OUR Indians First Half MVP

The votes have been tallied — some came in on “comments”, some were emailed privately, and some were told to me verbally.
OUR Indians MVP for the first half of the season is….
Yurendell de Caster.
“De” is one of the most versatile players you will ever see. He can play outfield, first base, third base, second base, and in a pinch, he can even catch a bit. He has played more first base than ever this season, and has become very comfortable at that spot. Since Brad Eldred joined the team, De has played more frequently in the outfield, with his usual efficiency.
While he started off the season slowly at the plate, by the third week of April, he was hitting over .300, and hasn’t looked back. He is currently leading the Indians with a .317 average, which has him tied for 5th in the International League. He is tied for the league lead in on-base percentage with .426. De has hit 14 doubles, one triple, and 3 homers, with 29 RBI, while walking 40 times. The walk totals are the highest he’s ever had in his career (in 2006, he walked 35 times in the entire season). The difference this season has been more patience at the plate which has allowed him to see more hitter’s counts at the plate, get more hits, and secondarily, get more walks. His splits show that he hits .365 at home and .276 on the road. De has stolen 10 bases in 16 attempts, so when he does get on base, opposing pitchers can’t just ignore him. Read more about De’s past seasons here.
For excellence both at the plate and in the field, Yurendell de Caster is our MVP for the first half of 2007.
Um, no, unfortunately there is no plaque or watch or ring or even a beer that goes with this award. Just our thanks and our continued cheering and support.
Runner-up:
Bryan Bullington
Bryan Bullington -- photo by NancyZ
Right-handed starter Bullington is currently tied for the league lead in number of wins on the season, with 9. His overall record is 9-4, in 14 starts, with a 3.43 ERA. Prior to his last two starts, though his record was 9-2, with a 2.75 ERA. He has 47 strikeouts, second highest on the team, and 34 walks. Bryan has a better ERA at home –.292– than on the road — 3.89. He was the Indians’ Player of the Month for April. Bryan has had an excellent start to the season, particularly in view of the fact that he missed all of the 2006 season due to surgery.
Read more about Bryan’s last couple of seasons here, and read an interview with Bryan.

Also getting votes:
Rajai Davis
Rajai Davis -- photo by NancyZ
Rajai spent the first two months of 2007 with the Indians. He was hitting .318 with a 21 game hitting streak when he was called up to the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 4th. Rajai had hit 12 doubles, 4 triples, and 4 home runs with 30 RBI at that time. But Rajai’s biggest asset is his speed. When he got the call from the Pirates, he was leading the league with 27 stolen bases — more than some entire teams had. It wasn’t just that he was taking the bases, either. It was as much how he made the opposing pitchers uncomfortable on the mound. They could never relax with Rajai on base, because they knew he was always thinking of running — they just never knew when. That disruption of the pitchers’ concentration led to more hits by the batters following Rajai, and more Indians’ runs.
Since being called up to the Pirates, Rajai has appeared in 8 games, and he has a .211 batting average, with 3 stolen bases in 3 attempts. One of his hits was a triple — his speed can create a triple where some other batter/base runners might have to settle for a double.
Read more about Rajai Davis here.
Brian Bixler
Brian Bixler -- photo by NancyZ
Indians’ shortstop Brian Bixler is having an excellent season, particularly since this is his first taste of AAA-level baseball. Brian’s batting average is currently .297, though it has been over .300 for most of the season. He leads the team in triples, with 7. He also has 11 doubles and 4 homers, with 30 RBI. Brian’s splits are even more interesting. He is hitting .353 against left-handed pitching, and .276 against right-handers. He is batting .347 at home, and .268 on the road, and he’s hitting .343 with runners in scoring position. He also has 17 stolen bases, and until just last week he had not been caught stealing at all.
In the field, Brian has been outstanding. He can go deep in the hole and come up with balls that looked certain to get through to the outfield. He can scoop up a ball and start the double play, or make the sure catch and relay throw in the middle of the double play. Bixler has also played a few games at second base, showing his range in the opposite direction.
Read more about Brian here.
Einar Diaz
Einar Diaz -- photo by NancyZ
Einar initially joined the team as the back-up catcher, but when Carlos Maldonado broke his hand, Einar stepped up to more regular catching duties. He has appeared in 35 games for the Indians, and is batting .265, with a .331 OBP. He has 8 doubles and 2 home runs, with 13 RBI. Einar is hitting .361 against left handed pitching, and .300 with runners on base. He has also stolen 5 bases this season.
Behind the plate, Einar is known to work well with the pitching staff, and he has the reputation of being able to get to and stop almost any pitch that is thrown — not many get past him. He’s always got a smile on his face, and is willing to do whatever the team needs from him. Last year, he even pitched for the Buffalo Bison when an extra pitcher was needed!
Read more about Einar here.
Go Tribe!

