Tag: Austin Kearns

Shin-Soo Choo Breaks Thumb: 5 Possible Fill-Ins the Cleveland Indians Can Use

While there has been no official word from the team, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports that Shin-Soo Choo broke his thumb in the fourth inning of last night’s IndiansGiants game. While no timetable has been released, this isn’t the sort of injury Choo will be able to shake off in a few games.

With the Tribe already reeling on offense, the hope that Shin-Soo Choo would regain his elite 2008-2010 form was one of the few things keeping Indians fans off the ledge.

Without him for a significant stretch of time, who could fill in the hole in right field? They’ll not only need to replace his offense, but his elite defense as well.

It’s unlikely the Indians will make a trade to fill this hole, so let’s take a look at the five replacements who  could play in right field while Shin-Soo Choo is injured. 

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MLB Report Cards: Grading Each of the 2011 Cleveland Indians’ Offseason Moves

The Indians front office, as usual, was relatively dormant in the offseason. By now, everyone has heard the joke: “were the Indians even AT the Winter Meetings?”. 

Still, with the ever-looming budget restrictions in mind, first-year GM Chris Antonetti made a series of smaller moves designed to support the team’s core of young players. 

With so many of the Indians’ offseason signings being minor league contracts for players who may not even make the Opening Day roster, it is difficult to grade Antonetti’s performance before a single pitch has been thrown. 

Thus it is with a great deal of uncertainty that I present the following grades for each significant move Antonetti and the Tribe front office made this offseason. 

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the matter in the comments below, and we’ll reassess the grades for these moves at the close of the 2011 season to see if the Antonetti’s offseason actions wind up looking better or worse after 162 games than they did on paper before Spring Training.

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Done Deal: Top Five Trade Deadline Deals

Some of the biggest difference makers come the playoffs did not start the year with that team. Just think about last years World Series when Cliff Lee mowed down the Yankees in game one. 

In 2010, with many teams on the brink of the playoffs, everyone was looking to improve their team.

Here are the top five deals made at the trade deadline.

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New York Yankees Notes: Recap, Jesus Montero and Melky Mesa

The Yankees were facing the Royals with CC Sabathia on the mound, so you knew it was going to be a good night, and it was, as the Yankees got a good start and just enough offense to win 4-3.

Here are some notes:

  • Curtis Granderson went 2-for-3 on his first day back since restructuring his swing.
  • Austin Kearns hit his first homer as a Yankee and his ninth of the season.
  • This is the first time Sabathia picked up 15 wins by his 25th start in his career. He’s going for 20.
  • Nick Swisher went 3-for-4, but had to be lifted late in the game because of the extreme heat.
  • Jesus Montero was named Triple-A International League Player of the Month for July. His numbers: 23 G, .342 BA, .441 OBP, 1.072 OPS, and five HR.
  • So far, Montero’s August has been even better: nine G, .441 BA, .513 OBP, 1.307 OPS, and three HR.
  • Melky Mesa, High-A OF, won Player of the Week honors.

With a good start to the series last night, I’d really like to see the Yankees sweep what should be an easy series. They have Dustin Moseley (2-1, 3.86) going against Kyle Davies (5-7, 5.21). Moseley has been good, but hopefully the offense shows up to help him out tonight.


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Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns Trades Prove Yanks Pick ‘Age Before Beauty’

Bench, bench, and more bench is what New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman added right before the non-waiver trade deadline.

Will Cashman’s last minute moves help the team down the stretch?

Let’s hope so, but for now, we might as well get to know the two new Yankees hitters.

Other than adding Cleveland Indians pitcher Kerry Wood to help the bullpen, Cashman added fellow Indians outfielder Austin Kearns and Houston Astros first baseman Lance Berkman.

Austin Kearns is hitting .272 with eight home runs and 42 RBI, while stealing four bases in 84 games this season.

Kearns primary role is as the fourth outfielder, but he also brings another right-handed bat to the lineup.

Kearns is used to playing everyday and is very useful anywhere on the field, but watch to see him play against lefty pitching.

It will help Curtis Granderson, who is becoming an almost automatic out against lefties.

Five-time All-Star Lance Berkman will primarily fill in as the Yankees designated hitter and sometimes first baseman to give Mark Teixeira the day off.


Berkman is 34 years old and is known as “The Big Puma.”


Berkman has been with the Houston Astros his entire career, so he’s excited to play for a team that is contending. Berkman is hitting .245 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 85 games this season.

Collectively, there are negatives for both Kearns and Berkman.

The two players are both very familiar with being on the disabled list.

Kearns and Berkman are almost worse than Yankee virus Nick Johnson. From knee to elbow, there has been a lot wrong with both men since day one, which brings many reasons to worry.

Nick Johnson, who replaced 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, has been on the disabled list since early May with no return in site. This might go down as one of the dumbest moves Cashman has ever made, but that is for another time.

Kearns is almost 30 and Berkman is 34, so neither is a youngster anymore.

After watching Berkman replace Tex at first against the Rays on Sunday, his defense left me absolutely uneasy.

Even though the Yankees lost 3-0, Berkman’s lack of skills were the reason for two of the runs scored. One was a ball over his head, and the other a textbook scoop up that Tex would have made without question.



Kearns also got right in the mix at the plate, but he was more a disruption because he did nothing to benefit the team.

Understandably, it takes a few games to start to feel like you are part of a team but if only Yankees fans could see it that way.

I am staying optimistic as experts, fans, and even the Yankees haters over at ESPN.

Everyone has praised what Cashman did for the team by picking up Kearns, Berkman, and Wood (who I will tell a tale about in another post).

