Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shakin' Things Up

As David Dellucci pulled up lame with a “hamstring strain” on Tuesday night (moments after I posted that we should stay the course with Dellichaels in LF), the problem of keeping Jason Stanford on the 25-man roster looked to be solved.

It laid out quite nicely:
Dellucci goes on the 15-Day DL.

A reliever is called up to take his place until Westbrook’s start on Sunday.

Go with a 13-man pitching staff until it is determined that Jake was healthy.

Nixon takes Dellucci’s spot in the LF platoon, Gutierrez plays RF full-time.

In the scenario, the Indians retain their 4 OF (with Michaels and Gutierrez having the flexibility of moving them around if needed) and keep Stanford on the roster in case Westbrook comes back and realizes that he’s still injured.

Well…the Indians had more moves than just this solution in mind. And the cause of the moves was the continued ineffectiveness of Roberto Hernandez. Hernandez, he of the 6.23 ERA, the 1.88 WHIP, and the one who has allowed nearly 1/3 of his inherited runners to score, was handed a ticket out of Cleveland – to go along with a nice, fat $3.5M parting gift.

In Tuesday’s loss, Hernandez was brought on in the 9th to keep it close in a 1-run game and pitched…well, like he has all year. He struggled from the start and removed any chance that the Indians had to win the ballgame, as Wedge watched from the dugout with an look of “get yourself out of this one” on his face. After Hernandez finally recorded the 3rd out, the damage was done and a 4-run lead had been re-established. The Indians went on to score another run in the 9th (which would have tied it), making Hernandez’s performance all the more frustrating.

Apparently, the frustration existed in the Tribe offices as well; as he was DFA’d the next day to make space for Edward Mujica from Buffalo. No problem at all with this move as Hernandez was never effective for the Indians and often downright maddening.

But wait, this creates 2 roster spots because of Dellucci going on the DL – so was it really necessary to do now? Couldn’t the Indians follow the scenario above, call up Mujica to take Dellucci’s spot and DFA Hernandez before Westbrook’s start on Sunday? That would keep Mujica and Stanford in the bullpen and still have a roster spot open for Westbrook.

But the Indians took the next step in recalling Ben Francisco from Buffalo to become their 5th OF. Now, generally, when a team carries 5 OF, it means that they’re running some sort of platoon system at 2 of the OF positions (as the Indians were doing to start the season).

With Wedge saying that RH bats Michaels and Gutierrez will get most of the starts in LF and RF, it means that Trot Nixon has become the 4th OF and the LH bat off of the bench. This is great and I have no problem with this. I’d like to see Nixon take some AB away from Michaels against RHP as we’ve all seen what he does in a full-time role (I believe it was last year and his performance as a full-time LF prompted the signing of Dellucci), but that still may happen.

So why call up Francisco at all? While he certainly merited a call-up with his International League leading batting average and solid overall numbers in Buffalo, when is he going to play? He’s RH, like Michaels and Gutierrez, and doesn’t seem to be more than a 5th OF. How is this going to help his maturation and development, sitting on the bench in Cleveland? He’s already been on MLB roster once without an AB, is that the plan again?

I’m aware that Francisco has hit RH pitchers (.984 OPS) better than LH pitchers (.644 OPS) in Buffalo this year, so some are saying that he will be a platoon in LF with Michaels; but, does anyone believe that Wedge will have a platoon consisting of 2 RH hitters? And the unbalanced success against RHP in Buffalo is not consistent with his history in previous years, so it is likely just an aberration appearing over 61 games in Buffalo.

Unless the Indians are using Gutierrez or Francisco to showcase them for a possible trade for bullpen help, the second move doesn’t hold water for me as it makes the OF too RH heavy with too many similar players. Finding AB’s for all 3 of them in 2 positions (with Nixon still in the mix) is something I’ll believe when I see.

For now, everyone who bought their Hernandez jerseys at the beginning of the season (all 4 of you), it’s time to break out the duct tape over the name as Browns’ fans have done for so many years.

After an off day today, the Indians head to the nation’s capital to try to get fat on the Nationals like the Tigers just did.

They face three starting pitchers named Micah Bowie, Matt Chico, and Jason Simontacchi (which all, frankly, sound a little made up), so the Indians can’t afford to let the opportunity to beat up on Washington pass them by.


t-bone said...

RE: R.Hernandez DFA

I did hear Shapiro say that they did the Hernandez move now because it was the team's annual "family trip", and they wanted to do the right thing and let him know now rather than in the middle of said family trip. Thus, all the moves were necessary yesterday.

Voltaire said...

I agree completely that it would be in the Indians' best interest to hand a full-time RF job to Gutierrez and see what he does with it.

Come Sunday, Mujica will be back at Buffalo, Westbrook will start, and Standford will be around as the long man/spot starter. All moves seem to have worked out well - except for those danged outfielders.

The thing that burns me the most is that Dellucci will be around another 2 years. Nothing against him personally, but with the glut of OF prospects the Tribe has, odds are at least one is capable of being an average or above everyday OFer. Why stuff the roster with Michaels, Dellucci, and Nixon to make it hard to find out? Just take two of those three for a platoon/veteran experience/leadership. But ah well - we're in first. It must be working. :)