With Hoynsie's latest twitterevelation, we've learned something we already knew: Jason Donald is a 3B candidate for the 2011 Tribe. Donald did not appear at third for the Indians last year, splitting 745 big league innings more or less right dow the middle of the keystone. This surprised me, as I had assumed he'd slid over there for at least a couple of late-game innings, if for no other reason than to keep Andy Marte off the field. I suppose Jayson Nix filled that role admirably, though.
When I dug a little deeper (regular Carl Monday over here), though, I also figured out that Jason Donald didn't even play 3B in the minors last year. In fact, JD has played three games ever at third as a professional, all in Lehigh Valley in 2009. Donald's winter calisthenics over at the corner must be on the rudimentary level as he's legitimately having to learn the position, not simply polish unused skills back to a bright sheen. This makes my stomach churn a bit, as the aforementioned Mr. Nix proved, repeatedly, that up the middle skills sometimes don't translate smoothly to third base, at all, even a little bit.
This appears to be one giant hedge, with the report on Donald's potential at third joining similar stories on both Nix and Cord Phelps, with Jared Goedert standing over next to the fence, shuffling his feet and looking down, hoping someone will notice he's the only one out of the bunch who's actually, you know, played 3B against live competition for more then a few games in a season. Luis Valbuena's in the picture as well, but he was cropped out in post-production.
To be fair, there is one experienced 3B in camp other than Goedert, in the personage of Jack Hannahan: NRI (couldn't that be some kind of cop show parody?). There's also rumblings that the Indians would consider Adam Everett: NRI (not the same ring, huh?) at the hot corner, but Everett's never played over there either and, at 33, this would really be asking the old dog from Austell, GA to learn some new tricks. To restate what you already know, neither of these guys can hit. That's how you earn a ":NRI" after your name.
I could seize this opportunity to complain about Marte, again, or, more broadly, to point out that the Indians have been trying to find an acceptable defender at 3B since the Spanish-American War and yet are still doing these conversion projects with regularity or, even more broadly, go on a square-hole-round-peg rant. Honestly, though, I think the Indians are doing the best they can with the fresh-faced, cloying tripe they delivered themselves in the box labeled "3B Defense." One of these guys is going to have to play over there so you might as well make them all try it. I suspect all these guys could hit enough to carry 2B; we just have to hope one of them can figure out the nuances of Aaron Boone's old stomping grounds.
In terms of what this army of third base dilettantes means for the rest of the team, two things should be noted. The first is that the only player you don't see mentioned above is Jason Kipnis. Perhaps this is obvious, but Kipnis is the future 2B and whether he walks out of spring training with that job or takes it over sometime next summer, it's clear that the Indians are making all their other middle infield planets orbit Kipnis' sun. His relatively quiet winter, made up of simply playing second and mashing winter league pitchers, is a tacit endorsement of his stranglehold on the position.
The second overarching theme I detect is that, as fun as it might be to read the tea leaves, the Cleveland front office does not have a preconceived plan heading into Spring Training. It's tempting to think that the report on Donald today somehow preempts the earlier reports on Nix and Phelps but, with just a couple of moments to recompose oneself, it becomes obvious that the Indians only real plan is to let these guys arrive in Goodyear and then hope that either one of them is really good or that, if they're all really bad, ????. Frankly, it's sort of a palms up, "Well, what the hell else would you suggest?" moment that's appropriate of 2011, a season that will almost certainly be over, from a competitive sense, as soon as it begins.