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Tribe Happenings: Third time the charm with this hot start?

Tribe Happenings: Third time the charm with this hot start?
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Some news, notes and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

Quarter pole review

The Indians just passed the quarter pole in the season, which is typically the time when the fans and the front office reassess the team.  Sitting at 24-17 and winners of 16 of their last 20 games, the Indians are playing well and hitting on all cylinders.

The Indians are ahead of last year’s pace by a game as the 2012 Indians were 23-18 after 41 games, and they are two games behind the pace of the 2011 Indians who were 26-15 after 41 games. With the Indians off to their third straight good start, the question remains: are they for real?

The IBI’s Jim Piascik will be doing a 40-game review of the actual performances of the players in a piece that will post on Monday, so I won’t delve too much into the individual performances to date. Instead, I will tough on some of the things that have led to their success and why this year’s good start may be more sustainable than the prior two seasons.

The biggest difference between the 2013 version of the Indians lies on the top step of the Indians dugout with Terry Francona at the helm instead of Manny Acta, and beyond that the bevy of veterans on the roster like Nick Swisher,Jason GiambiMike AvilesRyan RaburnMark ReynoldsBrett Myers and others who were brought in to provide what this team lacked more than anything: leadership and direction.

Now, there is no doubt that the offensive and defensive contributions from those additions have been huge, but there is no denying that the Indians clubhouse is a much different entity this season as compared to recent seasons. The chemistry and the way this team has so quickly come together – they have 13 entirely new players on the 25-man roster this year – is a testament to way the veterans have led and how the team has bought in to Francona’s message.

Beyond that major intangible, the actual talent on the roster is actually much better. The Indians no longer have theOrlando Cabrera’s, Shelley Duncan’s, Casey Kotchman’s, Johnny Damon’s and other past their sell by date players clogging up the roster and playing meaningful innings day in and day out. They now have a legitimate major league quality player playing at every position where they are at least an average player.

Asdrubal CabreraJason Kipnis, Mark Reynolds, Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Carlos Santana are no doubt at least average to above average players at their positions. The only two positions where they may just be slightly above average or slightly below average - depending on how you slice it - are with Michael Brantley and Drew Stubbs. However, considering how well-rounded those two players are and how they can impact a game in so many ways, I would still call them average players. On top of that they have a guy in Mike Aviles on the bench who might be a solid average player himself.

But the biggest difference between the lineup this season and in 2012 and 2011 is the power this team has up and down the lineup. They are pounding out extra base hits at an extraordinary clip and are hitting a lot of long balls. Check out their numbers through 41 games this season and where they rank compared to the previous two seasons:

  2011 2012 2013
Batting average .250 (9th) .251 (9th) .265 (4th)
On-base percentage .317 (8th) .324 (6th) .335 (3rd)
Slugging percentage .396 (10th) .381 (13th) .458 (1st)
OPS .714 (10th) .705 (13th) .793 (1st)
Runs per game 4.3 (9th) 4.1 (13th) 4.9 (5th)
Home runs  154 (9th) 136 (12th) 56 (1st)
ISO (Isolated Power) .146 (9th) .131 (13th) .194 (1st)

Now, of course, 2011 and 2012 are based on 162 game seasons whereas 2013 is only through 41 games, so there is a lot of time for the offense to fall back. But there is no denying the power this team is showing so far as it has been a key reason for their success so far and will be a key to their success the remainder of the season.

On the pitching front, the Indians have not been blowing anyone away, but Justin Masterson and Zach McAllisterhave quickly become a nice one-two punch at the top of the rotation. In addition to that, Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir are getting more consistent with each start they make and have become reliable options in the middle of the rotation. Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber have also done a nice job filling in as the fifth starter or in spot duty.

I mentioned it before the season that if the Indians just got average pitching and it kept them in the game that they will win a lot of games this season. So far that has held true. Check out the numbers this season compared to the 2011 and 2012 seasons:

  2011 2012 2013
Team ERA 4.23 (10th) 4.78 (14th) 3.92 (7th)
Starter's ERA 4.51 (10th) 5.25 (13th) 4.36 (7th)
Bullpen ERA 3.71 (5th) 3.99 (13th) 3.08 (4th)
Home runs allowed 153 (8th) 174 (9th) 50 (6th)
Walks 463 (11th) 543 (2nd) 146 (5th)
Strikeouts 1024 (13th) 1086 (13th) 339 (7th)
Batting average against .263 (11th) .268 (12th) .236 (3rd)
WHIP 1.34 (10th) 1.42 (14th) 1.28 (7th)

Again, this is only through 41 games this season compared to full 162-game seasons in 2011 and 2012; however, the Indians have been much more of a league average pitching staff this season. That improvement in and of itself may be the biggest reason why their start to date is more sustainable.

