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Auerswald appealing

April 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

MEDINA — Dennis Auerswald is appealing his murder and aggravated murder convictions.
Auerswald, 60, was convicted last month of poisoning his wife, Maureen, with antifreeze in 2009 and sentenced to life in prison.

“He continues to maintain that he is not guilty of the charge of murdering his wife,” his attorney, Joseph Salzgeber, said Friday.

Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier appointed Salzgeber to represent Auerswald on April 12, and the appeal was filed 10 days later, Salzgeber said.

“I’ve done over 200 appeals in my career as an attorney, many of them before the 9th District Court of Appeals, which is the appellate court in this case,” he said.

The case will move forward after records are compiled by the appellate court and transcripts from the two-week trial are prepared, he said.

“Generally, they are given 40 days to appeal, but I believe it will take closer to 70 or 100 days before the transcript is ready,” Salzgeber said.

On Monday, Collier denied a motion to stay Auerswald’s sentence during his appeal.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or

Money issues spark breakup

April 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

MEDINA — A group of parents say they broke away from Medina Bees Youth Football and formed their own league over a lack of “credible financial accountability,” among other issues.

Parents involved with the new Medina Gridiron Football League said they decided to leave Medina Bees Youth Football after they discovered there were two lawsuits filed against it this year in addition to past lawsuits and debts to vendors.

“We saw a lot of things deteriorating and started to hear complaints of parents and vendors not being reimbursed,” said Tony Fischer, a member of the Gridiron board. “There has been good football provided to the community, but it got to the point where we felt at what expense?”

This year, PNC Bank filed a suit against MBYF in Medina Municipal Court for $5,215.78 unpaid on a business credit card, and food vendor Albert Guarnieri & Co. Inc., filed a lawsuit for $2,172 for unpaid services. Both cases are pending, court records show.

In a recent interview at The Gazette, MBYF Director Mike Butts said the league has $53,000 in outstanding debt and acknowledged bookkeeping in the league “is not good.”

In 2010, he said the league received approximately $60,729 in fees for the 800 to 900 kids registered.

“All of this costs money, and we’re not charging what it costs,” he said.

In 2010, the registration fee was $95, he said, but it has been raised to $105 this year.

MBYF is under the umbrella of nonprofit American Youth Football Inc., said Rob Deck, head of football operations for AYF. The league is not required to report to AYF in any way, financial or otherwise, Deck said.

Financial troubles

Bank statements in the PNC case show charges to Ohio Edison for $440.05 on Aug. 1, 2007, and for $253.95 on Nov. 28 that year, though the league does not have any offices.

In a phone conversation, Butts said he was not sure what the charges were for.

Until March, Butts was the only person authorized to write a check for the league because it did not have a board of trustees.
Butts, who formed MBYF in 2002, attempted to create a board earlier this year, but parents now part of the Gridiron league say he was not forthcoming with finances.

“We met with Mike, demanded there be a budget and full disclosure of finances, and that we be compliant as a nonprofit,” Fischer said.

He said Butts only acknowledged $12,000 in debt and provided the board with the league’s finances hand-written on four sheets of notebook paper.

Following a March 9 meeting, nine Gridiron board members sent a memo to Butts outlining their reasons for forming the new league. They cited a lack of “credible financial accountability” and strained relationships with unpaid vendors.

“The organizational structure of MBYF is fragmented and does not adhere to the normal course of a non-profit,” the memo reads. “This organization is run more as a company solely owned by you.”

Among MBYF’s estranged vendors are equipment-seller All American Sports Corp., which filed a lawsuit against MBYF for $9,678.44 in April 2010 and was awarded the full amount; and Discount Card, which filed its suit in November 2010 and was awarded $4,900, court records show.

From Discount Card, Butts ordered 3,000 fundraising discount cards, amounting to 6,000, but MBYF only paid $1,000, according to court records.

Another vendor, Buckeye Graphics, was awarded $3,000 in a lawsuit it filed against MBYF in 2009, records show.
To remedy the league’s debt, Butts said he formed another board this year and appointed a financial director, who is now authorized to sign checks for the league.

Often parents would hand him payments at games, and they were “all thrown into a bag” that made it difficult to properly keep track of money coming into the organization, he said.

Part of the problem was the lack of good volunteers, Butts said.