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A Quick Draft Note or Two

I headed over to Baseball Think Factory this morning with the idea of comparing the Pirates’ current stats to where the ZiPS system projected they would be, but I got sidetracked. (I’m grateful; that would’ve been another depressing post in a long string of depressing posts.) What caught my eye was a shadow draft conducted three weeks ago. Mike Emeigh, a fantastic analyst of prospects (and a member of the black and...

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Indians Swept by Mud Hens

boxscore (photos by NancyZ)
Bryan Bullington -- photo by NancyZ
The Toledo Mud Hens swept the four-game series from the Indianapolis Indians at Fifth-Third Field in Toledo, winning tonight’s game by a blow-out score of 9-1. The win puts the second place Indians two games behind the first place Mud Hens.
There was trouble right from the start, in the top of the 1st inning. Indians’ right hander Bryan Bullington (photo) made his first appearance since missing a start due to stiffness and discomfort in his right shoulder. The inning opened with Bullington walking the first two batters, SS Ramon Santiago and 2B Kevin Hooper, on 9 pitches. LF Timo Perez grounded out, moving the runners to second and third. CF Ryan Raburn also walked, to load the bases. Bullington struck out 1B Chris Shelton, but then big hitter 3B Mike Hessman lined a double to the left field wall, scoring all three base runners. Another big hitter, DH Jack Hannahan singled, to score Hessman. Finally, RF David Espinosa hit a fly out to end the inning with the Mud Hens up by 4 runs.
The second inning started a bit better for Bullington. C Dane Sardinha hit a fly ball for the first out. Ramon Santiago doubled into center field, and things started to look scary again. But Bullington got some help from his outfield, when LF Michael Ryan ran way back and made a catch with his back to the infield to put away Kevin Hooper, and CF Matt Kata ran in and made a diving catch to put away Timo Perez and end the threat.
Jesse Chavez  -- photo by NancyZ
The Mud Hens did it again in the 3rd inning. Bryan Bullington came out to start the inning, and got the first out easily on a fly ball to centerfield. Then a single by Chris Shelton and a walk to Mike Hessman spelled the end of the evening for Bryan Bullington. Bullington had thrown 63 pitches (35 for strikes) over 2.1 innings, and gave up 4 hits and 4 walks. Jesse Chavez entered the game in relief. Chavez was greeted by Jack Hannahan’s single, scoring Shelton and moving Hessman to third base. Chavez struck out David Espinosa, but then gave up back-to-back singles to Dane Sardinha, to score Hessman, and Ramon Santiago, to move the runners to second and third bases. Kevin Hooper then flied out to end the inning, but with the score extended to 6-0.