The saying does still go, “Age Before Beauty” and the Yankees seem to have this as their unofficial team motto still.



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Cleveland Rocks: Why the Indians’ Deadline Deals Are Huge Wins For Tribe

It’s been a whirlwind week for Indians fans.

After finally trading longtime fan frustration Jhonny Peralta on Wednesday, the Indians traded Austin Kearns to the Yankees Friday night, flipped ten-year Tribe veteran Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals Saturday afternoon, then pawned off Kerry Wood’s contract.

Most Clevelanders’ instinctual reactions to this news would be to moan and groan, to relive the moments from last year when Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez were shipped out of town and mumble something about the futility of rooting for a small-market team.

I can certainly relate to the abandonment issues my fellow Tribe fans are dealing with, and I understand the urge to crawl into a corner and sit in the fetal position for the rest of the season.

However, depression and rage are the wrong reactions to this year’s four deadline deals and the June trade of Russell Branyan.

The trading season for the Tribe can only be described with the words of a wise man from Kazakhstan: “Great success!”

Branyan, Peralta, Kearns, Westbrook, and Wood all had one thing in common: either their contracts were set to expire at the end of the season or they had options for the 2011 season that the Indians had no interest in picking up.

With the Indians already firmly out of the race, keeping these players around for the final two months would have been ridiculous. Had we just let them walk at the end of the season, we would have gotten nothing—the only ones who might possibly qualify for Type B status are Branyan and Peralta, and offering arbitration to either would be risky because they’d be likely to accept.

With the possible exception of Westbrook, who the Indians may try to reacquire in the offseason, they had no place in the Indians’ long-term plans.

We didn’t get a huge haul in return for anyone—two useful but uninspiring young position players (outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and shortstop Juan Diaz, both in the Branyan deal), a pair of solid pitching prospects (righty Corey Kluber for Westbrook and southpaw Giovanni Soto for Peralta), two PTBNLs (both from the Yankees, one each for Kearns and Wood), and at least $3 million in salary relief.

But even if the youngsters we’ve acquired don’t grow up to be All-Stars and Larry Dolan loses all the spare change in a single poorly played hand of Texas Hold ‘Em (stranger things have happened), the point is that in exchange for the outgoing veterans who weren’t helping us anyway, we got a chance to have more hope for the future—six of them, to be precise, maybe more if we put the extra money towards a solid free agent.

The Indians had five useful players who didn’t mean anything to us. All of them have been swapped for potential pieces of a future pennant-winner.

Mission accomplished.

This was outgoing GM Mark Shapiro’s last big chance to score. He brought home a winner.


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New York Yankees: Lance Berkman, Austin Kearns, Next Move

The Yankees had a busy day Friday, acquiring Lance Berkman from the Astros and Austin Kearns from the Indians, and it looks like they could make some more moves today as the 4:00 PM Trade Deadline approaches.

The big splash for the Yankees so far has been the trade for Lance Berkman . The details and trade won’t be official until this afternoon, due to Berkman spending his entire career in Houston, making him a 10-5 player (10-5 means that the player been in the league at least 10 years and has spent at least five of those years with one team), which gives him a 24 hour waiting period to change his mind if he so chooses.

It appears that the Yankees will send RP Mark Melancon and IF Jimmy Paredes to Houston in turn for Berkman and cash to pay part of his remaining salary this year.

Berkman , commonly referred to as the Big Puma, will primarily serve as the DH for the Yanks, while occasionally filling in at first base and the corner outfield spots.

He is hitting .245 with 13 home runs and 49 RBI in 85 games this season, and while those numbers might not sound great, they are better than nothing, which is exactly what former everyday DH Nick Johnson has given the Yanks since his wrist injury in May.

The Big Puma is also a switch hitter, joining Mark Teixeira , Jorge Posada , and Nick Swisher in the regular lineup, which makes it even harder for other teams to align their pitchers according to who is batting for the Yanks.

He has struggled against left handed pitching this year, but when he bats left handed against righties , he has an OPS of .874 with 12 home runs and 45 RBI, clearly a man who can take advantage of the short porch at Yankee Stadium.

I feel that this was a good trade, especially for how cheaply the Yanks got Berkman for in terms of prospects, and it should bring consistency to the DH spot, which has been a revolving door since May.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman wasn’t done after getting Berkman . He went out and improved the bench and outfield depth by trading for veteran outfielder Austin Kearns from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later, or cash.

Kearns is having a solid season, hitting .268 with eight home runs and 42 RBI in 83 games for the Indians this year.

I think Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman wanted a player who knows how to man the outfield and can still provide production off the bench, which is exactly what they got in Kearns .

His arrival could spell the end to Colin Curtis’ or Marcus Thames’ times as New York Yankees this year. Preferably, I would want to keep Curtis, but Thames is the veteran and would cost the Yankees money if he was the one to go.

Even after these two trades, it appears that the Yankees are not finished dealing yet.

Many consider them in on Chad Qualls , a trade that I strongly disagree with, considering his horrific numbers in Arizona this year.

But as Buster Olney of ESPN, points out in his tweet, the Yankees are probably looking to add a player who can man the hot corner or a middle infielder.

Two players that I like and fit that description are Kelly Johnson of Arizona and Kevin Kouzmanoff of Oakland.

Kelly Johnson, who is the starting second baseman for the D-Backs, would look pretty nice on the Yankees bench, hitting .279 with 16 home runs and 49 RBI.

And Kevin Kouzmanoff has hit .272 with nine home runs and 50 RBI out in Oakland would serve as an excellent back up to A-Rod at third base.