Bottom line, the starting pitchers are pitching deeper into games, the best relievers are being better used late in games, the lineup is tough one through nine with the power to come back on a team at any time, and to top it all off they have outstanding leadership in the dugout from the manager on down to the players on the field.

All of that adds up to a pretty good baseball team and a team that – barring a rash of injuries – should be in the playoff hunt all season. Yes, this team has failed to maintain early season success in 2011 and 2012, but those were completely different teams which overachieved the first two months of each of those seasons. This team is much different and it can be argued that the best has yet to come with this team now that they are healthy and at full strength.

Keys to the turnaround

The Indians were 11-13 at the start of May, but since then they are 13-4 this month and the hottest team in baseball.

The Indians really managed a tough situation in April where they were never completely healthy as they lost players like Brett Myers, Scott Kazmir and Michael Bourn to time on the disabled list, and they also had regulars such as Carlos Santana, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, and others miss a few games with minor bumps and bruises.

But they were able to weather the storm because of the solid bench that they built in the offseason with the likes of Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn, Jason Giambi and Yan Gomes all being major league quality options that could start for a good amount of teams.

The depth of the roster was what helped keep the team afloat while they waited to get healthy, but it is the rejuvenated Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir on the mound and the return of Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera as forces at the top of the lineup that have been the true keys to the turnaround.

Over his last four starts Jimenez is 3-0 with a 1.90 ERA, and in 23.2 innings has allowed 17 hits, 8 walks, and has 29 strikeouts. The consistency of his stuff has been there and most importantly he is walking less hitters and striking out more hitters.

Over his last four starts Kazmir is 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA, and in 22.0 innings has allowed 21 hits, 5 walks, and has 24 strikeouts. He had a minor hiccup his last time out, but the quality of his outings continues to get better and when you have a 5:1 strikeout to walk ratio that is pretty darn good.

With Justin Masterson (6-2, 3.14 ERA) and Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.65 ERA) pitching at an All-Star level, the emergence of Jimenez and Kazmir as steady middle of the rotation pitchers has been huge. If both even come close to sniffing previous levels of success they had when they were at the top of their game and Masterson and McAllister continue to do what they have been doing, then the Indians have themselves a very formidable four pitchers at the front of their rotation. That just leaves the fifth spot which the Indians can piece together with the likes of Brett Myers, Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco.

On the offensive side of things, the return of Jason Kipnis this month has been a huge key.  After a brutal April where he hit .200/.269/.286 with 1 HR and 4 RBI in 70 at bats, he is red hot in May hitting .295/.362/.738 with 6 HR and 19 RBI in 61 at bats. The overall quality of his at bats have improved tremendously in May, and you have to wonder if the elbow issue he dealt with in April had a much bigger effect on his play than we initially thought.

I said it before the season, and he is proving it now, and that is that Kipnis is the straw that stirs this offense. He is the bridge between Bourn and the middle of the lineup and can really impact a game in so many ways offensively.

Not to be overlooked is Asdrubal Cabrera because he is probably the second most important player in the lineup. Entering play on April 28th he was hitting .162 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and .509 OPS in 18 games. In 21 games since then he is hitting .313 with 2 HR, 14 RBI and .921 OPS, and it is no surprise that the Indians recent run of success coincides with his turnaround offensively.

Ever since Francona swapped places in the batting order between Kipnis and Cabrera and put Kipnis in the two-hole and Cabrera in the three-hole things have magically come into place for the lineup. With Kipnis and Cabrera finally playing well it gives the Indians run production trio of Nick Swisher, Carlos Santana and Mark Reynolds many more opportunities to drive in runs. And that is a good thing.

Chisenhall sent out

The Indians made their first significant roster change on Monday when they optioned third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall to Triple-A Columbus.

While the Indians have had to juggle the roster some the first month and a half of the season due to injuries, the decision to send Chisenhall to Columbus was the first roster decision the Indians have made this season based on performance. As the Indians near the 40-game mark they may soon make some other decisions with other positions on the roster as well.

