Spring Training Preview Revisited: Crowe, Jackson, and Lewis Make Their Moves

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Spring Training Preview Revisited: Crowe, Jackson, and Lewis Make Their Moves
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Back in February, I previewed the entire spring training for the Cleveland Indians. I thought it would be interesting to take a trip back to the 11th of that month and revisit what was said and analyze it compared to what actually happened.

In case you need a refresher, the entire preview can be read, here.

 

Keep an Eye On

The three chosen for this section were Michael Brantley, Wes Hodges, and Vinnie Chulk.

Everyone got their first real good look at Michael Brantley and he had himself a very good major league camp. He went 10-for-32 with four successful stolen bases in six attempts.

Wes Hodges was fine offensively, playing in 12 games and getting eight hits, but the thing to watch was his defense. He committed just one error in his time with big league camp.

Vinnie Chulk made an impression on the Tribe and while he didn't win a spot in the bullpen, he'll be the first guy up if an injury or poor performance happens. With Masa Kobayashi teetering on the brink of a complete loss of faith, Chulk should be up before his May 15th deadline.

Chulk had a 1.72 ERA in 15.2 innings this spring.

 

Prospect Dark Horses

John Meloan had a less-than stellar spring with the major leaguers. He pitched in just three games, giving up one run per inning for an ERA of 9.00. He'll be in Columbus to start the year.

Chris Gimenez made a name for himself with his versatility as expected. He didn't win a roster spot, but he opened the eyes of Eric Wedge with his ability to play first, third, left and right field, and catcher.

Gimenez played in 20 games, hit two home runs, including a walk-off shot to win a game, and hit .357. He was one of the last Columbus players to be sent down.

 

Injury Watch

Aaron Laffey, Fausto Carmona, Kelly Shoppach, Josh Barfield, and Victor Martinez all remained healthy throughout camp. In fact the entire camp was relatively fine.

Travis Hafner sat out the few games, but has displayed no signs of concern. Anthony Reyes was brought along slowly, on the same time-table as Cliff Lee, and aside from Carmona has had the best spring out of all the starters.

Carl Pavano stayed healthy for the entire time, which has earned him the third starter's spot and Jake Westbrook is coming along with his rehab. Westbrook throws every Monday and Friday and will continue to do so in Arizona for the time being.

The one injury scare that the Indians got was with Shin-Soo Choo playing in the World Baseball Classic and colliding with Grady Sizemore. Choo turned out to be fine in both cases, but it almost cost him a shot to play with Korea.

Grady Sizemore's groin issue kept him out of the WBC, but he returned to action and his 100 percent for the season.

The one casualty was David Dellucci, who came into camp with a injury to a finger, in which he got it caught in his pickup truck's trailer, and is leaving spring with an injury to his calf.

Dellucci played in the middle, but suffered the calf injury a week ago. He'll start the year on the 15-day disabled list.


World Baseball Classic

As mentioned, Grady Sizemore withdrew from the WBC due to the groin injury he sustained.

Shin-Soo Choo did play and hit two home runs for the runner-up Korean team.

Mark DeRosa was one of the key-cogs in Team USA as they made it to the semi-finals.

Rafael Perez was downright dominant in the Dominican's early exit to the tournament.

Rafael Betancourt, Jhonny Peralta, and Masa Kobayashi did not participate.

Minor leaguer Nick Weglarz had a nice run with Team Canada, while Damaso and Paolo Espino didn't have the greatest time with Panama.

Endangered Species

All three endangered species will not be making it to opening day with the Cleveland Indians 25-man roster, one way or another.

Andy Marte was in fact dropped from the 40-man roster and actually went unclaimed. At this point, he's still in major league camp as a warm body, but unless the Indians make a last-second move, he'll go to Columbus to start the year as bench player.

David Dellucci as mentioned will start the year on the disabled list, but if Trevor Crowe gets off to a hot start, he could find himself looking for a new team.

And Edward Mujica had a dismal spring which resulted in his trade to the San Diego Padres. Had the Indians not found a taker, he would have been exposed to waivers because he was out of options.

 

Position Battles

The position battles pretty much shook out with out a major surprise. But some of the favorites for the spots did not actually win for one reason or another.

Josh Barfield was the one favorite who maintained and won a roster spot when all was said and done. Barfield beat out late addition Tony Graffanino and Trevor Crowe because he had displayed much-needed versatility, by playing the outfield and just about every infield spot, and by the fact that he has speed.

