John McLaren made it official moments ago: Wladimir Balentien (seen above taking BP today) is now the team’s every day right fielder. Not much of a surprise with Brad Wilkerson gone. But there will be no shifting around of Raul Ibanez, nobody else brought up to share time with him. He’s the guy.
“Balentien’s going to play,” he said.
GM Bill Bavasi said he didn’t want to have any regrets in September about not moving sooner.
“We think we’re getting to the point where we’re getting the bullpen straightened out,” he said. “The starters have been doing a good job. But they’re getting into the fifth, sixth and seventh inning looking over their shoulder it seems like every night. So, something’s got to give.”
Jeff Clement (pictured below, also during BP) will get his primary time as a designated hitter. He will also catch occasionally. McLaren avoided using the word “platoon” but it seems pretty clear that’s what Clement and Jose Vidro will be doing. Vidro faces the lefties, Clement the righties.
“We’re going to try to flip people around,” McLaren said.
McLaren also mentioned that Vidro will see some time as as first baseman and even at second base. He talked about his rationale for shedding Greg Norton, who he called “a victim of circumstance.” Figured, as I did in the previous blog post, that Vidro and Norton are clones of each other when it comes to switch-hitters not confined to one position. McLaren sees the potential for a lot of late-game pinch-running situations with all the position switching around that will be going on.
“We feel like we need protection,” he said. “With Burke as the extra catcher and when we DH Clement, we need pinch-runners every night. Because there are so many guys who need pinch-running for. We don’t pinch-hit for that many guys, so we felt like this is the way we need to go.”
The manager spoke to several players individually earlier on today, including Vidro (above) to let them know exactly what was going on. He and Wilkerson had a long chat in the sofa lounge area of the team’s hotel in downtown Cleveland this morning. Wilkerson did not go to the ballpark. Norton did. The team had made up its mind on Wilkerson, by the way, before his three hits last night. Those came too late to save him.
Putting Balentien and Clement in there right away isn’t a problem for him.
“We know what they’re all about,” he said. “They showed us a lot both last year and in spring training.”
Any more moves coming soon?
“I think we’re done,” he said.
Clement and Balentien were both told the news after their Tacoma team’s game last night. They caught a 6 a.m. flight here today on United Airlines through Chicago. Their plane was a little late. What else is new, right? Clement also said the landing here in Cleveland was about the worst he’s ever been through.
“I thought I blew my back out,” he quipped.
Boy, wouldn’t that have been a hoot?