Saturday, May 2, 2009

Are the Indians faithful ready for LaPort-ucci?

The Cleveland Indians have promoted OF Matt LaPorta and infielders Luis Valbuena and Josh Barfield from Triple-A Columbus in a likely effort to bolster their offense and defense.  To make the moves, RP Joe Smith was placed on the 15-day DL, OF Trevor Crowe was sent down to Columbus, and IF Tony Graffanino was designated for assignment.

LaPorta, the crown jewel in the CC Sabathia deal last July and one of the Indians top prospects, has been promoted to Cleveland a day later than he likely should have.  Yesterday, David Dellucci was called up to replace Travis Hafner instead of the power-hitting LaPorta.  I know, what's the big flippin' deal.  It's only a day.  Well, a day IS a big deal when you are calling up David Dellucci ahead of a player as offensively gifted as LaPorta is.  His talent isn't the kind that you worry much about right or left handed pitching match-ups, unless you are Eric Wedge. 

Sure, Dellucci responded by going four for five with two doubles, but he had to be hearing the large footsteps of LaPorta's.  They are likely really loud now.

LaPorta brings the same type of offensive package that the departing Hafner once provided the Indians' organization.  The power-hitting OF/1B/DH can provide a run-producing bat in the middle of the lineup in a way that no other immediate Tribe player can.  He also may be a quick answer to the Indians' struggles with runners in scoring position.

LaPorta also gives the Indians some flexibility with regards to where they can play him.  Although LaPorta isn't going to be confused for Grady Sizemore any time soon, the big slugger can play the outfield, as well as first base and DH.  This could allow a whle bunch of playing time to a player that is long overdue.

Of course, Wedge had to go and say that he's a "complement" to David Dellucci.  Really?  LaPorta is a compliment to Dellucci?  Can you smell the platoon already?  Wedge, who is absolutely fixated on platoons, seems prepared to platoon the two players in left field.  What's not known is how LaPorta will fit into the first base and DH-situations.  It's likely that even with the potential outfield platoon, that LaPorta will find more at bats at his other positions.  A lot of that could depend on the other players brought up in today's moves.
Luis Valbuena will be making his Indians debut in the near future as well.  I have to believe that the Valbuena move is a direct wake-up call to Jhonny Peralta's 2009 struggles.  The potential is there to put Valbuena at second base, and move the slick-fielding Asdrubal Cabrera to his natural shortstop position.  Such a move would likely make the Tribe's defense much better in the infield  With Mark DeRosa at third base now, Peralta could be on his way out.  Although I don't think the Indians are there yet, this could be the early writing on the wall.  It also could be the first move that sees Peralta move to third next season.

Valbuena has proven to be more versatile than originally thought.  The second baseman has found time not only at his original position, but also at short and even some third base this year.  Valbuena will initially take over the role that Tony Graffanino has initially played as the Tribe's top utility player.  Whether or not he plays a bigger role could unfold over the next couple of weeks.

Barfield will step in as the Crowe/Speed replacement.  I still can't help but feel that there is more to Barfield than he will ever find in Cleveland.  With that said, I appreciate Barfield has been willing to move whereever the Indians have sent him without whining and complaining about it.  Remember, he came to Cleveland with a whole bunch of hype surrounding him, and a Dad that is highly involved, and a former major league slugger as well.  Barfield can play some defense as well, and if he finds his way into the lineup, won't be a liability in the field.

Of course, what happens in the future depends soley on Joe Smith, Travis Hafner and Jamey Carroll.  Smith should be back soon, although I think the likely move there will be Rafael Perez or Jensen Lewis getting sent down.  Travis Hafner could be out for the original 15-days, or longer.  If he comes back, it's doubtful that LaPorta will stay with the club, unless he forces their hand.  Carroll is the utility guy here, and if he's healthy, you'd have to imagine that Valbuena and/or Barfield would be in jeopardy.  Personally, Carroll is expendable to me.  I'd rather have Barfield OR Valbuena in the lineup any day of the week.

Either way, it should be interesting watching this new blood in the Tribe lineup as early as today.  Hopefully, they'll be as effective as Tony Sipp was to the pen.  Hopefully, Eric Wedge won't under-utilize these guys the way he has done in the past.

I won't hold my breath though.

Pavano sparkles: Wood saves the day in Tribe victory over Tigers

The Cleveland Indians rode the arms of Carl Pavano and Kerry Wood to victory last night, as the Tribe beat the Detroit Tigers 6-5 at Detroit's Comerica Park Friday Night.

The Indians signing of Carl Pavano to an incentive-laden, $1.5 million dollar deal this past offseason didn't exactly set the corner of Ontario and Carnegie on fire.  The big right-hander hadn't been an effective starter in more than four years, and there wasn't much data suggesting that he was going to turn things around with the Indians.  This theory was supported by his bloated, spring training ERA of near 10, followed by an equally uninspiring 0-3 start to the season.

