For Starters…The Indians are in Trouble

reyesWe’ve all been so worried about the horror show that the Indians bullpen has become this season, that the starting rotation has kind of been pushed to the back burner on the list of issues. Well that has all but changed in the past seven days and now going forward.

During Friday night’s start, it was clear from the opening pitch, that Anthony Reyes was not right. He seemed to be battling a case of the yips in the first inning, walking the bases loaded on 12 pitches. He barely made it through three innings before getting the hook. His velocity has dipped in each of his last four starts, and he has yet to hit the 92-93 we saw him touch in his six start audition at the end of last season.

We got the news last last night which many expected to hear, Reyes may miss the rest of the season after Tribe Doc Mark Shickendantz found ligament issues in his right elbow. Elbow surgery is being recommended, but Reyes is seeking a second opinion. With Rookie David Huff already in the rotation (and struggling mightily may I add), another move has to be made.

The obvious play would have been to put Lefty Aaron Laffey back into the rotation, where he belongs and where his future is. “Would have been” being the key phrase there. In the same game, Laffey strained an oblique muscle and will miss the next four to six weeks.

Now what?

The first move was to bring back everyone’s favorite 4A special, Jeremy Sowers from Columbus were he continues to get hitters out (five starts, 2-1, 2.03 ERA). With Reyes’ spot on Wednesday open, he figured to be the guy. But as Lee Corso has said many a time, “not so fast my friends.” Because Fausto Carmona couldn’t find the plate last night, Sowers had to be summoned from the bullpen, pitching five scoreless innings and getting a W during the crazy 11-10 come from behind win. With Sowers most likely unavailable now until Friday at the earliest, someone else has to start tomorrow.

The candidates are plentiful, but not attractive.

Down in Columbus, you have Zach Jackson, Jack Cassel, Tomo Ohka, and Kirk Saarloos. The Attack, who started the season as the Tribe long man, is supposed to start tonight for the Clippers. If he doesn’t, you can be he will be the guy. He is 3-2 in seven appearances, four starts, with a 3.09 ERA. Cassel has been downright awful and shouldn’t be an option. He is 3-4 with a 6.68 ERA in eight starts. Ohka has been decent enough, but he is not on the 40-man roster and is a journeyman at best. However, he sports a 3.42 ERA in nine AAA starts.  Saarloos was rocked yesterday for eight runs and 13 hits  in four innings in the Clippers loss to Charlotte.

Then there are the two kids in Akron who are completely dominating the Eastern League, Hector Rondon (6-2, 2.08 ER) and Jeanmar Gomez (4-0. 0.31 ERA, including a perfect game). Dare they go to one of these two? Lets hope not. As good as they are, there is no reason to rush them during a season in which the big club looks headed for 100 losses. Another Akron option could be the once top, but now fallen prospect Chuck Lofgren. The lefty, who battled through personal problems during a miserable ’08 season, is at the top of his game again. In seven starts for AA Akron, he is 3-1, with a 1.35 ERA.

Meanwhile, that is just to solve Wednesday’s problem. Huff, Thursday’s scheduled starter, has looked completely overwhelmed in his two starts since being called up last week. He has yet to make it out of the fourth inning and has allowed 13 runs on 14 hits, walking five. The Tribe brass has stated all along that they wanted to keep him in Columbus for more seasoning, but with the injury to Scott Lewis, the move of Laffey to the pen, and the failure of Sowers in his first two tries earlier this month, they had no choice but to go to the rookie.

Take a look at what things looked like on opening day and what has occurred leading up to the position they are in today:

Cliff Lee (2-5, 3.04 ERA) – Still pitching like the Cy Young award winner from last year. You have to feel bad for him. He continues to pitch his guts out for seemingly nothing.

Fausto Carmona (2-4, 6.42 ERA, 35 walks in 54.1 IP) – Completely lost mentally and hasn’t been able to deal with hitters laying off his power sinker. Carl Willis and Eric Wedge will continue to stick with him and get him right. Maybe Fausto just isn’t as good as we all hope he’d be.