Both of these players are under 30 years old and would be salary dumps for both teams, with Kouzmanoff making $3.1 million and Johnson making $2.3 million.

However, both are signed through next year and Oakland and Arizona might not want to part ways with them quite yet, so it could take a couple prospects to pry them away.

I’m sure that there are lots of moves yet to be made, and we will all know who is where by this afternoon.

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MLB Trade News: Yankees Acquire Outfieflder Austin Kearns

According to Joel Sherman of the NY Post, who’s on fire today breaking two trades, the Yankees acquired outfielder Austin Kearns from the Cleveland Indians for a player to be named later.

Kearns fills the roll of an outfielder who can hit lefties. He’s not a lefty masher or anything, but his career 106 OPS+ against them is an upgrade over Colin Curtis . Sherman also reports that part of the reason the Yankees targeted Kearns is because he’s a pretty good outfielder and manager Joe Girardi has lost faith in the defensive abilities of Marcus Thames .

Kearns, 30, is a free agent after this season as he is on a one-year $0.75 million contract. He’s neither a Type-A or B free agent.

Here are his stats:

2002 CIN 107 372 66 117 24 13 56 6 54 81 .315 .407 .500 .907 134
2003 CIN 82 292 39 77 11 15 58 5 41 68 .264 .364 .455 .819 117
2004 CIN 64 217 28 50 10 9 32 2 28 71 .230 .321 .419 .740 92
2005 CIN 112 387 62 93 26 18 67 0 48 107 .240 .333 .452 .785 104
2006 TOT 150 537 86 142 33 24 86 9 76 135 .264 .363 .467 .830 112
2006 CIN 87 325 53 89 21 16 50 7 35 85 .274 .351 .492 .843 110
2006 WSN 63 212 33 53 12 8 36 2 41 50 .250 .381 .429 .810 114
2007 WSN 161 587 84 156 35 16 74 2 71 106 .266 .355 .411 .765 103
2008 WSN 86 313 40 68 10 7 32 2 35 63 .217 .311 .316 .627 67
2009 WSN 80 174 20 34 6 3 17 1 32 51 .195 .336 .305 .641 72
2010 CLE 83 298 42 80 17 8 42 4 34 77 .268 .351 .413 .764 111
9 Seasons 925 3177 467 817 172 113 464 31 419 759 .257 .353 .426 .778 104
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com : View Original Table
Generated 7/30/2010.

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Tribe Talk: Our ‘Second Half’ Team Starts Second Half with a Bang

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indians fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.

This week, we discuss the Tribe’s history of being a “second-half team,” commend Jeanmar Gomez for his exceptional spot start, and agree that someone needs to tell David Huff he isn’t allowed to use Twitter anymore. 

I would like to thank this week’s participants Dale Thomas and Dan Tylicki for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.

Go Tribe!


1. After going a dismal 34-54 in the first half of the season, the Indians came on shockingly strong after the break and started things off with a four-game sweep of Detroit. 

Over the last several seasons, the Indians have historically been a second-half team. Are we in for another round of that this season? 

Do you think we will see this team play far better baseball for the rest of this year, or was the Detroit series (and the team’s modest success right before the break) just a short-lived stretch of good baseball? 

Can the Tribe play .500 ball in the second half? Is there any chance they can get their overall record up to (or even remotely near) .500 by the end of the season?

Samantha Bunten: Over the last 20 years or so, the Tribe has always been a second-half team. This was true in their good seasons and true in their bad ones. This year won’t be any different. 

As for the Detroit series and the first two games in Minnesota, of course it was just a short-lived stretch of good baseball. Even contending teams can’t continue a masterful streak like that for very long. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a very, very good sign. 

This team will be better on the back half of the season. I’m not sure they’ll make it back to .500, but I bet they’ll play over the 50 percent mark in the second half and thus come pretty close. 

I fully expect them to pass Kansas City and finish fourth in the division. That doesn’t exactly make it a successful season, but it does save it from being a total failure. This is Cleveland. Aim low. 

Dale Thomas: A few days ago I might have said, “no way the Indians will be a .500 ball club in the second half.” All you have to do is look at how they underachieved in the first half. 

After watching them take two games from the Twins (so far) after the Detroit series, I had to reassess my outlook. I was particularly encouraged by game two with the Twins. A close one, and closed out impressively. 

That said, I’ll start to believe after I see who’s traded, and if the Tribe can sustain this level of play for more than six games.

Dan Tylicki: I think that there’s a possibility we could inch to .500 as the other teams selling off their players suddenly become more beatable. We would not be affected by something like that as much since we’ve been giving player time to the younger players. 

Plus, we’ll be getting Cabrera back, that’s big. We’ll play better baseball, and if we’re lucky we may be able to overtake the Royals for fourth.


2. Just like the Indians are a “second-half team,” plenty of individuals in baseball qualify as “second-half players.”

Which Tribe players do you see improving or really coming on in the second half of the season? Which Tribe players do you see cooling off or slowing down? 

In your opinion, which of the following is most damaging to a player (and consequently, his team): An exceptionally slow start, a big midseason slump, or a really cold finish? 


Samantha Bunten: Slow starts create motivational problems that are hard to reverse, and midseason slumps can kill trade value for an individual or turn a team having a midseason slump from a buyer to a seller at the deadline. 

But at the end of the day, there is nothing in the world that is worse than a cold finish. Ask anyone who was a Mets fan in 2007. No one remembers what a great season they had. Everyone remembers the epic, 17-game crash at the end of the year that took them from a lock to make the playoffs to the laughingstock of the entire league.