Pavano may have turned the corner.

The new Indians starter pitched 7 1/3 strong innings last night, giving up only five hits, two runs, without a walk, while striking out three.  It was his longest start since May of 2005 when he pitched a complete game shutout for the Yankees.  Pavano did a nice job working the corners, and for the first time this season, seemed able to locate his pitches, especially his slider.  He also managed to be extremely efficient, throwing only 97 pitches.

This is the Pavano that the Indians need.  What Pavano needs to provide for the Tribe's starting staff is an arm that can go past the seven inning mark to help save a bullpen that has been less than stellar so far in 2009.  Up until this point, he didn't look a think like that pitcher, regardless of what many other sources have been saying.  Other than a start against the Yankees in which he was likely pumped full of adrenaline, Pavano's been a dog in 2009, with a near 10 ERA.

Hopefully this start against the Tigers is a trend, and not the exception.
I'm sure there are many that think keeping Perez with the big club is the route to go.  Normally, I would agree with that sentiment.  Too often in the past, Shapiro's handling of young pitchers has resembled more of a yo-yo than a GM, bouncing them from the Indians to the triple A club numerous times.  Shapiro and Wedge seem to be trying something a bit different with Perez this year by keeping him with the big club to work out his problems with Indians pitching coach, Carl Willis.  Last night's start may have been a major step back.

Perez relieved Pavano with one out in the eighth after Pavano had given up a run and two doubles.  Perez only managed to throw three pitches.  The second pitch was an infield single to the speedy Curtis Granderson, moving Brandon Inge to third.  The third pitch was a Placido Polanco single that scored a run.  It was the last batter he faced, giving him another outing without recording an out.

It's not that Perez pitched poorly, the kid only threw three pitches.  It's not as though the two hits were moon shots that went out of the stadium.  No, we're talking about two singles, one of them of the infield variety.  What worries me most at this stage Perez is starting to get to that place where he thinks every bad thing that could happen to a player, will happen.  The head games are the graveyard for pitching careers.  It may be time to send the young lefty down to Columbus to get things straight.

I know having Willis standing next to him while he's throwing is helpful, but it's not like we live in 1807.  There is such a thing as video feeds and telephones.  Let Perez regain his confidence in Columbus, not Cleveland.

I like Jensen Lewis, and really want this kid to succeed.  He seems to have Tom Mastny disease though.  He struggles...a lot.  The problem is that he goes through these stretches of looking really good, that you can't quite put your finger on what kind of pitcher he'll be.  His ceiling appears to be that of a closer.  His basement seems to be Fernando Cabrera.  Right now, he's pitching like the latter.  He may need to spend some time in Columbus as well.

I wish the Indians had never signed David Dellucci.  Apparently in some retort to my lashing of the Indians bringing up the outfielder yesterday, Dellucci had perhaps his best offensive game since joining the Tribe as a free agent.  He went 4 for 5 with two doubles and a run yesterday.  The Indians are only better with Dellucci playing well, so I'm not rooting against the guy.  That said, I'll believe this offense when I see it more than once.

This is the brilliance of Kerry Wood.  He threw nine pitches in a perfect ninth inning.  He's a closer, with a closer's mentality.  He's had a brutal week in many respects, but you could never tell while Wood was on the mound last night.  He's worth every cent.

Aaron Laffey is on the hill today against Zach Miner.  Looking forward to seeing Laffey continue his brilliant 2009 campaign. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Same ole' Shapiro, David Dellucci called up to Cleveland

Mark Shapiro and the Cleveland Indians have done it again.  With the Indians sputtering at 8-14, Shapiro has decided to call up the much-maligned David Dellucci to fill in the hole left by Travis Hafner's move to the 15-day DL.

David "Freakin" Dellucci.

Sitting in triple A is one Matt LaPorta, who the Indians were hailed for acquiring last season in the deal for CC Sabathia.  LaPorta is struggling in Columbus with a paltry .352 average, a .430 OBP, an 1.103 OPS, five dingers and 14 RBI.  He's walked only eight times, to match his strike out total.

I suppose Shapiro and Wedge didn't want those numbers taking over for Hafner.  I mean, why bring up a guy who is tearing the cover off the ball to strictly be a hitter at DH, when you can call up David Dellucci.

In fairness to Dellucci, he started a rehab assignment in Columbus on April 20 and has hit .414 in 7 games.  He was 5 for 10 with runners on base and 3 for 6 with runners in scoring position.

With that said, if good ole' double D plays like the garbage we've seen in the past couple of years, all things are fair in love and war.  Of course, knowing Shapiro, he'll find a way to replace Dellucci with Jason Michaels.

Here's to you Mr. Shapiro!  Thanks for playing right out of your playbook again.