Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Pavano Gets Nothing and News Roundup

So Pavano wasn't so bad last night, everyone else was, however. Including new boy Chris Perez. It's only been one game for him, so pump the brakes Cleveland doomsayers.

In other news, Fausto is going down low again, this time for AA Akron. After only allowing one hit over 6 1/3 innings in his last start for Class A Lake County the righty has been given another chance in his reclamation excursion through the minor leagues.

The key for Carmona is not to throw a perfect game, but to prove to the Indians brass that he can at least control the ball and make outs against tougher competition. A good outing for Carmona would be wonderful and meaningful for a team ravished by injury.

From the "News that will surprise no one" department, manager Eric Wedge has placed fourth in a players poll of managers they would least like to play for. The survey will be in the issue of Sports Illustrated that hits newsstands this week.

Cubs skipper Lou Piniella, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and Cards boss Tony LaRussa are the only managers to receive higher marks than Wedgie. Of course the difference between the other three managers and Wedge is that each has a history of winning. We could discount Sweet Lou because he coaches the Cubs, but the other two have won World Series titles in the past five years, Wedge has two winning seasons in the last seven. The other coaches may have a more abrasive style of coaching, but what we don't know about Eric may be the worst part of him. The players may be on to something.

Back to Pavano, last night we got seven innings with two runs, five hits, no walks and six strikeouts from him, not to mention that he induced eleven ground ball outs. That is pretty damn good to be handed a loss. Of course, Eric Wedge did get ejected trying to argue to keep the Indians out of that rough inning, but it wasn't enough.

It's good news nonetheless to see Pavano pitching well again, and with some of our ailing pitchers on the recovery trail maybe the Tribe can win a few before the season is over.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Laffey Poor in First Rehab Start

The Indians got pounded again today. No big deal, just business as usual.

The real problem that I have with the club today is the horrendous start that Aaron Laffey posted in a rehab assignment for Akron.

Lasting only 3 and 1/3rd innings Laffey gave up five hits and three runs, all earned. The worst parts of this outing for Laffey is that he gave up 6 walks in his short outing and was even afforded a slim lead prior to blowing up.

I guess he was just trying to emulate the other Indians pitchers (except good ol' Clifford).

Though this was just Laffey's first start since being sat down with a strained right oblique muscle more is expected of the young lefty. I won't dismiss the competition at the AA level, because the Indians have two players (Carlos Santana and Nick Weglarz) who I believe could compete at the big league level very soon.

Hopefully Laffey is not still hurting and will be able to rebound nicely and show the stuff that brought him to Cleveland.

In other news some more information has been revealed about the deal that sent Mark DeRosa to the Cardinals. Specifically about the PTBNL.

According to St. Louis Post Dispatch writer Bernie Miklasz's Twitter account the determination of the PTBNL will hinge upon whether or not the Cardinals are able to sign DeRo beyond the '09 season.

Fox Sports Jon Paul Morosi cites "an official with knowledge of the transaction" who has mentioned a few possibilities from within the Cardinals organization that may be available to the Indians in the coming months. Specifically mentioned are hard-throwers Jess Todd and Francisco Samuel.

Future Redbirds lists the upside to Todd beginning with his fast ascension from college ball through the lower levels of the Cardinals system. Todd has two plus pitches: a 90-94 mph four-seamer and a hard mid-80's slider that he uses as his out pitch. He also has throws an average or below upper-80's two-seamer and a circle change that moves like a splitter. Long term Todd projects to be a reliever according to the blog, overall he seems to be a hard-throwing pitcher that could impact the club soon.

Samuel is a reliever currently pitching for the Cards AA affiliate. Through 31.2 innings he has gone 4-4 with a 4.55 ERA and earned 18 saves. His strikeout totals are impressive with 39 already this season and 85 in 56.1 innings last year at the high A level. Though he is small, listed at 150 lbs., he throws a hard fastball, clocking in at 94-96 mph. St. Louis Cardinal Scout expects to see him reach the AAA level before the end of the season, making him a viable bullpen arm for a big league club in the near future.