“We’ve had a lot of people who have stepped up and are willing to help now; and I think if anything positive has come out of this, it’s a lot of people who know the quality of the program want to help continue that program,” he said.


Some parents who spoke with The Gazette said contact with the league is difficult. One, Medina resident Shannon Manacapelli, said she sent multiple emails asking for a refund for an adult jersey she ordered but never received.

In February 2010, parents were allowed to order adult jerseys to match their child’s for the fall season for $40.

Butts said MBYF put in an order for the children’s jerseys to Houston-based Takbo first, with the intention of ordering the adult jerseys later. The children’s jerseys were shipped but he said he was unhappy with the quality. He said he put a stop on the check sent to Takbo.

A spokesman for the company said the $11,170 check Butts sent was returned as insufficient funds, and e-mailed a copy of the check stamped NSF to The Gazette.

Manacapelli said she asked for a refund for the adult jersey in October 2010 but did not receive one until April after several emails were sent to Butts and his assistant, Sarah Dodd.

Parent Kim Shamrock, also from Medina, said she never received a jersey, a refund or a reply from Butts.

In one email, Dodd told Manacapelli that Takbo went out of business, and Manacapelli replied she found that was not the case after calling the company.

Dodd said MBYF was told by Takbo’s suppliers the company was out of business.


In the All-American Sports Corp. case involving payment for football gear filed on April 16, 2010, Butts, formerly a personal-injury lawyer, was slated to represent MBYF in court.

In a Medina Municipal Court document filed on Oct. 20, 2010, Butts said he repeatedly tried to “resolve the issue of defective helmets, including numerous helmets which suffered catastrophic failures during use.”

However, on Oct. 19, 2010, Butts submitted his resignation as an attorney to the Ohio Supreme Court. The resignation was forwarded to Disciplinary Counsel, according to court records. The results of the counsel’s findings are sealed.

After his resignation was accepted on Jan. 26, Butts did not provide another attorney in the All-American case, which magistrate Charles Lawrie ordered him to do, court records show.

Lawrie issued a summary judgment in favor of All-American Sports Corp. on March 18, according to court documents.

MBYF supporters

Parents sticking with MBYF say Butts has a passion for coaching. Even those breaking away from the league said in their memo that Butts’ “ability to succeed on the field is second to none.”

Laura VanDrei, an MBYF board member, said those forming Medina Gridiron “turned their backs” on the league when Butts needed help solving financial problems. She added many programs and activities are provided to the league free of charge.

“He offers speed and agility three times a week for kids who want to improve their skills, and I have friends whose kids are on scholarships because they financially couldn’t afford to have their kid play,” VanDrei said.

Until this year, anyone could check a box on registration forms that said they were unable to pay sign-up fees. Now the league only allows those receiving free or reduced school lunches to play for free or a reduced fee, Butts said.

Despite the league’s financial problems, Butts and Dodd said they are intent on paying off MBYF’s debts and moving forward.
Dodd said registration for fall football has begun and revenue is already better than last year’s income from fees.

“Whatever they do, it’s not going to affect our program. It’s not even going to affect our numbers,” Dodd said.

Gridiron board member David Clardy said his league has filed for nonprofit status. Sign-ups for fall registration have begun.

The league also is under the American Youth Football umbrella, he said.

“At the end of the day, none of us went into this thinking we would start a new league,” Clardy said. “It’s a tough situation to be put in.”