Carl Pavano (4-4, 6.10 ERA) – Don’t mind that ERA, it is inflated from the one inning, nine run debacle in his first start. Has been as consistent as the Indians could have hoped for and always keeps the Tribe in the games he starts. As he reaches the 18 start magic number to collect his $5.5 million while toiling through a lost season, will the Indians trade him to save money?

Anthony Reyes (1-1, 6.57 ERA) – His elbow hasn’t been right all year, despite the extra rest the Indians tried to give it. Looks like he is out for the year.  Nobody knows as of yet who his replacement will be.

Scott Lewis – (one start, 8.31 ERA) – Won the fifth starter spot out of Goodyear, made on start and has been on the DL ever since. A setback has moved him from the 15-day to the 60-day.  Sowers, Laffey, and Huff have all taken shots at unseating him permanently. Only Laffey looked the part, but had to be moved to the pen. Now he is hurt.

Its the sum of all fears for GM Mark Shapiro and his trusty sidekick manager the Grinder himself. Jake Westbrook is still a month away (at least) from a return and none of the kids have taken that next step needed for the Wahoos to contend. You could say Laffey was on his way, but the bullpen struggles derailed him. Now, 40% of the rotation could be Tomo Ohka and Jeremy Sowers.

In a word – YIKES.

  • kevin

    Nice write up, but in terms of feeling sorry for Cliff Lee? He gets pain millions to play baseball. I think he’ll be fine.

  • kevin

    That would be paid, not pain. although it is painful to watch the tribe’s pitching.

  • Jeff

    I actually do feel a little sorry for Lee has he is pitching for a new contract this year and if you just look at his record, you would think he sucks this year. He started off slow but has been pitching his butt off.

    I am so disappointed in this team right now. I can’t believe how bad they are all playing. I had high hopes this year but they are all completely gone. Thanks to them sucking, I am barely paying attention to the baseball season so far.

    All I can hope for now is the Cavs to come back and somehow beat Orlando. The Browns don’t give a lot of hope for this next season, so it’s up to the Cavs to not have us all waiting till next year.

  • Boomhauer

    Reyes is done as a starter. Maybe a move to the bullpen could prolong his career?

  • LaundroMat

    What ever happened to Jeff Weaver? I remember our giving him a minor league contract around the time that C.C. left…is he a viable option?

    Fausto is not a #2 in the rotation guy. On the other hand, Pavano is, and if Westbrook rebounds nicely, so is he. These two and Cliff can be a solid #1-#3. Sticking with Fausto is okay for now…and experimenting until someone earns the #5 spot is okay, too. I would not be surprised at all if we have a repeat of last year, in which things gel and we do great in the second half. But it will very likely not be enough…wfny…

  • Louis

    wow… might as well call up those 2 phenoms from columbus to see what they can do in the bigs… contractual issues be damned, there’s still a season to salvage

  • bridgecrosser

    Get Pedro on the phone! Oh wait. No money to sign him? Ummm. Go Cavs!

  • Lyon

    Please don’t bring up Jeanmar & Rondon. Let them become pitchers who will thrive in the majors in the future. Don’t bring them up now to struggle when we’re on track to be absolutely terrible.

  • Harv 21

    I love to say I told you so, but … I’ve been commenting here since last February that they had to try to get an old innings-eater similar to Paul Byrd by offering one of their surplus young catchers other than Oye Como Va. Did they listen to me? ( I also thought their bullpen would be a little improved, so maybe hold off on naming me assistant GM).

  • Jeff

    Harv, we all thought the bullpen was improved. How could we not? We get a good change of pace guy in Joe Smith, a fireball throwing closer in Wood, J. Lewis was pretty good down the stretch last year, you figured both Raffy’s would be at least decent and not a dumpster fire, and then someone like either Sowers, Reyes, or Laffey in a position to be a long man. I thought that was a strength of the team. Then everyone decided to suck instead and we find ourselves in this position.

  • Tim

    I hear Jason Johnson is available if we need someone to eat some innings.

  • Art McGregor

    @Tim: Classic.