If the Old Dominions and Murray States of the world have already forced you to tear up your NCAA bracket, you might as well shift your focus to the mighty Tribe. What better way to do so than with this latest edition of the Indians Inbox?
And on the day the Ohio University Bobcats begin their stunning run to NCAA tourney greatness (yes, I realize this statement has obvious potential to be outdated within a matter of hours), it's only fitting that the first question of this week's edition comes from a guy in Athens, better known as "the navel of the universe."
I'm a little confused about David Huff's lack of rotation spot security. The guy led our team last year in wins and was only a rookie. I would argue that Huff had an incredibly productive rookie year. Why don't the Indians see what I saw during the entire debacle that was the '09 Indians season? -- Kevin H., Athens, Ohio
Huff made significant progress over the course of the '09 season, and he didn't win 11 games by accident. That being said, the 5.61 ERA he posted, the .301 average Major League hitters compiled against him and the 1.56 walks and hits he allowed per inning pitched all tell me (and the Indians) that he's not a finished product who was worthy of a rotation guarantee.
Huff has the opportunity here in camp to win a job outright, and he certainly has the competitive fire and stuff to do so. It's just a matter of putting it all together and sufficiently impressing the coaching staff.
Mitch Talbot and Aaron Laffey are competing with Huff. Talbot, who is out of Minor League options, is all but assured a spot on the Opening Day roster. He could factor into the bullpen picture if he doesn't win a rotation job, but thus far I'd consider Talbot the leader in the race for the two open rotation spots. He's pitched really well, despite not always having a good feel for his changeup, which is his best pitch.
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And for the record, I don't see Huff or Laffey going to the bullpen if they don't land in the rotation, as they'd both be much more valuable to the Indians as starting alternatives at Triple-A Columbus. This rotation figures to be a work in progress throughout the season. The Opening Day rotation could be short-lived.
When can Michael Brantley come up to the Major Leagues and not start his arbitration clock, after they most likely send him down to the Minors to start the season? -- Matt S., Attica, Ohio
What the Indians would like to avoid with Brantley is having the bulk of this season count toward his arbitration clock, thereby ensuring he will be eligible for his first round of salary arbitration (and its inherent hefty raise) following the 2012 season.
Brantley would be eligible for arbitration if he spends all of the next three years in the Majors, because all players with three or more years of Major League service, but less than six, qualify. Some players with less than three years of service also qualify. They are "Super 2" players, and they rank in the top 17 percent in total service among players with at least two, but less than three, years of service.
So that's what the Indians have to keep in mind -- "Super 2" eligibility. Historically, the minimum cutoff point for "Super 2" status has been somewhere between two years, 125 days and two years, 140 days.
At the moment, Brantley has 34 days of Major League service under his belt from his big league break in last September. The Indians, therefore, would probably like to keep his service time somewhere around 90 days or less in the 2010 season, so that they could ensure themselves contractual control of Brantley through 2013. (A Major League season, for the record, features 162 games, but 172 days of service constitutes one full year.)
That's a long-winded way of saying that if the Indians can somehow delay Brantley getting back to the Majors until somewhere around the All-Star break, they should be safe. I would have to imagine that was a major factor in the decision to sign Russell Branyan. But Branyan's bum back potentially complicates the picture, as it could allow Brantley to open the season with the Tribe.
How do they decide whether to use the DH in Spring Training? The first game, when Cincinnati was the home team, they used the DH. I've also noticed in the box scores that they sometimes use it even when two NL teams are playing. -- Rich W., Erie, Pa.
The home team gets the call there, Rich. And a number of factors could play into the decision on whether or not to use the DH.
Obviously, it's a good tool to use to ensure all the guys who need to get at-bats get their at-bats, and AL teams will always be in favor of using it. But some teams value the opportunity to give their starting pitchers a chance to step in the batter's box, as they have swings to prepare, too. The later you get in camp, the more frequently you see NL teams stray from the use of the DH.
How much of a shot do you think Mark Grudzielanek has of making the Opening Day roster this year? -- Charles K., August, W. Va.
A pretty good one, I'd say. This guy has really been impressive, so far. Watching him in the field, you forget that he's 39 years old and played just 11 games in the Minors last year. Witness the stellar diving catch he made to rob Giants designated hitter John Bowker of a base hit the other day.
Grudzielanek is in great shape, he's hungry to win a job and his right-handed bat and experience at second base complement the Indians' infield situation well. And he's a valuable clubhouse asset, to boot.
Though I don't see him reaching his ultimate goal of beating out Luis Valbuena for the starting second base job, he certainly has a chance to claim the infield utility job over Luis Rodriguez and the newly acquired Anderson Hernandez. But first, the Indians want to see how Grudzielanek's body holds up to the full grind of spring exhibitions this month.
I have a question regarding the length of Spring Training. Do you think they should lengthen it at all? I understand it is pretty long now, and they want time off, but I'm sick of hearing, especially from the Indians, how they are still getting used to the daily grind of playing baseball. -- Chad L., Cleveland
Suffice to say your opinion would not be a popular one among players. Or writers, for that matter. Last year's spring camps were lengthened by the World Baseball Classic, and it proved to be a challenging situation for the clubs, who were concerned about overworking their pitchers before the first real pitch of the season.
Spring Training exists primarily to get the pitchers ready (well, that and selling those newly designed batting practice caps). Six weeks is sufficient time to do so, especially in a day and age in which players condition themselves throughout the offseason.
Hitters, provided they are healthy, really don't need more than a couple weeks to get ready. If anything, you could make the argument that Spring Training should be shortened. And that argument, I can assure you, would be a popular one around here.
I've heard a lot about how Jhonny Peralta could be shipped out this year at the Trade Deadline. He's had it rough here, whether it be following Omar Vizquel or butting heads with Eric Wedge. Is there any realistic scenario in which he doesn't get dealt this summer? -- Greg B., Amherst, Ohio
Sure there is. For one, we don't know what kind of interest Peralta would attract on the trade market. He's coming off his worst offensive season since his rookie year, so he has something to prove this season. Furthermore, the Indians' 2011 outlook for third base is cloudy. Hot prospect Lonnie Chisenhall might not yet be fully seasoned at that point, and we all know the Indians think highly of Peralta. The question is, do they think highly enough of him to seriously consider picking up his $7 million option?
What is the latest on Adam Miller? Do you think he will ever pitch again? -- Phil A., Londonberry, N.H.
Honestly, it doesn't look good. Miller has built up significant scar tissue at the base of a right middle finger that has now been operated on four times over the last two years. The Indians have him doing hand exercises to make that scar tissue more manageable, but he's not doing any throwing whatsoever. Even if he can get back on the mound, there's no telling how his finger will hold up or how he'll look after missing a significant amount of development time. It's really a shame, considering Miller was once one of the game's more promising prospects.
And finally...Now that we'll have a new team president after this season, how do you think GM-to-be Chris Antonetti will address him? My guess is he opens the office door every morning and says, "Oh, hi Mark!" -- Si C., Cleveland
Oh hi, Si! Good thinking!
If the rest of you have no idea what we're talking about and haven't watched "The Room" yet, your Inbox dedication is questionable, at best.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.