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or

Bees’ win streak snapped

April 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

Brad Bournival
The Gazette
MEDINA – It took the defending Division I state champions to do it, but the Medina baseball team’s school-record 12-game win streak came to an end Friday.
Lakewood St. Edward played flawless ball, while the Bees sputtered in a 5-2 non-conference win by the Eagles.
It wasn’t that St. Edward (7-2) played like it did en route to its state title last year. In fact, the Eagles were playing for the first time in 16 days.
But the Bees (13-3) were playing without their two big guns on the mound and with some holes in their gloves.
“We needed to play better, but instead we played poorly,” Medina coach Nick Kaplack said. “Any ball we hit in the field, they were like flies on honey. Any ball they hit, we were like flies on vinegar.”
Medina did itself and its pitching no favors with four errors. Two of those came on one play, as Tommy Mirabelli went from first to home when an overthrow to third went to the fence.
Cory Teachout (1-1) followed with a wild pitch to put the Bees in an early hole.
While home runs by Nick Martinez and Dan Sokolowski tied things heading into the fourth, it seemed like Medina was always playing from behind.
Some of that had to do with a tight strike zone, as Bees pitchers walked an unusually high 12 batters, two of them intentionally.
Seven of those free passes were credited to Teachout, who went four innings of four-hit, four-run ball, though only one run was earned.
“For throwing a 15-year-old sophomore out there, he did OK,” Kaplack said. “It’s tough to defend the walk, but it was odd that we couldn’t get a called third strike.”
The difference for the Eagles came in Ryan Milowicki (1-1). The right-handed junior came on in relief of Rakim Smith and did what coach Danny Allie expected.
After giving up a third inning bomb to Martinez, Milowicki retired the next eight batters before Martinez got him again with a double in the sixth. During that span, Milowicki induced seven ground balls.
“We were working on his command during the long break and he did a lot better,” Allie said. “He’s gotten much better. He’s the guy out of the bullpen for us. He came out and was ready to play and that’s good for him.”
With the win streak now in the rearview mirror, the Bees turn their attention to Sunday’s seeding meeting before a big Northeast Ohio Conference showdown with Strongsville. The undefeated Mustangs, who shared the River Division with Medina last year, will play a two-game set with the Bees on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The winner of that not only has the inside track on a division title, but should pick up some momentum just in time for the postseason.
“We didn’t have to take this game,” Kaplack said. “Without it, we probably walk in as the No. 1 seed at our district. But we wanted to put pressure on these guys.
“The kids have already buried the loss. When they walked away from it, they knew what they had to work on. We’ll be fine. It’s all about Strongsville next week.”
Contact Brad Bournival at
St. Edward 5, Medina 0
ST. EDWARD 200 200 1 — 5 6 0
MEDINA 011 000 0 — 2 5 4
WP — Ryan Milowicki (1-1) 3 2/3 innings, 1 run, 1 earned, 2 hits, 1 strikeout. Save — Cody Cooper (1) 1 1/3 innings, 1 hit, 1 walk. St. Edward (7-2) — Joey Stoll 3 singles, RBI; Cory Blackstock double, RBI, 2 runs. Medina (13-3) — Nick Martinez home run; Dan Sokolowski home run; Rutger Luebke double.

