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Notes from the Wigwam: Mistakes lead to rough week

Relief pitching, Tribe's miscues leads to 2-5 week

Notes from the Wigwam: Mistakes lead to rough week
May 27, 2013
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It’s always tough for a baseball team to go 2-5 in the span of a week. Of course, it’s even more difficult to deal with when you realize that the Cleveland Indians mostly had a bad week not because they were legitimately beaten but because they kept shooting themselves in the foot.

The team did play poorly against the Detroit Tigers, which led to them getting swept 2-0 in the two-game set, but there’s no denying that the Indians should not have lost three games to the Boston Red Sox this past weekend.

The Indians probably should have won three of those games, which would have changed the complexion of this past week dramatically.

Instead, the Tribe is now 27-22 and 1 ½ games behind the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League Central. There still right in the thick of things, but this has been a week that the team will probably want to soon forget.

With that being said, let’s regretfully take a look back at the week that was…

Weekly results

May 20 vs. Seattle, W 10-8 (WP: Smith, LP: Furbush)

May 21 vs. Detroit, L 5-1 (WP: Scherzer, LP: Kluber)

May 22 vs. Detroit, L 11-7 (WP: Verlander, LP: Jimenez)

May 23 at Boston, W 12-3 (WP: McAllister, LP: Dempster)

May 24 at Boston, L 8-1 (WP: Lackey, LP: Masterson)

May 25 at Boston, L 7-4 (WP: Tazawa, LP: Pestano)

May 26 at Boston, L 6-5 (WP: Breslow, LP: Perez)

Player of the Week

Michael Brantley — Left fielder

7 G, 9-for-28, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 4 K, 1 SB

There were not too many bright spots during this past week, but Brantley was certainly one of them. The left-handed hitting outfielder has been incredibly consistent since day one of the 2013 season, and that remained true during the past week. One of the nicest things about Brantley is the fact that he provides so much flexibility. Terry Francona is basically able to move him up-and-down throughout the lineup, and Brantley is certain to still produce regardless of where he hits. It does appear if Brantley is now indeed a .300 hitter in the making, and it seems likely that his final line this year will be above the .300 mark. There have been some talks that the Indians could be entering a discussion to sign Brantley to a contract extension, which would seem to make a lot of sense. He may lack power, and he may not be an ideal corner outfielder, but it’s impossible to deny all the intangibles that he offers.

Minor League Player of the Week

Ronny Rodriguez — Shortstop, Akron Aeros

7 G, 10-for-27, 2 R, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K.

There had been several questions as to whether Rodriguez was really ready to compete at the Double-A level, but things are looking a lot better after this past week compared to the previous week. Rodriguez entered last week hitting .217 on the season, but after his scorching hot week at the plate, his average now sits at .240. Of course, Rodriguez is still struggling in regard to drawing walks, which is evidenced by his .259 OBP and .611 OPS, but at least he now seems to be hitting, which could ultimately help his plate discipline. The problem with Rodriguez is that plate discipline seems to be such a severe problem for him as he’s only drawn four walks and struck out 29 times this season. While he may have had a good week, it’s hard to imagine him ever really becoming much of a Major League infield prospect until he starts to make serious strides and learns to take a pitch or two.

A rough week

Chris Perez — Closer 
2 G, 0-1, 1.2 IP, 5 R/ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 2 K.

This seems like the obvious choice. Things got off to a bad start for Perez in his first appearance of the week where he allowed a solo home run, which allowed the Oakland A’s to take a one-run lead in the ninth inning. However, the Indians’ offense did ultimately end up bailing Perez out, so the rough outing was quickly forgotten. Of course, this was only the beginning of Perez’s woes on the week. Yesterday, the Indians were clinging to a three-run lead against the Boston Red Sox in the bottom of the ninth inning. Perez entered the contest and seemed poised to pick up a routine three-run save — the easiest type of save in the game. That’s not how the story unfolded though. Instead, Perez allowed two hits and walked three batters. He then left the game with a right shoulder injury, and Joe Smith came on and happened to give up a walk-off hit. Things do seem that they’re even worse than we imagined as the Indians made the decision to place Perez on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder soreness. To be blunt, Perez has not been good this year, and this is even more concerning when you consider that there seems to be a legitimate chance that he could have been playing injured or may not have been fully recovered from his Spring Training injury. I still believe that Perez can be a big part of this team and probably needs to be for the Indians to have long-term success, but this just is not a good sign.

