Inbox: Can Santana play some third base?
Reporter Anthony Castrovince answers Indians fans for final time
It's my final edition of the Inbox, and everything must go! No reasonable questions will be refused, and, as usual, many unreasonable questions will be accepted.At the risk of upsetting my editors, we're going to empty out the Inbox by answering double the usual queries. Then we're going to turn it over permanently to your new Tribe scribe, Jordan Bastian, who can be reached at IndiansInbox@gmail.com. Thanks for five years worth of submissions, Tribe fans. Without you, this Inbox column would be all answers and no questions ... and, therefore, a tad confusing. I know it seems overly simplistic, but why not give Carlos Santana playing time in the field at third base (a position he is familiar with) instead of first base? They are basically the same position, except for three things. First, you need an arm to play third. Santana has that for sure. Secondly, first base is generally a place to hide a defensive liability, like lack of speed or agility, which is obviously not the case with Santana. Lastly, Santana is 5-foot-11, 190 lbs. He is a bit undersized to play first base. Besides, it is not going to be any harder physically on Santana playing third, and frankly might be easier considering his familiarity with the position.
-- Mike C. On the topic of familiarity, it's worth noting that Santana hasn't played third with any regularity since 2006. It is certainly a more challenging defensive position than first and a particularly difficult position to play merely on occasion, as opposed to every day. Had Santana not adapted so well to the challenges of handling a pitching staff and controlling the running game behind the plate, I think a move to third or the outfield would have been possible, Mike. Carlos certainly has a bat that can play anywhere. But given that he's handled his catching duties so well, I think mixing Santana in a little bit at first to take the wear and tear off his legs is a better plan than throwing him into the fire at the hot corner once a week. The third-base situation is certainly problematic but shouldn't be cause to tinker heavily with your top prospect. Given his impressive performance in the Triple-A playoffs and the Arizona Fall League, do you think there's any chance the Tribe will give Jason Kipnis a shot at the second-base job? And if I may be greedy and ask a second question, does Josh Rodriguez have a future with this organization? If so, where?
-- Bob R., Canal Fulton, Ohio Kipnis has the talent to potentially ascend to the Major League level by season's end. But knowing the Indians' protocol for allowing their prospects to get the proper grooming time at each level, Kipnis is going to have to pay some dues at Triple-A first. Remember, 2010 was just Kipnis' first full professional season and his first season as a second baseman. He began the year at Class A Kinston and played in just 79 games at Double-A Akron. He joined Columbus as an emergency roster replacement for the playoffs. The Indians love the way Kipnis handled the transition from the outfield to second base. He also played a few games at third in the Arizona Fall League. At the plate, he proved to be a consistent and clutch hitter with some pop. If he can successfully handle a more sustained exposure to the Triple-A level, then you'll be seeing him sooner than later, in some capacity. Regarding Rodriguez, he is now Rule 5 eligible after the Indians chose not to place him on the 40-man roster earlier this month. His versatility, and the fact that he's coming off his strongest professional season, could attract the attention of a Major League club in next week's draft. If he doesn't, then the Indians will once again have him for middle-infield depth in Columbus. Thanks for the half-decade of Indians coverage. I've really enjoyed it. I was just writing in to ask what your best moment of your Indians run has been? From signing Travis Hafner to a dud contract to watching Paul Byrd throw a near six-inning no-hitter postponed by snow with two strikes and the bases loaded to watching back-to-back Cy Youngs be traded away to your assistance in creating Chris Perez's Twitter alter ego to finally and conclusively watching Andy Marte come out of the 'pen, it's been a pleasure watching with you and reading your insight.
-- Scotty M., Chicago
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-- Chris K., Cedar City, Utah Talbot is at one year, 16 days of Major League service, so the Indians have contractual control of him for at least the next five seasons, and he won't be arbitration-eligible until the end of the 2012 season, at the earliest. While I don't see him as a front-end-of-the-rotation arm, I think Talbot's deep arsenal gives him the opportunity to be an innings-eater at this level for quite a while. I don't think he's the guy who posted a 3-0 record and 0.84 ERA over the course of a three-start stretch in April, nor do I think he's the guy who went 0-2 with a 7.78 ERA in a four-start stretch in August. The truth is somewhere in the middle, and Talbot persevered through back problems and the opposition's adjustments to have a respectable end to his season in September. He'll likely be the No. 3 or 4 starter in the 2011 rotation. How many days of MLB service does Lou Marson have? In other words, does Marson remain under his team's control for another five seasons or another six seasons?
