

TOLEDO…Will Rhymes 2B, Ryan Raburn CF, Brent Clevlen DH, Mike Hessman 3B, Clete Thomas RF, Wilkin Ramirez LF, Ryan Roberson 1B, Dusty Ryan C, and Brent Dlugach SS.

INDY…Andrew McCutchen CF, Brian Bixler SS, Jeff Salazar LF, Garrett Jones RF, Neil Walker 3B, Steve Pearce 1B, Larry Broadway DH, Andy Phillips 2B, and Erik Kratz C.

Couple of notes…Yurendall DeCaster was released by Detroit at the end of camp.  He was going to be on the Hens roster, but was a late camp cut.  For Pirates fans 2B Shelby Ford is not in Indy.  He is still back in spring training working back from a spring injury.  Finally, Andrew McCutchen was KILLING the ball in batting practice.  As a matter of fact a lot of guys were pounding the ball.  Great energy around the cage. 

 

Media Day

The Indians had to wait until this afternoon to workout on the pristine Victory Field surface.  Yesterday’s weather prevented the boys from getting in some work, but today they took to the field and battled through the cold temps.  Here is a shot from behind the Indians dugout.

Media Day 003.jpgNotice the blue sky mixed in with the cloud cover.  I would say the weather was tolerable when the sun made an appearance.  The ’09 Indians took batting practice, infield practice, and stretched out their arms in preparation for opening night. 

The official roster should be announced sometime tomorrow.  It was surreal walking into the clubhouse yesterday and seeing so many familiar faces. I talked to Jimmy Barthmaier, Brian Bixler, Jason Delaney, Andrew McCutchen, Corey Hamman, Tom Gorzelanny, and Neil Walker…it felt like I saw them a week ago.  Really, it’s a crazy thing.  It has been almost 7 months, but it feels like ’08 just ended.  The clubhouse is alive with activity and the players are ready to get after it.  Baseball is a game of routines and seeing the coaches and players put me right back into the daily routine I crave. 

There is a different feel to this years Indians squad from last years team.  A year ago several players were getting their feet wet at the Triple-A level while others needed to prove they belonged in the Pirates organization.  When it was all said and done the young guys learned and improved while the other players were forced to find new jobs.  This year’s team features players who received quality spring at bats giving them a boost of confidence moving into the season.  You can see on some of the players faces that their spring performance gave them a taste of what they desire.  A year ago a great performance didn’t guarantee a promotion to Pittsburgh.  This year there are several players knocking on the Pirates door and may be ready to break through.  I’ll leave you with another picture from the afternoon workout.  That’s pitching coach Ray Searage bundled up in the foreground and Neil Walker getting ready to field ground balls at third base. 

 

Media Day 001.jpgThe final preseason workout is planned for tomorrow afternoon.  Then it’s time for Opening Night 2009.     

Elsewhere around the Minors

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. 

 


rays-sad-smaller.jpgHernandez 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.    

Clarifications

What is that crappy stadium?–Bob W. Indianapolis

Is that a Triple-A stadium?–Ryan B. Indianapolis

I’m still getting the hang of posting pictures and I probably could have done a better job explaining each pic in yesterdays post.  The first picture is from Norfolk, the second is of Coca-Cola Park and the third picture is of old Durham Bulls park.  That is the stadium used for filming Bull Durham.  In the movie it is a Triple-A team, but in real life that was the Class A home of the Atlanta Braves.  Here is another photo of the park.

 

Durham 001.jpgHere is a picture of the Bulls new park that so many people, including myself rate as one of the best in the IL.

 

Durham 021.jpgHere is a quick update on the Indians roster.  Yesterday reliever Romulo Sanchez was removed from the Pirates 40 man roster.  Sanchez must be traded, waived, or released in the next 10 days.  He will likely be waived giving each team a chance to claim Sanchez.  If he is claimed someone will have to add him to their 40 man roster.  If nobody puts in a claim Sanchez will either be with the Indians or released.  The Bucs today announced that Sean Burnett, Craig Hansen, and Donnie Veal will all be on the opening day roster.  That means either Evan Meek or Jesse Chavez will fight for the final opening day roster spot.  Meek appeared to be in good shape to make the team two weeks ago, but has suffered from a tired arm and more recently missed some days due to Bronchitis.  There is still a chance Meek opens the year on the ML DL list and Chavez make the team.  We will know more in the next day or two.  I’ll keep you posted.

