I walked into the Hilton Anatole at 6:30 AM. I feel like I just left. Probably because I kind of did. The festivities go late at the Winter Meetings. Why I’m the only one who was both late and arrived early is an open question probably best reserved for my psychologist. As it is, I’m the only person in the media room right now. It’s actually kind of peaceful.
Less so last night. The crowd in the lobby is a people-watcher’s fantasy. At one point my field of vision contained:
- Tony Perez laughing it up with some friends;
- Billy Beane leaving the restaurant sort of yelling “booyah!” at a couple of people milling around outside;
- A half dozen eager young job-seekers, resume-containing portfolios in-hand, scanning the room for someone to whom they can deliver their elevator pitch;
- Some guys from the trade show who make and sell these weird masks walking around in said masks. Someone within earshot looked at one of the guys and asked who his mask was supposed to be. The guy said Babe Ruth. Pro Tip: if people in town for the baseball convention can’t identify your Babe Ruth mask, you may want to redesign it; and
- A national writer I know who shall remain nameless almost run over Frank Robinson. Disaster was averted, however. Which is good, because I’m guessing MLB has a special skull-cracking force to specifically deal with that kind of thing.
But for all of the gawking and talking and drinking, this is still a baseball thing, and the topic of conversation for most people remained the Florida Marlins. How serious is this Pujols business? Most people think it’s not, but we’ve all learned not to rule anything out. What’s up with Hanley Ramirez? No word yet on who will get behind his Michael Young-style MVP campaign if he asks for a trade because of a position shift. Because that’s going to happen with him too, right?
Anyway, on a day with no really big breaking news, there was a sense of anticipation among most people I talked to. Something big is going to happen today, many believe. Someone will overpay C.J. Wilson, some suspect. Others think that the Albert Pujols tease can only last so long and that he’ll either commit back to the Cardinals soon (most think this) or break for that crazy show they are building in Miami (chaos-lovers are praying for this).
For our part: we’re just jacking back in to the Matrix, passing along everything we see and hear. Oh, and my betters at NBC think it’s a good idea to let me go on TV tonight. Hey: it’s their network and they know better than I do. More on that later, though.
Don’t go anyplace.
If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.
Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.
Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.
The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.
The Tigers will promoted Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon to hitting coach for the 2017 season, according to a statement released by the team on Friday afternoon.
McClendon’s history with the Tigers is long and storied. After serving five seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ hitting coach and manager, he got his start with Detroit in 2006 as a bullpen coach, then transitioned to hitting coach from 2007 through 2013. When the Tigers hired Brad Ausmus to replace former manager Jim Leyland, McClendon took the opportunity to break from the team and pursue another managerial position of his own with the Seattle Mariners, whom he guided to a 163-161 record between the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Following his departure from Seattle during the 2015 offseason, McClendon took a spot as skipper of the Tigers’ Triple-A club, managing the Toledo Mud Hens to a 68-76 finish in 2016. His return to the big league stage is accompanied by the hiring of assistant hitting coach Leon Durham, who previously served as the long-tenured hitting coach for Triple-A Toledo.