Inbox: What's the plan for Barfield?
Beat reporter Anthony Castrovince answers fans' questions
In 1965, the Four Tops scored a No. 1 hit with "I Can't Help Myself." So, a few months later, they changed the chords slightly, rewrote the lyrics and pushed out "It's the Same Old Song" to strike gold again.This uncreative cash-in was not without precedent in rock and roll. Chubby Checker introduced us to "The Twist" in 1960 and reached No. 1, only to come back a year later with "Let's Twist Again," which was also a Top 10 hit. (I could be wrong, but I believe Chubby's third single, "For the Love of God, Keep Twisting, I've Got to Pay the Rent!" did not sell quite as well.) The point here is that slapping a new name on the same old ditty is a move brilliant in its simplicity. And with that lesson in mind, I present to you the Indians Inbox. You will find this new feature is remarkably, disturbingly similar to the old Tribe Mailbag, which has been absent from indians.com the last month and a half. It's the same give-and-take forum on all things Tribe with the same hack writer. But the name is new, and that's half the battle. So let's twist again, refresh the Inbox and see what's on your mind this week, shall we? I have heard a lot about Josh Barfield being kept on the 25-man roster in case Asdrubal Cabrera turns in another spotty performance. Is there any word from the team on how Barfield's situation will be handled?
-- Chris D., Normal, Ill. As of this writing, Barfield appears to have the inside track on a bench job, but he'll have to show the Indians he can play more than one position. As previously reported, they plan to try him in the outfield, and general manager Mark Shapiro said Barfield will also get a look at shortstop and third base. With Luis Valbuena expected to be the starting second baseman at Triple-A Columbus and the Indians not expected to carry a fifth outfielder, it seems there would be little incentive to use one of Barfield's options and send him out. Then again, it's difficult to speculate how he'd adjust to a bench role. In general, it's been a strange offseason, when it comes to Barfield chatter. Around the time of the Winter Meetings, the Indians began praising the strides he made last year. This was puzzling, considering Barfield hit just .251 with five homers, 23 RBIs, a .659 OPS, 15 walks and 58 strikeouts in 73 games at Buffalo last year, missed two months of the season because of finger surgery and was virtually ignored by Eric Wedge when on the big league bench in September. But Barfield is still young enough (he just turned 26) and not too far removed from a stellar rookie season (in San Diego in 2006) to believe he can still be a productive Major Leaguer. Please tell me that we are not going to have to put up with Jhonny Peralta at shortstop. Please! He barely takes two steps to get to anything! Cabrera is a natural shortstop and Mark DeRosa has played more games at second than anywhere else in his career.
-- John P., Parma, Ohio
Have a question about the Indians?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
-- Tim H., Nuremberg, Germany Bryson had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and will be on the shelf until at least May or June. The Indians insist they did not acquire damaged goods in Bryson, who was one of four players brought in by the CC Sabathia trade. He injured his shoulder about two weeks after the trade was made. I'm a Northeast Ohio native now living in Denver and am very much so looking forward to going to Spring Training this year. It will be my first trip to the Indians' -- or anyone's -- Spring Training. I have no idea what to expect. I will be going to a few games, but, beyond that, what opportunities are there to do things like view practices, drills and get closer to the players? My kids would love to be photographed with a few of the guys, and I don't want to get their hopes up only to find out it's not in the cards.
-- Patrick R., Denver As far as autographs and photos are concerned, I can't make any promises, Patrick. But Spring Training is an excellent time to get that kind of access with the players. It's generally more of a laid-back atmosphere than the regular season, and the players often have more free time to honor such requests. As for practices and drills, yes, there will be plenty of opportunity to watch both the Major and Minor Leaguers in action. I have yet to see the setup in Goodyear, but I know for a fact it won't be nearly as fan-friendly as Chain of Lakes Park in Winter Haven. The facilities there may have been out of date, but it was a dream setup for a fan looking to get up close and personal with the Tribe. My friend and I just had an argument that we would like you to decide. Assuming Rafael Perez will take the eighth inning and Kerry Wood will take the ninth, who deserves the seventh inning more: Rafael Betancourt or Jensen Lewis? I understand Betancourt had a great year in '07, but after his '08 I cannot imagine giving him the seventh, especially considering the way Jensen pitched down the stretch. What do you think?
-- Mark S., Columbus, Ohio That's a difficult question to answer, because even the Indians don't know how their setup situation will unfold. It's a safe bet to say you'll see Perez, Betancourt, Lewis and Joe Smith quite a bit in the seventh and eighth innings in the early going, and Wedge will let the roles begin to dictate themselves as the season evolves. As for my personal opinion between the two, I think Betancourt suffered last year because of the stress put on him throughout 2007. I see him having a bounceback year, though he'll never again touch the dominance of '07. Lewis' velocity troubles at the outset of '08 concern me, though he insists he'll be better prepared this time around. In the end, I think Lewis has earned a high-profile opportunity after what he did down the stretch last year. And finally ... So, some friends and I were talking about possible nicknames for Cabrera. I've never been a big fan of the whole "A-Cab" thing. This is what we came up with: Toaster Strubal. He's part of a balanced breakfast and part of a 4-6-3 double play. What do you think?
-- Jason C., Wadsworth, Ohio Uh, keep working on that, Jason. And don't give up hope. The Indians Inbox will run once a week during Spring Training, though not on a set day. So keep the questions coming and keep your eyes on indians.com for the next edition.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.