I was lucky enough to attend a Cleveland Indians season ticket holder Town Hall event held at Westlake High School on Tuesday.
There, assistant general manager Chris Antoneti and manager Eric Wedge, among others answered some questions from the common folk.
The usual softball questions were asked as I expected, since we all were pretty much just fans excited to talk to the leaders of our favorite club.
The panel was extremely cordial, and answered even the stupid questions about signing big-name free agents.
When Wedge was asked about Andy Marte, he basically said they haven't been able to tap into his full potential in Cleveland and that it might have to happen somewhere else.
He said for some guys, their ability to stay consistent just clicks on one day. He used the example of Casey Blake after eight years in the minors and Jamie Moyer, saying he remembers facing him in the minors.
I would say Marte is pretty much done as an Indian.
Wedge also said they wouldn't have guessed Cliff Lee would accomplish the season he had after his first spring training start. He joked that he asked Carl Willis what the two had been working on all winter.
After his amazing April continued into May and June, Wedge knew Lee's season would be special. He told Cliff after CC was traded that he was the man, his ace. He also mentioned Kelly Shoppach while speaking about Lee prominently; so don't be surprised to see a Lee/Shoppach battery most of the time.
Antonetti spoke about how the Indians decided to bring in Carl Pavano. He said that Pavano was in the best shape he had been in four years. Pavano also bluntly talked about that he pretty much sucked in New York and was ready for a big comeback.
Apparently, the team was impressed with his desire to bounce back and Pavano seemed to be the most physically recovered reclamation project out there. He stressed it was a low risk/high reward signing.
Wedge spoke about how Josh Barfield needs to develop some more "flexibility" in his game to make the club, saying that he may need to learn the outfield to become more versatile. He also talked about Ryan Garko learning some left field for when Victor Martinez plays first.
He doesn't have any illusions that Garko will be the next Willie Mays out there, but just being serviceable would add to club overall.
He also stated that DeRosa would play some right field for Choo against tougher lefties, and that Jamey Carroll may patrol the outfield as well.
The skipper seems to really want to be able to juggle his players around to find the right fit any given day. He stressed it was a 162 game season and needs to be treated as such.
Antoneti mentioned three players to watch in AA-Akron—Carlos Santana, Beau Mills, and Hector Rondon. He also tried to hype up the AAA-Columbus outfield of Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, and Trevor Crowe. He compared Crowe to Coco Crisp.
Wedge spoke a bit about the usual question that comes up at these types of events—Cleveland's market size and players coming and going.
He said that the 10-game losing streak was more of a product of the players' uncertainty about the Sabathia trade talks, and felt the team didn't really give their best effort. He also said a lot of players got exposure last year to the big league team that they normally would not have and will that experience will help the squad come 2009.
He mentioned that the Sabathia and Blake, their two biggest team leaders, left, but more talent will come on through with the likes of Matt LaPorta and David Huff. Antonetti talked about even though the season was a disappointment, they were able to replenish the farm system more than expected through their various deals.
When I asked about the teams feeling concerning disclosing injuries, Wedge and Antonetti both said that the team would lose a competitive advantage if they told the media every little bump and bruise. Used the arm injury to Yankee catcher Jorge Posada last year as an example of how teams stole on New York so much that they had to move him to first base before eventually shutting him down for the season.
It was a fun experience for my wife Lynsey and I to go out and hear about our beloved Tribe. It was even the first time we left our one-month-old son at Grandma’s house!
The event gave the fans an up-close feeling of where the front office hopes and feels the team will be in 2009.
We will be off to the winter caravan tour in Sandusky with Ryan Garko and David Huff on Monday, so I will have some stuff up here about that as well.