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Needing relief at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario

Needing relief at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario
May 29, 2013
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It’s time to jump off the bandwagon here at the Corner of Carnegie and Ontario.

The Indians have lost five in a row, and they’ve lost seven of eight ballgames.

They are clearly going to follow the same path as 2011 and 2012, falter heading into June, and ultimately fall back to the pack.

There’s nothing to like about this team.

Their bullpen is terrible.

Their starting rotation won’t hold up.

They don’t have an elite bat.


Okay folks, I don’t believe any of those. I was just copying and pasting twitter posts and facebook posts over the past couple of days. It’s funny stuff, when you get right down to it.

No, this team isn’t an 18-4 team.

No, this team isn’t an 0-5 team.

They are somewhere in the middle.

Yet, fans are jumping off the bandwagon. Why? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me one million times, shame on me.

I’m not jumping off the bandwagon just yet. Why?

Fool me one million and one times…

You really find out how good a bullpen is when a bullpen falters. I suppose that’s somewhat ironic or enigmatic or whatever you want to call it. This past weekend, the Indians got a major dose of it when Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez got rocked in back-to-back games, costing them two wins against the Boston Red Sox, and sending them on their current slide

Vinnie Pestano’s velocity is down below 90 MPH, and Chris Perez is now on the DL, with slight shoulder tendonitis, which makes Pestano the closer.

You can say what you want about Perez, but he’s been a very good closer. Yes, he has a big mouth, and yes, he’s a lightning rod of sorts for this team because he tends to open up his mouth when a microphone gets put in front of it. My suggestion has always been to plug your ears.

I could care a less what he has to say.

I just care about what he does when he’s on the mound, and in general, he’s been one of the best closers in baseball over the past two years. No, he’s not the team’s best reliever, and no, he doesn’t have the best stuff. What he does though, is get three outs in the ninth inning.

That’s his job, and he does it pretty well. There’s a lot of enigma to Chris Perez, but as nervous as he can make the fans in the ninth inning, he’s been about as rock solid as you can expect a closer to be. For those counting at home, Perez has been in the top five with regards to his save-conversion rate over the past two seasons.

Vinnie Pestano has of course been the primary set-up man for the Tribe, and arguably has the best arm in the bullpen over the past two seasons. He just hasn’t been right this year. He’s had a stint on the DL, and there are definitive signs of either more arm troubles or mechanical issues.

He’s been made the closer, but if you think that’s locked in stone, you are kidding yourself.

If you run down the rest of the Tribe bullpen, there are questions abound everywhere.

Joe Smith has probably been the best member of the bullpen so far this year. My only question with Smith is whether or not he has the “stuff” to be a closer. He’s likely the guy best suited to take over the role of the set-up man, but could he close? I think in the right situation.

Cody Allen has closer written all over him. He clearly has the stuff, as he can throw in the mid-to-upper 90’s and has plenty of nasty movement. He’s only given up two earned runs over the past nine games, and has a 1.80 ERA over his last ten. The only strike against him is that he’s inexperienced. Of course, that hasn’t stopped him yet this year, and Terry Francona has shown the confidence in him during a rough first couple of ballgames.

Bryan Shaw has been a nice find this year, but he’s had lapses in which his ball has flattened out. When that happens, he’s extremely marginal. The key to him is upside. He has an explosive arm, and seems to have a boatload of potential. Like Allen, he’s inexperienced.

Matt Albers has probably been better than folks give him credit for, but likely hasn’t been good enough to lock himself into this pen. It’s too bad you couldn’t donate his experience to Allen though, as that seems to be the one piece of the puzzle that this team is missing.

Rich Hill just doesn’t seem to be able to get guys out with any regular consistency. The Indians need a solid lefty, and he’s probably been the most consistent. His ERA is 5.65, and he can’t seem to get anyone out as of late. He’s given up five earned runs over the last 2 2/3 innings, and walked both batters he’s faced in his last two outings. You can really start to question the validity in even leaving him on the roster at this point, and “being a lefty” just shouldn’t be the only factor.

The biggest disappointment may be the big power lefty Nick Hagadone. I’m a huge fan of the kid, and like Shaw, he can be devastating. The problem with Hagadone is that he has a limited pitch selection, and he has a tendency to serve up the flattest mid-90’s fastball in the league. The results are rarely good.

