Indians pitchers and catchers had their first official workout today in Goodyear, Ariz. But aside from minor league right-hander Bryan Price tweaking a hamstring while backing up a base, there wasn’t a whole lot of breaking news happening Thursday at the Indians complex.
Unless, of course, you count the Indians making official Michael Brantley’s contract extension that everyone had already reported three days prior as news. Since I don’t, here’s a few interesting (or maybe not) tidbits from the day you won’t see in the newspaper (and maybe anywhere else):
TEACHING TOOL - Indians manager Chris Antonetti was so impressed by the composure and selfless attitude that outfielder Brantley displayed during his afternoon press conference detailing his four-year, $25 million deal, he asked director of baseball information Bart Swain for a copy of the transcript to use as a future teaching tool.
“Unknowingly, Michael just made another contribution to the organization,” Antonetti said moments after Brantley exited the media room. “We’re gonna get that transcript and put that forward for all of our minor league guys. How he’s able to articulate how he’s thinking about what’s important to him.”
PAGING DR. SMOOTH - Brantley may very well be eloquent with his words, but he’s not beyond enjoying the cool nickname “Dr. Smooth” bestowed upon him by Plain Dealer sports writer Dennis Manoloff.
“The fans embrace it. I embrace it. It's fun. It's a good nickname. It's a cool nickname,” Brantley admitted.
CHICKEN? REALLY? -Personally, I agree that Dr. Smooth is pretty cool nickname to go by. I also get a kick out of the fact that sports writers still fill the role of nickname giver in this day and age like the old timers used to back in the day. Now, if only Manoloff could come up with a better moniker for reliever Cody Allen, who despite being a pretty cool himself, earned the dubious nickname “Chicken Al” last spring training by fellow reliever Frank Herrmann (see what happens when you let athletes have the honor?)
While the chicken nickname is far from cool, the way the Indians players went on to have fun with the topic was awesome indeed. With the blessing of skipperTerry Francona, they brought a live chicken to batting practice one day to mess with Allen. Then the Tribe rallied to beat visiting Baltimore 6-4 and hurdled the O’s in a scramble to win one of the American League's two wild-card spots.
During his interview after driving in a pair of runs in the victory, outfielder Ryan Raburn credited “Cody the chicken” for providing the spark the club needed.
“If we get on roll, that's going to be our mascot,” Raburn said. “Whoever's the owner of it, we're going to have to keep that sucker if we keep winning. We're going to have to get him his own locker.”
As far as I know, the chicken never got the royal treatment as promised, even as the Tribe won the final 10 games of the regular season to clinch a one-game wild card playoff against Tampa Bay. Awful nickname aside, being the superstitious baseball woman I am, it was injustice that ought to be rectified this season. Unless, of course, the chicken has already become someone’s dinner by now. In that case, I don't care to know.
ARBITRATION BOUND - See the crazy tangents I can go off on in the absence of real news? Anyway, here’s some important news to keep an eye on for tomorrow: pitcher Josh Tomlin’s arbitration case is set to be heard by a board in Florida.
Tomlin, who made $501, 800 last year, asked for $975,000 for the 2014 season. The Indians offered $800,000. Interestingly enough, the $175,000 difference between the two sides marks the smallest amount of any player who filed for arbitration in January.
Like former set-up man Vinnie Pestano’s recent arbitration case, Tomlin doesn’t have a whole lot on his side to back up his case. He spent nearly all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, pitching a mere two innings for the Tribe.
Pestano lost his case last week when arbitrators ruled in favor of the Indians, who saw their impressive streak of not going to arbitration halted after 22 years. Thus, Pestano will pitch this season on a $975,000 salary, not the $1.45 million he was hoping to land.
VISITORS ABOUND –Making his first official appearance of the season was shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera’s charismatic son Meyer Cabrera, who provided the best photo op of the day while dad took a round of batting practice nearby. Tired of throwing a ball off the fence screen and catching it on the carom as well as serving as water boy by fetching cups of water to quench the players’ thirst after rounds of hitting, Meyer made himself comfortable at one point by plopping down on top of an open bucket of balls sitting just beyond the back of the batting cage. When the elder Cabrera walked over to his son after taking a round of cuts, without even getting up Meyer quipped: “You made two outs, dad.”
MLB Network sent a four-person crew to Indians camp Thursday, one of which toted around a long boom mike that he swung in the direction of anyone talking to try to pick up tidbits of conversation.
Former Akron Aeros infielder Shaun Larkin (technically not exactly a visitor, but hey, it’s my blog entry here) is one of many spring training instructors in camp. Last season, Larkin was the hitting coach at short-season Mahoning Valley. When the regular season gets underway this year, Larkin will head to low Class-A Lake County, where he has been promoted to serve as the Captains hitting instructor.
PARTING SHOT -You know you’ve gotten old when players that you used to cover in the minors are now moving up the organizational ranks to become managers and coaches. In addition to Larkin, whom I covered for a handful of years during the early part of my 12-year stint as the Aeros beat writer for the ABJ, former Aeros catcher David Wallace will manager the Double-A team this season.