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Indians announce April 4 Opening Day home game against Boston Red Sox sold out

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 29, 2016
Indians-Ballpark

The Indians announced that single-game tickets for their Opening Day and home opener game against the Boson Red Sox on April 4 sold out 40 minutes after they were made available online.

The Indians made roughly 10,000 additional tickets available to fans this season in the initial on-sale, and it took roughly 30 more minutes for them to be sold compared to last season.

The sellout marks the 24th straight for the Indians and 23rd at Progressive Field.

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Indians make signing of free agent 3B Juan Uribe official

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 28, 2016
Uribe

The Indians on Sunday announced that the signing of free agent third baseman Juan Uribe to a one-year deal is now official.

Uribe corrected his visa issues, made it camp in Goodyear, Ariz. this past weekend and passed his physical, finally allowing the one-year deal become official more than a week after the agreement was reportedly reached. He’ll make a reported $4 million plus incentives for the 2016 season.

Uribe, who turns 37 in March, provides the Indians with a veteran option in addition to Giovanny Urshela and will be the starting third baseman. Last season Uribe hit .253 with a .320 on-base percentage, 14 home runs and 43 RBI in 119 games between the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. He had 1.9 WAR in 2015, according to FanGraphs, after amassing 3.6 WAR with the Dodgers in 2014.

Uribe had a half-day in camp on Sunday and will be eased into things this spring.

“It’s been pretty apparent he’s been working out,” Indians manager Terry Francona told reporters in Goodyear. “We’ll take a few days to make sure he’s ready to go.”

Urshela, 24, last season showed his value defensively at third base but struggled at the plate, hitting .225 with a .608 OPS while dealing with back and shoulder issues. At times, it seemed the Indians were caught between thinking Urshela wasn’t able to properly be evaluated because of his injuries but also not wanting to hand the everyday job to him just yet.

It’s likely that Urshela will now open the season at Triple-A Columbus to continue to receive everyday at-bats. Utility man Jose Ramirez is slated to back up Uribe at third base when needed.

“We were trying to get Uribe all winter,” Francona said. “The things we said all winter were very honest. If Gio was our third baseman, we were OK with that. If Gio has to go to Triple-A to get some at-bats, we’d be OK with that too because we think it’d be good for him. Gio wasn’t quite ready offensively when he got to Cleveland last year, and the fact that he was beat up didn’t help.”

Due to the 80-game suspension handed down to outfielder Abraham Almonte for a failed drug test that revealed performance-enhancing drugs, no secondary move on the 40-man roster is necessary.

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Indians still have to figure out timeshare at 1B; Tyler Naquin watch; Abraham Almonte responds

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 27, 2016
Napolicage

The Indians currently have one spot in the everyday lineup at first base and two players who would like to be stationed there, that being Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana.

Both are converted catchers who have put in the work to be able to play first base. Both would prefer to play the field instead of sitting in the dugout as the designated hitter for all 162 games. But, something has to give or a balance has to be found. The two will certainly split time between first base and DH, but it’s also unlikely it will be a 50-50 split.

To address it, Indians manager Terry Francona took a straightforward approach.

“I asked [Santana] and Napoli both, ‘If you were the manager, who would you play?’” Francona said this past week in Goodyear, Ariz. “Both of them were like, ‘The better first baseman.’ It’s kind of easy.”

Francona wouldn’t say much beyond that in terms of addressing the situation directly, but statistically, that means Napoli should get the nod to be the primary first baseman.

In their careers, Napoli has graded out as the better defensive first baseman over Santana. Per FanGraphs, Napoli has 20 defensive runs saved in his career at first base (just under 4,000 innings). Santana has -9 (in just under 3,000 innings).

Among first baseman the last two seasons with at least 1,500 innings logged at first base in that time, Napoli’s 10 defensive runs saved were ninth in baseball. Santana’s -8 put him 20th, with only Chicago’s Jose Abreu and Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard being worse.

“[Napoli] has worked really hard to get good over there,” Francona said. “He’s not afraid to work and he’s really gotten pretty good.”

If Napoli does spend the majority of his time at first base, he’ll still be in the DH role fairly often. Francona is aware that Santana would prefer to not be the everyday DH, and he’d also like to take steps to ensure Napoli’s bat can remain in the lineup as much as possible.