-- Doug K., Portland, Ore. Marson has one year and 36 days of service. So the Indians' contractual control of Marson is identical to that of Talbot. I was sorry to read about your demotion, as I imagine being the beat reporter for the Cleveland Indians has to be the dream of anyone in the field of journalism. That said, I feel like you might have some unfinished business to attend to before stepping out. Considering we as Indians fans love to throw around nicknames, it seems appropriate that something should be offered up for your successor. In my limited thought, I was able to come up with "Hair" Jordan on the off-chance Bastian sports some exceptional mullet or otherwise awesome hair-do, but it could be that there's some room for improvement here.
-- Patch R., Columbus, Ohio Bastian is close-cropped, so "Hair" won't work, I'm afraid. I think great nicknames must be developed over time, and I am confident the loyal readers of the Inbox will come up with one for Jordan at some point. And if you think that's me passing the buck because I can't seem to come up with anything on my own, you're darn right. Hey, speaking of hair ... Where do you see Trevor Crowe next year? I hope he is in the Opening Day lineup and will be an everyday player.
-- Patricia S., Parma, Ohio Hopefully we'll see him in a barber's chair, because those locks were out of control in 2010. If not, I think you can plan to see Crowe in a fourth outfield spot. Manager Manny Acta likes him as a guy who can play all three positions in the outfield and add a little speed off the bench. The Indians gave Crowe every opportunity to prove he can play at this level on an everyday basis, and it didn't pan out. But Crowe did enough to show he can help out in a more limited role. When Jacobs Field was renamed Progressive Field, we were told not to panic, because the upside was that we would start spending the extra cash on free agents. We have dumped plenty of salary as it is. Do we have a plan to spend that extra cash on players? I want Jacobs Field back!
-- Steve K., Bexley, Ohio The naming-rights deal runs for another 13 years, bringing the Indians an average of $3.6 million per year. What they do with that money is up to ownership. Obviously, the last two years, the focus has been on pouring more money into the Draft than into free-agent acquisitions. And just as obviously, the Indians' total revenues, naming rights or no naming rights, aren't aided by sagging attendance at the facility. In one word (or a sentence if need be), can you describe your greatest joy of being the Cleveland Indians' beat writer?
-- Bubba R., Lyndhurst, Ohio Continental OnePass miles. No, just kidding. I meant Marriott points. Actually, the joy for me came from being, in some very small pocket of the population, a source of record for all things going on with this club. And that allowed me to strike up e-mail/blog/Twitter correspondence with people literally all over the globe. Though I'm leaving the beat, I look forward to maintaining those relationships with Indians fans going forward. What are the chances of the Indians offering Shin-Soo Choo a multiyear contract? On a side note, I live in Georgia now.
-- Duane H., Medina, Ohio Thank you for submitting the change of address form, Duane. I'll be sure to update my records. Regarding Choo, no update on his contract situation just yet, though I'm sure the two sides will start discussing particulars soon. As I've written before, the Indians probably have no chance of locking Choo up into his free-agent years, which begin in 2014. But a three-year contract -- say, in the $20 million to $22 million range -- would seem reasonable to give the Indians cost certainty and Choo contractual security through the three arbitration years. How would you feel about the Indians adopting tuxedos? Maybe just for a short-toss warm up?
-- Kirby N., Richmond, Ohio Ah, our final reference from "The Room." I'm getting a bit misty-eyed. I'm on board with the tuxedo idea, but only if the players shave first so that they can "look a baby face." I noticed that the Twins non-tendered Cleveland native and Kent State product Matt Guerrier. Any chance the Indians try to land him?
-- Steve Z., Erie, Pa. Actually, Guerrier was not non-tendered. He reached free-agent status the old-fashioned way, and, as a Type A free agent, he dodged a bullet when the Twins didn't offer him arbitration, meaning it won't cost teams a first-round Draft pick to sign him, thus aiding his market value. While never 100 percent satisfied with the makeup of their bullpen, I don't think the Indians have much interest in signing a guy who made around $3 million last year and could command more in the open market. Guerrier himself might be more inclined to sign with a team identified as a contender, anyway. With the Tribe not expected to make any moves this offseason, what should our Opening Day bullpen look like? And when should we plan on seeing Vinnie Pestano in there?
