Goodyear Notebook: 4/2
Indians Have High Value On House
What a camp it has been for prized left-hander T.J. House.
House may have been a 16th round draft pick out of Picayune Memorial High School (MS), but he was top three round talent that slid due to signability concerns. He eventually signed for $750,000, which is about second round money.
So far, he has been worth every penny as the 19-year old has shown a penchant to pitch well beyond his age. With Indians GM Mark Shapiro sitting right behind home plate on Saturday watching him pitch, House was cool and collected and proceeded to just dominate going four shutout innings allowing just one hit, no walks, and punched out five batters. He also touched 93 MPH on the gun, and consistently peppered the lower part of the zone by getting six groundball outs in addition to the five strikeouts.
House can come a long way since signing last August, and now that he is getting ready to embark on his first professional season and is playing baseball for a living, there is still a lot to get used to.
"It is a lot different [playing professionally]," said House on Monday. "It takes a lot to get used to the throwing. That has been the biggest change for me in throwing every other day with bullpens and games. Your arm starts to hang a little bit, and you think something is wrong, but it is just getting in shape and adjusting to the high volume of throwing. I am also not used to having a lot of one-on-one attention pitching-wise, so that has been a big change too."
House was lined up to attend Tulane University has he not signed with the Indians, and about seven months since his decision to sign with the Indians he still has no regrets on the decision to pass up college so he could get going on his professional baseball career.
"I have no regrets," said House. "I am fully 100% happy with the decision I made. I feel like this is the right place for me, and the organization and people are great here, and I can't be happier. While it is a tough thing, you gotta look at what is best for you and where you are going to be able to perform at a 100% and give it your all. That is what it came down to, and as I looked deep down inside and looked at what was the best for me, this was it."
Rosters were finalized on Wednesday night, so by now House should know where he is going when camp breaks in a few days. The word around camp was that House will open the season in the Single-A Lake County rotation, and there is no reason to think that will not happen. As for House, he is not worried about where he ends up. He just wants to opportunity to grow and develop into the best pitcher he can be.
"I am just going with the flow," said House. "Wherever they tell me to go is where I am going to go and I am going to give it my all no matter what. Just like people have been telling me it is not where you start it is where you finish. I am not going to worry about that. I am doing my best to try and perform and get better everyday and learn something new. I have learned a lot so far being here just these last two months, and I have a lot more growing to do."
At such a young age and coming out of high school, House has a lot to learn in the coming years. The good thing for him is that he is a sponge and will soak up a lot what he is taught or experiences the next few seasons as he ascends the minor league ladder. Already, in the span of two months, his changeup has developed at a rapid pace. He has worked so hard on developing his changeup, it is now the pitch he has the most confidence using. His slider is more of a slurve, and the changeup sits at 80-81 MPH which is good separation from his 91-93 MPH fastball.
"I just developed my changeup, and I think I have a pretty good feel for it now and getting it worked in," said House. I am learning how to establish the lower part of the plate. In high school you get by with a mid-high fastball as you can push it by them, but here everybody can hit a fastball. I am working more on location and just learning how to setup hitters and reading them. It is a lot more in depth. It is not just throwing now, it is pitching."
For any pitcher, one of the hardest things to learn is to not just throw the ball but to read the hitter's swing so as to better locate the next pitch. This is something new House is learning, and will be vital in his transformation into being a complete pitcher.
"You have to learn how to pick up differences like if a hitter is more of a low ball hitter or high ball hitter," said House. "It is difficult coming from not paying attention to it at all really to now it is real in depth as they want you to watch, they want you to learn, and they want you to talk to the hitters to see how they feel when the pitcher does this or that. It is difficult learning more what they are thinking and what you can do to be a step ahead of them."
As the season gets ready to kickoff a week from today, House has several goals for this upcoming season, but consistency it his mail objective.
"My main goal is to make every start, to stay healthy, give my team a chance to win, and show consistency," said House. "I know there are going to be some days when you don't have a good game, but I want to be as consistent as possible and grow and learn to develop into a better pitcher. I want to mature mentally and physically in all aspects of the game. There is just so much out there for me to learn."
Mister Roberts Neighborhood
One of the mainstays in the Single-A Lake County bullpen this year will be right-hander Dave Roberts. A 4th round pick in the 2008 Draft our of Long Beach State, Roberts got his professional career going last year at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley where he went 1-1 with a 6.11 ERA in 21 appearances, though he actually pitched better than his numbers indicate. Opposing hitters only hit .248 off him and he had good command (3.1 BB/9) and was punching batters out (8.2 K/9), but his inflated ERA is really the result of two disastrous outings where he gave up half his earned runs on the season in those appearances.
The transition from college player to professional was seamless for Roberts, and he feels the key to his success is the ability to pitch with his fastball.
"For me it was somewhat similar [going from college to pro] just because at Long Beach our pitching coach always wanted us to work off our fastball," said Roberts. "For me I am most successful when I work off of my fastball. If you can do that and get ahead, you can get guys guessing a little bit more and then get them to expand the plate with some off-speed stuff."