As for how the Tribe’s individual players will fare in the second half, Matt LaPorta looks like the surest bet to really heat up. He went into the break swinging a hot bat, and came out of the break the same way. 

Kearns has already started to cool off, and will probably continue at his current pace. I hate to complain about Kearns, as there was nearly an entire month of the season where he was pretty much the ONLY person on the team hitting anything at all, but his trade value has tanked. If the Indians were hoping to move him, they should have done so at least a month ago. 

That being said, I think Kearns will pick up the pace again…probably the day after the trade deadline. 

Dale Thomas: A cold finish is the worst of the lot. Nobody remembers the beginning or middle if you take the grand prize at the end. Anyone who watched the Boston Celtics this year will know what I mean. 

LaPorta has come on very strong. That’s probably Trevor’s fault, but Crowe has also done a few things with his bat. Hafner has cooled off a bit, but hasn’t gone out stone cold, and Kearns, in my opinion, will re-establish his stroke. 

Nix has shown he can help, Peralta has shown that he’s Peralta and will always be Peralta, and I’ll just lump our pitching staff into one category: improved, Masterson and Wood not withstanding.

Dan Tylicki: Maybe it’s just me, but I see Matt LaPorta having a great second half as he continues to get comfortable in his role. Jayson Nix has suddenly been very good for us of late, but I just can’t see him keeping that up. Pitching-wise I think we’ll get about what we expect. 

As for which is most damaging to a player, it depends on the situation. If we’re looking to trade a player, then the midseason slump is definitely the worst. Kearns has flat-lined of late, which is making it hard to get a lot of good talent for him. 

If the team doesn’t need to trade the player, then the cold finish is worst, as it could make one’s own team or others look at the player and not find him effective.


3. Spot starts for pitchers rarely produce anything impressive. For the most part, teams only make such moves when their staff desperately needs rest or there has been an unexpected injury to another member of the rotation.  These are not the sort of starts that carry high expectations for the pitcher; teams are usually just hoping they and the pitcher both make it out alive.

So what a pleasant surprise it was when spot-starter Jeanmar Gomez, making his major league debut, cruised to victory in a seven-inning, 93-pitch outing in which he yielded just two runs on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts. 

Were you impressed or surprised by Gomez’s performance, especially given that he’s struggled in Triple-A so far this year? 

As is expected with a spot start, Gomez was sent back to the minors immediately following his start on Sunday. Do you think we’ll see Gomez again this season?  Do you truly think he was ready to face big league hitters? Would he be your first choice for a spot starter should the same situation arise again this season?


Samantha Bunten: Gomez should be commended for doing a fantastic job in his spot start. He handled the knowledge that he would be sent back down immediately afterward flawlessly, pitched a great game, and then got right back on a bus to his next Triple-A game. Oh, and he didn’t put any of that on Twitter. 

Alas, I don’t think Gomez is really, truly ready to face big league hitters on a regular basis. His numbers at Triple-A this season indicate he’s even struggling at that level. Still, the way he handled the situation of the spot start combined with his actual pitching performance indicates that we have every reason to think that Gomez will be a major contributor to the staff in the future.

I absolutely think we’ll see him in September, but I doubt he’ll be our next spot starter. That opportunity should go to Carlos Carrasco or Huff, once he’s had enough time to sit and think about what he did. 

Dale Thomas: I was really surprised by Gomez’ performance. It was kind of inspiring. If we trade away our starters, I would expect to see Gomez get some more time in the bigs. 

Otherwise I’d expect Huff to provide some spot starts, provided his phone is confiscated.

Dan Tylicki: I was surprised by Gomez’s performance, given that his stats at Triple-A made it look like he was going to be killed when he came up here. 

Given his performance, I see him definitely being a September call-up now. I don’t think he’s 100 percent ready to pitch in the big leagues, but his spot start was great practice. 

My first choice would have been Josh Tomlin had he not had that barroom incident. Instead, it would probably be Carrasco, who is hungry to make sure that we forget his failed 2009 tryout.


4. Man, is David Huff ever in trouble. 

It goes something like this: The aforementioned spot start on Sunday was reportedly supposed to go to David Huff. Except that Huff decided to post that information on Twitter before the team officially announced it. Oops. 

Understandably irked, the Tribe reportedly yanked the start back from Huff because they were unhappy about his actions, opening the door for Gomez to get the call. 

Do you think the Indians overreacted to Huff’s social networking faux-pas, or were they correct to come down hard on him for his poor judgment? 

Generally speaking, should the team have a clearly delineated policy on what players can share online, or is this just something that players should understand on their own? Is it really any different than a player who spills something he shouldn’t in an interview?


Samantha Bunten: You know that software parents can buy to monitor or restrict their 13-year-old daughter’s internet activity to make sure she isn’t making plans online to meet a middle-aged biker gang in an alley? All professional sports teams need to get that to keep track of their players online antics. 

This is for the players’ own sakes as well as the sake of their organization. A few months ago, a Browns player I follow on Twitter actually tweeted his home address and phone number to all of his 4,000+ followers when he meant to send it privately to just one person. And then there was Sizemore’s Mad Tea Party… 

Granted, what Huff did wasn’t as serious (or at all dangerous to himself), but it was still an over-share that was both unprofessional and strategically stupid. If the team hasn’t announced the starter yet, there’s probably a reason. 

Someone needs to cut off Huff’s Internet access until he proves he’s responsible enough to use it. 

