Notes: Coaches adjusting to helmets
Equipment now mandatory in wake of Coolbaugh death
WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- Apparently Luis Rivera and Joel Skinner are getting used to the idea of having to wear a helmet this season. After all, both of the Tribe's base coaches were donning the helmets while grabbing a quick bite to eat before the Indians' Grapefruit League game against the Tigers on Sunday. "It's getting heavy," Rivera said of his helmet. Neither Rivera nor Skinner are objecting to the new rule requiring base coaches to wear protective helmets while their teams are up to bat. MLB is implementing the rule this season after Mike Coolbaugh, a Double-A first-base coach, was killed by a line drive last year. "It's fine," said Skinner, the Tribe's third-base coach. "I wore one my whole career anyway, so it's no big deal." One Major League coach who is making a big deal out of the situation is Larry Bowa, who raised a fuss when his Dodgers opened their spring season last week. Bowa said he'd be willing to write a check to pay for fines for all 162 games, if it meant he could avoid wearing the helmet. Rivera, who coaches first base for the Indians, isn't going to that extreme. But he nonetheless expressed displeasure with the helmets, which he said are uncomfortable. "It's going to get hot," Rivera said. "I don't mind wearing it, but I'd rather just wear a hat." The rule does not force coaches to wear helmets with ear flaps. Those are optional. Both Skinner and Rivera have opted to wear helmets without the flaps. One criticism of the rule, which was adopted at the General Managers Meetings over the winter, is that it protects coaches, but not umpires. Rivera said umpires are in just as much danger as the base coaches. "The only reason they're doing this is because of a tragedy," Rivera said. "It's something that had to be addressed. But I was surprised they did this, because it's the first time they've ever had this [rule]." Sore no more: Jake Westbrook had his first start of the spring pushed back a few days because of arm soreness, but he came through his first outing unscathed on Sunday. "My arm felt good," Westbrook said after working a 1-2-3 inning against the Tigers. "It feels a lot better than it did [Thursday]. I'll get into my routine, and hopefully I'll progress."
After pitching the one inning, Westbrook moved to the bullpen, where he threw a simulated inning. He threw about 25 pitches in all. He's not scheduled to start again until next Sunday, against the Nationals, and he'll probably throw a bullpen session in between. The Indians scratched the 30-year-old Westbrook on Thursday, after he complained about the arm soreness. He said that he's learned how to read his body over the years. He's even cut back on crashing into the wall for laughs while shagging fly balls. "The older you get, the more you have to do to stay on top of things," Westbrook said. "You have to be smart about it. You won't see me out there power shagging anymore." Mister blister: Top pitching prospect Adam Miller said that the blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand has completely healed. Miller is slated to do some long-tossing Monday. He'll then progress to bullpen sessions on the side before taking part in any Grapefruit League games. The 23-year-old Miller will open the season at Triple-A Buffalo, but could make his big league debut this season, if he can stay healthy. Rivalry report: Joe Borowski didn't face the Tigers on Sunday. He pitched a side bullpen session instead. But Borowski is looking forward to facing that tough Tigers' lineup this season. "I thought we had a great series last year, and it's just going to be that much more intense," Borowski said. "It's exciting as a competitor to face one of the best lineups in baseball and see where you stand." Borowski is unfazed by the Indians' inaction this offseason, relative to the Tigers' big moves. "People forget that guys are trying to catch up to where we're at," he said. "I guess in sports nowadays you get used to teams making changes all the time. But making a move just to make a move is counterproductive." Toregas fine: Catcher Wyatt Toregas, who left Saturday's game in the eighth inning after dislocating the index finger on his glove hand, was feeling fine on Sunday. He had the day off, though. "I'll just take a day," Toregas said. "Honestly, I could have popped it in and kept playing." Dedication: The Indians announced that more than 100 people braved the cold and snow to line up at the Progressive Field box office for single-game tickets for 2008, which went on sale on Saturday morning. On deck: A year ago, with Cliff Lee held up by an abdominal strain, Fausto Carmona became the Tribe's fifth starter by default. Nineteen wins and a fourth-place finish in the Cy Young voting later, Carmona enters '08 in a much more prominent position in the rotation. He'll make his '08 debut Monday, as the Indians travel to Dunedin for a 1:05 p.m. ET game against Shaun Marcum and the Blue Jays. Rafael Perez, Aaron Fultz, Tom Mastny, Scott Lewis, Rich Rundles and Reid Santos will also be available to pitch for the Tribe.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.