“I think [Napoli] would much rather play first,” Francona said. “I think he understands, though, that one, with Santana, [he’s also an option]. And we’re trying to keep him in games where it makes sense to. I think he’s very open to that.”

The question could become how often Santana ends up in the field, and first base is the only real option. Catcher is occupied by Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. The Santana-at-third-base experiment of 2014 failed after a month. Santana has played exactly four innings in the outfield in his big-league career, and that came in 2012 in an emergency-type situation.

It seems as though Napoli is destined to act as the primary first baseman, with Francona staying mindful of keeping Santana in a rhythm and keeping Napoli’s bat in the lineup. At least, that’s what the statistics and apparent situation show. For now, it can be included in the plethora of things to watch this spring.

Opportunity arrived

Abraham Almonte’s 80-game suspension for a failed drug test that revealed performance-enhancing drugs opened up an increased opportunity for several outfielders vying for a spot on the Opening Day roster, especially with left fielder Michael Brantley expected to miss roughly the first month of the season.

That list includes Collin Cowgill, Will Venable and a slew of others in camp. It also includes Tyler Naquin, the Indians’ No. 6 prospect according to Baseball America.

Naquin was already the key prospect to watch this spring and the one with the best chance to make an impact in 2016 within the competition in the outfield. Suddenly, Naquin’s chances of making the team look a little brighter.

“It’s going to open up an opportunity for somebody,” Francona told reporters in Goodyear on Saturday. “We told Naquin, even before Abe, that he’s right smack in the middle of some competition. … We need to balance a lot of different things—roles, positions, things like that. More often than not, guy has a good camp, it puts yourself in a good light. We told him, it might not always happen on your timetable or your schedule, but if you can help a major league team, you find a way to help.”

Addressing teammates

On Saturday, Almonte addressed his teammates a day after finding out the news of his suspension.

Almonte took full responsibility for the failed drug test, per Indians GM Mike Chernoff. On Saturday, Almonte added that he’s not sure how the banned drug Boldenone, the one that caused the failed test, got into his system, according to MLB.com.

The only thing certain is that the Indians will be without one of the leading contenders for the center field job for nearly half the season.

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Indians OF Abraham Almonte suspended 80 games for failed PED drug test

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 26, 2016
Almonte

Indians outfielder Abraham Almonte received an 80-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Friday for a failed drug test that reveled performance-enhancing drugs.

Almonte was one of the front-runners in the competition in the Indians’ outfield, and was being penciled in as the Opening Day starter in center field. He had been limited this spring with back spasms but now will be away from the team for about half the regular season.

“We just found out about this today,” Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. “[Manager Terry Francona] and I talked with Abe as soon as we found out. Obviously, it’s disappointing. We fully support Major League Baseball’s program. The suspension is what it is, it’s 80 games for a player we had expected to contribute on the Major League team.”

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Indians in agreement with OF Will Venable on minor league deal with non-roster invite

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 26, 2016
Venable

The Indians added another veteran to their outfield mix this spring, signing Will Venable with a minor league deal that includes a non-roster invite to Major League camp.

Venable, 33, will join a crowded outfield competition that includes Abraham Almonte, Collin Cowgill, Joey Butler, Zach Walters (now focusing primarily on outfield work), Robbie Grossman, Shane Robinson, Michael Choice, James Ramsey and Tyler Naquin. With Michael Brantley expected to be sidelined roughly the first month of the season, Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall look to have two slots nailed down until Brantley’s return.

Almonte, who manned center field for much of the second half of last season and Cowgill, who could platoon with Chisenhall in right field and has the ability to play all three spots in the outfield, could be the top two contenders in that field.

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Videos, pictures from Thursday's workouts at Indians spring facility in Goodyear

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 25, 2016
Kipthrow

Here are a few videos and pictures from the Indians' workouts on Thursday at their spring facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

(Tito's scooter)

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MLB, players union pass new rule banning 'takeout slides'

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 25, 2016

Major League Baseball and the players’ union on Thursday banned “takeout slides” slides by base runners aimed at disrupting a double play.

This rule change is largely the result of Los Angeles second baseman Chase Utley’s hard slide into second base during last year’s playoffs, which ended with New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada breaking his leg.

