Wild Card Questions: WFNY Tribe Roundtable


We’re just one day away from playoff baseball in Cleveland again! In light of that and the Tampa Bay Rays’ win last night, the WFNY writers discussed some of the hot button issues surrounding the roster, bullpen use, and lineups for the Indians.


Assume the following players are locks: Salazar, Masterson, Smith, Shaw, Allen, Albers, Rzepczynski, Hill, Gomes, Santana, Swisher, Kipnis, Cabrera, Chisenhall, Aviles, Brantley, Raburn, Giambi, Bourn, and Stubbs. Pick your last five players for the wild card roster.

Kirk: Ramirez, Carson, Carrasco, Kluber, and I guess Chris Perez. Ramirez and Carson have been key late inning replacements. With Carlos likely playing first, he could slide behind the plate in event of injury, so no Shoppach. I’d love to sentimentally add Vinnie or Tomlin, but just can’t do it. Carrasco has pitched some key moments, and he’s found it in the pen.

Jon: I’ll take Carrasco, Shoppach (in case of emergency), Perez (yes), Kluber OR Kazmir (long-man), and Carson.  Sorry Vinnie.

Jacob: That 20-man Wild Card roster draft leaves you with three bench position players. Against a right-handed starter, they’re likely to be: Chisenhall/Aviles, Stubbs and Raburn. I’d think, in a Wild Card game, the Indians probably wouldn’t need many more bench hitters to the plate. Perhaps then Jose Ramirez makes the squad as the last position player as a possible pinch-runner. I give him the nod over Matt Carson. Then, my final four bullpen guys: Nick Hagadone as an extra matchup lefty, Zach McAllister since he’s on regular rest, Josh Tomlin as another late guy and Chris Perez. Biggest question: Do you trust Perez more than Chen-Chang Lee for any playoff innings? I love CC Lee, but I give the edge more to Perez as your final guy. Neither would likely pitch anyway.

TD: For me the last five should be:
Carson – need him for possible late inning defensive replacement or pinch running. Also Bourn insurance
Ramirez – you may need him tp pinch run for Giambi late in the game
Kluber – right now, he is better suited to come out of the pen early should Salazar get in trouble than say Kazmir would be.
Carrasco – you never know when you may need a strikeout or length in extras
Perez – I dont want him on the roster, but he will be there for this game

Rick: I take Carson and Ramirez for the bench. Give me Tomlin, C.C. Lee and Corey Kluber.

How short of a leash does Salazar have tomorrow? Who do you go to first? Who would you throw multiple innings?

TD: He will have an extremely short leash. This is a one game win or go home. You have to pull the plug early if you see signs of struggle. As much as I like the kid, he isn’t Justin Verlander. Early, I go to Kluber. If he can get through five, I go to Shaw, Allen, Smith, and Rzepcynski to get to Masterson in the 9th.

Rick: I think that Francona has been pretty good with his short leash lately. I wouldn’t hesitate to put in one of the previous starters (Kluber or Tomlin) for an inning or two, but I would have them start an inning. Use someone who is used to coming into a jam if you have to go get Salazar.

Kirk: A pretty short leash. If he falls more than two runs behind, he’ll be out. I think ideally they want him to give them six and let Masterson finish it out. That could stretch Masterson out in time for a potential division series start and allow him to close it out. Shaw, Allen, and Smith could all throw multiple innings if needed, and I wouldn’t hesitate at all. Tito needs to manage such that Salazar, Masterson, Smith, Allen, Shaw, and Scrabble are the only guys who have to pitch in a regulation 9-inning game, preferably holding one of those six back for extras.

Jon: The leash will be short–I think even if he’s effective, you don’t let him throw more than six innings, but if he shows cracks you get him out early.

Jacob: As Jon and others said, the target is likely six innings. But don’t be surprised about any other kind of incredibly short leash; heck, Joe Maddon brought in his bullpen in the second inning on Saturday. Tito has been managing that way all September. Although Salazar is no longer on a pitch count, you still watch it very closely and probably go to Shaw or Allen first, if late enough. Everyone has had two days rest now.

Biggest concern in the Tampa lineup?

Rick: James Loney. Best hitter for the Rays on the road this year and he did well against the Tribe earlier in the season.

Jon: My biggest concern is home runs. The Rays have some pop (Longoria, Zobrist, Myers, even Delmon Young) and Salazar has let up some bombs this season.

Jacob: Longoria has been their best hitter since 2008 and is just starting to heat up. He’s the biggest concern and always will be. But Wil Myers is having a great season, too.

