Previewing the Cleveland Indians

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Previewing the Cleveland Indians

With the White Sox kicking off divisional play tonight against Cleveland (6:00, Comcast SportsNet), I turned to Lewie Pollis of Wahoo's on First to answer a few questions about the Indians:

Honest question: Is the Indians' rotation better off without the guy formerly known as Fausto Carmona?

It's hard to deny that. Carmona's sorry, Roberto Hernandez' DIPS numbers suggest that he was better than he looked last year (4.56 FIP, 4.18 SIERA), but we're talking about a low-strikeout worm-burner pitching in front of a questionable double-play duo (Jason Kipnis is still learning second base, and there's a lot of debate about Asdrubal Cabrera's defense) who's put up ERAs of 5.25 or higher three of the last four years. It's been five very long years since his breakout 2007 or maybe eight, since we now know that he's three years older than we thought.

All the major projection systems peg Hernandez for an ERA in the mid-to-high-4.00's, meaning he'd need a major improvement (an unlikely scenario for a 31-year-old with a distraction this big hanging over him) or some great luck in order to be even an average pitcher. The Indians might miss his durability (he's thrown 389 innings over the last two years), but between Jeanmar Gomez, Kevin Slowey, David Huff, Zach McAllister and Scott Barnes they shouldn't have much trouble replacing his production. I'm not sure Hernandez wins a roster spot ifwhen his visa issues get cleared up.

Is Shin-Soo Choo due for a rebound year? And, conversely, could Asdrubal Cabrera be in for a regression?

I'm definitely on board the Choo bandwagon for 2012. He's supposedly put his distractions from last year (his May DUI was the big one) behind him, and a good part of his struggles last year can probably be chalked up to bad luck (his .317 BABIP was way below his .351 career mark). Expecting a full rebound to his 2009-10 levels is probably unrealistic, but even if his power doesn't fully return he's still got his strong plate discipline. And don't forget that, despite his injuries, distractions, and slumps in 2011 he was on pace for a solid 2.7 fWAR over a full season.

Cabrera is in for some regression this year. He really slowed down towards the end of last year, which obviously is not a good sign for a player whose 25-homer power seemed to come out of nowhere. That's not to say that the improvement isn't for real, just that 15 homers is a more realistic expectation than 25. I see his average and OBP improving a little bit as he gets walk rate and BABIP back up a little bit, which will help to make up for his regressed power. Anyway, he'll be good just not as good as he was last year.
Jason Kipnis is a local guy -- what are your expectations for him this season?

I'm quite bullish on Kipnis this year. Basic principles of regression and small sample size say that he probably won't keep up the 135 wRC he posted in his 36-game debut last year, but just from watching him hit that's a real possibility. We're talking about a 25-year-old second baseman with solid plate discipline and real plus power. Don't be surprised if he goes 2020.

We know plenty about Justin Masterson (that he's really good), but give us a rundown of what to expect from Cleveland pitching this series.

First up is Josh Tomlin. Hope you're not looking to walk much in game one because his 1.1 BB9 rate was the best in baseball last year. The problem with Tomlin is that his stinginess with walks comes with a dearth of strikeouts, so he's really at the mercy of the Indians' defense. He's a flyball pitcher so he's generally good at keeping his BABIP down, but he also tends to be quite homer-prone...which makes the thought of him pitching at U.S. Cellular a little nerve-wracking.

Next (thanks to the need to creatively juggle the rotation around Ubaldo Jimenez' unfair suspension) you get Masterson. He's got a great sinkerfastball that's pretty much all he throws. You can always expect a lot of grounders from him, and while he doesn't do it as consistently he's got the stuff to rack up the strikeouts too as evidenced by this 10-punchout performance on Opening Day.

Finally, you'll draw Jeanmar Gomez. Most people expected him to start the year in Triple-A, but he beat Kevin Slowey for the final rotation spot with a strong spring (1.37 ERA in 19.2 innings). He's been a real pitch-to-contact guy in the past (.88 strikeouts and walks per inning) but that changed in Goodyear (1.12). I'm hoping he really has turned over a new leaf in terms of getting more strikeouts, but I'm not exactly sure what we'll see from him in his season debut.

