McBride Shuffles Positions
At this time last year, Matt McBride was in the home stretch from surgery on his right labrum. Fast forward a year, and while McBride is healthy these days, his position seems to change by the day.
When the 2008 season ended, the Indians sent McBride to the Instructional League to get much needed at bats he missed since he was on the shelf for the first half of the season rehabbing his shoulder. It was in Instructional League where the Indians introduced him to the outfield and informed him that he would be moving out from behind the plate and to the outfield in 2009. He even went out and played in the outfield in the Hawaii Winter League to get some experience, and adapted well to the new position.
So here we are at the end of spring training, and now McBride is playing first base.
"I did not know [about another position change] until I got out here," said McBride during camp this past week. "Basically in my one-on-one when I got here they told me to catch the first two weeks. Then they said to do two weeks just strictly in the outfield and I did that. Then they said near the end of spring I would start working with the first basemen a little bit, and that is where they have decided to go with me. So now I have really been hitting first base hard and doing extra drills and trying to learn as much as I can while I am down here. I am picking up little things from the guys who have been playing there for awhile, but it has been going well."
The bulk of McBride's playing time this season will come at first base, though he was told not to rule out playing in the outfield from time to time. As for catching, that is likely a thing of the past in order to preserve his shoulder and he should not play there unless the team is strapped for some reason at catcher for a game.
McBride has taken to his crash course at first base well in spring training, though he is still trying to get a handle on a lot of the footwork at the position, fielding groundballs, getting to balls in the hole, etc.
"I think I am just trying to pick up all the little things like footwork, groundballs, where I should be for cuts, relays and other positioning," said McBride. "Bunt plays I have always been at it from the catching point of view, so that is different now. Through catching I am able to sort of know where I need to be, but now it is from a different perspective so I need to learn it at first base. The biggest thing is just getting acclimated to first base, like balls in the hole that I should let the second baseman get so I don't come off too far."
McBride's right shoulder is the reason he has been bounced around the field the past few months. The Indians love his bat and want to keep him in the lineup, but his lack of arm strength in his shoulder even after his surgery was concerning enough for them to make the move to the outfield and then to first base. McBride says his shoulder is pain free, and that it continues to get stronger everyday.
"It feels great," said McBride. "Throwing-wise, my arm strength is much better. I was throwing fine before, but my arm strength wasn't there, but now I can hold my own and it is feeling good. There is no pain involved with throwing, even when I was throwing down to second when I first came down here for spring training. I am really happy with the shoulder at this point from where it was last year at this time."
With the shoulder injury past him, and the positional changes about worked out, McBride is just happy to get his career back on track after a lost 2008 campaign.
"I am feeling good and am anxious for the season to start," said McBride.
Bryson's Rehab Right On Schedule
Right-hander Rob Bryson was sidelined late last season because of a tear in his labrum and rotator cuff. He had offseason surgery to repair the damage, although the rehab involved with such a surgery will keep him on the shelf the first half of the 2009 season, if not more.
Bryson has been in Goodyear, Arizona at the Indians new player development complex for awhile now rehabbing and will continue to work out at the new facility during extended spring training. It is tough for Bryson because he knows that right now he would normally be departing for a full season destination and getting ready for the new season to get going, but through it all has remained positive and committed to doing what he needs to do to come back at 100%.
"Rehab is a long process, and I am trying to stick with it, stay focused, and try to get healthy," said Bryson earlier this week. "So far so good, and the arm is feeling better than I expected it would. I honestly did not think my arm would feel this good considering the surgery and all the time I had off. I am just going to keep going through my throwing program and hope for the best."
Bryson just recently started a throwing program, but even though he has started to throw he is still doing rehab almost daily on the shoulder to get it back to 100%.
"Right now the rehab is cutting back a lot because I am starting to throw now," said Bryson. "I am doing a shoulder program on days that I throw, and on days I don't throw I do a pool restoration program just to keep the muscles loose."
Bryson just started throwing at the beginning of March. Before each throwing session he will stretch, do a pre-shoulder program with plyo balls, run and then throw. He started out throwing at 45 feet then went to 60 and right now is throwing at 75 feet. His next step will be 90 feet, but from there it depends how his shoulder reacts to the increased workload.
"From 90 feet I will go to 105 feet and then to 120 feet," said Bryson. "I will throw a good bit from 120 and if I feel good I will start my flat grounds. Hopefully sometime in May I will be able to throw flat grounds on the mound."
Right now, Bryson and the Indians have him targeted for a late June or early July return to game action.