The move did not come as much of a surprise as Chisenhall was hitting just .213 with three homers, 11 RBI and .604 OPS in 26 games. He also had just three walks compared to 22 strikeouts in 94 at bats. The struggles even carried into his game defensively as he had four errors in 58 total chances for a .931 fielding percentage.

Among third basemen in all of baseball Chisenhall ranked 27th in batting average (.213), 29th in hits (20), 31st in walks (3), 19th in strikeouts (22), 22nd in home runs (3), 28th in on-base percentage (.253), 25th in slugging percentage (.351), 26th in OPS (.604), and 23rd in WAR (0.1). Defensively, he ranked 20th in fielding percentage (.931).

The poor early showing comes off of what was an excellent showing in spring training when Chisenhall hit .400 with four homers, 12 RBI and 1.123 OPS in 60 at bats, and had a solid seven walks and only nine strikeouts. But the bat and good approach did not carry over into the start of the regular season as his plate discipline crumbled and his at bats have gone downhill ever since.

Chisenhall’s struggles against lefties have also continued this season as he was just 2-for-22 (.091) against them prior to his demotion.  The last straw might have come on Sunday in Detroit when he made a costly throwing error and had some very poor at bats over the course of the game.

Bottom line, even though the Indians were less than 40 games into the season, it was time to make a change as Chisenhall lacked much consistency in all phases of the game. Barring an injury forcing him back into the big league mix, he should spend a considerable amount of time in Columbus to get his swing right, his approach at the plate more consistent, and become a little more reliable defensively.

One he gets over the disappointment of being sent to Columbus, what Chisenhall needs more than anything is a chance to take a deep breath, relax and find a way to get his talents at the plate to more consistently show. The Indians still believe he is their long term third baseman, but at the same time he was clearly pressing and things were compounding on him at the plate and not getting better.

The sample size of less than 100 at bats and fewer than 40 games is small, but the Indians could ill afford to be overly patient and let Chisenhall work through his struggles at the major league level. If they were rebuilding and not in contention they could run him out there every day at third base and let him play the entire season no matter how he performed and then evaluate him at the end of the season. But they are in contention and expected to win now, which means patience is a lot shorter and consistency and reliability is a must by everyone on the roster.

Chisenhall is still hitting just 22-for-110 (.200) against lefties in his career with two walks and 29 strikeouts. Improving against left-handed pitching will continue to be one of the main areas of focus for him and getting more consistent in that area is what is going to separate him from being an everyday player or a platoon player at the big league level.

With the versatile Mike Aviles and red hot Mark Reynolds the Indians had in house alternatives that they could turn to at third base that are no worse defensively than Chisenhall but are more consistent and reliable players right now offensively. With Chisenhall having options remaining, it allowed the Indians to send him to the minors to get things right at Columbus and to possibly be an option again for them in the near future.

For now, Reynolds will get the lion’s share of playing time at third base, though Aviles will also get some time there as well. Reynolds has played most of his career as a third baseman, and with his production at the plate right now it is a natural fit for him and the Indians. This now opens up the designated hitter role for the Indians to use Jason Giambi more often and to also rotate players in and out of to give them a break in the field.

We have not seen the last of Chisenhall, but how he responds to the demotion to Columbus will determine how soon he gets back to Cleveland. If he finds his swing again and the approach returns, he could be back with the Indians at the hot corner very soon. Hopefully to stay next time.

Finishing off Bauer

Last season 22-year old Trevor Bauer was rushed to the big leagues by the Arizona Diamondbacks barely a year removed from the 2011 MLB Draft. He was called up at the end of June and made just four starts and went 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA before he was sidelined with a groin issue and did not pitch for the Diamondbacks the rest of the season.

After a wild three-team, nine-player trade last December that brought the prized arm of Bauer to the Indians, he impressed the Indians coaches and front office staff with a solid spring training and has since pitched well in several spot starts for the Indians this season.  In three starts for the Indians this season Bauer is 1-2 with a 2.76 ERA.

The key for Bauer has been the work he has put in between starts which have improved the quality of his outings each time out. He really struggled with his command in his first outing in Tampa and then bobbed and weaved through five shutout innings against the Phillies in another spot start on May 1st, but he really put things together and had his best start to date against the Yankees on Monday pitching into the seventh inning and allowing just two earned runs on six hits and only allowed two walks.