When Roberts was at Long Beach, the backend of the bullpen was loaded. He was the main setup man during his time there and he will look to bring his experience pitching in such a role to Lake County this year. While as of this interview he was not aware he was going to Lake County to open the season, Roberts just wanted to concentrate on doing what he had to do, and wherever he ended up was fine with him.
"If you come out here and take care of your business, pitch well, make good decisions out on the field, and they see you are smart and not making mistakes. It is out of my control, but if I do those things, good things will happen."
Roberts' fastball has good life and sits at 91-93 MPH, topping out at times at 95 MPH. Like most relievers, the pitch he has the most confidence in is his fastball.
"I'd probably say my two-seam fastball is the pitch I have the most confidence in," said Roberts. "Just knowing I can get it to move since it moves pretty well, and I am able to throw it for strikes. And I am pretty good on the arm-side with it, so I would say if I needed to throw a pitch to get an out that would be the one."
As spring training winds down and the start of the new season commences, Roberts knows what he needs to do to get better.
"I think for me my biggest thing is when I throw my arm-side away fastball - which is normally my four-seamer - I need to do better getting it on a more downward plane because at times it will be flat and I leave it up," said Roberts. "I have been working on getting it in a little more than it has been and be more consistent with it. I want to try and work both sides of the plate and that would equate to me being a little more successful."
Rosters finalized: Well, when players arrive in camp on Thursday morning they should all know where they are going to start the season. On Wednesday, after camp broke for the day once intrasquad games were completed, Farm Director Ross Atkins and his entire staff gathered for final roster meetings. With the equipment trucks leaving town tomorrow late morning, all players will know who is going to which full season affiliate, who is staying behind in extended spring training, and who is being released. I will try and provide the rosters for the four teams when I get the details, though I am not sure if they will want an "official" listing of the rosters to go out yet. The next notebook will likely have at least a synopsis of the rosters, and I will pass along anything I can on the rosters as soon as I can.
Clarifying Huff: I had mentioned yesterday that left-hander David Huff was never in real consideration for the final rotation spot this spring because of the five candidates he was the only one not on the 40-man roster. Let me explain a little further why this was the case. Considering the Indians had four other options in Jackson, Laffey, Lewis and Sowers already on the 40-man, Huff had virtually no shot going in and there was no pressure to roster him if they did not have to. The big thing in play is major league service time. By having him open the season in Columbus at least the first two weeks of the season, the Indians could call him up at anytime this season after that and get SEVEN years (including this year) of control over him whereas had he opened in Cleveland they would have only got SIX years (including this year) of control. This is huge, and why considering they had other options and Huff coming down with the tendonitis why they never pushed it.
More Huff: In any case, Huff will be in Cleveland at some point his year, if healthy. Yesterday I heard that he may in fact be the first person called up, even above Laffey and Sowers. It really will depend at the time the Indians have a need for a starter how the three are performing.
Arizona Heat: Former Minor League Infield Coordinator Ted Kubiak is back to managing, something he loves and missed. Not only will he be around for extended spring training, but he will also manage the Indians rookie-level team the Arizona League Indians which will play their home games at the new Goodyear complex. Because the temperature in the summer in Arizona reaches 106-115 degrees, the games will be at night (7pm) and on occasion at 10am in the morning.
Frias Bullpen Bound?: From what I have heard, right-hander Santo Frias will not be in the rotation to start the season, though he could end up back in it at some point. Instead, all signs point to him opening the season in the Single-A Lake County bullpen. Frias is healthy again, and his velocity has ticked up a tad as he is now topping out at 94 MPH on the gun this spring.
Prospect Videos: Lots of videos uploaded the past two days: Matt Meyer, Guido Fonseca, Eddie Burns, Carlos Rivero, Carlos Moncrief, Beau Mills, Michael Finocchi, Francisco Valera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Cord Phelps, Tim Fedroff, Matt McBride, Marty Popham, John Allman, Jason Denham, Santo Frias, Ryan Miller, and Eric Berger.
Did You Know: Indians right-handed reliever Eddie Burns' father, Thomas Burns, was also drafted and signed by the Indians in the early 80s and pitched in the NY-Penn League. The elder Burns eventually left the Indians organization, and ended up in the Mets system reaching as high as Triple-A before arm troubles ended his career.
Random Notes: I mentioned the other day that I had unofficially heard that first baseman Brock Simpson had retired. Well, he has officially retired. ... Zach Jackson and Rafael Betancourt got some work in yesterday during minor league camp. ... Lefty Scott Lewis will make a start on Sunday April 5th pitching in an extended spring training game to keep him sharp before he makes his season debut at the Indians home opener on Friday April 10th.
Today: I will be at camp for morning workouts from 9:30-11:30am to hopefully get a good glimpse of the final rosters. I will also do interviews from about 11:30-12:30pm, and then watch Columbus and Akron play at 1pm. In the next few days I hope to talk to several Indians staffers "on the record" and publish their comments on players.