-- Buck, Camp Lejeune, N.C. As I wrote on the site recently, the Indians might end up signing a veteran reliever or two to a Minor League deal with a spring invite. But the general expectation is for Joe Smith, Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp to serve as the primary setup options for closer Chris Perez. Aaron Laffey could be a lefty long man (remember that the Tribe might be fielding an all-right-handed rotation). Jensen Lewis is arbitration-eligible, so his status is currently uncertain, and Frank Herrmann and Justin Germano will have to compete to maintain their spots. Pestano certainly has an opportunity to win a job in the Opening Day bullpen. He was simply dominant down the stretch in Columbus, and he got a chance to step his toes into the big league waters in September. Zach Putnam and Josh Judy will also be competing for a spot in Spring Training. And don't forget lefty Nick Hagadone and right-hander Bryce Stowell, too. During Interleague Play the last couple years, I've noticed Hafner hasn't played any first base. Will Pronk's shoulder allow him to play in the field this year or will he never be able to play there again?
-- Russ I., Raleigh, N.C. Your observation skills are keen, Russ, as Hafner hasn't played in the field since 2007 and isn't expected to play there ever again. Now that you are leaving the beat, I want to know how to pronounce your last name. Is it like, CastroVINCE, or Italian-like, such as CastroVINCEY?
-- Jim B., Brooklyn Heights, Ohio Quick, somebody throw on that old Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes tune. "If you don't know me by now, you will never, never, never know me ..." Looking at the Tribe's batting order for next year, it seems to me there is a surplus of left-handed hitters at the top of the order (Grady Sizemore, Michael Brantley, Choo, Hafner), and a string of right-handers likely to be at the bottom of the order (Matt LaPorta, Jayson Nix, Jason Donald). How do you see this playing itself out? Would Acta drop Brantley or Sizemore for the sake of alternating right and left-handers?
-- Travis P., Wayne, Pa. I'd be lying if I told you I know what Acta's going to do with the lineup. In fact, Acta probably doesn't know with 100 percent certainty, either, because so much is tied into the health of Sizemore and Santana. But I will say that there might be some benefit to having Brantley in a lower-profile spot as he continues to earn his stripes at this level. While reading a recent Inbox, I came upon the question asking which jersey a certain fan should purchase. I'm facing a similar problem, and I wanted your feedback on a purposed solution. How about a Rick Vaughn jersey? Ricky will never leave the team, and I'm sure it will be good for a few laughs and high-fives at the stadium. What do you think?
-- Matt F., Jamestown, N.Y. I think the only thing worse than wearing another man's name on your back is wearing a fictitious man's name on your back. But I recognize that I'm squarely in the minority with those beliefs. If I see you at Progressive Field wearing Vaughn's jersey, I will support you, Matt. I won't give you a high-five, because I've sworn those off. But maybe a fist bump. Why did manager Lou Brown have injury plagued catcher Jake Taylor batting No. 2 behind Willie Mays Hayes in the lineup vs. the Yankees in the clinching game? I know you get bombarded with questions about things from the 90's, but this one never ceases to stump me. It's almost like it was scripted.
-- John L., San Diego Hey, Taylor's a grinder. And as we've learned over the years, that term is the best way to explain the unexplainable. We have so many pitchers in our organization from trades over the last few years. It seems like all trades the Indians are involved with, we receive a pitcher. I'm starting to think that by the time these pitchers are ready for the Majors, there won't be a roster spot available and we'll have no hitters. What are your thoughts?
-- Jordan S., Findlay, Ohio I think this 25-pitcher team of which you speak will be incredibly interesting to watch, on some weird level. With the emergence of a talented group of young outfielders, why wouldn't the Indians consider Sizemore as their full-time first baseman? He is the penultimate candidate within the organization! This would ease the burden on his knee, and we all know about his weak throwing arm.
-- Ed D., Ellicott City, Md. I'm going to allow the publication of this ridiculous suggestion, Ed, but only because, accurate or not, you worked the word "penultimate" into it. Sizemore's weak arm is well-documented. But when he's healthy, he's a dynamic presence in the outfield. Would he be better-suited in left field than center? Yes, probably. But first base? Not going to happen. And now, the penultimate question ... Is Hector Rondon still projected to be a top-shelf Major League pitcher?
-- Luke C., Mentor, Ohio Rondon missed most of 2010 and is going to miss virtually all of '11 thanks to elbow surgery. It would be foolish to forecast him as a bona fide Major League talent after all that missed development time. For now, the Indians just want to get Rondon back to full health, and then hopefully he'll pitch himself back on the radar in 2012. And finally ... Hi doggy! When I woke up in the morning and the alarm gave out a warning, I decided to ask a question that included every mailbag theme. But that was harder than getting Bernie to walk to the beat of "Afternoon Delight" while eating a cup of soup from the Soup Nazi. Thanks for five awesome years, AC.
-- Ryan M., Lakewood, Ohio Yep, I think my work here is done.