The new rule, in effect, means runners need to enact a “bona fide slide” into the base—not around it, past it or into a fielder—and must attempt to maintain contact with the base. If it is determined that the runner intentionally slid into someone, he will be ruled out on interference.

This also means that takeout slides and “neighborhood plays,” a long unwritten rule of baseball that the fielder at second base just needs to be near the bag while turning a double play, are both reviewable.

“I like it,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “I’ve never understood the neighborhood play. If you’re supposed to step on the bag, you’re supposed to step on the bag. It’s like the phantom tag. If you put the tag down but don’t tag the guy, he’s safe. I also understand they’re trying to not get guys carted off the field. This will be a good rule.”

Baseball and the union also agreed to limit mound visits to 30 seconds and have cut the countdown clock for between-innings breaks by 20 seconds, to 2:05 for local games and 2:25 for nationally televised games.

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Indians SP Trevor Bauer going to work like anyone else, doesn't find as much enjoyment as a pro

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 25, 2016
Bauer

Ever since turning pro, Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer has looked at the game of baseball like a lot of people look at their jobs. And since that time, Bauer hasn’t found the same joy in certain aspects of the game as he did when he was younger.

Bauer said on Thursday, expanding from last season, that he doesn’t like the game as much and used to love it before adding that it’s certain aspects of it that he just no longer enjoys. This isn’t a new development, but something Bauer has dealt with for several seasons.

“Everyone has things they dislike about their job, everyone has things they like about their job,” Bauer. “Even if it’s at the end of the day and they feel like they’re being productive doing something or putting food on the table for their family or whatever the case may be. Overall, baseball is a net positive in my life for sure.”

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Indians SP Mike Clevinger, armed with dream catcher, hopes for good vibes; Waiting on Juan Uribe

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 24, 2016
Clevinger

Baseball players will turn to just about anything if it’ll put themselves on the right side of baseball karma, give them good luck or, if anything, bring some positivity into an often negative sport.

Jason Giambi famously had a golden thong as a slump buster. Mike Napoli currently has a mini Jobu figure in his locker. Players keep other mementos in their lockers for luck. Sometimes a helmet can’t he washed if a hitter is in the zone.

For minor-league starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, it’s a large dream catcher. And it’s currently protecting his jersey in the Indians’ clubhouse at their spring facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

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Videos, pictures from Wednesday's workout at Indians facility in Goodyear

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 24, 2016
Catcherscatching

Here are videos and pictures of Wednesday's workouts at the Indians spring facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

Included are some infield drills and bullpen sessions.

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Indians manager Terry Francona gives spring speech before first full-squad workout

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 23, 2016

Indians manager Terry Francona isn't big on meetings. That is, except for the first one.

Francona holds that initial meeting, and the speech he gives early in the spring, in high regard. As players report and the entire team gets into camp, Francona gets them together and shares his thoughts on the game and the upcoming season. He wants it to set the tone, remind the veterans of what needs to be done and let those who are new to the club understand what the Indians want to be about as a team.

The Indians held their first full-squad workout on Tuesday, so the time had come.

“I do, I admit, I care about the meeting a lot because I think it sets the tone for what we’re supposed to do,” Francona said Tuesday. “I’ve been doing it for a long time but I still get anxiety over it and until it’s over, it’s a responsibility that I take really serious. And I’ve told the guys, to be able to stand up in front of them is an honor and I want to take it and treat it as that.”

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Indians 1B Carlos Santana could be an option for leadoff spot, but “only a thought” as of now

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 23, 2016
Santanacage

The puzzle pieces have been there for a while, but they’ve never been put together.

Indians manager Terry Francona said on Tuesday that he hasn’t put much thought into the lineup, whether it be for Opening Day or when Michael Brantley returns. But one idea that has crossed his mind is utilizing Carlos Santana’s ability to get on base and putting him in the leadoff spot.

Francona stressed that it’s just a thought right now, but it’s something that could make sense given Santana’s career .365 on-base percentage. Santana is also one of only four qualified hitters to post an OBP higher than .350 in each of the past five seasons, per MLB.com, joining Ben Zobrist, Andrew McCutchen and Miguel Cabrera. Those attributes traditionally warrant more value higher up the batting order.