Shaffer is jack of all trades

April 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

Dan Brown
The Gazette
Name it and Janelle Shaffer has probably competed in it over the course of her career.
From the track to the long jump pit and even the hurdles, the Cloverleaf senior has shown her versatility.
While head coach Frank Peters knows he can place Shaffer in just about anything, the Colt still has one more event she may take a crack at.
“I’ve never tried throwing, but on senior night I would like to do the discus,” she said, referring to the team’s final regular-season dual against Barberton on Tuesday. “As a freshman and sophomore I did hurdles, but I think I found my niche sprinting, and long jump is definitely my favorite.”
Shaffer showed her flexibility in the fall when she ran cross country for the first time, becoming the team’s fastest runner. This spring she is among the Medina County leaders in the long jump, 200 meters and as a leg on the 4×2.
“She can do anything,” Colts jumps coach Kelly Zdelar said. “I guess we all can just fight over her. She will do anything you ask and is a natural athlete.”
A close relationship
Zdelar, a former Cloverleaf standout, has coached Shaffer since the eighth grade and has seen her grow from a quiet middle school student into one of the top all-around athletes in the area.
Shaffer was home-schooled prior to that, but Zdelar has been there for the 18-year-old through good times and bad.
After Shaffer’s mother Cindy passed away in 2006 after a battle with breast cancer, the two became even tighter.
“She was a huge help through those tough days,” Shaffer said. “She would come over and give me a big hug and help me work through it. We just have a bond. Especially since she understood my situation, she was always there to talk to. It was awesome to have her always there.
“She’s an amazing coach and would do anything for you. She knows how to cheer you up and be supportive.”
From working through one of the most traumatic moments in her life to adjusting to life as a student in the classroom, Shaffer has had Zdelar to lean on.
“She is like my daughter and I love her like one of my own,” Zdelar said. “My daughter is way jealous of my track kids. I think each coach on this staff loves her and I’m just happy to know her.”
Breaking records
The long jump is close to Zdelar’s — and Shaffer’s — heart.
Zdelar held the school’s mark in the event for over two decades with a leap of 16 feet, 6¾ inches before Mandy Fugate broke it in 2002 (17-3¾).
So when preparing for this upcoming season, the coach had a simple message to her apprentice.
“I told her she wasn’t allowed to graduate until she broke the school record (in the long jump),” she joked.
It didn’t take long for Shaffer to turn her coach’s words into reality, as the 5-foot-6 senior unleashed a jump of 17-6 at the Nordonia Knight Relays to help Cloverleaf’s long jump relay finish second.
“I never would’ve expected it all,” Shaffer said with a laugh. “I thought I jumped around 16, probably 16-something, but then they said 17-6 and, well, I was quite excited.”
For the season, Shaffer is undefeated in the event and has made incredible strides after jumping just 16-4½ a year ago.
But the hard-working Shaffer has been working on her strength and technique with Zdelar and Peters since the winter, and it’s all paying off.
“I’ve really grown in that area, but I never really expected to get this far,” Shaffer said. “We tried a lot of different methods from last year and I’ve been able to work more in the air. I’ve worked on that kind of movement a lot.”
Shaffer is no stranger to the school record books, as she joined teammates Kelani Nuckols, Jenna Elswick and Taylor Detwiler on a regional-qualifying 4×2 relay that broke the mark last spring and has the county’s fastest time this season.
Best training partner
Shaffer doesn’t need a big weekend invitational to find some stiff competition. She has that in practice every day with Nuckols, the second-best long jumper in the county.
While the two compete against one another for bragging rights, their relationship is as close as it can get off the track.
“Being able to run and jump with her is great,” Shaffer said. “I just love her. We have the same goals and it’s definitely great to push each other and have that team competitiveness.”
The next level
Shaffer’s ability to be a jack-of-all-trades has helped her not only make a name for herself, but landed the Colt an opportunity to compete for Muskingum College, where she will run track and cross country.
While she’s excited about what the next level has in store, she’s focused on the postseason, which is just weeks away.
She got a taste of the regional level last season with the 4×2 team, but has high expectations of herself in the long jump.
“I haven’t made it out of districts (in long jump),” she said. “Hopefully, I will have some good jumps to do it this time.”
Contact Dan Brown at

NFL Draft: Browns add toughness with DE Jabaal Sheard, WR Greg Little

April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

BEREA – Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor, the Browns’ first-round draft pick, arrived in Cleveland on Friday and announced he would take down Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard, the 37th pick, said he wants to make the hit that causes the crowd to scream.

North Carolina receiver Greg Little, the 59th pick, is one of the most physically imposing players in the draft at his position. At 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, he looks to initiate contact.

After two days of the draft – Sheard and Little were picked Friday in the second round — Browns general manager Tom Heckert has not only addressed the biggest weaknesses on the roster, he’s added a healthy dose of nastiness.

“I think all three guys bring a lot of toughness to our team,” he said. “I don’t think there is any question about it.

“When Greg catches the ball, he tries to hurt you.”

The early picks of the Browns – they have six selections today in the final four rounds – have an edge. They also have red flags in their backgrounds.

Taylor was dismissed from Penn State following a campus fight. Sheard was suspended at Pittsburgh after a fight in which he and another man fell through a glass door. Little was suspended for the 2010 season after accepting diamond earrings and travel accommodations from an agent.

“I’ve said it a hundred times, you have to weigh each case on its own merit, and then you have to talk to them and talk to enough people and feel comfortable with them,” he said. “There’s a bunch of guys that we passed on that we liked as players, that we just didn’t feel comfortable with.”

Heckert said he didn’t target positions with the three picks, but he certainly faced a gaping hole along the defensive line. It’s the first time the Browns have taken defensive linemen with their first two picks, and Taylor and Sheard were immediately penciled in as starters as Cleveland converts to the 4-3 scheme.

“It just got a lot easier, I know that,” Heckert said of the scheme transition. “You’ve just got to get players, and I think we’ve got two really good ones.”

“I would love for him to be in the middle,” Sheard said of Taylor. “I know they are going to have to double-team him, give me a little freedom on the edge. I think we’re going to be a great package.”

Sheard (6-3, 254) was the Big East defensive player of the year as a senior with 52 tackles, nine sacks, 15 quarterback pressures, 14½ tackles for loss and four forced fumbles. He had 5½ sacks as a sophomore and five as a junior, totaled 149 tackles and 39 pressures for his career and fits the mold of the fast pass-rushing end Heckert likes.

