The Mitchell Report- Performance Enhancing Blog
Well, the pressure is on now. With the blog becoming something like dueling banjos, I’m going to have to dust off the ole’ writing skills that Mrs. Haensch helped develop many years ago. The fact that she allowed me to write my final paper on Rickey Henderson in senior AP English class deserved a shout-out at some point, there it is.
I’m quite happy to be joining the blogosphere. Like most other writers in it, I have plenty to say that most people could go a lifetime without hearing. Let’s get right to it.
“Pitchers and catcher report.” Are there 4 sweeter words in the English language? Let’s see.
-”Congratulations, it’s a boy/girl!” That’s right up there, but with the contraction, it may not qualify.
-”Will you marry me?” It could take several years to see how that deal turns out.
-”Snow day, no school!” We have a contender.
-”Too legit to quit.” I think it’s safe to say… no.
The equipment truck has left Cleveland for Goodyear, Arizona. Reporting date for Indians pitchers and catchers is February 15th. There are not as many position battles as you’d think for a team that just finished off as bad a season as did the Tribe. With a 69-93 record in 2010, one would expect the first few days of spring training to look like the scene in Major League when the players roll into the desert under the watchful and confused gaze of Lou Brown (RIP). That will not be the case. Cleveland went with youth last year, which resulted in the usual growing pains. This season, the question changes from “who’s this guy?” to, as the great left-hander Jimi asked “Are you experienced?”
In 2011, Matt LaPorta will be back at first base, Asdrubal Cabrera will be the shortstop, and the Jasons, Donald and Nix will likely man second and third base in some order (I know, Nix spells his with a “Y” cut me some slack). A fully healed Carlos Santana and Lou Marson will be the catching tandem again. The outfield will consist of Shin-Soo Choo, Michael Brantley and if healthy, Grady Sizemore. Austin Kearns, because he has a guaranteed contract, has a spot until new Indians GM Chris Antonetti can flip him to the Yankees for another pitching prospect. With the $13 million man Travis Hafner in the locker room, that leaves two bench spots up for grabs with Trevor Crowe, Shelley Duncan, Adam Everrett, and Luis Valbuena the front-runners. All but Everrett were Indians most or all of last year.
The pitching staff is more interesting because there is a lot of talent for Manny Acta to sift through. Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson and Mitch Talbot have a spot in the rotation. Carlos Carrasco would really have to falter in Arizona to miss out on the 25-man. If Jeremy Bonderman joins the fold, he slots into the rotation, completing things there and sending the whole group of David Huff, Jeanmar Gomez, Anthony Reyes, Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister to Columbus unless one of them can stay on in the bullpen. That won’t be easy because the pen might be the strength on this team. Chris Perez proved dominant as a closer in the second half last year. Rafael Perez, Tony Sipp and Aaron Laffey all seem to have a spot. That’s three lefties in the pen, but none in the rotation. Then you have Joe Smith, Jensen Lewis, Justin Germano and Frank Herrmann from last year’s group. Throw in Doug Mathis, Joe Martinez and it will be tough for Clippers relievers from 2010 to break in. The Tribe will give a good look to Vinnie Pestano, Josh Judy and Zach Putnam.
With just a few spots up for grabs and barring a rash of injuries, the Clippers stand to benefit with an opening day roster that will look pretty similar to the one that resulted in an International League and Triple-A National Championship last season. A couple of anticipated additions should make the Columbus roster fun to watch. A first look at Lonnie Chisenhall and a more extended stay for play-off phenom Jason Kipnis is causing a buzz around Huntington Park. The Clippers rotation looks to include Huff, Gomez, Tomlin, McAllister, Alex White and Corey Kluber. That’s six guys for five spots and doesn’t even include Reyes, Johan Pino or Paolo Espino. These things have a way of working themselves out by trade, injury or creative roster positioning. The bullpen will likely be anchored again by Pestano, Judy and Putnam. Bryce Stowell returns from injuries that shelved him a couple times in 2010. Some of the guys that lose out on the big-league roster race will slot here as well.
Paul Phillips and Luke Carlin will likely share the catching duties in Columbus. The infield will have Jordan Brown at first if he can’t find his way back onto the Tribe roster. Second base belongs to Kipnis and Chisenhall will be at third. Where does that leave Jared Goedert and Cord Phelps? Goedert has a shot to make the big club where 3B is anything but certain. If not, he can back up at first and third as well as DH. Phelps will play 2B, 3B and DH. He was really good in 2010 and I think he’s a keeper, unfortunately for him, he’s blocked everywhere by more highly touted players. The title “Utility Player” could be in his future. Shortstop is a mystery for the Clippers after Josh Rodriguez was taken by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Rule V draft. The mystery will be solved when either Luis Valbuena or Adam Everrett are trimmed form the Tribe roster. Jack Hannahan and Wes Hodges are in the mix here.
The outfield is as crowded as the Indian’s bullpen. If Sizemore is ready to go on opening day, you have Travis Buck, Ezequiel Carrera, Trevor Crowe, Jerad Head, Chad Huffman, Matt McBride, and Nick Weglarz in the running for four spots.
By its nature, the Clippers roster will see plenty of turnover, but at least as things look on paper (where games are rarely played) Columbus has a very good Triple-A team to throw at the rest of the International League. Mike Sarbaugh returns for his second season managing the Clippers. Lee May Jr. will be the hitting coach again and Ruben Niebla joins the staff as the pitching coach replacing the departed Charlie Nagy.
Most of the above mentioned folks will be at Huntington Park on March 30th when the Clippers host the Tribe for an exhibition game at 1:05 pm. Tickets are available at clippersbaseball.com or by phone at 614-462-2757.
Your questions and comments are welcome. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Here’s to the beginning of a beautiful…on second thought, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Just check back often.