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Royals 5, Indians 3: Homestand goes in wrong direction

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

CLEVELAND — An eight-game stint at home seemed like an ideal time for the Indians to put some distance between themselves and the Tigers in the race for the Central Division title.

Instead, it did the opposite.

Visits from the White Sox, Angels and Royals wound up costing Cleveland in the division standings, as the Indians dropped six of the eight games, culminating in a 5-3 loss to Kansas City on Sunday at Progressive Field.

Cleveland entered the stand in a first-place tie with Detroit, but now trails the Tigers by 2 1/2 games, and leads the third-place White Sox by just 1 1/2 games.

“It was a disappointing homestand,” said manager Manny Acta, whose club has lost eight of its last 10 games and 10 of its last 14. “After playing well on the road (4-4 against Baltimore and Minnesota), we came over here in front of our fans and lost all three series. We just couldn’t wake up those bats.”

Offense has been a sore spot for the Indians for much of the season, especially as of late, and it was in the series finale as well.

Despite outhitting KC 10-9, Cleveland struggled to come up with a key hit — something that has plagued the Indians throughout their recent cold streak. They scored just two runs on eight hits off fill-in starter Danny Duffy, who got his third win of the season after entering the day 2-4 with a 5.17 ERA.

The Indians, who were unable to land the big bat they were searching for at the trading deadline, had hits in eight of the nine innings but scored in just two of them.

“We were able to get some hits, but we didn’t execute when we had to,” Acta said. “I guess getting the hits is a step in the right direction. Now, we need to get them with guys on base.”

The Indians went scoreless over the first four innings, with Jason Kipnis’ first career home run and an RBI double from Carlos Santana bringing them to within a run in the fifth.

They scored their last run in the eighth inning to pull within a run again, but the Royals added some insurance in the ninth, scoring once off reliever Tony Sipp.

There was no-late game magic at home for the Indians, who are nearing the .500 level (29-24) at Progressive Field, after dominating teams at home over the first two months of the season.

It wasn’t all bad news for Cleveland, which got a positive, if not dominant outing for one-time ace Fausto Carmona.

The right-hander, who has struggled for much of the season allowed four runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings. He allowed solo homers to Jeff Francouer and Alex Gordon, with one of his runs scoring in the fourth on a throwing error from right fielder Kosuke Fukudome.

“I think it was good,” Carmona said of his outing. “I had quick innings and was making good pitches to get ground balls.”

Though Carmona still doesn’t resemble the ace he was supposed to be at the start of the season, he has been effective over a three-start span — 1-1, 2.79 ERA — since leaving the disabled list.

“He’s throwing the ball well,” Acta said. “He worked very hard after those struggles. Hopefully he continues to go out there and give us a chance to win.”

Carmona (5-11, 5.31 ERA) said slowing down his delivery has helped him as of late.

“I think for me the difference is throwing strikes,” Carmona said. “I just need to take my time every pitch and throw a strike. I feel more confident now.”

Indians hitters could use some of that confidence as the team travels to Boston for a four-game series that begins tonight, and then to Texas for three games. The Red Sox and Rangers both lead their respective divisions, Boston owning the best record in the American League.

“We just have to go on the road and battle,” Acta said.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


Indians notes: Tribe traded Cabrera to clear room for Kipnis

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

CLEVELAND — The rookie won out over the veteran.

The Indians traded infielder Orlando Cabrera to the Giants on Saturday, not because they were disappointed in his play, but because they wanted to clear more time for prized prospect Jason Kipnis.

Cabrera, 36, was signed in the offseason to provide leadership in a young Indians clubhouse and a top-shelf glove alongside All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera in his first year at second base.

The two-time Gold Glove award winner didn’t last a year.

“I thought he handled it very well. He was very professional about it,” Indians manager Manny Acta said of Cabrera’s reaction to the trade. “He had a lot to do with the success we had here in the first couple of months of the season. He really helped Asdrubal and helped a lot of the young kids. But the main thing was for us to get Kipnis the playing time that we think he deserves.”
With Cabrera gone, Kipnis, batting .136 (3-for-22) with a home run and two RBIs in seven games since being promoted from Triple-A Columbus, is expected to play fulltime at second.
Outfielder Thomas Neal, whom the Indians acquired for Cabrera, will report to Columbus and assume Cabrera’s 40-man roster spot.
Third baseman Jason Donald was promoted Sunday from Columbus to take Cabrera’s spot on Cleveland’s 25-man roster. He went 0-for-2 as the starting third baseman in the series finale with Kansas City after batting .310 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 47 games for the Clippers.
Donald was expected to open the season as the Indians’ starting third baseman but began the year on the disabled list with a fracture in his left hand that he sustained in spring training.
Cabrera struggled to adjust to his new position and hit just .241 with four homers and 38 RBIs in 91 games. He was not pleased when the Indians began promoting young players to take his playing time and did not sound disappointed to leave Cleveland.
“The (Indians) told me they had good news and bad news — maybe for me it was good news and good news,” Cabrera told reporters in Cincinnati, where the Giants played Saturday. “They were feeling bad that I wasn’t playing much. They were going to go with Kipnis every day. It’s something that will work out for both (teams).
“I’m on the 25-man roster of the world champions. That’s enough for me.”

Big league Choo

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo (broken left thumb) accompanied the Indians to Boston, where he will likely take batting practice with the team.

The next step for Choo would be a minor league rehab assignment, with a potential return to Cleveland in mid-August.

Next up

The Indians hit the road for a four-game series in Boston that begins tonight at 7:10.