Brian Bixler  -- photo by NancyZ
(photo — Brian Bixler )
There was another threat by the Mud Hens in the 4th inning. With Jesse Chavez still on the mound for the Tribe, the first out came quickly on a line out to right field by Timo Perez. Ryan Raburn singled, and Chris Shelton produced another out when he swung at strike three. Then Mike Hessman hit a bomb — which, luckily for the Indians, curved foul at the last moment, and was a long strike rather than a 2-run homer. Hessman worked a walk, and was still on first base when Chavez got Jack Hannahan to look at strike three and end the inning without any scoring. Chavez came back tough in the 5th inning, and for the first time in the game, set the Mud Hens down in order.
Meanwhile, Mud Hens starter Yorman Basardo had been keeping the Indians’ batters under control. He scattered three hits and one walk in the first 6 innings, with the Indians never getting more than one base runner in an inning.
Luis Ordaz -- photo by NancyZ
(photo — Luis Ordaz)
Kevin Gryboski, fresh off the DL, came on to pitch in the 6th inning. He gave a single to Kevin Hooper, and a walk to Ryan Raburn, and then another single to Chris Shelton, to load the bases with one out, and the dangerous Mike Hessman at the plate. A wild pitch from Gryboski that C Humberto Cota couldn’t handle allowed Kevin Hooper to score, and the other baserunners to move up a base. Then Hessman looped a single into left field, scoring two more runners, Raburn and Shelton. A walk to Jack Hannahan put men on first and second, still with one out. David Espinosa struck out for the second time in the game, and a diving stop deep in the hole behind shortstop by Indians’ Brian Bixler for a force out at second base ended the inning — with the score at 9-0. At this point, the Indians’ radio broadcasters started talking about the possibility of one of the position players, maybe Einar Diaz or Matt Kata, making a pitching appearance.
Josh Sharpless -- photo by NancyZ
Instead of a position player, Josh Sharpless (photo) took over on the mound for Kevin Gryboski in the 7th inning. Sharpless started by giving up an infield single to Ramon Santiago, when Santiago beat out the barehanded scoop-and-throw by 3B Russ Johnson. But before the situation could get out of hand, Russ Johnson made another scoop of a grounder from Kevin Hooper and started a double play: Johnson to Luis Ordaz at second to Brad Eldred at first. A pop up by Timo Perez to Brad Eldred ended the inning. Sharpless also pitched the 8th inning, giving up two walks, but getting out of it without allowing the runners to score.
Mud Hens’ starter Basardo went 7 innings, giving up only 4 hits and one walk, while striking out three Indians. He was relieved in the 8th inning by right hander Preston Larrison. Brian Bixler led off with a single, and he moved to second base when Larrison threw a wild pitch. Luis Ordaz also singled, and the speedy Bixler came around from second base to score, finally putting the Indians on the scoreboard. Don Kelly grounded to the second baseman Hooper, who threw to SS Santiago at second base to force out Ordaz, but Kelly beat the relay throw to first, for a fielder’s choice. Russ Johnson grounded into a double play, though, to end the inning. Larrison also pitched the 9th inning, hitting Brad Eldred with a pitch, but retiring three other batters without any difficulty.
Mud Hens’ Bazardo took the win, his 6th of the season. Bryan Bullington got the loss for the Indians, his 4th, giving up 6 runs in 2.1 innings. Kevin Gryboski gave up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks in one inning. Josh Sharpless threw 2 scoreless innings. Jesse Chavez also threw 2.2 scoreless innings but he was not pleased with his work, in which he allowed two base runners inherited from starter Brian Bullington to score.
“I gave up the starter’s (Bullington’s) runs and that irritates me”, said Chavez. “The starter never deserves for a reliever to come in and give up (his) runs. Bullington was out there pitching his tail off, and I would rather give up my runs than his.”
The Indians will be taking the bus to Columbus after the game, leaving Toledo as soon as humanly possible, I’m sure. They won’t return to Toledo until August 20th. Said reliever Jesse Chavez after the game: “We have been playing well all year, and we can’t base the whole season on one series. All we can do is keep hitting the ball and pitching well, like we’ve done all season.”
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: The Indians had only 6 hits in the game, all singles, and Luis Ordaz had two of them, including the RBI single in the 8th, to score Brian Bixler.
Indians’ defensive gems of the game: The first two were in the second inning, when outfielders Matt Kata and Michael Ryan made outstanding catches on two foul balls, ending the inning. The third was the double play turned in the 7th inning, 3B Russ Johnson to 2B Luis Ordaz to 1B Brad Eldred, to get out of the inning.
NOTES:
John Wasdin  -- photo by NancyZ
Roster Moves:
With Jonah Bayliss heading towards Indy, someone from Indy has to be heading towards Pittsburgh — or at least meeting up with the Pirates in Florida. That will be John Wasdin. He is being taken off the Disabled List, and will join the Pirates for their series in Florida starting on Tuesday. Wasdin made 5 appearances, all starts, with the Indians. His record was 1-1, with a 5.97 ERA in 28.2 innings, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. He pitched progressively longer in each outing, working his way up to 8 innings in the last start on Friday. He did not walk anyone in that whole time, and in his last two starts, he struck out 12 in 7.2 innings, and 9 in 8 innings, and he had an ERA of 4.14 in those two starts.
With Wasdin in Pittsburgh, Michael Tejera will take his place in the starting rotation.
RHP Kevin Gryboski was activated off the Disabled List today. He had been placed on the DL on May 17th, with tendonitis in his left knee.
C Carlos Maldonado was placed on the temporary inactive list.
Awards:
OF Michael Ryan was named the International League Hitter of the Week for last week. He has had an extra-base hit in each of his last 5 games. In the past week, Ryan has hit .481 (13 for 27) with 2 homers, a triple, and 4 doubles, 7 runs scored, and 5 RBI. He had an infield single tonight, to extend his hitting streak to 6 games.
Go Tribe!

