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Spring Training Notebook: Spring games begin today

Spring Training Notebook: Spring games begin today
February 22, 2013
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The full Cleveland Indians squad has now been in Spring Training for almost a week and a half, so it seems fitting that today marks the first spring game for the club.

The Tribe will open Cactus League action today against the Cincinnati Reds and then will have another game against the Reds on Saturday. In just over a week, the Indians will be losing a handful of players to the World Baseball Classic, so that even heightens the importance of some of these early games.

With that said, let’s touch on some of the interesting news bits coming out of Spring Training this week...

News & notes

— The starting lineup for today’s game has been announced as:

  1. CF Michael Bourn
  2. SS Asdrubal Cabrera
  3. 2B Jason Kipnis
  4. 1B Nick Swisher
  5. LF Michael Brantley
  6. C Carlos Santana
  7. DH Mark Reynolds
  8. 3B Lonnie Chisenhall
  9. RF Drew Stubbs

This is especially interesting because this could be a very similar lineup to what we see on Opening Day. Many of us have come up with our own mock lineups ever since the Bourn signing, but it looks like this is what Terry Francona will decide to put out there for the first spring game. There’s no telling if this is the lineup that Francona will ultimately stick with once the actual season begin, but it’s nice to see that all the new acquisitions will see some action right away. Since it's only a spring game, I am going to refrain from criticizing the lineup in any way as I think Francona is likely just tinkering around. 

— The pitchers for today’s and Saturday’s games have also both been announced. Today, we will see left-hander Giovanni Soto get the start, and he will be followed by Vinnie Pestano, Joe Martinez, Rich Hill, Matt Langwell, Fernando Nieve and Frank Herrmann. Then, on Saturday, Brett Myers will start and be followed by Chris Perez, Corey Kluber, Matt Albers, Scott Barnes, Edward Paredes and Bryan Shaw. It’s hard to draw any concrete conclusions from this list of pitchers, but it does seem as if Francona is hoping get a closer look at some of the World Baseball Classic participants before they head out to join their clubs in March. Soto is pitching for Puerto Rico and both Perez and Pestano are on Team USA, so it should come as no surprise that all three players will be in action in the first two games of spring. It may be worthwhile to take an extra look at Soto’s start considering that the Indians are still in search of potential left-handed relief arms. We know that his cutter is already a Major League weapon, and these brief spring outings really could be tailor-made for Soto and his skill set. It still seems unlikely that the Indians would immediately abandon the Soto starting experiment, but he may force their hand if he goes out and performs brilliantly this spring. The team must at least be considering him as an internal option to make the 25-man roster since it seems unlikely that he would start the first spring game if that were not the case.

— While Soto will get the starting nod in today’s contest, this was not initially the case. Minor league signing Scott Kazmir was originally penciled in to go, but was pulled back because Francona wanted to give him an extra bullpen session. Upon hearing this, I immediately saw red flags and figured that Kazmir may not be as healthy as we think. However, I reconsidered that thought after I saw this quote from Francona in Barry Bloom’s story for MLB.com. “It was totally, completely wanting to and thinking that one more bullpen session would be good for him. And we've been trying to drive it home with guys so that when they're honest enough to tell us, we appreciate it. No, he's actually been anything but injured. The way he's been throwing the ball scares me. I wish he could bottle it right now and start the season.” After seeing his comments, I actually am having opposite thoughts in regard to Kazmir. Rather, could it be that Kazmir is actually throwing so good that Francona wants to do everything possible to protect him as the season draws near? Since the Indians signed Kazmir, I considered him a long shot to make the team. I still liked the signing as it’s always a good thing when you can add someone with ace credentials on a minor league deal. I understood that it would be unreasonable to believe that Kazmir could come right in and have success, especially when you consider that he has not pitched in the Major Leagues since one terrible outing in 2011. However, Francona’s words seem to imply that Kazmir is off to a good start, so he will be an interesting player to watch when he makes his spring debut. I’m sure I am not the only one eager to see what the radar gun clocks Kazmir’s stuff at.

