Sunday, May 14, 2006

Storm Clouds are Gathering

With the 6th loss in a row, getting swept by the Royals and Tigers (at home) it brings new meaning to the phrase – when it rains, it pours…literally. Time to get out of town.

Heading off to Chicago for a business convention all week, so I’ll throw a couple of things out there to watch this week, when the Indians will face the Royals, then the Pirates at home.

The promotion of Carmona was a bit of a surprise, after Shapiro went on record saying that Fausto would stay in the Buffalo rotation last Thursday. What is he, throwing up smokescreens before the NFL Draft, like his buddy Scott Pioli? We don’t need the cloak and dagger stuff, Mark, just make your moves.

With the promotion of Carmona, the bullpen looks to shake out this way until Rocky Betancourt returns:
Long Man: Carmona
Matchup Lefty: Sauerbeck
5th/6th: Guthrie/Mota
7th/8th: Cabrera/Davis
9th: Wickman

When Rocky returns, either Guthrie will go down to Buffalo to further his education on how to pitch out of the bullpen, or Mota will be placed on the DL (something just doesn’t look quite right with his delivery in his past few outings). Betancourt would assume the 8th inning role and push Cabrera and Davis into the 7th.

Does C.C.’s delivery since coming off of the DL seem more free and easy? It doesn’t even look like he’s throwing hard, but he’s touching 94 and 95 on the gun. If this is the solution to him not straining any more stomach muscles, I’m all for it. He’s delivering more nasty sliders than White Castle these days.

Watch Westbrook on Tuesday to see if he makes it through the Royals’ lineup easily the first (and maybe second) time, then struggles his third time through the lineup. It happened today with Johnson. He cruised until the 7th, his third time through the lineup, despite a relatively low pitch count.
If he does, ask yourself: Is Westbrook best suited to continue to pitch out of the rotation, or does his stuff translate better to pitching 1 or 2 innings out of the bullpen? What about Johnson?

Why am I picking on Westbrook and Johnson, but not Byrd?
Let’s look at those pitchers last 3 starts:
Byrd: 2-1, 3.78 ERA, 7 K, 4 BB
Westbrook: 1-0, 6.62 ERA, 14 K, 6 BB
Johnson: 0-1, 10.38 ERA, 7 K, 5 BB
Byrd is showing signs of coming around to his career numbers, while Westbrook and Johnson seem to struggle during every start. Some of that could be attributed to them both being a groundball pitchers, with the Tribe’s infield struggling defensively; but every ball seems to be sharply hit against both sinkerballers.

Could Carmona’s promotion be an indication that he’s in Cleveland to take a spot in the rotation from one of those two pitchers?
Or could Jeremy Sowers, who is dominating in Buffalo, be just a phone call away?
Remember that Sowers is not on the 40-man roster, but (with Graves being DFA’d) there is an open spot on the 40-man.
Could Shapiro be clearing space for the lanky lefty from Vandy?

Whatever the solution is, expect the Indians to try numerous internal options before looking for help from another team. Not many teams are looking to throw up the white flag less than a quarter of the way through the season.

A few of those Royals’ relievers might look good in Cleveland…or maybe it was just the Tribe’s offense that made them look so good.

And, a little Lazy Sunday:
Sheldon Ocker weighs in on the Tribe’s troubles.

Paul Hoynes touches on some possible arms that may make an appearance in an effort to solidify the bullpen. Edward Mujica, in particular, would be one name mentioned to keep an eye on going forward.

Cross Steve Karsay off that list of potential replacements as he was traded to the A’s for cash.

Finally - "I'm both disappointed and concerned." - GM Mark Shapiro on the state of the Indians' pitching, particularly the bullpen.

Join the club.


Rockdawg said...

In order to put things in perspective on how early in the season it is, just look at the league leaders. There are some stiffs up there leading the league in different categories, just like there are teams (Twins, Tigers) that have no business doing what they're doing. Hell, some guy named "Blake" was second in the AL in hitting last week.

t-bone said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
t-bone said...

i thoroughly agree with rockdawg's comment. we were in the same situation last year. i am too lazy too look through the diatribe archives, but i believe i was calling for elarton's head start after start at this point last year, when he ended up proving me wrong. although i'm as disappointed as the next guy in mr. westbrook's performance thus far this year, i'm very, very surprised at this blog's author's thoughts that he should be sent to the pen. shocked, almost.

this may be different in 2 years, but if anyone thinks the tigers pitching is going to hold up much longer, you're wrong.

byrd's a gamer. mr. johnson is who i'm disturbed by, though. he's the one who's running out of time. like i said earlier, though, i guarantee i was saying the same thing about elarton at this time last year. however, we didnt have anything comparable to misters sowers and carmona sitting in AAA last year.

i guess what i'm trying to say is it's a 162 game season, and to be patient (as i was at this time last year). time to go to bed.

12:45 AM

t-bone said...

Indians call on Merloni
05/17/2006 10:44 AM ET
By Anthony Castrovince /

CLEVELAND -- For the first time this season, the Indians made a roster move that didn't involve the pitching staff.

The contract of utility infielder Lou Merloni was purchased Wednesday from Triple-A Buffalo, and Ramon Vazquez was optioned to the Bisons.

This will be Merloni's second stint with the Indians. He hit .289 with four homers and 28 RBIs in 71 games with the Tribe in 2004.

Merloni missed virtually all of the 2005 season with the Angels because of torn ligaments in his right ankle.

The Indians signed Merloni to a Minor League deal and invited him to Spring Training camp, where he performed well. But the club wanted him to get at least six weeks of Triple-A play under his belt to become readjusted to the speed of the game.

Merloni adjusted just fine. In 32 games with the Bisons, he hit .316 with three homers and 12 RBIs. He was also like a coach on the field, according to Buffalo manager Torey Lovullo.

"He and Tim Laker have been my right arm," Lovullo told Buffalo reporters. "They coach without being asked to coach. [The promotion] is a great reward for Lou. He's a very good baseball player and we knew this because he went out there and performed every single night."

Vazquez, on the other hand, never settled in at the plate in the early going this season. After beating out Brandon Phillips for the utility job, he hit .179 (5-for-28) with four RBIs and eight strikeouts.

Merloni took over reliever Danny Graves' vacated 40-man roster spot.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.