Zach Jackson turned out to be the winner for the final bullpen spot, thanks in large part to the injury to Adam Miller. Eric Wedge wanted a guy who could give him a few innings if needed, because of the concern of his starting rotation.

Jackson fit that bill and the bonus of him being a left-hander didn't hurt. He beat out Vinnie Chulk, but as noted, Chulk could very well be up in Cleveland sooner rather than later. Miller's injury was a disappointing set-back, but miraculously he's making a strong recovery, rather than having season-ending and possible career-ending surgery.

Tony Sipp gave it a good shot, but there really was no chance for him in the end, the Indians want him at Columbus to start the season.

There was a late addition thrown into the mix, former Ray Juan Salas. Salas had an option left and while he had a few good showings, the Indians want him to work on some things in Columbus to start the year. Salas was claimed off waivers mid-camp and was the domino that set the Marte fall in motion.

Jackson winning the bullpen spot obviously signaled the fact that he didn't win the rotation spot. That went to Scott Lewis, who was consistent enough to beat out Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey. Both Sowers and Laffey put together good outings, but they were sprinkled around bad ones.

Lewis didn't end camp on a good note, getting pummeled in the two starts after he was named the final starter. He has one more tune-up in minor league camp on Sunday before he starts the Indians' home opener on Friday. Lewis went to High School in Ohio and spent his college career at Ohio State, so it is a bit of a sweet-victory for him to be starting the opener.

The likes of Jack Cassel, Kirk Saarloos, Matt Herges, and Greg Aquino are all still around. Cassel and Saarloos will open the year in the Columbus rotation while Aquino will be in the bullpen. The Indians are trying to trade Herges to a team so he can start the year on the 25-man roster, but if no situation arises, he'll accept an assignment to Columbus.

 

Burning Questions

Travis Hafner ended up playing a lot towards the end of camp. In games that did not have a DH, Hafner went down to play in minor league games. He's hit three home runs in his last four games and his power has definitely come around.

Early there was some worry with his timing and bat speed and he worked on correcting those rather than displaying any power. He's certainly come along way from the start and the swings he got late certainly helped him get his timing down.

Ryan Garko was the guy I pegged who could have made a statement with a impressive spring and he was definitely the most intriguing story this spring.

Garko didn't so much do it with his bat, but rather his defense. He hit .274 and knocked in 11 runs, but the news he made was in the outfield.

At first it seemed like a cruel joke that he'd be shagging fly balls in left, but one thing led to another and by the end of camp, Garko was playing regularly in right field.

Adding that bit of versatility, and not looking too bad in the process, Garko turned a lot of heads, including Eric Wedge's. He won't play as much outfield as he did this spring, but the option is now there and he handled it better than anyone else thought he would.

Vinnie Chulk turned out to be the right pick out of all the veterans on minor league deals to make the team. Like I've said, he didn't make it, but he'll get his shot. Wedge was very impressed with not just his pitching, but being stretched out to as much as three innings and still doing great.

The World Baseball Classic certainly turned out to be an adventure for the Indians.

Especially with Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore. We know their stories by now, but the headache of Choo being hurt and not knowing exactly what was wrong with him was somewhat alleviated when Choo returned from the first round in Asia and the Indians got a look at him before the next round.

Mark DeRosa ended up getting sick, but overall had a successful return after the WBC.

And of course him and Choo were the last to return as their teams made it the farthest. There was a little worry with the way Felipe Alou handled Rafael Perez, but everything is now fine.

An injury did occur and it really changed the overall outlook of this team, possibly for the better.

Many felt that Trevor Crowe outplayed Dellucci this spring, quite like Ben Francisco did both Dellucci and Jason Michaels last year. So when Dellucci went down and Crowe got the fourth outfield job for at least a few weeks, it was sort of justice.

This could set off a situation where Crowe holds onto the spot and boots Dellucci before he even gets a shot, or it could just hasten his time to get regular at-bats down in Columbus. Either way the last minute injury to Dellucci did have an impact on the final roster, but the outcome has yet to be known.

Roster Projections and Depth Charts

The two misses I had on the roster projection were Aaron Laffey instead of Scott Lewis and the injured David Dellucci instead of Trevor Crowe.

The four deep depth charts are still pretty much in-tact.

Dellucci's injury changes things, but everything is now what it was back then.

Scott Lewis' rotation win changes the pitchers on call.

