Trevor Crowe made his triumphant return to baseball today, hitting a home run and drawing a walk against the Arizona Rookie League Giants. Crowe DH'd and hit lead off for the Arizona Rookie League Indians who are 25-23 and in 3rd place in the Arizona League's Central Division. This is odd in itself as Goodyear is the furthest West of all the Spring Training/Rookie League fields. Back to the main topic, the Indians would love to see Crowe back in Cleveland as soon as possible, where he would fit in this season as a 4th outfielder and pinch-runner. Hopefully, Crowe will be healthy at the beginning of next season and will compete with Michael Brantley for the starting left-fielders role. Crowe was wearing #15, probably because another position player uses #4.
Trevor Crowe waits at second, before the umpire told him it was a home run.
It turns out Jason Kipnis is not quite ready to return to the Indians lineup. After recovering from his strained oblique, Kipnis strained his hamstring before last night's game and was placed on the disabled list. This move is retroactive to August 13th, but he will end up missing at least 14 total games due to the double header against Seattle. In his stead, the Indians will call up the super-pinch hitter that is Shelley Duncan. This will be Duncan's 4th stint with the Tribe this season. I know what you're thinking, "Shelley Duncan can't play second base!" Well don't worry, because the Indians made another roster move as well, bringing back utility man Luis Vabuena for Ezequiel Carrera. This move is a delayed reaction to Shin-Soo Choo's return from the disabled list. The outfield will now consist of starters Michael Brantley, Kosuke Fukudome, Shin-Soo Choo and 4th outfielder Shelley Duncan until rosters expand September 1st.
If nothing else, this move will allow the Indians to pinch hit for, now starting secondbase man, Jason Donald with Duncan, while Valbuena will be available for pinch running and as a defensive substitution. When Kipnis returns, Valbuena will probably be sent back down, while Duncan may remain on the roster for the rest of the season. When roster expansions come around I wouldn't be surprised to see all these players back on the team along with Travis Buck, Cord Phelps, Mitch Talbot and Josh Judy.
Along these same lines, the Indians have announced that it is very unlikely that Carlos Carrasco will return before September 1st. Even though he is ready for return now, the Indians would prefer to use David Huff as the 5th starter for the rest of the season. When he comes back, Carrasco will be a spot starter and long reliever. This role is likely to be important as the Indians have 3 double headers left this year.
A selection of the commentry about Austin Kearns over the last year. We'll miss you Austin.
4/7 Game Recap, The first comment: ...Austin Kearns popped out to the catcher, trying to sacrifice him to third. This was a mistake by either Kearns for not coming through or by Manny Acta for trusting Kearns (*Edit: Postgame, Kearns said he was bunting on his own).
4/28 Game Recap, Less than a month in, already getting tired of Austin: Austin Kearns had another chance today for a couple innings and squandered it as well, bobbling the only ball that was hit to him on the ground and striking out in his only at bat. If he keeps up this play, I wouldn't be surprised to see Shelley Duncan (who hit another home run tonight) taking his starts away from him in left field when either Grady or Michael Brantley get a day off.
4/30 Game Recap, Now I mentioned it twice: I've been too hard on the Indians for striking out so much and Austin Kearns for failing at baseball, so I won't mention here that every Indian except Michael Brantley and Orlando Cabrera struck out today and that Austin Kearns went 0-5.
5/8 Game Recap, See, I said something nice about him: Austin Kearns finally did something positive for the team, hitting an RBI single to give the early lead to the Indians. His defensive play was still lackluster, but at least he got a hit. Going into this game Kearns had less hits than anyone else who had played for the Tribe this year, including Travis Buck who has been in the minors for the last 17 games. He now has 7 hits on the season in 14 games played.
5/19 Game Recap, Speaking of backhanded compliments: Speaking of underachieving players, Austin Kearns had two hits today, including a double, and now has hits in 4 of his last 5 games. It's not much, but it may signify a bit of a turnaround. Kearns will need to play a lot better if he wants to stay on the team when Grady Sizemore comes back from injury. Right now it looks like Travis Buck may be the one who remains in Cleveland unless Austin can show something for himself.
5/27 Game Recap, Out of context: ...with Shelley Duncan in left and Austin Kearns in right, it looks like the outfield is made of molasses.
Indians Arguments: Batting Order, This is more complaining about management than Kearns himself: If Carl Crawford is roaming left field instead of Austin Kearns, we would have a more worthwhile discussion.
