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Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:01 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2012 3:44 pm
 

Spring primer: Cleveland Indians



By Matt Snyder


The Cleveland Indians were the feel good story in baseball for the 2011 season ... as of May 23, when the Tribe was 30-15 with a seven-game lead in the AL Central. They were still tied for first as late as July 21, but just couldn't keep up with the red-hot Tigers in the second half, finishing 15 games out in the end. With a full season with some good, young talent and experience added to the starting rotation, the Tribe is hoping that they don't run out of gas this time around. Unfortunately, bad luck has already struck this spring with an injury to closer Chris Perez and center fielder Grady Sizemore already sustaining a major injury.

Major additions: Casey Kotchman, 1B, OF Aaron Cunningham, RHP Derek Lowe, RHP Kevin Slowey
Major departures: DH Jim Thome, OF Kosuke Fukudome

Probable lineup
1. Michael Brantley, CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
4. Carlos Santana, C
5. Travis Hafner, DH
6. Casey Kotchman, 1B
7. Jason Kipnis, 2B
8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
9. Shelley Duncan, LF

Probable rotation
1. Ubaldo Jimenez
2. Justin Masterson
3. Josh Tomlin
4. Derek Lowe
5. Kevin Slowey

The status for Roberto Hernandez Heredia (the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona, that is) is completely up in the air right now. He will at least miss all of spring training.

Back-end bullpen
Closer: Chris Perez
Set-up: Vinnie Pestano, Tony Sipp, Joe Smith

Important bench players

C Lou Marson, 1B/OF Matt LaPorta, OF Aaron Cunningham, IF Jason Donald, IF Jack Hannahan

Prospect to watch
The Indians were chock full of these last season, but Kipnis and Chisenhall made the leap while Alex White and Drew Pomeranz were traded to the Rockies for Jimenez. Instead, we're scraping for guys with huge upside but not close to the majors (like 18-year-old shortstop Francisco Lindor) or those who have already spent time in the majors (Cord Phelps, Zach McAllister). I'll go with Nick Hagadone here. He did get 11 innings of work for the Indians last season but he's still techinically a prospect. He also has the ability to be a high-strikeout addition the Bullpen Mafia. He struck out 77 in 71 minor-league innings and 11 in his 11 big-league innings last season.

Fantasy sleeper: Jason Kipnis
"Granted, Kipnis' first couple weeks on the job were a little too good to be true. He hit six homers in the span of 11 days before his deal with the devil ran out, landing him on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury. But just because he's not really a 40-homer threat doesn't mean the whole thing was a sham. He also had five steals during his time in the majors, demonstrating a combination of power and speed normally associated with the best of the best second basemen, such as Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. And the attributes he was most known for in the minors -- his .300-plus batting average and high walk rate -- weren't even on display during his 136 at-bat trial." - Scott White [Full Indians team fantasy preview]


Fantasy bust: Asdrubal Cabrera
"OK, so Cabrera was the surprise of 2011, emerging off the waiver wire to contribute 25 homers and 94 RBI at the weakest position in Fantasy. It was fun, sure. But the danger for Fantasy owners is when that once-in-a-lifetime season becomes the new expectation. Not only were Cabrera's 25 homers a complete departure from his established track record, but they came with an elevated fly ball rate that began to wreak havoc on his batting average in the second half, when he presumably became homer-conscious. He hit only .244 after the All-Star break, and his .411 slugging percentage during that stretch was actually lower than the one he put together during a six-homer 2009. If he continues to force the issue, he could turn out like Aaron Hill. Then again, if he reverts to being more of a line-drive hitter, he'll have to settle for fewer homers.
" - Scott White [Full Indians team fantasy preview]

Optimistic outlook
Do Clevelanders do optimism? If not, they should. Everyone needs to think happy thoughts on occasion. Let's try to do so here. Ubaldo Jimenez rounds back in ace form and Derek Lowe keeps things together for one last year, giving the Tribe a pretty damn good pitching staff, top to bottom. Hafner and Sizemore (eventually) stay healthy and party like it's 2006 while Choo returns to form and the young guns blossom faster than expected. Or, as Lou Brown once said, "the veterans are playing back to form and the [young players] are developing faster than I thought ... " If that all happens, the Indians can win one of the wild cards and even have a shot at the mighty Tigers.

