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Indians Indians Archive Morning Rundown: An Around the Diamond Tribute to Justin Toole
Written by Nino Colla

Nino Colla

granderson hrThe Streak Part II is over... The Indians have 18 home games left on the season (16 road games, including another 10 game swing). They'll see four playoff contenders (Oakland, Chicago, Detroit, Texas) in the final stretch. They'll see all but Oakland twice, but they have four games with the A's. If you want out now, I'd understand.

August 26th, 2012

New York Yankees - 4

Cleveland Indians - 2

W: Boone Logan (5-2) L: Ubaldo Jimenez (9-13) S: Rafael Soriano (33)


But I have a job to do and whether we all like it or not. This season has spiraled out of control. Maybe the bleeding has finally stopped. I don't know. My guess is that more losing is ahead of us and unless someone else other than Masterson steps up, there may be a few more losing streaks (albeit probably not to the magnitude of the last two) ahead.

It's no use running down the numbers. They've been ugly. The last time the Indians won back-to-back games? The last time they won a series? The last time they did anything even remotely close to putting together a winning stretch of baseball? Should we even care to worry about this? Winning two games in a row? How about winning more than one game every week.

"We can't be talking about stringing wins together," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We need to take it one at a time and win one before you can string two, three or four. Before we get to three, we need to win one again."

I can't really recall specifics and don't want to bore you with the awful details of the numbers. They're bad. We get it. Since early July, there hasn't been much good and that's the last traces of many of the things I just mentioned.

One thing is for sure. The Indians seem to AT LEAST be pitching better in the past week. The Mariners series wasn't superb, but it was better than the drubbings from earlier in the month. And hey, look at what they did against the Yankees. Eight runs in three games against a good lineup. A few weeks ago, eight runs was given up before the fifth inning.

It isn't all better, but at least now the team is remotely watchable on a daily basis. Watchable, but frustrating.

Which was the key in Sunday's game. Frustrating. It goes to the opportunities that this team had early. They were squandered and then with a three run second, it almost seemed impossible. They got a three-run shot on Saturday and if they didn't get that, they don't win that game.

So three runs in the second, is pretty much a death sentence.

You can just start in the first with Kipnis starting the game off with a single and a steal. Cabrera, Choo AND Santana all have an opportunity to bring him in and they all failed. 

Fast-forward to the third with Hannahan on second to lead off the inning with a double. Carrera strikes out, Hannahan then advances to third on an error that allowed Kipnis to reach. Cabrera proceeds to strike out and Choo follows with a walk.

Santana AGAIN with fly ball to end the inning. Twice in one game, twice in a span of three innings.

The one time he came through was in the fifth, again with the bases juiced, he comes up and smacks the first pitch he sees right up the middle.

It would be bad news if we were sitting here and he had missed on all three opportunities. But still, this man is your cleanup hitter. He's in the fourth spot because he's supposed to pick up those runs. Not all of them, but MOST of them. He has to come through with at least a few more runs than the ones he had. With more than six runs sitting out there, he is getting paid to be the cleanup hitter.

We can talk about the pitching being horrible, but in regards to this offense. Carlos Santana is why they've failed. He's failed more times than not and he has not been the cleanup hitter the Indians have needed him to be.

And this game was a perfect snapshot of that. He's got the talent, the ability. He can come through in those situations. But more times than not (two out of three) he did not this year. And ultimately this is what this game came down to. 

"Offensively, we just didn't execute very well early in the game," Acta said. "We had a couple of opportunities with runners at second with no outs, and we didn't end up taking advantage of it. We kind of let Freddy off the hook a couple of times."

Yeah, a couple times.

They also had an opportunity in the ninth against closer Rafael Soriano. Jack Hannahan singled to lead off the frame, only to be erased by a Zeke force out. Jason Kipnis stung a ball, bidding for his fourth hit, right up the middle that Soriano was able to somehow stop with his glove enough to pick it up and throw it to Teixeira. Really that's how the Indians are going right now. Even if they do something right, it goes wrong.

Random Details...

I know he's only hitting .269 (jeeze, only!) but it isn't fair that Ichiro can hit eighth in a lineup. Speaking of Ichiro, how about Santana throwing him out at second from his knees? Laserrrr

Honest question: Would you take Freddy Garcia at 99-years-old or Ubaldo Jimenez right now? Sure he couldn't complete five innings, but more times than not this year he'll at least give you a few solid innings. For the price? I'd take a Freddy Garcia over Ubaldo. His ERA is a run better and he isn't as much of a headache.

