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Tribe Happenings: Working around Carrasco’s suspension

Tribe Happenings: Working around Carrasco’s suspension
March 3, 2013
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Some news, notes, and thoughts from my Indians notebook…

First off, a quick note to thank Jim Piascik for filling in for me in this spot last week, as well as all the rest of the guys for doing their thing and keeping this machine running while I was away. I was fortunate that not much of note really happened while I was away for two weeks as the Indians signed Michael Bourn just before I left, and I returned just before all the injuries started to hit the fan. With that, let’s dive into this week’s big league Happenings…

Indians have to work around Carrasco's suspension

All of the candidates for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation have now thrown at least one game this spring. Here are the results to date:

Carlos Carrasco: 1 G, 1.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R (3 ER), 1 BB, 1 K
Corey Kluber: 2 G, 4.0 IP, 9 H, 5 R/ER, 1 HR, 0 BB, 4 K
Daisuke Matsuzaka: 2 G, 4.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R/ER, 1 HR, 1 BB, 1 K
Trevor Bauer: 2 G, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K
Scott Kazmir: 2 G, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 4 K

The way things stacked up going into spring training, the trio of Carrasco, Matsuzaka, and Kazmir had a leg up on the fifth spot because Kluber is expected to be a depth starter stashed away at Triple-A Columbus. Also, the Indians prefer to have Bauer open the season in Columbus to finish him off and get him on a roll to set him up for a callup any time after the start of the season.

Kazmir has impressed in the early going, and may be the favorite at the moment for the fifth starter spot. Carrasco struggled in his first outing, and Matsuzaka may need more time in the minors at the start of the season to prove whether or not he can consistently get hitters out. But there is still a long way to go before the fifth starter competition irons itself out this spring, and it likely does not matter in the grand scheme of things as a starting pitching change will likely be made at some point in April or May for performance or injury reasons. Pitchers just get hurt, and sometimes they don’t perform.

But for the moment, let’s say Carrasco gets the nod as the fifth starter in order to illustrate a concern the Indians have to work around with him. Many will recall that in his second to last start of the 2011 season on July 29th against the Royals he threw a pitch at the head of Billy Butler which a week later landed him a six-game suspension. He initially appealed the suspension, but during the appeal he injured his elbow and had to have Tommy John surgery so he never served his suspension.

What this means is that if Carrasco makes the opening day roster, he will have to serve his suspension the first six games of the season. Since the Indians have a five man rotation and no off days mixed in the first 13 days of the season, it means they would have to be creative in working around his suspension in order to put him on the roster at the start of the season. It may be in their best interests to have him open the season with the team so he can serve his suspension and get it out of the way because if he is in the minors and they have an immediate pitching need for the rotation they will be unable to use him right away because of the six-game suspension he would first have to serve.

A player has to be on the 25-man roster to serve his suspension and must remain on it during the suspension and cannot be replaced by another player. What this means is if the Indians were to open the season with Carrasco on the 25-man roster, they would essentially have a 24-man roster with which to work with the first six games of the season. But there may be no better time to work with a 24-man roster than the beginning of the season.

Manager Terry Francona has already explained that for the first week or so he will be hard pressed to get some of the bench players like Mike Aviles, Lou Marson and others into the game since they want to get the starters going and into a rhythm. This makes the bench less important the first week of the season, and is something the Indians could use to their advantage. Also, they have two very versatile players on the bench in Mike Aviles and Ryan Raburn (I expect him to make the roster) that should make it a non-issue having just 12 position players to work with the first week.

The Indians typically carry 12 pitchers (five starters, seven relievers) and 13 position players, but in order to work around the Carrasco suspension they could carry 13 pitchers and 12 position players. With Carrasco on the roster they could carry an extra starting pitcher for a week to make the start in the fifth game of the season on April 6th in Tampa, and then option that player out after the game and call up a bat from Columbus to get back to the normal 12 pitcher and 13 position player setup. Carrasco’s suspension would expire after the April 7th game in Tampa, and his first start would come on April 11th at home against the Yankees.

