August 2, 2014

Tribe Weekend Recap: Santana streaking, rotation turning, and opportunities blown

Carlos Santana

The Indians couldn’t have picked a worse week to wet themselves. I’ve said this before and I will say it again: The only consistent thing about this team is their inconsistency. Just when you want to believe after they take three of four in Detroit, they come out and lose two of three to the Minnesota Twins in front of losing three of four in Kansas City to the Royals. You just had a bad feeling about this series when Corey Kluber’s Thursday gem was wasted in a 14-inning loss. Things just spiraled from there with bad losses both Friday (6-4) and Saturday (7-5). They salvaged the series finale with an offensive explosion in Sunday’s 10-3 win, but it seemed like a hollow victory. The weekend in Kansas City was disastrous.

[Read more...]

Yankees 5, Indians 4: Homers and blown chances cost Tribe a W

Jacoby Ellsbury

When you jump out ahead with three first inning runs in your home park, you are supposed to win. When your bullpen delivers seven straight scoreless innings, you are supposed to win. When you load the bases on three straight one out walks in the 10th inning, you are supposed to win. Well, that’s why you play out the full game….

The Indians had several opportunities to put away the New York Yankees Wednesday night and into Thursday morning, but could never seal the deal. The Bronx Bombers could do nothing once Josh Tomlin was lifted after seven innings, but then again neither could the Tribe. Something was going to eventually have to give. It did, but unfortunately it was the Wahoos that blinked first. [Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Tomlin’s gem, House’s run, and consistently inconsistent play

Josh TOmlinI promised myself I wouldn’t say anything negative about Nick Swisher’s play…….

When I sit down every Sunday to write about the weekend that was with our friends of the feather, the topics seem to be the same: Bad defense, a lack of coming through with the timely big hits, starters not going deep enough into the games, the middle of the order guys not names Michael Brantley not doing their jobs, et cetera. Truth be told, this weekend in Seattle did not provide many great conversation pieces.

Josh Tomlin’s Saturday night gem is the obvious pace to start, but outside of that, it was just more of the same from our Cleveland Indians. The 44-38 Mariners are not a bad team at all, but you are not going to win games when you score seven runs in three games. Seattle took the book ends of this series and left the Indians feeling limp as they hop on a plane for sunny Southern California.

The only true Tribe excitement of the weekend was the performance of The Little Cowboy. It was the finest game an Indians starter has thrown since Len Barker’s perfect game in 1981. Of all people, Tomlin was the one you would least expect. [Read more...]

Animated: Ryan Raburn’s Web Gem, Josh Tomlin’s approval

Raburn Web Gem 140628

In the second inning of Josh Tomlin’s masterful one-hitter against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday night, right fielder Ryan Raburn helped the cause with a full-extension, diving catch to rob the hot-hitting Kyle Siegler of extra bases.

The play made MLB.com’s “outstandings” lists and is sure to be all over SportsCenter if you are patient enough to wait for Indians-Mariners highlights amidst the weekend’s World Cup play.

All in all, the play was very Tomliny. Josh Tomlin approves.

Josh Tomlin Thumbs Up 140628

Angels 9, Indians 3: Trout turns Tribe into dogs at Puppypalooza

Josh Tomlin Mike Trout Home Run

This just in: Mike Trout is good at baseball.

“There’s a lot to like about Trout,” said manager Terry Francona said with a smile. “I actually think for his sake they should rest him on Wednesday. He’s got a chance to be a pretty good player. You don’t want to tire him out.”

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the one of the in the game and in this one, the Indians just couldn’t stop the Angels phenom in the 9-3 loss. It was Puppypalooza at Progressive Field on Tuesday night, but it was the Tribe who wound up playing like dogs.

[Read more...]

