April 21, 2014

Indians 3, Tigers 2: The Zach Attack delivers again

Zach McAllisterWhen looking at the Detroit Tigers compared to our Cleveland Indians, one distinct advantage sticks out for the Kitties – starting pitching.  The Detroit top three — Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, and Anibal Sanchez — would all be the Indians number one if they toiled in Cleveland. Rick Porcello and Drew Smily also dwarf Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco as a tandem. Thanks to Tuesday’s postponement due to freezing temperatures, the Tigers were able to skip Smily over the shortened two game set. Sanchez got the first crack at the Tribe last night with Verlander going Thursday afternoon.

Manager Terry Francona stayed with his normal turns, sending out Zach McAllister on a cold night at Comerica Park. The last time we saw Zach, he was dominant in a win against the San Diego Padres and if the Indians were going to win this one, a similar performance would be helpful.

The first inning had the look of a game that could be high scoring. Sanchez, who normally has impeccable command, walked the newly activated Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, and Jason Kipnis to start the game. A potential big inning was thwarted by Carlos Santana’s sixth double play ground out of the year. A run did score, but Sanchez got himself right off the hook. Carlos is locked in a 2-24 slump.

[Read more...]

South-praw-blem? On the Indians’ early struggles against left-handed pitching

Jose Quintana mowing down the Tribe

An early story-line in the 2014 campaign has been the Indians struggles with left-handed starters. In the last six games alone, the Tribe has seen Eric Stults, Robbie Erlin, John Danks, Chris Sale, and Jose Quintana all of the southpaw persuasion. In Detroit, they’ll see Drew Smyly on Wednesday night. With a 12-man hitting arsenal, the Indians currently house five hitters that bat only from the left side, yet they have amassed an OPS of just .623 against lefties. The Tribe has struck out more often against lefties (40 vs. 38) despite having 71 fewer at-bats. Is this an overreaction of some early season hitting scuffles or the exposition of a larger problem? Let’s dig into the numbers a little bit.

[Read more...]

White Sox 7, Indians 3: Salazar impressive yet disappointing

Danny SalazarWell, that certainly was a weird game now wasn’t it?

On their way to 92 wins and a Wild Card playoff berth a year ago, your Cleveland Indians used the Chicago White Sox as their personal punching bag. The Wahoos beat the White Sox 17 times in 19 games, including the final 14 in a row. During that stretch, they had three walkoff home runs, two by then 41-year old part time DH Jason Giambi. But it is a new year, and the new look White Sox were out to show the Tribe that they weren’t going to be pushovers this year.

The way things started off early, it looked as though more of the same was coming. Along with many other members of the Tribe elite, I openly questioned why Terry Francona has continued to use Asdrubal Cabrera as his leadoff man against left-handed pitching. The Tribe’s shortstop has looked putrid at the plate thus far, making many pine for 2015 when top prospect Francisco Lindor will assuredly take over. Naturally, Cabrera led off the game with a double high off the wall in left. After a Nick Swisher walk, Jason Kipnis continued his torrid hitting in his home city with a single to left. The ball took an awkward hop and bounced off of the hand of left fielder Alejandro De Aza, allowing Cabrera to score. A second run would come home on Ryan Raburn’s sac fly. [Read more...]

Starting pitching excels in double dip split with Padres

Trevor BauerWhomever in the MLB scheduling department that decided having the San Diego Padres come to Cleveland for their one appearance in early April is a genius. Now seriously, who thought this was a good idea? Naturally bad weather postponed Monday night’s game, causing a traditional doubleheader to be played on Wednesday, which was supposed to be the Padres getaway day. It is the second time the Tribe has played a doubleheader this season, which is just a week and a half old.

The Indians sent Zach McAllister to the hill for game one. The last time we saw Zach, his command was a mess. He only could muster four innings, giving up three runs on six hits and four walks. After the first time through the rotation, I will admit McAllister was the guy I worried about the most. For the Indians to reach their goal of returning to the postseason, McAllister has to be very good.

Yesterday afternoon, he wasn’t just good….he was GREAT. [Read more...]

