Bauer & Carrasco at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
It's been nice here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario, and I'm not talking about the weather.
No, these Cleveland Indians are proving to be Spring Warriors once again. The only question left with this team at this point is if there is more mettle than the 2011 and 2012 teams. The Indians threw a bunch of money at a bunch of veterans to take the next step.
Well...here we are.
So, do the Indians need to do anything to ensure that they continue their upward progress, and don't regress, as they did in the previous two season? It's a legitimate question, because this team is now loaded with game-proven veterans.
The pattern should be broken.
But I'm not yet convinced.
They need to do something now, and they need to do something big? The funny thing is, the answer isn't a trade or a signing.
It's time to bring up the kids...
Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco need to be called up to the Indians now. This isn’t a complaint on the current pitching staff, which has been far above expectations for much of the past month, but more a statement towards where this team needs to be in July.
The common thinking now is that the mix of Justin Masterson, Zach McAllister, Ubaldo Jimenez, Corey Kluber,Scott Kazmir and Brett Myers can hold the wolves at bay until June or July. This will allow Bauer and Carrasco to mature and “figure things out,” as they continue to pitch in Columbus. Normally, this line of thinking works for organizations like the Indians, especially when you consider years of control. Franchises like the Tampa Bay Rays have utilized a bevy of pitching talent over the years through control, and have generally been successful developing their top arms.
The Indians aren’t the Rays, and really need to have a different approach with Bauer and Carrasco, especially when you consider where they are at right now.
The Indians are 26-18 in the American League Central, and are in first place by a game and a half over the Detroit Tigers. This isn’t a new hat for the Tribe. Last season, the Tribe was an identical 26-18, and were 3 ½ games ahead of the Chicago White Sox. The pitching was solid, and Justin Masterson had just beat Justin Verlander. Two years ago, the Indians were 29-15, and they were seven games ahead of the Tigers. Carlos Carrasco had just beaten Edison Volquez for the Reds, and while that team was surprising, there seemed to be enough there to make things interesting.
No, these aren’t the same Cleveland Indians. I’m not going to document all of the Indians moves since last October.I’ve already done that. This team has major league depth, and a veteran presence in their prime that it hasn’t had in either 2011 or 2012. The Indians have a genuine lead-off hitter and a legitimate middle-of-the-order line-up. This team has young players that have blue-chip potential, and has a line-up overall that’s solid from #1 through #9. The starting rotation has options, and it has potential to be very good if all continues to click. The bullpen is still one of the best in baseball, even after the past couple of games.
That’s just my point.
This team can clearly contend. They already are. Yes, it’s early. Yes, the pitching will come to earth a bit. Yes, there will be slumps. But yes, this team will win games, and can do it in bunches.
The Indians aren’t likely to nosedive as they did in 2011 and 2012. They are more likely to win enough to be a thought come that pennant stretch time in August and September. Do the Indians want to be working out two new-ish youngsters, or do they want two players who have been seasoned through a tough stretch of schedule from May through July?
I say the latter.
My take on Carrasco is fairly simple. He’s got all the stuff in the world, but has a ten cent head with regards to getting touched up at the big league level. You can continue to worry about that with Carrasco, or finally come to terms with the fact that it’s time to let Carrasco fly or crash. You don’t want to be figuring that out in August, when the games could count. There are some out there that would say you need to protect a guy like Carrasco until he figures things out.
Here’s the thing.
We aren’t talking about a young rookie. No, Carrasco isn’t a seasoned vet here, but he also isn’t a guy that folks should be catering to at this point. He’s played 34 games in the majors at this point, over four seasons. I know he missed the last season and a half, but his arm is back. He’s averaging above 94 MPH right now, so velocity and longevity don’t seem to be a concern. He’s pitched in 65 games in Triple A already, which isn’t an overabundant amount, but it’s enough.
Let’s give him the ball. Let’s find out if he has what it takes over the next two months, as opposed to giving him the ball during a stress-filled pennant run.
As for Bauer, I guess there is more case to be made that he should stay in Columbus, perhaps even for the rest of the season. I’m just not one of those guys.
He’s only pitched in 34 minor league games total, half of which are Triple A games. He definitely has some room to grow, and one more year wouldn’t hurt him.
I suppose the question becomes whether or not he has anything to really learn in the minors at this point.
We know he battles.
We know he has the stuff.
We know he has the mentality.
Some say it’s hard to learn at the major league level, but I do disagree with that point for specific individuals that have the inner drive that supersedes everyone else. Trevor Bauer is that guy.