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Videos, pictures from Tuesday's workouts and endurance test at Indians facility in Goodyear

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 23, 2016
Prep

(Mike Napoli in the cage in Goodyear}

Here are videos and pictures from Tuesday's workouts and endurance test at the Indians facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

Tuesday was the first full-squad workout and the endurance test for position players, which was won by Jerry Lucas.

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Indians LF Michael Brantley pleased to be hitting again (in some form)

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 22, 2016
Brantleybat

One of the players Indians guest instructor Jason Giambi (not pictured above) spent the most time with on Monday was left fielder Michael Brantley, who’s now hitting off a tee as he rehabs from off-season shoulder surgery.

Brantley is progressing well thus far and will continue on his own hitting program this spring. He's pushing it to return to the lineup, but within reason.

For now, he’s just happy to be hitting in any form.

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Jason Giambi begins work as Indians guest instructor, testing coaching waters

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 22, 2016
Giambi

Jason Giambi is back in the Indians clubhouse, but this time around it’s with fewer stings attached.

Giambi, 45, on Monday had his first full day on the job as an Indians guest instructor during the spring. It’s his first foray into coaching, something that’s always seemed like an eventuality given Giambi’s experience and ability to communicate with teammates. But for now, it’s only a test run. He wants to see how things go. Later on, he’ll determine if he’d like to pursue full-time employment on a coaching staff, particularly with two small children at home.

“I just wanted to come get my feet wet, to let everyone know I’m still interested,” Giambi said. “I didn’t want to be five years out of the game and then try to come back in. … It’s a big commitment, especially coaching. There’s a lot of hours involved. I want to make sure I have time with my kids. I waited a long time for them, so I wanted to make sure that they’re taken care of.”

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Videos, pictures from Monday's workout at Indians facility in Goodyear

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 22, 2016
Stretch

Here are some videos and pictures from Monday's workouts at the Indians' spring training facility in Goodyear, Ariz.

Included are some bullpen sessions, catching drills (with Sandy Alomar at the helm) and stretches.

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Indians LF Michael Brantley hitting off a tee; RP Tommy Hunter could be out until Mid-May

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 21, 2016
Brantley

Indians left fielder Michael Brantley has already reached another small milestone in his rehab, as he’s begun hitting off a tee according to manager Terry Francona.

Brantley is still expected to miss roughly the first month of the season as he works his way back from off-season surgery on his non-throwing (right) shoulder. The speed at which he progresses with hitting drills will be the biggest factor in determining his actual return date.

Brantley began taking swings earlier this week in Goodyear and has since graduated to hitting off a tee.

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Indians sign 3B Juan Uribe to one-year deal pending physical

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 19, 2016
Uribe

The Indians on Friday signed veteran third baseman Juan Uribe to a one-year deal worth roughly $5 million, according to multiple media reports. The deal has not yet been made official by the club and is still pending a physical.

Uribe, who turns 37 in March, provides the Indians with a veteran option in addition to Giovanny Urshela, and will act as the primary third baseman this season. Last season Uribe hit .253 with a .320 on-base percentage, 14 home runs and 43 RBI in 119 games between the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. He had a 1.9 WAR in 2015, according to FanGraphs, after amassing a 3.6 WAR with the Dodgers in 2014.

While Uribe and Urshela are both quality third baseman defensively, Uribe certainly has more of a track record offensively and brings a veteran presence. The Indians had been tied to Uribe for several weeks. It was reported by ESPN that Uribe was originally dissatisfied with the Indians’ offer of “about $3 million.” Uribe was also rumored to be negotiating with San Francisco this winter, among other teams.

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Team Adriana gets a victory against disease; Indians single-game tickets to go on sale Feb. 29

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 19, 2016

Some excellent news came out of Florida right at the beginning of this year's spring training.

Former Indians utility man Mike Aviles told Detroit reporters that his daughter, Adriana, received a bone-marrow transplant in December and is now cancer-free.

Adriana, now five-years-old, was diagnosed with Leukemia last May. Indians players began shaving their heads in support of Adriana’s fight. Then it included the coaching staff, then the front office and finally owner Paul Dolan, who was shaved by Aviles himself in the Indians’ dugout. The Indians also had “Team Adriana” T-shirts, and she threw out the first pitch at a game later in the season.