Scotty Barnes has been intriguing as another lefty. He’s more in the role of a Rafael Perez, a guy that can be wily with a lot of movement. He has a good fastball as well, and is new enough to the pen to still have upside there.

The questions with regards to Barnes and Hagadone has been their shuttling back-and-forth between Cleveland and Columbus. On one hand, if they were pitching well, they wouldn’t get bounced around. On the other hand, they have waivers left, so it doesn’t really matter how well they pitch at times. If I had a third hand, their bouncing around shouldn’t matter in the pen. They should be ready…period.

Of course, they’re still kids, so who knows.

Preston Guilmet and Matt Langwell are also sitting there in the minors, and could provide instant help should the Indians need it. They’d be rookies though, and I’m not convinced that Francona likes youngsters in the bullpen, and certainly not as the backbone. I think we’ll see these two, but both with short leashes.

Should Pestano be the closer right now? My simple answer is no. But I get where Terry Francona is coming from. He sees the forest for the trees, and he sees Pestano as the closer of the future. Hence, he’s named closer. I’m sure he’ll get hammered a bit for that in the same manner he was hammered for leaving Chris Perez in the game on Sunday. He should have pulled him, but clearly he wants Perez to know that he’s his guy.

I get that.

I can buy into that.

That’s what builds trust, and while they may lose a game or two now, if the Indians manage to stay in the hunt, it could provide the Francona and the Indians with seasons of wins in the future.

But, I don’t think Pestano is ready to close now. He just doesn’t have the velocity.

So what would my pen look like now?

With Pestano, it would look like this:

Closer: Cody Allen/Vinnie Pestano/Joe Smith/Bryan Shaw

Set-Up Man: Cody Allen/Vinnie Pestano/Joe Smith/Bryan Shaw

…and the rest.

Without Pestano, it would look the same…without Pestano.

It’s not rocket science.

But Francona wants the message to be sent, and I get that.

I just hope that it works out.

Joe Smith is the glue to this team. He isn’t a dominating arm, but he just gets the job done. I’d really be interested in seeing if he could close for a short period of time. He isn’t that “picture of a closer,” but I actually think he could do the job short-term. The nice thing about Smith is that you know he’s not going to be there full-time.

Brett Myers isn’t an option to close, but he is an option for the bullpen. They are paying him seven million this year. That isn’t going away, so to be honest, if they dumped him, I wouldn’t be upset in the least. It’s clear he isn’t what they (or I) expected. I was dead wrong on him. Could he provide value? I think he can, but I’m just not sure.

It’s time to bring up Lonnie Chisenhall, and it has nothing to do with HIS numbers. It has everything to do with Mark Reynolds. I don’t think that’s going to fix Reynolds right now, but it sure can’t hurt. Since he moved to third base full time, he’s not been very good offensively. It is what it is with Reynolds, but I think you have to give him a chance to focus on his hitting.

It’s early for Yan Gomes, but it’s time to ride his hot hand while you can. I’m not on board with regards to Santana being marginalized by playing first base or DH. I say you put him at first and DH, and let him catch a couple games a week. Let’s make Gomes the primary until he proves he can’t. It’s clear that Gomes defense is better than advertised, so let’s give him the ball and see what happens.

I would love to see if he’s a full-time capable catcher. If he could roll out a .270 average with average to above-average defense, would he be worth keeping as a part-time starter? I think it would be a no brainer. I get the stats that say Carlos Santana isn’t a plus offensive first baseman, but there’s a lot of ways to look at it. He’s the team’s best bat, so it’s got to play somewhere. He’d be a definitive improvement at first over the guys that have been there over the past few years.

If not, I’d like to see Gomes utilize his versatility. If you don’t want to bring up Chisenhall, you can always allow Gomes to play a couple games behind the plate, as well as a couple of games at third. This would, in turn, allow the other guys to get a few more “breaks” from positions they’ve been struggling with a bit.

What’s my take on Aroldis Chapman throwing at Nick Swisher? Chapman is an absolute idiot. You can generally gauge idiocy in baseball by the statements used to describe the players by their very own. How was Chapman described by a radio talk show host in Cincinnati today? It was “Aroldis being Aroldis,” and it became abundantly clear who Chapman is. We aren’t talking about the next Steve Jobs here.