Behold: Nyjer Morgan 2.0

Photo In the fickle world where professional baseball players trade, Nyjer Morgan has everything going against him. He’s 33 years old. He’s on a one-year deal with the Cleveland Indians, getting his opportunity thanks to a minor league deal, ultimately obtaining a spot on the big league roster solely due to an injury to the team’s every day center fielder. A season ago, he was taking left-handed cuts in Japan, but was sent to their equivalent of the minor leagues following a slow start. Domestically, he is known more for headline-producing antics and an alter ego named Tony Plush; both Morgan and Plush have worn out their welcome with several teams in Major League Baseball, including the one he helped lead to the playoffs in 2011. Nyjer Morgan may have very well been the 25th man to get his name carved into the team’s Opening Day roster, but here he stands, freshly showered following his team’s series opening win over the San Diego Padres, telling everyone within ear shot that he is as comfortable as he has been throughout his six years in the game.

[Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Opening day fun, starting pitching concerns, Vinnie’s future, and Wahoo

Jason Kipnis

If I told you the Tribe would lose two of three in Oakland to start the year and then come home to take two of three from Minnesota, I am sure many of you would have taken it. Though the opposite actually happened, the record is still the same: 3-3. The weekend series with the Twins should have turned out differently, but we witnessed lots of sloppy play and even sloppier pitching, particular from the starters. Opening Day was a success on the field once the bad weather passed. Saturday and Sunday, however, left a lot to be desired.

It is easy to jump to early conclusions. That would be irresponsible as an Indians fan. Do not forget that this was just one week; six games to be exact. There are 156 games left to be played. Things will get better, things will get worse, but one thing is for certain: A season is not shaped by April 6.

As we have done for WFNY each of the past four seasons, Monday mornings at 10 a.m. will be a look back at the good and the bad of the Tribe’s weekend series. This particular one had plenty to discuss. [Read more...]

Rocky start, “Smooth” ending: Tribe splits doubleheader in Oakland

Mike AvilesThere is nothing worse than fans freaking out over one game. But the first of the two in Oakland yesterday was one of those of those examples. I’m going to say this once – it’s ONE GAME.

Scott Kazmir, whom the Indians let walk after resurrecting his career in Cleveland last season, spent his afternoon completely dominating his old club. It was similar to some of the performances we saw from the 30-year old in 2013. He was in complete control, pounding the strike zone all game long. Only twice did Kazmir even get to a three-ball count. Scott worked fast and the Wahoo offense never touched him.

Kazmir, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal with Oakland, departed with one out in the eighth, allowing just three hits without walking a single batter. He struck out five and looked to be worth every penny. [Read more...]

Indians 2, Athletics 0: It took a while, but it was worth the wait

Asdrubal CabreraTo borrow a phrase from the great George Costanza, I stayed up late to watch the Tribe start their season and “yada yada, I am very tired today.” It rained all day in Oakland and getting this game in looked bleak most of the day. But the baseball Gods usually arrive on Opening Day. They did, the sun came out, and the Tribe’s 2014 debut started right on time.

I’m sure many of you were sleeping, and if you weren’t, the Indians offense with runners on base may have put you there. But in the end, it felt like another nail-biter 2013 stretch drive game where the pitching gave them a chance to win and the bats did just enough late to pull out a victory.

The first game of the each season is always going to see two teams trot their best starter out to the mound. The A’s sent 24-year-old stud Sonny Gray out to square off with Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, making his third consecutive Opening Day start. With free agency pending, it could be the last opener Masterson starts in a Tribe uniform. Lets hope not. The way he pitched last night had all the makings of an ace. We’ve seen this kind of dominating performance out of Justin before, but to fire out of the gates like this was very encouraging.

In seven stellar innings, Oakland could muster little against Masterson and his array of pitches. He had it all working last night. You usually know how things are going to go with Justin judging by his first couple of innings. When his command is there, he is extremely tough to beat. [Read more...]

2014 WFNY Tribe Predictions

Nick Swisher

Man that was a long winter…Well it is essentially still going on here in Northeast Ohio, but the sun is shining here today and a smile is on my face. Why? Because it is BASEBALL SEASON! When we last left our Cleveland Indians, they had been shut down in the AL WIld Card game by Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays. A bitter taste was left in the mouths of the players. Guys like Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, and Carlos Santana have been champing at the bit to get back on the field.

