It's starting to look a lot like the Indians are back in control. Granted, this is the Pittsburgh Pirates, but they were pretty hot before coming to Cleveland.
June 19th 2011
Pittsburgh Pirates - 2
Cleveland Indians- 5
W: Tony Sipp (3-0) L: Tim Wood (0-1)
Let there be Cord!
I think the youngster is starting to catch on, what about you?
It's been a rough going for Cord Phelps thus far in his small stint as a call-up. He's perhaps lost a lot of playing time with his struggles, clearly over-matched and at times overwhelmed. But that's okay because Orlando Cabrera has seemed to have a sudden spark because of it.
Manny Acta is back to pressing the right buttons though because after a small mental break, Cord Phelps was back in action and boy, was he in action. His big double in the second inning helped lead to the Indians scoring the tying run.
And then the next runs that would be scored, would be because of the Cord.
"That's something that he won't be able to forget," Acta said. "He hit that ball pretty good. He's been scuffling since he got up here, so that's good, so he can get some confidence back. Cord deserved to win the ballgame, because he was hitting the ball hard the whole day," Acta said. "He was the right guy at the plate at that situation, and he hit it good. I'm sure he's going to enjoy that moment in the big leagues."
It's really good to see the kid come through. It's only been a few weeks (not even that many games) and he had been catching some flack from fans. It was just way too early to judge the guy. And in the same light, don't go thinking he's the next greatest thing because of his game. Give him some time to settle in. He's going to contribute to this time from here on out.
Speaking of contributing... How about this bullpen? This was their best yet with Justin Masterson going just five innings, and the game going 11, they needed to be on point. They've been on point all series.
In this series they pitched 11 scoreless innings of relief work. And they were needed the most in this one with an early exit for Justin, who just didn't seem to have it yesterday, but still put it a good effort.
"Masterson struggled with his command of his fastball," Acta said. "He couldn't pitch inside to lefties and racked up his pitch count. But he did give us five [innings], and limited the damage to just two runs."
But the bullpen continued their fantastic run. In fact, you have to go back all the way to last Sunday against the Yankees when Chad Durbin gave up three runs in the eighth inning to find the last run surrendered by a member of the bullpen. That game was over too. They've jut been all sorts of good this past week and when it counts, there have been few moments when they've collapsed this season.
They've been one of the two constants all year.
The other has been Asdrubal Cabrera, who came up with the second best play of the year. Mostly because he owns the first best play of the year. I mean, what does this guy eat in the morning? Can I have some? I mean, really. REALLY?
Perhaps Vinnie Pestano said it best when he said that they give out Gold GLOVE awards and not Gold Hand awards.
Funny notes.. Both plays came on the 19th of their respective months and Joe Smith was pitching at the time of both plays being made. You won't change the channel anytime Joe Smith pitches, will you now?
Is it just the Pirates or is Carlos Santana getting locked in? 2-for-3 again yesterday with a pair of walks, on base four times. He has absolutely torched the Pirates in his six career games against them. He is 10-for-16 with two home runs, eight RBI, and five walks.
If Santana is getting locked in, Choo may be as well. He was on base seven times in three games this series. The third game yesterday being the sort of "ah-ha" game with three hits.
While I'm glad Cord won it when he did, the game could have been over a lot earlier.
They could have ended it in the bottom of the ninth after that lengthy rain delay when Choo singled to lead off the inning. With Santana at the plate, Choo attempted and failed to steal.
Of course Santana not a moment later rocketed a double that likely would have scored Choo, or at worst put him on third base with nobody out. Easily forgettable since the game was won though.
You may be asking if Cord was the first Indian in a long time end a game with his first career homer. If you remember though, Ben Francisco did it pretty recently in 2007 against Tampa Bay.
The Indians have surpassed their 2010 Interleague win total in all six games possible and remain the only undefeated team in Interleague play. Meanwhile, the Pirates are still stuck on their 2010 IL win total.
[TRIBE DROP NUNNALLY]
I'm very curious as to the timing of the Indians decision to drop Jon Nunnally as their hitting coach and promote minor league hitting coordinator Bruce Fields.
Nunnally was well-respected, well-liked in the clubhouse, that's for sure. He was a talkative guy and his work with Travis Hafner in Columbus when he went on a rehab assignment was often pointed to. If he could make some magic happen with Andy Marte, and have a good relationship with one of the best bats in your lineup, it would seem like he'd be a good fit.
But maybe the whole well-liked thing leaned itself to the club not responding. Acta said it was a tough choice, but the club felt like they "needed a new voice."
"It was very tough," Acta said. "It was one of my toughest days at work. I mean, [on Saturday] we won the game, and I didn't feel like celebrating. It was a hard decision to make."
The timing is curious because of just that. For one, a day before Father's Day you are going to fire a guy? Coming off two wins when the offense seems to be showing signs of pulling through? If it would have came a few days earlier, it would have been better timing, but to do it when they did it, it just seems weird.
