Sunday, April 29, 2007

Tribe Mosh Pit--April 29th, 2007

First and Foremost, I would like to send out my sincere condolences to Josh Hancock's family and teammates, the long reliever for the Cardinals who died early Sunday morning. Hancock was driving in the left hand lane on I-40 outside of St. Louis, when he struck a tow-truck, who was helping another car on the side of the road. Hancock wasn't a superstar, but he was an important piece of the Cardinals' bullpen. Last season was his most important as a player, as he set career marks in several categories, including innings, games and strikeouts. He started his career in Boston in 2002, went through Philadelphia and Cincinnati, before becoming a member of the Cardinals, and a World Champion, in 2006. Hancock was 29.

How about the umpires blowing the call on Saturday Night.I couldn't have been the only one that thought, "doesn't that run count?" With that being said, you CANNOT change the call three innings later, even if Trebelhorn noticed it less than an inning later. What SHOULD have happened was a public flogging of the umpires for blowing a call WE all learn in little league. The only thing we missed out on, was Eric Wedge storming out of the dugout like George Brett in the Pine Tar incident. So, the game is under protest. Do you want the Bad?...or the Worst? Worst case scenario? Cleveland loses the protest, and the game. The Bad? Cleveland has to remake a PARTIAL game, to go along with the Seattle series. Still, getting a win out of a loss wouldn't be a bad deal at all.

Fausto Carmona was as efficient today as any Cleveland starter in recent memory. Carmona had a shutout rolling for 8 1/3, when he gave up a ninth inning dinger to Aubrey Huff. He had scuffled a bit in the eighth inning, so you have to respect the decision by Eric Wedge to give him a shot for the complete game shutout after the Tribe packed on 3-runs to their 3-0 lead. How efficient was Carmona? He gave up six hits, two walks (both in the 8th), with one strikeout. Carmona induced 18 ground balls, 16 of which were outs, and only 6 fly balls. He threw 104 pitches, and 72 strikes. That makes three straight solid outings for Carmona, and 2 straight dominating games. He's finally looking like the pitcher we thought he was.

So where does that leave Eric Wedge, with Cliff Lee set to start next Thursday?Thursday is a long ways away, but my best guess is that Wedge has already made the decision to send down Carmona. To further along my hypothesis, I'm betting that Wedge had it all written down beforeFausto's final two outings. Wedge is the kind of guy that sticks to the plan. When asked today about it, Wedge seemed as though he knew what was going to happen, but not committed just yet:

"One way or another, we're going to have a tough decision to make," Wedge said. "We're not going to do anything today, let's put it that way. In a situation like this, we're going to take as long as we can."

So what are the possibilities? Many say deal Paul Byrd to the Yankees. He's pitching well, and the Yanks will pay for him. Sorry, that won't fly. Not yet. We have to hope that Byrd pitches well until July, then you move him then. Cleveland can get a lot for him, but I don't believe now is the time. Of course, with New York in a state of flux right now, you never know. You could move Carmona to the bullpen in long relief, but you can see that he tires right around the 85-90 pitch count mark now. His arm is just getting used to throwing 100 pitches. You cannot make him a long reliever. You could move Sowers to the pen, but he's done nothing to merit that. You could send Carmona down (which is what they are going to do), which is the best option mentioned, but it WILL screw with his head, and we saw what happened when he moved to the closer roll. Carmona is ALREADY thinking about it:

"I'm not even thinking about that," Carmona said through translator Luis Rivera, the team's first-base coach. "I'm not going to waste my energy thinking about things that I can't control."

So what do you do? Do you use a six man rotation, and send down Mastny? Do you rotate Byrd, Sowers and Carmona? It's a tough decision, but if you were to ask me, I'd probably move Byrd to the pen, and spot start him. I know it would KILL the potential for trading him, but when you have a 23 year old pitching as well as Carmona, you don't mess with him now. Of course, a lot can happen in four days.

