The Indianapolis Indians entered the All-Star break with a walk-off HR from LF John Bowker and returned from the three-day break with a 1st inning HR from the same man. The 2011 Indians will not fade from the playoff race and with 51 games to play are 3.5 games out in the wild card race and surging in the West Division. The club has won 4 straight games and is seeking a playoff berth for the first time since 2006. There is still a lot of baseball to play and as Indians fans have learned over the years the team roster is very fluid and no one really knows who will be in the lineup next week, the next two weeks, or one month from now. The only thing you can count on is this team will play all out and is a direct reflexion of the skipper Dean Treanor. I’m ready for the ride and I’m sure you are too.
For the first time in 18 years the Pittsburgh Pirates are in a serious playoff race of their own and their season will have a direct effect on the Tribe. The parent club is expecting the return of OF Jose Tabata, SS Ronny Cedeno, and INF Steve Pearce. All three players are currently on the disabled list and when they are activated who comes back to Indianapolis? Will the Pirates made a deal to acquire a player and in return will the Indians lose players? Like I said there is a lot of baseball to be played and a lot of moves are expected by the time we wrap up July.
One of the walking wounded Steve Pearce played for the Indians on Thursday night. He was the DH going 1-5 with a long home run to left field. “That swing felt great and for the most part I was comfortable at the plate tonight.” The long time Indian was placed on the Pirates DL May 29 with a partial tear in his right calf. Add the calf injury to the long line of ailments for the right-handed hitter. “I had knee surgery last season and I’m telling you for first time in two years my knee feels great. It was tough to play through and eventually I had to clean it up and I feel great.” I have always liked Pearce because he is enthusiastic and is always trying to make himself better. Rarely do you come across a player who tinkers with his swing as much as Pearce. “I have to be comfortable at the plate and in a short time I’ve found a good comfort level at the plate” During his first at-bat I noticed a chance in his batting stance. “I changed my hands because I needed to relax at the plate. I made the move at the beginning of the season because I was not playing everyday and I was having trouble finding the right set position for my hands. My timing was off and I kept adjusting my hands to get them in the right starting position. So I decided to flatten my bat and it allowed me to relax and I always found the right spot so I knew my hands were in the proper position for each pitch.”
He does not know how long he will rehab with the Indians and I expect him to play a game or two at 1B and at 3B during his rehab. “I’m here everyday and when they say times up then hopefully I’ll go to Pittsburgh.” The Pirates minor league players have to show the full sock while Major League players usually don’t show any socks and have the bottom on their pants rest on the shoe tops. Pearce conformed and showed his socks, but he wouldn’t give up his Pirates batting helmet. “It’s the rule to show the socks right? So I’ll do that, but no chance I’m wearing that double (ear) flapped helmet.”
Did you tune into the Triple-A All-Star game on Wednesday night? Matt Hague was the IL’s starting 1B and the MLB Network decided to mic up “Chatty Matty.” Not only did the network come up with a great idea, but they found the perfect player. “I talk to everybody who comes over to first base. I was loving the mic and they (MLB Network) told me it was great and to keep it up. We should do it in Indy.” Hague’s current teammates don’t think that is a good idea and knew that Hague would be a perfect candidate for the mic, but there was one problem. I’ll let LHP Brian Burres explain, “he is constantly spitting. pfft, pfft, pfft, hey man what’s up, pfft, pfft, you hit that ball well, pfft, pfft, can you see ok is there a pfft, pfft, glare? pfft, pfft. He was good, but enough with the seeds.”
“Do I really do that? Oh well, I was told it was gold and that’s good enough for me.” Hague had a great time in the game won by the IL 3-0 and he enjoyed playing with players he competes against. “It was cool to get to know (Columbus 2B Jason) Kipnis and (Louisville C Devon) Mesoraco. We play them so much during the year and it’s cool to see that they are good dudes.” Who was Hague’s favorite teammate during the All-Star game? “Without a doubt it was (Erik) Kratz. Kratzy, it nuts and so funny. I would love to spend a season with him. He knows a ton about the game and you could see that he was one of the leaders in the clubhouse.” The former Indians C played in his third straight All-Star game representing Lehigh Valley on Wednesday night.
While Matt and Dean spent the All-Star break in Salt Lake several players took advantage of the break to return home and relax. After Sunday’s walk-off win several players dashed to the airport to catch flights home. Some headed to California, Texas, Florida, and Chicago with a few deciding to stay and relax in Indy. No matter what the plans were it is a time to recharge the battery. Most of the players took their mind off of baseball and used the break as a physical and mental vacation. As a matter of fact most of the player didn’t tune into the ML Home Run Derby or the MLB All-Star game. Turns out, that is the last thing they want to pay attention to during the break. Can’t blame them, they need the break and now it’s time to finish off the 2011 season in winning fashion.
Hope you can tune into the broadcasts this weekend. The Indians and West Leading Columbus Clippers will play Friday night at 7:05, Saturday at 7:05, and Sunday evening at 5:05. All the games are on SportsRadio 1260 AM, Indyindians.com, or the iheartradio app. After the series with Columbus the team will head home for an 8 game homestand, their longest at home since the first week in June. The Indians will play Charlotte for four and then square off with Rochester for four game.