Early reviews positive for Tribe 'pen
Young relievers performing well without Wood, Reyes
DETROIT -- Particularly with early season injuries to closer Kerry Wood and Anthony Reyes, most outside observers considered the Cleveland bullpen to be a bit of a question mark heading into the season.
So far, so good.
The Tribe's bullpen has kept opposing hitters to a .093 batting average against this season, giving up four runs and five hits in 18 innings (a 2.00 ERA). The performance and depth of the 'pen will be heavily relied upon this year, particularly with young starters Justin Masterson, David Huff and Mitch Talbot in the rotation, and Jake Westbrook coming off a long-term injury.
"We broke up Spring Training confident that we could make our bullpen a strength," said reliever Jensen Lewis. "We need to cut down on our walks a bit, but our job is to leave any runners that are on base when we come in the game out there."
The bullpen's performance is markedly better from the first five games in 2009. Last year, Cleveland allowed 16 earned runs over 21.2 innings through its first five games (a 6.65 ERA).
Cleveland manager Manny Acta would like to see his bullpen get more strikeouts, but he acknowledges that Tribe relievers have made some big pitches with runners in scoring position to limit the opposition's offensive damage.
"We need to throw more strikes. But I like how we have been getting outs with guys on base," Acta said.
With just seven pitchers in most Major League bullpens, Acta feels comfortable that he has some relievers like Joe Smith, who don't have to rely on righty vs. righty and lefty vs. lefty matchups.
"When [Smith] was with the New York Mets, he got everyone out," Acta said. "There are times up here when you need to leave guys in there when you don't have ideal [pitching] matchups."
Lewis said he and his bullpen mates are confident in their individual roles, and he believes that the team's relievers have a significant amount of collective talent. That is especially true because most of Cleveland's relievers are in their 20s.
"Whenever the phone rings [in the bullpen] we expect and want our name to be called," Lewis said. "Every guy wants the ball."
Tribe not worried about Choo's start
DETROIT -- Shin-Soo Choo is normally a reserved, relaxed player, but he let his emotions come out Friday afternoon after striking out on a check swing called third strike in the eighth inning with a runner in scoring position.
Choo appeared visibly frustrated at third-base umpire Tony Randazzo for calling him out, but he was joking with teammate Michael Brantley about the incident after Friday's game, saying that might have been the first time he reacted in such a visible fashion to an umpire at the Major League level.
Choo has stuck out nine times in 18 at-bats through five games and is hitting .111. He did hit a 400-foot flyout to deep center field in the first inning Saturday. He also walked and scored on a wild pitch in the fourth.
Cleveland manager Manny Acta isn't worried about Choo's slow start, saying Saturday that four games is "too small a sample" to worry about his outfielder's high strikeout totals. Choo traditionally has been a player who has kept his emotions in check on the field.
"Especially with younger guys, they need to learn that there are things in this game that you can't control," Acta said. "One of those things is that you have to control your emotions. I'm not worried about [Choo] though. He's a veteran."
Acta: Ballpark radar guns untrustworthy
DETROIT -- There were times on Friday afternoon when David Huff's fastballs were clocked as high as 95 mph by Comerica Park's radar gun. Huff joked afterward that he can't remember ever throwing 95 mph before, and Indians manager Manny Acta agreed that the radar gun might not have been totally accurate.
However, it is common for ballpark radar guns to be somewhat inconsistent in their readings, according to Acta, who also questioned some of Detroit reliever Joel Zumaya's 100-plus mph pitches from Friday afternoon. Either way, it doesn't matter, because pitch speeds don't tell the whole story, he said.
"You can't trust every radar gun, and really I don't even want our guys looking at the [stadium] readings," Acta said. "You can't always help it, and if a guy is paying attention to the radar guns, you can usually tell -- especially in stadiums where the speeds are hard to find on the scoreboard."
Acta estimated that Huff was consistently throwing 90-92 mph on his fastball Friday. The Tribe's manager believes that the movement and command is more important than the speed of a pitch, especially for a left-hander.
The one area where a stadium radar gun can help managers and coaches is to determine the difference in speeds between a pitcher's hard stuff and offspeed pitches. The ideal difference is about 10 mph, which can help keep opposing hitters off-balance.
"If a guy's fastball is 85, and his changeup is 82, that's a problem because there's not enough difference on the speeds," Acta said. "But if you're at 91 and 81 [mph], then you're in pretty good shape."
Numerous activities set for home opener
DETROIT -- There will be a number of Opening Day activities throughout Cleveland on Monday to celebrate the Indians' first home game of the season.
The ceremonial first pitch will honor Hall of Famer Bob Feller, who pitched the only Opening Day no-hitter in Major League history on April 16, 1940, at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Opening Day 2010 marks the 70th anniversary of the historic achievement.
Country Music star Jonalee White will perform a pregame concert downtown near Progressive Field. The class of the 2010 Indians Hall of Fame & Distinguished Hall of Fame, including former outfielder Kenny Lofton, will also be inducted.
Lofton is the franchise leader in stolen bases (452), ranks third in club history in runs scored (975) and 10th in career base hits (1,512) and at-bats (4,872). In his 10 seasons with the Tribe, Lofton hit .300 (1,512-5,045) with 87 home runs, 518 RBIs and 452 steals in 1,276 games.
DETROIT -- Nicholas Hagadone, a prized left-handed pitching prospect acquired from Boston in the Victor Martinez trade last year, went 4 1/3 innings Friday night, allowing no runs on two hits in a 5-0 win for Class A Kinston over Winston-Salem. ... Cleveland's 2009 first-round Draft pick, Alex White, made his professional debut Saturday night in Kinston's 4-1 victory over Winston-Salem. White struck out seven, walked four and allowed just two hits and no runs. ... The last few Opening Days in Cleveland have included some significant offensive fireworks. Toronto beat the Indians, 13-7, last year, and in three victorious home openers from 2006-2008, Cleveland averaged more than nine runs per game. ... Travis Hafner, Shin-Soo Choo and Victor Martinez all hit home runs in last year's Opening Day victory. ... The last Opening Day in old Cleveland Stadium in 1993 drew more than 73,000 fans. ... Cleveland's offense has yet to get on track this year, as the Indians rank last in the American League in runs scored, averaging 2.8 runs per game. Hafner has the team's only home run thus far, and the Tribe rank last or next to last in such offensive categories as batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.