Obviously it will be a long time before we find out the results of this deal, but with Chris Perez donning the Tribe cap for the first time tomorrow night, hopefully we'll see some upside quickly.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

DeRo Out for Perez and PTBNL

Everyone knows by now that Mark DeRosa has been traded to the Cardinals. Old News. So let's do what bloggers do and break down the numbers! (It's all we have really.)

In 71 games this season DeRo has hit .270 with 13 doubles, 13 home runs and 50 RBI. His OPS stands at a respectable .799 and he does have 1 stolen base so far this season. Clearly the Cardinals are getting a quality veteran who can help them in their run for the NL Central crown, and I'm happy that he gets that chance. I don't need to extol the virtues of DeRo's versatility because everyone already knows.

On to how good Perez is!

Chris Perez started the year in AAA Memphis and was quickly promoted to the bigs to help out the Cards 'pen. While in Memphis he pitched four innings, notching two saves and a win while posting a 0.00 ERA.

Since being called up he has gone 1-1 with a 4.18 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, and my favorite stat a .195 opponent average against. The kids throws flames, he consistently hits the mid-90's and has been known to reach back and toss a 98+ heater at times. So far this season he has notched a 2:1 strikeout to walk ratio, with 30 and 15 respectively.

My best bet would be that the young righty (he turns 24 on Wednesday) will be the new eighth inning guy to set up Kerry Wood. Though a few more rough outings from Kid K might make everyone call for a role swap between the two. Perez will join the team on Sunday in Cleveland and be activated on Monday. With Carl Pavano listed as the probable for Monday's game against the White Sox it seems like Perez will be able to jump in to the American League right away.

The other part of the trade is the infamous Player To Be Named Later (or PTBNL, stay with me folks). The Indians are notorious for making this move work in their favor, bringing in the likes of Coco Crisp and Michael Brantley by way of the PTBNL.

The most interesting part of this PTBNL is that we have no idea where the player could come from or what stipulations surround the picking of said player. This, of course, means many blogs will be devoted that exact question. Last year the Tribe got to pick Brantley because of a clause that dictated that should the Brewers make the playoffs the Indians would be given the right to select the player. We'll know more in the near future but I would love to see such a clause again because the Cardinals seem very likely to make the playoffs in the weak NL Central.

As for now no Cardinals officials would comment on the PTBNL. Not even so much as what level the player could be selected at, or if he was on the 40 man roster. Just more fuel for the blogging fire.

Stay tuned.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Down Low with Fausto

Fausto Carmona returned to the mound last night for Class A Lake County and pitched 6 no hit innings before giving up a single to open the seventh. In an article for MLB.com he recounted his experience, explaining that he felt good.

"It was good to get back to normal," Carmona said through translator Julio Rangel. "I was able to throw everything for strikes."

The rest of that article can be found here.

What I have to wonder is how important this start really was. I will not say that it is completely unimportant because what he did was impressive at any level. However, it's not at a level that really matters.

There is where the problem lies. It should be easy for a pitcher with proven major league talent to retire 18 straight players from the Class A level. Most players at that level are only a few years removed from high school or possibly coming right from the collegiate level.

I agree with Carmona that he should feel encouraged that he was able to throw strikes, but I believe that he still has a lot to prove. We watched as he fell apart on the mound in big league parks. He struggled to find the zone, and when he did often it was a mistake, thus pushing him further into his frustration and self-loathing.

I'm not sure if a couple weeks in the desert helped him to correct these issues of immaturity, but I certainly hope that they did. I hope to continue to see this progress from the Dominican pitcher and to see him soon in a Tribe uniform, pitching the way he did in '07.

Once again Wedge seems to have the right idea:
"There are certain things we want to see when he's out there pitching," he said. "If he proves to himself and us that he's getting beyond some of these things, then we'll continue to move him [up]."

There is a lot that still needs to be seen from Fausto and there is a lot of potential that still needs to be tapped. Hopefully the club can prove that they have personnel to develop their own talent, and bring Carmona back as the new, old pitcher that we knew.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Work as hard as you can

Didn't get to watch the game tonight, I'm still a bit upset about that, but here's a sample of news on the Tribe from around the net.

Wedgie isn't sweating, or so he says. His cool demeanor will go with him all the way to the unemployment line...but probably not until the off-season, at least in my opinion.

Carmona got a start at Class A Lake County tonight, more on that later.

