Opportunity Could Come Soon For Wright
Right-handed pitcher Steven Wright is in camp this spring battling for a job in the Triple-A Columbus bullpen to start the season. After a very good year last season pitching in the bullpen full time where he went 10-0 with a 2.48 ERA in 38 total appearances, mostly with Double-A Akron (36), he looks to be locked into one of the seven bullpen spots at Columbus, but anything can happen between now and the start of the season.
After such a very good season last year combined with his draft pedigree being a former 2nd round pick, it looked like Wright may get some consideration for a big league bullpen job late in the season last year, but the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues never came. Even with the mild disappointment of not getting a big league chance last year or this spring, he knows if he goes out and performs well and controls what he can control that eventually he should get that opportunity.
“If I can do half of what I did last year, I think I am going to have a chance,” said Wright after practice earlier in the week. “It’s just getting an opportunity and having that door open up and me being able to perform when the time comes. The rest is out of my control. The only thing I can do is go out there everyday and give it my best.”
One of the more controversial moves of the offseason on the minor league front for the Indians had to do with some of their decisions on who to protect and who not to protect on the 40-man roster from the Rule 5 Draft. Wright was one of a group of about a dozen players who looked to have a realistic shot to be rostered, and when he was not there was some thought he could be lost in the Rule 5 Draft. In the end, the Indians proved to be on top of things from a roster perspective as only one player was lost in the Rule 5 Draft (Chuck Lofgren), while many other players like Wright were passed over by other teams.
“You never know what tomorrow is going to bring, but it’s alright,” said Wright. “You use it as more of a driving force as sometimes you feel like you should have been that guy who got protected, but it worked out in the Indians favor to where I didn’t get selected. So it is what it is, and for me it is a driving point for me to work a little bit harder because if I play well and I work harder it makes them make a decision on me rather than me sitting there hoping. You just hope for the best. A lot of it is just luck and being in the right place at the right time and you hope everything works in your favor. Everybody wants their opportunity. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter as it is just what they need. That’s the way the game rolls, and that’s why when you do get that opportunity you have to run with it because you might only get that opportunity once.”
Shortly after learning his roster fate in November, Wright went out to Venezuela to play winter ball. It was an opportunity for him to get some extra work in since he lost some innings last year due to the change to the bullpen. It also provided him a chance to showcase his talent up against several current and former big leaguers, as well as make some good money for the six weeks he was there.
“It was fun and I had a good time,” said Wright. “The country is kind of out there as I had never been to a place like that, but the baseball out there is unbelievable. The competition is good as you play against a lot of ex-big leaguers and guys in the big leagues."
Of course, it is also an unstable environment, and one Wright and many American players got a firsthand look at the danger people in Venezuela live in as compared to the United States.
“We had bodyguards,” said Wright. “We stayed in a gated community because they were afraid somebody was going to come in with some guns. It was crazy. Our bodyguards shot up some car when we were going out to eat somewhere. Me and Niuman [Romero] were standing next to each other and all of sudden you hear ten gun shots. It’s not fun.”
Now in spring training, Wright is just trying to fine tune his game and do what it takes to take the next step in his career and earn that coveted opportunity.
“I am really just working on keeping command of my four-seam fastball,” said Wright. “I threw a lot of cutters last year so I want to get to the point where everything I throw is clean. You gotta keep the command of that four-seamer in order for the cutter to play up. Also, last year I threw more of a split change, but I want to get away from that and go more to a circle change which I threw in college. It is going good as I haven’t really faced hitters with it yet but I’ll find out the next couple days.”
Healthy Tice Excited For New Season
Third baseman Jeremie Tice is excited to be back in action and 100% this spring. Last year he suffered through an injury plagued season where a bum elbow sidelined him for several weeks and affected his play for most of his season.
“It’s going well and I am trying to get back into the swing of things and things are going well so far,” said Tice. “I had bone spurs in my left elbow and I couldn’t extend my arm or even straighten it out. It was really swollen so it was really hard to swing with it. They said I had a big mass in there and then it just kind of blew up and shot up all through my arm, forearm and all the way up into my tricep. So I just had a bunch of loose bodies in there that they took out, and now I am ready to go this year.”
Tice had the corrective surgery last June, and then reported to Goodyear to rehab the elbow. He ended up being cleared for play a lot sooner than expected, and after a few rehab games with the rookie level Arizona team he was sent back to Low-A Lake County to finish the season. Upon his return to Lake County on July 25th, he hit .289 with 1 HR, 19 RBI and a .772 OPS in 36 games.
“I got the surgery done and got [my elbow] cleaned up, came here to Arizona [last summer] and worked with all the rehab guys and they got me back out there [at Lake County to end the season],” said Tice. “I was supposed to be here for about two months, but I was flying out of here right at five weeks. So it was good getting back playing again so I could play the rest of the season.”
After a disappointing season last year where overall Tice hit just .266 with 3 HR, 30 RBI and a .723 in 69 games at Low-A Lake County, he is hoping to prove what he can do this season at 100% health. He likely will open the season in a return trip at Lake County as the starting third baseman, but if he performs well and stays healthy he should be moved to High-A Kinston by the second half of the season.