Josh Tomlin (11-5, 4.01 ERA) opens the set for Cleveland, opposing RHP John Lackey (9-8, 6.20), while David Huff (1-1, 0.71) starts Tuesday (7:10) against RHP Josh Beckett (9-4, 2.17).

Carlos Carrasco (8-9, 4.67) starts for the Indians on Wednesday (7:10) against RHP Tim Wakefield (6-4, 5.06), while Justin Masterson (8-7, 2.57) goes in the series finale Thursday (7:10), while the Red Sox counter with LHP Jon Lester (10-4, 3.23).

Minor details

Left fielder Jerad Head hit his team-leading 16th homer in a 2-for-4, three-RBI effort Saturday in Columbus’ 5-4 victory over Norfolk. Head, a non-drafted free-agent signing in 2005, entered Sunday batting .282 with 52 RBIs in 90 games. … Adam Miller’s comeback trail has hit a snag at Double-A Akron, where he has posted a 1-3 record and 7.01 ERA in 18 games since being promoted from High-A Kinston. The former prized prospect who has been derailed by multiple surgeries on his right middle finger, allowed five runs on eight hits in just two innings of the Aeros’ 14-5 loss to Erie on Saturday. … Right fielder Jordan Casas had three of Kinston’s five hits in a 4-1 loss to Wilmington on Saturday. Casas, a 40th-round draft pick last year, was promoted from Class A Lake County, where he batted .281 with no homers and 12 RBIs in 35 games.

Roundin’ third

Asdrubal Cabrera reached base in all five trips to the plate, with a double, two singles and two walks. It was his 12th three-hit game of the season and club-leading 32nd multihit game. … Right fielder Kosuke Fukudome recorded his first American League hit with a double in the sixth inning. … Tonight, 7:10, STO/WTAM 1100-AM/WEOL 930-AM.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.


Royals 5, Indians 3: Tribe drops series to last-place KC

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

The Indians dropped a 5-3 decision to the Royals on Sunday at Progressive Field, with Kansas City winning the series two games to one.

It was the eighth loss in 10 games for Cleveland, which fell 2 1/2 games behind the pace of Central Division leader Detroit.

Fausto Carmona started for the Indians, allowing four runs on six hits over 7 1/3 innings.

How to run a great youth sports practice

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

By Jack Perconte, McClatchy-Tribune

Parents often have unrealistic expectations of youth sport coaches. After all, most youth sport coaches are volunteer coaches who are only coaching because their sons or daughters are playing the sport. However, this should not provide an excuse for volunteer coaches to lack, enthusiasm, preparation and at least some measure of expertise.

An often-used statement I use is that “Practice is the coaches’ time to shine, whereas, games are players time to shine.” For this to happen, it is necessary that youth sport coaches know how to run practices that are vibrant, informative and fun. With that in mind, running a great youth sport practice includes three main ingredients organization, activity, and teaching. One without the others leads to either wasted time, bored kids and missed teaching opportunities. Coaches should map out their practices so that there is little wasted time. Preseason practices should cover every important aspect of the sport appropriate for the age of the player. In the regular season, coaches can focus their practice time to cover parts of the game most needed, based on their team game results and weaknesses.

Following are other tips on how to run a great youth sports practice:

Good coaches should:

  1. Start practice on time — parents who bring their child late will get the message early in the season that their kids will be missing some quality information and skill work. Of course, it is necessary that coaches arrive early to have all equipment set up in order to begin on time.
  2. Teach during warm-up time — it is vital that coaches instruct even during warm-ups so there is no wasted teaching opportunities. Often, warm-up time is when players perform the greatest amount of skill work.
  3. Consider player safety at all times and teach players how to set up and practice in safe ways. This is necessary so a coach’s time is not spent dealing with unnecessary injuries. Good coaches also explain how to use safety equipment for the particular sport.
  4. Use assistant coaches and interested parents for various skill stations so players remain active. This is also the key to avoid player boredom.
  5. Keep stations short when possible and cover as many aspects of the sport as time allows each practice.
  6. Change the pattern by working on different skills and game situations in a different order each practice.
  7. Use competition, contests and game play, when players appear bored and especially at the end of practices when kids usually get tired.
  8. Have rewards for hard working “practice players” and not just star game players. Meaningful but inexpensive rewards for best defensive, offensive and hustle player(s) of each practice will help motivate players at practice because all kids like to win rewards.
  9. Reenact game plays or practice plays until performed correctly. Although this can seem monotonous to young players, it is necessary to stress the importance of doing things correctly.
  10. Provide equal attention to each player and not just to the best, worst, or your own son or daughter.
  11. Give homework of the things you would like players to practice before returning the next time.
  12. Avoid long, drawn out talks — short talks and demonstrations are best.

By using the above tips and by teaching the game positively and enthusiastically, the “having fun” part of sport for kids will take care of itself.

Jack Perconte played 12 years of professional baseball. After retiring from professional baseball in 1987, Perconte opened a baseball training academy in Naperville, Ill. The hitting drills, mental training and coaching tips found in “The Making of a Hitter” (www.jackperconte.com) were culled from the 60,000 hitting lessons Perconte estimates he gave while operating the academy. He has also written “Raising an Athlete,” and writes for the blog Positive Parenting in Sports at www.jackperconte.com.

Browns: Joshua Cribbs hurts leg in practice, and other observations

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

BEREA – The fans welcomed the Browns back Sunday morning with the first open practice of coach Pat Shurmur’s 2-day-old training camp.

Here are some highlights of the 2½-hour session and the interviews that followed.

** Receiver/special teamer Joshua Cribbs stopped practicing about halfway through and had his knee wrapped in ice for a while. He said a defensive back came down on the leg during a one-on-one drill and he suffered a strain.

