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Monday, May 2, 2011

Indians beat Tigers, extend home win streak to 13 games - Browns Draft Grades and Summary

BEREA, Ohio (AP) - Once they hung up the phones, closed their laptops and discarded uneaten sushi, the Cleveland Browns' bosses felt satisfied.
Following perhaps the weirdest draft in NFL history - three strange days during which the lockout was lifted, reinstated and confusion reigned over a multibillion-dollar business entangled in legal mumbo-jumbo - the Browns believed they improved themselves.
When they'll get to prove it is anyone's guess.
"I feel extremely good about what we've accomplished,'' Browns' first-year coach Pat Shurmur said. "We picked players we feel like may have the chance to come in and start. They're players we like. We felt like if we came out of this draft with a lot of good players, we were going to get better.
"I think that's what we accomplished.''
With general manager Tom Heckert calling the shots and president Mike Holmgren supervising in a lesser role than a year ago, the Browns addressed several pressing needs. Their first priority was a defensive line transitioning from a 3-4 to a 4-3 scheme, and they added Baylor's Phil Taylor to plug the middle and Pittsburgh's Jabaal Sheard to rush from the edge.
The Browns' brass also netted big-play North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little for quarterback Colt McCoy. And, they added speed, strength, versatility, toughness and, maybe most importantly, infused youth into what was one of the league's oldest rosters last season.
"We're really excited,'' Heckert said following his second draft as Cleveland's GM. "Time will tell, but right now on paper, we're really happy. These are the guys we really wanted. Hopefully, we made the right decisions.''
Heading into Saturday with six picks, the Browns selected USC tight end Jordan Cameron and Stanford two-way standout Owen Marecic in the fourth round. In the fifth, they took speedy Tennessee-Chattanooga cornerback/kick returner Buster Skrine before trading two sixth-round picks to move back into the fifth and get Pittsburgh offensive lineman Jason Pinkston.
He grew up in Pittsburgh rooting for the Steelers.
"I love them, but it's business now and I'm a Cleveland Brown,'' Pinkston said.
So what's he going to do with his Terrible Towel and black-and-gold gear?
"Donate it to Goodwill.''
With their final pick, the Browns took Nebraska safety Eric Hagg (No. 248).
This was the first draft in Cleveland for Shurmur and Heckert, who worked together for eight years in Philadelphia. Their connection was one of the chief reasons Holmgren hired Shurmur after firing Eric Mangini following his second straight 5-11 season.
Holmgren was pleased with how his two top football minds meshed.
"These guys did a marvelous job,'' he said. "After working with Tom and being with Pat for a while, I have the utmost confidence in their ability to do a great job.''
Holmgren felt Heckert was able to fill the team's needs without gambling on players.
"We picked the best player available at the time at a position without reaching,'' he said. "That's the key to a draft. If you can be solid year after year - I don't think spectacular, but solid year after year - this is a solid way to do it. Then if you hit a spectacular pick, fine. But that's the way to build a team. The beauty of it is these two fellas work very well together.
"Now, the proof is in the pudding.''
Heckert's most daring move came Thursday, when instead of taking Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones or another highly rated player, he traded the No. 6 overall pick to Atlanta, getting the Falcons' first-round pick, a second- and fourth-rounder this year and a first- and fourth-round selection next year.
While the decision to trade down may have disappointed some Browns fans, Holmgren felt it was not only a wise maneuver, but a necessary one for Cleveland's future.
"It was absolutely the right thing to do for our team at this particular time,'' Holmgren said. "The trade was kind of an amazing trade when you count it up. It's what we needed.''
The Browns seemed particularly proud of nabbing Cameron, who began his college career on Brigham Young's basketball team before transferring. The 6-foot-5, 250-pounder, who showed off an array of impressive dunks in a YouTube video with close friend and NBA star Blake Griffin, is raw. But he could develop into a lethal weapon in Cleveland's new West Coast offense.
"He's big, he's super athletic and he's got really good hands,'' Heckert said. "This kid's got a feel. ... This guy was so head and shoulders above everybody else, that everybody was on the same page. Everybody said let's take him. We're happy we did.''
During the tension-filled moments when they were on the clock or discussing trades and players, Cleveland's draft room was stress free and positive all three days. Heckert, Shurmur and Holmgren were in harmony.
"We all get along, we're all thinking the same thing,'' Heckert said. "It's all very easy.''
There was strong disagreement over one choice - dinner.
"They like sushi,'' Holmgren said, starting a funny exchange. "I don't like sushi. They had platters of that stuff all over the place.''
"That's really the best part of the draft, bringing that sushi in,'' Heckert said.
Holmgren wouldn't budge.
"Eww,'' he said.
The Browns hope they never hear that about this draft.

