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Posted on: July 5, 2011 9:09 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 9:30 pm

Indians look to add to offense

CLEVELAND -- The Indians clearly have given themselves a chance in the weak American League Central. They've been in first place for 83 of the last 89 days, and they entered play Tuesday with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Tigers.

The Indians also clearly need to add offense. They were 26th in baseball in runs scored in June, behind the Padres and the Royals, among others.

"Our offense has been the area where we've probably been the least consistent," general manager Chris Antonetti admitted Tuesday. "As we sit here today, our focus would be on trying to improve our offense."

With three left-handed hitters and two switch hitters in their everyday lineup (and with lefty-hitting Shin-Soo Choo expected back sometime in August), the Indians would like to add a right-handed bat. Antonetti said he has already had discussions with ownership, and sources said the Indians believe they can add at least a little to their payroll, which was just $49.2 million (26th in baseball) on opening day.

While Antonetti said he will be looking to the trade market, he also suggested that the Indians could look internally for help. You can take that to mean that second baseman Jason Kipnis, hitting .305 with 50 RBI in 79 games at Triple-A Columbus, could be promoted to Cleveland any day now.

The Indians have already talked about promoting Kipnis, sources said, but they have been patient, in part because when he does arrive they want him to play second base every day. They didn't feel the same way about Cord Phelps, a lesser prospect they brought up last month for what has been more of a utility role.

While the Indians are willing to invest something towards improving their chances of winning this year, they're not going to go all-in. They're highly unlikely to trade away any of their top prospects, because their chances of remaining competitive with a low payroll (and it's not likely to go up by much in the near future) depend on having young, low-priced talent.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 4, 2011 10:28 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2011 9:28 am

Jeter returns . . . and the Yankees lose

CLEVELAND -- The Yankees lost Monday because Mariano Rivera's absence led manager Joe Girardi to stick with A.J. Burnett longer than he otherwise would have. They lost because Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez couldn't catch Lonnie Chisenhall's foul popup, extending an at-bat that turned into a key walk.

They also, as it turns out, lost on the night Derek Jeter returned as shortstop and -- yes -- leadoff hitter.

Why mention that? Only because some Yankee fans are already thinking it, or saying it out loud.

Only because as Jeter approaches 3,000 hits (he's still six away after going 0 for 4 in Monday's 6-3 loss to the Indians), Girardi still gets asked regularly about moving Jeter down in the batting order, or about giving more at-bats to Eduardo Nunez, who filled in well offensively but was a little shaky defensively in Jeter's absence.

Only because someone actually asked Jeter how he felt about the team going 14-4 while he was on the disabled list with a strained right calf.

"I wish they went 18-0," Jeter responded. "You want to win."

He always wants to win, but if anything it's more significant for him now. More wins make it easier for Girardi to justify keeping Jeter atop the lineup ("He's my leadoff hitter," Girardi said Monday).

More losses will only further inflame the segment of the Yankee fan base that now sees Jeter as a problem.

Believe me, they're there. Write something positive about Jeter, and you hear from them.

They noticed that in Jeter's first at-bat off the disabled list, he hit a weak ground ball to third base (and reached on an error). They noticed that he went 0 for 4 to drop his batting average to .256 and his on-base percentage to .320.

They won't mention that Gardner, their preferred leadoff hitter, actually led off three innings Monday, and went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.

They scoff at Girardi saying, as he did Monday, "We want him to be vintage Jeter." They point out, justifiably so, that Jeter has been subpar offensively for a year and a half now, which makes it tougher to refer to this as just a dip that may reverse itself.

They have their points, even though I'll still maintain that the Yankees are a better team with the steady Jeter at shortstop (if not with him batting leadoff every night).

But for now, there's no indication that the manager has any interest in dropping Jeter to the lower part of the batting order. Asked Monday about taking Jeter out of the leadoff spot, Girardi phrased his answer as if the only other option would be to hit Jeter second.

Girardi said the only question about Jeter would be how he feels physically, and Jeter answered that question Monday night by saying that the calf was absolutely no issue.

"Physically I feel fine," he said. "No problems."

And the lack of hits?

"If you don't get hits, it's timing," he said. "If you do, it's you're well-rested."

At this point, if Jeter doesn't get hits, it's that he's old (just turned 37) and well on the way to being done.

If he doesn't get hits and the Yankees lose ... well, maybe he's the reason.