“I didn’t want to press through it and risk missing a preseason game,” Cribbs said.

** Receiver Carlton Mitchell left the field after what Shurmur called “a shoulder episode.” Shurmur didn’t know the severity of the injury.

** Tight end Benjamin Watson watched practice from the sideline after suffering a concussion Saturday during practice. Shurmur said he felt good but he’d be out a “little bit.”

** Shurmur wouldn’t confirm the Saturday trades for defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley and guard John Greco. The moves aren’t official and the team prefers to wait until then to discuss them.

** First-round pick Phil Taylor’s holdout continued and he missed his second practice.

** Defensive end Jayme Mitchell, who agreed to a free-agent deal, still hasn’t reported to camp.

** Rookie receiver Greg Little saw some time with the starters due to the injuries to Cribbs and Mohamed Massaquoi (leg). He made some nice catches in traffic.

** Shurmur was bothered by several overthrows. He said that was at the top of his list to bring up with the quarterbacks.

Browns Notes: Pat Shurmur deals with injuries on first day of practice

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

BEREA – It wasn’t perfect, but Pat Shurmur was pleased with his first practice as Browns coach.

The four-month NFL lockout deprived Shurmur of the entire offseason. The full squad didn’t report until Friday, then the players were on the field Saturday morning for a two-hour session to start training camp.

“For our first day I think it went fairly well,” Shurmur said. “We didn’t jump offsides a bunch, we were generally in the right formations, pretty decent execution on both sides. A good start, but we’ve got a long way to go before we get where we want to be.”

Of course, these are the Browns, so what would a first day be without some unexpected bad news. No. 1 receiver Mohamed Massaquoi (foot) and starting left guard Eric Steinbach (knee) didn’t practice, and starting tight end Benjamin Watson left with an apparent concussion.

Massaquoi appeared healthy earlier this month when the players gathered for workouts in Austin, Texas. But Saturday his left foot was in a cast that extended to his calf. He declined to talk to a reporter.

“Mo’s got a little foot deal that he came in with and so we’re just kind of going to evaluate that as we go,” Shurmur said. “Steinbach has a little bit of a knee issue. Same type deal. Nothing that we feel is serious.

“We just want to make sure they’re right when we put them out there. We feel like we can get them out here sometime soon, so we’ll see.”

Quarterback Colt McCoy worked throughout the offseason with Massaquoi, who had 36 catches for 483 yards and two touchdowns last year.

“I just know that he’s going to be out for a little bit,” McCoy said. “That’s unfortunate. But when we worked this summer, he is in great shape, he’s running crisp routes and when he gets that taken care of, I know he’s anxious to get back out on the field.”

Watson, who led the Browns in 2010 with 68 catches, went low over the middle for a McCoy pass during an 11-on-11 drill and appeared to take a knee to the back of his head. He stayed facedown on the grass while trainers talked to him, eventually got up and walked slowly into the building with trainers. Shurmur said Watson was being evaluated.

Brian Robiskie and Joshua Cribbs lined up as the first-team receivers, and Pat Murray, in his second year, replaced Steinbach at left guard.

But Shurmur’s first day on the job was about more than injuries. It was a lifelong dream realized after spending the last 12 years as an offensive assistant for the Eagles and Rams.

“I was able to move around more of the field than I normally did, which was fun,” he said. “But once you get into the practice and through the individual and into the team phases, I felt I was standing in about the same spot.”

Shurmur laughed because he doubles as the offensive coordinator. So during team drills, he was calling the plays and directing the huddle.

He repeatedly told the players to stop “milling around and get in the huddle” as he works to increase the tempo of the offense. He even spent a play as a defensive back, covering Robiskie.

Shurmur hadn’t met some of his players until Friday and addressed the whole team in a meeting.

“There were a lot of messages because it was the first time I saw them, but one of the things was that we’re moving forward and respect for what’s happened before us.

“In the NFL, there’s always change, whether there’s some change, a little change, a lot of change, and I asked the fellas to embrace it and move forward.”

Veteran linebacker Scott Fujita had his first sit-down with Shurmur on Friday afternoon.

“We go way back,” Fujita joked. “He just has a good temperament about him. I like the things he says, he says the right things. He carries himself really, really well. He’s confident and he kind of sets everybody at ease.

“To come in at a first practice like this today, after basically 12 hours of install, and for it to run as smooth as it did, I was pretty impressed with that. I think he came in yesterday, he was simple, his message was clear, it’s about being efficient, it’s about being sharp and it’s about doing the right thing. And I think guys respect that and guys came out ready to work.”

TAYLOR HOLDING OUT

Defensive tackle Phil Taylor, the 21st pick in April’s draft, hadn’t agreed to a deal and was the lone rookie absent from practice. He’s expected to start and was replaced by unknown Scott Paxson with the first team. The Browns traded for Brodrick Bunkley later Saturday to provide depth and competition at tackle.

The new agreement between owners and players caps the amount of money a team can spend on its rookie class and discourages holdouts. The holdup likely is that Taylor wants all four years of his contract to be guaranteed, while the Browns are countering with three.

“Trust me. If it was up to me I would. Sry! But when the time comes it’s on!!” Taylor tweeted.

“We obviously would love to have him here,” Shurmur said. “I know they’re working very hard to get a deal done.”

COLT’S NEW START

McCoy said the first day of his second training camp was a much different experience than his opener as a rookie. He was No. 3 on the depth chart last year and is the starter now.

“Last year, I really tried to prepare like I was a starter anyways, but coming in as a rookie that’s really hard to do, especially when you don’t get reps,” he said. “I’d like to say that my mentality hasn’t changed that much but it has.

