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Tribe Happenings: Carrasco should give rotation a boost

Tribe Happenings: Carrasco should give rotation a boost
September 9, 2012
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Some news, notes, and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

Welcome back Carrasco

Indians right-handed pitcher Carlos Carrasco made his first official game appearance of the season on Wednesday night in his return from Tommy John surgery.

Carrasco, 25, had ligament transplant surgery on his right elbow last September and had been rehabbing out in Arizona since the end of winter. He spent the entire season strengthening his elbow and building himself back up so he could pitch late this season, and he did just that on Wednesday throwing one shutout-hitless inning and recorded a strikeout. He was crisp and sharp throwing just 11 pitches – 7 for strikes – and was consistently at 93-96 MPH with his fastball and touched 97 MPH a few times.

It is hard to take much from just one outing, especially one that went just one inning and 11 pitches, but Carrasco could be a key piece to the Indians’ plans for the rotation next season. In case you have not been paying attention the starting rotation is the Indians biggest problem area on the roster and is an area they will look to address in the offseason, so any help they can get internally is a bonus.

A healthy Carrasco would be a huge shot in the arm to whatever ideas the Indians have going into this offseason to help fix those rotation woes.

Carrasco is expected to make another rehab start for Akron today in their playoff series deciding fifth game, and should they win and advance he will probably pitch once more game for them later this week. What happens from there is unknown, but with the Parallel League kicking into action next week in Arizona, the timing looks good for him to go there and continue to pitch through the middle of October. Winter ball leagues start up once the Parallel League ends, so he could transition right onto a winter ball team, and when all is said and done he could end up pitching in 8-12 games this fall and winter.

No matter how much action Carrasco sees in winter ball, he is going to have a very limited innings total next season. After throwing 124.2 innings last season and then throwing a low amount of innings this year, the Indians will probably monitor his workload next season as it is unlikely he would pitch any more than 140-160 innings next season. As everyone has seen with the Nationals’ decision to shut down righty Stephen Strasburg, teams are very careful with the workload a pitcher endures in their first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

What this does is paint a cloudy picture on exactly how Carrasco fits into the Indians plans entering spring training next year. Nothing is set in stone and things can always change at a moment’s notice with an injury setback, but it would not surprise me if he opened the season in extended spring training and then if everything goes well he joined the team sometime in May or June so that he can finish the season with the team without restrictions. They have done this a lot with prospects in the past where they manage their workload on the front end so that they can pitch through the end of the season, and I would expect this to happen with Carrasco next season as well.

Whether or not Carrasco opens with the team or not, if he stays healthy and continues to progress well in his return to form, he has the potential to make 20-25 starts for the Indians next season. When a team is looking to make critical decisions with their starting rotation this coming offseason, every little bit helps, and there is no doubt a healthy Carrasco can be a big help to the Indians rotation next year.

Callup shenanigans

Last weekend the Indians finalized their decisions as to who would join the big league team through the month of September. At the conclusion of Triple-A Columbus’ season last Monday they called up second baseman Cord Phelps, utility player Vinny Rottino, and left-handed pitchers David Huff and Scott Maine. These four players were in addition to the players they had called up from Columbus and Double-A Akron three days earlier on September 1st with the promotion of outfielder Thomas Neal, first baseman/outfielder Russ Canzler, left-handed pitcher Scott Barnes, and right-handed pitcher Frank Herrmann.

Most of these eight callups were not a surprise as all but Neal were already on the 40-man roster, and none of them carry much weight as a high level prospect or as a significant Major League contributor in the near future.  But the purpose of the callups is to get some limited looks at some of the fringe talent on the 40-man roster since they will have some interesting decisions they have to make in regard to who they remove and who they add to the 40-man roster this offseason.