Once Adriana is cleared to fly, she will join Aviles in Lakeland, Fla. For now, it’s good news all around. Aviles signed a one-year, $2 million contract with the Tigers this offseason.

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Pitchers and catchers report; projection systems love the Indians, hate the Royals (again)

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 17, 2016

Indians pitchers and catchers reported to Goodyear for spring camp today, marking the official start of baseball. Somewhere, Corey Kluber is playing catch with Yan Gomes while you’re probably scraping off your car and cleaning slush off your shoes. It also means spring is near, and April 4 isn’t far away.

The full squad will report to camp on Sunday, Feb. 21. I’ll be flying out that morning and will be in Goodyear for five days, along with another five days in late March. On Sunday morning (in print and online), I’ll have the top things to look for and the top storylines to follow this spring in Goodyear.

In the meantime, what we have now are the several projection systems used by various outlets to predict each team’s win-loss record for the 2016 season. And so far, pretty much all of them love the Indians and, once again, hate the Kansas City Royals.

FanGraphs, Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA and CBS SportsLine all have the Indians winning the AL Central.

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Indians sign relief pitcher Tommy Hunter to one-year, $2 million deal

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 12, 2016
Hunter

The Indians on Friday brought some more clarity to their bullpen situation, signing relief pitcher Tommy Hunter to a one-year, $2 million contract.

Hunter, a hard-throwing right-hander, has worked exclusively out of the bullpen since 2013 with the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago Cubs. Last year, he had a 4.18 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings pitched. Hunter was rock solid in 2013 and 2014 for Baltimore, posting ERAs of 2.81 and 2.97, respectively. As a reliever, Hunter owns a career 3.28 ERA.

Last season, per FanGraphs, Hunter’s fastball had an average velocity of 96.4 mph. That was the 13th fastest among qualified relievers. It also makes him the hardest-throwing member of the Indians’ bullpen. Zach McAllister had the highest ranking among Indians pitchers last season, as his 94.9 mph fastball put him 28th.

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Indians, other teams still looking into FA 3B Juan Uribe

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 8, 2016
Uribe

The market on free agent third baseman Juan Uribe is still in a holding pattern.

The Indians have been connected to Uribe for a while. Last season Uribe, who turns 37 in march, hit .253 with a .320 on-base percentage, 14 home runs and 43 RBI in 119 games between the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. He amassed a 1.9 WAR, per FanGraphs, after finishing 2014 with a 3.6 WAR with the Dodgers. Defensively, he’s been an above-average third baseman for most of his career. In 2013 and 2014 he had 15 and 17 defensive runs saved, respectively. That number dipped to one last season, though.

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that the San Francisco Giants recently moved on from Uribe due to his asking price. Olney then reported that Uribe and his agent were dissatisfied with the Indians’ offer of about $3 million, creating a holding pattern. For now, Uribe, third baseman David Freese, shortstop Ian Desmond, outfielder Dexter Fowler and several others represent a talented free agent crop still available, a bit of a surprise considering pitchers and catchers report in less than two weeks.

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Indians add RP Craig Stammen to bullpen mix with non-roster invite

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 8, 2016
Stammen

 

The Indians added another option to the bullpen on Monday, signing relief pitcher Craig Stammen to a minor league deal that includes a non-roster invitation to camp this spring.

Stammen, 31, has compiled a career 3.91 ERA in 229 appearances (he was converted to a reliever in 2010) including 370 strikeouts in 490 2/3 innings pitched with the Washington Nationals. Last season, Stammen pitched only four innings before being shut down on April 19 with forearm/elbow complications that warranted season-ending surgery. In 2014, he went 4-5 with a 3.84 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings.

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Indians continue campaign for Bob Feller; Jim Thome hopes Albert Belle comes to ceremony

By Ryan Lewis Published: February 5, 2016
BelleLoftonBaerga

The trucks packed with gear are leaving for Goodyear, Arizona, a promissory note that baseball will soon arrive.

Pitchers and catchers will report on Feb. 17, all players will report by Feb. 21 and the Indians kick off their spring training slate against the Cincinnati Reds on March 1.

Spring is near and baseball is coming. Here’s a roundup of Indians notes to pass the time.

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