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Tag:Indians
Posted on: June 13, 2011 5:56 pm
Edited on: June 14, 2011 9:17 am
 

Acta: Anyone could win Central

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
 

Holliday ranks top in big week for returns

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 12, 2011 7:33 pm
Edited on: June 12, 2011 7:34 pm
 

3 to Watch: The Central showdown(s) edition

When the Indians stumbled, they let other teams back into the American League Central race.

But how many teams?

The Tigers have spent the last two days in a virtual tie with the Indians, so obviously they're in it.

The White Sox have the best record in the division over the last 37 days (22-13), and they're now just 3 1/2 games out of first place. So no matter what anyone said last month, they're obviously in it, too.

But what about the Twins? They're still nine games out, which only looks good because 11 days ago they were 16 1/2 games out. They're still 13 games under .500, which only looks good because 11 days ago they were 20 games under.

The players  who are out of the Twins lineup still look better than the players who are in the lineup, but that changes when Joe Mauer comes back (maybe as soon as Thursday). Justin Morneau, Jim Thome, Jason Kubel, Denard Span and Tsuyoshi Nishioka are all on the way back, too.

I never thought the White Sox were out of it, even when they were 10 games out in early May. I did think the Twins were out of it . . . but now I'm starting to wonder.

I thought the big series this week would be Indians at Tigers, but now I'm starting to think White Sox at Twins could end up mattering just as much.

Either way, this should be a fascinating week in the Central.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. If there's one thing that separates the Tigers from the other contenders, it's that no one else in the Central has an ace as dependable as Justin Verlander. Verlander has been at least a 17-game winner in four of his first five big-league seasons, and he's headed there again. The Tigers have won six of his last seven starts, beginning with his May 7 no-hitter and heading into his start in Indians at Tigers, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Comerica Park. Verlander is 5-0 with a 2.14 ERA in that span. Compare that with Justin Masterson, Cleveland's Tuesday starter, who hasn't won since April (despite a 3.79 ERA in his last eight starts).

2. The Yankees spent the first part of the weekend talking about who would fill in for Joba Chamberlain in the seventh inning. They spent the last part of the weekend talking about who would fill in for Bartolo Colon in the rotation. Chamberlain (Tommy John surgery) will be out longer than Colon (left hamstring strain), but finding someone who can do what Colon has done figures to be tougher than finding someone who can do what Chamberlain has done. The Yankees have yet to name a starter for Rangers at Yankees, Thursday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium, which is the next time Colon's spot in the rotation comes up. It's also the day Chamberlain has his surgery, and the day C.J. Wilson faces the Yankees for the first time since he lost Game 5 of the American League Championship Series. Oh, and it's Derek Jeter's last chance to get his 3,000th hit at home, barring a long slump on the upcoming trip to play the Cubs and Reds. For what it's worth, Jeter is 5-for-14 (.357) against Wilson in the regular season, but went 1-for-7 against him in last year's ALCS.

3. Without Mauer, Twins catchers have had the worst OPS in baseball (.495, with an incredible .184 batting average). Without Mauer, the middle of the order has been a big problem for the Twins, along with the middle of the infield and the middle of the bullpen. No matter how well the Twins have played recently -- three wins in four games over the weekend against the Rangers, nine wins in their last 11 games overall -- there's no chance the Twins get back in the AL Central race without Mauer, who may be back for White Sox at Twins, Thursday afternoon (1:10 ET) at Target Field.



Posted on: June 10, 2011 8:41 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 10:16 pm
 

After first blown save, how will Madson react?

Ryan Madson was perfect in his first 14 save opportunities for the Phillies this year. There was justified talk that Madson had finally adapted to pitching the ninth inning and had proved that he can close.

But even as he was doing it, some people in the Phillies organization were asking how Madson would react when he inevitably did have a blown save. How would he bounce back?

We'll find out now. Madson's first blown save of the year came Thursday night, on a Geovany Soto home run.

How will he bounce back? Chad Durbin, who spent the last three years with Madson in the Phillies bullpen, thinks he'll do just fine.

"Absolutely," said Durbin, who is now with the Indians but follows the Phillies as closely as he can. "He can close in any division. I think that comes with throwing the eighth inning in the playoffs. The eighth inning in the playoffs is like closing in the regular season.

"He's at the point now that he wants the ball in that situation. He'll be fine."

The Phillies had a ninth-inning save situation Friday night, but Madson didn't pitch, presumably because he had worked four times in the last five days. Manager Charlie Manuel split the ninth inning between Michael Stutes and Antonio Bastardo instead, and the Phillies beat the Cubs, 7-5.
Posted on: June 10, 2011 8:19 pm
 

Even if they fade, Indians are a 2011 success

NEW YORK -- There are two questions worth asking about the Indians, and there's no reason the answer to the two has to be the same.

Question 1: Can the Indians at least stay in the American League Central race all season, and maybe even win it?

Question 2: Will 2011 be a successful year for the Indians?

A lot of people are starting to suspect that the answer to the first question is no. The Tigers are hot, the White Sox may be getting hot, and the Indians' flaws have started to show. Their five-game lead shrunk to a one-game lead in just eight days, and there's every chance that next week's first-place battle in Detroit will begin with the Tigers -- and not the Indians -- in first place.

But even if the Indians never see first place again this year, even if they struggle to hold on with a winning record (they entered the weekend 34-26, after a 30-15 start), there's absolutely no doubt that the answer to the second question is yes.

As much as we talk about the Royals as the rising team in the Central (the team to watch in 2013, as I called them this spring), what's happened in the first 2 1/2 months proves that the Indians are every bit as much a team to watch for the next few years.