That's ultimately what we've come to. Jimenez was not bad in this one. He went give, gave up three runs, only walked one. But it's just a ho-hum start, and after reading the excellent point Paulie C. made in the latest Lazy Sunday about Ubaldo, in which he puts on display a quote that really does make it look like Ubaldo doesn't care, I don't really care either.

If the Indians are in a position to get rid of Tony Sipp in the offseason, they probably should. I'd rather go with Esmil Rogers back there and take my chances with Nick Hagadone. Rogers tossed two scoreless innings and he at least has a live arm to fall back on when his control might not be there. I'm sick and tired of watching Tony Sipp go out there and just get run-down.


There's always a lot after the weekend, so where to start, where to start...

Might as well start with the starting pitching, not just because it has the word start in it, but because I'd rather get the most ugliest of things out of the way.

As insane this sounds, the Indians are contemplating moving to a six-man rotation once rosters expand next week. Say that again? The Indians are contemplating moving to a six-man rotation once rosters expand next week.

No, I'm not going to say it again, it doesn't matter how many times you hear it, it doesn't make any more sense...

"There's a chance that we might call up a starter," Acta said. "We're discussing a plan of probably going with a six-man rotation, which will help some of the younger kids and also some of the guys who have been here the whole year, with their innings. That's not etched in stone yet, but that's part of the plan if we call up one of the starters."

Well, when you put it THAT way then yes it does make sense. But consider the two candidates to add to the mix are David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez, well, yeah... The whole point is to limit innings and I get that, but the move isn't because the Indians are so overwhelmed with depth and want to get a look at someone else without removing anyone, it's because the lot of the bunch absolutely suck.

If it does happen for Huff, it could be his swan song. I can't see him sticking around on that 40-man another offseason and the Indians have clearly moved on from the idea of him being anything of importance to them.

Don't expect that sixth spot to be occupied by Carlos Carrasco this season. He will begin pitching in the Arizona League though

The few starters that are actually watchable right now? Well Zach McAllister is in there, but at the top is still Justin Masterson. He's not really pitching like an ace, hasn't since last year, but he's at least capable of going out there at more than a flip of the coin and being good. The inconsistency, as we've talked about all season, has plagued him, but he has broke off another good streak as he is prone to do.

"That's been the tale of this season," Masterson said. "It's not like, 'What team is going to show up?' but 'What Justin, at times, will show up?' But the last three or four have been good. ... Overall, I like where we're at." 

Manny Acta believes Masterson has been more consistent in the second half than in the first. The numbers slightly indicate that Acta is correct (better ERA, better record), but whatever the case, his start on Saturday was much needed to break the Indians latest slide. And he did it against the Yankees, which is always a nice bonus. 

"[If] I get better balance, I stay back, I drive through the ball a little bit better," Masterson said. "[It's about] staying balanced and letting the ball do the work."

I've said this before, but I will say it one more time. I love Justin Masterson. He's a good pitcher, capable of starting in any rotation in the game. He would be lower-end on some of the more stacked rotations (LAA, Philly) but more times than not, he'll be in the middle to upper-end of a rotation.

I don't think he's a number one though and the Indians need to recognize that. They probably do, and that's probably why the acquired Ubaldo Jimenez. Whether they recognize it or not, I doubt there's anything they can do about it at this juncture. Masterson would be a fantastic number two if he could pitch behind a bonafied-ace-stud of a pitcher. But he can't, not in Cleveland, not right now. So he has to take on the burden of being that number one guy.


In honor of Justin 'JT' Toole, the Carolina Mudcats utility man (follow him @TooleyJ24!) we continue our trek around the diamond. Toole did something special on Saturday night, playing an inning at every position on the diamond in Carolina's 4-2 victory.

"My manager ... came up to me at the beginning of the year and asked me where I could play. I told him, 'Anywhere,' and he came up to me later and said I'd play all nine positions later this year," Toole said. "I kind of laughed [at the time], but as the season was winding down, he picked tonight and we ran with it."

Toole had a few relief appearances for Iowa when he was there, actually named Pitcher of the Year in the state back in 2005, so it wasn't like they were just throwing him out there for the fun of it either. He surrendered back-to-back solo shots, but ended the game on back-to-back strikeouts.

"You think it'll be cool, not sure it'll happen, but it was a blast. As I get older as a utility guy I'll be able to say I did it. A big thanks to my teammates and the coaching staff and the Indians organization for allowing me to go out and do that. And it ended up being a good team win, hopefully get us on a roll."