— Speaking of starting pitchers, a nice story by MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian came out on Carlos Carrasco this week. On Tuesday, Carrasco took the mound and threw in a live batting-practice session in front of Francona, who seemed to be encouraged by the results. Francona did not say too much other than the session went well and that he believes Carrasco’s potential could be limitless considering his stuff. It’s now been almost a year and a half since Carrasco had Tommy John surgery on Sept. 21, 2011, and there will reportedly be no restrictions placed on the right-hander this spring. That is only a good sign as Carrasco could provide a huge boost to this year’s rotation. His career numbers leave a lot to be desired, but Carrasco has certainly provided glimpses. For instance, think back to his stretch from June 7 to June 29 during the 2011 season. Over five starts, Carrasco went 4-1 with a 0.98 ERA in 36 2/3 innings of work. He also struck out 28 batters and walked only five. When he was initially acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies, the Indians thought they were getting a top-of-the-rotation type prospect in return; someone who likely has a ceiling as a No. 2 starter. That stretch in June seemed to illustrate that type of potential, but Carrasco soon faltered afterwards, which could have been because of nagging elbow pain. Nonetheless, it’s great to see Carrasco off to a good start in spring. Unless something crazy happens, it appears as if he is still the favorite to win the Indians’ fifth starter spot.

Yan Gomes will not play for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic and will remain in camp with the Indians this spring. I imagine this was a tough decision that Gomes probably went back-and-forth on at least a dozen times. As the first Brazilian player in Major League history, Gomes probably would take great pride in representing his country in the WBC. However, in the long run, Gomes’ decision to stay in camp with the Indians may ultimately pay dividends. While two of the Indians’ four bench spots already belong to Lou Marson and Mike Aviles, Gomes could have a chance to secure another spot with a nice showing. The Indians plan to use Gomes as a catcher, but he also has experience playing first base, third base and the outfield. Gomes is also coming off a strong 2012 campaign with Triple-A Las Vegas where he hit .328/.380/.557 with 13 home runs and 59 RBI in 79 games. Actually, if he performs well enough, there is a chance, albeit a small one, that he could supplant Marson as the team’s backup catcher. But for Gomes to have any chance of doing that or making the team, he must impress this spring, which was probably his thought process when he decided to skip the WBC. With his versatility and power, he definitely is an intriguing player to watch this spring and you have to love his commitment — that had to be very, very hard for him to turn down an opportunity to play for his home country. He has certainly taken a gamble, and now we’ll just have to see if that gamble pays off.

Quick hits

—  Francona publicly said this week that he sees no problem with Trevor Bauer’s unique long-toss routine. In fact, in anything, Francona seemed very complimentary of the practice and said it’s something the team would like to incorporate more into its workouts provided it’s done properly. This has to come as good news to Bauer, who had some very public squabbles with the Arizona Diamondbacks over the same issue last season.

—  It’s hard to believe that a guy with 138 career saves is in camp on a minor league deal, but that’s exactly the case for reliever Matt Capps. I like Capps a lot, and I would not be opposed to him claiming one of the open reliever spots if he’s healthy. Capps is a true control artist and has walked just 1.7 batters per nine innings, which is exactly the type of numbers I love from a relief pitcher.

—  Today’s game will be broadcast on WTAM-1100 AM at 3:05 p.m. As always, Tom Hamilton and Jim Rosenhaus will call the action.

Steve can be reached via email at orbaneks@gmail.com.

User Comments

Dave Turin
February 22, 2013 - 9:36 PM EST
The Indians are as good as gold this year
MacPhisto
February 22, 2013 - 8:56 PM EST
The Tribe had the winning combination today. Just spring training and worth nothing that the earned runs went to two pitchers that are unlikely to make the Big League club.

Brantley have a nice debut in the #5 hole where he hit .308 last year and struck out at a rate lower than in other slots. He might not hit power, but with guys in front of him getting on base, he could drive in a lot of runs without the HRs.

Baseball is back! And I hope the ad campaign proves true - that Cleveland becomes Tribe Town this year. Maybe Francona can break another curse.
Clarence
February 22, 2013 - 6:15 PM EST
It's 6:15 pm et and I can't freakin' wait to read a box score...
Mary Jane
February 22, 2013 - 3:01 PM EST
Excited to witness the Kipnis this year -- think it might be a big year for him.

Also, couldn't agree more regarding Capps. He's a solid reliever and would like to see him on the mound.
Wild Bill
February 22, 2013 - 11:17 AM EST
I can hardly wait for the first pitch. It feels like the Tribe is finally taking baseball seriously and not just a game.

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