Cleveland Browns

Best pick: I like second-round pick Greg Little. He didn't play last year because of an NCAA suspension, but he has big-play ability. This is a team that needs it.
Questionable move: Trading out of the No. 6 spot. They could have landed a possible star, but instead picked up more picks. Can they be patient?
Third-day gem: I like tight end Jordan Cameron, one of their fourth-round picks. He is a former basketball player like Jimmy Graham of the Saints.
Analysis: If Phil Taylor becomes a dominant inside player, this could be a really good draft. They went for quantity over quality. That's always risky.
Grade: C+

What I liked: Mike Holmgren and Pat Shurmur added a nice 1-2 punch of run stopper (Phil Taylor) and pass rusher (Jabaal Sheard) with their first two picks.
What I didn't like: Cleveland's worst indicators last year were scoring offense (31st), passer rating (28th), protecting the passer (25th) and Offensive Hog Index (24th). Yet, they waited until their third pick to add an offensive weapon: WR Greg Little, one of a trio of UNC players who were drafted high despite the fact they were suspended all of last season. Risky pick.
Would have liked more resources dedicated to offensive line. Otherwise, potential to be a nice draft class. Grade: B

Indians beat Tigers, extend home win streak to 13 games

CLEVELAND -- No matter the situation, the upstart Cleveland Indians can do no wrong this season.

Cleveland has baseball's best record at 19-8 after Michael Brantley singled home the go-ahead run in a three-run eighth inning Sunday and the Indians beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4 for their 13th straight home win.
"I don't think anybody could see this coming," closer Chris Perez said. "Everything is coming together. The starting pitchers are keeping us in there, the bullpen is doing the job. Two outs, none on? The offense will do something. This is a lot of fun."
Cleveland's third consecutive victory in its last at-bat and sixth straight overall pushed Detroit's losing streak to six games. It also gave the Indians five series sweeps this season, one more than all of 2010 when they went 69-93.
"A super, fantastic homestand. Just terrific," manager Manny Acta said. "Winning breeds confidence and these kids right now are feeling pretty good."
Brantley followed a tying RBI single by Orlando Cabrera by lining an 0-1 pitch from Joaquin Benoit (0-2) to left, scoring Shelley Duncan from second base.
Matt LaPorta added a sacrifice fly for his third RBI and a 5-3 lead as Cleveland extended its best home start in 70 years. The Indians are 13-2 at home for the first time since 1941. They didn't get their 13th home win a year ago until June 28.
"It's amazing," veteran infielder Adam Everett said. "You can't script out the way we're winning. These guys never quit and it's really exciting."
Chad Durbin (1-1) struck out the only batter he faced, Brandon Inge, to end the eighth. Perez yielded an RBI single to Miguel Cabrera in the ninth before earning his seventh save.
Next up, a six-game trip to the West Coast, starting Tuesday in Oakland. Acta believes the Indians can win there, too.
"Expectations don't change," he said. "You try to win every game. We'll try to take some home cooking on the road."
Detroit let leads slip away in all three games in Cleveland and will open a four-game set at home Monday against the New York Yankees.
"We're not doing enough things to win games," manager Jim Leyland said. "We're either getting behind and not catching up or getting ahead and not holding them off."
Benoit twice failed to stop the surging Indians. After serving up a game-ending grand slam to Carlos Santana on Friday night, he yielded a single to Shin-Soo Choo to start the eighth and plunked Duncan in the hand with one out Sunday. Orlando Cabrera then singled off the glove of a diving Inge at third to score Choo for a 3-all tie.
"I'm struggling," Benoit said. "Nothing is going right for me now."
Alex Avila's bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth gave Detroit a 3-2 lead.
Indians starter Justin Masterson yielded a leadoff single to Don Kelly and hit Miguel Cabrera in the left leg with a pitch to open the eighth. Cabrera glared at the mound, gestured at Masterson and walked slowly to first. Earlier in the game, both benches had been warned after Masterson and Tigers starter Phil Coke plunked batters.
"Under no circumstances was Masterson trying to do that," Acta said. "We respect Miggy. My guys are not afraid of him, but I am. He's the most scary guy in the league."
Rafael Perez struck out Brennan Boesch, but Ryan Raburn singled to load the bases and Avila lofted his third sacrifice fly of the series.
LaPorta's two-run double in the second tied the score against Coke.
Kelly had an RBI double in the first, when the Tigers added a run on a passed ball by Santana.
Masterson avoided big trouble in the second. Detroit loaded the bases with one out on a bloop single, walk and bunt single. Masterson got Ramon Santiago to ground into an around-the-horn double play started by Everett.
"He dialed it up after that," Acta said. "He gave us 120 pitches and gave us a chance to win."
Coke gave up two runs and four hits over six innings in his fifth start after opening the season in the bullpen. The lefty walked two and struck out four. Lefty hitters in Cleveland's lineup went 1 for 8 off him. Coke has held lefties to a .162 average (6 of 37) this season.
Masterson gave up seven hits and two earned runs over seven innings, striking out seven. He threw 120 pitches as he tried to match Cliff Lee's 6-0 start for the Indians in 2009.
Game notes
Tigers C-DH Victor Martinez, out since April 19 with a strained right groin, will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Monday. ... Indians RHPs Mitch Talbot and Carlos Carrasco, both on the disabled list with strained elbows, are progressing. Talbot threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday and is scheduled for another one Tuesday. Carrasco is playing long toss, will throw in the bullpen Monday and could go on a minor league rehab assignment late next week. ... Detroit stole two bases. Santana has thrown out only one of 12 runners attempting to steal this year.

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