Tribe Says No To Sizemore, Picks Up Carmona Option

By: T.J. Zuppe

June 27th, 2002 – It was on that day that then Indians general manager Mark Shapiro put his stamp on the organization by trading ace pitcher Bartolo Colon to the desperate Montreal Expos.

Flash forward to October 31st, 2011 – The day the team may have said its final goodbye to the last link to that deal.

Before the Monday deadline set by major league baseball, the Cleveland Indians declined to pick up the 8.5 million dollar option on outfielder Grady Sizemore, electing to buyout the often-injured center fielder for $500,000.

Free Agent Outfielder Grady Sizemore

This makes the 29-year old a free agent, eligible to sign with any club he desires. That could also include the Tribe, who could choose to re-sign Sizemore at a discounted rate with incentives.

Sizemore hit .224 in 2011, playing in only 71 games for the Tribe. He hit 10 home runs, while driving in 32 in 295 at bats. He also struck out 85 times and posted the second-lowest OPS of his career at .706.

After being acquired in the Colon trade from the Expos – along with infielders Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens and pitcher Cliff Lee – Sizemore spent eight seasons with the Indians, hitting .269 in that span.

He is a three-time all-star and two-time gold glove winner in centerfield.

However, the last three years have left him injury plagued, only able to top the 100-game mark once since 2009. The one-time MVP candidate became more of a punchline recently, as he struggled to get on the field consistently.

He is expected to draw moderate interest at a smaller dollar figure per season. His services could peak intrigue from higher payrolled clubs, with more money available to take a gamble on him.

Cleveland is also not ruled out from interest, with a smaller incentive-filled deal making sense to take a flier on, providing a low-risk, high-reward situation.

Meanwhile, the club decided to exercise its seven million dollar option for 2012 on right-handed pitcher Fausto Carmona.

The 27-year old finished 2011 with a record of 7-15, with an earned run average of 5.25. It marked the fourth time in his Indians career his ERA topped five.

However, with recent Tommy John surgery done on right-hander Carlos Carrasco, and question marks surrounding the final two spots in the rotation, the club elected to keep the inning-eating Carmona, who has averaged 172 frames a season since 2007.

The team will keep an eye on other clubs around baseball, with other players being added to the free agent pool following Monday’s deadline.

Recently, designated hitter Jim Thome, pitcher Chad Durbin and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome filed for free agency.

Follow TJ on Twitter @TJZuppe

Indians Tough Decisions About To Be Made

By: T.J. Zuppe

72 hours after the final out is recorded in the 2011 World Series, the Cleveland Indians will be on the clock. In that time frame, the team will have to complete their decisions on pitcher Fausto Carmona and outfielder Grady Sizemore’s options for 2012.

A great deal has been made about the seven-million dollar option on Carmona and roughly nine-million dollar option on Sizemore the Tribe holds in their hands.

But what will be the club’s decision?

Neither one has money due in the astronomical range next season. Both actually are reasonable figures when the two reach ultimate production. But can the team count on that?

Outfielder Grady Sizemore

Sizemore hit .224 last season, with 10 home runs and 32 runs driven in. He also struck out 85 times, while not stealing a single base, an element of his game that made him dynamic in the past.

The one-time talented centerfielder has only played in 100 games or more one time in the past three years. He has not reached beyond 500 at bats since 2008.

Sure, nine-million for the Sizemore of old is a steal, but lately its been Cleveland getting swindled.

As for Carmona, 2011 was not a season to remember. The expected ace pitched more like a back-end rotational arm, putting up an earned run average above five for the fourth time in his career. He also lost a career-high 15 games.

However, with question marks in the rotation, can the team afford to let the 27-year old right-hander go?

With Carmona, the team does have another route they could take. If the club decides to not pick up the 2012 option for him, he does not simply become a free-agent like Sizemore.