Sheard missed the Compass Bowl after the season to have elbow surgery on something he’d been playing with for years. He and Heckert insist he’s fine.

Sheard said he’s an aggressive player, comparing himself to Pittsburgh All-Pro linebacker James Harrison.

“I know how to get to the quarterback,” he said. “I’m a hard worker and I’m going to get the job done.

“I want to (have) the hardest hit. I want to make that hit where the crowd goes ‘Oooh’ and then everybody just screams. When I talk to guys that I played in the past, I want them to be like, ‘Man, you were something else. I never want to play against you again.’”

Heckert said Sheard isn’t a one-trick pony. He can stop the run and get to the quarterback in a variety of ways.

“This guy can go from speed to power,” Heckert said. “He can come inside, he can beat you around the edge, but he can power you, too. He is a very knowledgeable pass rusher.  He knows what he is doing.”

Sheard said he learned from his mistake, but said the incident wasn’t him throwing another man through a door as it had been portrayed by some in the media. He said he was trying to break up a fight, got hit in the head from behind as he walked away and defended himself.

“That’s the first trouble I’ve ever been in and that’s not the guy I am,” he said. “On the field maybe I kind of get a little hot, but off the field I’m a cool, laid-back dude.”

Little could be the weapon the Browns want to help the development of second-year quarterback Colt McCoy. He likely slipped to No. 59 because of the year layoff and may have gone in the first round if he’d been able to build on a junior year in which he had 62 catches for 724 yards and five touchdowns.

“It was really tough for me,” said Little, who played for former Browns coach Butch Davis in Chapel Hill. “A lot of my morals and values have changed so much just from sitting out that year. I’m so hungry and ready to get back and play.”

Little isn’t a burner, running a 4.51-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, but he’s got special athleticism, bench-pressing 225 pounds 27 times at the combine and posting a 40½-inch vertical leap. He was switched to running back as a sophomore so he could get on the field, and as a freshman played on the Tar Heels basketball team that reached the Final Four.

“He can beat bump and run,” coach Pat Shurmur said. “He’s extremely good at catching the football. When he’s in a crowd or he hasn’t created separation, he’ll fight for the ball and make a catch. He finds a way to separate.

“He’s got size, and if you just watch him he finds a way to get in the end zone and I think that’s something that’s very critical for a receiver.”

Heckert was uncomfortable describing Little as the “home run hitter” president Mike Holmgren sought, but said he could make big plays. Shurmur said he has “a chance” to become the team’s No. 1 wideout.

Perhaps Taylor set the tone for the day when asked about Roethlisberger.

“He’s a great quarterback, but when I play against him he’s going down,” Taylor said.

Nice attitude.

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NFL Draft notes: Players talk to coaches, then get locked out again

April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

BEREA – Defensive lineman Brian Schaefering said Friday morning at Browns headquarters “felt like the first day of school.”

Well, the kids are back on vacation.

An appeals court granted the NFL a temporary stay of the injunction that ended the lockout Monday. A decision on whether to extend the stay throughout the appeals process is expected next week.

Friday was the first day players across the league were allowed to work out at team facilities, get medical treatment, meet with coaches and pick up the playbook. Schaefering was joined at the facility by quarterback Jake Delhomme, receiver Jordan Norwood and punter Reggie Hodges.

“I got a good workout it and talked to the coaching staff,” Schaefering said by phone. “It felt good to be there today. Working out in a comfortable surrounding and getting ready to play football.”

Shurmur had planned to officially start the offseason workout program Monday, until the latest court ruling. He said the coaches spent time with the four players Friday and handed out “coaching material.”

“I think we took advantage of it because we were allowed to talk and communicate with our players,” he said. “Now we’re back to lockout status, so we’ll just deal with it like we’ve been until the last couple days.”

Schaefering had met Shurmur and defensive line coach Dwaine Board previously, but sat down with coordinator Dick Jauron for the first time. He said they talked for 10-15 minutes.

Schaefering spoke to The Chronicle before the lockout was reinstated. He was hoping to return to Browns headquarters Monday.

“It’s starting to get late in the spring,” he said. “Everyone wants to get back to work.”


General manager Tom Heckert drafted Pittsburgh defensive end Jabaal Sheard with the No. 37 pick, but isn’t done addressing the position. He said he could add more in the final four rounds today, and his top priority is re-signing free agent Jayme Mitchell.