Even if the other reasons are a lot more significant.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 4, 2011 9:51 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2011 9:57 pm

Rivera sore and unavailable, but unconcerned

CLEVELAND -- When a 41-year-old closer says his arm is sore and he's unavailable to pitch, it's a big deal. When it's the best closer of all time, it's a bigger deal.

Mariano Rivera insists this isn't.

Rivera said he has "a little soreness" in the lower triceps of his right arm, just above the elbow. He wasn't available to pitch in the Yankees' 6-3 loss to the Indians Monday night, but said he hopes to be able to pitch Tuesday.

"I'm not concerned about it," Rivera said. "Not at all. [Just] little things that happen."

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said Rivera's absence led him to leave starter A.J. Burnett in the game longer Monday night. Handed a 2-0 lead in the seventh inning, Burnett gave up four runs, three on an Austin Kearns home run. Girardi said he was holding David Robertson out as his fill-in closer.

Girardi said that at this point, he's not concerned about Rivera.

"If it goes on for a few days, you'd be more concerned," he said.

Rivera said the soreness had nothing to do with what happened Sunday against the Mets, when he issued his first walk since May 28 and then suffered his first blown save since May 18.

"When I'm pitching, I don't feel anything," he said.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 4, 2011 6:12 pm

Indians' Acta on Jeter: He's a 'legend'

CLEVELAND -- As a kid growing up in the Dominican Republic, Manny Acta was a Red Sox fan, not an Indians fan.

"I was Carlton Fisk over Thurman [Munson]," Acta said Monday.

But as a major-league manager, Acta is very much a Derek Jeter fan.

"Has anybody represented our game in our era better than that guy?" Acta asked Monday, as Jeter resumed his pursuit of 3,000 hits with a game against Acta's Indians. "He's one of the few legends still playing. If Major League Baseball had a school for how to act, he and Tom Glavine and a few others should be teaching the classes.

"It would be great for him to get [3,000] at home, but if he gets six hits here and we win, that's fine."

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 4, 2011 5:56 pm

Girardi wants 3,000 'as soon as he can'

CLEVELAND -- The Yankees aren't saying yet whether Derek Jeter will play all three games of the series that begins Monday night at Progressive Field.

They are insisting that the decision won't be based on trying to ensure that Jeter gets his 3,000th hit this weekend at Yankee Stadium.

"I want him to get to 3,000 as soon as he can," manager Joe Girardi said Monday afternoon. "I'm going to manage him more from the physical standpoint."

Jeter returned from the disabled list with 2,994 career hits. After the three games in Cleveland, the Yankees play four games at home against the Rays before the All-Star break. They return from the break with a trip to Toronto and Tampa Bay.

Jeter, not surprisingly, showed no interest in the idea of sitting out a game simply to have a better chance of getting the 3,000th hit at home.

As he said Monday, "I don't like to miss games, period."

Yankees people scoff at the idea that Jeter would choose to sit out.

Does that mean he'll play all three games against the Indians? Not necessarily. Girardi could still tell him that a day off would be best as he returns from the calf injury.

Girardi, as he promised he would, put Jeter right back into the leadoff spot in his batting order. He also refused to accept the idea that Jeter's skills have slipped so much that he can't be the Jeter of old.

"We want him to be vintage Jeter," Girardi said.

Jeter admitted that he hasn't played as well as he would like.

"This year, I'm not happy with my first half," he said.

The Yankees passed the 81-game mark while Jeter was on the DL, so his second half began Monday night.

The chase for 3,000 began again, too.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 3, 2011 9:13 pm
Edited on: July 4, 2011 1:25 am

3 to Watch: The Jeter returns edition

The last time Derek Jeter came off the disabled list, he got six hits in his first three games.

The time before that, he had eight hits in his first three games. The time before that, he had six hits in his first two games.

So with Jeter set to come off the disabled list as the Yankees begin a three-game series in Cleveland, does that mean Derek Jeter is going to get his 3,000th hit in George Steinbrenner's hometown?

No more than fact that Jeter has six hits in only one of the 16 three-game series he has played in this year means that he won't.

All we really know is that Jeter (who returns from the DL with 2,994 career hits) has a history of fast starts when coming off the disabled list. And also that Jeter is not the same hitter he was in 2003, the last time he went on the DL.

For what it's worth, we know that Jeter is a career .343 hitter against the Indians, and that he's a career .370 hitter at the ballpark that was known as Jacobs Field when he first played there, and now goes by the name Progressive Field.