“Unfinished Business” is the tag line for the 2014 Indians. The Wild Card was almost like a tease. They want more. We want more. The national media didn’t seem to give the Indians much of a chance in year one of the Terry Francona era. They shocked everyone by winning 92 games. Fast forward a year and again nobody outside of Cleveland seems to be giving the Tribe much of a chance again. In fact, the Kansas City Royals are the trendy team.

But what does the WFNY crew make of this year’s version of the Wahoo Warriors? I asked seven key questions, they answered…. [Read more...]

Compare and contrast: Tribe today and 365 days ago

Nick SwisherWe are getting close! I don’t know about you, but I am beyond excited for Indians baseball to begin. The pieces are starting to come together. On Wednesday, the final 25-man roster was revealed. There weren’t many surprises, but there has been some small but important tinkering. When you compare this club to the one which left Goodyear for Cleveland a year ago, you can see that top to bottom, Terry Francona’s bunch looks better.

I thought a good way to view this was to lay it all out for you by groupings.  I love the Indians depth and ability to move guys all over the diamond. The bullpen looks solid. Yet, there are still concerns. But on paper, the 2014 club looks improved from this time last year.  [Read more...]

Morgan Makes Indians Opening Day Roster, Bourn to the DL

Nyjer MorganOver the past decade, the Indians have signed a handful of low priced free agents in the offseason, taking flyers and hoping that one or two of them will work out. Last year GM Chris Antonetti hit on both Ryan Raburn and Scott Kazmir. This winter, the likes of Jeff Francouer, David Aardsma, Scott Atchison, and Elliot Johnson were amongst the players brought in. Johnson’s versatility and strong Spring has him snagging a spot in this season’s ‘Goon Squad.” Now you have another vet who will start the season with the big club.

Welcome to Cleveland, Tony Plush.

Nyjer Morgan, the former Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Washington center fielder has been told that he has made the club, according to Tribe beat reporters T.J.Zuppe, Jordan Bastian, and Paul Hoynes. Morgan has impressed manager Terry Francona with his hustle and willingness to fit as a role player. His three-run triple on Saturday keyed a win over the Rockies. Morgan is just 7-32 (.219) this Spring, but he is a natural center fielder. This is the key aspect of why Morgan has made the club.

The team’s regular in the middle, Michael Bourn, is nursing a hamstring injury which has hampered him over the past 10 days or so. The Morgan news tells me one thing – Bourn will not be ready next Monday night in Oakland.  In fact the Indians have just announced that Bourn will start the season on the Disabled List retroactively. The good news is that he will be eligible to return April 5th. If healthy, Bourn would miss just four games.

In other roster moves, Lonnie Chisenhall has been informed he will make the club, while pitchers Trevor Bauer and C.C. Lee have been sent to Columbus. 1B/DH Bryan LaHair, INF David Cooper, and Catcher Luke Carlin have all been reassigned. Starting pitcher Aaron Harang asked for and was granted his release after being told he will not be the team’s fifth starter.

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

Vinnie Pestano and Elliot Johnson make Tribe’s 25-man roster

Vinne Pestano

Vinnie Pestano may have spent last fall as an outsider looking in, but he will get a chance at redemption this summer as the right-handed reliever has officially made the Cleveland Indians’ 25-man roster. Pestano was told this weekend that he will be one of the arms in the Tribe’s bullpen on Opening Day—a spot that was all but certain heading into Spring Training.

Last season, the fan favorite was on the disabled list with arm issues and spent a good portion of the season in Columbus with the team’s Triple-A affiliate. When the Indians won 10 straight games and made the postseason, he was not on the team’s roster. Coming off what was easily the worst year in his career, Pestano has a 1.50 ERA in six appearances this spring. (He’s allowed just one run in six innings with five strikeouts and two walks, holding opposing hitters to a .100 average.)