They have several players on the 40-man roster that are out of options that they need to get a few last looks at to see if there is a glimmer of hope with them or if the final nail has been nailed into their coffin. Players like infielder Jason Donald, outfielder Ezequiel Carrera, outfielder/first baseman Matt LaPorta, right-handed pitcher Jeanmar Gomez, and left-handed pitcher David Huff are all out of options after this season. There is no way that all of these players make the opening day roster next spring, so the clock is certainly about to strike midnight on the Indians’ career for several of these players between now and the end of spring training next year.

When it comes to the guys that are out of options the Indians already have a pretty good idea of who is a part of their future and who is not. Anything a player does this September over barely a month’s worth of games is not going to do much to change the opinion collected over their careers prior to this month. What this time could do is help showcase some guys they may want to deal, though even if that is so, the bump in trade value for such players would be minimal at this point.

So right now it is about getting a last look at players that the Indians have essentially run out of time with. Players like LaPorta, Huff, Maine, Rottino, and others that are out of options, or players like Neal that were on the verge of minor league free agency.

And that’s the fundamental reason as to why players like outfielder Tim Fedroff and outfielder/third baseman Jared Goedert were not called up this September. These are players that the Indians have time to make decisions on, and at least at the moment, look like they will be offseason additions to the 40-man roster and give them their full allotment of three club options going forward (Goedert did not use an option in 2011).

With the Indians needing to play some combination of LaPorta, Carrera and Neal in left field and then Canzler, Kotchman, and LaPorta at first base, there just was no room to play Fedroff and Goedert. With Lonnie Chisenhall expected to rejoin the team and Jack Hannahan and Donald also needing time at third base, there would not have been much playing time for Goedert there either.

It may seem like a poor way to reward a player that had such a good season to just send them home without the benefit of a Major League callup in September. The players are definitely deflated by it, but the reality of the situation is that teams simply do not just call up prospects to call them up. If there are no at bats to be given or innings to be thrown, then they are not called up. And if the opportunity is extremely limited, then they will fill in those gaps with the Rottino’s, Maine’s, and Herrmann’s of the world. Anyone remember Niuman Romero three years ago when he got the call over Jordan Brown? Same thing.

With the absence of any hot shot prospects in need of a look going into next season, the callups are simply about getting some last minute looks at guys that are long in the tooth in the organization and to possibly show a team something that may spark interest in a trade. The time for the Fedroff’s, Goedert’s and others should (hopefully) come next spring training.

Perez throws everyone under the bus

Indians closer Chris Perez is quickly starting to wear out his welcome in Cleveland.

Perez just continues to stir up controversy, and this week may have been the last straw for Indians ownership and management after he threw all of them under the bus with some inflammatory comments he made about them to this week. A lot of fans may applaud him for speaking what they feel was the honest truth as there is no doubt that a lot of people are upset with the financial backing the Dolan’s provide and the team that GM Chris Antonetti has built with the money given to him. But Perez went too far in this case.

Whether by choice or not, Perez is doing a good job of pushing his way into a trade to another team sometime this offseason. The Indians appear done with his act which has gotten out of control with numerous incidents this season - some more severe than others - where he’s done things on the mound to show up other teams, called out the fans for not supporting the team, and even gotten into a heated argument recently with a fan in Oakland that was videotaped and went viral on the internet.

Right now Perez is not very well liked by Indians’ ownership, management, and even a good number of his teammates.  Such cold and ruthless commentary from a player should not go unpunished, but at the moment the Indians have carried out any kind disciplinary action toward him, which is dumbfounding.

Consider for a moment that this is the same organization that two years ago publicly scolded lefty David Huff for allegedly tweeting that he was coming up for a July start. They really seemed to go out of their way to make an example of him for that whole Twitter fiasco, which was harmless in comparison to what Perez said this past week, yet it appears at this moment that Perez may not get anything more than a slap on the wrist from the Indians.

I don’t know what the Indians can do or what they will do in this case, but they absolutely have to discipline him in some way in order to set an example for their younger players. In three to four years the young players of today could be in the same shoes as Perez and have the opportunity to publicly lay into management, coaches, or their teammates, so a precedent needs to be established with how the organization handles such incidents.