Red Sox 5, Indians 2: Papi & Lester stymie Wahoos for third straight loss

MIchael Brantley

This wasn’t another one that got away, but the Indians once again shot themselves in the foot defensively which directly affected the 5-2 loss in Boston on Thursday night. During their 9-1 hot streak, the gloves weren’t a hot topic of conversation, despite the fact that they led the league in errors and unearned runs. But during this three-game losing skid, they have committed four errors and botched several other key plays that could have changed the games.

[Read more...]

The inimitable Josh Tomlin: old dogs, new tricks, and revisited parades

Josh Tomlin

I try to avoid declaring any one person unique, as such declarations imply there are non-unique people—boring and generic caricatures, leading rote and empty lives. This feels like a nasty thing to say, even only as an implication.

But Josh Tomlin is unique and you are leading a rote and empty life.

Let’s begin with some TOMLINY attributes.
[Read more...]

Tribe Weekend Recap: Bauer & Tomlin as saviors, Carlos’ triumphant return, and a major roster decision looming

Josh TOmlin

If the last three weeks taught you anything, it is that a baseball season is a marathon, not a sprint. In this space a short three weeks ago, I wrote that as Yogi Berra once said “its getting late, early” and that the Indians season was spiraling downward in an out of control manner. The starting pitching wasn’t cutting it, the offense couldn’t score in a whorehouse with a fist-full of $20′s, and defensively, the Tribe resembled the Bad News Bears. They sat 10.5 games out of first place in the AL Central behind the smokin’ hot Tigers who could do no wrong.

So now, here we are 21 days later and the Indians have crept over .500 for the first time since April 9 when they were 5-4. [Read more...]

White Sox 6, Indians 2: Another costly error direct cause of Wahoo loss

MIchael BrantleyThe Indians may have turned a corner with their play in a home sweep of the Detroit Tigers. They followed that up with a split of the series in Baltimore, which you will take all day. Next up was the Chicago White Sox, who the Tribe has already seen several times this year. Though they have played some of their better baseball of late, one thing has not changed; their horrific defense.

No matter the day you can count one three things in life right now: Death, Taxes, and bad Tribe defense costing them at least one run. They have lost three of their last four after the 6-2 Memorial Day defeat on the South Side of Chicago. In those three losses, three errors (one in each game), directly accounted for six unearned runs. This isn’t a recent trend either, it is a season long reality. The Indians are the worst defensive team in the league. There are no two ways around it.

Monday afternoon was just another prime example. [Read more...]

Indians 4, Twins 2: Welcome Back, Little Cowboy

Josh TOmlinAll spring, Josh Tomlin looked like the leader in the clubhouse for the fifth spot in the rotation. Of the four men battling for the final slot – Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Aaron Harang being the others – Tomlin pitched the best. However, there was one major obstacle working against him; Tomlin had a minor league option remaining while his main competition (Carrasco), didn’t.

Nobody will ever confuse Josh’s fastball with Carrasco’s and Carlos’s “upside” has been a tease that the Indians have been trying to harness for four years. The Indians brass gave Carrasco the job despite giving up 14 runs in 15.2 spring innings. Tomlin was sent down to Columbus.

Well, what many expected happened. Carrasco couldn’t even make it out of April before being sent to the bullpen and the Indians chose Tomlin over red-hot Trevor Bauer to take his spot in the rotation. Both have been dominant in Columbus, but it was Tomlin’s last two starts where he pitched 17 scoreless innings that helped earn him the call.

Tuesday was his turn and it lined up perfectly for when the Indians needed him. He set out to make the most of his first start in the bigs since July of 2012. Now a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, Tomlin was ready, and he looked like the guy we all came to know and love during the lean Manny Acta years. [Read more...]

Josh Tomlin recalled, is the “Summer of George” over?

Josh TomlinThe Indians had to make a roster move in order for Josh Tomlin to start tonight’s ballgame against the Twins. Before batting practice, outfielder Michael Bourn was out running for manager Terry Francona and the training staff. He later told reporters that he felt good, but was not in tonight’s starting line-up.

Apparently the Indians were testing to see if he might need another trip to the DL which would have been a roster move to accommodate Tomlin.