A Look Back: Tribe Hitting Through May, Part 2, A reasonable assessment sans jokes: Travis Buck is like a slightly better version of Austin Kearns. Both of them started on the roster this season, because Grady Sizemore was injured and remain on the roster now due to Travis Hafner's injury. Somehow during this time Kearns has played in more games than Buck... While filling in for Hafner and Sizemore they have not really impressed, hitting .260 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI between the two of them in 23 games over the month of May. One of these two will obviously be sent down when Hafner returns in a couple weeks and it will likely be whoever is playing worse at that moment in time.
6/11 Game Recap, I don't remember this, but apparently I wanted Kearns to pinch hit: Manny Acta obviously has no trust in either Austin Kearns or Travis Buck as neither have played in the last four games.
Make a Move, was my first real call to have Kearns removed from the roster. It's too long to repost here, but I maintain that I was right about everything. Three of the players I mentioned, Jason Kipnis, Ezequiel Carrera and Jason Donald, are now on the team.
6/16 Game Recap, It only went down from this point:Austin Kearns has not played in 9 of the last 10 games and Chad Durbin has not played in the last 4. Coincidentally, over the last four games the Indians have won twice after losing 14 of the 18 games before that and my stress levels have dropped significantly. Now that these placeholders have been taken out of the starting lineup and removed from any game action, the next move is to either bring up some players who can actually help the team or sign one of the many players that have been released recently.
6/22 Game Recap, My most enjoyable bit of the year thus far: Site note: In an effort to reduce the amount of negativity produced by BurningRiverBaseball.com we will no longer be making any mention of Austin Kearns until he either gets his batting average above .250 or is removed from the roster. I believe we have said all there is to be said about this particular outfielder and will now await the Indians response to the situation.
7/4 Game Recap, Some people just can't go along with a bit: Austin Kearns is lucky Joe Coblitz is not writing this game recap. Otherwise, those of you reading this might have got cheated on a fair analysis. The Indians took the lead over the Yankees in the seventh inning, 4-2, after Kearns' three-run two-out home run. It was Kearns' first home run since August 22, 2010, when he was playing for the Yankees. Kearns entered the game batting .196 with no homers and two RBI in 102 at-bats.
7/10 Game Recap, The end of censorship: Austin Kearns is being removed from my black list, because he has a positive 'POG' score in his last 7 games and because I'm ending all running bits before the All-Star break.
That pretty much leads to today, where we have a team without Austin Kearns. Hopefully, Terry Pluto will write a book about this team a decade from now and we will finally find out why Austin Kearns was on the team to this point. If he does write it, I'd love to know about Jose Hernandez as well.
You know it's the year of the pitcher when a 0.51 ERA over 3 starts doesn't make you good enough to be a Major Leaguer. Today the Indians sent left hander David Huff back down to AAA Columbus to make room for Ubaldo Jimenez. Along with the great ERA, Huff had allowed only a .197 batting average and a WHIP of under 1.00. He also had a strikeout to walk ratio of 14/5, a huge improvement in an area he has struggled with in his career (75/112 before this season). Not only did he pull off these numbers, but he did it in games against the Twins, Angels and Red Sox, three of the best teams in the American League.
I'm not saying that Ubaldo Jimenez isn't an improvement over Huff, only that there are other players who probably should have been demoted first. Of course there is a decent chance that Carlos Carrasco (8-9, 4.67 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) could accept his suspension after his next start, then be demoted shortly after it is over. If this happens, Huff will be back and Carrasco will be back in the minors where he belongs right now.
Ubaldo Jimenez will be making his Indians debut on Friday night in Texas. He should get approximately 10 starts for the Indians this season.
The Tribe made a bold move tonight, bigger than any in recent memory, by trading top pitching prospects Alex White and Drew Pomeranz to the Rockies for Ubaldo Jimenez. Pitcher Joe Gardner and first baseman Matt McBride were included in the package sent to Colorado, but neither player has anywhere near as high a ceiling as the Indians first round draft picks of the last two seasons. The trade essentially gives the Indians two aces, with Justin Masterson and Jimenez. The best part about the deal is that Ubaldo still has multiple years on his contract and will be under Indians control through 2013.
Over the past three seasons, Jimenez has pitched in at least 30 games each year, with an ERA of under 4.00. Last season was his best year when he went 19-8 with a 2.88 ERA and 214 strike outs. This move most likely means that either David Huff or Carlos Carrasco will be removed from the starting rotation. This, combined with other speculative trades, possibly for Ryan Ludwick, could lead to a lot of roster moves within the next couple of days. If the Indians keep making trades like adding Kosuke Fukudome and Ubaldo Jimenez, people will start complaining about the big money Indians not giving everyone else a chance.