It was good seeing Jaret Wright today.Every time I see him, I think about his 2-hit gem in game seven against Florida in 1997 (was it that long ago?). If only he had stayed in the game. Still, it was ironic that Cleveland hammered the bookends today in Wright and Guthrie, two former Indian #1's. Three runs against Wright, and three runs against Guthrie. I guess it doesn't pay to pitch against your former team, against another future star. Yeah, I'd say it was a game full of irony alright.

Cliff Lee has a new slider that he's going to start using this week. If the pitch WORKS, it could put Lee over the edge from a pedestrian lefty, to a dominating one. I don't know how smart it is though to come of the IR throwing a pitch you've never really thrown before, but then again, what do I know. I'm a Lee fan, and think that he still could be a top-end starter. Hopefully, this is the pitch that does it.

I'm an optimist, so I tend to see the good in Peralta,when others don't. He had a costly error yesterday, that is for sure. Still, you can't help but see flashes of 2005 in EVERY game these days. His fielding IS better, and at times, downright sparkling. No, he's not going to confuse anyone of Omar Vizquel, but face it folks, he's a once in a lifetime player. What has impressed me, over the past few games, has been his timely hits. He still strikes out too much, but he seems to be turning the corner. Let's just hope that Peralta finds a way to be as patient as his teammates. He's got time. It's not like Cleveland has anyone to push him. Of course, rumor has it that Byrd is available!

Barfield continues to show the Indians that it's not (just) a bat they traded for when they sent K2 to San Diego. Hey made a couple of plays today look easy, that Ronnie Belliard would have missed diving. One was a ground ball up the middle he grabbed and still beat the runner by 5 steps. An inning later, he made another fantastic play the OTHER way. He made it look easy. If you blink hard enough, it looks a lot like Roberto Alomar out there. At the plate, he still looks like my five-year-old most of the time, but it can't get any worse. It will improve, and look at it this way; Kouzmanoff is batting .127 with 1 dinger and 4 RBI. Barfield is batting .155 with 1 homer and 9 RBI. Who has the better stick?

Speaking of decisions, what is Wedge going to do when Marte is ready to play?Do you send down Shin Soo Choo, who shouldn't have been sent down in the first place? Do you keep Choo, and keep Marte at AAA until he gets his groove back (sorry Stella)? It really doesn't make a whole bunch of sense to keep Choo, which would give Cleveland four lefty outfielders (along with Dellucci, Nixon and Sizemore). Of course, mentioning Sizemore is plain silly, but with Dellucci healthy (he isn't going anywhere), and Nixon playing exceedingly well, it's hard to put up a defense, baseball-wise, that Choo needs to stay. He's good, but you just can't keep that many lefty bats. Choo will be heading down, where he'll find a brother-in-arms with Carmona. I would pay money to see what those two would have to do to find a way to talk to each other.

I hated the Nixon signing, I'll admit it.Mainly because of Choo, but also because of his injury-issues. Still, I have no problem with him shoving my opinions down my throat. If Choo never sees Cleveland again this year, THAT'S NOT A BAD THING. If Nixon continues with timely hits, he is a fantastic signing. It's a long season though. It seems to me that Cleveland really has some tradable commodities, especially with the Yankees struggling. Wouldn't that be ironic.

Finally, Cleveland's hitters are third in the AL in strikeouts with 174 (behind Kansas City and Tampa Bay--yeah, I know, scary).. Cleveland is third in the AL in walks with 97 (behind Boston and Chicago). So, does that make Cleveland more selective? Yeah, roll around with that one for awhile.

Is there anyone that believes Cleveland couldn't and shouldn't be playing any better? They can, and will.

Next up...C.C. Sabathia vs. A.J. Burnett on Tuesday in Cleveland. Burnett recently smoked the Yankees with seven shutout innings. Of course, the Yankees aren't the Indians.

No, I'm not really sure what that means either...

It's a beautiful day for baseball...isn't it?

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