Pessimistic outlook
The division is divided into two parts. The Tigers and everyone else. Too much has to go right for the Indians to even come close to the Tigers, and the gap has widened from the 15-game gap that we saw at the end of last season. Also, the wild card is already plenty crowded with only two division winners coming from this group: Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Rangers and Angels.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 8:57 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 9:24 pm
 

Injury roundup: Marcum, Longoria, Posey and more

By Matt Snyder

Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum still has a stiff shoulder. For more, check out Danny Knobler's blog on the subject, as he's on site.

As for the rest, here's Wednesday's injury wrap:

• A's first baseman Daric Barton has been shut down for three days after requiring a second cortisone shot in his surgically-repaired shoulder. Per MLB.com, the chances of Barton making the opening-day roster are "slimming by the day."

Mets ace Johan Santana is all set for his Tuesday start against the Cardinals (ESPN New York).

• Also in Mets news, third baseman David Wright missed Monday's game with his lingering ribcage stiffness. He previously said he'd be playing if these were regular-season games but was expected to suit up and give it a go Monday. Meanwhile, Ike Davis -- who the Mets believe has Valley Fever -- is scheduled to play both Monday and Tuesday for three innings (MLB.com).

Marlins ace Josh Johnson had a 41-pitch, "pain-free" start Monday. He's moving forward slowly, but the Marlins project him atop their rotation. (MLB.com)

Rays third baseman Evan Longoria was hit in the hand with a pitch last week. He was fortunate to avoid any breaks, but is still suffering from the bruise and swelling. His batting practice session was cut short Monday and he'll wait a few more days before trying again (Rays Report).

• Just one week after dislocating his kneecap, Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman is going to be in the lineup for his club's spring game Tuesday (AJC.com via Twitter).

Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez "likely will play" in an exhibition game later this week, but here's the big news: Buster Posey "could join him." Getting Posey into game action this early in the spring as he looks to return from a broken leg would obviously be huge. He has already been cleared to hit in a game and will likely be used as a DH at first (same with Sanchez). "We don't need setbacks. We just don't want to risk anything," said manager Bruce Bochy.

Monday night's game is on TV, but Bochy still won't risk going with Posey. "I know they [fans] want to see him. We do, too, but it's not worth the risk."

Also in Giants news, Brian Wilson will face hitters Wednesday and is scheduled to pitch in a game March 11. They are also hoping Ryan Vogelsong can throw off a mound Thursday. (All info courtesy of Knobler, who was in camp)

• New Reds closer Ryan Madson has been shut down for a few days with irritation in his throwing elbow, but he'll resume throwing Tuesday. He called it a "normal" and said it's happened to him the "past couple of years." (MLB.com)

Yankees infielder Eduardo Nunez was hit in the right hand with a pitch Monday. His X-rays were negative and -- like Longoria -- has a bruised hand. (MLB.com)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter, subscribe to the RSS feed and "like" us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 5, 2012 6:42 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 6:46 pm
 

Marlins home run sculpture a vision obstruction?



By Matt Snyder


There may be a problem with the sculpture in left-center field at the new Marlins ballpark, and not just because it's an eyesore for many people. It may, in fact, be placed too close to center field and be a distraction to left-handed hitters when facing right-handed pitchers. Some left-handed hitters on the Marlins reportedly think it will be.

“If it is an issue, it can no longer be there,” said Marlins utility player Greg Dobbs (MiamiHerald.com). “I won’t be the only left-handed hitter saying something. If other teams have a problem with it, they’re definitely going to voice their concern to the league.”

Marlins new ballpark
Catcher John Buck squatted behind the plate to get a look recently, and he thinks it's close.

“It’s kind of my job to scope those things out,’’ Buck said (MiamiHerald.com). “It might be close. It might be all right. I don’t know. We’ll see. I think for left-handed batters it might be trouble.”

A lot more will be known Tuesday night, after the Marlins square off against the University of Miami in the stadium. For the time being, though, club president David Samson says MLB officials investigated the park last Thursday and found no "issue whatsoever." (MiamiHerald.com) Meanwhile, the batter's eye in center field is being painted black instead of the green color you can see in the above photo, so that's one thing they've already had to change.

