Cleveland Indians notebook: Hitters will face live pitching for first time

By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer

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Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Matt Capps throws during spring training baseball in Goodyear, Ariz. Feb. 2013. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
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GOODYEAR, Ariz.: Today is the first day of live batting practice for the Indians.

The word live isn’t meant to convey the difference between live and dead BP. Live means that pitchers, rather than coaches, throw to batters, which makes it pitching practice and not much fun for hitters.

Instead of facing coaches, who are throwing 60-65 mph, hitters must take their cuts off guys throwing 90 and mixing in sliders, curves and change-ups.

That’s why there are special rules for the first day of live batting practice.

“Guys don’t have to swing,” manager Terry Francona said Monday. “It’s optional.”

Even if they do swing, nobody expects spectacular results.

“I don’t think you’ll see a lot of loud contact tomorrow,” Francona said.

Francona’s predecessor, Manny Acta, would declare the first two days of live BP as a time for “tracking.” That is, batters followed the ball from the pitcher’s hand to the plate but never swung.

In a change from the norm, Francona will allow pitchers to throw BP without standing behind protective “L” screens.

“The majority of pitchers don’t want to use the screens,” Francona said. “And they don’t really stand behind them anyway.”

Pitchers feel that the screen restricts their freedom of arm movement.

To prepare for live BP, each pitcher will have thrown three bullpen sessions and taken two days off.

Fingers crossed

Right-hander Matt Capps didn’t get a job until the Tribe signed him on Jan. 31.

This is a reliever who saved 90 games from 2008-2010 before his numbers dropped to 29 saves combined the past two seasons. Shoulder issues robbed Capps of much of his season last year, but the Indians feel he is sound.

If so, General Manager Chris Antonetti might be facing felony theft charges.

“That would be the hope,” Francona said of his expectations for Capps. “He’s been throwing the ball very well, commanding the ball very well. When a guy is commanding the ball, it tells me that he’s healthy. Chris signed him, I said, ‘Great.’ ”

To clarify

Francona wants his hitters to be selective with which pitches they swing at.

“Even in Boston, there was this misconception,” Francona said. “We don’t want guys going to the plate looking for a walk. We want them to look for a good pitch to hit. Walks are a byproduct of that.”

Francona has no illusions about the volume of strikeouts his lineup is likely to produce, particularly with batters Drew Stubbs and Mark Reynolds, who have led their respective leagues in strikeouts.

“We’re going to have some strikeouts,” Francona said. “We’re going to strike out a lot. But the good side is that we really can run.”

Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis and Stubbs ranked among the top 10 base stealers in their respective leagues last year.

Wahoo Club meeting

Former Tribe designated hitter Ron Kittle will be the primary speaker at the next Wahoo Club meeting March 16 at the Winking Lizard in Bedford Heights.

Kittle, American League Rookie of the Year in 1983, batted .258 with 18 home runs and 43 RBI in 225 at-bats for the Tribe in 1988. For information on the 11 a.m. luncheon program, call 440-724-8350 or see wahooclub.com.

Sheldon Ocker can be reached at socker@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.


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