Instead, the Indians have designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment. Kottaras played one game for the Indians, hitting a pair of solo home runs in his first two at-bats for Cleveland. He became the first player in franchise history to do so.

The Indians are likely hoping that Kottaras accepts an assignment back to AAA Columbus.

[Related: Kottaras, Kluber making history for the Indians]

Josh Tomlin is AAA pitcher of the week, will start for Tribe on Tuesday

TomlinYou’ve heard the phrase backhanded compliment? How about a backhanded award?

The International League (of which the Columbus Clippers are a part of) handed out it’s weekly player honors on Monday, and Josh Tomlin was named the pitcher of the week. For a 29 year old with 54 career big league starts, getting any type of minor league award probably doesn’t feel like much of an honor.

Tomlin won’t have long to stew about it however. He is slated to make a start in Cleveland on Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins.

Tomlin is 2-1 in five starts for the Clippers this season with a 2.06 ERA. The start last week that earned Tomlin the award was a complete game shutout in which he allowed just three hits and struck out 10. Oh, and he did that in just 89 pitches. Matt Underwood would be impressed.

[Related: Tribe weekend recap- three outs from a sweep]

Nyjer Morgan called up, Trevor Bauer throws another gem

Photo

As injuries amount and the rotation is being molded, the Cleveland Indians made another move on Sunday, recalling outfielder Nyjer Morgan from Columbus while optioning reliever Nick Hagadone down Interstate 71.

Prior to being sent down to make room for Jason Giambi, Morgan was on fire at the top of the Indians’ lineup, hitting .348 with three stolen bases and four runs scored. In Columbus, though hitting safely in his last four games, Morgan has hit .200 (12-60) with four runs, four doubles, one home run and seven runs batted in.

Earlier this season, WFNY discussed Morgan’s early-season successes, but did not account for the poor defense that was amongst the worst in the league (in DRS) prior to his demotion.

On the bump, Clippers starting pitcher Trevor Bauer tossed another masterpiece on Saturday, throwing seven shutout innings. Bauer has a 1.10 ERA, 1.010 WHIP, and a 8.5 K/9 for the season, holding opposing batters to a ridiculous slash line of .203/.267/.261. In 32 2/3 innings or work, Bauer has fanned 31 while walking just nine.

As reported earlier this week, Josh Tomlin will draw the start on Tuesday—one he has more than earned. If he—or anyone else—were to struggle, it shouldn’t be too long before Bauer draws another shot.

(Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images)

Trevor Bauer could be in line for first start of 2014

bauer acab

With Monday’s game against the San Diego Padres washed out by Mother Nature, Tribe pitching prospect Trevor Bauer could be in line for his first start of 2014 when the two teams lock up in a traditional double-header on Wednesday. Zach McAllister (who wound up with a no-decision last week) is scheduled to start one of the games of the doubleheader, with the Indians expected to promote a pitcher from Columbus to start the other. Bauer, who fresh off of a two-hit gem late last week, would be in line to take the bump.

In his debut for the Clippers, the heady Bauer frequently saw his fastball settle in around 95 miles-per-hour, fanning nine and walking just two in six innings of work. The kid’s struggles are well-documented, but at just 23 years old, things may finally be clicking for the former highly touted prospect.

The Indians could certainly use some clarity at the bottom of the rotation as Carlos Carrasco was anything but solid in his 2014 debut this past weekend. Similarly, Josh Tomlin had a debut to forget, allowing five hits and four earned runs (walking three) in just six innings in a loss to Indianapolis.

Carlos Carrasco wins the fifth starter job; Josh Tomlin sent to Columbus

Carlos Carrasco

The Horseshoe Casino be on Ontario and Prospect, but they’re rolling the dice two blocks south. In addition to Carlos Santana being named the Cleveland Indians’ Opening Day third baseman, per multiple reports, Carlos Carrasco has won the fifth starter job.