"If I had to say when I will be back, I would say sometime in June or July I will start out in the Arizona League and then hopefully I will be healthy enough to go to Lake County or Kinston or wherever they want to send me," said Bryson.
Bryson's main goal in 2009 is to come back 100% healthy and get himself back on track for the start of the 2010 season.
"Right now, for the 2009 season, I am not expecting much at all," said Bryson. "If I get any innings at all and any season play, that would be more than what I am expecting. I just want to get healthy and hopefully pitch in Instructs or the Fall League or wherever it may be to get some innings and come back and be 100% for the 2010 season."
Stowell On The Shelf
Highly regarded 2008 22nd round pick Bryce Stowell will open the season in extended spring training after he came down with bicep tendonitis about two weeks ago. The right-hander from UC-Irvine just started throwing last Saturday after being shut down for about a week by the organization, and is on a rehab plan which started on Wednesday with him throwing at 100 feet. Once he is back to 100%, he will be activated and likely go into the starting rotation either at Lake County or Kinston.
Stowell's injury came about due to his inexperience with handling an injury as he tried to pitch through some discomfort he was having, which ended up aggravating the injury enough to where he finally said enough was enough and informed the trainers.
"It was more of just a lingering issue," said Stowell earlier this week. "I had never been injured before on any level and I just didn't know how to handle it. I started throwing through it and I thought to myself there was no way. It got to the point where it was a little tender and they had to shut me down, but I am feeling good now that I started throwing these past few days. For the program they have me on I will be throwing like this for another week and then hopefully throwing sides in 12 days."
Stowell has no idea how long he will be sidelined, but it looks like he could be back sometime at the end of April or beginning of May. Through it all, he has been very appreciative with how the Indians have handled the situation, and how helpful they have been in the rehab process.
Even though he is injured and starting the 2009 season on the shelf in extended spring training, he has no regrets signing his lucrative deal last August to turn pro instead of returning for his senior season at UC-Irvine.
"No regrets at all," said Stowell. "Over the fall and winter I lived with three other guys who are still playing for my college team in Irvine. It was weird just sitting there and knowing I was not going to be with them this year. Now that I am out here I have no regrets whatsoever. I am just super excited to get things going. It is kind of tough watching everyone leaving here, but at the same time I am just really excited to get things going."
When Stowell does get back on the mound, he does not want to set any specific goals with that level he ends up at this year. He just wants to be healthy, perform, and continue to get better.
"The one thing I don't want to do is put a time limit on myself," said Stowell. "I feel a lot of guys do that and sometimes if you don't meet your expectations you feel really disappointed and let down. I continue to tell myself every day just to try and get better every day. I know that sounds kind of cliché, but at the same time you are in a business that is pretty repetitive as far as your daily routines go. I feel if you can work on that and kind of get better at something everyday no matter what it might be, that you are going to be successful. Personally I just want to become the best baseball player I can be and help out the organization as best as I can."
Meyer Down But Not Out
Left-handed reliever Matt Meyer had a camp to forget performance-wise and expectations-wise. He was hoping to open the year in Double-A Akron, but because of his performance and his command issues, the Indians decided that he would be better off returning to advanced Single-A Kinston for at least the start of the season.
Obviously, this was not good news to Meyer as he already pitched half a season in Kinston in 2007 and all of the 2008 season there. Unfortunately for Meyer, he along with a half dozen or so other pitchers are opening the 2009 season a level lower than they probably should because of the Indians fascination with veteran bullpen depth at the Triple-A level. Instead of giving some guys like Randy Newsom, Scott Roehl, Ryan Edell, Frank Herrmann, and others a shot at Triple-A to start the season, all have returned to Double-A Akron. As a result, there is a domino effect which has affected other pitchers in the organization like Meyer, Joey Mahalic, and Ryan Miller all repeating the level they spent all of 2008.
Right now, Meyer is going to do whatever it takes to find his way out of Kinston and get a chance in Akron.
"They said in my pre-camp meeting that I was fighting for a spot in Akron and that I was probably going back to Kinston," said Meyer. "My inability to throw strikes is the reason I am going back so I can learn to better command the zone better with my fastball. That will be the main thing in my development, and if I do that I will move on, and if not I guess I will be in Kinston forever (laughs)."
For a pitcher like Meyer, command and control are not his specialty, so he has his work cut out for him to get a handle on becoming more consistent in the strike zone.
"I have always been kind of a guy who isn't a strike-throwing pitcher, but I think I can still get outs and perform well enough to compete," said Meyer. "But right now it is about repeating the delivery and maintaining a consistent release point. I sort of dip my head down, so I am trying to keep my eyes more focused on the catcher's target. I am trying to find the zone with my eyes instead of just bringing them up and sweeping the zone with my eyes. Me and Hibby (Kinston Pitching Coach Greg Hibbard) are going to work on a throwing program and see how it translates into a game. It will be experimental so we will see how it goes."
