After a three games in Goodyear, the Indians have went 0-2-1 against the Cincinnati Reds. While it's great fun to finally see baseball again after the long offseason, we shouldn't take these early games very seriously. In the three games played, the Indians have used a total of 21 pitchers, who have given up 26 runs in 27 innings. The statistically best pitcher so far this Spring? Jeanmar Gomez with three strikeouts in two innings and no hits allowed. The worst? Recently named Ace, Justin Masterson who was destroyed yesterday by the Reds lineup to the tune of a 40.50 ERA in 1.1 innings pitched. None of this is real or really matters.
The only truly important things that can happen this early in Spring are injuries and the Indians have already had a couple. The back injury to Grady Sizemore is definitely a cause for concern. Last October we discussed possible outfield configurations without Grady and none of them looked good, until the team re-signed Sizemore later in the offseason. Now it looks as if he will continue to miss time due to injuries and will need to be replaced, at least early on, in the outfield. The obvious first choice is to move Michael Brantley to center, leaving a hole in left field. This could be filled by any number of Spring Training invitees, or one of the three eligible players from last years roster (Shelley Duncan, Ezequiel Carrera or Trevor Crowe). The best choice at the moment would probably be Ryan Spilborghs (0-2 with a run and an RBI so far this Spring). He has the most experience at the pro level and is a more athletic choice than either Duncan or trying to change Matt LaPorta back into an outfielder. Felix Pie, Aaron Cunningham and Thomas Neal round out the rest of the options. Neal is probably the player with the most upside of those listed, but he has yet to prove himself in the Majors and the Indians are more likely to go with a veteran of at least a couple years at this point in the season. One of the players listed will also be on the roster as the fourth outfielder as well as either Duncan or LaPorta making the team as a pinch hitter/back-up firstbaseman.
The other injury of note was to All-Star closer Chris Perez. Pure Rage strained an oblique in his first bullpen session of the Spring and looks to be out at least three weeks. He should be back in time for the regular season, but without an entire Spring of pitching against real hitters, he may not be ready. This isnt as big of a deal as the Sizemore injury because of the great depth in the Indians "Bullpen Mafia". Look for Vinnie Pestano to get any of the save chances the first week of the regular season with Chris Perez moving back into that role as soon as he is ready.
I'll leave you with a few shots from Monday's game. Remember not to worry and just enjoy the game. Nothing really counts for another month. See you at the Ballpark!
Action during the second inning of Monday's Spring Training game. Zizzy, the Goodyear Ballpark mascot, enjoys the game with the other fans.
Indians new starting first baseman, Casey Kotchman.