“I feel like I’m in good shape. Offensive line, receivers, running backs, I feel like overall everybody’s in good shape, ready to work, so for me that’s good. I need all the work I can get, but I felt like day one went pretty good.”

LOCKOUT BURNOUT

As a member of the players union’s executive committee, Fujita logged a lot of hours during the lockout. He’s glad it’s over.

“It was a long process, it wore me out at times, especially those last couple weeks,” he said. “But that part of it’s behind me now and I’m just focused on the here and the now and getting this team to be as good as possible moving forward.”

Fujita’s work isn’t completely finished. The Browns voted Friday to recertify as a union and the NFLPA was re-established Saturday. The owners and union can now begin to discuss specific issues necessary to complete the new collective bargaining agreement, so Fujita will still be involved in the process.

QUICK HITS

Some observations from practice:

** The offense wore brown jerseys and the defense white, a departure from years past.

** No music played, a noticeable change from Eric Mangini’s tenure as coach.

** The quick passes of the West Coast Offense were obvious. The quarterbacks made it a point to get rid of the ball.

** Linebacker D’Qwell Jackson intercepted McCoy on a pass over the middle in seven-on-sevens.

** Running backs coach Gary Brown made rookie fullback Owen Marecic do a blitz pickup drill three times to get it right.

** Cribbs dragged his feet to make a nice catch on the sideline and beat Darian Hagan deep for a touchdown from quarterback Jarrett Brown.

** Rookie receiver Greg Little made a good catch with Joe Haden all over him, then dropped a simple crossing route.

FIRST TEAMS

Plenty could change in camp, but these were the initial first-team units.

Offense: QB McCoy, RB Peyton Hillis, FB Marecic, WRs Robiskie and Cribbs, LT Joe Thomas, LG Murray, C Alex Mack, RG Shawn Lauvao, RT Tony Pashos, TE Watson.

Defense: DEs Jabaal Sheard and Brian Sanford, DTs Ahtyba Rubin and Paxson, LBs Fujita, Jackson and Chris Gocong, CBs Haden and Sheldon Brown, S T.J. Ward and Mike Adams.

EXTRA POINTS

Running back Montario Hardesty (knee), Pashos (ankle), Fujita (knee), Brown (shoulder), Jackson (pectoral) and linebacker Kaluka Maiava (knee) were injured at the end of last year but were back for practice Saturday.

** Veteran offensive lineman Billy Yates re-signed with the team.

** Linebacker Marcus Benard and defensive lineman Brian Schaeffering signed their tenders as exclusive rights players.

** Defensive tackle Travis Ivey didn’t practice with an apparent upper-body injury.

** The Browns officially announced the signing of 21 undrafted rookies and they practiced.

** Camp will open to the public today for practice from 8:45-11:15 a.m.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

Indians draw an ace: Trade several top prospects for Rockies’ Jimenez; send Orlando Cabrera to Giants for minor leaguer

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

CLEVELAND – Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez is headed to the Indians, but at a steep price.

The Tribe acquired the 27-year-old flamethrower in a trade Saturday, sending top pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White, first baseman Matt McBride and pitcher Joe Gardner to Colorado.

The deal is contingent on Jimenez passing a physical given by Cleveland’s medical staff today.

“It sounds like a great pickup,” Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta said. “For the players on the team, I think it will show a lot about how much this organization wants to win.”

Jimenez, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, was the starting pitcher for the National League in the 2010 All-Star Game and possesses one of the most feared fastballs in the sport. He is 6-9 with a 4.46 ERA this season – striking out 118 batters in 123 innings – after finishing third in last year’s NL Cy Young Award voting.

Jimenez made his scheduled start Saturday for the Rockies in San Diego, but was removed after allowing four runs on 45 pitches in the first inning.

Two team sources said the Tribe front office was very unhappy that Colorado allowed him to pitch, knowing that a trade was imminent.

The swap was first reported by the Denver Post, including the detail that Pomeranz can’t officially be dealt until Aug. 16 – one year after the lefty signed his first professional contract with Cleveland. Officially, he is listed as a “player to be named later” in the transaction.

“Five years from now, we might be kicking ourselves, but you can’t play for five years from now,” Indians pitcher Chris Perez said.

The Rockies signed Jimenez to a four-year, $10 million contract prior to the 2009 season. The Tribe inherits options for 2013 ($5.75 million) and 2014 ($8 million), though he can void the latter as a result of being traded.

Jimenez’s career record is 56-45 with a 3.62 ERA and 773 strikeouts in 851 innings, all with Colorado. The five-year veteran is a native of the Dominican Republic.

Cleveland pulled off another trade later in the night, sending second baseman Orlando Cabrera to the San Francisco Giants in exchange for Triple-A outfielder Thomas Neal.

Cabrera opened the year as a starter, but was relegated to the bench after Jason Kipnis was called up. The veteran batted .244 in 91 games for the Indians.

Neal, 23, is currently sidelined with a left hand contusion and has been assigned to Columbus. He hit .295 for the Giants’ top farm team at Fresno.

The first indication that Jimenez was coming to the Indians came just as their game against Kansas City was beginning at Progressive Field. Pomeranz and McBride were pulled out of the starting lineup at Double-A Akron, while White was told he would not make his scheduled rehab appearance against Erie at Canal Park.

Though the right-handed White made three starts for Cleveland this season, going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA, Colorado would not have made the trade without Pomeranz.

A blue-chip talent, Pomeranz was the fifth overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. He was 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA in three starts with the Aeros, all coming after his promotion from Single-A Kinston, where he went 3-2 with a 1.87 ERA.

