The first week of pitchers and catchers always has everyone thinking positive. They say “hope springs eternal” and “everyone is 0-0.” The managers, GM’s, and players all wax poetic about how great they feel and how much they are looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. On top of that, you get your over the top positive reinforcements on the athletes.
All the guys “look like they are primed for a big year” or a “big bounce back year,” which ever applies. Its a great time of year to be a baseball player.
Which brings us to Tribe manager Manny Acta.
In talking to the media yesterday about his much maligned pitching staff, he seemed to key on how much better he thinks the rotation will be, despite coming in with no new additions to it. We all know the fifth spot is up for grabs amongst a group of holdovers including Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez, and the great David Huff.
The top four are set with Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, “The Fury” Mitch Talbot, and Carlos Carrasco. Acta spent a good part of his media session gushing over these four, which seems ludicrous if you look at their numbers as a whole last year. But the skipper points to their strong finish for reasons to be encouraged.
“We finished last in throwing first-pitch strikes,” he said. “The progress in the second half was because we improved on that. . . . In the second half, we still didn’t have a lot of offensive weapons because Carlos Santana got hurt and Grady was out, but we played better because we jumped over about five teams in first-pitch strikes.”
The key to the rotation’s success in 2011 will be the development of Carrasco. He must take a big step forward towards being the highly touted one-time can’t-miss prospect the Phillies were so high on. A year before Kyle Drabek was all the rage in that system, Carrasco was their guy. Things change quickly.
Remember how Hector Rondon was going to be the Tribe rotation savior? How’s that working out two years later?
Now Carrasco is the Tribe’s guy until first round picks Alex White and Drew Pomeranz can join him. Acta loves him. So much so, he made this bold statement yesterday:
” He has the stuff to be one of the best guys in the AL, period.”
Wow. One can only hope he is right. I’m still not sold on Talbot as a lock for the rotation the whole year. When he is on, he is on. But when he is off, its batting practice out there. That said, he was the rock of the rotation during the first half of the season. The key for him is staying healthy.
If Carrasco can become a solid #3 guy after big full seasons from Carmona and Masterson, the Tribe can be better than a lot of folks think. You can’t win in this league without at least three solid starters you can count on, especially with the Tribe’s tiny margin for error.
I’m just glad we can finally talk some baseball again.