“There have been no setbacks and pain and everything is good to go,” said Tice. “I am excited.”
No Restrictions For Hagadone
Left-hander Nick Hagadone has settled in nicely into the Indians organization since being acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade last July 31st. Not only has he settled in well with his new teammates, but he is free and clear to pitch this season and will have no restrictions. Coming off Tommy John surgery about 21 months ago, he feels great and ready to go out and dominate and show what he can do after being so limited the last two seasons.
“As far as I know I am just going to pitch,” said Hagadone after practice on Friday. “I am sure they are not going to over-expose my arm because I haven’t thrown too much [the last few years], but as of right now there are no restrictions really.”
Hagadone is pretty much set to open the season in the High-A Kinston starting rotation. At the moment he is building up his arm strength to where by the start of the regular season in about two weeks he can go five innings. He is as healthy as he has felt in a long time, and is coming off an offseason where he was required to do very little rehab work and was finally able to get a much needed break with some extended time off at home.
“I wasn’t on any kind of rehab program this offseason,” said Hagadone. “I just worked out at home. It was a great offseason as I had six months at home because I had not been there for awhile. It was nice to see my family and fiancé. I was in Fort Myers [at the Red Sox spring training complex] all of last offseason, so it was tough for me because I love being at home."
Hagadone thinks the world of his family and loves to return home to Seattle to see them anytime he can. He especially looks forward to seeing his fiancé Pesarakphor Lin who is his high school sweetheart who has been with him every step of the way through his University of Washington years, his time in the minors, and at the lowest point of his career when he hurt his elbow and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. They are set to get married in November, a month baseball players often pick because it fits in right after the season and before the holidays.
“I couldn’t have done all this without her as she is so supportive of everything,” said Hagadone about his fiancé. “I just couldn’t do it without her.”
No Chance: Outfielder Michael Brantley was told at the outset of spring training that no matter how he performed that he was going to open the season in the minors with Triple-A Columbus. The Indians would like him to finish off his development in the minors for a month or two before coming topside to the big league club for good in May or June. The biggest reason for sending him to the minors - though they will never say so publicly - is to align his service time clock as I mentioned a few weeks back.
Roster Makeup: From what I am hearing, outfielders Delvi Cid and Abner Abreu will both open the season in High-A Kinston. Also, left-hander T.J. McFarland will likely return to Low-A Lake County in the starting rotation but only for a few weeks, much like right-hander Joey Mahalic did last year.
Another Suspension: Indians minor league second baseman Manuel Boscan received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for metabolites of Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance. He was a part of the Indians’ Dominican Summer League roster and the suspension is effective at the start of the 2010 season. In response to the suspension, the Indians released him at no cost to the team.
Smaller Camp: This year a lot of the Indians extended spring training players and guys from the Dominican Summer League coming stateside are not participating in the early stages of spring training. In years past, everyone was in camp together, but this year the Indians decided to delay their arrival for about a month. The extended spring training guys should report right around the time the full season league guys break camp. The Indians like this new setup because it makes for a lot less bodies at spring training and more efficient with their coaching and evaluations, and of course is a lot more cost effective in that they are not paying for hotels and meal money for a month for about 35-40 additional players.
Cuts Are Coming: The Indians are going to start trimming their minor league roster soon, likely sometime early this coming week. There should be two to three rounds of cuts, and anywhere from 15-30 players in total. I’ll try and provide all of them as they happen, and I was told that “some guys who had good years last year are going to be disappointed.” Considering the Indians depth, they have a lot of tough decisions to make on some guys, but it looks like there will be some guys sent packing even though they had a good year last year. It should make for a lot of good discussion on the message board as I am sure there will be a questionable decision or two.
Roster Move Recap: Over the course of the past 48 hours, the Indians have made several roster moves. First off, infielder Brian Bixler has cleared waivers and has been outrighted to Triple-A Columbus. Also, ten players have been sent down from big league camp to minor league camp as Jeanmar Gomez (RHP), Hector Rondon (RHP), Carlos Santana (C), Jordan Brown (OF), Wes Hodges (3B), and Jason Donald (SS/2B) were optioned to Triple-A Columbus, and Carlos Rivero (SS) and Nick Weglarz (OF) have been optioned to Double-A Akron. As non-40 man roster players, Lonnie Chisenhall (1B) and Beau Mills (3B) have been reassigned to minor league camp.
Videos: Here are some more videos from camp: Nick Kirk, Nick Sarianides, Paolo Espino, Ryan Morris, Mike Rayl, Mike Pontius, Matt Packer, Joe Gardner, and Carlton Smith.
That’s A Wrap: I’ll have two extended pieces on pitchers T.J. House and Omar Aguilar later this week, but this is the final notebook from my spring training visit as I am now (unfortunately) back in Northeast Ohio. I’ll also be posting a video and picture recap of my visit later in the week, and now that spring games have started I will be providing the daily box scores on my site. The box scores from Friday March 19th and Saturday March 20th have already been posted. I’ll continue to post news as it happens in camp, and will try and list all releases and roster makeup as camp ends.