The first pitch was clearly an overthrow, and while Tom Hamilton said it was “over the head of Swisher,” it wasn’t. It was over the head of the catcher and the umpire, and had Nuke LaLoosh written all over it. Swish gave the resident Cincinnati rocket scientist his best “bro-look,” which clearly gave Chapman the okay to throw at his head.

That’s exactly what Chapman did.

Swisher got out of the way, nearly hit a home run, then jawed a bit with Chapman as he ran by him. I’m guessing it wasn’t in English, since Chapman, who can speak English, told Paul Hoynes today that he didn’t speak English. Yeah, he told him he couldn’t speak English in English.

“Aroldis being Aroldis” indeed.

No, it’s not good for a guy to throw at someone’s head with an 100 MPH pitch.

Yes, the umpires and MLB should have likely done something about it.

They didn’t. Is that really a surprise?

Brandon Phillips got plunked in the fifth inning, and I’m going to assume that this whole thing is over. Of course, it’s likely Chapman will pitch in Cleveland, and we all know he’s an idiot.

So maybe it’s not over yet after all.


I love Cody Anderson as a ballplayer. When you see a kid improve by leaps and bounds, it’s hard not to get excited about his play. Cody’s got it all. Can he be an ace? I didn’t think so prior to the past month. Over the past month, I’ve seen the same sort of skill set as a guy like Danny Salazar. The difference is that Salazar is a smaller guy, with a smaller frame.

Anderson is a big cat, and he’s really developing out pitches in Carolina. This guy may be the one player in the system that’s got #1 written on him. He’s not there yet, but the potential is clear. I thought for sure he’d be a lock for Carolina for the rest of the year, but with every start, my thoughts start to change. I think he’ll be gone by mid-July.

He’s that good…

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

User Comments

May 30, 2013 - 5:13 PM EDT
Was wrong on Myers...and Chisenhall...but still think Chis will be fine. They need him up to get Reynolds outta there...

Nubball...I actually can see the mirror in Allen and Shaw...that you see...will be interesting...
May 30, 2013 - 4:58 PM EDT
Ok guys, this is the way I see it:
Closer: Shaw
Set up: Allen
7th: Smith
Long: Albers
Pestano should be monitored in bullpens and given low leverage situations to observe his velocity and condition. My intuition tells me that we are going to see him break down, I don't want it to happen in a 9th inning meltdown that costs the team a precious win.
Hill, Hagadone, Barnes have to be given opportunities to show what they can do. Of the three the one that intrigues me most is Barnes at this point. Besides using him for long relief, I'd like to see him show what he can do in matchup situations. Hill has disappointed greatly in that role recently and Hagadone has to show command and mental fortitude. But you just gotta stick with it and see what these guys can offer. It's an Achilles heel for this corps. Where help might come from on the left side? Kazmir. We know he's going to be innings limited so at some point this season, it might be more effective to move him to the relief role to help the team and extend his serviceability to the team. Not because I don't like him as a starter, just as a strategic move, maybe after 125-150 innings if the team is still struggling in that role.

Perez, and for that matter Myers, are out of the equation, at the very least in the near term, likely longer. So you have to go with what you have, not what you might wish for.

I like Allen talking over Pestano's role mainly because I see him as very Pestano like and I just think Shaw has the stuff to succeed in the 9th. Given a reasonable trial period of this arrangement, you could always flip it or, if Pestano surprises and gets right, you can return him to his role and Allen up to close. But I really think something is off with Pestano be it mechanical or technique and if he's not right, he's just not effective.

So many teams bring in unheralded rookies or young guys to be major impact relievers/closers, I just don't think we should be so afraid of it. Try it out, you might catch lightning in a bottle and go with it.

Also, I haven't been too happy about how Tito has used his relievers in many circumstances. Example: side arming righty Smith to pitch to lefty Ellsbury. I would've gone match up lefty (Barnes would've been my choice there) and then gone to Smith after that at bat if/when a righty was due up. Of course, not pulling Perez when it was obvious he didn't have it. Reminds me of when Borowski was done but was still sent out there by Wedge based on his past resume, not on what was in front of you now. Sometimes you can be loyal to a fault. Handing over the closing duties to a 90mph Pestano is another illustration of that mindset in my mind. If Pestano was Pestano then sure he deserves it. But he's just not that guy. Not now.