While it may appear that it’s a great week for Carlos’, it could be argued that both men landed in their positions more out of necessity. While Lonnie Chisenhall made the 25-man roster, his role will be more versatile this season, splitting time between third base, designated hitter and sporadic pinch-hitting roles—all predominantly when a right-handed pitcher is on the mound. In Carrasco’s situation, the flame-throwing hot head is out of options while Josh Tomlin (who was optioned to Triple-A Columbus) is not. Rather than Tomlin being handed the fifth starter role (after a solid Spring Training) and crow-barring Carrasco into the bullpen at the expense of a more-worthy arm, the Indians took the business route that will allow for flexibility at a future point if the 26-year-old can’t figure things out.1

Carrasco finished the spring with an ERA north of 5.00 but did manage to strike out 16 (while walking just three) in 15 2/3 innings. He can miss bats with the best of them, but it’s the mental state that has gotten the best of him. Tribe fans should get their first glance at Carrasco when the team hosts the Twins next weekend. Let’s hope it’s a prolonged one.

(Image: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

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Footnotes:

  1. They’re widely expected to carry eight bullpen arms, meaning that both Scott Atchison and Blake Wood will make the final cut. []

Raburn Rocking, Bauer Rocked: Tuesday Tribe Notes

Josh TomlinWe are now two weeks into the game portion of Spring Training, so it is time to take stock of what we have learned thus far. There are plenty of intriguing battles going on. Some players have made statements, while others are still trying to make up ground. I have kept my ear to the ground and as always, I’ve tried to stay on top of all the goings-on in Goodyear. With just 20 days until the opener in Oakland, I file this report….

While Raburn sizzles, Murphy isn’t ready. Of all of the pleasant surprises of the 2013 playoff season, perhaps none was bigger than the renaissance of Ryan Raburn. A big reason that the former Tiger was so good was the genius of manager Terry Francona. Tito played Raburn perfectly; he didn’t overuse him, picking and choosing his spots, yet he knew when to ride him when he was sizzling. Midway through the season, Raburn smartly signed a two-year extension with the Tribe for $4.75 million. Knowing Ryan is at his best in the role he played last season, GM Chris Antonetti signed David Murphy from Texas to a two-year deal. The rightfield platoon was all set. [Read more...]

Indians, Justin Masterson pause extension talks, focus on one-year deal

mastersonstWith their scheduled arbitration hearing approaching, the Indians and ace Justin Masterson have shelved discussions of a long-term deal and are focusing on a one-year solution.

The Plain Dealer’s Paul Hoynes reported the update on Monday evening. Discussions are continuing between the team and Masterson’s agent Randy Rowley.

The filing difference between the two parties — $11.8 million from Masterson, $8.05 million from the Indians — was the largest in baseball this offseason. That’s what has led the Indians to say it’s “very likely” their 23-year run of avoiding arbitration will soon end. Masterson’s arbitration hearing is scheduled for Feb. 20 in St. Petersburg, Florida.

MLB Trade Rumors expected Masterson to receive $9.7 million for 2014. There had been previous speculation of a five-year $75 million extension, including his final arbitration-eligible season of 2014. That would then equate to a four-year deal of about $65 million.

Surprisingly, the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto also shared the Indians may be headed to arbitration with starter/reliever Josh Tomlin. He filed for $975,000, but the team filed for $800,000. It seems peculiar, considering the team’s long-time aversion to hearings. This one is scheduled for Feb. 14.

Eventually, Cleveland’s front office is expected to reach one-year deals with outfielder Michael Brantley and reliever Vinnie Pestano. Both are a couple years away from free agency and the filing differences — Brantley: $3.8 million v. $2.7 million; Pestano: $1.145 million v. $975,000 — weren’t that significant.

[Related: The Diff: What’s up with Justin Masterson’s Indians future?]