Kirk: Longoria, can’t let the best hitter beat you. Danny has to avoid the long ball.

TD: Evan Longoria. You cannot let this guy beat you. He is such a stud. I’d rather take my chances with Will Myers, James Loney, and Ben Zobrist.

Would you start Aviles or Chisenhall at third tomorrow?

Jacob: I think Chisenhall is my starter. For all the flack he receives, he still hit .241/.286/.419 against righties, compared to .269/.293/.396 for Aviles. Very similar. I’d like Aviles’ versatility off the bench and would bring him in ASAP in the case of a lefty reliever.

Kirk: Play the numbers and use Lonnie. Aviles is at the ready for late inning action. Throw 8 lefties at Cobb with Giambi starting too.

Jon: I’d start Chisenhall, only because he has more HR potential than Aviles, but I don’t really feel great about his defense.

TD: Tough call. Assuming Alex Cobb is the starter, his splits call for Chisenhall to get the start. However, Francona loves Aviles and gave him the starts over the last weekend. Plus, in a game of this magnitude, you may want the better defender out there. I think he stays with Handsome Mike.

Rick: I would start Aviles always.

Who’s the guy you want at the plate most for the Indians with the game on the line?

TD: Michael Brantley. Name me anyone else on this team who has been as clutch all year long.

Kirk: Because of his clutch ability and strong at bats that he puts up, I’m going with Brantley with Swisher a close second for how well he’s been playing.

Rick:  I would have to say Michael Brantley. He has been the most consistent hitter and you know he is likely going to put the ball in play.

Jon: The guy I want at the plate with the game on the line is our best offensive player: that’s still Carlos Santana, as much as people don’t want to admit it.

Jacob: Agreed with Jon: Cleveland’s best hitter is Carlos Santana. Folks forget he had an .832 OPS compared to just .728 for Brantley. Kipnis was second best at .818, but he was mediocre for the final two months.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    With 25 man rosters now in effect we will get to see what magic Francona can work. So many questions which is only fitting.

    The leash has to be short ‘cuz THERE IS NO TOMORROW, THERE IS NO TOMORROW. Masterson seems like the ideal co-pilot for Salazar.

    Longoria hands down is the Rays most dangerous hitter but you can’t sleep on Loney or Zobrist and the kid Myers was POTM for September I do believe.

    Start Chiz with Aviles in the wings.

    At the plate with the game on the line: Brantley, Santana or Kipnis. In that order.

  • Harv 21

    Can’t imagine any situation where you’d want Perez pitching in a one-and done tomorrow. Confidence gone, location gone, and a bad big-game pitcher to boot.

    Salazar will have no pitch count if he’s on. They need only make sure his location, movement and mph are solid. Pull him when he gets hit or walks people, not if he’s dominating. He has the whole off-season, folks. You saved him to be an ace in a huge game; well, it’s here, just earlier than expected.

  • mgbode

    The Rays have a very balanced lineup with Longoria & Myers the keys just as we do with Santana & Kipnis (amazing we’ve done so well with him struggling).

    Cobb handled our team in April, but it’s such a small sample size. He struggled more against last year’s Tribe team that didn’t hit nearly as well.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Agreed. Give me CC Lee over Perez right now… not because Lee is the better pitcher… just because he’s the better pitcher right now.

  • Vindictive_Pat

    Give me Carrasco, Kluber, CC Lee, Carson, and Kelly Shoppach (I can’t say why… just remember him having hit for power in some unexpected situations… can be easily overlooked by pitchers who are thinking about the next guy. And I’ll take him catching over Santana in a pinch).

    With the game on the line, give me Dr. Smooth. He truly earned that nickname this year.

  • Natedawg86

    In April. We will see how thing change. I want to see some runs in the bottom of the first to the tune of a 30+ pitch first inning for Cobb.

  • Natedawg86

    We picked Shoppach up to hit a Ding Dong against Bos next series.

  • Ezzie Goldish

    Since the roster is only for the one game, leave off whomever you plan on starting Game 2… which should be Corey Kluber since he mostly dominated the Red Sox earlier in the year (6+, 10K, 1ER).

    Plus, Kazmir can pitch long innings or be a situational lefty depending on your needs.

  • 5KMD

    For a second I thought you left Ubaldo, kazmir, kluber and Mcallister all off the entire postseason roster and could fathom why no one was calling you out.

    Now I get it, sorry I’m slow.

