Spring Training Game #27: Indians 5, Diamondbacks 4
Carrasco makes his case, but is it good enough?
Thursday’s game was one of the last opportunities for Carlos Carrasco to make a case for the role of fifth starter. Scott Kazmir appears to have the job sewn up, but a lot can happen in two weeks. Terry Francona has been extremely up-front with his belief that things like position battles always tend to “work themselves out.” He clearly has been alluding to the potential for injury, and Kazmir certainly has injury issues in his past that can’t be overlooked.
The unknown with Carrasco is how the Indians will handle both his six-game suspension and his potential “innings threshold.” If Carrasco makes the team, he would need to serve his suspension first. If he doesn’t, the Indians may still try and find a way to have him break camp with the team to take the suspension off the table. They’d do this by keeping 13 pitchers and either working out an “under-the-table” agreement with Jason Giambi, or send keep Giambi up and option another player down to the minors.
- Lonnie Chisenhall was batting third, and while I don’t think he’s ultimately going to be hitting third this season, it could be his ultimate spot in the line-up. Let me put it this way. If Lonnie Chisenhall is batting third, than either Chisenhall is having an amazing season, or the Indians aren’t. I just think that some folks have forgotten just how good he really is. I’m not trying to overstate or use hyperbole, but this kid could be a pretty special player. He was rated higher than Jason Kipnis at one point, and he could prove to be every bit as good as the season progresses. Of course, spring training does not make a season, but it can showcase the talent that he does have.
- In Chisenhall’s first at bat, he did a really nice job fighting off pitches then took a breaking ball on the outside of the plate to the opposite side of the field for a two-out single. It was a great job on with the stick. Nick Swisher followed up with another two-out single and Chisenhall showcased some awareness and aggressiveness in going from first to third. Jason Kubel has a terrible arm and missed the cut-off man to boot, and Chis took complete advantage of it.
- Brantley launched a two-out, three-run homer in the first inning on a 3-0 pitch that was up in the zone. It was a terrible pitch, and Brantley was just all over it. It’s interesting that in Wednesday’s game, Cord Phelps jumped on a 3-0 pitch to ignite a two-out rally as well. Perhaps this is a trend and a strategy that we will continue to see throughout the season.
- Carrasco couldn’t make it through the first after getting the first two batters out relatively quickly. Like Ian Kennedy, he gave up a two-out single and then a double on pitches up in the zone to make the score 3-1. After Omir Santos came out and talked to the righty
- Ryan Raburn is really showcasing his versatility. He played second base on Thursday and laced a lead-off double in the second inning to continue his hot hitting. Catcher Omir Santos followed suit with a drive to the wall in right that scored Raburn and gave the Indians a 4-1 lead. I like Raburn a lot. I’m not sure how much of this is spring training mojo and how much of this is Raburn just loving his new surroundings, but so far so good.
- Carrasco struck out Jason Kubel with a wicked slider that started at the bottom of the strike zone and was just unhittable. As Carrasco continues to get innings in and starts getting his control back, you’ll see him really start to work the zone. He struck out Bloomquist with another wicked slider outside and out of the zone that was just too hard to stay off. It was a smooth 1-2-3 inning in which Carrasco struck out two, and got the other out on one-pitch and a groundout.
- Carrasco gave up three runs in the third inning, but it very easily could have been a lot less dramatic. Michael Brantley lost a ball in the Arizona sun, and while there weren’t any outs, Carrasco took a couple of pitches to rebound. Officially, there were four straight hits without an out, and it was all started out with an Ian Kennedy single. You could tell he was frustrated, and by the end of the inning, it was all tied up at four. He settled down though, and really got back after it. He forced a bloop out and then got a double-play ball to salvage the tie. It really was one of those “lapse-innings” that I think you’ll see get fewer and far between as Carrasco continues to pitch this year.
- This team is a lot of fun, and there are guys that can play everywhere. In three games, I’ve seen Nick Swisher DH, play right and play first. Ryan Raburn has played the infield and the outfield. Mark Reynolds has DHed and played first base and will definitely play some third at some point. We haven’t even seen Mike Aviles, who will play all over the place, or Carlos Santana, who will be behind the plate, but can also play first and will DH at times. Boy is this going to be a fun offensive season.
- Rayburn wasn’t finished and lashed another double to straightaway center, over the head of the centerfielder. I just don’t know how he doesn’t make the roster, barring injury. Omir Santos followed with a single that ended the scoring for the day at 5-4. Enter the bullpen…
- Swisher made a nice play in right field on the track after only working on the outfield for the past couple of days. Then Mark Reynolds made a great play to follow it up playing in front of the runner at first that nearly turned into a double play. As it stands, he got the lead runner, and that really has to give a pitching staff some confidence heading into the season.
- You have to love Nick Swisher. He was talking to Rick Manning and Matt Underwood and you can’t help but think that he’s going to really change the culture on this team. Normally I wouldn’t say much about one guy carrying a team mentality, but this guy clearly has an energy that’s going to work. He talked about his versatility and how he would play “wherever he was needed.” He was discussing how incredible spring training has been, and how everyone seems to be on the same page. He talked team building and then leapt into a discussion about Carlos Carrasco and how he was a “fighter” after coming back from getting drilled early in spring training. Does the guy have any energy? I can’t wait to see this team play. It’s going to be a fun season.
- Carrasco finished the game going five innings, giving up eight hits and four runs, while striking out three without a walk. I don’t know what Mickey Callaway is feeding these guys, but he has them throwing strikes. This spring, the entire staff has 181 strikeouts, while only walking 64 hitters.
- I could spend hours talking about the bullpen, but I’m just going to make it as concise as possible here. They were dominant again. Joe Smith gave up a lead-off hit, and a walk to put runners on first and second before settling down and getting the next three batters in order. He was pounding the bottom of the plate, and while he wasn’t hitting his spots the way he normally does, you can see that he’s still struggling a bit to shake off the rust. He’ll be fine. Cody Allen was next, and went 1-2-3 in about two minutes. He did give up a rocket liner to right and a deep fly to left, but it was still a solid outing. Bryan Shaw throws hard, and was attacking hitters today. He was locating his fastball extremely well, and struck out the first batter with a wicked pitch on the outside of the plate, was helped by a nice play by shortstop Luis Hernandez, then just blew the ball past another hitter for his second strikeout. Was talking to IBI’s Steve Orbanek while watching him pitch tonight, and while he doesn’t have a ton of movement, he definitely locates well. What great depth in the pen. Matt Capps, who is still trying to figure out what to do over the next couple of weeks, gave up a lead-off double in the ninth, and after a sacrifice, the tying run got to third with only one out. Capps got a grounder to third that got the runner in a run-down out, and then he struck out the final batter of the game.
Tune in tomorrow:
The Indians are set to host the same Diamondbacks squad in Goodyear tomorrow night for a 10:05pm ET first pitch. RHP JUSTIN MASTERSON is set to square off against LHP TREVOR CAHILL in a contest that will be broadcast live on SportsTime Ohio. Justin Masterson is set to go seven tomorrow, and the Indians will showcase both Carlos Santana and Mike Aviles, who are back from their run at the World Baseball Classic. Matt Albers and Rich Hill are both scheduled to pitch as well.
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.