As to which pitcher the Indians could keep around the first week as an extra starter remains to be seen, but a good candidate to me would be Corey Kluber since he has options and can easily be optioned to Columbus after that start in Tampa. Others like Kazmir and Matsuzaka would require waivers to be sent to Columbus since they would have already been added to the 40-man roster at the end of spring training, so that would not make a lot of sense to use either of them for a one off start. It is also possible that the Indians just carry an extra pen arm and have someone like David Huff make a spot start.

This is a small hurdle the Indians have to clear when considering Carrasco for a rotation spot this spring. He has to pitch well to earn the spot, and over the next few weeks things will become much more clear on whether he remains a favorite or if he is destined for Columbus to start the season (he has an option remaining). But at some point the Indians are going to have to work around the suspension issue.

Injuries starting to pile up

The Indians have four players currently down with injuries of various degrees. The most impactful injury may be the right shoulder strain that Chris Perez is dealing with. The Indians announced the injury on Thursday and that he has been shut down for seven to ten days to rest the shoulder. He will start a return to throw program once he is asymptomatic, so it sounds like the earliest he will be back throwing is this coming weekend.

With Perez shut down with the injury he had to be removed from the Team USA roster in the World Baseball Classic. He was expected to share closing duties for the team along with Craig Kimbrel of the Braves, but now he is unavailable to participate. He is expected to be out of game action for three to four weeks, so he probably will return in time to get in a few games before the season starts; however, any setback could push the injury into the start of the season and force him to open the season on the disabled list.

If Perez were to have a setback in his throwing program, then the door could be open for any number of bullpen options that are in camp to make the team. Cody Allen and Bryan Shaw were expected to be fighting for one spot in the pen, but if Perez is temporarily out then both could make the opening day roster.

Perez’s shoulder injury is the most impactful injury, but the right elbow sprain that Frank Herrmann has is the most serious injury. He suffered the injury in his last outing on February 25th at Oakland and has since been shut down from all activities as he and the organization are still in the process of gathering information for the most appropriate course of action going forward. On Saturday he visited with renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lewis Yocum for a second opinion on his elbow.

If there is a tear in the elbow it would mean Tommy John surgery would be needed and Herrmann would be out the entire season and probably some of next season, so the hope is that he is fine structurally and a six week shutdown does him well. Either way, it looks like he is going to be out for a while as even with a six week shutdown combined with a return to throw program and minor league rehab assignment, it could limit him as a Major League option until late May or early June.

Michael Brantley suffered a left arm laceration on February 25th at Oakland that required 15 stitches. He has resumed lower body strength and conditioning and cardiovascular training, and has commenced with gripping activities this weekend in preparation for returning to limited baseball activities early this coming week before maybe getting back into games by the weekend.

Joe Smith has been dealing with a strained oblique and threw his second live batting practice session on Saturday and could make his spring debut sometime this week. Minor league right-hander Trey Haley had been shut down with a right shoulder injury, but has since resumed throwing off the mound. Finally, Matt LaPorta is still working his way back from left hip surgery in the offseason and is still at least a week or two away from playing in games.

The word on Kluber

Right-hander Corey Kluber entered spring training in the mix as a candidate for the fifth starter’s spot, though his chances of winning a spot were slim as several other options were pegged in front of him like Scott Kazmir, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer. Two appearances into spring training he has all but removed himself from consideration as in 4.0 innings he has allowed 9 hits, 5 runs (all earned), 1 home run and has 4 strikeouts.

At this point it would probably take a rash of injuries to other starters for Kluber to make the opening day roster as the clear cut favorites for the final spot at the moment are Kazmir, Matsuzaka and Carrasco. Bauer may even be a dark horse and force the Indians to put him on the roster.  There is a possibility that Kluber could open the season on the roster if Carrasco makes it since Carrasco still has to serve his six-game suspension, so the Indians might carry an extra pitcher the first week to have a one game spot start for the fifth game of the season, and then option that player to Triple-A Columbus after that. Kluber would fit as such an option. But either way, he is probably going to Columbus for most of the first few months of the season and will be the first or second option the Indians turn to if a need arises for the rotation.

