Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Rally Killer

Jason Johnson cost the Tribe another game last night as he wasted a 6 run outage by the offense, led by Grady’s continued maturation at the plate (he hit his 8th HR in game number 43).

Johnson has now gone 0-4 with a 9.73 ERA and a 2.27 WHIP (that means more than 2 baserunners PER INNING) in his last 6 starts. This is not a bump in the road or a few “off” outings; this is a poor pitcher who’s being handed the ball every 5 days.

So does Fausto Carmona (who went 3 2/3 scoreless innings to keep the Tribe in the game) take his place in the rotation? I don’t think so. The idea of a big-league pitching staff is to have the best available pitchers going for you every night, regardless of their role. So why not bring Sowers up to be the 5th starter and leave Carmona as the long man?

Sowers has proven that he can handle AAA pitchers and Carmona has proven that he can pitch out of the bullpen, so let’s get the best arms up here to overtake the Tigers and the White Sox.

I don’t expect the move to happen until maybe mid-June (after Johnson get another 2 or so starts), but it’s looking like more and more of a necessary move.

Also, Tim Laker has been promoted to take the place of Kelly Shoppach as the backup C. This move doesn’t resonate with me, as the idea of having Shoppach on the team was to give Victor some time off. Well, Shoppach (who was touted as a “key” part of the Boston trade) amassed 16 AB in 43 games, while Victor has played in 41 of the 43 games thus far. This is not really a great example of getting your catcher needed time off.

The reasoning from the Front Office that Shoppach needs regular AB to continue to mature as a player is strange because, at the beginning of the season, the company line was that he had done everything he could in AAA and needed to be challenged by Major League pitching. The idea that Shoppach will get more “seasoning” in AAA just doesn’t hold water.

If the Indians felt that they needed more of a veteran presence in the clubhouse (remember that Merloni just replaced Vazquez on the roster) – fine. Just don’t give the line that Shoppach needs more consistent playing time and that Tim Laker is a legitimate option when it’s time to give Victor a rest. Laker is a fine defensive catcher, and a veteran signal-caller who has handled his share of throwers – but an offensive threat, he is not.

One line of thought is that the Tribe is trying to “showcase” Shoppach in Buffalo to see if they could move him for a bullpen arm, a 2B of the future, or a legitimate corner OF prospect (as the Tribe “prospects” have looked more like “suspects” thus far).

If that’s the case, let’s revisit the Coco deal. Andy Marte has struggled in Buffalo – enough so that he’s not seen as a legitimate replacement for a struggling Aaron Boone (Prediction - Marte won’t see more than 70 AB this year as the Front Office seeks to limit his arbitration clock), Billy Mota has been dropped from a set-up guy to a mop-up role in the 6th inning, and Kelly Shoppach (the “upgrade” at backup catcher who would prevent one of your best offensive players from burning out) has been sent back to AAA and may be trade bait. Granted, Josh Bard has already been traded to San Diego, David Riske has been injured, and Coco has spent most of the year on the DL – but the early returns aren’t promising. It’s early, I know, but so far – neither team has been too positively affected by the much-discussed trade.

Regardless of Shoppach’s future in Cleveland, this move has one other message: Keep that catcher’s equipment on Victor. You may be sleeping in it, for all intents and purposes, until October or so.

To make room for Laker, Matt Miller has been transferred to the 60-day DL.
Good luck, Matty. We hope to see you next Spring.

Heading down to the game this afternoon.
Field Boxes behind Home Plate, then back home in time to see Game 7.


Cy Slapnicka said...

Since I haven't been back to the Jake since September 05....all in favor of me making the road trip to cleveland for another big sox series this weekend say "aye".

The silence is deafening...

Just so you know, the weekend of the June 9th Tribe/Sox series in Chicago is also the same weekend as the Chicago Blues Festival. Good times.

t-bone said...

handful of us talking about trucking up to detroit saturday for a night of baseball, casinos, and bouzouki's sports bar...

Cy Slapnicka said...

ah, was thinking the sox series was over the weekend.