Indians Win Slugfest In Columbus; Two Homers For Alvarez

Indianapolis Indians 14, �Columbus Clippers 12 (box)

It was another slugfest at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio, but at least tonight it was not one-sided. �The two teams combined for 31 hits and 26 runs, and the Indians held on for the win. �After having posted 4 home runs last night, the Clippers put up 5 more home runs tonight. �The Indians homered only once last night, but added 4 homers tonight including two home runs by 3B Pedro Alvarez.

After a “boring” top of the 1st, in which CF Jose Tabata led off with a double and RF Brian Myrow walked, but were both stranded on base, there was at least one run scored in each of the next 10 half innings.

Columbus got started in the bottom of the 1st with back-to-back doubles by 2B Jason Donald and C Carlos Santana, then a 2-run homer by DH Shelley Duncan. �Santana, who homered twice yesterday, nearly had another homer here, but the ball bounced off the top of the wall in right-center field and fell back onto the playing field. �After Duncan’s homer, Brad Lincoln gave up a walk, then an infield single to 3B Brian Buscher that bounced off either Lincoln’s glove or the mound itself, and headed over toward second base, where it came to rest in the grass out of everyone’s reach. �SS Anderson Hernandez followed with a line drive to left field. �Tribe LF Jon Van Every raced in and made a dive, but the ball hit his glove and popped out, making Van Every chase it down. �It was ruled a single, and the bases were loaded. �At that point, new Indians’ batting coach Dean Traynor made a visit to Lincoln on the mound. �After a brief chat, Lincoln got RF Chris Gimenez to chop a high bounce to the first base side of the mound. �Lincoln made the quick hop to his left and the leap to snag the ball, then fired to C Erik Kratz, who turned and made the throw to first for a 1-2-3 double play. �Clippers ahead, 3-0.

It was Kratz who put the Indians right back into it in the top of the 2nd. �DH Neil Walker led off with a single slipped through the right side of the infield, and Kratz launched the first pitch he saw on a rising line drive over the left field wall to make the score 3-2. �Not to be outdone, the Clippers came right back in the bottom of the inning, with a lead-off home run by CF Jose Constanza. �Jason Donald doubled, and when he went to steal third base, Kratz’s throw went sailing past 3B Pedro Alvarez, allowing Donald plenty of time to come home. �Clippers up 5-2.

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Indians Routed In Opener In Columbus

Columbus Clippers 17, �Indianapolis Indians 4 � �(box)

img_1551tabataWe were hoping for a glorious AAA debut for top Pirates’ prospect 3B Pedro Alvarez. Instead, it was a glorious AAA debut for a different top prospect — Clippers’ C Carlos Santana. �Santana blasted two home runs, a double, and a single to lead the Columbus Clippers in their rout of the Indianapolis Indians at Huntington Park in Columbus, Ohio. �And the Indians’ performance was anything but glorious.

It really didn’t start out too badly. �Starter Kevin Hart walked two batters after two outs in the bottom of the 1st inning, but then got Santana to fly out to end the inning. �He also walked the first batter he faced in the 2nd inning, and then gave up a home run to RF Chris Gimenez. �Hart got out of the 3rd inning with a timely double play, and he had made it through 3 innings, allowing two runs on two hits, throwing 66 pitches, 35 for strikes. �It was the 66th pitch, though, that got him into trouble.

After two quick at-bats, the Indians began the 3rd inning with 2B Brian Friday getting hit by a pitch. �Friday moved to second when SS Argenis Diaz grounded back to the mound, and scored on CF Jose Tabata’s (photo) single up the middle. �Tabata stole second base, then Alvarez followed with his first AAA home run — a rocket-powered shot that hit the roof over the 328 sign in right field. �The idea of the glorious debut was looking good, as the Indians took a 3-2 lead.

In the top of the 4th, Brian Friday was hit by a pitch again. �This time it was a high and inside pitch, that skipped off the top of Friday’s helmet (the new big style) as he ducked down and away from the plate. �The Indians were not pleased with Friday being hit twice, and manager Frank Kremblas had a quick chat with home plate umpire David Rackley. �Rackley did not make any motions toward the dugouts though, and did not make any show of warning both managers or benches. �So, when Kevin Hart’s 66th pitch, the first one to Carlos Santana in the bottom of the frame, went sailing behind Santana, Hart and his teammates were surprised to hear Rackley immediately toss Hart from the game.

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9th Inning Rallies Sink Indians and Pirates

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees 4, �Indianapolis Indians 1

The Indians and the Yankees took a 1-1 tie into the top of the 8th in this afternoon’s game in Bradenton, Florida. �But that was when the Yankees got to reliever Jean Machi, who gave up two singles, including one for an RBI, to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. �Back-to-back singles and a 2-RBI double added two more runs in the 9th. �The Indians scored in the 1st inning, on a double by 1B Brian Myrow and an RBI single by 3B Pedro Alvarez. Machi suffered the loss, with 3 innings of work, including one walk and one strikeout. �Octavio Dotel started the game for the Indians and pitched “one inning”, with 3 strikeouts, though in order to get in a little more work, he actually got to face 5 batters and make 5 outs. �He threw 21 pitches.