He’s battled through some of these early games, and he’s come through these games because he’s mentally tough.
Can he be broken?
Of course he can. He’s a major league pitcher. Some guys roll out their inner “Steve Blass” for whatever reason.
Like Carrasco though, it’s time for Bauer to start for the Indians now. Why? Again, do you really want to wait until July, when the Indians potentially could be about to start a pennant run?
It’s that simple.
Carrasco and Bauer need to start now.
There are perhaps more than two reasons not to, but I’m going to focus on the two big ones.
First, it’s possible that the Indians aren’t going to contend this year. While I don’t think they are a top five team by any stretch, I do think they have the potential to win 85-90 games, and make the playoffs. If you don’t think the Indians will contend, then there is no rush to bring up the two. I’m just not there.
Second, who do you dump out of the rotation?
With Jimenez pitching well, you focus your energy on Corey Kluber and Scott Kazmir.
Kluber would head to Columbus, where he belongs, or you could move him into that long relief role in the pen. Kazmir, as a lefty, would immediately become one of my left-handed relievers. If he can handle it, he stays. If he can’t, you thank him for the first two months and send him on his way. That’s the beauty of his contract.
Sure, there would be depth concerns, and you don’t want to play your hand before you have to. The problem, though, is that if you play it too late, you could lose the pot. In this case, the Indians have a chance to win the hand.
They just have to make sure they are using the right ones.
I like this team a lot.
Alright, I’m a homer…
…and I’m biased…
And I’d say that if Aaron “Freakin’” Cunningham were a part of the team.
But this team is different.
Perhaps it’s a honeymoon phase from an electric offseason.
But perhaps it’s more than that.
Perhaps it’s Nick Swisher’s infectious smile.
Perhaps it’s Zach McAllister’s steely glaze in the seventh inning.
Perhaps it’s the looping delivery of Rich Hill.
Perhaps it’s Mark Reynold’s moon shots.
Perhaps it’s Yan Gomes connecting somehow with the 1995 team’s late inning dramatics, and gunning down runners while he’s doing it.
Perhaps it’s Michael Bourn, rolling out infield hit after infield hit (yo Sabr guys…find a stat for how he can change a game…cuz he does).
Perhaps it’s Drew Stubbs gazelle impressions in the outfield.
Perhaps it’s Michael Brantley’s professional approach to everything.
Perhaps it’s Chris Perez, who’s actually taking the high road.
Perhaps it’s Ubaldo Jimenez, who finally looks angry.
Perhaps it’s Justin Masterson, who has a no-hitter in him…trust me.
Perhaps it’s Terry Francona, and Chris Antonetti, and a coaching staff that all seem to be working like clockwork.
Perhaps there is more to this team than meets the eye.
What if Ubaldo Jimenez beats Justin Verlander tonight? Have you thought about that? What does it mean if the enigmatic Ubaldo Jimenez looks like an ace again, and beats the unquestioned best pitcher in the American League over the last three seasons?
It’s an interesting question to ponder, as Jimenez seems to be gaining confidence and velocity by-the-start.
It still seems precarious to me.
Tonight’s start could be teetering point for Ubaldo. It sounds silly to think that one game could make a big difference, but there’s something about this game tonight that feels important.
I know it’s early. I know Callaway has had a fantastic start and effect on Jimenez. I know that Francona is looking big picture, and not at one game.
But Jimenez is Jimenez. He’s all head games, all the time.
Get it right, and we could see an ace.
Get it wrong, and he could turn into a pumpkin.
So what happens if his loose psyche gets another win against Verlander tonight?
While he has a long way to go to gain the confidence of the masses that he’s let down over the past year-and-a-half, this could get his head in rightsville for the foreseeable future. If he’s serviceable this year, he balances the rotation into the Indians favor. If he’s dominating, the Indians immediately become more than a “might be.”
There is something to the rhythm of his pitching, and the mechanics, and according to Tony Lastoria, there's a new reperatoir and pitch sequence...but still...
...tonight’s game is big…don’t kid yourself into thinking it isn’t.
Cavs Corner: Alright, it’s a Tribe site…I get it. I don’t care…the Cavs got the #1 pick, and damn it, I needed to say it.
Lonnie Chisenhall is a key to this team’s success. If not Chisenhall, then they need to go out and get another third baseman. Mark Reynolds needs to be the DH, and not the primary third baseman. Let’s let him focus on moon shots. Having Aviles and Reynolds as multi-faceted utility players is the best option for the team this year. I wonder if the Indians don’t go after a third baseman BEFORE they go after a starting pitcher this year. Getting another lock-sure bat may be easier than a starter, and cheaper.