Confirmed that 'Drubs is coming back on Friday. Good news for the line-up, bad news for Jamey Carrol who will get dumped from the top spot. However, Carroll is such a pro that he'll keep producing no matter where he hits.

A couple young guys are going to be in the Futures Game. Nick Weglarz and Carlos Santana will be representing the Indians on the World team for the minor league showcase. I hope to be in attendance for the game, I'll certainly have a post about it at some point.

I'll get some more opinion out later, until then enjoy the game.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Ugly, (Kinda) Bad and some Good in Pittsburgh

I'll be honest, I couldn't watch most of tonight's game. Partly because I was at work until 8, partly because of how god awful the game was going when I did turn it on. I did manage to turn the game back on in the ninth to watch part of the rally, and that was something nice to see and take into tomorrow.

However, after this outing I really hope that Carl Pavano is injured. If he can't blame this on the sore shoulder that has kept him out since the 15th then it is going to be extremely difficult to explain the way he pitched. His stat line looks like something from a sabermetrician's nightmare:

3.2 IP, 8 runs, 3 earned, 11 hits and 1 walk.

The only good part of his outing was that he only gave up one base-on-balls compared to three strikeouts. For now we'll wait for any news on that right shoulder and hope for a better tomorrow.

Another disappointment from tonight's game was that Jamey Carroll, as he has done so often, started the game with a hit. Tonight it was a double, the sad part is that the team could not advance him past third.

Being more optimistic we can look at the bullpen, who only allowed three earned runs over 4.1 innings. Sure that number could be lower, but considering how bad the bullpen has been being kind of bad is an improvement.

Beyond that we can find some good in the offense's rebellious spirit and never-say-die spirit with their ninth inning, two-out rally. After two quick outs from DeRosa and Peralta the offense clicked on, reaching on errors or walks and scoring by way of Shoppach and Sizemore home runs. Though it ended up falling short in the end, it embodied the soul of this team who has done everything it could despite the shortcomings of the bullpen.

From the shipping department:
Michael Aubrey is out and Jose Veras is in.

Aubrey, a former number one pick, was sent to Baltimore for a player to be named later. It's a shame to see to his talent go untapped. Yet another testament to the Indians inability to develop their own talent.

Veras on the other hand has been brought in from the Yankees to try to save the bullpen. Over 25 games he has gone 3-1 with a 5.96 ERA. He has allowed 14 walks and struk out 17, not the best ratio but a change of scenery may be good for him like it was for Craig Breslow last year.

No word on who will be sent down when Veras joins the club Friday, but the only safe arms are those of Kerry Wood and Matt Herges. The team is currently carrying three left-handed relievers, which seems to be most likely to change later this week.

If I had to pick a pitcher to send down it would be Rafael Perez. Right now it just doesn't seem like he is in the right place, especially trying to rebound from a big hit or a mistake.

Fresh Old Faces on the Horizon

According to Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com Asdrubal Cabrera's return to the big league club could come as early as Thursday. He writes:

Asdrubal Cabrera (sprained left shoulder joint) begins his rehab at Double-A Akron tonight and will likely play two games before the Indians evaluate him again. He could be back with the club as soon as Thursday.

The other item of note in his most recent post is that Sizemore batting in the number two spot (as noted in last night's game recap) is not a temporary thing. He said that Cabrera would be expected to fill in at the top of the order upon his return from injury.

This means it only took Eric Wedge a couple years to address two major issues within the line-up (Sizemore out of leadoff and Peralta to third). Now if he could drop Grady one more spot and leave DeRo in his best spot in the lineup (second), then we would have a really fearsome top of the order.

Now if the team could only develop their own talent...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Slump Busted or Send in the Clowns

I don't ever want to see another bullpen performance like this. Unfortunately there have been more than any team's fair share in the last week. Really there is nothing like a battle of last place teams to heat up a Tuesday night.

Grady Sizemore came back tonight with a real vigor for the game, it seems he was doing his best to prove us writers wrong that he can in fact make an immediate difference in the lineup.

On his first night back the center fielder went two for four with a two-run triple and a run scored batting in the number two spot. While his performance near the top of the lineup no doubt put a spark in to the team, he alone was not responsible for their first victory in more than a calendar week.