Or maybe the Indians just need a “no tweeting” policy. Trust me, I’ve read Matt LaPorta’s tweets—no one will miss them. 

Dale Thomas: In this situation there’s a lot more to the timing of naming your starter than “look at me”, which is the way I view Huff’s Twitter-happy announcement. 

I’m okay with what the Indians did. The whole thing will, no doubt, result in some policy adjustments and attempts at heightened control over this sort of thing. 

At the end of the day, I see a Twitter message as being a bit more premeditated than a player who spills something he shouldn’t in an interview, as the media is pretty good at pouring fuel on whatever fire may be burning.

Dan Tylicki: It was right to come down on him, since he should’ve been happy he was given a chance when he already had a long leash this season. 

I think it would be wise to have a clear policy, just so that it’s easier to call people out on it when they pull something stupid like that.


5. Fun Question of the Week: Last Sunday, Jhonny Peralta got an inside-the-park home run on an epically strange play when Detroit outfielder Ryan Rayburn went crashing through the bullpen door trying to field the ball. 

Between the strange occurrence of an outfielder falling through the ‘pen door and the even stranger fact that Peralta actually made it all the way around the bases that quickly, this may be one of the most bizarre plays we’ve ever seen. 

Aside from the above, what’s the strangest play you’ve ever seen on the field?

Samantha Bunten: I was at an Indians-White Sox game in 1994 when Chicago blew through their starter and entire bullpen in under six innings and had to bring in their right fielder to pitch. He literally had to jog straight in from right field to the mound. His pitching debut went about as well as you’d expect. 

The strangeness of that of course pales in comparison to about half the plays Manny Ramirez was involved in when he was with the Tribe. I can still recall Baby Bull trotting down to first for what he thought was a walk three pitches into an at-bat.

Dale Thomas: The strangest play I ever saw was when Jose Mesa threw a curve ball to give up the hit that scored the winning run in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series. 

Maybe this isn’t exactly what you meant by “play,” but man oh man…it’s at the top of my ‘strange’ list.

Dan Tylicki: Besides that one, I remember when Casey Blake hit an inside-the-park home run a few years back. I was in the stands and we were hitting very well that day. Blake came up and hit a ball that bounced just right, somehow none of the Tigers could get to it. Blake didn’t seem to be running so fast as to make it happen, but he pulled it out, and it was awesome. 

Perhaps it’s not as strange as Peralta’s, but still strange how it all clicked. Plus I remember it being dollar dog night; the hot dogs tasted especially good after that moment. 

As an honorable mention (since I wasn’t there): the home run bouncing off Jose Canseco’s head has to be included.

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Tribe Talk: Hit The Road, David Huff


Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report’s Cleveland Indian fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the club each week throughout the season.


This week, we wonder if the Indians can find a viable replacement for David Huff in the starting rotation, debate whether there is any merit in keeping Austin Kearns around for the long haul, and cast our votes for AL All-Star game starters, all while wishing we didn’t have to watch pitchers bat. 


I would like to thank this week’s participants Nino Colla, The Coop, and Lewie Pollis for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we’re addressing this week.


Go Tribe!


1.  Huff has been optioned to Triple-A after going a dismal 2-9 in 13 starts.

This leaves the Indians with a difficult decision to make about what to do with his roster spot. Do you think the Indians should call up Laffey or Carrasco to take the roster spot?

Would you consider instead calling up a reliever to spell the tired bullpen for a few days and waiting to name a new starter until the team needs one on Friday?

What do you think will become of Huff? Does he truly have a chance to refine his skills and make it back to the bigs, or are his struggles an indication that he will never succeed a major league starter?


Samantha Bunten: The Indians were right to call up a reliever for a couple of days before they had to make a decision about the fifth starter. As to what happens after that, ideally, I wouldn’t call up either one of them. Neither has shown any indication that they deserve the spot in the rotation. But the Indians have to work with what they’ve got, so I suppose I would go with Carrasco. 


I really like Laffey, but he just doesn’t seem to have the stuff to be a viable starter. Laffey has proven that he can pitch very well for a couple of innings, but he starts to fall apart after four or five, and our overworked bullpen can’t spell a pitcher every time he starts for half a game. 


I don’t know if Carrasco can do any better – he certainly didn’t look like he could when he was given a shot to do so last season – but the Indians have nothing to lose by giving it a try. We know Laffey can’t handle the job. Let’s see if Carrasco can. 


I still believe Huff can come back from this. He has great stuff, he just can’t seem to control it right now. I think he needs to make a mechanical adjustment to his delivery, maybe change his release point. I also think it’s possible he’s tipping his pitches. These are things that can be corrected, and triple-A is the right place for him to do that. 


Nino Colla: There will be no consideration, you will see a player called up before the game on Tuesday and it will likely be a reliever, maybe Joe Smith or Jess Todd. The more likely is Todd because it is likely this person called up is sent right back down on before Friday’s game. 


When the time comes, I think they will pick Laffey, but that isn’t necessarily the choice I’d make. I think the club believes they owe Laffey an opportunity in the rotation after what he did in the spring and how they had to move him into the bullpen. He hasn’t been great transitioning into a starting role, but he’s been alright and like I said, I think it has more to do with the club wanting to make up for moving him. 


I’d pick Carrasco though because I think it is time to get an extended look at him. I know he hasn’t had the greatest season down in Triple-A, like Laffey’s small stint, but I’m ready to see what he has in tryout number two. 