Instead, he would still be in control of the Indians as an arbitration eligible player. Yet, keep in mind, the seven-million dollar figure would probably save the Tribe some cash, and would help avoid the dreaded arbitration they so desperately look to avoid.

At the end of the day, it probably makes the most sense for the Indians to say yes to Carmona.

Sizemore, on the other hand, has many glaring negatives surrounding his option. But one notch in the positive category would be his trade value.

To Cleveland, a nine million trial would be hard to swallow. However, for a team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies, that figure is much easier to absorb with the hope he regains some form of his old self.

The team could decide to pick up that option and test the trade waters on a player like Sizemore. They could also see how he starts the season, before attempting to ship him off mid-year.

After all, if the Indians do let him walk away, they gain nothing in return.

We should find out within the next few days the fate of both players in Cleveland. But keep this in the back of your mind; whatever the Tribe decides may not be the final indicator of their long-term plans with the club.

Follow T.J. on twitter @TJZuppe

Roda’s Weekend Thoughts

By: Kenny Roda

Hats off to the Indians for sweeping their 3rd series of the year, in route to an (11-4) start.  Granted their 3 season sweeps have come again teams with a combined (15-29) record, but they all count the same in the end.

Indians Outfielder Grady Sizemore

That’s the last time I question Manny Acta in a while. The Tribe’s skipper is pushing all the right buttons right now. He places Grady Sizemore right back in the lead off spot, against my wishes, and all Sizemore does is go 2 for 4 with a homer and a double!

After a crapola of a season opening start against the White Sox, Fausto Carmona has settled down and thrown 3 quality starts in a row.  That’s what an ace is supposed to do.

We’re getting closer and closer to the NFL draft and nothing I’ve heard, seen or read, has made me change my mind on my draft order for the Browns in the 1st round.  My top 3 for the Browns are still: 1) A.J. Green – WR – Georgia    2) Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU 3) Von Miller – OLB – Texas A & M.

How about the Spurs, Lakers and Magic all losing game #1’s  at home in the NBA playoffs.  While Miami, Boston, Chicago and Dallas struggled to win at home in Game #1.  Could set up for a great playoff season!

The Lake Erie Monsters played their first ever playoff games at The Q this weekend and came away with a disappointing split against Manitoba. The Monsters took game #1 by a 6-4 score, but lost in overtime in game #2 by a final score of 3-2. The Monsters allowed the Moose to tie up game #2 by scoring with :50 left in the 3rd period and then the Moose dominated the OT session to come away with the win.  Game #3 of this best of 7 game series is Tuesday night in Manitoba.  Face off is 8:30pm.

Follow Kenny Roda on Twitter @RoadmanWKNR

Boom, Sizemore Returns In Style

By: T.J. Zuppe

It had been 11 months since outfielder Grady Sizemore suited up in his Indians jersey, and took to centerfield at Progressive Field.

After back-to-back injury plagued seasons in 2009 and 2010, and an off-season knee surgery, he jogged back to his old position in front of the home crowd.

It was a very welcome sight to behold, with the number “24” jersey sparkling in the spring sunlight. Sizemore was back.

Indians Outfielder Grady Sizemore

Leading off for the first time since September 3rd, 2009, he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the first inning. The at bat resulted in a ground out to second base.

Then, he strolled to the dish with one out in the third inning. He took two balls outside the strike zone, then unloaded on a 2-0 fastball, depositing it in the right field seats. He circled the bases in heroic fashion, delighting Tribe fans everywhere.

His 375-foot shot was his first round tripper since August, 27th of 2009.

Sizemore finished up 2-4 in Sunday’s 4-2 Indians’ (11-4) victory over the Baltimore Orioles. In addition to the homer, he also doubled in the fifth inning and struck out in the seventh.

“I definitely had some jitters, especially in the first at bat,” Sizemore said. “But once the game got going, I settled in and I was alright.

“I was hoping for a win today. I didn’t want to come in here and break the streak.”

