On a rainy, depressing Monday here in the D.C area, I was able to find some solace in the fact that the Indians won yet another Spring Training game. Indians trumped the Chicago Cubs 9-2 in yet another impressive offensive output leading up to the open of the 2010 season. The charge was lead by Matt Laporta, who turned in another good day at the plate, and for the 2nd day in a row, Austin Kearns had a 2 hit performance, no homer runs for him this time though. The pitching was better today than it has been in recent days, especially with a very impressive performance from Starting Pitcher Fausto Carmona. LaPorta played 1b yet again, he has yet to step foot on the outfield grass in a game yet this spring, as the time in Left Field has been given to Michael Brantley and others hoping for an outfield job. Fausto Carmona was awesome. That’s the simple explanation. He went 6 innings, gave up only 2 hits, with 2 strike outs, did not walk a batter and did not give up any runs. Easily the best outing that Carmona has turned in in a very, very long time. It is also the best performance by a Tribe pitcher this Spring Training and is another encouraging sign that the Indians have yet another important piece of the team coming back the form that we expect. If Carmona can pitch like that all year long, he could easily come close to the 2007 season stats of 19 wins and a low 3 ERA. As Hafner and Carmona continue to round back into form, there is other stand outs on the Indians roster this spring.
Hoping to earn a spot in the Indians bullpen, both Jamey Wright and Saul Rivera turned in solid innings of work Monday afternoon. Rivera gave up a hit, but was not touched other than that, and Wright walked a batter and struck one out, without giving up a hit. The only runs given up in the game was by Rafael Perez, the lefty gave up 2 runs on 3 hits, with no runs earned. Not a bad day for the Tribe by any stretch of the means. Solid pitching performances turned in by all 4 guys, with no real complaints from me for once.
The offense continued to look solid, knocking around the ball and the Cubs pitchers for 11 hits and 9 runs. LaPorta lead the way going 2 for 5 with an RBI and a run scored. Austin Kearns went 2 for 2 with 2 runs scored. Jhonny Peralta got 1 hit in his 4 at bats and drove in a run as well. LaPorta, and Kearns as of the past week, are both turning in strong Spring Trainings, as it looks more and more every day like LaPorta will break camp as the every day 1st baseman while Russell Branyan recovers from his back injury. Michael Brantley left yesterday’s game with a sprained ankle, but is not expected to miss much time and it is not expected to hurt his shot at making the roster as the Left Fielder while Branyan heals up, when it is likely that LaPorta moves back to the outfield. Austin Kearns was signed to a minor-league contract this off season and he is playing for his life in the major leagues, as he is on what could be one of his last chances to make a big league ball club. Mark Grudzialanek struggled going 0-4 and hurting his chance to make the team as the back up infielder, you have to believe though that he still has the leg up on the competition even though Luis Rodriguez has looked good thus far. Andy Marte cannot however be counted out, he has been hitting the ball very well all Spring and showing signs that last year’s impressive offensive performance at AAA and to some extent in the majors was no fluke. With Marte being out of options, it is likely that he also makes the club in some capacity as the roster gets trimmed.
As I mentioned in a post over the weekend, Saul Rivera continues to look like a frontrunner for the rotation spot, especially with an extra one opening up with the injury to Kerry Wood. If the fact that Carmona’s best start and his best outings thus far in Spring Training have come with Mike Redmond as his catcher, it could very well be a sign that the veteran behind the plate is helping Fausto. It could be something to note moving forward, if Carmona struggles at all with the other catchers behind the plate. Manny Acta said after the game that Brantley’s ankle is fine, so we should expect him back in the lineup by the middle of the week, and with Rivera’s past with Acta it is more than likely that Rivera indeed comes away with the bullpen spot.