Posted on: August 11, 2011 11:46 pm
CLEVELAND -- Jim Thome was playing third base for the Indians the day he hit his first big-league home run.
On the same day Lonnie Chisenhall turned three years old.
Thome left the Indians to sign with the Phillies after the 2002 season.
On the same day the Indians traded for Travis Hafner.
Thome comes back to Cleveland this weekend with 598 home runs, and wouldn't it be great if he gets to 600 during this three-game series at Progressive Field?
He hit his first 334 home runs as an Indian, and his 186 home runs at Progressive Field are still far more than he has hit at any other ballpark (U.S. Cellular is second on his list, with 98).
And that's even though Thome played his first 70 home games at old Cleveland Stadium.
There's no one left on the Indians roster who was a Thome teammate in Cleveland. Chisenhall, now 22, is the Indians third baseman now.
But you know that Cleveland still means more to Thome than anywhere else he has played.
He's hit well on previous returns, going 35-for-114 (.307) in 34 games, with 10 home runs and 32 RBI. He's had three multi-homer games in Cleveland as a visitor.
He needs two in the next three games to get to 600 here, perhaps not likely but certainly not impossible.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. Thome has never homered in 16 at-bats against Justin Masterson, the Cleveland starter in Twins at Indians, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Progressive Field. The Indians rearranged their rotation after Masterson went just two innings before a long rain delay knocked him out of his Tuesday night start against the Tigers. Why? That's simple. Masterson has been their best starter this year. "Masterson has been a No. 1 for us," manager Manny Acta said.
2. You never know what C.J. Wilson might say, but did you really expect him to go into his start at Oakland by saying, "I hate pitching there" and that "The players on [the A's] team hate me"? Maybe he'll like the Coliseum more and the A's players will hate him more if he wins in Rangers at A's, Friday night (10:07 ET) at the Coliseum.
3. The Brewers went into the season knowing they had little rotation depth in the minor leagues, but they survived Zack Greinke's injury because Marco Estrada was decent in his place, pitching well enough for the Brewers to win two of his four starts. Estrada last started on May 4, and the Brewers have used just their regular five starters since then. But Chris Narveson's freak injury -- he sliced open his thumb while trying to fix his glove -- has forced Estrada back into the rotation for Pirates at Brewers, Saturday afternoon (4:10 ET) at Miller Park. This is one of the Pirates games that Fox picked up for its Saturday game of the week, before the Pirates went into their skid.
Posted on: June 13, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 9:17 am
NEW YORK -- Indians manager Manny Acta warns people not to count his team out, despite the Indians' slide over the last couple of weeks.
He also warns people not to count out the Twins.
"They won last year," Acta said Monday. "The division still has to go through Minnesota. Anyone in our division could still win it by 10 or get buried by 30."
The Indians opened play Monday tied with the Tigers atop the AL Central, with the White Sox 3 1/2 games behind. The Indians, who have lost four in a row and nine of their last 10, open a three-game series in Detroit on Tuesday.
"You're not a fluke for 2 1/2 months if you're in first place," Acta said. "We built up that lead. We'll be back again playing better. I guess that's an understatement."
The Indians should get help when Travis Hafner returns from the disabled list, probably late this week. Hafner, out since May 18 with an oblique injury, is set to begin a rehabilitation assignment at Double-A Akron on Tuesday.
Acta wouldn't say how soon Hafner will be back, but Hafner said the team told him they wanted him to spend three or four days in the minors before returning.
The Indians have struggled to score runs in Hafner's absence, so Acta shook up his lineup Monday, putting Grady Sizemore back in the leadoff spot and batting Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera third and fourth.
"Those two guys have been the most consistent," Acta explained. "I wanted to have our best hitters hit in the middle of the lineup."
Posted on: June 13, 2011 12:41 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2011 8:10 pm
Sunday night, after the Giants activated Pablo Sandoval from the disabled list, I asked on Twitter which of the five big-name players coming off the DL this week would have the biggest impact on the pennant race.