Second-year pro Garner, a righty, was 7-8 with a 4.99 ERA in 19 starts for Akron.

McBride, who has spent six seasons in the Indians system, hit .297 with 14 home runs in 84 games for the Aeros.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

LaPorta homer in ninth gives Indians much-needed win over Royals

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

CLEVELAND – Indians fans got exactly what they had been hoping for Saturday night: A big win and a big trade.

First baseman Matt LaPorta hit a three-run, walk-off homer with two out in the ninth inning, giving the Tribe a 5-2 come-from-behind win over the Kansas City Royals.

Kansas City had taken a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth on an RBI single by Chris Getz, but closer Joakim Soria allowed a game-tying sacrifice fly to Kosuke Fukudome and LaPorta’s game-winning blast.

“We’ve had a lot of big hits this season, but for me, this is at the top,” said a smiling LaPorta, who drilled Soria’s pitch off the facing of the home run porch in left field.

Cleveland (53-51), which agreed to acquire Colorado pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in a five-player deal earlier in the evening, snapped a three-game losing streak in front of 31,436 fans at Progressive Field.

The Indians also moved within 1½ games of Detroit in the American League Central Division and pulled off their 12th walk-off win of the season.

“I don’t know why we have to wait until the ninth inning every time,” Tribe manager Manny Acta said. “It’s tough on all of us. Tomorrow, I think I’ll put the (ninth-inning sign) on the scoreboard to start the game and see if it makes a difference.”

Cleveland actually came back twice in the final two innings, first tying the score at 1 in the bottom of the eighth on an RBI single by Michael Brantley. That hit came off Kansas City setup man Aaron Crow, who took over after Tim Collins surrendered a leadoff walk to Lonnie Chisenhall.

Soria (5-4, 4.23 ERA) completed the meltdown in the ninth with his sixth blown save of the season. He hit Asdrubal Cabrera with a pitch, allowed a double by Carlos Santana, and walked Chisenhall, in addition to the run-scoring swings by Fukudome and LaPorta.

“We had some great at-bats at the end of the game against Soria,” Acta said.

Tony Sipp (6-2, 3.00 ERA) earned the win despite allowing one run in his one inning. Starter Justin Masterson went the first eight-plus, allowing nine hits and two runs while striking out five.

Masterson came out for the ninth, but was lifted after allowing a leadoff single to Jeff Francoeur, who scored on Getz’s hit.

“Justin deserved better tonight, which is why I’m so happy that he didn’t get stuck with the loss,” Acta said. “If he had gotten Francoeur out, we probably would have left him in because he was fresh.”

On the flipside, the Royals’ bullpen ruined a terrific outing by Felipe Paulino, who didn’t allow a hit until Santana doubled in the fifth. The right-hander threw six scoreless innings, only allowing one runner to reach third base.

“My goal was just to keep it close tonight because we have a good team here and we find a way to win,” Masterson said.

Kansas City went up 1-0 in the first on an RBI groundout by Eric Hosmer. It could have been worse, though, as Masterson allowed a leadoff walk to Alex Gordon and a double to Melky Cabrera before limiting the damage.

The Indians had a golden opportunity to tie the score in the sixth, but Gordon gunned down LaPorta at home on a fly ball to left by Brantley.

Kansas City catcher Matt Treanor suffered a concussion on the play – with his head absorbing a significant blow from LaPorta’s right shoulder – but held onto the ball in the collision.

Treanor was placed on the seven-day disabled list by the Royals before he left the stadium for medical tests.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

TODAY

• WHO: Cleveland vs. Kansas City
• TIME: 1:05
• WHERE: Progressive Field
• PITCHERS: Carmona (5-10, 5.34 ERA) vs. Davies (1-9, 6.75)
• TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM

A quiet confidence: New Browns coach Pat Shurmur isn’t shy when it comes to taking charge

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

Pat Shurmur hasn’t lost a game as Browns head coach. He hasn’t had a player disrespect him in front of the team. He hasn’t been grilled by reporters for a third-down play call that backfires against the Steelers.

So maybe any discussion about his calm and composed demeanor should wait. Pressure does strange things to people, and Shurmur has never been under the intense scrutiny that awaits him in his new job – his first as a head coach at age 46.

But after spending some time with Shurmur, watching him interact with people and talking to those who have known him for decades, a picture comes into focus of a man content with his decisions, comfortable with his convictions and happy, but not surprised, by where he is in life.

It’s difficult to imagine him in a Chris Palmer “runaway train” situation, having a Butch Davis pregame panic attack in Cincinnati or trying the repeated Eric Mangini power plays that turned off countless players and staff members.

“Players’ emotions ride the roller coaster and I think it’s important when you’re communicating with them to provide kind of a steady approach,” Shurmur said in March from his office overlooking the Browns practice fields in Berea.

Shurmur had time back then to talk about his past and his philosophies. The free time has vanished, as the Browns are embarking on a training camp unlike any other in team history. The NFL lockout ended Monday and camp opens to the public today without the benefit of a single offseason meeting or practice.

The calm and composure will be tested early.

Comfortable in his skin

Shurmur avoids them like a third-and-15 on offense, but he knows they’re coming. The comparisons to Mangini. You don’t replace a high-profile coach with such a divisive style without references to your predecessor.

As Mangini opened up – to a degree – in his second year in Cleveland, he admitted to trying to copy his mentor, Bill Belichick, in his first head coaching job with the Jets. He followed the same practice schedule and borrowed from his news conferences. As Mangini grew into the job with the Browns, he felt more comfortable being himself and showed glimpses of his personality.