It is that steady improvement from start to start and how quickly Bauer is adjusting and settling into things at the major league level that is so exciting.

There is a still a lot Bauer has to learn before he is a more consistent pitcher and can be relied upon every fifth day he gets the ball. He is still young and maturing and needs more experience and seasoning at the minor league level to polish himself off, but he is quickly getting to the point where he is just about ready to come up to the big leagues for good and finish off his development with the Indians at the major league level.

The pedigree and talent is there for Bauer to be a true ace of a staff, or even just a solid number two starter. He has a deep arsenal of pitches with three pitches that are at least plus - a low-to-mid 90s four-seam fastball, a devastating 12-6 curveball that is his best pitch, and a wipeout slider that is tough on lefties. He also mixes in several other pitches and different variations of all of his pitches, but the fastball-curveball-slider trio are his bread and butter.

Bauer is very in tune to his delivery and what he needs to do to maximize it to be effective and efficient with it. He is a religious follower of biomechanics as he constantly studies it in order to have a better understanding of what his muscular, joint and skeletal actions of his body are doing during the execution of his delivery in order to improve performance, prevent injury, and master the art of pitching.

But for as much as Bauer studies his mechanics and constantly works on them, his delivery is a little unorthodox and he has problems commanding his fastball. He works with his fastball too much up in the zone; something he generally prefers but is something that Indians coaches have worked with him to more consistently command his fastball down in the zone and only pitch up in the zone at times to change the eye level of the hitters.

At this point it is that fastball command which will determine how successful of a pitcher Bauer will be at the major league level. He has the moxie, toughness and the abilities to be a frontline pitcher. His stuff is electric and he has several pitches he can get swing and miss with, but until he more consistently commands his fastball his performances will be erratic.

If the fastball command ever falls in line, then he is going to take a giant leap forward. If that happens, then the Indians will have a fixture at the front end of their rotation for at least the next half decade and one of the best young starting pitchers in all of baseball.

Parting shots

Brett Myers threw 3.0 shutout innings in a rehab outing for Double-A Akron on Friday, though he only threw 28 pitches (13 strikes). He is being built back up and will make another rehab appearance on Tuesday and go five innings or 75 pitches. After that the Indians may make a decision on whether to activate him from the disabled list, though they have until June 16th to keep him on a rehab assignment in the minors (30 days for pitchers) before he has to be activated. … I have been hearing that the Indians may work around the Carlos Carrasco with some roster maneuvering around the All Star break. Another person with knowledge of this told me the same thing on Saturday. … Triple-A right-handed pitcher Danny Salazar is struggling with a sore shoulder and was scratched from his scheduled start this weekend. He might miss one or two starts.

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

May 20, 2013 - 11:51 AM EDT
Tony, we all love you and respect your opinion and thank you for turning your personal dream into a cloud pub where so many of us like to hang out, But Cleveland IS a baseball town. I grew up going to games at Municipal Stadium to watch the likes of Chuck Essegian and Jose Azcue, Dennis Eckersley, and Oscar Gamble and I've been a part of 71,000 in the stands on a Friday nite, and 200,000 for a weekend series against the White Sox. Baseball is passed down from generation to generation probably more than any other "sport" and the progeny of the 200K are still around I assure you. These people will be crawling out of the woodwork like 17 yr locusts if the Indians stay in contention thru the end of June.
May 20, 2013 - 11:10 AM EDT
Burying, ha! That might be the lead in the MH column this week.;-)

Definitely a different vibe to this team. Even people in the org saying it. A high ranking person even said to me this weekend that not only is the team better, but the clubhouse, the coaching staff, and the way the players are managed are better too. Huge difference from previous years.

Seth I am fine with the Chisenhall move. This is a team that wants to win and that is the main focus. When you operate like that the patience is shorter and guys have a much shorter leash. If this were a development year then no way should Chisenhall been sent out. But right now, I prefer the most professional approach of Aviles in there when Reynolds is not playing. And Chisenhall has not been very good defensively either, so even though Reynolds is a poor defender, it is not that much of a step down right now....if at all.