If the home run celebration sculpture does pose an issue, it will be very interesting to see what the Marlins choose to do with it. At that size, it can't be easy to move, and it reportedly cost over $2 million to construct.

Hat-tip: Big League Stew

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 5:45 pm
 

Video: Troy Tulowitzki pranks 'fan cave' finalist

By Matt Snyder

Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki really had poor Shaun Kippins going. A finalist in the competition to be named to the MLB Fan Cave for the 2012 season, Kippins was interviewing Tulowitzki when he appeared to anger the All-Star shorstop. It was all a prank, and judging from Kippins' reaction at the end, it worked.

Check out the video below:



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Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:37 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:54 pm
 

Crawford out for Opening Day?

Carl CrawfordBy Dayn Perry

Boston's Carl Crawford, who's been the subject of much New England angst, struggled last season in large part due to lingering wrist injury. So it was with a mounting sense of dread that Crawford on Monday subjected his wrist to probing physicians and their scary instruments. The news, as WEEI’s Rob Crawford reports, is somewhere between “bad” and “good.” He tweets:
Crawford shut down another 5-7 days. Valentine said Opening Day not likely.
At this point, an overly conservative time-table and “baseball activity” schedule is probably called for. The Sox need vintage Crawford; they don’t need the compromised Crawford of 2011.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 3:04 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 3:44 pm
 

The Pujols revolution will not be televised

Albert Pujols

By Dayn Perry


Freshly minted Angel Albert Pujols is in the lineup and batting third today. One would think that Pujols's Los Angeheim debut would make for some compelling afternoon television, but, as Cork Gaines of Business Insider notes, no one in a position to do so--not FOXSports West, not MLB Network, not ESPN, not even MLB.tv--is broadcasting what's surely the most notable game of the day. And the people say: Lame.

Our programming masters cannot, however, stop us from wondering aloud what we can expect from Pujols this season. Last year, he showed some patterns of decline, but the Angels, given the breadth of their investment, are hoping that was but a blip. Was it?

For a glimpse of the future, FanGraphs has a nifty round-up of what the various forecasting systems are expecting from Pujols in 2012. The most pessimistic is the Marcel system, which forecasts a .298/.384/.549 batting line out of him with 32 homers and 31 doubles. On the other end of the continuum, there's Bill James, who expects Pujols to hit .316/.414/.591 with 41 bombs and 40 doubles. Quite a bit of variance there, as you can see.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 2:03 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 2:40 pm
 

Pineda's Yankee debut in books

Michael PinedaBy Dayn Perry

The Yankees' most ballyhooed offseason addition, right-hander Michael Pineda, has made his pinstripe-y spring debut. While early spring outings aren't terribly illuminating, it's safe to characterize Pineda's afternoon as "so far, so good." In two scoreless, Pineda fanned two, walked none and surrendered only one hit--a leadoff single to Jimmy Rollins. At one point, Pineda served up six consecutive swinging strikes to Shane Victorino and Jim Thome.

Best of all, YES Network's Jack Curry tweets that Pineda used his fledgling changeup often and to great effect. Going forward, that'll be important for Pineda, who'll need an effective change piece to neutralize the opposite side in Yankee Stadium.

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Posted on: March 5, 2012 1:25 pm
 

Boston abuse story gets worse

By Dayn Perry

The revolting story of former Red Sox clubhouse manager Donald J. Fitzpatrick has devolved into what the Boston Globe's Bob Hohler calls "the worst sexual abuse scandal in Major League Baseball history." Holher reports:

"Eight more men have made sexual abuse allegations against former Red Sox clubhouse manager Donald J. Fitzpatrick, in what has become the worst sexual abuse scandal in Major League Baseball history.

The eight men, including two former batboys for the Baltimore Orioles, have come forward since two former Sox clubhouse attendants accused Fitzpatrick in December of sexually abusing them as teenagers at Fenway Park. The allegations, when added to similar allegations levied decades ago, bring to 20 the number of men who have accused Fitzpatrick of molesting them between the 1960s and 1990s."


Fitzpatrick has passed on, and, as Hohler notes, the statute of limitations has expired on most of his crimes. No matter how the legal proceedings play out, stories such as this one necessarily don't end well.

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Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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