This move puts the Indians right back on top as the favorites to win the American League Central.
As I was writing this, the Indians made another move official by trading Orlando Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Thomas Neal. If you haven't heard of Thomas Neal, don't worry, you're not alone. He has been in the Giants minor league system since 2006 and was playing this season at AAA Fresno. Don't get too attached to him Tribe fans, he might not be around for long. As for Cabrera, good riddance. So much for being a good leader and a presence in the locker room, Orlando was visably angered with the advancement of Cord Phelps and later Jason Kipnis. Rather than being a teacher and helping these rookies reach their potential, he seemed to harbor resentment against them. Every Indians fan knew before the season started that Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis were the infielders of the future and would make their debuts in 2011. This information was available everywhere including from quotes by both Chris Antonetti and Mark Shapiro. Apparently, Orlando was unaware that his position was only temporary.
Goodbye Orlando, and by the way, your range is terrible.
The Indians made a few roster moves involving the Kosuke Fukudome trade. The minor leaguers that were sent to Chicago are relief pitcher Carlton Smith and right fielder Abner Abreu. Smith has been in the Indians for 7 years and was unlikely to produce much at the Major League level. Through 46 innings this season, Smith has a 4.50 ERA in 34 appearances and a 1.41 WHIP. The Indians probably have about a dozen pitchers closer to the big leagues than smith was. Abreu hit .244 in 91 games so far for Kinston this season.
To make room on the 40 man roster, the Indians designated Travis Buck for assignment.
Two former Indians are being inducted into the baseball Hall of Fame today, although neither player is being inducted as an Indian. Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar each left their mark on the Tribe and are both very deserving of this honor. They will be the 28th annd 29th players to have played for the Indians and make it into the Hall of Fame.
Before he was “Circle Me Bert” Blyleven pitched five seasons for the Cleveland Indians as well as doing time with the Twins (whose hat he will be wearing on his plaque), the Rangers, the Pirates and the Angels. During his time on the Tribe (1981-1985) Bert was the Indians ace, winning 48 games, more than any other Indians pitcher through those years. Blyleven's 760 innings pitched place him at 52nd in Indians history. This may not seem very high, but the Indians have a long history of fantastic pitchers, many of whom played on the team for a decade or longer. His 7.3 innings per game is in the top ten all time for the Indians and his 3.23 ERA and 2.32 BAA place him in the middle of some of the best Indians pitchers ever. His 1.19 WHIP is 16th all time for an Indian and his winning percentage of .565 is very impressive. Bert was the best pitcher on the Indians in 1981, 1984 and 1985 earning him 3rd place in the Cy Young voting in his last two years with the Tribe. His best season with the Tribe came in 1984 when he won 19 game in 32 starts, with an ERA of 2.87 and 170 strikeouts in 245 innings pitched. Now, Bert Blyleven is best known as the Minnesota Twins silly color commentator who uses a telestrator to circle Twins fans holding signs with his name on them during Twins broadcasts.
Indians fans should have a more recent recollection of Alomar since he played for the Tribe just a decade ago. While he only played three years in an Indians uniform, they were just about the best three years for any player in Indians history. Robby joined the Indians as a free agent in 1999 and immediately got to work. During his three year tenure on the Tribe, Roberto won three gold gloves, was an All-Star three times and won two silver sluggers at second base. His defense was probably his most impressive talent and it was shown off in all its glory with Omar Vizquel playing short stop and Travis Fryman at third base. In 2000 all three won gold gloves and Omar won one every year that Robby did. Robby's brother Sandy (current Indians first base coach) played for the Indians from 1990 to 2000, making them another of the many family members to play for the Tribe including the Bell's, the Bagby's, the Sewells and currently the Duncan's.
In his three years with the Tribe Alomar never had less than 30 steals, 19 home runs, 89 RBI, 34 doubles, 182 hits ans 111 runs scored. While he didn't play long enough to acrue the counting stats to be included among the greats as far as entire careers go, his rate numbers are among the best. Robby is among the top ten all time Indians in on-base percentage (.405), batting average (.323) and OPS (.920). His 106 steals compared to only 16 times caught give him the best stolen base percentage (86.9%) of all time for the Indians of players with more than 50 attempts. Another bonus to the Tribe given to them by Roberto Alomar was the introduction of Matt Lawton and Billy Traber to Indians lore as both players were gained from the Mets in the trade that also brought Jerrod Riggan, Alex Escobar, and Earl Snyder to the team. This trade basically marked the end of the All-Star portion of Alomar's career.