At this point it looks all but certain that Perez will be traded in the offseason. Given the hoopla surrounding the Winter Meetings, it would not be a surprise to me if he is traded sometime during those meetings the first week of December. He’s an upper tier closer and with him set to make a lot of money in arbitration and right-hander Vinnie Pestano already in-house ready to assume closing duties, the Indians will probably trade him in the hopes of fetching a good bat or two.

Kotchman hasn't met expectations

Remember all that talk early this spring about first baseman Casey Kotchman being brought in for his defense and his ability to make contact? How he would really help the Indians infield defense this season?

There is no doubt that Kotchman has done a better job over what the Indians have thrown out there at first base in recent seasons, but his performance defensively this season has not exactly lived up to the hype. Yes, he’s made several nice picks of low throws in the dirt at first base, and yes, he has a nice .995 fielding percentage; however, fielding percentage is often misleading for first basemen as a lot of them are at .991 or above with their fielding.

Kotchman currently has a -2.8 ultimate zone rating (UZR) on defense, which puts him 21st of 26 qualified players in Major League Baseball. He also has a -3.2 UZR/150 which is ranked 17th among the same 26 first basemen.  On the offensive side of things, among 22 qualified first basemen in the entire league, he ranks 18th in batting average (.227), 19th in ISO (.116), 21st in wOBA (.278), 20th in wRC+ (73), and 20th in WAR (-1.1).

No matter how you slice it Kotchman has been a large disappointment this season, which considering he was only given a one year $3 million contract is not saying much. But even so, he has not exactly lived up to what he was brought into Cleveland to do which was to play exceptional defense and be a professional bat in the bottom of the lineup.

Parting shots

Not only is Carlos Carrasco pitching for Akron in the playoffs, but third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall is on a rehab assignment with them. He played in two games with Triple-A Columbus to end the season last Sunday and Monday going 1-for-7 at the plate, and in three games with Akron in the postseason he is 2-for-10 with two RBI, two walks, and two strikeouts. … Through 139 games the Indians are now 59-80 on the season and 15-39 since the All Star break. To avoid a 100 loss season they need to go 4-19 in their final 23 games.

Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.

User Comments

September 10, 2012 - 9:51 AM EDT
It's also meaningless to quote won-loss records for Rockies starters. They rarely go 5 innings to even qualify for a win because of their weird pitch count/piggyback rotation thing. Yeah, I am sure the Rockies are mad they didn't hang onto Ubaldo and his upper 5s ERA while pitching half of his games in a pitcher park, versus a rookie with a 4.8 ERA in Colorado.

The Wright trade does turn my stomach as well, if the team that's had Wakefield forever goes after your knuckleballer, you should probably keep him. In any case it was one of the dumbest moves just because they acquired a left-handed 1b failed prospect, something they already possess many of in the right handed variety, and gave up a starting pitcher with potential, which they have a massive need for.
September 10, 2012 - 9:34 AM EDT
Let's re-examine that deal in two or three yrs. Both White and Pomeranz are 22/23 and both were rushed to the majors. White may end up a back of the bullpen guy long-term and Pomeranz could still become that 2/3 starter type. I'd still rather have White, Pomeranz, and Gardner than Jimenez.
I don't doubt that Wright gets a cup of coffee eventually but really? I think that's a knee jerk reaction, I doubt he's nothing more than a BOR type maybe career AAA pitcher.
September 10, 2012 - 9:23 AM EDT
Shy... read your note on Steven Wright's ascension to the Gov's Cup..Congrats to him for continuing to advance his career, regardless of where he's pitching.. W/R to his trade being worse than the Ubaldo for White/Pomeranz.. Yeah!!. the Rockies have to kicking themselves in the ass for taking two minor league pitchers who have combined for a 3-16 record in 36 starts/appearances with a combined ERA over 5.. They have to be absolutely disappointed about their results...
September 9, 2012 - 7:27 PM EDT
Well Tony,. like I've said ad infinitum, if Antonetti thought this team was enough better than the other teams to play in October, than he's either not watching other teams or he is and he doesn't know what he's lookin' at, probably a little of both. I think Antonetti would have a hard time winning in the Fantasy League. Pretty much anybody that watches Baseball Tonite would eat him up. I wonder expert on athletic talent that he is if he had any influence on the Browns drafting Brandon Weeden. Worst part he bamboozled the Dolans who know even less. As far as potential grievances from the Player's Union that's the least of Dolan's problems. Nobody good wants to come play in Cleveland now, it couldn't get much worse. Speakin' of which, has there been any update on Nick Hagadone's health and or grievance status? He has a tantrum, breaks his own arm, and wants to keep collecting paychecks? Good luck with that. I at least have the Giants and A's to keep me positively engaged. If I were in Cleveland I would be outside the stadium with a picket sign.
September 9, 2012 - 6:33 PM EDT
Also the thing with Perez that seems to get lost is, that this really has been his best year. I doubt he ever replicates these numbers and stats again. He'll likely go back to being inconsistent next year so just deal him so we don't have to deal with this dude again.