Grening Heading To Extended
Extended spring training officially gets under way today as all the full season teams have departed leaving just a handful of players behind in Goodyear to await that call to a full season team. One of those players is right-hander Brian Grening, a 2008 38th round pick out of Cal Poly.
Grening is part of a long list of relievers taken in the last two drafts staying behind in extended spring training waiting for a callup due to injury or performance issues from a pitcher on a full season roster. Grening came to camp and was given some specific areas to work on and will continue that work in extended.
"Most of my pre-camp meeting was about applying what I have learned," said Grening earlier in the week. "Those meetings are more of a get to know you and get on the same page thing. It is just about progressing and not regressing."
Like with any pitcher, Grening is always trying to improve something. Whether it be something like extending out front, making sure he is throwing with his foot down, or coming out of the same arm slot every time, he is doing whatever it takes to improve his standing in the organization.
He has a three-pitch mix of a fastball, curveball, and changeup, but has the most confidence in his fastball. He has shown good control in the past, but one thing he needs more work on is how to throw quality strikes.
"My fastball is my best pitch," said Grening. "Although offspeed pitches are great, you always go back to your fastball and it should be able to surprise the hitter more than anything. I don't walk a lot of guys, but there is a difference between having command with your pitches and throwing balls. You can throw strikes all day, but can you throw quality strikes, and [that is something I am trying to work on].
His curveball is more of a slurve, and he has also worked on adding more velocity to his changeup since he has had a tendency to telegraph the pitch in the past. He is trying to keep the same action on it as the fastball in order to try and get a few more swings at it.
Even though he is opening up the season in extended spring training, Grening is still positive that he will get a chance to prove himself this year, and when he does he wants to do everything he can to better establish himself as a player in the Indians organization.
"When I look back on the season I want to make sure that I have done everything they want me to do to earn a spot next year," said Grening. "Because I have seen a lot of guys where they come back and regardless of their spring they had trouble finding a spot. I want to make sure I perform to the best of my ability this season and do whatever it takes to earn a spot next spring. I don't want to end up here in spring training, perform well, and get tossed."
Official Lake County & Kinston Rosters
Okay, official rosters for Single-A Lake County and advanced Single-A Kinston have been released. One small correction from the other day is I incorrectly had Kyle Landis in Kinston and Danny Salazar in Lake County, when Landis will actually be in Lake County and Salazar will open in extended spring training.
Rotation: T.J. House (LHP), Alexander Perez (RHP), T.J. McFarland (LHP), Joey Mahalic (RHP), Ryan Miller (LHP)
Bullpen: Santo Frias (RHP), Matt Langwell (RHP), Russell Young (LHP), Steve Smith (RHP), Michael McGuire (RHP), Dave Roberts (RHP), Paolo Espino (RHP), Kyle Landis (RHP)
Position: Michael Valadez (C), Adam Abraham (C), Mark Thompson (SS), Jeremie Tice (3B), Walter Diaz (INF), Nate Recknagel (C/1B), Karexon Sanchez (2B), Chris Nash (1B), Adam White (OF), Donnie Webb (OF), Abner Abreu (OF), Ryan Blair (OF)
Rotation: Jeanmar Gomez (RHP), Ryan Morris (LHP), Eric Berger (LHP), Zach Putnam (RHP), Kelvin De La Cruz (LHP)
Bullpen: Josh Judy (RHP), Matt Meyer (LHP), Chen-Chang Lee (RHP), Gary Campfield (RHP), Dallas Cawiezell (RHP), Heath Taylor (LHP), Jonathan Holt (RHP)
Position: Alex Castillo (C), Richard Martinez (C), Cristo Arnal (INF), Lonnie Chisenhall (3B), Adam Davis (INF/C), Cord Phelps (2B), Matt McBride (1B), Ronald Rivas (SS), Matt Brown (OF), Jason Denham (OF), Tim Fedroff (OF), Lucas Montero (OF), Roman Pena (OF)
Projected Akron & Columbus Rosters
Okay, while the Lake County and Kinston rosters are official, the Akron and Buffalo rosters are not official yet. The only thing official is the pitching staff at Akron, and the starting rotation at Columbus.
