It is amazing how fast time flies when you are having fun, and that is exactly what happened down in Winter Haven. I was there for a little over a week, and it felt like just a few days. Boy, was it tough to leave the low 80s and sunny weather in Winter Haven on Saturday and come home to high 20s and snow in Cleveland. Man, someone please remind me why I live here again.
Anyway, I’ve got to say the atmosphere down in Winter Haven is very relaxed, and the players have a quiet confidence to them going into the season. Also, all the articles we read about where the clubhouse is supposedly great in fact does appear to be true, as from everything I saw on and off the field, these guys really do get along. One of the best litmus tests for me to tell how well players get along is when they can openly rib each other, which I saw a lot of, with Jake Westbrook being the ringleader.
A lot of the major league players were more than happy to chat, the minor leaguers especially. Also, various executives, coaches and instructors like Travis Fryman, Cory Snyder, Ross Atkins, Neil Huntington, and others were more than willing to chat when approached at the right time. Overall, just an intimate experience with the team and players, and one more fans should try out for themselves at least once.
It will be sad to say good-bye to Winter Haven next year, but the promise of the move to Arizona in 2009 is exciting.
Just a great week, and the itch is definitely there for baseball season to start.
All that said, here are some random video shots and pictures from the last two days in camp on Thursday (3/15) and Friday (3/16) from last week:
I had a few people ask about young shortstop prospect Carlos Rivero. For those unfamiliar with Rivero, he is an 18-year old infielder who is 6'3" and 198 pounds, and he really does look that big. The Indians signed him out of Venezuela in March of 2005, and last year played for the Indians rookie level affiliates Burlington and the GCL Indians. No word on where he will start this season, but it looks like he will stay behind in extended spring training and then when short season leagues start up in late June he will probably go to Mahoning Valley. Here are two clips of him in action taking BP, and some pics of him:
Carlos Rivera takes BP
More Carlos Rivera BP
In addition to Rivero, I also watched the Indians Triple-A affiliate Buffalo work on situational drills and take batting practice. Here are two videos of them working on situational drills and taking batting practice. In the situational video, Jake Dittler is on the mound, Jake Gautreau at 3B and Rodney Choy Foo at 2B (covers 1B). The second video is just a center field shot of the Bisons players hanging around while the team takes batting practice:
Buffalo situational drills
Buffalo batting practice
Here are some various Buffalo players in action, starting with outfielder Jason Cooper. No word on if Cooper will even be with the organization still when camp breaks considering the logjam of outfielders that will be stuffed in Buffalo this year. It is possible Cooper could remain as a 5th outfielder and designated hitter for the Bisons:
Outfielder Ben Francisco is still in major league camp, but he will be one of the main contributors in Buffalo. Francisco has opened some eyes with his play in Indians camp, and is someone to keep an eye on this year. I have always been a big Ben Francisco fan, and he is someone who could very well figure into the Indians outfield mix this year if given a chance:
It remains to be seen if first baseman Ryan Mulhern will start the year in Buffalo or in Akron. A lot of that may have to do with what happens with Ryan Garko. But, unless the Indians have a brain cramp Garko will start the year in Cleveland, and most likely that would mean Mulhern will start the season with Buffalo. Here he is shown taking grounders at first base with Shaun Larkin:
Infielder Jake Gautreau in action at third base:
Right-handed pitcher Adam Miller continues to impress in major league camp as he has now gone 14 innings without giving up a run. If it were not for Fausto Carmona, Miller might be playing his way into the 5th starter role in place of the injured Cliff Lee. But, with Fausto Carmona also pitching well and as good an option as Miller at this point, Carmona will get the first crack at the 5th starter's gig and Miller will go to Buffalo to finish his game off. Here are some pictures of Miller during calisthenics:
Here is a video of outfielder Brad Snyder (28) and infielder Rodney Choy Foo (10) in action taking batting practice. Most of the clip is of Choy Foo as you see the final swing or two from Snyder:
Brady Snyder and Rodney Choy Foo take BP
Moving on beyond Buffalo, several other minor leaguers who will be placed in various places in the Indians farm system were also monitored. Outfielder Brian Barton rapidly climbed the prospect ladder last year and is now one of the Indians top outfield prospects, and likely will start the year in Akron. Here is a video of him hanging around the infield talking with various players on the Buffalo roster:
Brian Barton hangs out
Here are some pictures of various players waiting for the team bus to Kissimmee, Florida:
Infielder Matt Whitney and an unknown player hang around outside the minor league clubhouse, and a map of the complex:
First baseman Stephen Head gets some work in at first base:
Pitcher Shawn Nottingham sticks around to sign an autograph and pose for pictures:
Right-handed pitcher Sung-Wei Tseng (40), outfielder John Drennen (26), right-handed pitcher Justin Hoyman (44), and third baseman Wes Hodges (16) running off the field. Also, right-handed pitchers Nick Pesco (58, middle) and Sean Smith (43, right) shagging fly balls in the outfield during batting practice:
Right-handed pitcher Carlton Smith (middle), along with outfielder Nick Weglarz (8). Also, Weglarz walking away with catcher Matt McBride:
Third baseman Nick Petrucci (11) in action, as well as Jared Goedert (16):
Here are just a few of the hundreds of pictures I took at the Thursday night game (3/15) against Tampa Bay.
Fernando Cabrera stretching out before the game. His size is very impressive in-person:
Rafael Betancourt in action:
Ryan Garko in action:
Grady Sizemore in action:
Luis Rivas and Jake Westbrook in action, as well as the famous water tower in the background:
Trevor Crowe and Ryan Garko talking before the game, Sizemore and Francisco hanging out in the dugout before the game, and Andy Marte, Garko, Mike Rouse and Francisco stretching in the outfield:
And, as they say, that's a wrap!
I hope the various pictures and video provided over the past week helped bring the Winter Haven Experience back here to Cleveland, Ohio. This being my first go around at this, I learned a lot, and next year the coverage will be hundreds of times better. Thanks for reading, and any questions or feedback please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.