“I don’t know if I ever tried to mimic a coach in his mannerisms or his speech patterns or any of that,” Shurmur said. “I never did.

“Somewhere early in this deal I realized that the best way for me to seem credible to players who you’re working with – they don’t work for us, they work with us – is to be yourself. I think that’s the important piece. I think we’re all looking for sincerity. I think we’re all looking for people that are going to be consistent and be who they are, that are going to be honest and upfront.”

Shane Bullough was teammates and classmates with Shurmur at Michigan State from 1983-87. They remain close and get together with teammates to play golf and tell stories. Bullough wasn’t surprised to hear Shurmur doesn’t hand out pat answers to reporters’ questions, instead considering each one before replying.

“Pat’s always been sincere. He tells it like it is,” Bullough said. “He does have confidence in himself to say something other than normal coachspeak. It’s probably because he thinks he’s smart enough to give an answer and not get in trouble. He doesn’t have anything to hide.

“He trusts a lot in his Catholic faith. He’s a great guy and likes to have fun. What you see with Pat, it’s all out there. He’s always taking care of his priorities and responsibilities.”

If Shurmur seems grounded, it’s because his roots run deep. He speaks often of the guidance and support he received from his parents. Then there’s Uncle Fritz, who died at age 67 in 1999.

Fritz Shurmur was an NFL assistant coach for 24 years, including as defensive coordinator in Green Bay when Browns president Mike Holmgren was the coach. Pat would hang around the Packers during the summer and learn from the stable of future head coaches Holmgren had assembled.

“Fritz looked like Pat,” said former Michigan State coach George Perles, who made Pat his first recruit to East Lansing and hired him as a graduate assistant. “There are hints of red hair, and fire under there. They’re two peas in a pod.”

Pat Shurmur worked himself up from lowly college assistant to NFL assistant to offensive coordinator with the Rams the past two seasons. Defensive lineman Robaire Smith, who spent the past four years with the Browns, was a player at Michigan State when Shurmur was coaching tight ends.

“He’s always been cool, always been approachable,” Smith said. “I think people are gonna really enjoy him. He’s a guy who demands a lot from you, demands the best from you. But he keeps it fun. It’s hard not to play for a guy like that.

“If you knew Coach Shurmur back in the day, you knew he’d be a good coach. You knew he’d be at the highest level one day. He knows how to get the most from players, and that’s the hardest thing for a coach.”

Rams general manager Bill Devaney was Shurmur’s most recent boss and gave a sparkling recommendation.

“You know, you hear the stuff about players and coaches ‘getting it.’ More than anything, Pat gets it,” Devaney said at the scouting combine. “He’s got a great way with players, relating to ‘em, understanding. Knowing when to push, when to back off.

“He’s got a really good offensive mind, but besides that, just the way he relates with players I think is fantastic.”

Locker room leader

Maybe his ability to relate to the guys in the huddle comes from the time he spent in a helmet and shoulder pads.

Shurmur doesn’t look the part now – he’s fit and trim – but he was a starting center for Michigan State’s Rose Bowl team in 1988. He was a captain and earned Academic All-American honors.

“I was fortunate to be on winning teams and one of my favorite people in the world said that I was an overachiever, so I find that to be somewhat of a compliment,” Shurmur said. “I like overachievers as a coach, because they’re doing the best they have with the skill and ability that the good Lord has given them. I think that’s what you’re trying to get out of your players.”

“He was a great player,” Perles said. “He was something special. He’ll do well as a head coach in Cleveland. He has a lot of ability. He was a tough son of a gun.”

The journey to center also speaks to Shurmur’s character. He was a high school All-American out of the Detroit area as a linebacker, and was Perles’ first recruit. But Shurmur suffered a knee injury as a freshman and the staff asked him to make the switch to center.

“It was tough, especially for a guy who loved linebacker. He could really hit you,” Bullough said. “I’m not sure the move was his first choice, but you wouldn’t have heard him complaining too much. His focus was on being the best center he could be, the best center in the Big Ten. That’s what he ended up being.

“Tough and leadership. It’s hard to find many people who could match Pat in those two categories.”

Perles also raved about Shurmur’s intangibles but didn’t want to discount his on-field ability.

“He’s the only center I’ve been around who pulls on sweeps,” he said. “You could pull him and keep everybody tied up, which really helped the running game. And Pat made all the calls at the line of scrimmage. He could’ve played a lot more positions, too. Pat was just a great athlete and smart.

“And he was good in the locker room. If a guy was acting up, uh-huh. He was like Joe Greene. No one acted up in the Pittsburgh locker room. Leaders like Pat Shurmur and Joe Greene make life easier on a coach.”

The choice to coach

Shurmur wasn’t always on the coaching path. He earned a master’s degree in finance from Michigan State and went to work for IBM.

“Let’s get into business and get going,” he said.

He went through a sales training course and worked in the field helping marketing reps.

“Pat certainly had the right stuff for a career like that,” Bullough said.

But he couldn’t shake the memories and feelings he had as a graduate coaching assistant.

“That’s kind of what made the decision for me,” Shurmur said. “What put a little tension on the decision was it was in a year we were planning to be married, so I went from making a very good salary to going back to Michigan State as the volunteer coach. As you might expect, the ‘What are we doing?’ questions came up.

“And this is where my dad had great influence on me. Although he wasn’t a coach, he’s awesome. He basically said, ‘Hey, pick a profession and do something you love to do.’ And that’s what was the final reason to make the switch. That’s where you really have your best chance of having success or being able to fulfill some dreams.”

Shurmur, who is still married to Jennifer and has four kids, spoke to Perles when he was wrestling with the decision to leave the business world for a life on the sidelines.

