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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Indians' offseason moves, Sizemore's return paying off


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Weekend Buzz while you were wondering if, when President Woodrow Wilson established Mother's Day as a national holiday in 1914, Democrats and Republicans bitched at each other about that, too. ...

1. No Grady-ing on curve in Cleveland: The Indians have sprinted from first-week curiosity to first-month division leaders to first-half story. And as we welcome Cleveland into our attention spans for the summer -- what, you think the Twins, White Sox and Tigers are strong enough to knock them out of contention by late summer? Puh-leeze -- a couple of things here.

Grady Sizemore rounds third after hitting a solo home run in Cleveland's loss Sunday. (AP)  
Grady Sizemore rounds third after hitting a solo home run in Cleveland's loss Sunday. (AP)  
First, Grady Sizemore not only is back from micro-fracture surgery on his left knee, he's filling in the few cracks in this Indians roster with the gusto of his old All-Star self. He entered the weekend tied for 11th in the American League in doubles and had played in only half of Cleveland's games (14 of 28).

"He's gone through a stretch where it's as good as I've ever seen him swing the bat," says Indians designated hitter Travis Hafner, who goes back to 2004 with Sizemore. "Every ball he hit, it seems like, is an extra-base hit."

Before re-joining the Indians on April 17, Sizemore hadn't played since last May 16. Given how much respect he commands in the clubhouse, Sizemore would have given the Indians a huge boost simply by returning. But by jumping in and, really, pulling more than his weight so far (he crashed his fifth homer Sunday as the Indians, winners of nine of 12, finished a 3-3 West Coast trip). ...

"He's been impressive since Day One," manager Manny Acta says. "We were just hoping to get him back in our lineup knowing how much he brings. We weren't expecting him to swing the way he did pre-injury. And the amount of extra bases. ..."

Second thing about his team is, it's another testament to the scouting, evaluation and trading skills of club president Mark Shapiro and general manager Chris Antonetti. Right now, we're seeing dividends from these deals: CC Sabathia (outfielder Michael Brantley and first baseman Matt LaPorta), Cliff Lee (pitcher Carlos Carrasco, catcher Lou Marson), Victor Martinez (starter Justin Masterson), Casey Blake (catcher Carlos Santana), Eduardo Perez (shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera) and Mark DeRosa (closer Chris Perez). Not far behind is starter Nick Hagadone, another high-ceiling pitching prospect the Indians stole from Boston in the Martinez deal.

"Mark and Chris, they know what they're doing," first base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. says.

Too soon yet to say whether any of these deals will turn as lopsided in Cleveland's favor as the 2002 heist that netted Sizemore, Lee and infielder Brandon Phillips for then-ace Bartolo Colon, but we'll see.

"It's always tough to see guys go, but trades are made for a reason," Sizemore says. "You've got to believe that the guys we get will help us win. This organization has done that as well as anybody. Chris and Mark do a great job.

"I was one of those young guys years ago. Now, I’m on the other end of it."

2. Justin Verlander's voodoo: The Tigers' ace threw his second career no-hitter Saturday at Toronto and, a day later, Verlander joked that maybe he can reach seven, matching boyhood hero Nolan Ryan. Except, maybe it was no joke: Verlander has a great sense of time and place, knowing his talent and working to maximize it. As colleague Danny Knobler wrote, he talks openly of wanting to make the Hall of Fame.

Manager Jim Leyland called Verlander's no-no "as dominating a performance as I've ever seen", and before we move on to the next subject this week, let's also take a minute to acknowledge the pure class of Toronto's fans. Not only were they on their feet cheering Verlander in the ninth inning, but he and his small entourage got another ovation Saturday night when they walked into Barberians Steakhouse.

3. Cliff Lee fans 16: And loses. Still, Roy Halladay opening a game last weekend by becoming the first pitcher in 20 years to start a game by throwing 18 consecutive strikes, and a week later Lee does this. Every outing has a chance to be special for these guys.

4. Jaime Garcia, Derek Lowe, Yovani Gallardo, Anibal Sanchez and more pitching: Apparently, Mother's Day is the most pitcher-friendly of the summer holidays. Last year, Oakland's Dallas Braden throws a perfect game on Mother's Day. This year, on Mom's Day weekend, St. Louis' Garcia took a perfect game into the eighth inning against Milwaukee on Friday, Atlanta's Derek Lowe took a no-hitter into the sixth against the Phillies as Lee was fanning 16, Milwaukee's Gallardo took a no-no into the eighth against the Cardinals on Saturday and Florida's Sanchez took a no-no into the seventh Sunday against Washington and fanned a career-high 11. And Verlander. I love that baseball uses the pink bats for a great cause, but sheesh. ...

5. Andre Ethier's hit streak ends at 30: So maybe it wasn't going to last forever, but did the Mets really have to rub it in by hosting Seinfeld Night and inviting Larry Thomas, the actor who played the Soup Nazi ("No hitting streak for you, Ethier!")?

6. West Coast's Wild Friday night: The Angels (over Cleveland), Padres (Diamondbacks), Giants (Rockies) and Mariners (White Sox) all won on walk-off hits while you were sleeping Friday. Then, surging San Francisco came back and did it again to Colorado on Saturday.

7. Kansas City steps closer to its future: While they were walking off out West, they were walking up in Kansas City. Great buzz around the Royals this weekend as they recalled infielder Eric Hosmer ... and sold more than 9,000 tickets at the gate for his debut Friday night.

8. Happy 80th, Willie Mays: Say Hey!

9. Tampa's road dogs: The Rays swept Baltimore and set a franchise record with their eighth consecutive road win Sunday. Tweeted manager Joe Maddon afterward: "One of our mottos is 'we catch line drives.' The sophistication of putting guys in the right spots on the field is big for us."

10. Look, no DUI's this weekend: When Cleveland's Shin-Soo Choo was picked up last week, it was the sixth DUI arrest in the game since just before spring training. You bet it will come up in the collective bargaining talks and, as it should be, the union is open to cooperating with management on implementing a plan to punish offenders. It can't come soon enough.


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