Saturday, March 15, 2008

Inching closer to opening day

I'm sitting here in my suburban NY living room - a virtual no-Tribe zone during the spring.

It's hard to comment on what I can't see, since the spring games are not available on satellite.

But, with about half of the spring games now in the books, it seems like a good time to take a look at how things have gone in Winter Haven so far.

The good news is this camp can best be described as routine. So routine in fact that it has been downright boring.

That's a good thing. No injures of note. No player collapses etc...

So far a few things have become clear.

At the top of that list is the notion that two guys who are seemingly guaranteed spots on the roster should be sent packing. Aaron Fultz and Andy Marte.

Aaron Fultz has been awful in the bullpen. He's had five outings this spring and has given up at least a run in all but one. In his last outing, Fultz gave up 9 runs (7 earned) in one-third of an inning.

Fultz has, since the start of spring, been mentioned among the six pitchers who have a spot in the bullpen locked up. His season last year was mediocre at best and his spring has been a disaster. But he's left-handed and managers love having two lefties in the bullpen so they can play their managerial games. Fultz has not shown an ability to get anyone out, no matter which side of the plate they hit from. So what does he offer?

At the same time, except for one bad outing, Tom Mastny has had a scoreless spring.

Scott Elarton has also had a solid spring and could be valuable as the long man on the days when the starter blows up early.

Jorge Julio has pitched six times this spring and has allowed only two earned runs.

One of the trio will make the roster, but if Fultz would be cut two of three could make the squad.

That seems to me to be the better way to go.

The other battle on the pitching staff is for the fifth starter spot.

This one may turn out to be a hold-your-nose-and-pick situation.

Aaron Laffey
, Jeremy Sowers and Cliff Lee have had springs that can be described as somewhere between inconsistent to just plain bad. All three had respectable outings this week, but overall they've not pitched well. In fact, Sowers and Laffey have identical 11.25 ERAs in four outings each.

Lee, earlier this week, has had the only multi-inning scoreless outing by any of the three and he has an ERA of 3.85 in too few innings for that number to mean much. But Lee is making the most money, has had big seasons in the past, was troubled by injuries last year and - to this point - is having the best spring.

Manager Eric Wedge has indicated the competition will go right down to the end of camp, as it probably should. But if the spot were being chosen now, Lee would have to be the man.

Among the position players, the most controversial decision will be the fate of Andy Marte. He's got a couple of HRs this spring, but he's hitting below .200 and has three errors at 3B.

They call some players AAAA players - guys who are too good for Triple-A but who never seem to be able to cut it in the majors. Marte appears to be the classic case.

Marte was handed the 3B job last season and played awfully until being injured a few weeks into the season. He went on to have a very so-so season at Triple-A.

Because he would be subject to waivers if he is cut in the spring, Marte has a strong chance of taking up space on the final roster coming out of Winter Haven.

And yet be doesn't seem to be able to relax enough to let his talent take over.

In my mind most of the so-called AAAA players stall at that level because they lack the confidence or poise to make that final jump. The talent is there, but emotions get in the way.

Marte already has too much baggage to overcome here. He's putting too much pressure on himself to prove he belongs. He is a waste of a roster spot. He may go somewhere else - someplace where he was not the marquis name in a rather large trade - and get over the hump. It's not going to happen in Cleveland and the Tribe doesn't really need another guy who plays 1B, 3B and the outfield.

The Tribe should trade Marte for whatever they can get, which - admittedly - will not be much at this point.

There's one last issue that needs to be addressed.

Ben Francisco.

Every spring a youngster has a good pre-season, puts up huge numbers, sometimes makes the big club and often falls on his face.

But Francicsco is having a monster spring and showed ability during his stay with the big club last year.

I'm not sure I'd want two unproven young guys starting at the corner outfield positions (Franklin Gutierrez being the other), so it may be best for Francisco to start the season at Buffalo. But if Gutierrez falters, or the Tribe finds their mixture of mediocre left fielders is not what they're looking for, it's nice to know they have Francisco to go to.

Looking forward to tomorrow. The Tribe will be taking on the Yankees and it is on local TV here in New York. It'll be my first glimpse of the Tribe all spring.


Ron Vallo said...

After posting this item I checked the box score for today's game, which is in the 7th inning right now.

Two HRs for Marte.

Still, my mind has not been changed - yet.

moose said...

this is a test from noose - ye marte hit 2 Hr - he just jumped 100 spots in my fantasy fraft order

moose said...

well tom mastny no longer has a scoreless spring and probably wrote his ticket out of cleveland. he is too inconsitent. Ithink lee will be kept and sowers and laffwt will go to buffalo.

wouldnt kousmanoff look good at third. The best part of the qndy marte deal is we got shoppach also.

fultz should go.

well fantasy draft tomorrow and I am getting a closer this year !!!

Ron Vallo said...

Mastny is inconsistent and lost the strike zone yesterday but you can pretty much chalk up all of his runs to horrid outfield play by Brad Snyder.

Snyder played a single into a triple and eventual run in the eighth and let a must-catch ball get over his head somehwere in the middle of the rally in the 9th. You could even argue that he did a poor job of backing up Herr on the dinker that started the inning, though that may be slightly unfair since he was going for the ball as well. Still the ball went of Herr's glove and got beyond Snyder.

Also, Sandovar did a pretty good Jhonny Peralta imitation on the game-winning hit.