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Goodyear Notebook: 3/20

Goodyear Notebook: 3/20
March 21, 2011
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(Photo: Tony Lastoria)
Wolters in good spirits in wake of injury

It happens every spring.

With around 150 players in minor league camp, a handful of players are bound to get a few bumps and bruises along the way.  The hope is that of the injuries sustained during spring training that none of them are serious and will keep players out for very long.

Shortstop Tony Wolters, 18, is one of those players who has been sidelined with an injury this spring, but is not expected to be out of action for very long.

Last weekend Wolters complained of some discomfort in his right hand after taking some swings and an x-ray revealed he had broken the hamate bone in his hand.  He went to Cleveland on Monday and Dr. Tom Graham completed the surgery on Wednesday to remove the hamate bone.  He returned to Arizona on Thursday night and remains positive and upbeat that he will be back playing soon.

“I feel pretty good,” said Wolters.  “I’m just here to watch the guys play.  I am excited for them, but I want to be out there.  I’ll be back out there soon.”

Wolters worked hard in the offseason with a personal trainer as it was the first time in his career that he was able to concentrate 100% on baseball.  He came into camp in the best shape of his career, but apparently he suffered the hand injury just before the start of camp while taking some swings in the cages.

“I started feeling it about three weeks ago but thought it would go away,” said Wolters about the injury.  “I felt some cracking going on during batting practice so I went in and told them about it.  I went in and got an x-ray and they said it was broken.”

Wolters is back in camp with a soft cast on his right hand and has been reduced to a spectator’s role while his hand recovers from surgery.  He is expected to go back to Cleveland soon to be re-evaluated by Dr. Graham and determine if everything is going as expected post-surgery and what his rehab plan will be.

For now all Wolters knows is that he will be in a soft cast until about the end of the month.  Since the injury is to his throwing hand and the bottom hand with his swing, some precaution will surely be taken to ensure he comes back fully healthy and does not have any setbacks.

“They haven’t really given the outline of it, but [the rehab will] probably be strengthening of the hand and rubbing out the scar tissue,” said Wolters.  “Just trying to get the feel back is going to be one of the main things.”
Beyond the hand injury for Wolters, his first spring training experience is going well.

“I love coming here and seeing all the guys,” said Wolters.  “I have made a lot of friends and I am meeting everyone, so I feel I know almost everyone here.  I am getting really comfortable with that.  I felt good coming into spring training and feel like I came into camp in the best shape I have ever been in.  I am really excited.  [The hand injury] was kind of a disappointment, but I am trying to take the positive out of it.”

Wolter’s first spring training pales in comparison to the excitement he had to get his career going last year when he got to play at rookie level Arizona for a few games and then went to short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley for the last week or so of the season.  He did not pay with Mahoning Valley but practiced and also travelled with them.

“It was awesome coming out here for the Arizona League and getting to play with some of the guys I knew and playing against some of the guys from the other teams I knew,” said Wolters.  “It was amazing and I loved it and it was what I expected.  When I went to Mahoning Valley it was an honor to get to go somewhere and have my first road trip.”

Once Wolters is healthy and ready to start playing games – hopefully in about five weeks – he can start getting to work on improving his game as a defender and hitter.  His two favorite players growing up that he patterned his game after are Ozzie Smith and Craig Biggio because of how they played the game on and off the field.

“I have been working crazy hard on my defense,” said Wolters.  “There are a lot of things that Travis Fryman and Anthony Medrano have been telling me like that I need to start practicing to funnel and go to my core.  I practiced that probably more than hitting in the offseason.  I really feel like it is coming natural to me now and I am actually getting better at it.”

Wolters knows that he also needs to get better at the plate.  He implies it really boils down to him finding his swing again, something that has eluded him since some of the showcase games early last year.

“I have been doing this board thing with my hitting coach and it has actually really helped me with my lower half and staying back,” said Wolters about his hitting.  “I can’t wait to go see what my swing is like now because I have been doing it without a bat.  I just need to find my swing.  I know it’s in there as I had it in the Aflac game and all those other games.  I brought my hands from down [low] and up [higher], and I just need to find that timing and everything again.  It will come along as I just need at bats.”

The main goal for Wolters right now is to get healthy as hamate procedures can be tricky as they can affect every player differently.  He knows this, but is determined to get back on the field and have a good first full season in the organization.

“I just want to get healthy and find out what kind of player I am,” said Wolters.  “Just kind of find my swing, get better and stronger, and try to improve all of my skills and try to become the baseball player I want to be.  It is a step by step process, but I am really pushing myself.”

Washington temporarily sidelined

Another top pick from the Indians’ 2010 Draft class has been sidelined this spring as outfielder LeVon Washington is working his way back from a minor knee injury.

“My knee just started hurting out of nowhere,” said Washington.  “I have been up here since January.  I had an MRI on my hip and had a torn labrum [that I hurt in rookie ball].  I played through it in Instructional League.  I would be 100% if my knee wouldn’t have started bothering me right now.”