News & notes

— Speaking of relievers, while Perez has been bad, Vinnie Pestano has also struggled immensely as of late. On Monday, Pestano surrendered the lead to the Oakland Athletics by allowing a solo home run, and he also struggled on Saturday against the Red Sox as he allowed four runs in an inning of work. The numbers on Saturday are a bit distorted though as a routine popout was lost in the clouds by both Michael Brantley and Asdrubal Cabrera, so it ended up going for a two-run hit. Of course, as the IBI’s Tony Lastoria noted in yesterday’s Tribe Happenings piece, there is reason to be legitimately concerned with Pestano and his performance. His velocity has been a major concern as it did not seem to eclipse much more than 88 MPH on Saturday against the Red Sox. Pestano does have a history of arm injuries, but this just seems to also reek of a possible injury. During the last two seasons, the most consistent and arguably best part of the entire Indians team has been the back of the bullpen, which has been led by Pestano and Perez. Unfortunately, those two players seem to be major question marks moving forward.

— Enough with the bad. Let’s talk about some good. And one good player to touch on is Tribe right-hander Corey Kluber. As most know, I have never been too high on Kluber, but it appears as if I may have to eat some crow. Some, namely the IBI’s Jake Dungan, have offered praise toward Kluber since the beginning, yet I never really saw it. To me, Kluber was a pitcher with a nice fastball, but his secondary offerings did not seem as if they could be effective enough for him to sustain a nice Major League career. Well, to Jake and any other Kluber supporters, I am openly admitting that I may have been very wrong. Kluber had the best start of his career on Sunday against the Red Sox as he scattered three hits across 6 2/3 innings of work while walking just one and allowing one earned run. He also displayed some very impressive stuff as he recorded 10 strikeouts in the contest. This outing proceeds a solid outing that Kluber had against the Detroit Tigers earlier in the week where he allowed three earned runs in 6 1/3 innings, and struck out eight. So, the question is this: How do you replace Corey Kluber? Brett Myers is about to be ready to come off the disabled list, but should he even replace Kluber? It’s said that a player should never lose his job due to injury, so Myers likely still will regain his spot in the rotation, but there’s no denying that Kluber has legitimately turned some heads in the organization.

— Carlos Carrasco is another pitcher who continues to impress in the organization. We all know about his headhunting tactics that he has displayed on the Major League level, but one has to believe that the Indians are legitimately considering adding him to the Major League rotation sometime around the All-Star break. Why would that be the case? Well, take a look at these numbers. In his last four outings with the Columbus Clippers, Carrasco has allowed just two earned runs while pitching 22 innings. He’s also struck out a total of 24 batters across that span. His ERA in Triple-A is now a shiny 1.36, which is incredibly impressive, especially when you consider some of the players he is playing with. Simply put, a number of players at the Triple-A level are just not Major-League caliber defenders, so it’s almost impossible to have a sub-2.00 ERA… yet Carrasco has done just that. For awhile, it seemed as if Trevor Bauer might be ahead of him in regard to prospect standing, but it’s now clear that Carrasco will likely be the first arm to rejoin the Major League rotation once a decision is made to pull from the system.

— It’s clear that the Indians are missing both Tony Sipp and a healthy Rafael Perez. Sipp was included in last year’s Trevor Bauer-Shin-Soo Choo blockbuster trade, and he currently has a 3.21 ERA in 14 1/3 innings with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Perez has not been able to get healthy, but just recently signed a minor-league deal with the Boston Red Sox after being released by the Minnesota Twins. While the Indians may not miss the current versions of Sipp and Perez, they definitely miss them metaphorically speaking as they just have not had consistent performances from their left-handed relievers. They’ve tried basically everyone this year too, but no one has been able to settle in.Rich Hill currently has a 5.65 ERA. Nick Hagadone’s ERA sits at 7.20. David Huff was designated for assignment after an awful outing, and while Scott Barnes has an ERA of 2.57, he’s only appeared in four games. If the Indians are still competing come July, expect them to make a move to acquire a proven left-handed reliever.

— After a string of great outings, the ugly Ubaldo Jimenez reared his head against Detroit as he allowed six earned runs in just four innings of work. It was merely one start, so it’s too early to jump to conclusions, but it was disappointing nonetheless, especially when you consider that Jimenez had allowed a total of only five earned runs in his previous four outings combined. With any playoff team, the key is always starting pitching, and a team usually wants to have at least three, quality, reliable starters. They seem to have that with Justin Masterson and Zach McAllister, and it looked like they might have that in Jimenez. But as of now, who knows? Jimenez takes the mound today against the Cincinnati Reds, and the Indians are desperately in need of a win. Let’s hope that he can rebound.

Quick hit

— The Indians recalled Nick Hagadone today after placing Perez on the disabled list. Hagadone has struggled so far this season, but the team is running out of left-handed relief options. He needs to go out, command the zone and grab one of the bullpen spots because the team has essentially exhausted all of its options in this area.

Steve can be reached via email at orbaneks@gmail.com.

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