Heckert traded for Mitchell on Oct. 5, but ex-coach Eric Mangini didn’t activate him for a game the rest of the season. Mitchell spent four-plus seasons in Minnesota, playing end in a 4-3 defense. The Browns are making that switch in 2011.

Marcus Benard played outside linebacker in the Browns’ 3-4 scheme the last two years, and Heckert isn’t sure where he fits in the 4-3.

“That’s the worst thing for the coaching staff,” he said. “They haven’t seen the players up close and on the field.

“He could be a Sam linebacker or a defensive end — I’m used to undersized guys. There’s no doubt he can rush the passer.”


A longtime friendship helped the Browns and Falcons work out the trade that was the talk of the first round of the draft.

Heckert and Atlanta general manager Thomas Dimitroff go way back and share a history. Their fathers were scouts in the NFL, missing each other in Cleveland by a year in the mid-1980s. The younger Dimitroff was a scout for the Browns for four years, beginning in 1998.

“It helps. You know no one is trying to screw anybody else and it is what it is,” Heckert said. “If you don’t agree with (the proposed deal), you can talk about it and it just makes it a lot easier.”

Heckert told’s Peter King he looked at past drafts to find a comparable swap to the No. 6 for No. 27 the Browns and Falcons pulled. In 1995, Bill Belichick and the Browns traded the No. 10 pick to San Francisco, which had the 30th pick and wanted receiver J.J. Stokes.

The Browns got first-, third- and fourth-round picks in 1995 and a first-rounder in 1996. Belichick, running his last draft in Cleveland, chose linebackers Craig Powell and Mike Frederick with the first two 1995 picks. The Ravens took linebacker Ray Lewis with the first-round pick in 1996 after Art Modell moved the franchise.

In the 2011 trade, the Browns received second- and fourth-round picks this year and first- and fourth-rounders in 2012.

CLEVELAND’S NO. 1’s John Clayton ranked the Browns’ first round Thursday night No. 1 among the 32 NFL teams. The Browns made two trades, adding three draft picks, and took Baylor defensive tackle Phil Taylor at No. 21.

“Sure, it would have been nice to add a big, fast threat for (quarterback Colt) McCoy and the offense,” Clayton wrote. “But the Falcons feel they might be one offensive player from a trip to the Super Bowl, while the Browns have to rebuild an entire roster. The Browns had to take that offer.”

Clayton ranked the Jaguars and Saints second and third. Jacksonville traded up to get Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, and New Orleans took California defensive end Cameron Jordan and Alabama running back Mark Ingram.


Greg Cosell, who works for NFL Films, has been giving personal scouting reports throughout the draft process. He weighed in on Taylor.

“Liked Taylor on film,” he tweeted. “Played with athleticism of a smaller man. Chance to develop into inside pass rusher.”


Taylor is the first defensive lineman drafted by the Browns in the first round since Gerard Warren in 2001. He is the third defensive tackle picked by the Browns in the first round, joining Warren and Doug Atkins in 1953.

** Browns Hall of Fame receiver Paul Warfield announced Cleveland’s two second-round picks. The Browns didn’t have a third-round pick after trading it to Kansas City on Thursday.

** Dwight Clark, Cleveland’s GM during the first years of the expansion era, made the 49ers’ pick at No. 36. He was a star wideout for San Francisco.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or Follow him on Twitter and fan him on Facebook.

Indians 9, Tigers 5: Santana slam lifts Tribe

April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

CLEVELAND — Check another item off the list in this shocking start to the season for the Indians.

Carlos Santana hit a game-winning grand slam in the ninth inning Friday night off reliever Joaquin Benoit to power Cleveland to a 9-5 victory in the series opener against Detroit.

The Indians have accomplished plenty already en route to their first-place standing in the Central Division, but this was their first walk-off victory of the season.

“Right now, they can’t do anything more to impress me or shock me,” said manager Manny Acta, whose team won its 11th straight home game to improve to an American League-best 17-8. The 17 wins are the most in franchise history over the first month of the season. “Right now, they’re going about their business and having fun.”

Santana hasn’t been having much fun this season, slumping through most of it and the majority of Friday night.

He was 0-for-3 when he came to the plate with one out and the hard-throwing Benoit on the mound, few in the park expecting much from the struggling cleanup hitter.

