The top four spots in the Cleveland Indians rotations are set after Tribe manager Terry Francona
named Zach McAllister
as the club’s number four starter.
Make no mistake about it, McAllister was pegged for that slot in the rotation from the start, even if Francona didn’t want to admit it. A serious case can be made that the big righty was the most effective starter for the Indians in 2012 when he went 6-8 with a 4.24 ERA, 110 strikeouts and only 38 walks in 22 starts spanning 125 1/3 innings.
McAllister has quickly heated up over his four spring training appearances, as he hasn’t given up a run over his last seven innings pitched, giving up only four hits without a walk, while striking out seven batters. He did exactly what his manager wanted by forcing his hand into making an early decision.
The only question that remains for McAllister is whether or not he remains the official number four starter, or finds himself continuing to move up the rotation ranks as the season progresses. There’s a question as to how good the 25-year old can be. He seems to have a bit of a ceiling, but there may be more there than meets the eye. I’ll talk more about that in Corner of Carnegie and Ontario on Wednesday.
Today’s matter at hand is the power poll, and as you might have guessed, the topic is the starting pitching. Here’s the rotation as it currently stands:
Today’s IBI power poll focuses on the #5 slot in the rotation, and more specifically, who is going to start the season in that role. Terry Francona has stated many times in his press conferences that once the season starts, the position in the rotation becomes less important. He’s right, once the season starts.
The last spot in the rotation is wide open with several viable candidates, from veterans to potential rookies, who may ultimately have a shot. There’s one pitcher who we can take off the list though.
When Francona named McAllister as his fourth starter, he also announced that David Huff
would be competing for the bullpen, and not for the five-slot.
Who’s left? There are two non-roster invitees, a former top prospect and a current top prospect whom the Indians acquired in a trade just this year. Here are the candidates.
Carlos Carrasco, RHP:
Carrasco missed the 2012 season after Tommy John
surgery ended his 2011 season prematurely. Carrasco had just started coming into his own that season before a sore arm slowed him down, and ultimately ended his season. There’s a lot to like about the youngster. He’s only 26-years old, and if he pitches to his potential, he could be a top-of-the-rotation guy that the Indians need. The only problem with Carrasco is that he always seemed to be right on the precipice, but could never make that final push. After missing a season-and-a-half, the hope is that the maturation process is over, and that he’s ready to take the next step. Carrasco has struggled this spring, but pitched a bit better on Sunday.
The question with Carrasco may be two-fold. First, how are they going to handle his workload this season and second, how are they going to handle his suspension? Carrasco still has a six-game suspension to work out from 2011, and how the Tribe handles that could affect the 25-man roster going forward.
There’s still a lot to work out there, but Carrasco still has options, so perhaps that will be the ultimate deciding factor.
Scott Kazmir, LHP:
Kazmir is a former dominating left-handed pitcher that disappeared off the map in 2011 for a variety of reasons. That’s not important. What’s important now is that Kazmir appears to have regained his mojo, and has pitched very well in spring up until now.
There are several questions that remain with regards to Kazmir going forward, but with only three weeks left in spring, those questions may not be at play until later in the season. The main question is longevity. Can Kazmir pitch as well as he has over the long haul, or will the arm issues that robbed him of his velocity resurface.
Fortunately for Kazmir, this week’s poll is more about April, and less about October. Kazmir is a lefty, and he has an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him to move on to other pastures should he not be named to the Indians 25-man roster.
Trevor Bauer, RHP:
Bauer is the young gun in all of this, and when the Indians traded for him, many had him pegged for the back-end of the rotation. As the spring has panned out though, the addition of Brett Myers to coincide with the improved play of Kazmir, Carrasco not likely being “handled” as the season progressed and the signing of the next guy on this list has put into question whether or not Bauer will start the year in Columbus or Cleveland.
Bauer clearly is the one guy on the list who is unquestionably a top-of-the-rotation guy in make-up. The big question with him is whether or not he meets that potential, and whether or not he starts that journey at the beginning of this year, or somewhere in the middle.
He’s pitched well in the spring, which muddies up the thought process a bit, and I think if Kazmir wouldn’t be pitching so well, the picture could be even muddier. Who knows, it may still be.
Daisuke Matsuzaka, RHP:
It appears as though the first three guys may be at the top of this list, which leaves question marks about Matsuzaka. Matsuzaka has pitched fairly well in the spring, but there have been issues regarding his velocity. Francona addressed these the other day when discussing potential gun issues, but you really do have to wonder if he’s all the way back yet.
I do wonder if Matsuzaka was brought on board to actually compete for a rotation spot, or if this was a measure of a manager taking care of one of his former pitchers. Matsuzaka signing with Francona in the spring would allow him to work back into shape with someone who knows him, allowing him to eventually latch onto another team.
Best-case scenario for Matsuzaka is that he blows away the Indians coaching staff and makes the team. Worse-case scenario is that shows he’s coming back, and finally lands on a major league roster.
Which of the four pitchers will make the roster for the Indians in early April? You make the call…
Some speculate that the former Red Sox starter will find his way to Columbus, but I’m fairly sure there’s an opt-out clause in his contract as well. How will it play out for the former Francona-starter? Who knows.
Now it’s time for you to vote for who you think is going to start the season off in Cleveland. Remember, this isn’t a “who’s the best pitcher of the four” sorta poll, but just a “who’s going to grab a rotation slot coming out of spring” poll.
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.