If the club really wanted to reward the pitcher who deserves a call-up the most, and truly bring up the pitcher that has pitched the best, they’d call up Josh Tomlin. He would require a 40-man roster spot, but he’s pitched better than all the other current options the club has and sooner or later, especially if he keeps it up, he’s going to require some sort of shot, bullpen or rotation.


As for Huff, I think this is a move that is needed. His mechanics are all messed up and the only way to fix it is to work on it in a game setting. He can’t be doing that up at the major league level because no one will be able to tolerate that. Since he has the options left, send him down and let him fix his issues there. I think he’ll come back and be a better starter for it. I love Huff’s stuff, he just has to remain consistent and part of that is fixing his mechanics.


The Coop: As I’m writing this, the Indians have made their decisions about how to juggle the pitching staff. Not sure why they didn’t consult me, but I digress…. Actually, it seems if they did consult you, Samantha, by calling up Smith for an extra bullpen arm until Friday, like you suggested. Now all you need to do is figure out how to get these guys to get some hitters out.


As you said, the Indians were left with a “difficult” decision. In my view, the reason this decision was difficult was because neither Laffey nor Carrasco exactly dominated at Columbus. Had either one been particularly impressive, the decision would have been easy (and probably would have been made sooner). 


Basically, I’m fine with both of these moves. I’m not really sure what other options the Indians had. In some cases, I’m okay with letting a guy work out his issues in the majors, particularly when the team isn’t going anywhere. But when you have guys who have roughly the same talent level, as well as major league experience, hanging out in the minors, making a move is the right thing to do. 


I do have hope for Huff. He pitched very well at the end of last season, and I really thought he was turning the corner. Setbacks are common. He’s only 26, and time is on his side. Huff pitches to contact (not a lot of walks, not a lot of strikeouts), so he really needs to focus on how to improve on the little things that will make that pitching style successful. Developing his curveball and learning how to keep hitters off-balance are things that he can do to get better, and indeed, these things are best worked out in the minors.


Lewie Pollis: I think a trip to Triple-A is just what the doctor ordered for Huff; he really needs to recapture his control and ability to miss bats. 

A look at his strikeouts and walks shows you exactly why he was touted as a prospect yet has floundered in the Big Show. 8.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in the minors, 4.5 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in the majors. 


He’s been a completely different pitcher since he got the call last year, and he needs to rediscover the skills that got him this far in the first place. As for his replacement, why in the world are we getting Aaron Laffey? I’m sorry, but when you follow up a mediocre start to the season by walking almost a batter an inning in Triple-A (“For the most part, he’s thrown the ball over the plate,” Manny Acta said in a moment of unprecedented thoughtfulness), you don’t reward him with a rotation spot over Carlos Carrasco and Yohan Pino. I have nothing more to say.


2. The Tribe still has six road games left to play against NL teams this week, which is bad news when it comes to the nine-hole in the lineup.

The Tribe staff is just a terrible group of hitters, even by “pitcher standards”. C.C. Sabathia they’re not.

As a manager, is there anything you can do to compensate for the dreaded “easy out”? Do you think the Tribe has enough solid bats off the bench to solve the problem with well-timed pinch hitting?

Who is the best hitter and worst hitter on the Tribe staff right now? Who is the best hitting pitcher you’ve ever seen? 


Samantha Bunten: The “easy out” isn’t something anyone ever wants to cede to an opponent. But it would be much easier to swallow if the rest of the lineup wasn’t looking like a bunch of “easy outs” too.


The problem here isn’t that the pitchers can’t hit; they’re pitchers. Of course they can’t hit. The problem is that the hitters can’t hit, and so the fact that pitchers have to bat in NL stadiums contributes to a problem that shouldn’t exist in the first place. 


The pitchers do need to learn how to bunt more effectively, but the bottom line is that it really isn’t their job to hit. Blame the rest of the lineup, not the guys who can’t make contact because they only have the opportunity to try it twelve times a season. 


I’m not sure there’s a “best” hitter on the staff right now. They’re all pretty bad. None of our starters are guys who have spent a significant amount of time pitching in the NL though, so you really can’t blame them when they’ve never had much opportunity to face major league pitching.


Best hitting pitcher I’ve ever seen? Hands down, without a doubt, it’s Dave Burba.


Nino Colla: You can’t compensate for the easy out, unless you get runners on base in front of the pitcher and use the bunt effectively. I really don’t care for this because it is just something every club has to deal with, including the NL pitchers, even if they get more time at it. 


I do want to say something in concerns to this and my problem is with the schedule, and this is something Manny Acta pointed out. What is it with the Indians getting nine NL road games in a row like this? It effectively cools off their hottest hitter in Travis Hafner by removing him from planet earth for nine straight games. No DH, no cleanup hitter…for nine straight games? That’s bogus. 


I’m all for interleague and it is cool that they play by the rules of the home ball park, but could the schedule makers not mix up these interleague games a little better so we aren’t without our cleanup hitter for nine straight games, especially since he was just getting hot as this road trip started? 


The NL is getting the advantage in interleague play, whether it is taking away the other team’s DH, or gaining an extra hitter of their own. So why not make sure the AL teams aren’t getting screwed in this situation?


The Coop: Let me put it this way – if the Indians’ first hitters get the job done and the pitcher does what he’s supposed to do on the mound, I’ll give up the “easy out” every time. Pitchers are there to do one thing: advance runners (usually by bunting). Not even National League teams count on their pitchers to do anything more than that. 


The hitting ability of the Indians pitching staff is a red herring. That being said, seeing as how none of the Indians pitchers have any hits this year, I can’t refer to any of them as “best.” Some are less bad than others, but at this point, “bad” would be an upgrade for most of them. 