With that... We'll go in the order of what position Toole played...

1st Inning, Right Field: Of course we start off with a doozie of a story. Jon Heyman says that the Indians are going to explore Shin-Soo Choo's trade market. He bases this off the fact that the Indians have been stalled in any effort to sign or talk to Choo about a multi-year deal.

Make no mistake about it, Choo's days with the Indians are indeed numbered. The question is the number. Do they do it this offseason? Do they do it at the deadline? Do they just hold and go for draft picks? The Indians haven't been one to go the draft pick route, part of it has to do with the fact that they've never been in a position to hold onto a guy in a contending season as of late. But either way, Antonetti (or whoever is in charge) has to decide when will they get the most value. Will it be this offseason when anyone can bid for him or at the deadline when you are A) Not sure how many teams are bidding and which teams are bidding and B) At the mercy of actually HAVING to deal him because everyone knows he's leaving.

Not the greatest of positions to be in and one we'll surely talk about as the winter approaches, but it's certainly fun to hear this news come out now so we can prepare to possibly watch the final month of Choo in an Indians uniform.

2nd Inning, Center Field: Sticking around, not just with the team but in center will be Michael Brantley for the foreseeable future. He's played his way into discussion of being one of the new "core" players for the Indians as they move forward in the next few seasons. We have a Kipnis, a Santana, a Cabrera and a Brantley. Strength up the middle no doubt, and a much welcomed sight for the Indians. Hey, it's not all bad.

"It's been great to see," Acta said. "Last year, his season was cut down with the injury and he tailed off a little bit at the end, obviously, because he was hurt. So it was going to be interesting to see Michael's consistency coming into this season. He started a little slow, but, man, he's been the most steady hitter we've had."

Of course Brantley, being the son of a Major Leaguer that he is, didn't want to talk about his personal success, but rather the way the team is playing. That's kind of what makes Michael Brantley, well, Michael Brantley. I know he's been jumped on for not looking all that enthusiastic or whatever the case may be, but he's a pro. He learned from a pro, he grew up as a pro. It's all business out there and that's all that matters.

He's going out and doing his job. He did his job on Saturday being one of the two reasons the Indians won that game after he hit the three-run shot in the first.

3rd Inning, Left Field: The Indians have not figured out who they're calling up exactly, but I'd imagine you'd see mostly 40-man people like Russ Canzler and Frank Herrmann. Zeke Carrera has cooled off as of late with just four hits in his last eight games, so you could probably see a Tim Fedroff sighting. In fact, you should see a Fedroff sighting. 

The Clippers won't be in the playoffs, which will bring their incredible run to an end, but that just means Tim Fedroff will be ready to come up and try his hand at major league pitching. He's wasted everything thrown at him in the minor leagues, hitting .305 for the Aeros in 54 games and upping it to .326 in 61 contests with the Clips. This is following a season in which he hit .308 and carried a .385 OBP. Compare that to his near-.394 OBP this season and I'd say he deserves a shot, no?

4th Inning:, First Base: He's baaaaack. Matt LaPorta received his long-awaited call-up to Cleveland on Friday and the Indians say he'll spend time at first base and designated hitter, getting a good amount of playing time as the season winds down. 

I already opined about this over the weekend and judging by the first three games of statistics... Yeah, nothing to see here.. But if you really do want to know more, you can read what I have to say, right here. A little snippet:

He's still around for two reasons. He's depth and he's still under control. Because he's under control and he had an option year left, that's the only reason the Indians kept him around. They see him exactly for what he is, a player who can play well in the minor leagues and hit for power down there, but when challenged with offspeed pitches, the hole in his swing is as apparent as a hole in the back of someone's pants.

5th Inning, Second Base: Don't look now but after three hits on Sunday, Jason Kipnis may be turning things around slowly but surely. He had five hits in the series against Seattle and although he was 0-for-7 headed into the Sunday finale against the Yankees, it's way better than the rut he was in a few weeks ago. He also swiped three bags on Sunday, which was incredible, to up his total to 26 on the year. Could Kipnis be a legit 30-30 guy in the coming years as he gets better and his power continues to develop? 

6th Inning, Shortstop: Over at short, Asdrubal Cabrera isn't dogging out there running slowly to first, he's just toughing out some leg soreness according to his manager.