But after working himself into a favorable hitter’s count (3-1), Santana finally found some relief, belting a grooved fastball well into the seats in right field for his first big league grand slam.

“I am very excited,” said Santana, who could remember only one grand slam during his minor league days. “I am very happy my team won on my first grand slam. It’s just something that happened. It’s baseball.”

“That was a great at-bat,” Acta said of Santana’s trip. “He put himself in a position  to get a pitch that he could drive, and that’s what he did. It was nice to see for him.”

In the majority of their wins, the Indians have grabbed early leads with their pitching staff taking over from there.

This time around Cleveland had to come back after some early scuffles from starting pitcher Jeanmar Gomez and a dominant effort from Tigers starter Max Scherzer left them in a 3-0 hole through 5 1/2 innings.

Gomez bent, allowing three runs on 10 hits over 5 2/3 innings, but he didn’t break, which loomed large at the end of the night.

“He fought his way through it and kept us in the game,” Acta said of Gomez, who allowed two of his runs in the opening inning on a home run from Miguel Cabrera. “The way Scherzer was throwing the ball, you didn’t want to be trailing by too many runs.”

Cleveland entered the night with the highest-scoring offense in the American League but looked as though it had finally met its match in Scherzer, who shut out the Indians on just two hits over the first five innings, while striking out six.

The Indians finally broke free from Scherzer’s hold in the sixth on a two-out, two-run single from Shelley Duncan, who replaced designated hitter Travis Hafner (right ankle inflammation) for the second straight night.

Detroit built its lead back to three-runs in the top of the seventh off reliever Chad Durbin, but Cleveland returned fire in the bottom of the inning.

Matt LaPorta hit a solo homer to left off Scherzer before Grady Sizemore drew a two-out walk and rode home on another long ball — a two-run shot from Asdrubal Cabrera — that tied the game at five.

The Indians had a chance to break the tie in the eighth, but LaPorta struck out to end the inning with two on base before Cleveland went to work on Benoit in the ninth.

Jack Hannahan started the inning off with a single, then advanced to third on a base hit from Sizemore. The Tigers intentionally walked Asdrubal Cabrera to load the bases for Shin-Soo Choo.

Choo struck out to give the Tigers a chance at an inning-ending double play, but Santana spoiled the opportunity with gusto.

Indians relievers Vinnie Pestano and closer Chris Perez kept the game tied by retiring all six batters they faced in the eighth and ninth innings, setting the stage for Santana’s unlikely heroics.

“That’s baseball,” Perez said. “That’s fun. Give our hitters credit. They came back. That’s another sign of a good team.”

And another surprising development in an already shocking beginning for the Indians in 2011.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or

Indians 9, Tigers 5: Santana slam wins it for Tribe

April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

Carlos Santana hit a walk-off grand slam in the ninth inning Friday night to power the Indians to a 9-5 victory over the Tigers at Progressive Field.

It was Cleveland’s 11th straight win at home.

Trailing for much of the game, the Indians tied it on Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-run homer in the seventh off Tigers starter Max Scherzer.

NFL Draft: Browns take WR Greg Little with 2nd 2nd-round pick

April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

BEREA — The Browns switched sides of the ball with their third pick, but stuck with the theme of toughness.

North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little was the 59th overall pick, the selection acquired Thursday in the trade with Atlanta. Little is 6-foot-2, 230 pounds and follows defensive tackle Phil Taylor and defensive end Jabaal Sheard.

“Greg is a big guy and he’s tough,” general manager Tom Heckert said Friday. “When he catches the ball, he looks to hurt you.”

Little was suspended for the 2010 season after receiving improper benefits. ESPN’s Mel Kiper said he would’ve been a candidate to go in the first round if he had played.

Little had 62 catches for 724 yards and five touchdowns as a junior. He played running back early in his career and was on the Tar Heels basketball team as a freshman.

The Browns don’t have a pick in the third round, but Heckert said trading back in was a possibility.


Indians notes: Hafner misses second straight game

April 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

CLEVELAND — Right ankle inflammation kept Travis Hafner out of the lineup for the second consecutive game Friday, but the Indians aren’t concerned that the injury is serious.

The Indians were still awaiting results from an MRI performed on the ankle Friday, but manager Manny Acta said prior to the series opener with Detroit that Hafner was available to pinch hit.

“We want to make sure everything is OK,” Acta said. “We want to be on the safe side and give him one more day off.”