“He had all kinds of offers from IBM, they wanted him badly,” Perles said. “He loved football and came back. It wasn’t his cup of tea to work for IBM.

“I was tickled to death. Didn’t take long and he was on his way. He’s a very exceptional young man. He’s like a son to me.”

Shurmur was quick to name Perles one of his biggest coaching influences, along with Uncle Fritz. Shurmur also credits all the head coaches he worked for as an assistant: Nick Saban at Michigan State, Ty Willingham at Stanford, Andy Reid with the Philadelphia Eagles and Steve Spagnuolo with the St. Louis Rams the last two years.

“Each one of these men have strengths that are unique,” Shurmur said.

Bullough sees a lot of similarities between Perles and Shurmur.

“Tough-minded, old-school philosophies,” Bullough said. “I don’t mean football philosophies. How you behave, how you treat players. I certainly see George’s roots in the things Pat’s accomplished.”

Perles beams with pride.

“Smartness, toughness and loyalty,” Perles said, describing why Shurmur’s a good coach. “He’s a loyal, loyal person. After family, loyalty is No. 1 in his priorities. Coaches working for him are going to appreciate that. His assistant coaches are gonna love him.”

Teaching is the foundation

In his first job as a head coach, Shurmur will spend much of his days administrating and delegating. He’s adamant he’ll make time to teach.

The teaching gene might come from Holmgren, via Reid. Holmgren was a high school teacher before he got a job at BYU then went to work for 49ers legend Bill Walsh.

When Holmgren was Packers coach, he hired Reid and taught him his West Coast Offense. Reid hired Shurmur in 1999 as tight ends/offensive line coach, then moved him to quarterbacks coach in 2002 for the final seven years of a 10-year stint.

“Andy is a teacher at heart, he likes dealing with the details of the positions,” Shurmur said. “Andy’s really good taking a big picture and boiling it down to the details, so I’ve always appreciated that and I always thought that if I ever was going to be really good as a teacher that I would have to do the same.

“I know I have other things I need to do, but to be able to work with the players and teach them, I think is an important piece. And I don’t think that stops when you become the head coach.”

In today’s NFL, with its unimaginable athleticism, highlight-reel plays and $50 million contracts to inattentive knuckleheads, the role of teaching could seem to be shrinking. Shurmur disagrees and thinks good teaching shows up frequently on Sundays.

“Early in the process you’re working on fundamentals and you’re working on installing systems and plays and how you attack defenses,” said Shurmur, who will also serve as offensive coordinator. “Then all the details of the position work. Then as you get into games, now you’re attacking specific opponents and using plays that are systematic yet attack the weaknesses of those defenses.”

Perles, the mentor from Michigan State, was asked about the origin of Shurmur’s emphasis on teaching. He didn’t hesitate.

“That’s Chuck Noll. That’s where I got it from,” said Perles, who was an assistant under Noll for a decade with the Steelers, winning four Super Bowls. “Noll hired college coaches because he wanted teachers, fundamentals, basics. That’s what I tried to teach our kids.

“Anytime you lose a game, go right back to basics, fundamentals.”

Quiet but tough

Noll came up a lot when Perles discussed Shurmur. Like when he was asked about Shurmur’s seemingly laid-back personality.

“Just like Chuck Noll. He’s a spitting image of him,” Perles said. “Those kind of guys, oh, oh, they’re tough. Very quiet, very humble.

“I remember one time, an official came over and was pointing a finger at Chuck. He was always a gentleman, but he said, ‘Get that finger out of my face or I’ll bite it off.’ Patrick’s a lot like Chuck Noll. And Noll’s from Cleveland.”

Of course, Browns fans wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if Shurmur had close to the success that Noll enjoyed in Pittsburgh. With the talent deficit he inherited and the huge gap between the Browns and AFC North rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, Shurmur will have every facet of his coaching repertoire tested.

“There’s times where you have to get on ‘em in public,” he said of his players. “But there’s also times when you need to be very calm and maybe whisper to ‘em, ‘Hey, you’re better than that.’

“I wouldn’t call it a strategy, and I wouldn’t call it an approach. I think it’s important to be who you are, and to know who you’re working with.”

Not to pick on Mangini again, but this is an area in which he struggled. He seemed to have the same approach for everyone – and often scripted it.

“I think if somebody’s running around yelling all the time, that gets old,” Shurmur said, not referring to Mangini. “I think it’s important that as a head coach or, really, as a person in this business when you’re on the coaching end of it, you have to be a good communicator. l

“I think it’s different for different people, depending on who you’re communicating with, and I think it’s important that you keep your composure. But then I think it’s also important that if you have a message to get across and there’s some emotion attached to it that it comes out that way.”

Shurmur’s personality may lean toward controlled and laid-back, but that’s not the same as meek. He said team discipline is a priority and he expects his players to behave off the field.

“I don’t know what fans are expecting to hear or what they want to know, but the difference between a loose ship and a tight ship, I guess,” he said. “We’re going to try to create a professional environment here where guys are responsible for their behaviors and work together based on that. We obviously don’t want the bad behavior to be part of what the Cleveland Browns are all about.”

So, will the mild-mannered and always-in-control guy drop a few four-letter words to get his point across?

“I’ve been known to say a few bad words,” he said. “I’m at peace with everything.”