Indians manager Manny Acta was proud of the way his outfielder played.

“It was very nice to see Grady come back today and make a contribution right off the bat,” Acta said. “He looked good. He was on time. It was only a game, but it was nice to see him show his power right off the bat.

“(Sizemore) was so happy today. You could tell, he was so pumped.”

For the Tribe, it was about much more than the present. It was also about the near future.

At one time, one of the most fun to watch, dynamic players in the league, the 28-year old outfielder had been relegated to a question mark.

When would Sizemore ever return, and when he did, what type of player would he be?

Unfortunately, that final answer will not come for quite some time. But now the clock can begin ticking. Most importantly, he undoubtedly makes the team better in the present.

The left field platoon has been atrocious to begin the season. Outfielders Travis Buck and Austin Kearns have left a great deal to be desired.

With Sizemore’s return to center and Michael Brantley sliding over to left, that conversation becomes a moot point. Above all else, he just wants to fit in with his current squad.

“I just like the way guys are playing right now,” Sizemore said of his teammates. “I think we’re having fun and playing good baseball.

“I just wanted to come in here and fit into that, not change anything, and be part of a winning team.”

His club knows how big of a boost he can be.

“He put on a great show and that’s just going to help us out,” Indians closer Chris Perez said. “Its a tremendous uplift for us to have him up here.”

“We feed off of him,” Acta said. “His energy is very contagious. What can I say, he’s one of the best players in the game when he’s healthy. We’re very happy to have him back.”

Even at 75% of his old production, Sizemore instantly adds a different dynamic to wherever he hits. After all, he is a three-time all-star, two-time gold glove winner, a one-time recipient of the silver slugger award.

It was only three short years ago, he was even discussed in the conversation for Most Valuable Player in the American League.

Yes, those days may be gone, but for a team with a young core like the Indians, he instantly adds some credibility to the starting nine.

Will every ballgame go as well as Sunday’s? Probably not, and it would be unfair to expect that from him.

But with Sizemore providing another reason for optimism, how can that truly be a bad thing? The bottom line – The Indians are a much better baseball team with the talented outfielder as a part it.

Welcome back, Grady. You were certainly missed.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

Inside The Wigwam

By: T.J. Zuppe

Baltimore Orioles (6-5) vs. Cleveland Indians (8-4) – Progressive Field

Friday’s pitching matchup: LHP Zach Britton (2-0 – 0.66) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (2-0 – 1.35 )  7PM

Shaking Up The Rotation

Indians Pitcher Mitch Talbot

Due to the off day on Thursday, Indians manager Manny Acta has made a small tweak to the starting rotation.

Right-hander Fausto Carmona will be bumped up a day, and will pitch in the series finale with Baltimore on Sunday. Righty Mitch Talbot, who was originally slated to start Sunday, will be bumped back until Tuesday, April 19th.

The Tribe will head to Kansas City following the three-game set with the Orioles.

Masterson On The Hill

Right-hander Justin Masterson gets the call on Friday, as the Tribe returns home to Progressive Field. The Indians have dropped two in a row, and are looking to the tall righty to stop the skid.

This is nothing new to Masterson, who took the ball following the team’s first two losses of the year, and sparked an eight-game winning streak behind an outstanding performance.

He’ll be matched up with lefty Zach Britton of the Orioles. The 23-year old hurler has the folks in Baltimore calling him, “the real deal.”

Smith In, Herrmann Out

The club has activated side-winding righty Joe Smith from the 15-day disabled list. Smith had been battling an abdominal strain, and had previously been rehabbing with Class-AA Akron.

Acta is counting on Smith to be the right-handed eighth inning setup man for his squad. He should provide the skipper with far better matchup options in late inning situations.

To make room on the roster, right-handed pitcher Frank Herrmann was optioned back to Class-AAA Columbus.

There had been some speculation regarding who would be sent down, to make room, but with Herrmann still with options, and Vinnie Pestano pitching well, the team opted to make an easy decision.