One problem: I missed two of them.
There aren't five big-name players that could come off the DL this week. There are seven.
Seven players who have combined for 17 All-Star appearances, six batting titles, one MVP and two runners-up, four Gold Gloves and 15 Silver Sluggers.
And I didn't even include Jason Heyward, who began a rehabilitation assignment with the Braves' Triple-A Gwinnett team, and could be activated as soon as Wednesday.
Anyway, I'll ask the question again: Which one will have the biggest impact on the pennant race?
And I'll try to answer it:
1. Matt Holliday, Cardinals, left quadriceps, last played May 31, could return Thursday. When Holliday missed seven early-season games with appendicitis, the Cardinals scored just 18 runs and went 2-5. He's missed the last 11 games, and they've scored 49 runs and gone 5-6. They're a first-place team that scores plenty of runs when he plays, a sub-.500 team that struggles to score when he doesn't. Fortunately for the Cardinals, it looks reasonably certain that this Holliday absence won't last much longer.
2. Travis Hafner, Indians, right oblique, last played May 17, could return late this week. Even with Hafner, the Indians may not be good enough to hold on in the American League Central race. But it's clear that without him, they've got no chance. The numbers are skewed a little by the strong pitching Cleveland has faced since Hafner went out, but it's still stunning to see that they were shut out just once with him in the lineup -- and six times in the 24 games he has missed. The Indians were hitting .271 as a team when Hafner got hurt. They've hit .224 as a team (with a .289 on-base percentage and a .346 slugging percentage) without him. The Indians will go as far as their talented young hitters can take them, but those young hitters are hurting without Hafner's presence in the lineup. Hafner is due to begin a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday at Double-A Akron. The Indians have told him they'd like him to stay there three or four days.
3. Joe Mauer, Twins, bilateral leg weakness, last played April 12, could return Thursday. If the Twins weren't already nine games out, Mauer would top this list. If they were still 20 games under .500, as they were a couple weeks back, he'd be farther down the list. The Twins aren't nearly the same team without Mauer, but his impact on the pennant race is limited by how bad they've been without him -- and by the continuing uncertainty about how effective he'll be when he returns.
4. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins, back inflammation, last played May 29, expected to return Tuesday. The Marlins, finishing up a brutal offensive homestand that cost hitting coach John Mallee his job, obviously need a boost. Ramirez, a one-time National League batting champ, could obviously provide it. But will he? Ramirez hit just .210 in 48 games before going on the DL. Even with that, the Marlins were just two games behind the Phillies when Ramirez last played. They're seven games out now, and he'll be back for the start of a four-game series in Philadelphia.
5. Magglio Ordonez, Tigers, right ankle weakness, last played May 10, returning Monday night. If he hits .172, as he did before the Tigers put him on the DL, he's the least important guy on this list. If he's a .300 hitter, as he has been for most of his career (including last year), he's as important as anyone, and might be enough to make the Tigers clear favorites in the AL Central.
6. Pablo Sandoval, Giants, fractured hamate bone, last played April 29, will return Tuesday. The way the Giants struggle to score runs, some will make the case that the Panda is as important as anyone. I dropped him down only because the Giants went 25-16 in his absence. Yes, Buster Posey is out of the lineup now, but the Giants are above .500 since he's been out, too.
7. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals, abdominal surgery, last played April 9, expected to return Tuesday. The Nationals without Zimmerman might be the worst offensive team in the game. The Nationals with Zimmerman could hope to escape last place by passing the Mets. It's hard to say Zimmerman will impact the pennant race, except by making the Nationals a significantly tougher opponent.
Posted on: June 10, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 6:17 pm
NEW YORK -- Travis Hafner is on his way back to the Indians.
But will it be soon enough?