The first up is probably Aaron Laffey, followed by Jeremy Sowers, and David Huff. I'd say Kirk Saarloos would be a veteran option if he pitches well and all the others are struggling, but the Indians would probably go with Huff before they do that, even with the roster spots open.

The bullpen is pretty much the same with Miller shifted out. Shift Tony Sipp in there ahead of Meloan and Rundles because of his impressive spring and the fact that he's a lefty.

The projected lineups are still quite unknown. It looks as if Eric Wedge is leaning towards Travis Hafner in the three hole, followed by Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta.

Those projected lineups were more of me voicing what I wanted, not so much what was going to happen. Choo could be head of Garko, but that is another unknown at this point. We'll find out soon enough though.

 

Final Impressions

Of what little I saw on television and all that I read, here is what I can offer up.

  • Ryan Garko actually did look passable in the outfield. He didn't really screw up at all and if you put him out there with a groundball pitcher, it should be an easy day.
  • Victor Martinez looks healthy and strong. He didn't have the best camp, but he was pretty close. He'll definitely hit more than two home runs this season.
  • Jhonny Peralta was the reason Victor Martinez didn't have the best spring. Peralta picked up were he left off in 2008, tearing the cover off the ball and just putting a hitting clinic on. He led the team in spring RBIs and number of times his wife got stung by a scorpion. Peralta gets no pub unless he plays third base, which was a bit of an adventure for him this spring.
  • Ben Francisco came on real strong at the end offensively and he's improved enough defensively to be the guy Eric Wedge sticks in center when he gives Grady a day off. That could change if Trevor Crowe sticks around though.
  • I may be wrong about Kelly Shoppach struggling this year. He led the team in home runs this spring, the power is still there.
  • Matt LaPorta had a good start and a good end to big league camp, and he's been doing well in minor league camp.
  • Andy Marte looked awful for awhile. He still looked out of shape and he didn't really play good defense at first. He's hit a few home runs to finish the spring up, but I still can't see him being successful with Columbus this year. His confidence is probably shot.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera had a silent spring, but he also had a productive one at the plate. I'm quietly expecting him to do very good this season.
  • Crowe is a base stealing machine, Francisco was too but he got caught several times. I think we'll see him run a little more.
  • Mark DeRosa is ready to go. He's done nothing but hit in camp and with Team USA. He tattooed former Cub and Team USA teammate Ted Lilly last week when he hit three rockets off him, two for home runs, and one for a double that should have been a home run in any other park that doesn't have a giant wall in center field.
  • The pitching in Arizona sucks. Scott Lewis and Cliff Lee both said the grip was tough.
  • I'm not worried about Cliff Lee's struggles. He only walked two hitters this spring, which tells me he has good command and that he was trying to work on just that. If he's sharp like that, I won't worry unless he's giving up seven runs in three innings like he did this spring.
  • Speaking of control, Fausto Carmona has a better grasp on his. I'd expect a big year out of him.
  • Carl Pavano is definitely a man on a mission, whether he accomplishes that mission is another story. I'll be his biggest fan when he helps open the new Yankee Stadium.
  • Masa Kobayashi is on his last legs. A lot of the scribes that watched spring training said he looked tired and fatigued. If he doesn't come out firing, he'll be gone soon.
  • Joe Smith battled a viral infection of some sorts, but he recovered and was a part of the relief pitchers that had great springs.
  • In that group were Rafael Perez and Jensen Lewis. More so with Lewis who was on target from start to finish. He had probably one bad outing but other than that he was better than he was last spring.
  • Kerry Wood was the king of all relief pitchers this spring. Despite a issue with his back that he says flares up every year, he was lights out. He's been better than advertised really and he says he always leaves spring feeling his slider isn't any good. All he did was throw six innings this spring with no earned runs, six strikeouts, four hits and a walk.
  • It was an entertaining spring for me personally. The stories about Peralta's wife getting stung by a scorpion are just bizarre. Bart Swain from the Indians public relations department had one son ejected from a game and another grab hold of a cactus. His one son was ejected because he was sitting on a folding chair on the field. It was on television and it happened very fast, so it was kind of funny and confusing at the same time. I feel bad for the one who grabbed a cactus though.
  • The Andy Marte jokes never get old. Anyone who comes in overweight or out of shape will have the dubious distinction of "visiting the Marte Buffet" before coming to camp.

I really cannot wait for the season to get underway; this spring can't end soon enough.

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For more of Nino's banter about the Tribe, visit his website, The Tribe Daily.

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