Excited to hear such enthusiasm about Anderson. Hopefully he can make an Allen like climb through the system, can't ever hurt to have another stud prospect.
May 30, 2013 - 4:44 PM EDT
My agreement was what wasn't interesting. i.e., I agree, so I have nothing to say. Other than to give a nudge since you all disagreed when I said on here that Myers was a terrible signing because he'd end up on the DL and would be lucky to have an ERA below 5. Crazy-talk! Unfortunately I was right on Myers and wrong on thinking Chiz would have a breakout year.
May 30, 2013 - 2:56 PM EDT
Gee Seth...I'm sorry it isn't very interesting.
May 30, 2013 - 1:40 AM EDT
I agree its not time to jump off the bandwagon.

I mean our starting pitching is still very good and EVERYONE said that would be the key.

My main concern is they looked like "losers" doing that 8 game streach. Ok so maybe you should look like "losers" when your losing but it wasn't just that they were losing. They seemed to be choking, which does not bode well for trying to win a tight divison. Plus, if Pestano and Perez both end up on the DL for a significant amount of time its hard for me seeing this team keeping the pace.

It is mandatory for this pen to have its closer and top set up man. It allows Smith to pitch that always important 7th and Allen and Shaw to fall in the middle innings where they are best fitted. Allen might be a top set up someday but not this year. Then there is the whole no "lefty" thing. Which as I have said since Winter has really scared me. It is also mandatory for this team to have at least 1 really good LH pitcher in the pen. Someone who can get lefties out most of the time. Rich Hill has been ok. Hagadone is dominate but too wild at his young age. I am really interested to see if Scott Barnes or Gio Soto could get the job done. As an added bonus they could also serve as long men.

When and if Brett Meyers gets back it might be time to move Matt Albers. I would give Meyers another shot at the rotation because of his stubborn vet leadership and ability to eat innings. He adds a nice veteran touch to the starting rotation. But, Corey Kluber has been too good to just ship back to Columbus for too long. I would like to see him perhaps added to the bullpen. It could help until Perez gets back.

I could see him moving into a "utilty" role in the bullpen. He could serve as a long man, middle innings guy and even set up man sometimes. It would take pressure off Allen and Shaw and give us a solid guy to use during a tie game or when were behind by 1 or 2 runs.

I feel with Gomes we really only need a 3 man bench so I would go with an 8 man bullpen. It might sound crazy but I think a super stocked bullpen would help more then having somone like Chord Phelps ride the bench.

Barnes/Soto/Hagadone. If all the lefties fail look to make a trade or go with one lefty and keep Albers in the pen. I love big and dominate bullpens.
May 29, 2013 - 10:34 PM EDT
I knew you would eventually see the light re: Myers, Jim. I agree with everything here, which isn't very interesting.

Santana, I've always defended as a catcher, but the past week he's looked like he's actively trying to lose the job. Not sure if he's a little banged up, or if his slump on offense is effecting his defense, or what. His throws have been off. Shades of Lou Marson circa 2012. Gomes has got to be the surprise of the year. I mostly assumed he couldn't be good because the Jays included him in a trade that you could say was lopsided in the Indians' favor even before he was included. Throw-ins aren't usually much. Maybe our standards are low for catching defense, but he's looked, not only serviceable, but as potentially above average.
May 29, 2013 - 7:48 PM EDT
Good stuff Jim, but I have to assume Perez will have chronic shoulder problems going forward . He needs the 95 and he needs the command, those are the things that made him special in 2011 and H1 2012. He hasn't had them, and he has admitted to shoulder trouble dating back to at least March, when he yanked himself from the WBC roster. You don't want to go back and forth with this guy for the rest of the season to find out in the end what you can project now, but it would be par for the course if the Indians did just that, that's how they roll and why they haven't won the World Series in 64 years. I feel the same way about Pestano, chronic inflammation is often lethal to pitchers. Does anyone know why Yan Gomes is not playing? Another costly error by Santana last nite- it's getting embarrassing, that's 3 in the last 2 games. I can't imagine he'd be in there today if something wasn't wrong w Gomes.

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