I agree he was totally out of line. I also don't give a crap what he thinks he about the owners and management. All I care about is that he goes out and does what he needs to do, and before this year he's been shaky. He's getting 4.5 million this year and is he really that much better than any other close we could have thrown out there....doubtful.

I ran into him at Lucky's Cafe in Treemont once. Kind of snobbish, so good riddance.
September 9, 2012 - 6:23 PM EDT
Tony you should know better than using one year UZR stats. UZR is pretty much a junk stat as is, and using just a one year UZR is completely useless. You can say that he hasn't lived up to the hype based on what you've seen him do but one year UZR come on man.
September 9, 2012 - 4:59 PM EDT
Shy....1. because they really believed they could still win this season and they did not want to trade Perez (or Choo) before the deadline and 2. if they sit Perez they are possibly hurting his trade value as every save and good performance he racks up only increases it (plus it may become an MLBPA issue too, who knows).
September 9, 2012 - 4:56 PM EDT
I believe what you say Tony, you are after all an "insider". But if this is a recurring trait in Perez's deportment I have 2 questions. One, why didn't they trade him at the deadline when demand was at peak. Two, after not trading him, why didn't Manny Acta tell him if you open your mouth again to the media, I'll let you on sit on the bench. The guy has average 1X closer stuff. What makes him better than average is his XX fiery attitude. One of the Indians emerging strengths is back end bullpen guys, so I'm ok w Perez going- I just want value for him, real value, not Lars Anderson value. And if calling out Antonetti will stoke the fire under Dolans to hire a John Farrell caliber GM when the season ends, then we will all owe Chris Perez a thumbs up for speaking his mind.
September 9, 2012 - 4:39 PM EDT
Tony- Do you have any feeling on what Perez's trade value could be this winter? He's getting expensive and is starting to gain the "clubhouse cancer" label, but he's improved in just about every statistical category imaginable from 2011 to 2012. Think he can bring back a ML bat or a MOR starter?
September 9, 2012 - 1:58 PM EDT
I agree that Perez spoke the truth, but he is out of line. He's really put himself in a corner not just with management and ownership, but with his coaches and teammates as well. Trust me, his teammates are tired of the act as well. He basically threw half the team under the bus with the comments and I've heard he has called out several teammates in private to management and teammates themselves. The guy just has to go, and I believe he is replaceable with Pestano and they can use him to fill a need elsewhere.
September 9, 2012 - 12:47 PM EDT
Seth, the only 2 of Perez's teammates that might have been offended by the Willingham reference are Cunningham and Duncan and where are they now? PS, did anyone notice that Steven Wright was advanced to Triple A by Boston and is pitching in the Governor's Cup starting tomorrow? I believe, unless he gets hurt, Wright will be pitching in Fenway next year and causing opposing teams including the Indians all kinds of problems. And he will still be a force long after Lars Anderson is out of baseball. That trade will go down as worse than Pomeranz and White for Ubaldo, mark my words...
September 9, 2012 - 12:27 PM EDT
The problem with Perez's comments is he's clearly got an agenda: talking himself out of Cleveland. It also is disrespectful to your teammates to say "we'd be better off with so-and-so," since that obviously means you think the guy who's currently playing sucks. Which is true, but isn't something you should say to the media. It reflects an attitude that isn't healthy, not believing in your teammates and the talent that you do have.

