Thursday, April 20, 2006

Call to Arms

After the Tribe took game 1 by the count of 15-1, the Orioles turned their bats loose on the Indians’ pitching staff to take the series. The 9-4 loss in the finale was marred by a 6-run 6th inning that turned the tide of the game.

Up to that point Fausto Carmona was pitching very effectively and efficiently; but he got into some trouble and it snowballed. It was curious that Wedgie left Carmona in as long as he did (or that he left Westbrook in so long the previous game), but maybe he was trying to protect the reeling bullpen (and try to get Westbrook through 5 innings to set him up for the win on Wednesday, which is no excuse). Regardless of the Wedge’s strategy, the pitching staff was unable for the second night to hold a lead through the middle innings and have some bullpen casualties on top of the ugliness.

Matt Miller went on the 15-day DL with an elbow strain, an injury very similar to the one that put him out for the year last year. All of the indications point to this being another serious injury that could eventually land Miller on the 60-day DL if surgery is needed.

On top of that, Rocky Betancourt went out with an “upper back strain” mere batters later. The Tribe is waiting for results from the MRI in Baltimore, but it sounds like Rocky may be headed to the DL himself, albeit for a likely shorter trip than Miller.

So, what do the Indians do? The bullpen is 1-2 with a 5.76 and 1 blown save in the short season. They need to cut this off at the pass before the ‘pen goes 2004 on us and puts this team, whose offense is rolling, in a hole.

Rafael Perez was a surprise call-up for the O’s finale, until you see that it was his turn to pitch in the rotation in Akron, could pitch multiple innings if needed, and the likely candidates (Brown, Slocum, and Guthrie) had all just pitched. Regardless, Perez did well in his MLB debut, striking out 2 in 1 inning and looked good doing it. Perez doesn’t figure to enter the long-term situation for a while (maybe 2007), but it’s nice to see him do well, which should build his confidence and give him something to build off of.

Perez will likely get sent back to Akron tonight, as a Buffalo arm will make the trip to KC to meet up with the team. The obvious names are Andrew Brown and Brian Slocum, and if Betancourt goes on the DL as well, both could be with the parent club by the weekend, with Jeremy Guthrie as the wild card.

After seeing the way that the 2004 bullpen sabotaged the early season, you have to think that Shapiro’s working on Plan J right now to get this ship righted. As we all know, the bullpen is the most fluid component of any team as one pitcher who was untouchable one year could be an unmitigated disaster the next.

The bullpen by this weekend could be missing Cabrera, Betancourt, and Miller (while Gas Can Graves inexplicably holds on), and could be replaced by Davis, Brown, and Slocum (or Guthrie). The young arms impressed in Spring Training and should get their chance to show that they belong.

This is why the Indians’ organizational depth is so important in this, the year they should contend. If most teams lose 1 starter and 3 relievers in the first 3 weeks, they go into panic mode. But credit the Front Office for building up the depth in the organization for a rainy day. Thank goodness, because the clouds are gathering.

The Indians start a 3 game series in KC tomorrow, facing starting pitchers with ERA’s of 5.40, 11.68, and 8.10. The rest of the AL is getting fat on the Royals. It’s time to join in the feast.


Rockdawg said...

I agree with Krems...Bachtel, do NOT go anywhere near that arena. I inexplicably didn't get the tribe on ESPN the other night...I've seen very little so far this year.
The Tribe's recent lack of pitching is killing my fantasy team.

rodells said...

Bachts, if you don't listen to Krems, he'll get Keck on you.

You don't want that.

And you should have told that little girl the O's have as much a chance at making the playoffs than the Devil Rays. ZILCH.