Over the offseason, I spent a few hours one afternoon designing my own scorebook for this season. Call me old school, but I am a stickler for scoring each game by hand. I've been that way since I was a kid sitting in front of our television in the basement, logging Cubs games by hand in elementary-school notebooks.
This year, I wanted to have my own scorebook tailored to my personal needs. I managed to fit a full game on one page, leaving enough room for plenty of notes and enough lines to feature nine pitchers for each team, if necessary. On Opening Day, I showed it off to a handful of interested people in the Progressive Field press box prior to Cleveland's game against Toronto.
"But it only has room for 12 innings," joked one reporter.
The baseball gods were listening. They're always listening.
On Thursday, the Indians and Blue Jays locked horns for 16 innings in the longest season opener in baseball history. The contest included 36 players and 550 pitches, and ended in five hours and 14 minutes. By the end, my freshly-designed, clean scorebook was a complete disaster after being run through the gauntlet on Day 1.
What a way to start the season.
Here is the latest Indians Inbox ...
Despite the Indians losing on Opening Day again, this year's loss to the Blue Jays wasn't as bad as last year's defeat in the opener against the White Sox, right?
-- John, Independence, Ohio
All I'm wondering is what on earth is going to take place on Opening Day next year.
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In the 2011 season opener, Cleveland starter Roberto Hernandez -- the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona -- equaled the dubious mark of most runs allowed (10) in a season opener, dating all the way back to 1919. On Thursday, the Indians and Blue Jays engaged in a 16-inning marathon that went down as the longest opener in history. I've been covering the Indians for two seasons, and I'm 2-for-2 for witnessing an Opening Day record.
It's easy to get wrapped up in the first official look at a ballclub, but you've got to keep in mind that one game is hardly a great sample size for predicting the season ahead. If you recall, Cleveland started last season 0-2 and then went on to win its next 14 games at home, running out to first place in the American League Central.
What I took away from the opener this year was the fact that Tribe sinkerballer Justin Masterson looked like the emerging ace that Cleveland feels he is becoming for its rotation. And besides that ninth-inning blip from closer Chris Perez, the Indians' bullpen looked pretty solid. Pitching will need to be a strength for this Cleveland club to do what it wants to do this season.
I'm sure you've been bombarded with questions about the obvious Opening Day performances, both amazing and not so much. In this small sample size, what are our areas of brightness and areas of some concern?
-- Rex H., Cedar Rapids, Iowa
There are surely plenty of fans concerned about Perez, who gave up three runs to blow a save opportunity, but every closer experiences a handful of rough outings throughout a season. I'm not about to read too much into his first appearance. Shoot, Tigers closer Jose Valverde, who was a perfect 49-for-49 in save chances last season, blew a save in his Opening Day appearance on Thursday.
My only concern right now for the Indians is with the offense. It has been an issue two years running, and it was underwhelming during Spring Training as well. After going 3-for-9 with four runs scored in the first two innings against Toronto, Cleveland's lineup went 4-for-40 with no runs over the next 14 innings to drop the opener.
Ubaldo Jimenez, who was wild in Spring Training, gets a five-game suspension for hitting Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki on Sunday. Blue Jays lefty Ricky Romero got nothing for hitting Shin-Soo Choo with a pitch in the third inning of Thursday's opener. But then Masterson gets a warning for going a bit far inside on Toronto's Kelly Johnson.
Then, Blue Jays reliever Luis Perez almost takes Choo's head off in the 15th inning, and he also received no punishment, even after the teams had been warned earlier in the game. You can't tell me the Indians are playing on an even field. What are your thoughts?
-- Neal K., New York
Sure I can, Neal.
There was a history between Jimenez and Tulowitzki, in terms of a series of jabs exchanged in articles throughout Spring Training. The circumstances led Major League Baseball to believe that Jimenez threw intentionally at the shortstop, and that is why the pitcher received the suspension, along with a fine. For the record: Jimenez said it was an accident and is currently appealing MLB's punishment.
As for Thursday, there is no history between Romero and Choo. When Masterson threw inside to Johnson, it seemed like a case where the umpires simply wanted to make sure nothing got out of hand. That's why -- fair or not -- warnings were issued. After that, the rest is at the umpires' discretion.
Do you think length of Asdrubal Cabrera's new contract is due to his possible long-term demands or Francisco Lindor's timetable for potentially reaching the Majors?
-- Joe P., Chicago
Cabrera never had the type of season he came through with in 2011 (25 home runs, 92 RBIs) prior to last year. Given the varying degrees of his production throughout his career, I think an extremely long-term contract would have been ill-advised. I think a three-year pact -- one that includes this season, and now two more through 2014 -- was an appropriate deal to hand the All-Star shortstop at this point.
It gives Cabrera time to show the Indians that he is indeed capable of being a run producer for the ballclub for the foreseeable future. If he continues to perform at that elite level, then maybe Cleveland looks at extending his deal beyond 2014. If Cabrera declines over the next few years, then the new pact does align better with the timetable for Lindor.
What is the story with first baseman Matt LaPorta? I have not seen much or heard much on his situation.
-- Jay P., Florida
With first baseman Casey Kotchman in the fold, LaPorta is with Triple-A Columbus to get regular playing time. He and Russ Canzler will likely split up the playing time between first base, left field and designated hitter. Cleveland insists that it has not given up on LaPorta, but he is not in the immediate plans for the ballclub.
Any news on Grady Sizemore? I had my own microdiscectomy on March 26, and aside from the pain from being rooted around in, all symptoms from the ruptured disc are gone.
-- Casey G., Columbus, Ohio
Can you play center field? Glad your recovery is going so well, Casey. As for Sizemore, he's back in Cleveland and progressing well from the March 1 surgery on his lower back. It will probably be another couple of weeks before he resumes baseball activities, but the Indians are hoping he will be able to rejoin the lineup sometime in June.