Indians general manager Chris Antonetti met with reporters for 12 and a half minutes Saturday afternoon before the game, touching on a variety of topics.
Here’s the question and answers from the brief session:
Q) Some things haven’t gone as planned already this season, yet the Indians find themselves in first place in the division. Do you feel pretty good with where the team is overall?
A) “We’re pleased with where we stand right now. Obviously, it’s good to get off to good start and be in first place at this point in the year. But we know it’s a long season and we still have our work cut out for us. The thing that we’re collectively most encouraged about is we feel we have the opportunity to play better in all facets of our game.”
Q) The last few days Johnny Damon has been drawing some walks and looks like he’s seeing the ball a little better. How encouraged are you with his progress?
A) “It’s been a process for Johnny to get re-acclimated to major league pitching. I think we’ve seen over the week or so that the quality of his at bats are continuing to improve. His command of the strike zone is continuing to improve. His swing mechanics are getting better and he’s looking more comfortable in the batters box. So I think we’ll begin to see more results consistently as Johnny gets more at bats.”
Q) Now that OF Grady SIzemore is starting to rehab, what are you looking for from him?
A) “We continue to be encouraged by the strides Grady’s made. He hasn’t had any set backs in his recovery. He’s initiated baseball activities now, he was on the field taking batting practice the other day and running around a little bit, so we’re encouraged by the progress. Now, hopefully he can continue to ramp up his activities and get him in some minor league games and not have any setbacks along the way because we’ve said all along, when Grady’s healthy and on the field, he’ll have an impact.”
Q) What’s the No. 1 concern for this team moving forward?
A) “Just consistency. I think we’ve seen each area of this team demonstrate its ability to contribute. But we’ve had some inconsistencies. And I think for us to be the team we want to be, we’re not able to rely on any one area to carry us. We need to get consistent contributions from each facet of the team.”
Q) Are you a fan of Interleague play?
A) “I am. I think it’s an opportunity to see things you don’t normally see and mix things up a little bit. I’m a much bigger fan of Interleague play when we get to play in American League ballparks than National League ballparks.”
Q) At the beginning of the season, you said you didn’t think it would matter that you had a predominately left-handed hitting lineup. Have you changed your mind about that at all based on how the season’s gone?
A) “Not really. Our focus is to win as many games as we can and score a lot more runs than our opponents. However we have to go about doing that, we’ll do it. There’s times when it’s a benefit to having a lineup that’s predominately left-handed to give us an advantage against a lot of right-handed pitching. So to the extent that that continues and we continue to put up runs against right-handed and left-handed pitching, then we’re OK with it. Now, if there are opportunities to improve the club, we’ll certainly be flexible and creative in how we do that. I think we’ve demonstrated we won’t be preoccupied by the hand of the batter.”
Q) How encouraged are you by what 1B/LF Matt LaPorta’s done at Triple-A Columbus?
A) “Matt’s made a lot of strides offensively and defensively. He’s gone down there with a great attitude and approach and he’s worked very hard with the Columbus staff and our minor league coordinators. I think we’re starting to see more consistency with his approach at the plate and with his at bats and that’s translated into his performance.”
Q) Is LaPorta any closer to a call up? Are you guys considering it?
A) “There are two things that go into that, obviously. How Matt’s doing – his progress (not only in just his performance but the process in getting there) and then opportunity - for us to make a move. But again, we’re encouraged by the progress he’s made and hopefully, he’ll continue that. So that if and when we have a need, he’s ready.”
Q) What are your thoughts on IB Casey Kotchman, who’s been hitting better as of late?
A) “He’s been really consistent defensively, obviously. He’s made a huge impact on our infield, not only our defense at first base, but our defense around the diamond because of the way he can pick balls in the dirt and save runs around the bag. Obviously, he got off to a tough start offensively the first few weeks of the season. But if you look at how he’s preformed for the better half of the last month, he’s been consistent with how he’s performed last year and at different points in his career.”
