05/04/10 12:50 AM ET
Inbox: What is going on with Sizemore?
By Anthony Castrovince / MLB.com
You've got questions, the Indians Inbox has words grouped together as sentences that vaguely resemble answers. Keep those questions coming in at firstname.lastname@example.org throughout the length of the 2010 season, and I'll get to them as often as I can.
I was just wondering what you think is going on with Grady Sizemore. Our "star player" is batting .207, and it's starting to worry me. Do you think this is just a slow start, or is he turning into Travis Hafner Jr.?
-- Anthony B., Ashland, Ohio
We all know that Sizemore has a long swing. That swing helped him hit 107 home runs from 2005-08, but it also helped his batting average drop from a career-best .290 in '06 to .268 in '08 and .248 last year.
Sizemore used to generate a lot of topspin when he made contact, but he was strong enough and his hands were fast enough that he could get away with it and still drive the ball. Trouble is, such a swing can put a great deal of stress on the elbow upon contact, and all that stress caught up to Sizemore last year, prompting arthroscopic surgery.
What you're seeing this year could be a byproduct of Sizemore attempting to shorten his swing and get more backspin on the ball. It's proving to be a difficult adjustment for Sizemore to make, but it would certainly help his career, long-term. His old approach causes more strikeouts and more stress on the elbow, and his power numbers would have diminished with age. A shortened swing could allow him to raise that batting average over time and become a more consistent hitter.
But like I said, it's been an uphill battle for Sizemore in the early going. He's shown some encouraging signs of late, such as when he put backspin on a ball to left-center field for a base hit Saturday night, yet his overall numbers leave quite a bit to be desired.
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With Justin Masterson struggling as a starter, is there a chance they will put him in the bullpen any time soon?
-- Todd W., Albion, N.Y.
The Indians are going to be patient with Masterson. They have little reason not to be. It might be difficult to stretch Aaron Laffey back out as a starter without sending him down to the Minors first. And no one in the current Columbus rotation has dominated Triple-A completion thus far. The Indians can't be happy that Hector Rondon, considered one of the best arms in the system, is now 0-3 with a 9.13 ERA after his latest rough outing. Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 3.49) has been decent overall, but he got lit up for six runs in his last start. Jeanmar Gomez (2-2, 5.00) has been underwhelming.
Masterson has shown flashes of effectiveness, particularly in the third through seventh innings Saturday night, but he has done little to convince anybody he has a future in the rotation. His numbers against left-handers -- .414 (24-for-58) average against with a 1.148 OPS -- speak for themselves. But in a season geared toward development, the Indians are going to give Masterson the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible.
How is Jeremy Sowers progressing with his rehab?
-- Todd W., Albion, N.Y.
Todd is clearly taking advantage of the two-for-one Inbox question offer I advertised in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.
Sowers, who is no longer on the Indians' 40-man roster, was just activated by Columbus last week. He is pitching out of the Clippers' bullpen and has tossed three scoreless innings thus far. He essentially didn't have a Spring Training camp because of left shoulder inflammation, so he'll work in relief as he builds up arm strength.
What's the scouting report on Minor League outfielder Jose Constanza? He appears to be a switch-hitting speed demon with decent plate discipline [10 more walks than strikeouts last year at Akron]. I also noticed that he is 25 years old and usually that is make-or-break time for a position player. He has to be looking more attractive than guys like Trevor Crowe at this point.
-- John L., San Diego
Some of you already know that Jose "Can't Stand Ya" Constanza is my favorite Indians farmhand. If his playing career doesn't pan out, he always has a future as a potential assistant to the traveling secretary.
Through 21 games at Columbus, Constanza is batting .367 with a .424 on-base percentage and .550 slugging percentage. He's 5-for-5 in stolen-base attempts, and he's continuing to show that good eye at the plate that you alluded to, John.
Constanza hasn't been viewed as a potential everyday guy in the big leagues, but he is certainly looking like an attractive depth option. He has the versatility to be a fourth outfielder, and the speed element he would bring to the table is intriguing. The Indians felt good about Crowe's spring camp, but he is not off to the best of starts in Columbus. He's also missed the last few games after turning his ankle.
At the moment, with Austin Kearns on a tear and Matt LaPorta getting regular at-bats, the Indians don't have room in their outfield for a guy like Constanza. We'll see if that changes.
Is there a stamina issue with Jake Westbrook? After being out of the league so long, will he be able to stay sharp in the sixth inning and beyond?
-- Matt T., Salt Lake City, Utah
Westbrook's velocity has remained intact. He was, for example, still hitting 90 or 91 mph on the gun in the sixth inning of his start in Anaheim on Wednesday. But his lack of effectiveness as games progress is cause for concern. He doesn't appear tired, but he is, in his own words, "tired of being part of the problem." As he gets more appearances under his belt after such a long career layoff, I'd have to imagine Westbrook will find ways to stay sharp into the late innings.
What is up with Eric Wedge? Is he coaching anywhere? And Sal Fasano first caught my eye with his amazing mustache, then he caught my eye with his good blocking behind the plate. What is he up to?
-- Tim B., Athens, Ohio
Wedge is taking the 2010 season off and enjoying time with his two young children. Over the winter, he helped out with some clinics at MLB's European Academy in Italy. He plans to return to the big leagues, preferably in a managerial role, next year.
Fasano has begun his Minor League managing career in the Blue Jays' organization. He's guiding Class A Lansing in the Midwest League. Local fans of The 'Stache can catch him in action when the Lugnuts visit Lake County on June 18-20.