And lastly, give us a projection for the series.

I'll say the Indians take the first game and that it won't be particularly close, but that's mostly because I don't know if I can handle another high-stress heartbreaker after this weekend's 37 innings of heart palpitations against the Blue Jays. I make it a point never to bet against Justin Masterson so Cleveland will take game two, and I suppose I'll let you guys win game three.

CSN to provide alternative Spanish-language telecasts for upcoming White Sox & Cubs games on CSN+

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CSN to provide alternative Spanish-language telecasts for upcoming White Sox & Cubs games on CSN+

MONDAY, JULY 31 at 7:00 PM CT (White Sox vs. Toronto) – featuring game analyst OZZIE GUILLEN

TUESDAY, AUGUST 1 at 7:00 PM CT (Cubs vs. Arizona) – featuring game analyst CARLOS ZAMBRANO

Chicago, IL (July 25, 2017) For the first time in network history, CSN Chicago (CSN), the home for the most games and the most comprehensive coverage of the Chicago White Sox and Chicago Cubs, will be providing an alternative Spanish-language telecast for each team that will air exclusively on CSN+ (also streaming live on CSNChicago.com and via the NBC Sports app).  CSN’s upcoming pair of alternative Spanish-language telecasts will also feature game analysis provided by two Chicago baseball icons: 2005 White Sox World Series manager Ozzie Guillen (on Monday, July 31) and three-time Cubs All-Star starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano (on Tuesday, August 1).

On Monday, July 31, CSN will carry the first of its two Spanish-language telecasts as the White Sox host the Toronto Blue Jays at 7:00 PM CT (White Sox Pregame Live presented by The Kowalis Family of Dealerships begins at 6:30 PM).  Calling the game on CSN+ will be Noticiero Telemundo Chicago’s lead sports anchor/veteran play-by-play announcer Rodrigo Arana, who will be joined in the booth by the always-candid and entertaining Ozzie Guillen, who led the White Sox to their first World Series title in 88 years, earning the 2005 American League “Manager of the Year” honor.  CSN’s primary White Sox announcing team of Jason Benetti and Steve Stone will provide the call of the game on the main CSN channel location. 

Then, on Tuesday, August 1, CSN will head to the north side of town for its second alternative Spanish-language telecast when the Cubs host the Arizona Diamondbacks at 7:00 PM CT (Cubs Pregame Live presented by Fields Auto Group gets underway at 6:30 PM).  Arana will once again handle play-by-play duties on CSN+, but will be joined in the booth this time by former Cubs standout pitcher (and hitter) Carlos Zambrano. In his 11 seasons with the Cubs, Zambrano made the National League All-Star team three times, earned three Silver Slugger awards, and finished in the NL’s top ten in ERA four-straight years (2003-06).  The primary call of the game on the main CSN channel location will be handled by CSN’s Cubs announcing duo of Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies

“With a diverse and dedicated Chicago baseball fan base throughout the entire Chicago market, we are excited to provide these Spanish-language White Sox and Cubs telecasts, showcasing the standout play-by-play call from Rodrigo and the in-depth and entertaining analysis from both Ozzie and Carlos,” said Greg Bowman, VP of Programming for CSN Chicago.

The alternative Spanish-language White Sox & Cubs telecasts will be televised exclusively on CSN+, which is available in high-definition on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 201 in the Chicago area/South Bend, IN & on Comcast/Xfinity ch. 285 in the Peoria, Springfield, Rockford and Champaign markets, along with being made available in DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, RCN, and WOW! homes among others; viewers are urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s CHANNEL FINDER for complete channel location details. 

