Inbox: Indians' middle infield in good shape

Inbox: Indians' middle infield in good shape

In an effort to combat the nation's growing obesity epidemic, the designers of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport created Concourse D, which is located five and a half miles from baggage claim and somehow receives roughly 94.8 percent of all arriving flights.

Marathon trainers are encouraged to buy a round-trip flight to Cleveland, land in Concourse D, jog to the security checkpoint, then double-back. Use the flight home to catch your breath. For the lazy, connecting flights are available between Concourse D and the main terminal.

A Crocs footwear store is located near baggage claim, presumably because those who land in Concourse D have worn out their shoes by the time they get to it.

My flight from Minneapolis on Wednesday night landed at Gate D2, which is the furthest gate from baggage claim and might, in fact, actually be connected to the Minneapolis airport. No wonder the flight felt so short. We landed at 8:45 p.m. ET, and I made it to the Hudson News near the airport entrance in time to buy the morning paper.

Now that I'm finally home, it's time to take a stroll through the Indians Inbox to see what Tribe topics are on your mind.

I was hoping for some enlightenment on our middle-infield picture. You have to consider Asdrubal Cabrera a lock at shortstop, but after that it seems muddy.

Cord Phelps has moved through the farm system at a torrid pace, and Josh Rodriguez has been right on his heels. Could we expect to see Jayson Nix or Jason Donald moved to give Phelps or Rodriguez a more direct line to the Majors? Or will the Tribe simply maintain over-saturation in an attempt to find its true second baseman of the future?
-- Ian D., Harrisburg, Pa.

The Indians have made every attempt in recent years to stockpile depth in the middle infield. You can never have enough of it. They are finally getting to a point where they have multiple legitimate options at this level, and the return of Cabrera from the DL emphasizes it.

Before we consider Cabrera a lock at shortstop for the years to come, he has to prove he can stay on the field for the length of the season. Obviously, when healthy, he's the guy at short. But he's had his share of medical setbacks the last couple years, and that could be a reason why the Indians have yet to approach him about a contract extension.

At second, the Indians are going to give Donald a chance to shine. The Indians like the progress Donald has made. Second base seems better-suited to his arm than short.

Nix revealed himself to be an intriguing option with his play in the two weeks or so that he was the regular at second. But with Cabrera back, he'll be stuck in a utility role. Luis Valbuena suffered a similar fate, but not in the big leagues. He's bouncing around from position to position in Triple-A.

Phelps is a name to watch, plain and simple. He could be a candidate for a September callup. Rodriguez, too. He appears to have put it all together this season. And a little further down the pipeline, Jason Kipnis (a converted outfielder) is on a tear at Double-A Akron.

Right now, the Indians are interested in seeing what they have in Donald. But it's good to have options up the middle. And for the first time in a long time, the Indians are starting to stockpile them.

Have a question about the Indians?
Jordan BastianE-mail your query to MLB.com Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
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Question:

As much as I'm a fan of the big guy, it's become obvious at this point that Travis Hafner's productive days are behind him. Given his hefty contract, what options do the Indians have as far as unloading him? If they release him, are they on the hook for the remainder of his salary? It just feels at this point that the Indians could be giving his at-bats to younger players who will play a part in the development of the team.
-- Colin O., Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Clearly, the shoulder issues that hounded Hafner in 2008 and '09 have made him a different hitter. He has made significant changes to his swing, shortening it up and becoming more top-hand dominant. As a result, he's more prone to line drives than deep fly balls. He's had some nice stretches this season, but he's not the feared, game-changing threat in the middle of the order that he once was.

Furthermore, Hafner can't really be classified as an everyday player. Manager Manny Acta doesn't use Pronk against certain lefties. Twice in the past week, Acta has preferred to have Carlos Santana at DH to keep the rookie's bat in the lineup on the days he doesn't squat behind the plate.

With Hafner, the Indians are on the hook for $13 million in 2011, $13 million in '12 and another $2.75 million when they buy out his '13 option. Hafner signed the largest contract in club history, and barring a dramatic change, it will go down as the worst. The Indians can't trade him, because nobody would take that on. The Tribe's only options are to pay Pronk and keep hoping for adequate production, or eat the contract. That would be an outrageous sum to ingest at this stage, so Hafner will remain on the roster, even if it's not at the capacity he or the Indians envisioned.

Can you explain the "youth movement" moniker that was plastered on the second half of the season? Other than dealing Russell Branyan to the Mariners, what makes the second half of the 2010 season different from the first half?
-- Bernadette V., Cleveland

Branyan, Mark Grudzielanek and Mike Redmond are all gone. Austin Kearns, Jake Westbrook, Jhonny Peralta and Kerry Wood are all on the block. If any of those guys gets moved in July or August, a young Tribe team gets younger.

But the gist of your question is understood, Bernadette. This has been one of the youngest teams in baseball all year.