Herrmann had been struggling thus far in 2011, giving up six hits, five runs (four earned), in 4.1 innings of work. Fellow bullpen hurler Justin Germano had similar numbers (five innings, four hits, four runs), but no remaining options.

Sizemore Inches Closer

Outfielder Grady Sizemore is slowly rehabbing his way to big league shape, with his next stop in Class-AAA Columbus. On Thursday, Sizemore hit his first home run in his rehabilitation, going 1-3 in his first game with the Clippers.

Honoring Jackie Robinson

Friday will mark the eighth annual Jackie Robinson day around Major League Baseball. It was 64 years ago on this date, that Robinson broke down color barriers, and played in his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

As in years past, all players, managers and coaches will wear the number 42 to honor Robinson’s great achievement.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

Inside the Wigwam

By: T.J. Zuppe

Cleveland Indians (7-2) vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (5-4)

Monday: RHP Mitch Talbot (0-0 – 4.15) vs. RHP Tyler Chatwood (NR)

Tuesday: RHP: Fausto Carmona (0-1 – 9.00) vs. RHP Dan Haren (1-0 – 1.23)

Wednesday: RHP Carlos Carrasco (1-1 – 5.68) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (0-1 – 3.68)

Pitching, Pitching, Pitching

The 7-2 start for the Indians can be attributed to many things, but none bigger than what has set the tone in the center of the diamond.

Indians Pitcher Justin Masterson

Since pitcher Fausto Carmona’s opening day disaster, the Tribe has been outstanding in the pitching department. First with the starters, the rotation has an earned run average of 2.82 since game one.

In 51 innings of work, they have only given up 38 hits, including back-to-back gems by pitcher Justin Masterson.

Even better, the bullpen has been making things even easier for manager Manny Acta, seemingly shortening games to seven innings, or less.

Their ERA has been a sparkling 2.25, behind left-handers Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp. In particular, Sipp leads the American League with five holds, and closer Chris Perez has slammed the door on four saves, tying him for the league lead with Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Right-hander Mitch Talbot will look to continue the positive vibes on the mound, as he faces the Angels, Monday night. Talbot started one game against Los Angeles last season, picking up the win.

He worked 6.1 innings, surrendering one run on six hits.

“I Have The Power”:

Acta’s squad has been receiving an unlikely power source to begin the season, in shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.

After only three home runs in all of 2010, Cabrera has already reached that number. He went deep in Sunday’s 6-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners, his second in the series.

His three homers put him at a tie for sixth in the American League in that department. He has also driven in nine runs, good enough for fifth in the league.

For his efforts, Cabrera was named as Co-American League Player of the Week, for the second time in his career. During that week, he went 9-25, with three home runs, driving in eight.

Cabrera shared the honor with White Sox first-baseman Paul Konerko.

Not known for his run production, the middle-infielder is already halfway to his career-high in round-trippers of six, which he has achieved twice in his career (2008, 2009). His performance has been unexpected, but very pleasant at the top of the order.

Donald Joins Sizemore And Smith:

Despite the Indians hot start, the team is still not completely whole. Outfielder Grady Sizemore and right-handed pitcher Joe Smith have both been rehabbing at Class-AA Akron, without any setbacks.

Infielder Jason Donald joined the duo on Sunday, collecting one hit in three at bats. In his first rehab start, he played third base for the Aeros.

Both Sizemore and Smith were given the day off on Sunday.

All three will continue their rehab on Monday, when the Aeros welcome Altoona to Canal Park.

Need The Help?

One big reason to be optimistic about the return of Sizemore is the current play in left field.

Indians Outfielder Travis Buck

While still too early to fully judge, the early platoon of outfielders Austin Kearns and Travis Buck has not garnered the results hoped for. The two have combined for an average of .152, driving in one run.

The combination has struck out 10 times, while only collecting a walk on three occasions.

