Soliciting thoughts from the Chief of Indians blog Wahoo's On First, ahead of Cleveland's weekend series at the Trop:
Any thoughts on Zombie Scott Kazmir? What's been your impression of him this spring?
I'm excited. Based on what we saw in Arizona he's got some velocity back on his fastball, more movement on his slider, and his control at least somewhat under control. I don't think anyone will start drinking the Kool-Aid until we actually see him pitch in the majors-it'll be at least a couple weeks now that he's hit the DL with a strained ribcage -but given the complete mechanical breakdown he suffered as his career collapsed I'd say the new life on his pitches is more important to see than any stat. It also says something that the Tribe tapped him to be the No. 5 starter when the team had so many other respectable internal options (Carlos Carracso, Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Daisuke Matsuzaka, David Huff-not bad for a Triple-A rotation).
The Indians had quite the busy offseason, with a number of free agent acquisitions. How did you feel about the signings?
I loved almost all of them. I thought Nick Swisher was a fantastic fit for the team. Ditto for Michael Bourn. I was less enthusiastic about Mark Reynolds but I liked that deal too, and obviously we did quite well on the minor-league free agent front (Scott Kazmir, Ryan Raburn, Rich Hill, Jason Giambi, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Matt Capps, Jeremy Hermida-all on non-guaranteed deals.) And, of course, there's Terry Francona, who has already completely replaced the clubhouse torpor from Manny Acta's tenure with a culture of energy and excitement and who has been a significant factor in wooing free agents to Northeast Ohio.
That said, I didn't get the Brett Myers signing at all (is the difference between Myers and whoever's the best of from the above group of Triple-A starters really worth $7 million?) and especially now that Jason Giambi has proven that the Indians' not wanting to use a roster spot on a positionless player was more of a guideline than a rule I think it was a mistake not to re-sign Travis Hafner.
Chief Wahoo. Yay or nay?
Nay. I can rationalize wearing his face on team paraphernalia because he really doesn't look like a racist stereotype anymore unless you're looking for it. With the last redesign, the team seems to have made a conscious effort to turn him into more of a smiley face than a person-I think I speak for most fans when I say don't think of him as any more human-like than Slider. But yeah, the racism still lives behind it even though that's no longer the intent. At least we're better than the Braves.
Slowinski's long been a believer in Lonnie Chisenhall, and he's even taking a gamble on him in a couple fantasy leagues. What do you think: is he going to make the transition and become a successful major leaguer?
Chisenhall has virtually no patience at the plate. He struggles mightily against left-handed pitching. He's been hurt a lot. And yet at the age of 23 he was an above-average MLB hitter (according to wRC+) who seemed to be getting his sea legs at third base. So will he be a successful major leaguer? I'd say he already is. He doesn't have a very high ceiling (though a plurality of Indians writers expect him to be Cleveland's biggest breakout star in 2013) but I don't think there's much fear of him turning into another Andy Marte.
Which pitcher should the Rays be most worried about this weekend?
I'm a full-time Justin Masterson apologist and I'm probably Zach McAllister's biggest fan (fun fact: he gave up the most unearned runs in all of baseball last year despite making only 22 starts), but the guy to watch is Trevor Bauer, who'll be filling in for Kazmir on Saturday. This will be Cleveland fans' first look at Bauer in a real game. He's made a lot of adjustments this spring so I don't think anyone is entirely sure of what to expect from him, but I like to think he'll be like a pre-broken down Ubaldo Jimenez-effectively wild with enough swing-and-miss stuff to make up for the fact that most of what he throws won't be in the zone. The unknown and his sky-high ceiling surely should worry the Rays more than McAllister and Masterson.
Last Question: What happened with Rule-5 pick Chris McGuinness? In my opinion, the kid seemed like a lock for the 25-man roster. Did team management like what they saw? Do you know if they tried to trade for him before sending him back to Texas?
A lock to make the team? Hardly. We're talking about a guy entering his age-25 season who has never played a single game above Double-A. The organization clearly liked him and did try to work out a trade to keep him after it became clear that he wouldn't make the Opening Day roster, but I never saw him as a very likely candidate to make the team.
(Mr. Neg responded to this question too: McGuiness never had a shot at the roster. Francona doesn't like kids breaking camp on his bench but he knew him from his days in Boston and really had hoped that the Indians would work a deal for him.)
UPDATE: In exchange for our interview, you can read Steve Slowinski's with Wahoo's on First here.