The real credit for tonight's 'W' goes to the pitcher who earned it, David Huff. He did what our pitchers could not do to this point: keep the bullpen out of the game. Eight strong innings allowing only four hits and two walks represented the young lefty's best start of the year.

Over his last six starts Huff has compiled a 3.41 ERA and notched three wins to only one loss. In his last five starts he has gone at least five innings and his last three have all qualified as a quality start (6 IP, 3 or fewer runs allowed).

These recent numbers are close to what the Indians had expected Huff to put up this season and show a great deal of potential for him going forward. With Westbrook nearing a return now is the right time for Huff to be heating up, and he certainly looks like sticking around past the All-Star Break at this point.

Without fail, in the ninth inning the bullpen had to make a shutout more interesting and once again contributed to the future heart problems of Indians fans everywhere.

Matt Herges came in to the ninth inning and promptly gave up a home run to Adam LaRoche. But he didn't stop there, instead allowing pinch hitter Brandon Moss to double home a run and bring everyone's favorite closer, Kerry Wood, in to the game.

Wood, doing his best reenactment of the weekend series in Chicago, let one inherited runner and two runs of his own cross the plate before loading the bases with the tying runner on third. Pitching to Adam LaRoche, who led off the inning with a home run, he loaded the count before getting the slugger to pop out to the right fielder DeRosa.

I'm certain that if this type of pitching continues I will have a heart attack within the next ten years.

However, this outing did serve to prove a point that the team has not given up on Eric Wedge. Putting up strong numbers in the win today and really doing their part in the field proved that this team still has the drive to win. The bullpen on the other hand seems as though they could start their offseason today and not care.

However it happened the Indians stopped their losing streak and moved one step closer to not being the worst team in the American League.

News from the Karma department:
The Chicago Cubs lost in Detroit tonight on a walk-off home run, just to prove that karma is indeed a bitch.

Eds. Note:
I may as well blame myself for this loss as I started writing this entry in between the top and bottom halves of the ninth inning, as a win. As if I hadn't learned a lesson. Never again will I trust the bullpen.

Sizemore nears return

According to reports from many sources, including ESPN, center fielder Grady Sizemore could be activated from the disabled list as early as today prior to the game against Pittsburgh. His sore left elbow has responded well to treatment after positive MRI's and it's looking likely that he will return to his post between De-Ro and Big League Choo.

His return would be welcomed by female fans and manager Eric Wedge alike, who is hoping his ailing players will help turn around the Indians recent plight.

In other news Asdrubal Cabrera has gone to Columbus for his rehab assignment and could be with the team anytime in the next two weeks depending on his shoulder.

Buster Olney has once again mentioned our versatile friend Mark DeRosa as a hot commodity. He links the utility man with the Cardinals, Mets and Yankees as potential landing spots. My personal favorite would be the Cardinals but only if we were able to pry young pitcher Mitchell Boggs away from the Redbirds.

Boggs name has been linked to a deal before, and certainly fits what the Indians will be looking for in return for DeRosa. In five minor league seasons Boggs has posted a 36-23 record with a 3.26 ERA. His strikeout to walk ratio 2.07 (410/198) has been very impressive as well.

Overall a major league ready arm for a rental player would be an excellent deal for the Indians, and I think that fans would be alright with it in the long run. That is, should a team be willing to make such a deal.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Wedge Watch 2009 Update

According to our good friend Paul Hoynes at the PD there will be "no rash decisions" on Eric Wedge's job.

Basically, everything I wrote earlier about the team waiting to make a decision is still true.

In this article he chronicles a conversation with team president Paul Dolan about the manager and his tenuous status at the helm of the club. He also goes in to a bit of detail about the Shapiro-Wedge relationship, going so far as to say that their relationship has become so tight that it may not be a question of one without the other. Again, see my first post for my feelings about this issue.

It is clear, however, from the quotes in the article that the Dolan's are upset and expected their team to win some ballgames and bring in more fans.

If I were to guess (which I will) I would have to say that an All-Star Break managerial move would not surprise me. Otherwise, we're waiting until the offseason.

Stay tuned Tribe fans.