I missed that this spring. So did every scout I've talked to who saw the Indians in Arizona.

So, in some ways, did the Indians themselves.

"It's gone quicker than we thought," manager Manny Acta said Friday. "It's fun, because it's actually shortened up the plan."

The key so far has been the development of 25-year-old shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and 24-year-old outfielder Michael Brantley, who now look like players you could build around. Indians veterans say that Cabrera's leadership skills have impressed them every bit as much as his considerable on-field skills.

"He's got that 'it' factor," infielder Adam Everett said. "And it's fun to watch."

Indians players also rave about pitchers Alex White (currently on the disabled list with a finger problem) and Drew Pomeranz (currently at Class A Kinston).

Reliever Chad Durbin, who spent the last three years with the Phillies, said that even this rough stretch will be good for the Indians youngsters.

"It's outstanding for guys to learn how you feel when you win," Durbin said. "But it's also good to learn how to handle it when you don't -- especially when you're in first place. It's different to be a lead horse in any race."

The Indians have been the lead horse in the AL Central since April 7. There's every chance that run at the top will come to an end soon, every chance that this Indians team isn't good enough or ready enough to hang in there all season.

But there's also every reason to think that the Indians will be heard from again very soon.

"It bodes really well," Durbin agreed.

And long-term, that's more important than a couple of months in first place.


Posted on: June 10, 2011 6:09 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 6:17 pm
 

Hafner could return to Indians next week

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.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 10, 2011 5:54 pm
Edited on: June 10, 2011 6:58 pm
 

Indians' Buck 'dazed' in NY cab accident

NEW YORK -- Indians outfielder Travis Buck was checked out at a New York hospital Friday after being involved in an accident while riding in a taxi.

Buck wasn't seriously hurt, and returned to Yankee Stadium in time for Friday night's game against the Yankees.

Manager Manny Acta said that Buck was "a little dazed" when he came to the stadium earlier Friday, and that trainer Lonnie Soloff sent him to the hospital for precautionary tests. Acta said that Buck appeared to be suffering from whiplash.

Buck has played in 26 games this year for the Indians.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 10, 2011 10:36 am
Edited on: June 10, 2011 10:49 am
 

3 to Watch: The CC sees the Indians edition

CC Sabathia won't pitch against the Indians this weekend, so the Yankees left-hander will have plenty of time to go see his ex-teammates.

If he can find any.

It hasn't even been three years since the July 2008 trade that sent Sabathia from Cleveland to Milwaukee to start off the latest Indians rebuilding project. But the lineup from Sabathia's final Cleveland start includes just two players (Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo) who are still with the Indians now.

The current lineup, which has the Indians (barely) holding on to first place in the American League Central, features two players (Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta) who were acquired in the Sabathia trade, another (Carlos Santana) who was acquired in the Casey Blake trade three weeks later, and another who (Asdrubal Cabrera) was acquired in a deal two years earlier when the Indians traded the guy who just became the Marlins hitting coach (Eduardo Perez).

"They seem to be able to trade everyone and start over," Sabathia said this week. "That's what they did when they traded for Cliff [Lee] and Grady [Sizemore]."

He's right. Sabathia was 21 years old and in his second year with the Indians when Cleveland traded Bartolo Colon to Montreal for Lee, Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Lee Stevens. That trade built the Indians team that lost to the Red Sox in the 2007 American League Championship Series.

Four years later, Colon is Sabathia's teammate in New York, and the Indians have rebuilt again, with the trades of Sabathia, Lee, Blake and Victor Martinez playing big parts in it. And while it's hard to believe they can hang on to win the AL Central -- their lead over the fast-charging Tigers is down to one game, heading into the weekend -- the young players acquired in those deals have inspired renewed hope for the future.

One part-time Indians fan now pitching for the Yankees is inspired.

"I was excited [earlier this year], and I am excited," Sabathia said. "It's a really good team."

It's an Indians team that needs a few wins, after a 4-11 stretch that has seen Cleveland's division lead drop from seven games down to one.

Sabathia wouldn't go so far as hoping the Indians win this weekend, but after they leave town Monday, you can bet he'll be pulling for them again -- even if all his old friends are gone.

On to 3 to Watch:

1. Carlos Zambrano created a stir last week, when he said the Cubs were "playing like a Triple-A team." But scouts who have watched the Cubs recently say Zambrano had truth as his defense. The Cubs have been awful of late, even if Zambrano (2.03 ERA over his last four starts) hasn't. Zambrano has actually outpitched Roy Halladay (3.41) in that span, but Halladay's Phillies won all four of his start, while Zambrano's Cubs won only two of his. Now they meet, in Cubs at Phillies, Friday night (7:05 ET) at Citizens Bank Park.

2. You think Sabathia has a hard time finding ex-teammates who are still in Cleveland? How about Colon? The last time he pitched for the Indians, his manager was Charlie Manuel, his closer was Bob Wickman, and the Indians lineup featured Ellis Burks, Jim Thome and Travis Fryman. Oh, and Frank Robinson was in the other dugout, managing the Expos. Colon has faced the Indians eight times since (going 4-3 with a no-decision), and will again in Indians at Yankees, Saturday afternoon (1:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium.

3. If Cardinals-Cubs is the old rivalry in the National League Central, and Cardinals-Reds is the "new rivalry," then what do we call Cardinals-Brewers? They're in first and second place, respectively, they have some history, and they meet this weekend. The matchups even work out, with Zack Greinke facing Chris Carpenter in Cardinals at Brewers, Saturday night (7:10 ET) at Miller Park. Greinke has some history with the Cardinals, too. He faced them six times in the I-70 interleague rivalry with the Royals, and hasn't lost to them in four appearances since 2005.


 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com