I hope the fans can catch on because the attendance this weekend was not very good. Sure, they had 34K at the game on Friday night....but the fans are proving that they are more interested in the promotions than the product on the field. I get the advent of home TV viewing and the internet has changed the landscape of people wanting to go to games....but that is a league-wide problem and not just in Cleveland. Yet, other teams draw better even with all of this new home technology. It's just an excuse. It's not a baseball town. Been saying it for years. The Indians are winning but the talk in town is who the Browns third string QB is and about Haslem's legal trouble. Just the way it is.
May 20, 2013 - 12:03 AM EDT
Why is Pitt kicking our ass again in attendance? And they are smaller. You got a couple mil people within an hr drive of clev.
No way around it attendance is horrible. Should have had 25 k for sat and sun at least.
May 19, 2013 - 11:05 PM EDT
That's actual Cleveland, the whole metro area population has been pretty stagnant. But metro population matters for attendance. Live and work in Cleveland, a few minutes from the ballbark, and you might get season tickets or at least go to a lot of games, you live in Akron, you might go to a couple games a year. I would imagine the Indians' TV ratings haven't declined as much as attendance for that reason. SF is in a different stratosphere as far as city population (and public transportation), you could lose 100K people from SF and it's still packed tight.
May 19, 2013 - 10:45 PM EDT
@sorry. You lose all that TV ratings if you move the team from Cleveland. I just can't see it happening. Unless this team goes on a huge 3 year run and the attendance never improves.

I think this is an exciting team that has some cred due to vets like Swisher, Titio, and Giambi. Speed power, come back stories, 3 great young pitchers in Masterson-McCalister and eventually Bauer. An outspoken closer. If they continue to win I think the fans will start to show.
May 19, 2013 - 10:41 PM EDT
Seth, the number you give for Cleve pop- 398,000. Is that Cleveland proper, or the entire metropolitan area? It seems to me if you go all the way from Chagrin Falls in the East to Westlake, North Royalton , and then south toward Akron there's a ton more people. Not only more people, but more people who enjoy sporting events and can afford a ticket. San Francisco is the same way- population in S.F. proper has declined about 10% in the last 20 or so years and was never that large to begin with it's only 49 sq. miles but if you count the whole Bay Area, the population is about 8 times the actual city limit count
May 19, 2013 - 10:41 PM EDT
It's not really an argument to keep the team in Cleveland, it's just the reality, the city's lost 20% of its population since the 90s and has been hit by the recession, expecting them to fill the stadium is unrealistic. What will keep the team in Cleveland is the history. MLB has no reason to rock the boat and has a vested interest in stability and keeping a team in Cleveland. You wipe out a team with Cleveland's history and the entire sport takes a hit, and the sport loses the support of Indians fans throughout the country. (I for one wouldn't be paying $25/month for if there were no such thing as the Cleveland Indians, and there are many displaced Cleveland fans like me) And any owner can rake in cash because of the TV and revenue sharing dollars without having to worry so much about attendance, so there's no reason for an owner to want to move them.
May 19, 2013 - 10:28 PM EDT
I think at the moment Aviles and Giambi are an upgrade. It also allows guys to rest at DH for awhile. Most important gives Chiz a chance to catch his breath.

Nice write up, hitting most of the important points but one thing. I think Michael Brantley is a better then average player. He is a leader, can play smallball, is a smart and proffesional hitter, plays good defense and can even play CF, can run the bases well and hits alot of doubles. If he can just add some power say 15 homers a year I think he will be a well above average player.
May 19, 2013 - 9:44 PM EDT
Seth, not a good argument to keep the team in Cleveland.
May 19, 2013 - 8:44 PM EDT
Attendance, attendance.