“I worked hard in the offseason and I’ve work hard this spring to get back to get back on the right track to where I was,” Pestano said to the local media. “But there is still work to be done. Just because I’m on the Opening Day roster doesn’t mean you’re going to be there down the stretch. I found that out last year.”

It is assumed that Cody Allen will receive eighth inning duties to start the season, a role once held by Pestano. Losing Joe Smith via free agency, Pestano’s resurgence will be integral in the team’s late-inning success.

Also given a spot on the team’s Opening Day roster is utility man Elliot Johnson. Johnson, who came to camp on a minor-league deal, is hitting .350 (14-for-40) this spring. He’s hit two doubles, two triples, two homers and eight RBI, flashing considerable power that may have him admitted to the Goon Squad if he can show it’s sustainable. Indians manager Terry Francona has used him all over the infield and outfield, providing more flexibility in the way of Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles in 2013.

Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Paul Hoynes reports that Tribe GM Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona also talked to several other players, telling them where they stood and that a final decision on their status with the big league club had not been made. Outfielder Nyjer Morgan and third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall were reportedly among them.

The Tribe starts their season in Oakland one week from Monday.

Raburn Rocking, Bauer Rocked: Tuesday Tribe Notes

Josh TomlinWe are now two weeks into the game portion of Spring Training, so it is time to take stock of what we have learned thus far. There are plenty of intriguing battles going on. Some players have made statements, while others are still trying to make up ground. I have kept my ear to the ground and as always, I’ve tried to stay on top of all the goings-on in Goodyear. With just 20 days until the opener in Oakland, I file this report….

While Raburn sizzles, Murphy isn’t ready. Of all of the pleasant surprises of the 2013 playoff season, perhaps none was bigger than the renaissance of Ryan Raburn. A big reason that the former Tiger was so good was the genius of manager Terry Francona. Tito played Raburn perfectly; he didn’t overuse him, picking and choosing his spots, yet he knew when to ride him when he was sizzling. Midway through the season, Raburn smartly signed a two-year extension with the Tribe for $4.75 million. Knowing Ryan is at his best in the role he played last season, GM Chris Antonetti signed David Murphy from Texas to a two-year deal. The rightfield platoon was all set. [Read more...]

2014 Cleveland Indians Home Opener sold out in 15 minutes

 progressive field

Well, it looks like we can save debates about Cleveland Indians attendance for at least a little bit. The team announced via its Twitter account that their Opening Day game on Friday April 4 against the Minnesota Twins is sold out. Not only that, Tribe fans managed to sell out Progressive Field in just 15 minutes.

The Indians followed up with a press release indicating that this is the 22nd straight sold out Home Opener and the 21st at Progressive Field. Not a bad little streak for this team and this town.

Hopefully, the play on the field leads to lots of meaningful games and more than one playoff game for the fans to sell out this fall.

[Related: How will the Indians respond to their 92-win season? The Plexiglas Principle and the 2014 Indians]

The Plexiglas Principle and the 2014 Indians

Francisco Lindor

What does 2014 have in store for the Tribe?

Measuring the degree of one’s own homerism is a difficult and never-ending task.  You never quite know whether what you believe about your favorite team is being overly colored by your desire to actually believe it, especially in the midst of never-ending winter.  And yet I feel that, on the whole, I’m a relatively rational and objective person as far as sports fans go—I’m not deluded like those troglodytes who follow those other teams.  I’m a sabermetrician, for goodness sakes!  I CAN ADD THINGS WITH EXCEL!  On the other hand, I’ve talked myself into believing in too many losers to trust my first instinct.  David Huff is quite decidedly not Cliff Lee.  Matt LaPorta will not become Ryan Braun.  All that glitters…

Anyway, there comes a time every spring when we get to calibrate our internal expectations against a somewhat objective barometer: the over-under odds coming out of Las Vegas.  Every year I tell myself not to get over-excited by these things, and every year I end up feeling blindsided by them. [Read more...]

