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Cleveland Indians GM Chris Antonetti works on making that first decision

Published: Friday, January 13, 2012, 10:54 PM     Updated: Saturday, January 14, 2012, 9:36 AM
carlos pena.JPGView full sizeCarlos Pena, shown above with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010 but played for the Chicago Cubs in 2011, might be an option for the Indians at first base.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Up one blind alley, down the next. GM Chris Antonetti is still trying to improve the Indians' offense.

He didn't come out and say it Friday in a meeting with reporters, but it's clear he's still trying to acquire a first baseman. He met with owners Larry and Paul Dolan this week to see if Carlos Pena could be squeezed onto the roster. Casey Kotchman is another free-agent possibility.

Pena and Kotchman are left-handed hitters. Derrek Lee, a right-handed hitting first baseman, is still unsigned, but apparently doesn't want to play for the Tribe.

The one first baseman that could cure a lot of the Indians' ills, Prince Fielder, is strictly a look but don't touch trinket. He's going to cost way too much money, but he has definitely brought the first-base market to a standstill.

"At some point, some of these other guys are going to make a decision," Antonetti said. "Are they going to continue to wait or do they want to find a spot right now?"

If free agency doesn't offer a solution, Antonetti said there are trade possibilities.

"There are still a handful of free-agent alternatives and another handful of trade alternatives," Antonetti said. "It's not 20 guys deep, but it's more than just a couple."

The Angels, with first base reserved for Albert Pujols, have two first basemen who might be available for trade -- Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales. Trumbo hit .254 (137-for-539) with 29 homers and 87 RBI last year as a rookie. Morales, a switch hitter, is still recovering from a broken left leg that prohibited him from playing last year.

Matt LaPorta is the Tribe's incumbent. Indians hitting coach Bruce Fields spent four days with LaPorta last week in Florida working on his swing.

Antonetti said Fields was excited about what he saw, but will that be enough to save LaPorta's job?

Pena made $10 million last year with the Cubs.

He's looking for a multiyear deal and it's probably going to be a tough to get him onto the Tribe's roster.

"We have some flexibility to improve the team," Antonetti said. "Whether or not that flexibility and the player's desire align on value and fit, we don't know yet."

When the Indians came close to signing Carlos Beltran to a two-year, $24 million deal in December, it was understood that they'd have to make some trades to take on his salary. It would likely be the same with Pena.

No Manny: Manny Ramirez, third on the Indians' all-time home run list with 236, is trying to make a comeback after sitting out last year because of a second steroid suspension. He will not make it in Cleveland.

"It's not the best position [player] fit for us," Antonetti said. "Manny's contributions will be more in the batter's box and we already have a DH."

Ubaldo update: After Ubaldo Jimenez made one start in winter ball, he caught the flu and decided not to pitch again. He has worked on his conditioning, concentrating on his core and legs.

Strength coach Nelson Perez, who has spent the winter working with Jimenez, Carlos Santana and Fausto Carmona in the Dominican Republic, is happy with Jimenez.

"He had a groin injury last year coming out of spring training and that had an impact on his delivery," Antonetti said. "He wasn't able to execute his delivery and that led to some inconsistencies."

Up for grabs: Antonetti said Lonnie Chisenhall and Jack Hannahan will compete for third base in spring training. Jason Kipnis has a leg up on the competition at second.

More invitees: The Indians have invited right-handers Hector Ambriz, Austin Adams, Chen-Chang Lee, Tyler Sturdevant, catcher Chun Chen and outfielder Chad Huffman to big-league spring training next month in Goodyear, Ariz.

To date the Indians have 15 nonroster players coming to camp.

Welcome aboard: Adam Everett, who started last season as a utility infielder for the Indians, has been hired as a special assistant to baseball operations. He'll be in spring training working with the infielders.

Arbitration time: The Indians had seven players eligible for salary arbitration, and they all filed Friday to take part in the process. Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Chris Perez, Rafael Perez, Justin Masterson, Hannahan and Joe Smith will exchange 2012 salary figures Tuesday with the Indians.

Throughout the big leagues, 142 players filed for arbitration.