Astros 6, �Pirates 4 � (box)

Starter Zach Duke pitched 6.2 scoreless innings and allowed only 2 hits and a walk, with 2 strikeouts, to get the Pirates off to a good start in their afternoon Grapefruit League game in Kissimmee, Florida. �Duke had been scheduled to throw either 6 innings or 80 pitches, and after going back out to begin the 7th inning, he finished at right around 80 pitches. �He also contributed 2 of the Pirates’ 8 hits, both doubles, one into each outfield corner, though he did not come around to score either time. �The Pirates got onto the scoreboard first, with one run in the 4th inning off the Astros’ Roy Oswalt. �LF Lastings Milledge doubled to lead off the inning, then advanced to third base on a ground out, and scored on an RBI single by Jeff Clement. Clement scored in the top of the 7th, when he doubled, went to third base on SS Bobby Crosby’s single, and then scrambled home when 3B Ramon Vasquez bounced into a double play.

Duke took it into the 7th inning, but when he gave up a 2-out single (only the second hit he’d allowed), he was relieved by Javier Lopez. Lopez finished that inning, but gave up a bunt single and a sacrifice bunt plus a fielding error by 3B Josh Harrison, who was up from minor league camp. �A triple off Jack Taschner, and the Astros had a 4-2 lead.

Led by the minor leaguers, the Pirates came back to tie it up in the top of the 9th. �LF Brandon Moss walked, and CF Robbie Grossman singled. �A wild pitch brought Moss across the plate, then SS Benji Gonzalez singled to score Grossman. �Tie score, 4-4. �Unfortunately, the Astros rallied in the bottom of the frame. �With reliever Jeremy Powell on the mound, a double and a walk-off 2-run homer gave Houston the win, with Powell charged for the loss.

Also in the game: �2B Shelby Ford, 1B Steve Pearce, PH Erik Kratz, and C Luke Carlin.

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Prospect Watching: Pedro Alvarez

The most-heralded prospect in the Pirates’ system:

Pedro Alvarez was the Pirates’ first-round draft pick in the 2008 draft. �The third baseman had played for three collegiate seasons at Vanderbilt University, where he accumulated a .349 average, 49 homers, and 162 RBI. �His third season was hindered by a broken hand, sustained when he was hit by a pitch. �After being drafted, Alvarez was at the center of a huge controversy involving the signing of his contract and his new agent, Scott Boras. �The Pirates had hoped that Alvarez would be able to get his feet wet professionally in the last few weeks of the 2008 season, but the contract controversy precluded that. �Instead, Alvarez made his pro debut at the beginning of the 2009 season, when he was assigned to A+ Lynchburg.

Alvarez started off with a bang, going 3-for-4 on Opening Day, including a homer to give Lynchburg the lead, and a 2-run double to give them the win. �Then he went hitless for the next 5 games. �He muddled along over the next few weeks, hitting .219 for the month of April. �But, he hit 3 more home runs, all in dramatic situations — one to tie the game, one to break a tie, and one for a walk-off win. �The first two weeks in May continued to be slow, as Alvarez went 7-for-42 over that time, with 2 more homers. �Then he had an offensive burst, hitting in 7 of his next 8 games and going 13-for-32. �He finished the month with 7 more hits, for a .262 average in May and 5 home runs. �There was another spurt of hits, 9-for-16 over 4 games, in mid-June, and Alvarez had a .254 average in 18 games in June, with 5 more home runs. �That gave the left-handed hitter a .247 average over 66 games for the Hillcats, with 14 doubles, a triple, 14 homers, and 55 RBI. �He walked 37 times and struck out 70 times, which was not unexpected. �In the field, Alvarez made 13 errors at third base, also not unexpected for a player in his first pro assignment. �Six of the errors came in the month of April, so he did settle down a bit.

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Alvarez and Tabata To Minor League Camp

The Pirates announced eight more reassignments to minor league camp this morning.
Outfielder Jose Tabata (photo) and 3B Pedro Alvarez were both optioned to AAA Indianapolis.
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Both Alvarez and Tabata are on the 40-man roster, and barring a miracle in Bradenton, both were slated to begin the 2010 season in Indianapolis, and likely move to Pittsburgh far enough into the season so that their major league service time would not count 2010 as a full season. �Why not let them get more time with the major league club in spring training? �Because today is the deadline to option players who have not already been in the majors. �If they stay in big league camp and then get injured in the next 3 weeks, then this year counts toward their service time. �The Pirates very much want to have these two, a big part of their future, to stay under their contractual control for as long as possible. �Pirates’ management would have liked to have them stay, but it isn’t worth the risk.
Infielder Doug Bernier and OF Jon Van Every, both free agent signings, were also reassigned to minor league camp. �They are likely to open the season with Indianpolis too.
Four pitchers were also sent to the minor league camp: �Jimmy Barthmaier, Neal Cotts, Craig Hansen, and Tyler Yates. All four are injured and are working on rehab. �They were not expected to be available before Opening Day anyway, so this is more of a formality.

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