Photo: Chuck Crow/Plain Dealer

How badly do the Indians need more starters? – Cleveland Indians Roundtable

WFNY_roundtable

Craig: Maybe I’m blinded by optimism, but I’m not overly concerned with a pitcher. The Indians have Masterson, Salazar, Kluber, McAllister and guys like Tomlin, Carrasco and Bauer to find five guys today. Yes it would be nice to insert a name in that list somewhere, but I’m not feeling desperate just yet. Look at me being a Tribe optimist!

Am I taking those top three for granted and overrating the Tribe’s own guys? How anxious are the rest of you to add starting pitching versus other roster needs?

Scott: Ubaldo Jimenez and Scot Kazmir were worth just a little less than six wins between the two of them. In just 10 starts, Danny Salazar was worth 1.2; Corey Kluber was worth 2.7 in 26 starts. Extrapolating is a dangerous tactic, but it wouldn’t be far-fetched to assume that these two could help fill in the gaps that were left by pesky things like innings limits and injuries. [Read more...]

Starting rotation an unsolved long-term mystery for Indians

ubaldo twinsWhat a season for Cleveland Indians starters. After posting the American League’s 13th best staff ERA back in 2012, the Tribe turned it around magically this year en route to the playoffs, jumping all the way to the AL’s sixth best ERA.

Not many could have predicted that success, probably not even much-applauded pitching coach Mickey Callaway. Yet, after the team’s season ended abruptly last week, it’s worth noting that the composition of the 2014 rotation is now up in the air.

There are two likely-to-be high-priced free agents, one impending free agent after next year and a collection of still-yet-unproven youngsters and inexperienced veterans. Who will step up? What will the rotation look like? What moves are necessary?

Heading into 2013, it was assumed that the Indians would pick up a starter on the free agent market. They did so in the form of $7 million for Brett Myers, but that proved to be a disaster: Myers actually managed to have a -0.6 WAR in just 21.1 innings pitched.

With the below list, I count five likely starters for the Tribe as they begin the season: Masterson, Jimenez/Kazmir, Salazar, Kluber and McAllister. That would be maintaining the same list as this season, provided they can re-sign one of the two free agents.

But Trevor Bauer has to get consistent MLB duty at some point. What will the long-term status be of Carlos Carrasco or Josh Tomlin? Is there anyone else in the minors? And is it actually plausible for the team to re-sign just one of the two free agents? Let’s go name by name.

 

Justin Masterson
Turns 29 in March
Made $5.69 mil in 2013; likely to be $8-10 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2014 season

The de facto team ace is likely to return to starting duties for 2014. He had success out of the bullpen down the stretch, but that was due to his return from injury. The biggest long-term question mark is whether the Indians will be able to afford him past next year. He’s set to make a nice raise through arbitration.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Turns 30 in January
Made $5.75 mil in 2013; likely to receive $10+ mil offer
Free agent eligibility after 2013 season

Jimenez (finally) pitched like an ace over the last few months of the season. That will only make him more difficult to keep in a Tribe uniform. Some will say Jimenez owes the Indians front office for turning his career around, but unfortunately, that’s not how the open markets operate. Assuming he wants it, he’ll get at least four years and $50 million elsewhere.

Scott Kazmir
Turns 30 in January
Made league min. in 2013; likely to receive $6-8 mil offer
Free agent eligibility after 2013 season

The more affordable free agent option for the Indians would be Kazmir. He was a reclamation project this season, signing a deal just to join for spring training before making 29 starts and striking out 162. He’s not an ace, but a guy most organizations would love to have as a strikeout-prone lefty. My guess: $15 million over two years to stay in Cleveland.

Corey Kluber
Turns 28 in April
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

As we discussed in Friday’s roundtable, the development of these next two starters are key for 2014. Kluber was a big surprise this season, jumping into the rotation and dominating for three months. But an August injury set him back to end the year. Indians have to hope he can recover that success and stay in the rotation.