I think Kotchman's UZR is b.s., but he still sucks and I don't know why he's playing. It would have been smart to at least tell Laporta he has one more shot and see if he performs for a month. I guess they've completely given up on him though.
September 9, 2012 - 12:27 PM EDT
I'm going w Norm on defending Perez. He told the truth about mgnt and ownership. They ARE cheap and incompetent and that is the main reason the Indians are one of the worst teams in baseball. Perez has done his job, he has supported his teammates. Closers careers are more specifically effected by overall team quality than other positions. They need to be in high value situations in high value games to make a living, so you can't blame Perez for calling out Antonetti and Dolan for their flagrant failure to field a competitive team. No doubt if you take a private vote among players and coaches who is more popular Perez or Antonetti, Perez wins by a lot. The time to trade Perez- or anybody else for that matter is when their value is high. Dumbonetti already missed that chance at the trade deadline when SF and NY needed bibs to hide their lust. The reason they don't chastise him now is probably because they don't want to diminish his value further. In some nefarious way Antonetti is probably smart, too bad he doesn't know anything about baseball talent.
September 9, 2012 - 11:41 AM EDT
Giving Hannahan and Kotchmann atbats down the stretch is about as useful as keeping a manager who is a proven loser.
September 9, 2012 - 11:37 AM EDT
Santana has the agility and eye-hand coordination to be a fine !B.
Anyone who catches 91 mph sliders can handle throws.
Without doing 140 deep knee bends nightly, his agility may improve.
What about a 6-man rotation?
27 starts per pitcher; relief duty on the third day of 1 inning.
Save these elbows and shoulders.
September 9, 2012 - 10:59 AM EDT
I've got to read more closely. Missed the paragraph were you covered that.
September 9, 2012 - 10:57 AM EDT
I have to believe if Carassco is pitching in the majors next season, he would have some sort of innings or pitch cap. He isn't going from 2 rehab IP this season to 185 MLB IP in 2013.

Any idea how the Tribe plans to monitor or limit the workload??
My initial thought is let him remain in EST to rehab during April, call him up in May for the rotation and be ready to shut him down in September once rosters expand (have to believe there will be at least one pitcher able to come up from the minors to 'audition' during next September).
September 9, 2012 - 10:35 AM EDT
I really liked Jim's article on Perez' comments. Yours, not so much but you have the same right to your opinion as Perez and Jim. Free speech is for everyone, not just a select few. Perez said nothing that you and others have not espoused on this very site. Perez seems very willing to accept the consequences of his actions. I might also add that he has not thrown everyone under the bus. He does not throw his teammates under the bus and he may well have his detractors among his fellow players but I understand he is quite well liked by a number of players who admire his hatred of losing.

We find ourselves on differing sides of this argument once again. Probably a difference in age and life experience but I hate to see another of Cleveland's limited supply of talented players off to a competitor in exchange for players of lesser value.
September 9, 2012 - 9:29 AM EDT
Econometricians with thousand variable models did not predict the financial meltdown because a thousand variables do not suffice. Likewise the many varied stats designed to measure fielding prowess are banal. There are too many variables not accounted for.

Kotchman is the best defensive first bagger for the Tribe in 50 years - unscientific eyeball test. The same test that said the same thing about Omar Vizquel.

Kotchman's offense stinks. But an infield with Cabrera, Chisenhall, and Santana at 1B could be a nightmare.

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