Will Hannahan start at third base?
Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers fans' questions
Before the movie "Major League" hit theaters, introducing Rick "Wild Thing" Vaughn and a fictional team of Indians misfits to the world, the real ballclub based in Cleveland was given permission to go over the story.
Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' vice president of public relations, had script approval and he had a few suggestions for the film after giving thr story a thorough read. One section DiBiasio wanted altered was the "red tag" scene that depicted the final days of Spring Training.
In the scene, players approached their lockers, fearing that a red tag was hanging inside. That would mean a meeting with the manager, who would tell them they were being cut from the roster. This is not how things work and the Indians wanted the scene changed to better reflect reality.
The filmmakers ultimately decided to keep the scene, because the feeling was that it was an efficient way to portray spring roster decisions. Watching a manager break the news to a player in a closed-door meeting isn't exactly made for the big screen. Realistic or not, that's Hollywood.
There are no red tags here at the Indians' complex in Arizona. There is, however, a red cart. With the Minor League locker room located down the hall, players need to move their belongings from one side of the building to the other when they are shipped out of big league camp. The cart comes in handy.
With one week left in the Arizona portion of Spring Training, the Indians still have 43 players left in camp. That means there are 18 players who will be eliminated from the Opening Day picture in the next few days. There might not be any red tags, but no one wants to see that red cart wheeled up to their locker.
Here's this week's Inbox...
Could Jack Hannahan be the Tribe's starting third baseman this year? Also, who do you think will lock down that last rotation spot?
--Zac T., Dellroy, Ohio
I'll work backwards on this one. The last rotation spot is still -- as far as the Indians are saying -- up for grabs between Josh Tomlin, David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez. In reality, Cleveland probably knows who is going to win that job. The club just doesn't want to make it public yet.
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The Tribe will likely unveil the makeup and order of the starting rotation before the end of this week. I'm expecting Tomlin to be named one of the starters. The right-hander has been consistent throughout the spring, whereas Huff and Gomez have turned in mixed results.
As for third base, yes, Hannahan has a real chance of serving as the Indians' Opening Day third baseman. The question will be how long he remains in that role. There is a chance that Jason Donald will return from his left hand injury in the near future, so there is also a chance Hannahan, or someone else, would be a short-term solution.
That said, Cleveland never came out and officially tabbed Donald as the everyday third baseman. So, when he is healthy, it's not guaranteed that he automatically will get that job. The early performance of Hannahan, if he is the one to get the job, might influence the plan upon Donald's return.
Beyond Hannahan, the main competitors at third include Luis Valbuena and Jayson Nix. All three players have the ability to man multiple infield positions, putting them in the mix as utility infielders off the bench as well. Each player also has a contract situation that will play a role in Cleveland's upcoming decision.
Hannahan is in camp on a Minor League deal, so he'd have to be added to the 40-man roster. Valbuena has options left, so he could be sent to Triple-A without consequence. Nix is out of options, so he'd have to clear waivers in order to be sent to the Minors. Nix also has the right to refuse an outright Minor League assignment.
With Joe Smith not likely to be ready for Opening Day, and Jensen Lewis now with Triple-A Columbus, who are the favorites to claim the three available jobs in the bullpen?
--T.J. G., Toledo, Ohio
It's amazing how much things can change in a hurry. Smith and Lewis seemed shoo-ins or the bullpen when camp opened, leaving just one spot up for grabs in the 'pen. Now, with Smith sidelined with a strained abdominal muscle, putting him in doubt for the opener, and Lewis out of the picture, it's a wide-open race.
The relief options left in camp include Justin Germano, Frank Herrmann, Vinnie Pestano, Doug Mathis and Jess Todd. Three pitchers from that group are likely headed north with the club. It sounds like the Indians would prefer to have two arms capable of handling multi-inning situations.
That aspect seemingly gives guys like Germano (not on the 40-man roster) and Herrmann (on the roster) a leg up on the rest of the field. Mathis (not on the roster) fits that description as well, but I would wager that the Tribe would lean against making two transactions to add both Germano and Mathis.
All of this is purely speculation, but I think Germano has a strong chance of making the cut. Manager Manny Acta has raved about him of late. Pestano has also had a strong camp and looks like a shoo-in for making the club. I think it might come down to Herrmann or Mathis for the last spot.
Right now, I'd give Herrmann the edge. One thing to consider, however, is the desire to maintain depth. Herrmann has options left, so he could be sent to the Minors without being exposed to waivers. That could make Cleveland consider keeping Mathis, who has an out clause in his contract, in order to maintain an extra layer of depth.
Hi Jordan. Once Grady Sizemore is back in the everyday lineup, will we be seeing him back in the leadoff spot for the Indians?
--Chad A., North Canton, Ohio
It's still far too early to say. Acta has consistently avoided answering this question, preferring not to have other players worrying about where they'll be hitting after Sizemore returns. All I can say right now is, barring injury, Michael Brantley will be in center field and in the leadoff spot come Opening Day.
Right now, all Cleveland is concerned about is getting Sizemore back. Whether he'll be back some time in April, or if his rehab from left knee surgery might drag into May, remains to be seen. Besides, if Brantley is performing well, I wouldn't be surprised if the Tribe opts to stick with him atop the order.
Jordan, it's a bit hard to keep up with all the Spring Training developments from the other side of the world. I was just wondering how Chris Perez is settling in so far this spring. Obviously, the Indians need this guy to repeat his dominance from late 2010 if they're to have any chance of moving forward this year. Cheers.
--David S., Margaret River, Western Australia
Perez has looked fine this spring, posting a 1.23 ERA through seven Cactus League appearances to this point. He's been focusing on his fastball and slider command, concentrating on improving the breaking ball against lefties. Perez was fine-tuning a changeup early in camp, but the pitch remains a work in progress.
What has happened to the former first rounder picked in front of Atlanta's Jason Heyward during the 2007 Draft? That's right ... Beau Mills. He isn't even listed in the Top 10 of many Indians prospect lists.
--Mike D., Marion, Ohio
Mills is over in Minor League camp and this could be a big year for him in terms of putting himself back on Cleveland's radar. Over the past three seasons, Mills has seen his batting average, slugging percentage and on-base-plus-slugging decrease each year. Mills, 24, has been with Double-A Akron for the past two years and he could spend time there again this season. With Matt LaPorta (selected seventh overall in that '07 Draft) entrenched as the Tribe's first baseman, Mills appears to be organizational depth at this point. A strong bounceback season can always change things, though.
Do you think purchasing so many free agents will delay the progress of the young players the Indians are counting on for 2012?
--Ken C., Barberton, Ohio
You mean all the free-agents that were signed to one-year contracts? The veteran players brought into the fold with big-league deals this past offseason (Austin Kearns, Orlando Cabrera, Chad Durbin) were added on one-year deals. Even the guys in camp on Minor League deals only have one-year pacts. That helps buy development time for younger players in the Minors and leaves the possibility open for late-season callups this summer or everyday roles for the prospects next season. So, no, I don't think the recent additions are delaying any progress at this point.
Indians prospect Jared Goedert was sent down to Triple-A Columbus. Were there hitting or fielding concerns? Is he likely to be called up to the Tribe in 2011?
--Bob L., New Lenox, Ill.
Goedert was sidelined early in camp with an oblique strain. That unfortunately robbed him of a chance to impress the Indians, who were looking forward to taking a close look at him this spring. If Goedert recovers well from the injury and has a strong season in the Minors, he could definitely be on the Tribe's radar for this season.