Last season Kluber went 11-7 with a 3.59 ERA in 21 starts for Columbus, and racked up 128 strikeouts in 125.1 innings and held batters to a respectable .251 average. He had a chance to pitch most of the last two months of the season in Cleveland and was inconsistent though flashed some potential going 2-5 with a 5.14 ERA in 12 appearances, and had 54 strikeouts in 63.0 innings though hitters touched him up for a .295 average.

Kluber throws a good fastball that sits at 92-94 MPH and touches 95 MPH, but his fastball tends to be inconsistent which causes trouble for him as it flattens out and leads to a lot of hard hit balls. The slider is a good offering and is probably his most consistent and effective pitch, and his changeup helps him against lefties and showed some improvement over the course of last season. Bottom line, it all comes down to that fastball command for him, and he could use at least another half season in Columbus to hopefully fine tune it so he is more consistent with it because he has the stuff to get swing and miss and rack up a good amount of strikeouts.

What Kluber really provides is a durable, depth starter for the Indians, a pitcher that probably has no business pitching in a regular five-man big league rotation, but who best serves as a seventh or eighth option to call upon when a need arises. As time goes on, he could potentially be more, but for now that is probably the best way to use him at the outset of the season.

Rondon, McFarland update

This past December, left-hander T.J. McFarland was picked up in the Rule 5 Draft by the Orioles and right-hander Hector Rondon was picked up by the Cubs. Both former Indians are in their third week of spring training, so it is a good time to check in to see how they are doing.

McFarland has made three appearances this spring and is 0-0 with an 11.57 ERA, and in 2.1 innings he has allowed 4 hits, 3 runs (all earned), 3 walks, and has 1 strikeout. Rondon has made two appearances this spring and is 0-0 with a 0.00 ERA, and in 2.0 innings has allowed 1 hit, no runs, no walks, and has 1 strikeout.

It is still very early in the spring to make any determinations with what will happen with either McFarland or Rondon, but McFarland still appears to be a long shot to stick with the Orioles. Sometime in the next three weeks he will probably be offered back to the Indians, and at that point it will depend on how much the Orioles want to keep him or how much the Indians want him back as to whether a trade is completed to give the Orioles his full rights.

As for Rondon, he has a very good shot to make the Cubs opening day bullpen. The Cubs were very high on him when they selected him in the Rule 5 Draft and had several staff members that either scouted or were involved with the winter ball team Rondon pitched for in the offseason. They may carry him at the outset of the season just to see what happens with him, all the while trying to complete some kind of deal with the Indians to obtain his full rights. Of the two pitchers, Rondon is probably the more important arm for the Indians to try and get back.

Before a team can trade for or outright a Rule 5 player to their original team, Major League Baseball rules require that the team must give him a 15-day trial period in spring training and that he must be granted waivers. If the player passes waivers, he no longer has to remain on the 40-man roster and the team that selected him in the Rule 5 Draft is free to send him back to his original team, or they are able to complete a trade with the player’s former team in order to acquire his full rights to send him to the minors.

2013 Indians spring TV schedule

SportsTime Ohio already announced a few weeks back that they will be airing six spring training games this spring, but there are some other games that will be airing on MLB Network as well. Here are all of the Indians games that will be airing this spring:

March 11: Angels at Indians, MLB Network – tape delay 3am EST 3/12
March 17: Indians at Reds, STO & MLB Network – live, 4pm EST
March 18: Brewers at Indians, STO & MLB Network – live, 4pm EST
March 20: Indians at Angels, MLB Network – live, 4pm EST
March 21: Indians at D’backs, STO – live, 4pm EST
March 22: D’backs at Indians, STO – live, 10pm EST & MLB Network – tape delay, 3am 3/23
March 23: Indians at Mariners, MLB Network – live, 4pm EST
March 24: Cubs at Indians, STO – live, 4pm EST & MLB Network – tape delay, 7am 3/25
March 25: Indians at Rockies, MLB Network – tape delay 12am 3/26
March 26: Athletics at Indians, STO – live, 4pm EST
March 27: Indians at White Sox, MLB Network – tape delay, 10am 3/28