"The guy, he toughs it out," Acta said. "He goes out there. This last week, his legs are a little beat up. He's [hit] a ton of foul balls below his knees from both sides of the plate, and at times he was a little beat up. But he likes to be out there, and he likes to play. He toughs it out."

If he was dogging it, Manny Acta would not be playing him, point blank. You may be asking then, "Why are we playing someone that has an important contract when the season is over?" It's just leg soreness. If he's good enough to play right now, then it's nothing to worry about.

7th Inning, Third Base: Moving around the diamond we look over to third, where we may get to see Lonnie Chisenhall sooner than anyone expected. He'll progress to outdoor batting practice today in addition to his fielding drills and hopefully progress to a rehab outing.

"There's no timetable yet," Acta said. "He's got a program set out by our medical staff, and he's going to follow it. He's going to play a couple of games probably down there [in the Minors] before he comes up here."

Considering that the minor league regular season is over (and although the Indians will have playoff teams), I can't see any sort of rehab stint lasting a long time.

8th Inning, Catcher: Paul Hoynes asked Manny Acta if Carlos Santana was the "Catcher of the Future" and all Manny Acta would say is that he's the catcher for the remainder of the year... That could be Acta mind-games, more of his stance to the front-office, him just being honest, or him just taking that "one-day-at-a-time" mentality he usually takes... I'll go for the last one.

9th Inning, Closer: And finally, closing out, only as he can, Chris Perez talked about the harsh reality of what just happened to this team over the course of a month and a half. Not injuries, not stiff competition, not anything other than...bad.

"I don't think you can wash it all away; it was too stinging," Perez said. "To be right there and then not lose because of injuries or stuff like we did last year, it's tough to take. At the same time, we've got 35 games to find out what we have for next year. Guys can step up and impress our staff. We've got some young guys in the rotation that need to show them what they've got, trying to get a spot for next year. It's the same with position players. ... There's a lot of stuff we can do moving forward, looking at next year."

Perez noted he will never forget about this season and how could he? Not just for what has transpired, but because of all the stuff he was involved in. He said he would also use it as motivation for the future, for not wanting to have to go back to "that place" of losing 11 straight. And as motivation to have a good September. To bounce back and make sure this season doesn't end like this.

That's a lot to say for one guy who pitches in the ninth and has no control over whether the Indians are in a position to win or not, but rather just if they can win a close game (not that note, he has the highest percentage of wins saved for his team, 60 percent). Hopefully he's motivated his teammates enough for that to happen and to not have a September that matches August.

Oh dear, I really hope September doesn't match August.


These notes didn't fit into the JT Toole mold of nine positions... But they're worth mentioning over the long-weekend.

Derek Lowe said he holds no bitterness towards the Indians for releasing him. Why should he anyway? Lowe was actually quite funny in his response. He's actually thankful they kept giving him the opportunity despite his lackluster performance.

"That was the situation I put myself in. They were great. The organization was fantastic. For the first time in 20 years, I didn't have a place to go," Lowe said. "I was honest with myself. I even told [my agent] Scott Boras, I said, 'I'm not coming back pitching like I was. If I can't go back and find something that I can compete again with, then I'll just stay home.' Because that was not even competitive pitching. I know you guys know that."

Lowe is no-doubt a class-act and he demonstrated it right there. Always has, always will be.

Chris Perez said that Cody Allen's candy stuffing bag game needs stepped up. If you are not familiar, each bullpen has a bag stuffed with goodies from candy to sunflower seeds to what have you. Of course if you remember last year, Vinnie Pestano was tasked with the bag duty as the rookie of the bunch and he carried around a pink frilly book bag. 

This year, Cody Allen, as the rookie, must carry it around and stuff it. If you are really lost, go pick up "Out of my League" by Dirk Hayhurst and read the chapter where he had to maintain the bag. You'll learn a lot.

As opposed to what you will learn if you continue to read Hey Hoynsie! Which I haven't read in a year, until yesterday to get that note about Santana earlier on...

A:Hey, Paul: Here’s what I do when I think too much about the Indians and my stress level rises. I take a hammer and hit myself as hard as I can in the forehead. When I wake up in the back of an ambulance on my way to the emergency room, if I’m lucky, I’ve found 45 minutes to an hour have passed where I’ve thought of nothing at all. I don’t know if it will get you off the ledge, but it works for me.

That's a good note to end on...


Nino has a blog! Give it a visit at The Tribe Daily, because his caught stealing percentage is higher than 12 percent. He also didn't notice that the word visit was typo-ed for quite some time.

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