In my opinion, the worst hitter on the team is Fausto Carmona. I almost feel bad for him, because it looks like no one ever even taught him how to hit. Two K’s and some terrible bunt attempts against Pittsburgh make him the hands-down winner. 


The best hitting pitcher I’ve ever seen is probably either Sabathia or Rick Ankiel. I think I’d give the nod to Ankiel, because he was good enough to still play in the majors as an outfielder, even when he completely lost his ability to pitch. Then again, his career average is only .250, so I’m sure his career will be over soon. But at least he made it last a little longer because of his bat.


Lewie Pollis: An AL team’s pitchers are unprepared to step to the plate? That’s absolutely unacceptable. I hope some heads are going to roll over that one. 


My memory is clouded by my youth at the time, but I remember being really impressed by Dave Burba’s swing. Other than that, I’d say Carlos Zambrano. Dan Haren has looked pretty good this year too.


3. Given his unexpectedly stellar performance so far this season, Austin Kearns has become a valuable asset to the team.

Generally, Kearns is considered a veteran player whose stay with the Tribe is temporary. Kearns is not thought to be part of the team’s future plans, but might that be a mistake?

Kearns is only 30, and the uncertainties about the health of Grady Sizemore and the true potential of Michael Brantley may mean that the outfield won’t be as crowded as we once thought.

Do you see any merit in the Tribe looking to hang on to Kearns beyond the 2010 season? If not, is this because you would prefer to see another player in left in the future, or is merely because the Tribe might not be able to afford him?

Would you be willing to spend the money to keep him around? How much would Kearns be worth to you, contract-wise?


Samantha Bunten: I really like Kearns. There’s nothing I would like more than to keep him around for a couple more years. But is that really the best way to spend our limited financial resources? Probably not. 


The system is full of outfielders with potential. Even if Kearns can outplay them all, what good is one guy who can hit well if the team as a whole is still miserably bad? Spend that money on something that will be a bigger step toward improving the team as a unit, like relief pitching or some middle infield depth. 


That said, if Kearns was willing to sign for a hefty discount for the next few years (three years at $4M per year, tops), I don’t think I could say no to that. It’s not the wisest move strategically, but it’s definitely appealing. 


Nino Colla: If this club didn’t have a stock of outfielders waiting around in Columbus that includes Nick Weglarz, Michael Brantley, and Jordan Brown, I’d sign Kearns to a three-year contract. I love this guy that much and now that he is healthy, he’s finally coming into that talent everyone thought he had. 


Now, because we have that glut of outfielders in Columbus (and heck if you want to throw in Jose Constanza, and the three guys in Akron, McBride, Drennen, and Henry, that’s fine as well) I would only consider bringing Kearns back as a fourth outfielder. Throw in the idea that the club has Wes Hodges potentially at first, which could shift LaPorta to left if you really really want to make things work offensively, and the fact that the club is getting some good play out of Trevor Crowe…


Yeah I think the club is better off trading Kearns at the deadline and settle with thanking him for his service. There are just too many options to see. It would be nice to have that solidarity in left field that Kearns has been provided, but economically, it would make more sense to find out if you have an answer in one of the five other options you have. 


I love what Kearns has brought to the table and love that he’s been able to revive his career in Cleveland. He wouldn’t go for being a fourth outfielder though, and he shouldn’t. Either way, he provides more value to the club in a trade than he does playing once or twice a week.


The Coop: I might take exception with calling Kearns’ season “stellar,” but I will agree that what he has given the Indians was unexpected. 


It’s sad, really, that we’re talking about the value and long-term future of a so-called “power hitter” who is hitting .280 with only seven dingers and 32 RBIs. It’s more of an indictment of how hapless the Indians have been. 


While Kearns’ season is good – relative to the rest of the Indians – it’s pretty mediocre by league standards. Kearns is fine as a veteran used to fill a hole, but he has very little overall value. If the Indians can trade him for anything worthwhile, they should. He’s on the downside of his career, and while he’s “only” 30, he’s not a guy the Indians should be building around. 


I’d rather see the Indians give the job to a young guy who wins his spot in the spring. Ok, so if they can’t trade him, maybe the Indians can resign him to a one- or two-year contract for a little bit more than the league minimum. But any more time or money than that would be troubling to me.


Lewie Pollis: If Kearns is willing to sign for a discount—around $3-4 million a year, definitely not more than $5 million—as thanks for giving him the chance to revive his career, I’d be interested. Unless we can guarantee that, though, I’d rather trade him at mid-season. 


Say what you want about the Indians, there aren’t many holes on our depth chart (or at least, there won’t be once a couple more middle infielders and pitchers gain some experience). Looking at our farm system, we’re not going to have trouble trotting out a solid player at each spot in the next few years. We’ve got a decent supporting cast; what’s missing is the stars. 


Even forgetting about his inconsistent past, Kearns is good, but he definitely isn’t great. I’ll flesh this out more fully in another article soon, but given our depth and the fact that we’ve got a significant chunk of change coming off the books after the season, I’d rather see us splurge on a star. Namely, Adam Dunn.


4. A commenter weighing in on last week’s Tribe Talk article suggested Josh Rodriguez as a possible replacement for the hapless Luis Valbuena.

What do you think of Rodriguez? Is he ready for a promotion to the majors?

Assuming you’ve seen enough of Valbuena, is there anyone else in the system who you might consider a viable replacement for him?