Just how much do you think Michael Brantley is worth, with regards to a contract? I’m going to be taking a look at that next week. It’s not an easy question to answer.
Francisco Lindor will be in Akron BEFORE July. I don’t know if that’s even a bold prediction at this point. The only question from there is if Lindor will continue to rush his progress. What if he destroys Akron pitching in July and August? Could he make a move to Columbus, as Jason Kipnis did a couple of years ago? If Columbus makes the playoffs, it’s a given. Either way, if he starts in Columbus in 2014, how long before he forces himself into the big leagues? I say 2014 is his landing date…as long as there aren’t any bumps.
Cody Anderson…ace or hot streak or both? I just don’t know yet. There’s something there though.
Yeah, I want Preston Guilmet to be a closer in the big leagues. What can I say.
I can’t help but think that Scott Kazmir’s ceiling with regards to pitches this year is 100 or so innings. It’s optimistic to think more, and really, icing on the cake if we get more. Having a lefty in the rotation is important, but it’s more important to have your best five guys. If Kazmir is okay with it, I’d love to see him in the pen eventually. We need a lefty, and he needs to stay healthy. Of course, would he do it? I just can’t get Steve Karsay outta my head.
I'll be rolling into Erie this weekend to watch the Aeros kick the crap outta the Erie Seawolves with my good buddy, Steve Orbanek. If you're there, shoot me an e-mail, and will kick back and talk baseball...unless of course...you're a psycho. Then I'll give you Steve's e-mail.
Cleveland Sports Insiders helps kick off the IBI radio network week with our one-hour show every Sunday Night. I’m joined by my co-host and fellow IBI editor, Steve Orbanek. Steve and I will be chatting up those Cleveland Cavaliers, and what they’ll be doing with that first pick in the first round. Then we’ll talk Tribe, and really, anything else that you happen to want to talk about. Check it out, right here at IBI at http://www.indiansbaseballinsider.com/radio. We’d love to have you.
Here's last week's show...
Ahhhh…it’s a beautiful day for baseball…everybody…
Jim is currently the senior editor and Columnist, as well as the host of IBI's weekly online radio shows, Smoke Signals and Cleveland Sports Insiders. You can follow Jim on Twitter @Jim_IBI, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In five starts he has pitched well in four of them. In those four starts he went 6-7 innings giving up 2 or 3 runs for an ERA of 3.96. His one bad start was when he got blasted by the Tigers for 8 runs in 4+ innings, but he came back and pitched effectively against them on Tuesday.
He dominated the Tigers for 5 innings, striking out Fielder three times in a row. He made one bad pitch to Miggy Cabrera which cost him two runs, but otherwise it was an outstanding performance. There's no disgrace to giving up a HR to Cabrera in three at-bats.
Bauer is walking so many guys that he needs 100 pitches to get through five innings. He needs more time to refine his command. He's only 22. I say stick with Kluber for now.
Carrasco, OTOH, appears to be ready, but he needs to learn that there's a price to pay for failing to control yourself.
As for the rotation, I'm not buying Jimenez but I do feel Callaway has made an impact on the SP. Kazmir is another guy who is concerning. Kazmir has pitched few innings the last few seasons. I don't think Myers is 100% so there are concerns there... Kluber has flashed the ability to be BOR arm glad to see him emerge a bit. Carrasco and Bauer will be in the rotation at some point. The only question right now is when.
As for Cody Anderson, he was a lotto ticket of sorts when drafted by the Tribe. I think he could develop into a number 3 maybe more. Could become a Zach McAllister type, IMHO.
I think they'd probably have made the move to Carrasco over Kluber if Brett Myers was done for the year, but since Myers seems to be on his way back, there's no spot for either guy there. Kazmir, they have to give 3-4 more starts or so. In the games against Oakland and Minnesota, he looked like the best pitcher on the staff. You have to still give him a shot, because if he can actually find consistency and bring that stuff every game, he's your missing front-of-rotation guy. It's more likely that he remains inconsistent and maybe better-suited for the bullpen, but you can't give up the dream just yet. He's had two really bad games, two okay games, and two really good games.
Kluber is an interesting guy, you never really hear too much about him, or have a particular desire to watch him pitch, but he has the highest swinging strike rate of any Indians starter, apparently throws 96-97mph and has some decent-looking off-speed stuff, and has a career 3.77 xFIP. It's like he's a small adjustment away from being a really good pitcher.