Friday, December 23, 2005

Hot Stove

I need one. It's a balmy 64 degrees here in lovely downtown Cape Coral and to my warm weather acclimated constitution, that's cold. Yes, I know if you hail from Hibbing, Minnesota, that it's summer weather for you, but for us Florida Crackers, even those like me of the half-baked variety, believe me, it's cold. So let's start…

Charlie Walters reported into today's PiPress that Jason Kubel has received clearance to start working without a brace on his surgically repaired leg and that he is expected to compete for a job in the Twins outfield in spring training. Kubel missed the 2005 season after injuring his leg in the Arizona Fall League, but posted excellent numbers (24 HR, 127 RBIs, 44 doubles, four triples and a .347 batting average) in games played at the AA and Triple A level in 2004. He was one of the Twins top 10 prospects before the injury, how he fairs after will be the big question for the spring training-watching crowd.

The Twins inked catcher Shawn Wooten to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. Wooten, 33, batted .267 (114-427) with 20 doubles, 17 homers and 60 rbi in 114 games for Pawtucket (AAA, International League) in 2005.

Minnesota also signed 1B/OF Jason Hart to a minor league deal for 2006. Hart hit 21 HR for Texas' Double-A Frisco club in 2005, after missing the 2004 season with a non-cancerous brain tumor. Hart was the Topps Minor League Player of the Year in 2000 after hitting a combined .324-31-125 at Double-A and Triple for the Oakland organization. He is expected to replace Kevin West in the Rochester line up. West was injured playing winter ball in Venezuela and is expected to miss most or all of the 2006 season.

The Twins added right-handed pitchers Adam Harben and Pat Neshek, lefthanded pitchers Justin Jones, Jose Mijares and Errol Simonitsch and outfielder Alex Romero to the 40-man major league roster. I don't believe any of them – maybe Neshek and Romero later in the year – are candidates to make it to the majors out of spring training, but they may find invites to join the team when the rosters open up in September waiting for them. Harben, Jones, and Simonitsch will likely start the year in AA ball, and Mijares finished last season with the Fort Myers Miracle and will likely start the 2006 season there as well.

The Twins dealt Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler to the Florida Marlins in exchange for Luis Castillo. I'd kick Terry Ryan for that except it's just too good of a deal to quibble. And at least Bowyer will be close, as he's projected to be well in the mix as closer in the depleted Marlins line up.

Grant Balfour, who missed the 2005 season with Tommy Johns surgery had been non-tendered by the Twins, but will be offered a minor league deal. Balfour is not expected to be able to pitch again until June, and will likely start the season with the Rochester Red Wings once that happens.

Outfielder and local Fort Myers product Tommy Watkins was resigned by the Twins to a minor league deal. Watkins had a disappointing season in New Britain, hitting only .229 (4 HR, 24 RBIs) but has shown an inclination to work hard. He's player that may never make the major league level, but will likely stay with the Twins for a long while, moving over to coaching once his playing days are over. Watkins just finished up his annual baseball camp at the Lee County Sportsplex and will be one of the player who will be helping out the coaching staff for a six week period running from January 7th through February 18th, as the Twins host their annual free youth clinics in the Collier/Lee/Charlotte county area. A schedule of dates and locations for the clinics can be found at The clinics are for children ages 5 though 16 and parents are encouraged to participate with their sons and daughters in the sessions.

So…that's warmed me up for the moment. We'll take a look at who the Twins acquired in the Rule 5 draft and where they might fit into the system in another posting.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Indians are Coming (yet again)

I’m tempted to put it down a null news day. Either that or we just can’t have a baseball season without THE rumors. You know…the ones about the Cleveland Indians moving their spring training to Southwest Florida? No really, we do this every year.

They’ve tried Collier County, they’ve tried Charlotte County, they’ve tried Lee County – or at least, the City of Fort Myers – where they almost got lucky with an offer to renovate Terry Park for them. Almost, but not quite.

Now they’re back and they’re talking to Cape Coral. The Fort Myers News Press broke a story on Wednesday that two officials (unnamed) from the Indians were in town, met with City officials and toured the city and some potential sites, including the 211-acre Festival Park site in the North Cape area. Currently there are no further meetings planned between the two parties and team spokesman Vice President Bob Dibiasio was unavailable for comment.

Obviously there are a number of issues that would need to be dealt with in building a training facility for the Tribe, one of which would be securing money from the State of Florida, which as been dragging its feet over money for professional sports facilities such as the one the Florida Marlins would like built for it.

However, such a facility, if built and managed properly, such as the Lee County Sportsplex in South Fort Myers, would certainly be a boon to the community.

Unfortunately, too many area residents equate baseball stadium with the “white elephant on Edison” where the Red Sox play. Built by the City of Fort Myers, it was taken over in 2003 by Lee County in an effort to shed operating and renovation costs. The debt structure on the stadium won’t be paid off until 2023, and unlike the Lee County complex, it is not used for other events. The closest that it’s come to an outside event happened just this month when Beasley Broadcasting held a concert headlined by the band Staind in the adjacent parking lot area of City of Palms Park. They managed to time the event for the night before Red Sox Spring Training tickets went on sale, and there were several run-ins and one arrest associated with concert goers harassing fans that were waiting in line overnight. It should be noted that while the Red Sox hired security for the stadium, they did not provide any sort of security to those people waiting in line outside of the stadium. (This is the second time there have been ill-considered incidents involved with Red Sox ticket sales. Last year, a near riot occurred when fans discovered that some seats had been pre-sold over the internet.)

Now, note, I wouldn’t mind having the Tribe here. Heck, if you told me they were coming in the area and were going to participate in Gulf Coast League, I’d be all for it. But the Tribe doesn’t participate in GCL now, preferring to use two short season rookie teams. Still, they’d be in on instructional league ball…well, I’ll consider that later. Right now the entire issue is so tentative, that it seemed even silly for me to have the papers making such a fuss about it. After all, if third time wasn’t the charm, what makes anyone think that the fourth go around is going to be any more successful?

The related stories on this issue:

Cleveland Indians eye Cape as possible spring site
Cleveland Indians scout training site in Cape Coral
Indians looking at Cape Coral for new spring training home