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Has the Time Come to Trade Away Jason Bay?

Everything I’ve read in response to Dejan’s article about the Pirates’ interest in Jarrod Saltalamacchia has surprised me. Before I go any further, let me clarify two points: It seems extremely unlikely that the Pirates will acquire Saltalamacchia given David Littlefield’s history. The Pirates will not trade Jason Bay. Still, I was surprised that when the price for Saltalamacchia was set at Bay, Ian Snell or...

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Indians Fall to Mud Hens and Out of First Place

boxscore (photo by NancyZ)
Luis Matos and Trent Jewett  -- photo by NancyZ
WARNING: If you have a serious heart condition, watching the Indianapolis Indians and the Toledo Mud Hens play a baseball game might not be a good idea for you. At least you should have your nitroglycerin pills ready. The two teams played another close game tonight at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, and while the Indians did hold the lead for most of the game, if the Mud Hens weren’t scoring, they were threatening to score. Once again, the Mud Hens beat the Indians with a walk-off single in the bottom of the 9th, this time by a score of 7-6. The Indians fell out of first place, for the first time in over two months.
The Indians scored first again tonight. In the second inning, with two outs, RF Michael Ryan and CF Luis Matos (photo, with manager Trent Jewett) hit back-to-back doubles off Toledo starter Virgil Vasquez, scoring Ryan with the first run of the game. The Mud Hens came right back in the bottom of the inning, when 3B Mike Hessmann blasted a solo home run over the left field wall. It was Hessmann’s league-leading 22nd home run and his league-leading 67th RBI.
Russ Johnson hit a homer -- photo by NancyZ
The Tribe picked up an additional 3 runs in the 3rd inning. DH Carlos Maldonado started the rally by working a walk. 3B Russ Johnson (photo) lifted a blast over the left field scoreboard and onto the road behind the left field wall, for a 2-run homer. That was Johnson’s first homer since June 7th. LF Matt Kata followed the homer with a single, and he stole second base. Jose Hernandez knocked in Kata with a double into center field, giving the Tribe a 4-1 lead.
No lead is safe when the Indians and the Mud Hens play, though. In the 5th inning, with Tribe pitcher Marty McLeary looking a bit tired, DH Jack Hannahan walked. RF David Espinosa dropped a double into center field, moving Hannahan to third base. A grounder to second base by C Andrew Graham scored Hannahan and moved Espinosa to third base. Then McLeary walked both SS Ramon Santiago and 2B Kevin Hooper to load the bases. LF Timo Perez grounded a ball to deep behind second base, which Tribe 2B Luis Ordaz had to go far to his right side to scoop up, and then flip back-handed to SS Don Kelly at second base for the force out to end the inning with no further runs scoring. The score: Indians 4, Mud Hens 2.