The End is a Good Place To Start

It's easy to be a blogger when times are tough. As of today, Monday June 22nd, the Indians are thirteen games under .500 and ten games back of first place in the American League Central seated firmly in the basement enjoying a day off. Mired in a six-game losing streak beginning with a sweep at home by the Brewers of Milwaukee and continued by another sweep within the friendly confines of Wrigley Field the Indians season is looking grim.

In fact, after an early morning round-up of Indians news sites and blogs it seems that the team has been universally declared dead by experts and pseudo-experts alike. That makes this the perfect time to start writing about the team, because every one has something to say when the team stinks.

After being in attendance at two of the weekend games against the Cubs I would have to agree with the consensus that the Indians may as well start looking forward to 2010, most likely without Eric Wedge.

The Indians have claimed to be in wait-and-see mode in regards to the trade market for some time now, and most certainly have to be sellers at this point, as owners of the worst record in the American League. Wait-and-see mode continues for the fans, however, who are forced to speculate when the Eric Wedge era of Indians baseball will be drawn to a close.

Team Owner Larry Dolan refused to comment to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer on Sunday as to Wedge's status, sparking speculation that the beleaguered skipper may not make it through the off-day at the helm. However, team President Paul Dolan did clarify his father's statements claiming they were not "a statement on Eric's performance."

Thus, the impetus is placed firmly on General Manager Mark Shapiro, who (as aptly noted in this wonderful post on LetsGoTribe.com) will be hard pressed to fire his manager because of the clubhouse atmosphere that has been created in Cleveland.

The aforementioned post, along with Bud Shaw's column, got me thinking about what is necessary to right this organization. Truth is, it's not going to be an easy fix.

In the seven seasons Eric Wedge has been in charge the team has won the Central division only once, in 2007, though they did come close in '05. Those two seasons are also the only seasons that the club has finished above .500 under his charge. This track record is hardly awe-inspiring, and makes even casual observers wonder why Wedge has received such strong support from the organization.

I believe that because Shapiro has always worked in tandem with Wedge they have become almost as one, halting Shapiro from ever even hinting at replacing him. Which, unfortunately, makes firing Shapiro as well as Wedge the first part of the rebuilding process.

Of course, it's easy to throw the management under the bus first and call for their heads. It seems as though the under-educated Tribe fan has been calling for the same thing for weeks, or months now with torches and pitchforks. Right now is still not the right time though, because no matter who replaces either man things won't change anything immediately.

So how do things change, you might be wondering. Well, the short answer is they don't, at least not this season.

The team, for better or worse, needs to ride out this miserable season with the men they came in with. At the close of the season the time would be right for the team to part ways with the Shaprio-Wedge brain trust and begin again with new management.

The options to replace Shapiro begin in house with Chris Antonetti, who has been coveted by many teams but has shown loyalty to the Indians. The difficulty in selecting him as Shapiro's successor is noted in the Let's Go Tribe post which points out his complicity within the system which has become a monoculture. Antonetti may be too similar to his boss to create a new dynamic within the club and begin to make changes in earnest.

General Manager options outside of the club seem unlikely with the faith that the Dolan family has shown thus far, however should they have become distraught by the direction of the team it would not be surprising to see them select someone from outside the walls of Progressive Field.

The options to replace Eric Wedge seem less likely to come from within the organization for the simple fact that Joel Skinner, Jeff Datz or AAA manager Torey Lovullo seem more like interim candidates than a full-time replacement.

Some of the names of out-of-work managers are more interesting than others. Skippers with a winning history like Tony Peña and Bob Brenly come to mind right off the bat, and those like Clint Hurdle, Mike Hargrove or Buck Showalter are not far behind.

My favorite among those candidates would be Brenly, partly for what he did in Arizona and partly for his Cleveland roots and what you would have to assume would be a whole-hearted desire to see the club win a championship. Peña is also an interesting choice, with a similar Royals club in 2004 he led them to their first winning season in a decade and has the experience to draw upon to help the players (something Wedge certainly lacks). The other candidates are less appealing, especially Hargrove who claimed to have lost his love for the game.

It will be an interesting month until the trade deadline to see how the team approaches their managerial situation. Unfortunately, it seems as though we fans have to sit back and watch it all unfold without the hope of seeing our boys back in the playoffs.