Tribe position players face questions as full-squad workouts begin

 Terry Francona, Chris Antonetti

We are getting closer and closer to Opening Day. Last week  the pitchers and catchers arrived in Goodyear to get their work started. Now, the rest of the team has arrived ready to build on last season’s 92-win Wild Card season. The core group is back, with a few additions sprinkled in. The big splash everyone was hoping for was not going to happen. Instead, David Murphy was brought over from Texas to platoon in Right Field with last year’s surprise Ryan Raburn. Everything else will look pretty familiar to you.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues surrounding the starting nine and bench bunch. “The Goon Squad” captured the city’s imagination thanks to their personalities and versatility both on the field and in the clubhouse, but new members may emerge. Then you have the third base situation. As we did last week, let us examine the various questions that will need  to be answered, starting with the talk of the winter in Tribe Town…. [Read more...]

Pitchers and Catchers Report! Wahoo!

danny salazar

Finally. Baseball is here. I know, I know, its not Opening Day, but today is the day that the Cleveland Indians’ pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona to begin their work. Unlike last February, there are expectations attached to this particular Indians team. They are no longer going to be sneaking up on anybody. Once Terry Francona took over, the culture change took immediate effect. We are no longer “hoping” for a winning team, we “expect” one here in Cleveland. And that’s the way it should be.

Francona and his staff are back and will begin building up and evaluating the pitching staff this morning under the bright Arizona sun. It certainly beats being in Cleveland right now. With camp opening up, let us set the scene with the most important part of any baseball team—the pitching staff. [Read more...]

Whither Bernie Kosar

Bernie Kosar“He’s got style and class at age 23…..the MVP of the AFC.” 

Growing up in Cleveland in the 1980′s, Bernie Kosar was my hero. He was everybody’s hero. Bernie was the thinking man’s Quarterback. His decisions were decisive; his accuracy, pinpoint. He didn’t have the cannon of Dan Marino or the escapability of his nemesis John Elway, but Bernie had the superior intangibles that helped him reach the top tier of quarterbacks in his prime. From 1985, when he took over for the injured Gary Danielson, through 1989, Bernie was “it.” And he was ours.

I still maintain that the downfall of career came on Opening Day of the 1988 season in Kansas City. Chiefs defensive back Lloyd Burress came on a blitz and hit Bernie under his shoulder just as he was letting go of a big throw. I can remember the play so vividly. From that point on, Kosar was never the same. He would go on to start just nine games that season. The Browns actually used four different starters and still finished 10-6, ultimately making the playoffs. Imagine that in today’s NFL. By 1993, Bernie looked like a shell of his former self and then coach Bill Belichick made one of the most controversial moves in Browns history, releasing Kosar mid-season, citing his “diminishing skills.”

Throughout it all, there was nobody in town more popular than Bernie. Here was the kid from Boardman, Ohio who entered the NFL as a 21-year old who wanted to play in Cleveland more than anywhere else. Heck, he had just spent his college days in Miami, but home is where Kosar wanted to be. All he did was lead the Browns to the AFC Championship game three times in four years, starting at age 23. His best games were on the biggest stages. We all knew the words to “Bernie Bernie.”

[Read more...]

Thursday Tribe Notes

Its cold. Its winter. The Cavs are awful. The Browns Head Coaching search is comical at this point. Lets talk about the best team in town, shall we?

Carlos Santana - Dejak AP1. This Carlos Santana to third base thing took on a life of its own over the past few days. Speaking to ESPN Deportes baseball insider Enrique Rojas, the Tribe slugger said that he is expecting to play Third Base in 2014 and that is all he has been working on this winter. In so many words, Carlos intimated to Rojas that he will be the starter at the hot corner. The quotes seemed a little strange, considering the idea was essentially hatched as an experiment during winter ball.

Then yesterday, Tribe manager Terry Francona met with the media and put some water on the flames. Everyone needs to pump the brakes. [Read more...]

The WFNY Sportsman of 2013: Terry Francona

Terry Francona had much to celebrate in 2013 (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfel)

Terry Francona had much to celebrate in 2013
(AP Photo/Ann Heisenfel)

Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year is an annual must-read. Given that the national recognition rarely has anything to do with the teams or individuals whom we cover, WFNY writers have been giving their nominees for our own Sportsman of the Year. After an internal vote, WFNY is pleased to announce the winner of the inaugural WFNY Sportsman of the Year award.

[Read more...]