1990: population 505,616
2010: population 396,815

Then there's the growth of TV viewing. Next year the Indians will be getting $90 million before they sell a single ticket from local and national TV. They were getting a fraction of that from TV back in the Jacobs era. They'll be doing very well for a city of Cleveland's size if they can average in the mid 20s.
May 19, 2013 - 7:01 PM EDT
Hmmm, the attendance a little disappointing but if you take the aggregate for the series it seems like this is the best attended series in quite a while, maybe somebody can look that up. It's the once bitten twice shy syndrome. If people are going to put their hearts on the line, not to mention their money, they are going to have to make the leap of faith. The way the Indians are playing the big leap is looking more like a small puddle jump. I still believe Cleveland is a great baseball town and once the fans start rockin' it will be a big story everywhere...
Nadia Ali
May 19, 2013 - 4:27 PM EDT
Sunday afternoon; 80 Degrees, sunny, and Felix Hernandez vs. Justin Masterson and they couldn't even get 50% of capacity.
May 19, 2013 - 4:08 PM EDT
Can't draw 20k on sat or sun? A total joke. And Mon looks the same. Sad.
May 19, 2013 - 1:33 PM EDT
Bauer doesn't seem to like bouncing his curve in the dirt, preferring to throw it for strikes. Could pitching up in the zone with his FB be a result of that preference, i.e., a high FB looks like a curve coming for a strike? He'd have to bounce his curve more to make it look like more like a FB down in the zone - he's talked a bit about wanting all of his piches to look the same in the first 15-20 feet from the mound.

Def not a good sign for Salazar if he's ever going to push his pitch count past 100. Hopefully this is a one week blip.
May 19, 2013 - 1:06 PM EDT
the everyday lineup is worlds better than last year. there was about 6-7 guys on the team last year that are or should be out of baseball. I won't list the names again, but last years everday players rivaled the '70s for pure stiffs. as much heat as the front office should take for last year, they deserve as much credit for this years team.

and masterson and jimenez were total busts last year. it was a pure fluke we were like 3 out as late as july before the inevitable collapse. they need to keep it up all year.

this years team can and will contend for the division or wildcard into sept.

and if pitching falters, I think carrasco and bauer are major league ready. carrasco just needs to keep his head in the game.

perez is beginning to scare me as the closer. he has an avg fastball and no great cutter or out pitch. his key is not leaving 93 mph fastballs over the plate like yesterday.
May 19, 2013 - 12:58 PM EDT
I'm surprised you agree with the Chisenhall decision Tony. Seemed a bit premature to me. Even with his struggles, I don't see how it upgrades them now. It essentially means more Aviles or Giambi in the lineup, while downgrading the defense (unless you believe that Reynolds has somehow gone from the worst defensive 3B in baseball to even average, when he hasn't played the position in about a year). Aviles had performed better than Chisenhall to date, but his career wOBA of .312 is not much better than Chisenhall's .301. And Aviles seems to have trouble even getting the ball to the 1st baseman on the fly when he plays 3b. Or, you have more Giambi, whose .289 wOBA this year is barely better than Chisenhall's current .265. Chisenhall had the 6th-best UZR in MLB at 3b and was positive on DRS as well. Small sample size, but I thought he'd looked pretty good. Even if Chisenhall had continued to hit worse than he's ever done with them in his career, it's a minor upgrade at best when you consider the defensive aspect. Unless Reynolds received a secret brain upgrade or something that's magically made him a passable defensive player.

I think they should've allowed him to work through it, as they did with Kipnis, Santana last year, Victor Martinez in 2005, and many other young players who have struggled for extended periods of time.

With the Chisenhall situation, any thought that this might speed up the timetable for Lindor, with the thought that they could set up Lindor to take over shortstop in 2014 and slide Asdrubal over to 3b?
May 19, 2013 - 11:42 AM EDT
Tony, this year feels different- the last 2 season first quarters felt more like smoke and mirrors while the other teams in the division were mired in slow starts. This year the Indians are scoring runs up and down the lineup, this year the starting pitching has been very good, and this year even though the other teams in the division are playing good baseball we're still beating them on a regular basis. I think this team knows it can hang and it most likely will. There are lots of unknowns and moving pieces of course. Who is going to play first today? Reynolds, Santana, Swisher, Gomes? Who is going to play third? Who among Bourn, Stubbs, Raburn is the better matchup on a given day in the outfield? Is Bauer a legit starter or a sideshow? Most guys like to know what their role is, if they're in the lineup today or tomorrow. not easy for this Tribe. Seems like Francona is really good at that, keeping everybody engaged and contributing and knowing what their role is. And the veterans that have been successful elsewhere in baseball and are here for the love of the game as much as for the money- Giambi, Swisher, Bourn, as well as the coaching staff and even the marketing people are getting the younger players excited. The Friday night crowd was awesome, and you know those people left happy and looking forward to the next game.
Burying The Lead
May 19, 2013 - 11:40 AM EDT
LOL. Closing things out with a very brief, 'oh btw, our top pitching prospect with an injury history is struggling with a shoulder issue'.

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