February 11, 2009
Every year, I watch spring training and see numbers in the 60's and 70's on the uniforms of my favorite ball club, the Cleveland Indians, and have no clue who they are.
This year, I have put an end to that. The following article has the names and numbers (with a brief commentary) of all 59 players invited to Goodyear, Arizona this Cactus Season.
Some will be huge contributors, others will be inevitably cut by the second week of March.
Just print a copy off, tune into STO on Feb. 25, and start dreaming of another odd-year Playoff appearance.
Today I'll focus on the pitchers; Sunday's piece will be on the position players.
63 Rafael Betancourt
"Raffy Right's" 2009 season is a big one for both him and his team. Will he repeat his disappointing 2008 or duplicate his magical 2007 campaign?
Bet on somewhere in the middle to be true. I imagine Indians brass is betting on him not pitching in the WBC for Venezuela, and instead focusing on spotting his fastball.
Raffy will need to prove to the Indians he is back, as a club option for 2010 is in his contract. Hopefully 2008 was more of an aberration than an impending decline.
Interesting tidbit: Victor Martinez is the godfather to his Betancourt's son.
Can Fausto cut down his walks and baffle A.L. hitters with his wicked slider?
The Indians are leaning heavily on Carmona to help stabilize the No. 2 slot in the rotation. If his walks are down, his consistency will return.
He showed toughness and grit while pounding Gary Sheffield's face in a late September game against Detroit, and he just turned 25 in December.
Interesting tidbit: Fausto's favorite movie is Major League 2.
Zach has an outside shot at the roster as either a fifth starter or seventh man out of the 'pen. But more likely, he's headed to the Columbus rotation.
He was one of four players acquired from Milwaukee in the CC trade.
Interesting tidbit: Jackson's last two starts of 2008 were impressive, as he earned wins against eventual A.L. Playoff participants Boston and Chicago (totals were 13 IP, 4 ER, 8 K).
Kobayashi has a lot to prove in 2009 after pitching inconsistently the second half of last season. The club feels that Kobayashi wore down, and they only allowed him to throw in three games in September, eventually shutting him down after Sept. 13.
Interesting tidbit: He's a cousin of world-renowned hot dog-eating champion Kobayashi. Ok, not really.
He was A.L. Rookie Pitcher of the Month for May, but developed some elbow trouble and was eventually shut down for the season. At the moment, he's the leading candidate to be the team's fifth starter.
He lived in Cleveland during the off-season to refocus and train for 2009. Tribe brass are still high on him, as the lefty is turning just 24 in April, and despite struggles, posted a 4.23 ERA in 16 starts.
Interesting tidbit: He loves listening to 2Pac.
What can you say about ole Clifton? The 2008 Cy Young winner, an All-Star starter, and 22-game winner. If he is anywhere close to the pitcher he was last year, losing CC will be much easier to deal with.
He had a mind-boggling 2.54 ERA with 170 K; he's the ace of the staff.
Interesting tidbit: Lee's middle name is Phifer.
Lewis was 13-of-13 in save opportunities as the Tribe's de facto closer. He struggled with velocity early on in 2008, but rebounded quite well, posting a 1.59 ERA over his last 10 outings.
He'll be relied upon as a seventh- and eighth-inning guy, though he has the potential to fill in at closer if Kerry Wood needs a day off (or is placed on the DL).
Interesting tidbit: He was a college teammate of fellow Tribe pitcher Jeremy Sowers.
This Ohio State alum has an outside shot at the fifth slot in the rotation, but he's more likely headed back home to Columbus. He won all four starts he made for the Indians in September, posting a 2.63 ERA. He threw a shutout in his Major League debut.
Interesting tid bit: He majored in sociology at OSU.
This right-hander was acquired from the Dodgers in the Casey Blake trade. Pegged as a late inning option in Triple A, he throws his fastball in the mid-90s. He'll be one of the first call-ups if the bullpen struggles.
Interesting tidbit: He struck out two in his two games pitched last season in the Majors with the Indians.
He's an eternal prospect who just turned 24 in November. His fastball is in the upper 90's, but he can't stay healthy.
Now, he's reportedly 100 percent (we'll see) as his finger problems are apparently behind him. He's been moved to the bullpen to try and keep him throwing for an extended time.
He's got an outside shot at making the team as the seventh option out of the 'pen. He has the potential to be a starter someday.
Interesting tidbit: He enjoys sandwiches with lots of meat.
Mujica posted a 6.75 ERA over 33 games, but actually went through a 10-inning scoreless streak, which means when he's bad, he's God-awful.
But with the Indians out of options, he's got a shot at making the bullpen. More likely, he'll be sent packing after lighting the Arizona sky with Rawlings products.
Interesting tidbit: He resides in Yagua, Venezuela. Hope he stays there come Feb. 12.
He was blasted mercilessly and basically compared to a part of the female anatomy in Joe Torre's book. Plus, he pitched very poorly over his four years in New York.
The Indians are hoping he can regain his 2004 form (which would be a big stretch) and be the team's third starter.
Interesting tidbit: He might get arrested in June 2009 for stealing $1.5 million from Cleveland and its fans.
He pitched solidly in 2008, though he was largely an unsung contributor, and this year will probably be the only lefty out of the 'pen.
He's likely the main set-up guy as long as he stays consistent; he posted a 3.54 ERA over 76 IP.
Interesting tidbit: He'll turn 27 in May.
With Cleveland out of options, Reyes has the inside track for the fourth slot in the rotation. He put together five solid starts (2-1, 1.83 ERA in 34+ IP) for the Tribe before being shut down Sept. 5 as a precaution.
He's a former top prospect for St. Louis, and needs to stay healthy to ever be counted on.
Interesting tidbit: He lost 10 straight games to start the 2007 season.