In total, 11 games will be aired on cable television, including a span of ten straight games from March 17th to March 27th which will all be on TV. Five games will air exclusively on MLB Network, four exclusively on SportsTime Ohio, and two games will be simulcast on MLB Network and SportsTime Ohio. Eight games will be aired live, while three will be aired a few hours later on tape delay (set those DVRs).

Parting Shots

Much to the delight of many fans, the Indians announced that they have dropped the price on several of their top concession items. Hot hogs will now be $3.00 and a beer will be $4.00, and in addition to those two top ballpark favorites they also have reduced the prices up to 25% on nachos, pretzels, popcorn, pizza and bratwursts. Plus, soda refills will be only $2.00. … It is early in camp, but the players who have shined the most offensively so far are Ryan Raburn (9-for-15, 4 HR, 9 RBI), Mike McDade (7-for-14, 1 HR, 9 RBI), and Matt Carson (4-for-13, 3 HR, 6 RBI). … The players who have struggled the most offensively in the early going are Cedric Hunter (1-for-14, 1 RBI), Chris McGuiness (2-for-15), Drew Stubbs (2-for-14), and Jason Kipnis (2-for-13, 2 RBI).

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

March 4, 2013 - 11:38 PM EST
SF Giants Brian Wilson is still a free agent, does he make any sense on an incentive laden deal for the Tribe bullpen?
Bonnie Light
March 4, 2013 - 10:41 AM EST
Tony, you're wrong about East Idaho and West Texas Intermediate. Two different people. Only one had Common Cents
March 4, 2013 - 6:06 AM EST
Why didn't we activate Carrasco from the DL at the end of last year when rosters expanded to get his suspension taken care of?
March 3, 2013 - 10:16 PM EST
LOL Common Cents is my hero
Louisiana Light Sweet
March 3, 2013 - 10:14 PM EST
Here's a good one to get us ready for baseball season...
March 3, 2013 - 9:55 PM EST
I am sorry Shy but your comments strike me as a bit innane.

1. Chris McGuiness has shown nothing this Spring is going back to Texas. First, I think they try and trade for him and second how many at bats has he had this Spring? 10? 15? Less? So, please lets allow the player a little bit of time to show what hes got.

2. Mike Mcdade should open the season at first? Whats your next move? Signing Ryan Raburn to 10 year 150 million dollar contract? Get my point?

3. No way do you trade Drew Stubbs. The guy is a much better bet then anyone else we have to play the position. He is a Gold Glove CF with a strong arm that will be playing in RF. He has power and hits lefties pretty well. Not to mention the 30 plus steals he brings to the team. None of that really matters though, his value is at an all time low right now so lets see what the former number 1 pick has before we make a move we regret. The guy is signed for the next 3 years.

4. If you have watched the FO over the last 10 years I think its safe to say Bauer will start the year in AAA. Its also the right call. You get a whole extra year of contract control and allow Bauer to come up on a roll after working out some kinks. It also allows the Tribe to get a better read of the other pitchers on the staff so they know who to have him replace.
March 3, 2013 - 9:54 PM EST
So now Common Cents is talking to himself. East Idaho and West Texas were both him. Hooray.

As for McDade, I like him as a solid depth guy, but I think he is being built up to me a little more than he is simply because of the hot start he has had this spring. There is some power in there, and some solid defense.....but I think expectations should be a lot lower. I think he is a decent complementary piece or bench guy in the making.

East Idaho Beginners
March 3, 2013 - 9:32 PM EST
"McDade will probably win rookie of the year. Chris Antonetti can walk on water. He can do no wrong. God bless the USA"

Confucius say "Man with four balls can't walk, and man with no balls..." is the guy that posted that garbage.

