Sunday, March 02, 2008

A Little Lazy Sunday

Pulling myself away from answering the phone every five minutes this weekend from people named John, Hillary, Barack, and Dennis (how is it that political calls somehow circumvent the “Do Not Call” register…and does anyone actually sit there and listen to the recorded message?), it’s time for a quick Lazy Sunday:

Terry Pluto takes a look at where Josh Barfield may eventually fit with the Indians, surmising that the answer may eventually be moving Peralta to 3B (remember, Pluto has previously written that Peralta could find himself traded), slotting Cabrera to SS, and letting Barfield return to 2B. Nowhere in the piece do the words “Andy” or “Marte” appear.

Yahoo Sports presents a nice encapsulation of what to watch for in Spring Training for the Erie Warriors. Nothing too earth-shattering, just solid information on what’s what in Winter Haven. The things that stand out to me are the “Top Candidate to Surprise” as Jeff Stevens and the “Top Candidate to Disappoint” as Frank the Tank.

More on Stevens in a moment, but the piece from Yahoo points out that, “Gutierrez hit just .240 from Aug. 1 through the end of the postseason, suggesting opposing pitchers have found a hole in his swing. Gutierrez also hit just .232 vs. right-handed pitchers, indicating he might be better suited for platoon duty in right field rather than as an everyday player.” Gutz’s defense is going to have him on an awfully long leash as he figures to bring stellar defense to RF, but it will be interesting to see how the Indians approach his struggles against RHP. If he is deemed to be a “platoon player” by, say, late May (which would be an awfully quick analysis), he could be slotted in with Big League Choo in RF as a platoon. The other option that remains within the organization is The Ben Francisco Treat, with his performance against the Tigers yesterday (realizing fully that one good game does not constitute a solid Spring Training) indicating that he’s not interested in heading back to Dunn Tire Park anytime soon.

Back to Stevens, who will forever be remembered as the player netted by the Tribe in the Brandon Phillips deal; but he’s working hard to be known for something other than that. Last year, as a 23-year-old RH reliever for Kinston and Akron, he posted cumulative numbers of a 2.81 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, 102 K and 25 BB in 83 1/3 IP (that’s a K/9 of 11, or more than a batter an inning with a terrific K/BB ratio) – firmly establishing himself as a rising star in the Indians’ depth chart of relievers. He figures to start the season in Buffalo, but after seeing the success that other young relievers like Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis were able to parlay from the minors to MLB, it’s not inconceivable to think that Stevens establishes himself as the first option to come West on I-90 as replacement arms are sure to arrive at some point in 2008. As for him breaking camp with the team, it’s probably pretty unlikely if only because the 7th man in the bullpen (which he would be) in Cleveland pitches so infrequently that it may hinder the development that Stevens could establish with some regular work for the Herd, not to mention the possibility of getting on a roll in Buffalo, then continuing to pitch with confidence if he was called to parent club at some point, just as Jensen Lewis did in 2007.

Ken Rosenthal has a nice breakdown of the Tigers’ lineup.
Detroit better hope that he Tigers’ lineup is truly “one for the ages” because Hammy said on Saturday’s broadcast of the Spring Training game that Dontrelle’s “velocity looks down”, because their depth to replace aging players like Kenny Rogers was compromised to bring in Renteria, Cabrera, and Willis, and because reliever Fernando Rodney’s injury means that their thin bullpen just developed an eating disorder (the $20,000 question – name the 2008 Tigers’ set-up man).

It doesn’t look like I’m the only one who thinks that there are some things that can go wrong in Motown this season. Obviously, this can be written just as easily for the Indians (and reeks of a Livingston-esque article from Detroit’s equivalent of the PD), but the difference that I see between questions facing the Motor City Kitties and the Tribe is that the Indians have some options in the minors that could emerge to answer questions (as they did in 2007) while the Tigers no longer have Jair Jurrjens (which is the one, in particular, that I think will haunt them), Andrew Miller, or Cameron Maybin to serve as the infantry if injuries arise in Detroit while Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers, Atom Miller and Ben Francisco figure to be at the Tribe’s beck-and-call if a need arises for them in Cleveland.

Finally, it looks like the oft-rumored move for the Tribe AAA affiliate from Buffalo to Columbus is likely to happen after this year. Time to gas up the grocery-grabbers and head up to Buffalo to catch a Bisons game while the team still features future Tribesmen.
Who’s coming with me?


Doug said...

Paul - love the blog! Just a typo correction for ya' - if Jeff Stevens comes to Cleveland from Buffalo, it would be West on I-90.

Paul Cousineau said...

Nice catch, Doug.