GOODYEAR, AZ - FEBRUARY 28: Kevin Slowey #39 of the Cleveland Indians poses for a portrait during a photo day at Goodyear Ballpark on February 28, 2012 in Goodyear, Arizona. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
Grady Sizemore's strained lower back has served to increase the competition for opening day roster spots in camp. While there are some clear favorites in the early part of camp, competition remains open for positions everywhere except RF, SS, 2B and C. Given the number of players in camp, players can go to extreme levels to earn a spot. Here is an update on the early roster battles:
Shelley Duncan - Came to camp having spent the offseason memorizing every Monty Python line ever, hoping to increase his level of affability with his teammates. Asked by Plain Dealer reporter Paul Hoynes to comment on the move, Duncan replied, "Maybe because I am such a big guy, people always have a hard time warming up to me. I just wanted to make the guys laugh." Asked about the strategy, Indians manager Manny Acta replied, "We don't need no stinking badgers."
Matt LaPorta - Inspired by an offseason trip to Wrestlemania and worried about being dinged for his physique and offseason training regimen, LaPorta has been waking up early everyday to receive a waxing and full body oil rubdown. Has had extreme difficulties getting a good grip on his throws so far during camp.
Russ Canzler - Keeps offering to take everyone's tray back in the Goodyear complex cafeteria.
Aaron Cunningham - After standing next to Duncan during the opening day physical exams, has been seen slipping risers into his shoes before every workout.
Felix Pie - Invites teammates and coaches to his apartment to watch "The Wire," pointing out how terrible a place Baltimore is every night. So far only Trevor Crowe and Chen Lee have been regular attendees.
Fred Lewis - Attempting to raise his status as a "clubhouse guy," Lewis came to camp having memorized 137 different varieties of poker, 16 versions of dominoes and the lyrics to every Nicki Minaj song. He also brought with him a mancala board and a complete set of the original and advanced Dungeons & Dragons books.
Ezequiel Carrera - Downloaded the track, "Sound of a bat hitting a ball, version 17," onto his iPod and has been playing it on a loop while he sleeps.
Trevor Crowe - Crowe has noticeably been including sardines in every meal he has eaten since arriving at Goodyear. Asked about his teammates seemingly strange dietary change, Nick Weglarz said, "I don't know what he is hoping to accomplish, but every time I end up in his stretching group I notice that seagulls start congregating overhead and I think I'm going to be pooped on. Aren't we in a desert? I didn't even think there were gulls here."
Kevin Slowey - Has set up a "cantina" by his locker for other players and coaches to partake of free Tab Cola and various scallop and cactus-based tapas.
David Huff - Has increased his regimen of intensely starting at the field in silence from the end of the bench from once a day during workouts to twice a day, with an additional third staring bout during the lunchtime break.
Jeanmar Gomez - Gomez has been observed extensively "shadowing" Cleveland starter and fellow sinker-baller, Justin Masterson. On one recent afternoon, Masterson was seen visibly agitated by the efforts. Asked whether the efforts have paid off so far, Gomez replied, "Justin eats a lot of burritos...a lot."
Scott Barnes - Asked by MLB reporter Jordan Bastian about his preparations for the fifth starter competition, Barnes said, "Nobody can win a game on his own. Nobody is a hero. Nobody." In a follow-up question on who he would like to emulate as a pitcher, Barnes simply replied, "Nobody."
Lonnie Chisenhall - Has been seen sporting a t-shirt that says "Baseball America #31 prospect - 2010, Baseball America #25 prospect - 2011"
Jack Hannahan - Has found a way to work either Dennis Rodman, Ronnie Lott, Ron Artest/World Metta Peace, Ozzie Smith or Brooks Robinson into every conversation he has had in the early going.
Jose Lopez - Asked Indians equipment manager, Tony Amato, whether he could get All-Star patches attached to all of his spring training jerseys.
Frank Herrmann - Worried about being considered too cerebral a pitcher, Herrmann has had the Danzig song, "Mother" blasting on his iPod loud enough for everyone around him to hear continuously.
Robinson Tejeda - In an attempt to increase his name recognition among Cleveland fans and front office folk alike, Tejeda submitted papers to formally change his name to that of boyhood idol and former Cleveland Indian, Jose Mesa. Upon hearing this news from Tejeda, Albert Belle, a surprise spring training visitor and former Mesa teammate, informed Tejeda that memories of Mesa in Cleveland are....complicated. Looking into the matter further, Tejeda panicked and made an emergency change to his paperwork and re-submitted his application under the name of Bernie Kosar.
Dan Wheeler - Has been systematically trying out various nickname iterations with teammates and fans in the hope that a good nickname will help secure him a spot. So far, "Free Wheely," "sub-3 Wheeler," and "Wheeler of Fortune" have garnered the most positive responses.
Chris Ray - Insists on having a unique handshake with every player in camp. Given the large number of players in camp, many of the handshakes appear to rely on variations in the number of hand slap/fist bump combinations. Fellow bullpen competitor Jeremy Accardo said, "I think mine is three bumps, front of the palm slap, back of the palm slap, one clockwise whole body spin, two more fist bumps and then we finish by tickling each others palm with our middle finger. It is a little strange and to be honest, I'm not sure how comfortable I am with the whole thing."
Chen Lee - Has infused all of his spring training uniforms with the scent of lavender. Asked about the smell, Lee replied, "no comment."
Nick Hagadone - Claims to have developed a new pitch he has called, "the dominator." Hagadone says it is "something like a cross between a fastball a curveball and a slider, but with a little bit of freight train and tabasco added to the mix."