  • maxfnmloans

    I have no opinion, I’m just going to sit back and enjoy it

  • davelb87

    1. Carson and Ramirez for additional bench weapons (especially if Giambi is going to start at DH). Carrasco (finally found his place), McAllister (long man/Salazar insurance), and Lee/Perez (depending on what’s going on between Perez’s ears) for the pen.

    2. 5 innings or 2 runs, whichever comes first. With two bullpen arms (Masterson and McAllister/Kluber/Kazmir) capable of 3 innings, no need to put Salazar in a position to fail).

    3. A 2-run homerun in either the first or second inning, regardless of who hits it. We’ve seen the Indians lose too many games by 2 or 3-1 this season…I fear if Tampa gets up early, it will be lights out.

    4. Aviles. I like his experience and glove…also having Chisenhall as a left handed HR threat off the bench would be nice if Giambi is the DH.

    5. Brantley…the moment never seems too big for him.


    Problem is Cobb has been flat-out filthy for his last three starts:

    23.1 IP
    3 ER (1.16 ERA)
    14 H
    5 BB
    WHIP: 0.643
    26 K

  • mgbode

    and that is against NYY, Baltimore, Texas

    hopefully, his location is just a little off as 2 of his worst starts of the year were right before those 3.

  • Natedawg86

    OK, here is an interesing note. Check out his stats on 5 days rest this year…



    11 ER (3.81 ERA)

    25 H


    23 K

    Team is 0-4 when he is pitching on 5 days rest.
    He will exit the game down 2.

  • Natedawg86

    4 Days rest he is 9-0 with 5 ND, 5 days rest he is 0-2 2 ND (loses)
    Base runners are 12-16 in SB v Cobb.

  • Steve

    I’m not sure how easy it will be to keep the leash on Salazar. As Jon said, the Rays have some pop, and Salazar can be prone. He’s not really a guy who you can see him losing it. All of a sudden he misses his spot on the fastball and it ends up in the bleachers. By that point, the least doesn’t do you much good, and usually Salazar is back on his game anyway.

    Aggressively matchup. That means using Rzep, Kazmir, Hill (sigh), Hagadone (ugh) as a one or two batter guy out of the pen.

    Chisenhall over Aviles, just for that chance to go deep. Bring Aviles late in the game.

    In fangraphs-deemed “high-leverage situations”, Santana leads the team with an outstanding .473 wOBA, which is also 5th best in the league. Santana is the best hitter on the team, and the best in big situations. It’s him, without a doubt.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Indians have to lay off his slow stuff and make him work. It’s not going to be easy but I prefer Cobb to Price or Moore.

  • ToxicToast

    1.) I’ll take Carson, Ramirez, Kazmir, Kluber, Shoppach
    2.) I would agree that Salazar has the freedom to get a couple of runs down then be pulled. The bullpen is on several days’ rest and will have Thursday off too, so there isn’t much concern for their innings pitched.
    3.) Home runs by anyone.
    4.) I would prefer Chisenhall for the sake of his power, but I don’t think there’s any way it happens.
    5.) I’ll take Brantley over Santana by just a small margin. I think Brantley is less likely to try to do too much, but Santana has also been great with RISP.

  • Harv 21

    pretty close to my philosophy of life

  • Jaker

    1- So many options with Francona. I’d like to see Carson, Kluber, Carrasco, Ramirez and Kazmir… But I trust Francona’s decision

    2- The leash is the shortest for anyone ever. Who we go to depends on the situation. If he completes 4 but seems shaky, i’d love to go to Kazmir. The two are very different pitchers and I think it would throw off the Rays lineup. If he gets through 6, I’d like to see if Francona would go to Masty for the last three. If he leaves with men on base, go to The Alphabet vs a Lefty or Shaw vs a Righty. But once again, I trust Terry Franchise.

    3- Scared of Longo because he is their best player, but guys like Loney do well against us. The most scary thing about this team is similar to the Tribe, they are mostly underrated and WILL get you if you treat them like softies.

    4- I like having Aviles ready to make a late inning switch, but Chiz’s Defense worries me… It’s a tough call, but I go with start Chiz vs the RH at home. It’ll be a big confidence boost for him and we always have Aviles for the switch.

    5- Brantley, Santana, Swish, Giambi, Raburn. Everyone on this team has had “their moment”, so it can be anyone. Brantley has been the clutch one so he’s my choice, but I like our lineup enough that a guy will be up there that we have confidence in.

  • Jaker

    Kaz has also been a stud at home vs on the road. If it gets to Boston, i like starting Ubaldo and Kluber on the road, and having Kaz for the home game. So pitching Kaz tonight would actually make sense