02/29/12 9:55 PM EST
Tomlin working to improve his pitch sequences
By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com
"Nine pitches?" Indians manager Manny Acta marveled. "That's him. He had command, location, everything and the rest of the world was just trying to get outs. That's him. He's in midseason form already."
The thing about Tomlin, though, is that he tends to be strong right out of the gates. When his pitch count begins to climb, and hitters start getting a second or third look at his stuff, that is when he can run into the most trouble. This spring, Tomlin is dedicating his time to attacking that problem.
Tomlin believes the solution involves his pitch sequencing overall, but specifically against hitters that he knows are better skilled at thumping his precision-based pitches. That might mean saving one pitch against a particular hitter until later in a game, or heading into a contest with a revised approach for certain spots.
For Tomlin, it is all about guesswork on the part of the batter.
"It's about pitch sequences for me," Tomlin said. "Pitch sequences and making a hitter guess and not letting them sit on one certain pitch throughout an at-bat."
Tomlin enjoyed a solid season in his first full tour with Cleveland in 2011, going 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA in 26 outings before a right elbow injury shelved him down the stretch. Throughout his 165 1/3 innings, the Indians discovered that hitters had success at an increasing rate the longer he stayed on the hill.
Consider that Tomlin posted a .205 opponents' batting average with a .591 on base plus slugging percentage the first time he faced a hitter. The second time through, hitters hit .256 with a .733 OPS against the righty. If Tomlin lasted three times through a lineup, hitters managed a .292 average with an .823 OPS.
Likewise, Tomlin's success rate diminished as his pitch count rose. From pitch Nos. 1-25 in his outings, he allowed a .157 average (.428 OPS). From pitch Nos. 26-50, those marks climbed to .254 (.756). Hitters started licking their chops in the 51-75 and 76-100 pitch ranges, hitting .285 (.790) and .306 (.911) in those respective scenarios.
Go figure: Indians hitters went 0-for-3 against Tomlin in his nine-pitch outing during Wednesday's intrasquad game.
"It's trying to maximize the most adjustments I can possibly make in the later innings," Tomlin said. "Right now, it's kind of early. I'm just working on staying around the strike zone right now, and maybe trying to figure out different pitches in early counts to try to get guys to chase and try to get guys to get quick outs."
Indians prepare for update on injured Sizemore
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There is news on the horizon in regards to injured center fielder Grady Sizemore. Indians manager Manny Acta was unwilling to say whether the coming announcement was of the good or bad variety.
"We'll have an update for you guys tomorrow," Acta said on Wednesday.
It was revealed on Friday that Sizemore suffered a lower back injury roughly three weeks ago while fielding ground balls during outfield drills at Cleveland's complex. It is believed that the sidelined center fielder left the facility to see a specialist.
Sizemore, 29, missed most of last season due to a sports hernia procedure and injuries to both knees. He was working through the latter stages of a right knee rehab process at the time of his latest setback. The Indians have already ruled Sizemore out for Opening Day, and his timeline to baseball activities remains unknown.
Last year, Sizemore hit .224 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs in only 71 games for Cleveland. Over the past three years, a variety of health woes have limited him to an average of 70 games per season. Prior to that stretch, Sizemore was the picture of consistency at the plate and durability on the field, playing at least 157 games in four straight seasons.
With Sizemore out of the mix for Opening Day, the Indians are holding a competition this spring to fill the lone vacancy in the outfield. Shin-Soo Choo will man right field and it seems likely that Michael Brantley will shift from left field to center, which he also did at the start of last year while Sizemore rehabbed a left knee problem.
Sipp hopes to slow opponents' running game
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Indians left-hander Tony Sipp is spending this spring trying to understand why baserunners had so much success against him last season. He gave up stolen bases at a high rate and there was a clear pattern within that problem.
"All the runners went on my slider," Sipp said. "So we're trying to figure out what to do, or if I was tipping my pitches or something."
Sipp might consider brainstorming with Cleveland starter Josh Tomlin, who sits just a few lockers over. Last season, Tomlin became the first pitcher since at least the start of divisional play in 1969 to qualify for the ERA title while having no runners even attempt a stolen base against him.
That got brought up in Sipp's meeting with manager Manny Acta and general manager Chris Antonetti.
"Yeah," Sipp said. "They told me to talk to Tomlin."
Sipp appeared in 69 games for the Tribe last year and allowed 13 stolen bases in 15 attempts. That represented the fourth most steals allowed among American League relievers. What is most glaring about the development is that Sipp is left-handed, which typically helps in naturally slowing down the running game.
Tomlin said the key for him was varying his looks to first base. The right-hander would sometimes hold the baseball longer than other times or throw in a step-off move on occasion. Tomlin also tried to mix up how many times he would look over to first base -- not looking at all in certain situations.
"You just don't want them to have a pattern of what you're trying to do," Tomlin said. "It's just making them aware that you're aware that they're there. Basically, that's all I did."
Tomlin was also quick to praise his catchers.
"My times to home were pretty quick last year," Tomlin said. "And when you have guys like Carlos Santana and Lou Marson back there -- guys that can throw the ball pretty good -- it just makes for a hard recipe for stolen bases."
Only one run was scored in Wednesday's four-inning intrasquad game at the Indians' spring complex. It came courtesy of an RBI single from Jose Lopez, who is in camp as a non-roster invitee and is vying for a spot on the Tribe's bench as a utility man.
In the first inning of Wednesday's game, Carlos Santana ripped a pitch down the left-field line but stopped running because he thought it was foul. When alerted by his yelling teammates that it was actually fair, he still managed to leg out a double.
Indians outfielder Trevor Crowe, who saw his jersey number climb from No. 4 to No. 80 after being taken off the 40-man roster over the offseason, made sure he was noticed in Wedesday's intrasquad game. Crowe (a non-roster invitee) drew a walk and stole second base.
The Indians' second intrasquad game will be held at noon MST on Thursday at Goodyear Ballpark, which is located roughly a half-mile north of the team's player development complex. The game is free for the pubic to attend. Pitchers scheduled to appear include Derek Lowe, Kevin Slowey, Jeanmar Gomez, Dan Wheeler, Scott Barnes, Zach McAllister, Chris Ray, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar and Hector Ambriz.
Al Rosen, who played for the Indians from 1947-56, celebrated his 22nd birthday on Wednesday. Rosen -- actually 88 years old -- is one of only 11 Major League players who were born on Feb. 29 in a leap year in baseball history.
Quote to note: "I rode a bike and did some stretching drills -- a lot of really athletic stuff going on in there. Tomorrow I might even roll over." -- Indians closer Chris Perez, on his left oblique injury rehab