Included at the bottom are the ability ratings for Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven. These are a representation of a players average season compared to every other player in Indians history. The ratings are based on a scale of 0-99. Alomar has the highest average score of all time with a 73 average and is tied with Tris Speaker and Shoeless Joe Jackson. Bert Blyleven is the 11th best starting pitcher by with a single season average of 70. One reason both of these players are among the best Indians of all time is because they both came to the Tribe in their prime and did not go through the first couple rough seasons with the Indians. Congratulations to both Roberto Alomar and Bert Blyleven as both have done far more than is necessary to be enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame.
In a surprising move, it was announced that Sizemore had surgery on a sports hernia and not on his knee. Sizemore let on that his hernia had been bothering him since a slide in May, and this is his second time undergoing sports hernia surgery in the last three years. In 2009, he suffered a sports hernia in spring training, but he labored through the season until undergoing surgery in September. Sports hernias simply aren’t something that most people can play with for long before the pain becomes too intense and needs to become addressed. Most players that have hernia surgery will miss around 50 games; this suggests that performance suffers during the period before the move to the disabled list and improves after the problem has been addressed. Sizemore's hernia will keep him out for the next six to eight weeks, which will give both his abdomen and knee a chance to heal.
Grady and club trainer Lonnie Soloff. Both reasonably dejected.
Jason Kipnis is being called up to Cleveland for Friday's game against the White Sox.
Via twitter: @TheJK_Kid Jason Kipnis: "I'm Coming Cleveland!!"
It is unknown as of yet who will be removed from the roster to make room for Kipnis or whether he will be playing primarily second base or outfield when he is on the team. There is a good chance he will be taking over starting second base duties from Orlando Cabrera for the time being. Be excited people! If this works out, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall will be the starting infield for the next five years. Check back later for updates on exactly how Kipnis will fit on this team.
UPDATE: (7:00 EST) The Indians have just made the official announcement: Jason Kipnis will join the team tomorrow wearing number 22. Both Manny Acta and Chris Antonetti were unavailable to give statements on the move because of the off day, so it is still uncertain whether Kipnis will be making his debut at second base or in the outfield. In order to make room for him on the big league team, utility man Luis Valbuena has been optioned to Triple-A Columbus. Because Kipnis was not part of the 40-man roster, the Indians had to designate Jared Goedert for assignment. The Indians will have 10 days to either trade or release Goedert. After 10 days, Goedert will have to clear waivers if the Indians want to keep him.
Unless you think like Joe who believes that trading Jason Donald will bring back a difference maker, the Indians simply are not going to trade for a 2-3 win player at the trade deadline unless they part with one, two or three of what I call the "prized group" of prospects: Jason Kipnis, Drew Pomeranz, Lonnie Chisenhall, Alex White and Trey Haley.
A player for the Tribe to consider is Michael Morse, who plays some first base and outfield for the Washington Nationals. Morse, 29, played little for Seattle and was traded to Washington in 2009. It was only last season that he hit .289 (.871 OPS) with 15 homers and 41 RBI in 266 at-bats. This season, he's at .306 (.886 OPS) with 15 homers and 49 RBI. Morse is attractive because he makes only $1 million and won't be a free agent until 2014. The price could be high for Morse in terms of prospects, but I'd be willing to talk about most guys in the system -- but not the "prized group." Morse is a right-handed hitter who makes more sense than 33-year-old Ryan Ludwick, who could leave at the end of the season. He's not a prime defender at any position, but he can play the corner outfield spots, first and third base.
Morse was traded to Seattle in 2009 in exchange for Ryan Langerhans, and spent a month slugging in the International League before getting a brief look as Dunn’s defensive replacement at first. The polar opposite of fellow utilitarian Wee Willie Harris in size, handedness, speed, and plate approach, at first glance Morse’s four-corner skill set seemed to mesh well with Harris's to complete some sort of Utility Player 3-D Cube Puzzle back in 2010, but according to most scouts, Morse's missing piece was power. He never consistently produced the sort of thunder you’d hope for from an infield corner, even in a reserve role, which presages a short shelf-life, even with the talent-starved Nationals.
However, the past two seasons saw Morse hit double-digit homeruns while playing in that reserved role.
If the Indians look to upgrade the offense, Morse might be the best fit when considering low-revenue contraints.