Washington has been rehabbing the knee the past few weeks as he has been limited in the early going this spring where he has not participated in drills or games yet, but is expected to be back in action at the end of the week.

“I’m just doing a lot of stretching and making it stronger,” said Washington.  “I’m doing a lot of oval tub, ice, ultrasound, and a lot of medicine to help with the inflammation.”

Washington played shortstop in high school, but an arm injury has relegated him to the outfield and is where the Indians plan to play and develop him going forward.  He prefers to play shortstop but knows he can’t because he no longer has the arm strength to play there.

While Washington’s arm strength has declined, he is adamant that his speed has not taken a step back.  He knows that there have been some comments over the past year that he may have lost a step, but according to him he just chose not to run as much last year in order to stay healthy for the draft.

“I want to steal a lot of bags this year,” declared Washington.  “A lot of people say I can’t run as fast as I did in high school and that I lost a step, but I can still run and that’s what I want to prove this year.  I didn’t run by choice as I stole only eight bags in college in order to try and stay healthy for the draft.”

Washington has the tools to be an impact caliber leadoff hitter.  He has a tendency to over swing, so one of the early adjustments the organization has asked him to make is to work on keeping his head down on the ball and make more consistent contact.  Once he is cleared to start playing in games this spring he plans to start working on that adjustment and just doing whatever he can to improve this season.

“I am liking [pro ball] so far and having fun,” said Washington.  “I wish I was playing right now, but my goal it to just be healthy the whole year.  I think good things will happen if I am.”

Notebook:

Weglarz out:  The injuries are starting to pour in late in spring training, and outfielder Nick Weglarz is the latest to get bitten by the injury bug.  He collapsed to the field on Thursday while running the bases and had to be helped off the field.  He ended up suffering a torn meniscus to his left knee and is on his way to Cleveland to seek a second opinion from Dr. Rick Parker to determine if surgery is needed or not and how long he will be out.  First baseman Jordan Brown suffered the same injury last year and ended up missing about eight weeks, so Weglarz will probably be out at least until mid-May.

Bryson has broken foot:  Right-handed pitcher Rob Bryson was back at camp on Saturday with a cast on his right foot.  In talking to him he suffered the injury the day before he was set to come to spring training while he was training and running poles at his high school facility when he stepped in a hole.  He is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks, and then go on a throwing program.  Provided he has no setbacks, be will probably be out until sometime around the All Star break.  What an unfortunate injury as he looked to be in great shape and got much stronger in his upper half over the offseason.

Columbus recap: Shortstop Ronald Rivas went 1-for-1 with a HR and 2 RBI, and shortstop Juan Diaz went 2-for-3 with a 2B.  Right-hander Bryce Stowell was up to 96 MPH but struggled with his control in his two innings of work with three walks and two strikeouts with just one first pitch strike to the nine batters he faced.  Left-hander Matt Packer was tagged for three runs on five hits, two walks, and a strikeout in two innings (91 MPH high, 88 MPH average).

Akron recap: Third baseman Kyle Bellows had an impressive day at the plate as he homered in both plate appearances.  Right-hander Tyler Sturdevant pitched well and showed a nice cutter going two innings and allowed one run and one hit (94 MPH high, 92 MPH average).  Right-hander Kyle Landis is continuing his comeback and went one inning and allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits, two walks, and had one strikeout (92 MPH high, 88 MPH average).

Kinston recap: The offense was quiet for Kinston as only outfielder Brian Heere did anything noteworthy by going 1-for-3 with a 2B and 2 RBI.  Oh, and Alex Lavisky was a late sub and had one plate appearance and doubled.  Right-hander Tony Dischler threw two innings and allowed one run on no hits, one walk, and had one strikeout (90 MPH high, 87 MPH average).

Lake County recap: First baseman Jesus Aguilar continues to have a very good camp with the bat going 2-for-2 with a walk.  Left-hander Elvis Araujo was impressive in his one inning of work by not allowing a run or hit (95 MPH high, 92 MPH average).  Right-hander Andrew Shive who is one of the players the Indians acquired in the Kerry Wood trade went one inning of shutout-hitless relief (89 MPH high, 87 MPH average).

Cid is back: Outfielder Delvi Cid had been slowed early in camp because of a mild groin strain, but has been cleared to start participating in games and played a few innings on Sunday.

Ouch!:  Infielder Argenis Martinez was blasted with a pitch to his left collar bone and neck area from right-hander Kyle Landis yesterday.  He quickly crumpled to the ground and after a minute or two was able to walk off the field under his own power.  Hopefully he is okay as it sounded awful.

Davis gonzo: In case anyone missed it, the Indians decided not to sign right-handed pitcher Jason Davis and he left camp on Friday.

Today: It will be my last day out here in Goodyear, and should actually be a rainy one as the forecast is calling for a high in the low-to-mid 60s with 70% chance of rain.  I will have one more notebook tomorrow, but the updates will not stop there as I have lots of articles to come over the next few days on players I have talked to in camp.  I will also continue to provide more detailed recaps from the spring games.

Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).

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