We know that two members of the 3,000-hit club -- Tris Speaker and Nap Lajoie -- reached the milestone in Cleveland, and that one member of the club -- Robin Yount -- did it against the Indians.

And we know that the Yankees insist that they're not worried about giving Jeter a chance to get to 3,000 this weekend at Yankee Stadium.

"I know there are conspiracy theories, but we need to win games," general manager Brian Cashman told reporters Saturday in Trenton, N.J. "We dopn't have time to play around with milestone stuff and all that extra stuff. I can honestly tell you, I could care less."

If the Yankees did care, they wouldn't be the first. As I pointed out last month, in 1978 Reds manager Sparky Anderson said he would pull Pete Rose from a game, rather than take a chance that he would get 3,000 in New York.

"I will not allow Pete Rose to do it anywhere but Cincinnati," Anderson said then. "I would not cheat those people. It's a must that he do it at home."

The Yankees have three games in Cleveland, followed by four games at home against the Rays, followed by a trip to Toronto and Tampa Bay after the All-Star break.

When will 3,000 come?

We can only tell you that history says it might not take long.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Before Jeter's calf injury, and before his return was scheduled for Monday, we thought the game of the day would be in St. Louis. It still might be, because Reds at Cardinals, Monday night (6:15 ET) at Busch Stadium, brings the renewal of what has become one of the most heated rivalries in the game. It's quite a week in the National League Central, where the top four teams finished play Sunday separated by just two games. The Cardinals and Brewers begin the week tied for first, and the Reds (two games back) play three games this week in St. Louis followed by four in Milwaukee.

2. Our C. Trent Rosecrans says Roy Halladay should be the National League starter in the All-Star Game. I'm not going to disagree, but I will say that Jair Jurrjens would be a good option, too. Halladay doesn't pitch again until Friday, so Jurrjens (who leads the majors with a 1.89 ERA) has a chance to become the NL's first 12-game winner when he starts in Rockies at Braves, Wednesday night (7:10 ET) at Turner Field.

3. Jeter's return from the DL will get more attention, but Phil Hughes' return, in Yankees at Indians, Wednesday night (7:05 ET) at Progressive Field, may be more important to the Yankees' chances this season. The reports from Hughes' minor-league rehab starts have been good, but you can bet everyone will be checking the radar gun readings and the box score line from his first big-league start since April 14. Oh, and maybe you should watch Jeter, too. He's 5-for-12 in his career against Justin Masterson, who will start for the Indians.

Posted on: June 14, 2011 11:51 am
Edited on: June 14, 2011 1:12 pm

The summer of 1-0 (again)

Two more 1-0 games Monday night.

At Wrigley Field and Yankee Stadium, of all places.

And yes, there have been a lot of them this season, just as there were last year.

That's 20 already in 2011, compared to 19 through June 13 last year (although the season did start a few days earlier this year). Doing some quick research through's fantastic play index, I found that there were 62 1-0 games last year.

How does that compare? Well, it's pretty dramatic. Here are the number of 1-0 games per year, beginning with the first year after the two strike-shortened seasons:

1996: 26
1997: 29
1998: 32
1999: 27
2000: 29
2001: 36
2002: 42
2003: 31
2004: 35
2005: 40
2006: 39
2007: 34
2008: 38
2009: 36
2010: 62
2011 (through June 13): 20, which puts us on pace for about 50-55.

Monday's 1-0 Indians win was the first-ever 1-0 game at the new Yankee Stadium. Monday's 1-0 Cubs win over the Brewers was the second 1-0 game this year at Wrigley, where the Cubs didn't play a single 1-0 game (win or lose) in 2008 or 2009 (or between 1993 and 1997).

What does it mean? Just that offense is down. But we knew that already.

Category: MLB
Posted on: June 13, 2011 6:12 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 9:26 am

Buck back in lineup after NY cab scare

NEW YORK -- The Indians said Travis Buck's Friday accident in a New York taxi was minor.

Not to him it wasn't.

Buck, who returned to the Indians lineup Monday for the first time since the crash, said that he suffered from headaches that continued through the weekend. He also said that doctors were "freaked out" because of concussions he suffered in the past, which cost him part of the 2008 season.

Buck said that he and his wife were coming back from the Adidas store in Manhattan when the accident happened.

"We were probably going 40 mph, and we T-boned a van that was coming across a cross-street," he said.

Category: MLB
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