It is likely that Sizemore, when ready, will resume his old position of center field, while Michael Brantley will shift to left. However, Brantley should continue to leadoff, while Sizemore ideally rotates between the sixth and seventh spot in the order.

The Indians will continue to be cautious with the rehabbing outfielder. The organization wants to be sure he is completely 100% before activating him from the 15-day disabled list.

He is eligible to come off the DL on the 13th of April.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

Inside The Wigwam

By: T.J. Zuppe

Cleveland Indians (4-2) vs. Seattle Mariners (2-4) – Safeco Field

Friday: RHP Carlos Carrasco (0-1 – 9.45) vs. RHP Jason Vargas (0-0 – 1.35) – 10:10PM ET

Saturday: RHP Justin Masterson (1-0 – 1.29) vs. RHP Doug Fister (0-1 – 3.18) – 9:10PM ET

Sunday: RHP Josh Tomlin (1-0 – 1.29) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (0-1 – 5.40) – 4:10PM ET

Choo-Choo Train Derailed – For Now

Indians Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo

Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has not started 2011 on the right foot. He is only hitting .083, with one home run and two driven in.

His 2-24 success rate is very surprising considering the Tribe’s fast 4-2 start. Yet, no one is too worried.

Choo is too good to go much longer without picking up. In fact, slow starts are not a foreign subject to the multi-talented outfielder.

Last season, he began the year 2-18. He then mixed in a 3-21 stretch. But at year’s end, Choo had terrorized pitching to the tune of a .300 batting average, 22 home runs and 90 driven in, on top of 22 stolen bases.

Everything is under the microscope to begin the season. If he were to have only two hits in 24 at bats in July, his batting average might dip from .310 to .300, and his poor stretch would go mostly unnoticed.

It just becomes glaring when he strolls to the plate early in the year, and the scoreboard reads .083.

Pen Picking Up Where They Left Off

The men coming out of the bullpen can often become the most important part of a club. That has held true for the Indians, over the last decade.

As the pen righted itself in the second half, so did the Tribe’s ability to stay in ballgames. In 2011, the relievers have already played a big role in the opening homestand.

Left-handed set-up man Rafael Perez has already worked out of some big jams, none bigger than Thursday’s affair with the Boston Red Sox. He cleaned up a mess started by right-hander Chad Durbin, and managed to keep the game scoreless, before picking up his second win of the campaign.

He has not been the only arm to pitch well. The unit as a whole has held opponents to a .191 average through the first six games.

They are currently fifth in the American League in bullpen ERA, checking in at 3.79.

They have been able to give manager Manny Acta both length and matchup options. If that continues with regularity, do not be surprised by the success it brings the rest of the team.

Smith, Sizemore Still On the Mend

Indians Outfielder Grady Sizemore

Outfielder Grady Sizemore and right-handed pitcher Joe Smith will continue their minor league rehab with Class-AA Akron. Next up for the duo will be Saturday’s contest with Binghamton, at 1:05 in Canal Park.

Both participated in the Aeros game on Thursday. Sizemore, recovering from surgery on his left knee, played centerfield, going 1-3. He logged seven innings in the ballgame and recorded one put-out in the outfielder.

Smith, who has been battling an abdominal strain, pitched a scoreless inning, retiring the side in order. He struck out two batters, throwing 16 pitches in total.

Battling the Mariners

The Seattle Mariners got the best of the Cleveland Indians in 2010, beating the Tribe in the head-to-head matchup, four games to three. The team was able to play better at Safeco, splitting four on the road.

Right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco has never faced the M’s and will get the ball on Friday night.

Pitchers Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin each faced Seattle once in 2010.

Masterson gave up one hit over six innings of work, on August 15th against the Mariners. He did not pick up a decision in the game at Progressive Field.

Tomlin notched a win on September 2nd, working six innings, surrendering three runs. He scattered seven hits at Safeco field.

All three are set to face the Mariners over the weekend.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

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