Samantha Bunten: I like J-Rod. He’s got great potential. But is he ready for the majors? No way. But hey, apparently Valbuena isn’t ready for the majors either, and he’s been allowed to spend a significant portion of two seasons on the big league roster anyway. I don’t see the harm in giving someone else a shot, even if the player might not be any better. Obviously, he can’t be any worse. 


Specifically, I would have some misgivings about whether Rodriguez’s bat can handle major league pitching, and whether he’s truly kicked the injury bug. But defensively, he’s worlds better than Valbuena. Any way you look at it, J-Rod would be an upgrade. 


Aside from J-Rod, Jordan Brown and Jared Goedert are the only other viable options. Neither of them are ideal either, but all three are probably a better choice than Valbuena. Heck, my dog is probably a better choice than Valbuena, and she drops pop flies all the time while chasing a tennis ball and doesn’t have the opposable thumbs required to hold a bat. 


Nino Colla: I love Josh Rodriguez, always have. The injuries knocked me off the bandwagon, because like with many minor leaguers, if a player isn’t playing or is out of sight, they are usually out of mind. But now that he’s healthy he’s really earning his way back onto prospect status and he really deserves a shot sooner rather than later. 


He started the year on the bench in Akron and has moved into a more regular role with Columbus since. Josh is a hard worker and good team player evident in his willingness to move around the diamond and the dedication he’s put into coming back from injury. He’s got a good glove at both short and second, so I know we can depend on him on either spot, unlike we can with Valbuena. 


We’ll need to see if his stick translates, but I say the most famous line you can when a player is hitting as poorly as Valbuena is. Could we really do any worse? I’m done with Anderson Hernandez and was before he even got here, ditto with Brian Bixler. Give me Rodriguez. And if you can’t do that, inject Jordan Brown with the gene to play second base and get him up here because Valbuena is putrid right now.


The Coop: Admittedly, I don’t know much about Rodriguez and haven’t seen him play, but from what I understand about him, he’s still a few years away (at least) from contributing at the major league level. Hopefully, he develops sooner rather than later, because the Indians middle infield depth is severely lacking in the entire organization. 


However, as Nino has pointed out, Valbuena is definitely a problem. As I have said here in the round table, I’ve been a supporter of Valbuena, but even my patience is wearing thin. He is just dreadful at the plate. Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of viable replacements. Given that, I think the Indians are stuck with Valbuena for at least the rest of the year. 


The Indians have enough guys that can spell him as needed, but they will need to seriously re-evaluate this position in the off-season. Where’s Jamey Carroll when you need him?


Lewie Pollis: I’m all for giving J-Rod a shot. He’s showing great plate discipline and power, which can’t be said for any of our MLB middle infielders. It’s too early to call him up, as Jared Goedert has been raking in Columbus. 


I would give him some time at the keystone, see if he can handle the transition. With Lonnie Chisenhall waiting in the wings, he’ll need to learn a new trick anyway if he wants to be a part of the Tribe’s future.


5. Fun Question of the Week: Two weeks ago, we shared our picks for what we would like the starting lineup at the All Star Game to look like for the NL.

This week, it’s time to do the same for the AL. Please list your votes for who should be the starter at each position for the AL team.

Additionally, which player do you think should represent the Indians at thee All Star Game this year?


Samantha Bunten: C – Joe Mauer 1B – Billy Butler 2B – Robinson Cano SS – Derek Jeter 3B – Evan Longoria OF – Josh Hamilton, Alex Rios, Carl Crawford DH – Vlad Guerrero SP – David Price


As for the Indians representative, you have to give the nod to Kearns. Choo might be the guy I want to get it, but Kearns is the guy who has earned it. 


Nino Colla: C – Joe Mauer; 1B – Miguel Cabrera; 2B – Robinson Cano; 3B – Evan Longoria; SS – Elvis Andrus; OF – Magglio Ordonez, Alex Rios, Josh Hamilton; DH – Vlad Guerrero; SP – David Price 


I think the only tough choice comes down to shortstop, but I refuse to vote for Derek Jeter if it is ever close because I’m firmly a believer of giving someone new a chance once and awhile. Andrus has been studly. 


I think the Indians representative should be Santana. Wait, too early? Okay fine… Shin-Soo Choo by a Choo because of his stolen base numbers. Kearns has similar offensive numbers, but Choo means more to the lineup and also provides the running spark, not to mention his arm in right.  His route running not so much, but he’s got a gun out there that Kearns doesn’t. 


I’d give  Carmona some consideration and he still has some time to get consideration. It all depends on what pitchers make it and what outfielders make it, but I think it should be and will be Shin-Soo Choo.


The Coop: It’s worth noting that you asked who should be the Indians’ representative – singular – at the All-Star Game. There is only one, and it should be obvious to everyone, so does it even need to be said? 


Here are my votes. If you think there are glaring omissions, I can explain. I hate the Red Sox and I hate Ichiro.


 C – Joe Mauer 1B – Justin Morneau 2B – Robinson Cano 3B – Evan Longoria SS – Derek Jeter OF – Josh Hamilton OF – Magglio Ordonez OF – Carl Crawford DH – Vlad Guerrero SP – David Price


Lewie Pollis: Mauer is my catcher, but at this point I’d vote for V-Mart because the difference in their vote totals is a lot bigger than the difference in their talent. I have to go with Morneau’s 4.4 WAR at first base, and I’ll take Pedroia at second because I can’t bring myself to vote for a Yankee. I’m divided at shortstop and third, so I’ll take the underdogs: Gonzalez over Scutaro and Beltre over Longoria. Outfield is Crawford, Rios, and Choo, and I can’t resist taking Big Papi as my DH. 


Anyway, in response to your second question: CHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

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