People often ask how I got into this whole sports writing business. I think Indians great Bob Feller put it best when he said, "What do you do when you can't hit a curveball? Get a typewriter."
I played a little ball back in the day. I even own a Rampart High School record that I doubt will be broken any time soon. If some kid is ever on the verge, though, they better call me so I can make the trip to Colorado to shake that young lad's hand. Then, I'll be sure to warn him that the record is a clear precursor to a career in journalism.
I set the school's all-time mark for being hit by a pitch in a single season. I got plunked 10 times in 20 games. Seven of those came in a five-game span, if I remember correctly. Then again, when you're hit as often as I was long-term memory doesn't become your best attribute.
Yep, I was our school's Don Baylor. Or, our resident Ryan Garko, if we're comparing to former Indians. The record book actually says I was hit nine times during my senior season, but I demand an asterisk. There was a 10th. It's not my fault the umpire said I didn't try to move and called me back to the batter's box.
So what did I do when I couldn't hit a curveball? I crowded the plate and leaned into it. And then I became a sportswriter.
Here's this week's Inbox...
Jordan, third base was a real problem last year for the Tribe. Can you tell me who will be the candidate for the starting job next year?
-- Daniel S., Kent, Ohio
Have a question about the Indians?
E-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.
Well, before they turned me into a cleanup-hitting designated hitter in high school -- yes, you read that right -- I manned the hot corner for a bit. Maybe I'll try out. The problem was I wasn't much of a defender. I had the arm, but that didn't make up for all the balls that went skipping off my glove.
The Indians want strong defense at third base, especially with a rotation that relies so much on groundballs. Jayson Nix is in the running at third base, but he has a lot to prove defensively this spring if he's going to win the starting role. Defense is precisely why Jason Donald is a strong candidate to play third.
It is a real possibility that Donald could wind up at third base and Nix could shift back to second. Donald will get plenty of playing time at third this spring so the Tribe can evaluate that option. If the Indians don't like what they see, the club also has Adam Everett and Jack Hannahan in camp as alternatives.
No matter who winds up with the starting job at third, it will likely be a stopgap solution until top prospect Lonnie Chisenhall is ready to make the jump to the Majors. That could happen at some point during the 2011 campaign. Right now, you're probably looking at either Donald or Nix to fill that role until Chisenhall's arrival.
Any word on the Indians Press Tour this year? They usually have a full schedule out by now.
-- Kevin L., Millsburg, Ohio
The winter caravan formerly known as the "Press Tour" is being replaced by a new event called "Tribe on Tour." From Jan. 28-31, the Indians will head to four malls in Northeast Ohio to interact with some of the fanbase. Players, coaches, alumni and broadcasters are all scheduled to be on hand.
The tour will include visits to the Beachwood Place Mall in Beachwood on Jan. 28, the Westfield Great Northern Mall in North Olmsted on Jan. 29, the Summit Mall in Akron on Jan. 30 and the Westfield SouthPark Mall in Strongsville on Jan. 31. Each event is free for all attendees.
While all appearances are subject to change, players currently scheduled to be at all four stops include outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, outfielder Michael Brantley, first baseman Matt LaPorta and reliever Tony Sipp. Pitcher Aaron Laffey is expected to join those four when the tour pulls into Strongsville. Indians manager Manny Acta is also taking part.
All the info you're looking for can be found at indians.com.
Why the lack of love for Jordan Brown? The guy mashed in Triple-A and we need a productive bat in the outfield and first base. I'm no mathematician, but he seems like a fit to me.
-- Ryan M, Lakewood, Ohio
Brown will be in camp with the Indians this spring as a non-roster invitee. That gives him the opportunity to convince the team to take him north come Opening Day. His versatility as an outfielder, a first baseman and a designated hitter is certainly attractive to the ballclub. That said, Brown has plenty of competition for a spot on the roster.
There are a couple reasons Brown is lower on the depth chart, though. One is that he's a left-handed hitter. If everyone is healthy, Cleveland has three left-handed outfielders in the starting lineup and a left-handed-hitting DH. At first base, the switch-hitting Carlos Santana is in the plans as a backup to LaPorta. Right now, it's more important for the Tribe to have righty alternatives on the bench for the outfield and DH roles.
With many questions surrounding center fielder Grady Sizemore, and to some extent with LaPorta, why did the Tribe designated Brown for assignment? He can play first base and the outfield in the event of injuries. I would have designated Everett for assignment, or sent Brown to Triple-A Columbus at the very least.
-- Stoney B., Sand Valley, Nev.
Essentially, what the Indians did last week with Brown was send him to Triple-A. Brown has player options left, but the only way to remove him from the 40-man roster was to designate him for assignment. Optioning him to Columbus would have kept him on the roster and the Tribe needed to clear a spot for Austin Kearns.
Cleveland couldn't have designated Everett for assignment. He was signed this winter to a Minor League contract, so he was not on the 40-man roster.
When a player is designated for assignment, he must clear waivers first before potentially being sent to the Minor Leagues. The Indians likely DFA'd Brown knowing there was a good chance he'd clear waivers. He did, and the Tribe sent him outright to Triple-A. Now, Brown will be brought into camp just as he would have as part of the 40-man roster.
Hey Jordan, I saw in a recent article that the Indians have extended an invitation to Spring Training to prospect Drew Pomeranz. Is there any chance we could see him in the Majors later this season? If not, what is his Major League time frame?
-- Thomas C.
Teams often bring their most recent No. 1 Draft pick into big league camp as a way for them to gain experience. This seems to be the case with Pomeranz this spring. Pomeranz (fifth overall in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft) has no Minor League experience and it will likely be at least a few years before you see him in an Indians uniform.
This is slightly belated, but welcome to Cleveland. I look forward to reading your work. I was wondering, having only seen the Tribe a few times a year, what were your impressions of the team and city when you started and if they have changed at all? Also, has anything surprised you since you've been here? Good luck and have fun this season.
-- Eric P., Canton, Ohio
I always enjoyed coming to Cleveland as a visiting writer. Great ballpark, good restaurants and great people. As a Midwest boy myself -- albeit raised in Chicagoland -- Cleveland always felt a little like home for me. That is a big part of why I wanted to come cover the Indians when the opportunity came up.
I was also a part of the MLB.com team that covered the Indians American League Championship Series against the Yankees in 2007. So I got a glimpse into what Progressive Field can look and feel like when things are going well. The passion and frustration of Indians fans is apparent.
My impressions of Cleveland and the surrounding area haven't changed at all in the three-plus months I've lived here. If I've been surprised by anything, it's been just how friendly all my new neighbors have been. One baked us a dessert when we moved in. Another brought over a bottle of wine. Everyone's been very helpful with our transition and we've felt extremely welcome from Day 1.