Juan Perez -- photo by NancyZ
The Mud Hens threatened again in the next inning. CF Ryan Raburn led off the bottom of the 6th inning with a double off Marty McLeary. 1B Chris Shelton grounded out, but Raburn was unable to advance. 3B Mike Hessman worked a walk, and that was the end of McLeary’s outing. Manager Trent Jewett brought in lefty Juan Perez(photo), knowing that the next batter, the left-handed Hens’ DH Jack Hannahan, does not do as well against left handed pitchers. Hannahan has been hitting .340 with 6 homers and 31 RBI against right handed pitching, and only .222 with 2 homers and 6 RBI against leftys. Sure enough, Perez got Hannahan to work a full count, and then struck him out swinging. He followed by striking out LF David Espinosa to end the inning, leaving the runners stranded on first and second.
In the 7th inning, the Indians added further to their lead, when Russ Johnson walked with two out, and Matt Kata (photo below) tripled into deep center field, scoring Johnson. Hens’ CF Ryan Raburn had trouble finding the ball in the twilight, and it sailed over his head, landing at the warning track for Raburn to chase down. That ended the night for starter Virgil Vasquez, who pitched 6.2 innings, and gave up 6 runs, all earned, on 8 hits and 2 walks. Preston Larrison entered in relief, and quickly made a mistake of his own: a wild pitch that went all the way to the backstop and made a crazy bounce. By the time C Andrew Graham could get to it and throw to Vasquez, Kata had scored easily.
Matt Kata -- photo by NancyZ
Juan Perez returned in the bottom of the 7th to pitch for the Tribe. He again struck out two Hens, but this time he also allowed a double by Andrew Graham and a walk by Kevin Hooper. Brian Rogers relieved Perez with two runners on and two out. Rogers threw a wild pitch to Ryan Raburn, moving the runners up 90 feet, to third and second. Then Raburn hit his second double of the night into the alley in left center field, scoring both Graham and Hooper, bringing the Hens within 2 runs of the Tribe. Another wild pitch by Rogers advanced Raburn to third base. Finally, Rogers got Chris Shelton to swing at strike three, to end the rally.
Franquelis Osoria came on in the 8th with one on and one out, relieving Brian Rogers, and he got David Espinosa to ground into a fielder’s choice force out, and then pinch hitter Henry Mateo to swing at strike three to end the threat. Osoria returned to pitch the 9th inning. With one out, he gave up a single up the middle to Kevin Hooper. Timo Perez sliced a grounder off 1B Jose Hernandez’s glove and into center field, and that put runners on first and second bases. Hernandez was given an error on the play. Ryan Raburn lifted a high pop fly into foul territory toward the third base stands — which Russ Johnson was able to catch right next to the railing for the second out. That brought up Chris Shelton, last night’s hero for the Hens. He couldn’t be the big hero in the same way here, as he was hit by a pitch, to load the bases. Next to the plate: the league’s home run and RBI leader, Mike Hessman. (This would be a good time for that nitroglycerin pill.) Hessman ran the count full and then fouled off more pitches, before taking ball four, to get an unearned walked-in run for the Hens. That made the score to 6-5, and brought Jack Hannahan to the plate. Hannahan smashed a single into center field, bringing in Perez and Shelton to win the game. It was the third walk-off win in a row for the Mud Hens over the Indians, and it moved the Mud Hens into first place, one game ahead of the Tribe.
Franquelis Osoria took the loss for the Indians, his second loss in three days, and his third for the season. Reliever Anthony Tomey got the win for the Mud Hens, his first of the season. Matt Kata went 3 for 4 , with a triple and an RBI and 2 runs scored. Michael Ryan continued his hot hitting, going 2 for 4, with both hits being doubles. He raised his average to .259. Russ Johnson hit a homer, for 2 RBI, and he also scored 2 runs.
Indians’ hitting gem of the game: Russ Johnson’s big bomb home run, with 2 RBI in the third inning, which kept the Indians ahead for several innings.
Indians’ defensive gem of the game: Luis Ordaz going far to his right to keep Timo Perez’s grounder from getting into the outfield in the 5th inning, and then getting it to Don Kelly at second base with a back-handed toss. It came with the bases loaded and two out, and if Ordaz hadn’t reached that ball, another run, and maybe two, would have scored.
NOTES:
Streaks:
Luis Matos now has a 7 game hitting streak.
Michael Ryan has a 5 game hitting streak, and in each of those games, he has had an extra-base hit.
Roster Moves:
The Pirates announced after their game this afternoon that they will option relief pitcher Jonah Bayliss to the Indians. They will decide who will be taking Bayliss’s spot on the roster in the next day or two.
Brad Eldred joined the team in the middle of the game — his flight had been due to get in just before game time. He’s spent a lot of time on planes this weekend.
Go Tribe!

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Saltalamacchia to Save a Sinking Pirate Ship?

I was going to wait until tomorrow for this, but I’ll jump in with my thoughts now. I’m sure you’ve seen this morning’s Post-Gazette in which Dejan Kovacevic reports that the Pirates have inquired about Jarrod Saltalamacchia, a big-time catching prospect for the Atlanta Braves. I fired off a quick e-mail: Dejan, You wrote today that the Pirates had inquired about the availability of Jarrod...

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