Acta said that with Anthony Reyes starting his Minor League rehab assignment following last year's elbow surgery, he could potentially provide depth later in the year. What does this mean for our current rotation, because I personally don't see Reyes returning to starting duties immediately after such a surgery? Could this also mean that either Aaron Laffey or Justin Masterson could be moved once again to the bullpen?
-- Daniel B., Rochester, N.Y.

My first piece of advice would be to wait to see how Reyes' rehab assignment, which began last week and continues Friday in the Arizona Rookie League, goes before worrying about his impact on the current rotation. The rotation could change multiple times before Reyes is even ready for consideration. Heck, it could change next week, if an examination of Aaron Laffey's "dead arm" turns up an injury.

But the simplest answer to your question is that, come September, Masterson and Mitch Talbot figure to be either limited or shut down completely. The Indians will have to monitor the innings count for both of those guys, as Masterson spent half of last season as a reliever and Talbot, thanks to a right elbow sprain, worked just 67 1/3 innings in the Minors.

That could open up an opportunity for Reyes, who remains on the radar more than a year removed from Tommy John elbow surgery, or maybe Carlos Carrasco, if he's not already here by then (Carrasco, for the record, left his last start with a stiff elbow). Or maybe Jeanmar Gomez gets another look. Or David Huff, if he's not still in Twitter-prompted purgatory. Or Josh Tomlin. Obviously, multiple options exist. And again, this is a good thing.

I really hope the Tribe retains Jake Westbrook. I really believe that Tomlin and Alex White will be in the bigs sooner rather than later and they could benefit tremendously having Jake as a mentor.
-- Lou K., Durham, N.C.

Agreed, Lou. The Indians could do worse than to keep a reliable professional like Westbrook around. I'd expect them to make some attempt to re-sign Jake this winter, even if they move him this summer.

I've been an Indians fan since 1958. Could you tell me the official number worn by Rocky Colavito? I would like to buy a jersey and would like to have the right number on it.
-- Joe G., New York

Colavito had three different uniform numbers with the Indians. He wore No. 38 his first three years with the club, from 1955-57. He wore No. 6 in 1958 and '59. He wore No. 21 after the Indians reacquired him in 1965.

Take your pick. But if I were you, I'd definitely go with No. 6. He wore it the year you became a fan and the day he hit four homers in Baltimore.

Grady Sizemore went from phenom to All-Star to being a future Yankee. Now, injuries have slowed his career. Is he now moving into the "journeyman" category, or can he rebound?
-- Don D., Chicago

You can't call him a journeyman. He hasn't made any journeys. But it's true that the "one of the greatest players of his generation" rep attached to Sizemore has taken a serious hit the last two years. Sizemore's all-out style of play has gotten the best of him and the Indians.

Sizemore certainly has the talent to rebound, and the word around the clubhouse was that he was working harder than ever to make adjustments at the plate before the knee injury and ensuing microfracture surgery that ended his season. But make no mistake: This is not an easy procedure to come back from. The Indians are hoping Sizemore will be up to full speed by Spring Training 2011, but that's not guaranteed.

The Indians have Sizemore under contract through next season, with an $8.5 million club option for 2012. That option once looked like a no-brainer. If the injury bug continues to hamper Sizemore next season, maybe it's not as much of a slam dunk.

The cynics will say that Sizemore will probably get his career on track just in time to become a free agent. The Indians, obviously, hope that's not the case.

What are the chances of Frank Herrmann getting a chance as closer? He's been doing a great job out of the 'pen, and I think he would be a better option than Chris Perez because he can throw as hard as Perez and he has a better breaking ball.
-- Zac T., Dellroy, Ohio

Perez has clearly been earmarked as the closer of the future, and he's been successful in the role. If he doesn't pan out long term, the Indians can and will explore other options. For now, expect a healthy dose of Perez in the ninth inning while Wood is on the disabled list and looking ahead to 2011.

Herrmann is still in "happy to be here" mode, having risen from undrafted obscurity. But he's definitely been a boon to the bullpen.

What are the trade rumors about Peralta?
-- Ray C., Cleveland

Peralta traded in a traditional home run trot for an inside-the-park sprint. Other than that, there hasn't been much brewing on the trade front, because of his subpar stats. The Yankees were reported to have interest in him as a bench player, but you can't believe everything you read.

And finally, to prove that point ...

I was just wondering if Angelo Giuseppe Rosetti is any relation to the famous Dr. Johannas Christaldo Rosetti, who implanted Dennis Kucinich's hair plugs?
-- Gerry N., Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Yes, Gerry, the European scout who discovered Jared Goedert is, indeed, related to the world-renowned hair follicle specialist. They are cousins. Their fathers, Peppino Ignazio Rosetti and Fabiano Pasquale Rosetti, were landscape architects who owned and operated "Rosetti e Rosetti Designs." They were responsible for the site planning at the 1940 Triennial Exhibition of Overseas Italian Territories in Naples. But they became estranged after arguing over which color bougainvilleas should be placed outside the restrooms.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. He blogs about baseball at CastroTurf. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.