Q) Is there a time that the trade market starts to open up or are you always looking at different options?
A) “You’re always looking to improve and there are natural junctures throughout the year. The intensity always tends to pick up after the amateur draft…It gives team a chance to access what they have, access what their needs might be and access the competitiveness of their team and try to look to look extra to find a potential match. So, that’s when the volume of calls typically picks up. But we had a few calls last week.”
Q) Do you think the presence of an extra wild card will make the trade deadline different this year?
A) “I do. With another wild card team, you obviously have more teams in the mix. There’s also the added component of the new CBA, which gives you compensation for free agents and there’s some effect of the value of players that are traded within the last years of their deal. So, it’ll be an interesting trading environment.”
Q) Are you looking at LaPorta as a first baseman or a left fielder?
A) “Matt’s been playing both left field and first base in Columbus, and we feel he has a chance to contribute at either position whenever we have a need.”
Q) What is 3B Lonnie Chisenhall’s status in Columbus?
A) “He actually should be playing this weekend. He strained his calf and it took him a little while to get back. He progressed through baseball activities, took some balls and hit batting practice yesterday and should be in the lineup either today or tomorrow.”
Q) What’s been going on with LHP Scott Barnes? He made a couple starts and has had a lot of relief outings now. Is it a role change for him or have something to do with the knee?
A) “For right now, Scott will get the bulk of his opportunities in the bullpen, at least for the near term. We feel Scott’s got a great opportunity to potentially contribute to our major league team. And we’ve seen Scott’s ability as a starter. He’s a guy who has not had any experience – at least to date – to pitch out of the bullpen in professional baseball for an extended period of time. So we wanted to at least acclimate him to that role.”
Q) Has the thought process of the team changed at all about Grady and Johnny in that when Grady comes back about Damon coming or going? Or are you just going to wait and see how everything plays out?
A) “We have to get to that juncture in time first where we get everyone healthy. Then we’ll access what move to make at that point.”
Q) You thought Derek Lowe could still pitch or wouldn’t have added him to the team. But did you expect him to practically become your ace
A) “Derek‘s done really everything we could have potentially asked for, not only with his contributions on the mound, but he’s given us an opportunity to win every game he’s started. He competes exceptionally well. He manages games well. When he’s had runners on base, he’s been able to execute pitches to get out of it. But he’s also been a great influence in our clubhouse. We heard he was a great teammate and a great competitor; he’s certainly reinforced that belief when he got here, and probably has been better than we originally thought. He’s got a lot of energy and has impacted a lot of other starters with his professionalism.”
Q) What do you see out of RHP Ubaldo Jimenez right now compared to when he came over in the deal?
A) “Ubaldo continues to be inconsistent. The results have been inconsistent. His work, his preparation and his commitment haven’t wavered. He’s worked tirelessly with (pitching coach) Scott Radinsky to solidify his delivery mechanics; it just hasn’t clicked continuously every five days. And so, there have been times within each outing that there’s been encouraging elements and he’s made progress over the last handful of starts. But for us to be the team that we want to be, we need Ubaldo to be more consistent. I’m optimistic that with the work he’s put in with Scott Radinsky and the way the two of them continue to approach things, he’ll continue to improve and we’ll continue to see more consistency from him.”
Q) What do you want to see out of Ubaldo?
A) “I think he’s demonstrated that when he works ahead in the count, attacks hitters aggressively and throws strikes, he’s got the weapons and the ability to pitch very effectively at the major league level. His challenges come when he has a difficult time locating his pitches and he gets behind in the count. That inevitably leads to hitter advantage counts that leads to extra-base hits or leads to walks. The outings when he’s worked ahead, he’s had success.”
Q) Any news on Roberto Hernandez (the RHP formerly known as Fausto Carmona)?
A) “We continue to be in touch with his representatives, but there’s no real news to report. It’s still in the hands of the state department. He’s working out at our complex in the Dominican and threw a simulated game (60-65 pitches) there last week.”