Rondon, a soon-to-be 21-year-old, is ticketed as the ace of the Akron staff. He went 11-6 at Single-A Kinston and was rated as a top-10 prospect by Baseball America.
His fastball is clocked in the mid 90's.
Interesting tid bit: He played in the 2007 Futures game for the World Team during All-Star Weekend.
This 6'5" lefty gave up only one run over five innings of work in eight games last September for the Tribe. Though primarily a matchup lefty, albeit a great bullpen depth option, he'll probably start the season in Columbus.
But we'll definitely see him in the Big Leagues in 2009.
Interesting tidbit: He throws side-arm.
The oft-injured Sipp looks to rebound from Tommy John surgery. Hopefully, he'll round out an impressive Columbus bullpen.
This left hander experienced more arm pain in Winter Ball, so the team is being cautiously optimistic about his return.
Interesting tidbit: He sports a career 2.74 ERA in the minors.
Acquired in December from the Mets as part of the three-team deal involving Franklin Gutierrez, this sidearmer posted a 2.57 ERA over his last 10 games, all while New York was in the Playoff hunt.
Righties batted just .192 against him, so he's a virtual lock to make the club as a matchup guy out of the 'pen.
Interesting tidbit: His grandparents live in Bay Village, Ohio.
Jeremy's 2008 campaign was a roller coaster of a season, but it went primarily down, as he posted just four wins in 22 starts and had an ERA above 5. He's in the mix for the fifth slot, but in the end, he's pretty much a depth option.
This former No. 1 pick has been unable to keep up his 2006 form, when he won seven games and posted a 3.57 ERA. His velocity is up, but the difference between his fastball and changeup is too little (just 5 MPH) to be consistently effective against Major League hitters.
Interesting tid bit: His favorite music is new wave and 80's; he loves the band a-ha.
Jake signed a three-year, $30 million contract in 2007 and subsequently needed Tommy John surgery, causing Tribe fans to utter the phrase "only in Cleveland."
He'll try to make it back after the All-Star break to contribute to a Playoff run. Westbrook is a hard worker and will be back to his regular form by 2010.
Interesting tidbit: He was traded to the Indians back in 2000 from the Yankees as part of the David Justice deal, along with Zach Day and Ricky Ledee.
Wood signed a two-year, $20.5 million deal with a $11 million vesting option in 2011. He saved 34 of 40 games for the NL Central Division-winning Cubs.
The Tribe is hopeful his long history of arm troubles stays away. He'll be the first fire-baller to close for the Indians since John Rocker.
Interesting tidbit: He struck out 20 batters in one game in 1998.
He posted a 2.45 ERA in 23 IP for Triple-A Norfolk in 2008, and had a 12.54 ERA in nine games for the Orioles (the team whose 25-man roster he started on).
Interesting tidbit: He originally played infield.
Cassel, a 28-year-old righty, pitched in 9 games for the Astros, posting a 5.64 ERA. He'll be a Triple-A bullpen option.
Interesting tid bit: His brother is New England Patriots QB Matt Cassel. No, for real this time.
He's in the mix (though he's a long shot) for the last bullpen spot.
He posted a 4.83 ERA in 27 games for the Giants. Though Chulk never was recalled after being sent to the minors in June, he pitched adequately in Triple-A Fresno, with a 3.65 ERA over 24+ IP.
A major contributor to the San Francisco bullpen in 2007, he pitched in 57 games, going 5-4 with a 3.57 ERA.
Interesting tidbit: He's got a degree in sports management.
This lefty posted a 7-8 record with a 3.80 ERA over 26 starts in Double-A Akron in 2008. He's got excellent arm control, meaning he slots the arm angle on his pitches mostly the same.
But he's not much of a power pitcher, as he throws in the low 90's. Edell's a likely eventual bullpen candidate as a long man in Columbus.
Interesting tidbit: He likes eating hamburgers.
This 38-year-old pitched in 58 games for Colorado in 2008, going 3-4 with a 5.04 ERA. Has appeared in 537 games over his 12 major league career for the Dodgers, Expos, Padres, Giants, Diamondbacks, Marlins and Rockies.
This will be his first try at the A.L. He's a long shot to make the bullpen, but he may give Triple-A a try. He did throw three shutout innings in the 2007 World Series.
Interesting tidbit: He was named in the Mitchell Report for taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Named the 2008 Indians Minor League Pitcher of the Year, this lefty was a first-round pick out of UCLA in 2006.
He's got a real shot at the rotation out of Spring Training, and will definitely be first call-up if he doesn't break camp with the big league club.
He demonstrates outstanding control, as he walked only 29 batters in 26 minor league starts in 2008.
He compiled a 5-1 record with a 1.92 ERA in Akron over 11 games and then went 6-4 with a 3.01 ERA in Buffalo over 16 starts.
Dude's a strike-thrower who has solid velocity (a 94-MPH fastball).
Interesting tidbit: His favorite player growing up was Tom Glavine.
He's a Triple-A starting pitching depth option. He's got a career 50-62 record in the big leagues, and went 5-11 with a 4.18 ERA in for the White Sox's Triple-A Charlotte in 2008.
Interesting tidbit: He was mentioned in a 2003 episode of The Simpsons.
Saarloos spent most of the 2008 season in Triple-A with Oakland's Sacramento affiliate as a starter, and posted a 9-4 record with a 4.22 ERA in 22 starts. He'll make the rotation in Columbus.
Interesting tidbit: His career record is 29-30 with a 5.02 ERA.
Special thanks to Tony Lastoria's book "2009 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects" for his analysis on Tribe minor leaguers. You can purchase his book at his site http://www.indiansprospectinsider.com/. What a phenomenal Tribe resource!
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