Kelvin De La Cruz was given some personalized instruction by pitching coach Tim Belcher during his bullpen session this morning.
De La Cruz has no chance to make the team out of training camp, but he was one of the Indians' brightest pitching prospects before he hurt his elbow early last season and was shut down for the duration. He probably will have to start the season at Class A Kinston again, but if he produces as expected, it won't be long until he is promoted to Double-A Akron.
De La Cruz won't be 22 until August, but Tribe officials think he is the kind of pitcher who could "come fast"' and skip a few grades on the way to the big leagues.
While they watched the pitchers throw, Akron manager Joel Skinner and director of player personnel Steve Lubratich reminisced about how spring traing has changed the past 30 years.
"When I was with the Yankees in Fort Lauderdale, the big league team only had 1 1/2 fields to work on,'' Skinner said. ""On the first day in my first year, everybody got out there and stretched then we started taking infield.''
That would never happen today, even though players are in far better shape when they report to camp.
"Players make enough money now that some guys come to camp a month and a half early, rent a place and start working out,'' Lubratich said. "Years ago, you didn't get to camp until the first official day.''
That's when players started earning meal money plus a housing allowance (if they didn't stay for free at the team hotel).
When Lubratich started his career, in the Angels' organization 30 years ago, the minor-leaguers trained in a small California town near the Mexican border, then then they went on a two-week trip for exhibition games before playing the final two weeks of games in Palm Springs.