I'm not saying it is a move that they shouldn't have made (but in my opinion, I don't see firing Nunnally as a cure-all, or the right answer to the problem) but they could have decided to do this at a better time. Clearly it was something they've been thinking about because you don't just pull the trigger on this type of a move instantly. So the time to make this move was two days ago. Now if you planned on getting rid of him, then letting him flounder around knowing he's gone is wrong... But I'm not really sure that's how this club operates.
Perhaps he did have an opportunity to save his job these past few days. But if that was the case, then with the offense starting to react and score some runs, wouldn't you think Nunnally at least bought himself a few more games? Chris Antonetti on the process in making this call.
"We make collective decisions," Antonetti said. "But obviously, this is Manny's coaching staff. He and I talked about it, and we came to a consensus that this was the right move for us. We don't make reactive decisions. We try to work through things and talk through all aspects of it before we reach a decision.
"The more extended our struggles were, offensively, certainly the more pronounced it became and the more conviction we had that we potentially could benefit by a different voice."
And here's where you get into sticky situations. Yes you've got some struggling offense. But Manny Acta has been steering the "Travis Hafner will change everything" ship the past few weeks. This team is in first place. And it goes back to the same type of "switch" the Indians made at second base with Cord Phelps.
Uncle Orlando seemed a little miffed at losing his job. Of course he handled it like a professional would, but clearly he wasn't happy. Who would be?
Does the team handle it like Orlando did? Go out and rebound on the field? Or do they go in the opposite direction. When you make a decision like this one, and even more impactful than the Orlando move, you risk alienating a lot of people.
Choo mentioned that it could be a negative thought with him leaving, because as Acta and Antonetti both said, he's a likable guy. And a negative thought can easily throw one or more hitters into a bad place. Of course after yesterday, that doesn't seem to be the case, but that risk is certainly there.
Let's hope that the team took the Orlando approach to it. That was obviously the motivation behind the move if you ask me. Get rid of a guy that everyone likes, who's message may be starting to get a little stale. Get some responsiveness out of your offense by making a change. It may have worked, time will tell, but again, the timing just seems curious.
As for his replacement... Bruce Fields was the minor league hitting coordinator this season and has spent the past six years with the Tribe in some capacity. He's been hitting coach for Triple-A, but mainly has been just moving around going where needed. His son Aaron is currently in the system as a second baseman.
Fields' tenure is on an interim basis and he'll be evaluated with the rest of the staff at the end of the season. Of course if the Indians hit, whether it's because of him or not, he'll probably keep the gig.
Switching your hitting coach is always a "reactionary" type of a move. Always has been around here especially. The Indians last did it a few years back under the Wedge-era when they got rid of another likable guy in Eddie Murray.
Of course he was replaced by Derek Shelton, who taught his hitters a more patient approach that, if you ask me, led itself to more struggles than successes. Let's hope there isn't a repeat of that.
Much has been made about the pairing of Carlos Carrasco with his long-time teammate Lou Marson. Of course when Cookie says stuff like "he reads my mind," it's hard not to attribute anything to Lou.
The battery, that should be from here on out affectionately referred to as "Cookie Mars", has been ultra successful this season. Really in his major league career, out of the 10 starts Carrasco as made with Marson behind the plate, the right-hander has a 3.09 ERA.
"We've been working [together] for eight years, and he knows what I want to throw," Carrasco said.
Who's going to argue with eight years of experience? With LaPorta now out, and Marson getting way more time behind the plate, it only makes sense to continue pairing them up.
The Vin-Man, is so humble. So when some people got angry that he sprinted out to the mound, they clearly were just making too much of something really cool. If Pestano got his wish, they wouldn't have known it was him though. Vinnie Pestano says he'd rather go out there with no name or number on his uniform.
"I don't need any recognition," he said. "I'd rather people not know who I am. As long as the team is winning, and I'm doing my job, that's all that matters."
Good news on the Alex White front. The right-handed former first round pick will begin throwing on Friday. He's still a long way out, but that's at least a little reassuring to hear.
White's injury has opened up the door for Jeanmar Gomez (last week's Minor League Player of the Week) and Zach McAllister (also a MLPW earlier this year) to be the next in line for a rotation spot. Terry Pluto goes as far to say that the Indians believe both are ready to contribute.
That of course, is a good problem when you have guys you want to try, but simply can't because you have no room. Of course that doesn't mean everything is roses. Pluto notes that Carmona or Talbot could find themselves in a long relief role (both out of options) if they don't turn things around.
[STAT OF THE DAY]
Because they are so awesome, we will now start a "Bullpen Mafia, Stat of the Day" feature. Here is the first one.
Joe Smith has not allowed a run since May 8th, a scoreless streak that spans 16 innings of work after yesterday's game.
[RAFAEL PEREZ TWEET WATCH]
Archer Quote of the Day: "Ooooh, Ugly Ducking.... BAWK BAWK!"
Days Without a Tweet: 33
You can follow Nino on Twitter @TheTribeDaily where he tweets about Corrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrd. You can also read more Morning Rundown and other features at his blog, The Tribe Daily.