Zach McAllister
Turns 26 in December
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

Two full seasons, 46 starts, ERA of 3.99. Another impressive yet relatively inexperienced starter, McAllister also wasn’t great down the stretch. He wasn’t the same pitcher after a six-week injury absence in June and July. He seems to be a fairly reliable No. 4 or No. 5 starter, but won’t be a huge difference marker.

Danny Salazar
Turns 24 in January
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

The up-and-coming Salazar supplanted the guy below as the team’s best pitching prospect. He went from Double-A prospect to playoff game starter in one season, just like 1997’s Jaret Wright. Hopefully Salazar’s next few years are brighter however, thanks to the Indians’ watchful eye throughout the season. No questions asked, just let him go full throttle now.

Trevor Bauer
Turns 23 in January
Continues to make min. salary
Arbitration eligibility after 2015 season; free agent after 2018

Remember this guy? The perhaps too-eccentric-or-maybe-ground-breaking prospect? He had a 5.29 ERA in four Cleveland starts and a disappointing 4.15 ERA in 22 starts for Columbus. The statistics are brutal: 73 walks, 106 strikeouts and 119 hits in 121.1 innings pitched. Those are Triple-A No. 5 starter stats. I’d assume he stays in Columbus to start 2014. He’s not ready yet.

Carlos Carrasco
Turns 27 in March
Made $0.5 mil in 2013; likely to be $1 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2016 season

All the evidence you need: 9.00 ERA in seven starts, 1.32 ERA in eight relief appearances. With the likely departure of Joe Smith out of the pen, Carrasco can slip into a long-term long-relief role and perhaps some sixth-inning duties. That will keep his cost low and perhaps harness his innate strikeout ability.

Josh Tomlin
Turns 29 in October
Made $0.5 mil in 2013; likely to be $1 mil for 2014
Free agent eligibility after 2016 season

The Little Cowboy appeared in only one Cleveland game this season as he recovered from August 2012 Tommy John surgery. He’ll have the offseason to fully recover, potentially returning into a bullpen role as well. It’s also possible that he doesn’t return to Cleveland, considering the lack of available innings.

 

Conclusion: So there you go, nine possible starters and a whole lot of questions still yet unanswered. I’m sure there will be more discussions on available free agent starters over the coming months, just like we had last season. Almost all of these players have had long-ish periods of major league success. Now it’s just a matter of money and composition as 2014 preparation begins soon.

As I shared earlier in the week, my optimism isn’t high. Jimenez’s emergence was a key reason for Cleveland clinching a playoff spot; my odds are probably 75-80% that he’s elsewhere next season. Kazmir would be a nice returning candidate, but who knows how much his value is right now. Then, Masterson’s upcoming availability also casts into doubt how much the Indians are willing to break the bank.

In the end, Bauer and Salazar have to develop as future leaders of a rotation. If that can happen, which certainly is a possibility, then the Indians are in much better shape with a back-end led by Kluber and McAllister. But the young guys could need to step up soon.

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfel

Tribe Weekend Recap: Sloppy play somehow produces a key series win

Nick SwisherSloppy baseball doesn’t usually produce a winning weekend. Then again, you also don’t always have the luxury of playing a team devoid of offense who was already without its best player. They say it is better to be lucky than good and your Cleveland Indians most certainly would agree with that statement. They didn’t hit well most of the weekend and played some of the worst defense you will ever want to see at times, yet somehow they scratched and clawed their way to a series win over the Minnesota Twins.

The ragged weekend performance looked like it would come to a head Sunday, when four Tribe errors and a big mental mistake should have cost them the game. However thanks to some stellar pitching and a late inning blast, the Indians pulled out a game they had no business winning. “We know we’ve got to do better,” Terry Francona said. “But I’d rather talk about it after a win.”

Its been said many times late last week, but taking this series was of the utmost importance to the Tribe with what is coming up after Monday’s day off. While the A’s and Orioles were beating each other, the Rays were beating down the Yankees. All the Indians needed to do was take care of their own business against an inferior team. [Read more...]