In addition, the English and Spanish versions of the White Sox game on July 31 and the Cubs game on August 1 will BOTH be accessible live via CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app to authenticated CSN Chicago subscribers.  The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  For a full list of carriers and more information about CSN Chicago’s live streaming service of White Sox games, viewers are urged to visit the following link: http://www.csnchicago.com/live-faq .  The live stream of CSN’s White Sox & Cubs telecasts is presented by State Farm

Throughout the season, fans are also urged to visit CSNChicago.com’s “WhiteSoxTalk” (CSNChicago.com/white-sox) and “CubsTalk” (CSNChicago.com/cubs) sections for complete game previews/recaps, the latest news & rumors, feature reports, videos, and much more.  Fans can also follow the network’s dedicated team-specific Twitter handles (@CSNWhiteSox and @CSNCubs) for the latest news and up-to-the-minute team/player reports 24/7.  In addition, fans can look forward to new editions of CSN’s popular White Sox & Cubs PODCASTS (presented by Wintrust) featuring the network’s roster of baseball experts, along with numerous special guests.  All of CSN’s podcasts can be downloaded at CSNChicago.com/podcasts and by simply subscribing to them via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or Stitcher.  The podcasts can be played on any mobile device, laptop, or desktop computer.

Jose Quintana: 'It would have been a little hard for me to face the White Sox'

Jose Quintana: 'It would have been a little hard for me to face the White Sox'

Jose Quintana sounds relieved he won’t have to face his former White Sox teammates this week.

The pitcher said Tuesday morning that he’s ecstatic for his new opportunity with the Cubs, who have made him feel very comfortable these first two weeks. After he earned his second win for the Cubs on Sunday night, Quintana spent part of pregame Monday with his former White Sox teammates in visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field. They caught up on small talk and Quintana said they spent as much time together as they could. That’s a luxury he wouldn’t have been afforded had he been preparing to face them on Monday instead. The Cubs decided last Friday that Quintana would pitch Sunday night against the St. Louis Cardinals and not again until this Friday against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Though he wants to face them in the future and knows it will happen one day, Quintana doesn’t sound as if he objected to the decision made by the Cubs coaching staff.

“One day I’ll pitch against them, but that’s the decision of the pitching coach and the manager,” Quintana said. “They wanted me to face the Brewers the first game. But it would have been a little hard for me to face the White Sox, too, my old teammates. But one day for sure I want to face them.”

Quintana has already experienced a similar scenario earlier this season when he pitched against former White Sox pitcher Chris Sale at Guaranteed Rate Field on May 30. Facing Sale in his return with the Boston Red Sox wasn’t easy, Quintana said. Both pitchers struggled and instead of a pitching duel, the Red Sox outslugged the White Sox 13-7. Afterward, Quintana said he was embarrassed by his performance.

“It would be similar because when I faced Sailor it was a little weird, one of the best teammates I’ve ever had,” Quintana said. “You know, facing my old teammates, the lineup, would be a little weird.”

Third baseman Matt Davidson acknowledged how surreal the situations seems to see Quintana in a Cubs uniform. Though they only played together a little in the majors, Davidson has been around the veteran pitcher for several years every spring. To see him as part of the exodus of major league talent from the White Sox roster isn’t surprising, but it isn’t easy, either, Davidson said.

“He’s wearing blue now but that’s kind of part of the game you’re used to,” Davidson said. “It definitely kind of hurt a little bit to lose a guy who’s a cornerstone of the organization like that, him leaving. But it’s to be expected with the rebuild going on and we’re moving in the right direction.”

Jose Abreu agrees that seeing Quintana on the Cubs is different. But as awkward as the situation may be, Abreu would have loved to face Quintana. That should come as no surprise as Abreu was up for the challenge of facing Sale, producing a two-run, bases-loaded single against him in May.

“He was here with us a week ago, and now he’s gone,” Abreu said through an interpreter on Friday. “But those are the kind of things you like, to face the best in baseball. I wish him the best, but I would like to face him.”

Quintana said he wasn’t surprised by the news when manager Rick Renteria called July 13 to inform him he’d been traded. The landing spot may have come as a surprise, but Quintana heard the rumors and acknowledged to Rick Hahn they bothered him early in the season.

So far, Quintana has enjoyed the transition. He said Joe Maddon’s staff has made him feel very much at home.

As for facing his old ‘mates, Quintana looks forward to that opportunity, too.

“They’ve made it easy to be here, the coaches,” Quintana said. “I appreciate this organization for giving me the opportunity to be here. I enjoy it and I’m happy and excited to be here. I have a really good opportunity to make the playoffs.

“(Facing the White Sox) is part of being here so one day I’ll go face them.”