Tribe pitchers aiming for more strikes
Early-season walks are concern for club
CLEVELAND -- The numbers are glaring enough on their own. And they're made all the more glaring when you consider that "pound the strike zone" was the mantra impressed upon Tribe pitchers throughout spring camp.On the Indians' season-opening, six-game road trip, their pitchers walked 40 batters in 52 2/3 innings of work. The mantra didn't stick. At least, not initially. "They know that can't happen," pitching coach Tim Belcher said. "That doesn't mean I won't keep telling 'em. But they know they've got to throw it over the plate, and they will." Fausto Carmona, who started Monday against the Rangers, walked six White Sox batters in six innings last week, Jake Westbrook has walked seven batters in 9 2/3 innings and Mitch Talbot walked five Tigers hitters in five innings Saturday. The main offender in the bullpen has been closer Chris Perez, who has walked four in three innings. "[The problem] is different with every guy," Belcher said. "But generally, it's guys not trusting their stuff in the zone. We've got to get them in the mind-set that hitting is hard. Don't give the hitters too much credit and let them get themselves out."
Sizemore out of lineup for home openerCLEVELAND -- Though Grady Sizemore missed two months of the 2009 season, his name is suspicious in its absence from the Indians' lineup. Sizemore, after all, was once the Indians' Iron Man, until elbow and abdominal problems limited him last year. A week into the 2010 season, Sizemore has already been out of the lineup twice, including the most high-profile home game on the Tribe's schedule. Sizemore was a late scratch with mid-back tightness Sunday in Detroit, and he remained out of manager Manny Acta's lineup for Monday's home opener against the Rangers. Acta, though, attempted to calm any concerns that Sizemore's injury is a serious one. "He's feeling much better than [Sunday]," Acta said before Monday's game. "This [day off], with [Tuesday's] off day will help him out." Sizemore felt the back issue when swinging in the batting cages before Sunday's game and had to be replaced in center field by Michael Brantley, who also took his spot in center and the second spot of the lineup Monday. "We don't feel like taking a chance [with Sizemore] this early," Acta said. The 27-year-old Sizemore's health following September surgeries on his elbow and abdominal was one of the highlights of the Indians' Spring Training camp. The Indians are hopeful a healthy Sizemore can get back to his 30-homer, 30-stolen base form of 2008 after an '09 season in which he batted .248 with a .788 OPS.
Wild pitches trend continues with Marson
CLEVELAND -- Six wild pitches were thrown in the Indians' first six games, and Lou Marson was behind the plate for all of them.That can't be a complete coincidence, as closer Chris Perez acknowledged following a blown save in which he threw a costly wild pitch in Sunday's loss to the Tigers. "That needs to change, for sure," Perez told reporters of the wild pitches. "Pitchers need that confidence to throw stuff in the dirt." Manager Manny Acta said it's too early to be overly concerned about the trend with Marson, who has one passed ball to his credit in the early going, or any of the other young players on this club. "You know they're young, and you keep preaching and teaching every single day," Acta said. "[Catching instructor] Sandy [Alomar Jr.] has been working hard with [Marson]." As far as throws are concerned, Marson has gunned down two of the four runners who have attempted to steal off him.
Redmond unveils Rally BuckCLEVELAND -- The 12-point buck stood stoically, unaffected by all the human activity surrounding him. Most likely, the buck's poise was largely due to the fact that he's made out of plastic. Nonetheless, the Indians could still learn a thing or two from his calm demeanor. "That," explained backup catcher Mike Redmond said of the fake deer standing next to his locker, "is the Rally Buck." The Rally Buck is actually a life-sized archery target used to train deer hunters. But Redmond is hoping he can inspire the Tribe in close games, and he wouldn't rule out the possibility of the buck making an appearance in the dugout at some point this season. "I might throw a uniform on him," Redmond joked.
Closer Kerry Wood (strained back muscle) threw a 20-pitch bullpen session off a mound at Progressive Field before Monday's game. The Indians have not updated the timetable for Wood's return, but he is expected to miss at least the first month of the season. ... Triple-A Columbus catcher Carlos Santana's season is off to a scorching start, and he's got the first International League Batter of the Week award to show for it. Santana hit .438 with four homers, eight RBIs, six extra-base hits, a 1.313 slugging percentage and 21 total bases in his first four games at the Triple-A level. ... The Indians entered Monday with a 58-51 all-time record in their previous 109 home openers. ... Bob Feller threw out the ceremonial first pitch before Monday's game, commemorating the 70th anniversary of his Opening Day no-hitter against the White Sox on April 16, 1940. Feller leads the franchise with four wins in home openers. ... The Indians were 1-8 against the Rangers in 2009.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.