Finally: Infielders Chin-Lung Hu, Argenis Reyes and right-hander Willy Lebron signed minor-league deals with the Tribe. They will report to minor-league camp in late February. Hu played 22 games with the Mets last year. This is Reyes' second engagement with the Tribe. Lebron pitched in the Royals system last year.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter: phoynes@plaind.com, 216-999-5158


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wahoo6900 January 13, 2012 at 11:18PM

122 RBI for Trumbo?...c'mon Hoynsie

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pbukes92 January 13, 2012 at 11:22PM

I would love to have Trumbo! 29 homers 89 RBI! (get your facts right buddy, theres a thing called ESPN.com) Plus i have his Rookie card!

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BPGuy January 13, 2012 at 11:33PM

Trumbo. Would be a great fit. Also, plays OF. Pena? Come on, dont waste our money. A career 239 hitter.... Kotchman, if the price is right, but no power. Tribe needs a power hitting 1B

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cosmo392 January 13, 2012 at 11:48PM

Hoynesie, do we have proof that the Tribe "came close" to signing Beltran? Or are we taking Dolan's word for it? Did Beltran's agent confirm that they came close? I can't believe anything the Dolans say...like when they claim they are losing $16 million a year, but aren't interested in selling. We need to get Robert Irvine in here for an episode of "Winning: Impossible"

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joe kiely January 14, 2012 at 3:46PM

You hit right on. If Antonetti needs to get permission for Pena, how does He offer money to Beltran. I will tell you , by offering 2 yrs when Beltran had offers from a few teams at 3 yrs. So now they tell everybody we made an offer to Beltran. And whoever said we were close to signing Beltran is a liar.Antonetti your comments about Manny make no sense. We have a DH yes this is true. But the DH plays how many games a week.? We do not have a 4th Outfielder and we can surely use Manny as a 4th Outfielder. If we were willing to play Duncan everyday in left Manny can play some as well.The organization keeps saying the same things over and over and they do NOTHING TO IMPROVE THIS CLUB.

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yourbrown January 14, 2012 at 12:23AM

a couple of things..

you want to improve the offense? cut hafner -- waste of a roster spot.

if we need double secret permission to sign a mediocre guy like pena, then god help us.

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skydancing8 January 14, 2012 at 12:42AM

Yeah cut Hafner because there are just guys pounding down the down with a +.800 OPS out there.

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centerfield6 January 14, 2012 at 12:59AM

Are you sure that isn't really "80% oops, I'm hurt" for Hafner?

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MyTribe January 14, 2012 at 3:53AM

Hafner was hitting .325 at the all star break. The Indians should not have forced him out there in the second half when he was not healthy. However, the Indians didn't feel they had much choice. This year, they will have more choices and should only play the healthiest players.

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wahoorc January 14, 2012 at 8:21AM

myTribe - What makes you think Hafner was forced to play when for medical reasons he should not have? Usually when something like this happens in sports, a reporter discovers this and reports on it.

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MyTribe January 14, 2012 at 3:24PM

Hafner's OPS plummeted by 250 points from before the all star break versus after the all star break. Hafner injured his ankle on a needless slide into home plate, then might have reinjured himself on a belly flop type of slide into second base.

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wahoorc January 14, 2012 at 5:15PM

We all know he was hurt. My question was, what makes you think he was forced to play through his injuries? I believe he volunteered to play.

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MyTribe January 14, 2012 at 8:52PM

Ok, I see what you are saying about Hafner. I think it was a combination of Hafner absolutely wanting to play, and the Indians reluctant to bring up Donald or put Chisenhall or Kipnis to primarily Dh. I have to believe that in 2012 the Indians finally have the depth to tell players to recover rather than look the other way, and that we will have a ton of players who can DH when necessary.

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joe kiely January 15, 2012 at 8:18PM

We are not grooming DH's here we are building an everyday lineup which includes Kipnis at second, and Lonnie C at third. Hafner should be the DH and hopefully he can plasy more then last year. Manny Acta has talked about depth, last year having Thome and Pronk did not seem to cause any problems. Why not put Manny in against some lefties and in left when need be.?????????y

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MyTribe January 14, 2012 at 8:53PM

Remember, last year was the first year the Indians have been in contention for a while and I believe management was anxious to plug back in the players that helped them early in the season, and Hafner was a big part of that success.

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