Notes from the Wigwam: First half wrap-up, second half preview
Tribe looking to carry momentum into second half
After losing three of four to Detroit, the Indians won five out of their last six games heading into the All-Star break, including winning four straight and sweeping the Royals to end the first half. The Tribe finished with a record of 51-44 marking the first time since 2007 that Cleveland won 50 games heading into the All-Star break. Whether this is some kind of playoff premonition or just a coincidence, the Tribe certainly finds themselves in a good spot to not only call themselves contenders, but to warrant being buyers at the trade deadline to bring in sound reinforcements.
The three main takeaways from the first half of this season are 1) the offense is as strong as we expected despite slumps and injuries, 2) the starting pitching is performing better than expected with effectiveness coming from a few surprise sources and 3) the bullpen is performing far below expectations and needs to step up as soon as possible.
As the trade deadline approaches, it’s not yet clear what moves the Indians will make as far as bringing in another starter, a reliever or possibly even another bat. However, the latest rumblings from the rumor mill indicate that they will try to bolster the bullpen first and foremost, preferably with another left-hander to back up Rich Hill and hopefully give the rest of the guys a bit of a breather.
Regardless, the Indians are hoping to carry their momentum and stay in attack mode in the second half, which has a very favorable schedule, in order to prove skeptics wrong and overcome the second-half-choke label that’s been placed on them the last couple seasons.
July 8 vs. Detroit, L 4-2 (WP: Smyly, LP: Albers)
July 9 vs. Toronto, W 3-0 (WP: Jimenez, LP: Johnson)
July 10 vs. Toronto, L 5-4 (WP: Wagner, LP: Hill)
July 11 vs. Toronto, W 4-2 (WP: Salazar, LP: Dickey)
July 12 vs. Kansas City, W 3-0 (WP: Kluber, LP: Collins)
July 13 vs. Kansas City, W 5-3 (WP: Kazmir, LP: Guthrie)
July 14 vs. Kansas City, W 6-4 (WP: Hill, LP: Collins)
Player of the Week
Danny Salazar – RHP
1 GS, 6 IP, 1 R/ER, 2 H, 1 BB, 7 K
While it may only be one start, the fact that the spark Danny Salazar has shown all season long down in the minor leagues was easily transcended to the major league level is something that not only can add extra depth for the rotation, but also can change the whole landscape of the starting rotation as far as how desperately the Tribe needs to bring in an additional starter.
While I’m not saying the Indians don’t need another starter, getting one is not a top priority as of right now. The rise of Salazar, Zach McAllister (when healthy) and Corey Kluber has given the Tribe a nice shot in the arm, especially considering they can keep top pitching prospects Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco down in AAA Columbus to work out their issues without depleting their big league rotation.
The only problem with Salazar is he’s still fresh off Tommy John surgery and is on an innings limit this season. Since he’s already been pitching regularly as a starter between AA Akron and AAA Columbus, he still can be shut down late in the season, thus leaving the Indians without his services when and if they make the postseason. Unless they move him to the bullpen to stretch out his service time this season, his starting time is limited.
That being said, it will be exciting to watch how this kid develops and adapts at the big league level since he will more than likely receive another call-up shortly after the second half starts. If he continues to command and locate his upper-90s fastball and throw his offspeed pitches for strikes, he could be a rare home-grown starting pitching talent that the Indians haven’t seen for a long time.
A Rough Week
Matt Albers – RHP
2 G, 1.1 IP, 3 R/ER, 3 H, 3 BB, 1 K
Heading into last weekend’s series against Detroit, Matt Albers had really seemed to turn his season around after a slow start. He had gotten his ERA down to 2.08, but a tough weekend concluded with giving up the game-winning runs to the Tigers on an RBI double by former Indian Victor Martinez in extra innings. Since then, Albers has only appeared in one game against the Royals and gave up a run on two hits in his third of an inning of work.
Regardless of his recent struggles, Albers has proven to be a valuable asset in an otherwise scuffling bullpen as a long reliever. Considering that the Indians starting rotation as a whole has not gone as deep into games as they would’ve liked, Albers has been able to lend a helping hand in that capacity. Overall, he’s still having a solid year for the Tribe and proving to be a decent pickup in the Trevor Bauer deal.
If I were a Royals fan, I’d be questioning Ned Yost as to why he continues to bring in Tim Collins in close games against the Indians. He not only has a career 7.11 ERA against the Tribe, he’s also been handed the loss in three games vs. Cleveland just in the month of July. In fact, just in the last series against the Royals, Collins was the first summoned from the bullpen in two of the three games in which Kansas City was either tied or had the lead and gave allowed the Indians to take the lead both times.
Overall, the left-hander is 0-3 with an 18.90 ERA in seven appearances against Cleveland this season (3.1 IP). The 23-year-old also has two blown saves against the Erie Warriors this season. When is the Tim Collins jersey giveaway at Progressive Field?
News and Notes
- Premier shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor was promoted to AA Akron earlier this week after a stellar showing in High-A Carolina where he hit .306 with a homer and 27 RBI’s. The young shortstop also had 19 doubles, 5 triples and 20 stolen bases in 25 attempts. In two games so far, Lindor has only one hit in five at-bats, but has a stolen base and a run scored. A period of adjustment is not totally unexpected, but knowing how well he’s been able to transition between minor league levels in the past, he should figure it out sooner rather than later.
- Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis received his first career All-Star selection and joined teammate Justin Masterson at Citi Field in New York to represent the Indians at the Midsummer Classic. While Masterson didn’t get to pitch, Kipnis played second base for the American League from the seventh inning on and got one at-bat in the eighth inning with a runner in scoring position and two outs. Kipnis delivered with a ground-rule RBI double to the opposite field, something that us Tribe folk are quite familiar with by now. Salvador Perez scored to increase the AL’s lead to the eventual final score of 3-0. Kipnis also got the chance to play defense and record an out behind the legendary Mariano Rivera in the eighth and caught a pop-up in the ninth to end the game.
- It appears that the Indians are losing interest in Cubs starter Matt Garza, who is set to be traded before his next scheduled start, according to various reports. While Cleveland isn’t necessarily out of the sweepstakes for the right-hander, they will have a tough time outbidding the Texas Rangers, who are currently dealing with a plethora of injuries to their pitching staff and will certainly pull out all the stops to acquire him if they feel it’s the right move. Additionally, the Indians are looking to acquire a starter that has more than one year left on their contract. Garza, whose contract is up after this season, doesn’t fit that mold. The team has also stated that if there’s no one on the market they feel matches those requirements, they’ll be fine sticking with their internal starting pitching options.
- Right-hander Zach McAllister will make a rehab start for AAA Columbus on Thursday night as he works his way back from a sprained finger injury. McAllister made a rehab appearance for AA Akron earlier this week and pitched three and a third innings allowing two runs on four hits while walking one and striking out five. The right-hander is 4-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 11 starts for the Tribe this season.
- The rotation to start the second half has been named. Left-hander Scott Kazmir will toe the rubber in the series opener against the Twins. He’ll be followed by Corey Kluber, Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and TBD. McAllister could be inserted back in the rotation if his second rehab start goes well. Otherwise, Danny Salazar will likely be called back up for another spot start.
Jake Dungan is a communications student at Stark State College and an intern with the Akron RubberDucks. Follow him on Twitter @MajorLeagueJake.
After McAlistair's performance yesterday, I think it likely he will fit in the open slot. Columbus looks well set in pItching backups and replacements for the major league team both starting and relief if McAlistair is as good as he was before the injury. I don't think anyone expected the performance the Tribe has had from Kazmir and Kluber but it is a tribute to the FO that they had these guys.