Mixed results for Indians in winter ball
Phelps hitting well in AFL, Valbuena struggling in Venezuela
CLEVELAND -- One internal infield option might be using this fall to play himself into consideration for a job with the Indians. Another might be heading in the opposite direction.Cord Phelps, a third-round pick in the 2008 Draft, was dispatched to the Arizona Fall League, in part, to get a feel for third base. The Indians, who are trying to line up internal options at the position in the wake of the Jhonny Peralta trade earlier this year, wanted Phelps to see some time at the hot corner to gauge if he might be an option. Phelps has made seven errors in 15 games, so he obviously is a work in progress defensively. But he continues to torch opposing pitching, just as he did in a dynamic 2010 season at Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus. Phelps has a .365 average, one homer, four doubles, one triple and eight RBIs for the Peoria Javelinas. His batting average ranks 10th in the AFL, and his .387 on-base percentage ranks third. He's hit in nine straight games, batting .447 (17-for-38) with three doubles, a homer and seven RBIs in that span. On the opposite end of the spectrum is what Luis Valbuena is up to in the Venezuelan Winter League. Valbuena entered this year as the Indians' starting second baseman, coming off an impressive '09. But he played himself out of that job and is batting just .187 with a .568 OPS in 22 games for Lara. If Valbuena finds himself back at Triple-A Columbus next year, the Indians might have a few other options for an infield utility role. Jason Kipnis, a second-round pick in 2009, made a successful conversion from the outfield to second base this year and has seen some time at third in Arizona. He's hit safely in six of his past eight games, batting .281 (9-for-32) with two doubles, two triples, two homers and seven RBIs. He has 14 RBIs on the fall, tied for 11th overall in the league. On the pitching front, left-hander Scott Barnes, acquired in last year's trade that sent Ryan Garko to the Giants, is 2-1 with a 4.34 ERA in five starts for Peoria and ranks third in the AFL in strikeouts with 21, while walking just four. Right-handed reliever Josh Judy is making a strong bid to be protected in the Rule 5 Draft, as he's posted a 2.45 ERA with five strikeouts and no walks in 7 1/3 innings over eight appearances for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League.