The reason the rosters are not official yet is because of a few players still with the Indians who may factor into the Columbus roster such as Wilson Valdez, Matt Herges, Andy Marte, Damaso Espino, and Tony Graffanino, so the final roster for Columbus (and even Akron) is subject to change. Akron could be affected by a trickle down effect with their bench, plus infielder Josh Rodriguez is banged up and still recovering from an intercostal strain which has sidelined him for about ten days of camp. He is supposed to be okay, but may open in extended spring training for a few days to be sure he is 100%.All that said, the Akron roster should be pretty much what it is as well as the Columbus roster. The only changes would be to a bullpen guy or two in Columbus and some of the bench guys at both affiliates.
Rotation: Chuck Lofgren (LHP), Frank Herrmann (RHP), Josh Tomlin (RHP), Hector Rondon (RHP), Steven Wright (RHP)
Bullpen: Erik Stiller (RHP), Randy Newsom (RHP), Scott Roehl (RHP), Neil Wagner (RHP), Carlton Smith (RHP), Michael Finocchi (RHP), Ryan Edell (LHP), Vinnie Pestano (RHP)
Position: Carlos Santana (C), Armando Camacaro (C), Beau Mills (1B), Jared Goedert (3B), Jerad Head (INF/OF), Carlos Rivero (SS), Niuman Romero (INF), Josh Rodriguez (2B), John Drennen (OF), Nick Weglarz (OF), Jose Constanza (OF), Michael Hall (OF)
Rotation: David Huff (LHP), Jeremy Sowers (LHP), Aaron Laffey (LHP), Kirk Saarloos (RHP), Jack Cassel (RHP)
Bullpen: John Meloan (RHP), Tony Sipp (LHP), Rich Rundles (LHP), Vinnie Chulk (RHP), Juan Salas (RHP), Greg Aquino (RHP), Jose Rodriguez (RHP)
Position: Chris Gimenez (C/1B), Wyatt Toregas (C), Jordan Brown (1B), Michael Aubrey (1B), Andy Cannizaro (SS), Wes Hodges (3B), Juan Merchan (INF), Luis Valbuena (2B), Michael Brantley (OF), Stephen Head (OF), Matt LaPorta (OF), George Lombard (OF)
Desert Wind: Wow, what a day it was on Friday at the complex as the winds were flat out crazy. Wind gusts had to be around 50 MPH at times, and because everything around the complex is not developed and nothing but endless fields of dirt, sand, rock and flat ground for miles, the wind really blows through there and when it does it creates a pretty nasty dust storm. The winds were so strong, the fence behind home plate on Field #2 was actually blowing into the field, and eventually the game on Field #1 was called in the 6th inning because of the frequent stoppage of play because of the dust blowing across the field.
Shapiro Talks 2009 Draft: Check out this Q&A that Indians GM Mark Shapiro did on the upcoming 2009 Draft. Shapiro gives his typical diplomatic spin on everything, but there is some insight to be learned here if you look closely. Check it out here.
More Releases: I failed to report two other releases earlier in the week, as the Indians released outfielders Juan Valdes and Angel Rodriguez. As I mentioned the other day, the releases should be pretty much done, though there is still a player or two I did not list the other day that have been released. The Indians are done releasing players it seems, though I still think a catcher or two may be let go now that camp is over (a catcher may have been one of the guys not initially listed).
Extended Spring Training: Today, extended spring training officially started. I will have an article in the coming week about what extended spring training is, which will also include lots of quotes from manager Ted Kubiak who moreorless will be running things out there.
Prospect Videos: Check out the videos I shot the last two days of camp on the following players: Chris Jones, Lonnie Chisenhall vs. The Wind, Adam Abraham, Nate Recknagel, Kelvin De La Cruz, Trey Haley, Tony Sipp, Nick Weglarz, Carlos Santana, Beau Mills, Jordan Brown, Jose Constanza, and Hector Rondon.Photos & Emails: I will be in touch with everyone sometime in the coming week who I promised photos to. I need to sort through the 3000 photos I took (I'm not joking), and once I organize them all I will be forwarding as requested. Also, I have a ton of emails to respond to, so if you sent me an email in the past week and have yet to get a response I apologize as I have just been slammed. I will reply soon!
And That's A Wrap: This concludes the coverage of the Indians 2009 minor league spring training. What a fabulous ten days it was out here, and many thanks to the players, coaches, coordinators and rest of the Indians staff for their help and patience with me. The season starts this week, and I will have previews for each of the four full season affiliates up throughout the week. Also, I have a nice article I did with Ross Atkins explaining how they infuse new talent into the organization which will post on Monday while I am in transit back to Cleveland. As for me, I am off to Sin City on Sunday morning for a much needed break before I head back Monday morning. See you all soon and thanks for reading!