A Break from the Roster

Baseball America is all about lists.  They list the best college players, high school players, Minor League players, best tools, and best hands…on and on and on.  Well, they are at it again listing the best Minor League stadiums for each league.  According to BA the top three in the IL are in order:

 

Fifth Third Field (Toledo)

Louisville Slugger Field

Durham Bulls Athletic Park

 

Oh-Kay what immediately jumps out is Victory Field is not on the list.  Needless to say word of this list and one major omission spread like a wild fire through the front office.  Look, the Vic is beautiful and no one, NO ONE walks in and believes it is 13 years old.  It looks so good and is the most professional looking park in the IL.  There isn’t any advertising on the outfield wall, there’s no Jacuzzi in right field, or a merry go ’round on the outfield concourse.  It’s a classic park in a minor league world.  Now, with all of that said I don’t completely disagree with the list.

 

I think Toledo and Durham have parks worthy of a top three rating.  Personally, I’m not sure what all the fuss is about Slugger Field.  BA not only had LSF as #2 in the IL, but they listed it as one of the best ten in ALL of the Minors.  I always look forward to the trip down I-65 (as you’ll read later), but always leave LSF feeling it’s my fourth or even fifth favorite stadium.  Others I know love the park.  Former Indians hitting coach Bam-Bam Muelens told me on more than one occasion he liked LSF better than any park in the league.  That includes Victory Field. 

 

Here is a list for you.  My favorite stops in the International League.  This is what I look for in my trips.  The quality of the hotel, distance to the park, bars, and restaurants in the area.  You will notice this is very different from my stadium list because the best…THE BEST stop for me in the IL is Louisville.  This may change this year because we are staying at a different hotel, but based on the past three years no one touches the ‘Ville.  It’s a great city featuring 4th Street Live and some great eats.  You can walk to the park and all of it is along the Ohio River.  I know I just blasted the stadium, but no other places we visit hold a candle to the city.  When I talk to other players they really look forward to the Indy-Louisville swing on their schedule.  I can’t think of a better combo in the IL. 

 

My Favorites:

 

Louisville (see above)

Norfolk (right on the water, historic downtown, and a Ferry can take you here)

 

 


Norfolk 059.jpgBuffalo
(Terrific hotel, you walk to the park, and of course)

 

Lehigh Valley (see the photo below and we stay in historic Bethlehem)

 


Lehigh Valley 018.jpgScranton
(plenty to do in this small mountain town)

Toledo (the park makes up for few entertainment options)

Durham (DBAP on one side of the hotel and the home of Crash Davis on the other side)

 


Durham 004.jpgRochester
(it’s an underrated park and your city options depend on the weather)

Columbus (This has a chance to move to the #1 spot with the new downtown stadium)

Pawtucket (Can’t wait to go in July.  Two of the past 3 years we’ve visited in chilly April)

Charlotte (I’ll drink two gallons of sweet tea and get to talk about the Browns)

Syracuse

 

The new city is Gwinnett County and it is located about 40 minutes outside of Atlanta.  I’ll have a full update on the new Braves home when we go in late May.  Each city offers something unique whether it’s food, bars, or the history of each stadium.  Even Syracuse has a spacious clubhouse and a huge visitor radio booth.  So even though they rank last I like calling games from their stadium.

 

When this season is over you can create your own rankings.  I will post pictures from each Stadium and attempt to give you an idea of life on the road. 

 

No Foolin

April 1st is here and no joke the Pirates cut eight more players and they all appear headed to the Tribe.  Early this morning Pittsburgh named Jeff Karstens their #5 starter sending right-hander Virgil Vasquez to Indianapolis.  In addition to Vasquez righty Jason Davis was assigned to minor league camp and will join the Indians rotation.  Bucs GM Neal Huntington has said in the past that if Davis didn’t make the big league bullpen he would be a starter in Indy.  With the moves today the starting rotation will feature Tom Gorzelanny, Jimmy Barthmaier, Daniel McCutchen, Virgil Vasquez, and Jason Davis. 

Other players cut today and sent to minor league camp include relievers Denny Bautista and Chris Bootcheck.  Both appear heading to Indy and will be joined by either Evan Meek or Jesse Chavez.  The Pirates have to make one more cut to reach their 25 man opening day roster.  Of the remaining relievers in camp Meek and Chavez have options while the Pirates would risk losing Sean Burnett, Craig Hansen, or Rule 5 pick Donnie Veal if the don’t make the big league roster.

Position players who were shipped to the minors and will likely join the Tribe include outfielders Garrett Jones and Jeff Salazar, infielder Andy Phillips and catcher Erik Kratz.  With the moves we can add Jones and Salazar to the outfield mix with Andrew McCutchen and Phillips may take some playing time away from Shelby Ford.  (Or push Ford back to Altoona where he could play everyday.)  If Kratz is in Indy this may move Miguel Perez to Altoona.  This year’s Indians team arrives into town late Sunday night.

 

 

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