Continually ads nothing to the site. Go back to where you belong.
West Texas Intermediate
March 3, 2013 - 9:27 PM EST
McDade will probably win rookie of the year. Chris Antonetti can walk on water. He can do no wrong. God bless the USA
March 3, 2013 - 7:48 PM EST
Seth- McDade has improved steadily in pretty much every offensive category as he's moved up from low A to Triple A the past 4 seasons, this means he's making the adjustments to compete at higher and higher levels. Got another hit today - if not for him, Gomes, and Raburn the Indians would have the lowest BA in the Cactus League, to match the highest ERA. McDade is only 23 and he's a lot smoother around 1B than LaPorta who is 28 and in decline. McGuinness is going back to Texas, he has showed nothing to deserve a roster spot. If Ubaldo has a couple more starts like he did yesterday, he won't be around for opening day the Indians can't afford to dig a whole in April- My fear is he will pitch 2 or 3 scoreless innings and Antonetti will think he "found it" . The guy is a head case- he doesn't need a pitching coach he needs a shrink IMO. I think Indians fans will be much more inclined to support the team with a couple of up and coming kids out there, As for Stubbs, it was reported in the New York media that Stubbs is now on their short list with Granderson out the first half. He's a pretty good outfielder in Yankee Stadium, and he can pinch run and come in late for defense on the days he doesn't start.
March 3, 2013 - 2:10 PM EST
Other than 18 games in Vegas in the PCL, McDade has barely cracked an .800 OPS in the minors. Even in amazingly-unlikely case that McDade maintained his AA production upon jumping to the majors, a .791 OPS is still not good for a first baseman. I think it's pretty far-fetched that McDade or McGuiness could outperform Laporta even. McDade's minor league fielding % is also identical to Laporta's.

Barring injury, I don't think there's any chance Ubaldo's not in the starting rotation on opening day, though I'll be surprised if he's still in the rotation in July. They will be inclined to hold Bauer in the minors anyway for service time concerns. With the talk around Ubaldo focusing on the cliche coach-player relationship stuff, I do have to think he's still a mess and nothing's improved mechanically. Right now I'd say Masterson, Ubaldo, Myers, McAllister Kazmir will be the opening day rotation, but Bauer and Carrasco will be in there within 8 weeks or so.

The fact that the Indians named Perez's injury makes me feel a little better that it's nothing major. They probably don't announce to the world that their closer has a rotator cuff injury unless they're reasonable sure it will heal up on its own pretty quickly. Seems like the more vague the injury report, the more severe it actually is. I cringed last year when I heard that CC Lee had "forearm pain."
MT88 in WI
March 3, 2013 - 1:39 PM EST
Interesting takes Shy. Why do you say the Yanks want Stubbs (other than Granderson's injury)? Was that published somewhere?
March 3, 2013 - 1:10 PM EST
According to Chicago papers, manager Dale Sveum is impressed w Rondon's stuff and will give him every chance to make the team on opening day. I don't think the Indians get him back if he's healthy. Just a hunch here, but I think there has to be some internal discussion- i.e.- Francona, Antonetti about Ubaldo. He's had 3 pitching coaches now as an Indian and he's still a mess. I think if it comes down to breaking camp w an incompetent Ubaldo or an effective and up and coming Bauer, Bauer gets the nod. If they stick w Ubaldo and Masterson and they pitch the way they did last year, the Indians have no chance to be competitive in 2013 and that means all the money and good vibes are wasted. I don't think Francona and Antonetti and Paul Dolan are ready to let that happen without trying somethings. Mike McDade another big hit yesterday, Little known fact - he had 993 chances @Blue Jays farm with only 7 errors. That's a better fielding percentage than any first baseman I can think of. And unlike hitting, fielding statistics transfer very well from minors to majors. The Yankees want Drew Stubbs. I say send him for LHP Nik Turley and RHP Corey Black, put Swisher back in right and let Mike McDade open the season at first. If he hits .260, he will be a crowd favorite.

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