Hafner, out since May 18 with a right oblique strain, took batting practice Friday in New York. He is scheduled to take batting practice again Sunday and Monday before the Indians decide whether he's ready for a rehabilitation assignment -- and there will be a rehab assignment, manager Manny Acta said.
"I absolutely think he's going to need some games because of how long he's been out," Acta said Friday afternoon.
That means the Indians will be without Hafner for this weekend's entire four-game series in New York and probably also for the three-game series in Detroit that begins Tuesday.
The Indians have gone 8-13 in Hafner's absence, and their lead in the American League Central, once seven games, was down to one game over the Tigers heading into the weekend. The Indians have averaged just 3.2 runs a game since Hafner went out of the lineup, and they've been held to two runs or fewer in 13 of the 21 games.
Even if Hafner is able to return to the lineup when the Indians come home next Friday, the timing won't be great. After six games at home, the Indians will go on a nine-game interleague trip where Hafner will be limited to pinch-hit duty.
Posted on: May 20, 2011 3:20 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2011 3:32 pm
Travis Hafner has joined Grady Sizemore on the Indians' disabled list.
Hafner has already missed two games with a strained right oblique. The surprising Indians lost both those games in Chicago, although they still have the best record in the major leagues, at 26-15.
Hafner, coming off three subpar seasons, has been a big part of Cleveland's revival. In 32 games, he has hit .345 with five home runs and 22 RBI.
The Indians called up outfielder Ezequiel Carrera from Triple-A Columbus. They also called up pitcher Frank Herrmann, and sent infielder Luis Valbuena to Columbus.
Sizemore has been out since May 10 with a knee injury. The Indians have gone 3-4 in the first seven games he has missed.
The Indians are entering a particularly tough part of their schedule. They host the first-place Reds this weekend, and follow that with series against the Red Sox, Rays, Blue Jays and Rangers.
Posted on: June 13, 2008 9:21 pm
Edited on: June 13, 2008 9:23 pm
Everyone in baseball talks about the game's catching shortage. Teams are always looking for players who might be converted to catcher. So why would the Dodgers think about moving Russell Martin to another spot?
The answer is they're not -- not yet. But Dodger people will tell you that it's entirely possible that Martin could become their second baseman or third baseman in two or three years, particularly if catching prospect Lucas May (now at Double-A Jacksonville) develops into a big-league player.
Martin is so good behind the plate that he won the National League's gold glove in 2007 (and the silver slugger, too). But he was a third baseman in junior college, and when he was growing up in Montreal, he was a shortstop.
"You've got to realize, I idolized Ozzie Smith," Martin said. "If I saw something he did, I'd go out the next day and try to do it myself. I had to learn to love to catch. I enjoy everything about it now, but I still miss the infield."
Martin has started four games at third base this year, as Joe Torre has tried to get his bat in the lineup on days when he doesn't catch. Torre said he thinks Martin is quick enough (and hits enough) to play in the middle of the infield.
Martin says he'll do whatever the organization asks. But when I asked him what he'd say if they suggested a permanent move to the infield, his eyes lit up.
"I'd change in a heartbeat," he said. "I'd jump at it, for sure."
The Indians have known for a while that Victor Martinez was playing with a bad elbow, which is why they weren't alarmed by his complete loss of power (no home runs in 198 at-bats). But when Martinez joined Travis Hafner, Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona on Cleveland's disabled list this week, it almost ensured that C.C. Sabathia will be traded next month.
Rogers has a 1.24 ERA in his last four starts, and he would be one of the most marketable Tigers. He's also on record as saying he wants to end his career as a Tiger, a sentiment he repeated today.
"I don't want to pitch anywhere but here," Rogers said.
Rogers has partial no-trade protection in his contract, but as a 43-year-old who strongly considered retirement last fall, he has the ultimate no-trade clause: he could tell teams he would retire rather than accept a deal.
"I don't envision it being a possibility, because I expect we're going to be in this (race) for the long haul," Rogers said.