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

THE SHURMUR FILE

• Age: 46
• Family: Wife Jennifer, daughters Allyson, Erica and Claire and son Kyle.
• Birthplace: Dearborn, Mich.
• College: Michigan State
• Playing career: A four-year letterman at Michigan State; All-Big Ten; All-America honorable mention in 1987; played guard and linebacker as a freshman; started at center the next three seasons; co-captain as a senior
• Education: Master’s degree in financial administration

Notable

• Shurmur is the 13th full-time head coach in Browns history.
• Was hired Jan. 13.
• Has coached for seven playoff teams in 12 NFL seasons, including five division titles and a Super Bowl appearance.
• Rams went from 1-15 in 2009 to 7-9 last year.
• Rams quarterback Sam Bradford set NFL rookie records in 2010 for completions (354) and attempts (590), and his 3,512 passing yards were the second-most by a rookie in league history (Peyton Manning had 3,739 in 1998).

Coaching experience

• 1988-89 …  graduate assistant, Michigan State
• 1990-97 … tight ends/special teams/offensive line, Michigan State
• 1998 … offensive line, Stanford
• 1999-2001 tight ends/offensive line, Philadelphia Eagles
• 2002-08 … quarterbacks, Philadelphia Eagles
• 2009-10 … offensive coordinator, St. Louis Rams

Browns: Day One of training camp arrives with injuries, trades

July 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

BEREA – Phil Dawson was never mistaken for a hippie – or Justin Bieber – in his first 12 years with the Browns, but he looked more clean-cut than ever Saturday. His head was shaved bald under his Browns cap.

Other than that, it was the same old No. 4. Only with a range of new emotions.

Standing in front of familiar faces in a familiar setting as he addressed the media following the first practice of training camp was almost an out-of-body experience for Dawson. His contract expired after the 2010 season.

“I thought I may never come back,” the kicker said. “So to get the news this offseason that I would be back and now to be here, it’s a surreal feeling.

“But it’s one I’m embracing and looking forward to. I’m ready to get after it.”

Surreal may be too strong to describe Saturday at Browns headquarters, but unusual works. The first practice – post-lockout style – had a little of everything and a different feeling than most opening days. Then they made two trades.

Pat Shurmur coached his first practice in Cleveland. He didn’t open it to fans, so the normal noise was missing. Camp opens to the public this morning at 8:45.

Free agents who have signed contracts – including Dawson – stood on the sideline as their teammates practiced, because the league year isn’t scheduled to officially start until Thursday. So running back Brandon Jackson and safety Usama Young were forced to wait to begin their Browns careers.

Hours after practice was completed, general manager Tom Heckert renewed acquaintances with his former co-workers in Philadelphia and traded for defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. One practice, one trade seems the right ratio in these days of the move-a-minute NFL.

In Heckert’s first year as Eagles GM in 2006, he drafted Bunkley with the No. 14 pick out of Florida State. He acquired him Saturday for a fifth-round choice in 2012.

The Eagles announced the deal, but a Browns spokesman refused to confirm it.

Bunkley, 27, is 6-foot-2, 306 pounds and adds much-needed depth on the defensive front. He should work into a rotation with Ahtyba Rubin and rookie first-round holdout Phil Taylor.

Bunkley never made a Pro Bowl or put up huge stats in Philadelphia. He started 47 games from 2007-09 but only five of 14 in 2010 as he battled an elbow injury. He totaled 144 tackles and six sacks in his five-year tenure, according to NFL.com.

Bunkley became expendable when the Eagles acquired tackle Cullen Jenkins on Saturday. In his one-plus years in Cleveland, Heckert has made three trades with Philadelphia, where he spent the previous nine years in the front office.

Dawson is the lone member of the 1999 expansion team still on the Browns. He has been for a few years.

A devoted family man, he made the decision to sell his house in Westlake and move everyone back to Texas last season. He was convinced he was done here after a few years of not getting the contract extension and raise he desired.

But the Browns didn’t have another option worth the franchise tag, so they put it on Dawson before the lockout. He signed the one-year tender this week, expected to be worth about $3.25 million.

“To see the way the fans and the city gave me an outpouring of support, that was truly special,” he said of the end of last season. “I’m not very good at predicting the future, but I felt like that was it.

“Whether I emotionally said goodbye or not, I wanted to make sure people around here knew how I felt. So I guess that took me down a road where when I left here in January, I thought I may never come back.”

Dawson was frustrated he wasn’t allowed to kick in practice Saturday, but Cleveland knows what he can do. The same can’t be said for Young and Jackson. Young is expected to compete for a starting safety spot, and Jackson looks like a third-down back who could also spell Peyton Hillis and Montario Hardesty.

“Usama is an exceptional athlete,” said linebacker Scott Fujita, who played with him in New Orleans. “He’s one of those guys that can do everything on the back end. He’s big, he’s rangy, good leaping ability, great ball skills.”

Young won a Super Bowl as a backup in New Orleans in 2009. Jackson started 13 games for the Super Bowl-champion Packers last season.

“He’s a fine football player. I feel really good that we got him in the fold,” Shurmur said. “Offensively, I would say he is somewhat of a scheme fit.”

Shurmur acknowledged defensive end Jayme Mitchell will return, although he had yet to report to camp. Shurmur also said the Browns are looking for cornerbacks after Eric Wright signed Friday with Detroit. Three options, Nate Clements, Richard Marshall and Chris Carr, signed elsewhere Saturday.

The Browns were also in the market for offensive linemen, even before versatile veteran Floyd Womack turned down their offer and joined Arizona. Cleveland addressed the issue by trading an undisclosed draft pick for St. Louis’ John Greco, according to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The three-year veteran has four starts in 26 games and played for Shurmer the past two years when he was offensive coordinator in St. Louis.

Contact Scott Petrak at 329-7253 or spetrak@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.

TODAY

• PRACTICE: 8:45 a.m.-11:15 a.m. Open to the public.