Hafner, who is off to a promising start — .342 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 21 games — sustained the injury while sliding into home plate in the first inning of a 7-2 victory over the Royals on Wednesday. He did not take batting practice Friday.

As he did Thursday, Shelley Duncan replaced Hafner at designated hitter and in the fifth spot in the batting order.

Duncan, who entered Friday hitting .348 (8-for-23) with a homer and five RBIs in nine games — has been a valuable part-time player for the Indians the past two seasons.

“That’s his responsibility,” Acta said. “From Day 1, he has never been offered a fulltime job. You have to understand your role and prepare for it.

“He’s done a nice job for us. He’s a big part of our clubhouse. He’s a high-character guy.”

Duncan and second baseman Orlando Cabrera are part of a mix of veterans on Cleveland’s roster that Acta believes has provided leadership for a youth-laden club.

“It’s important to have high-character guys,” Acta said. “When you have high-character guys around like we have, it makes the job of the manager and the coaches easier. Guys tend to listen to their peers a lot.”

Wait and see

Though he is expected to make at least two starts in place of an injured Carlos Carrasco, Acta would only commit to one for right-hander Alex White, who will make his big league debut tonight.

“He’s going to start (today) and then we’ll go from there,” Acta said. “If I tell you two and he gives up 55 runs, does that mean he gets another one? Hopefully Alex will take advantage of his opportunity.”

The Indians will officially promote White (1-0, 1.90 ERA in four starts) from Triple-A Columbus today. They will have to clear a spot on their 25-man roster, with reliever Frank Herrmann expected to be optioned back to the minors. A spot on the 40-man roster will also have to be cleared for White, who will wear No. 32.

Crowded house

The Indians added two players to Columbus’ roster Friday, activating infielder Jason Donald and assigning infielder Josh Rodriguez to the Clippers.

Donald was Cleveland’s projected starter at third base when training camp opened but was sidelined early by a left hand fracture. He hit .200 (5-for-25) with two runs in eight games of a rehab assignment with Columbus and Double-A Akron.

Rodriguez was re-acquired by the Indians for $25,000 after being selected by Pittsburgh in the Rule V Draft this offseason. Rodriguez had to remain on the big league roster the entire season or the Pirates had to return him or another player to the Indians at half the price he was acquired for.

Rodriguez made Pittsburgh’s opening day roster but was designated for assignment after going 1-for-12 in seven games.

The Indians have a wealth of infielders at the Triple-A level, including top prospects Lonnie Chisenhall, Cord Phelps and Jason Kipnis, as well as Luis Valbuena, who spent parts of last year as the Indians’ starting second baseman.

One of them could be removed from the 40-man roster to clear a spot for White.

Miller time?

Right-hander Adam Miller, once considered the Indians’ top pitching prospect, has cleared another hurdle on his comeback trail.

Miller, whose career has been sidelined by multiple surgeries on his right middle finger, was assigned to advanced Class A Kinston’s roster after spending the last month in Goodyear, Ariz., at extended spring training.

The 31st overall pick in the 2003 draft began his career as a hard-throwing starter that gained fame by topping 100-mph at his first big league training camp, but he will pitch exclusively as a reliever at Kinston.

Miller, 26, hasn’t appeared in a professional game since May of 2008.

Minor details

Columbus beat Gwinett 2-1 Thursday for its eighth straight win, with right-hander Zach McAllister (4-0, 3.38 ERA) getting the decision after pitching seven scoreless innings on six hits and striking out six. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall (.270) went 2-for-4 with his second homer of the season. … Akron’s Cory Burns had converted all seven of his save opportunities through Thursday. Burns, an eighth-round draft pick (2009) out of the University of Arizona, entered Friday with a 1.35 ERA and 15 strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings. … Class A Lake County outfielder Carlos Moncrief was recently named Midwest League player of the week. The 14th-round draft pick in 2008, entered Friday leading the ML with 19 runs and ranked third with 12 extra-base hits.

Roundin’ third

Shin-Soo Choo’s batting average was at .250 entering Friday, the right fielder hitting .309 (21-for-68) with three homers and 13 RBIs over his last 18 games. … The Indians entered Friday with a 13-2 record when scoring first. … Tonight, 6:05, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WEOL 930-AM. White (first career start) vs. Porcello (1-2, 4.76).

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or