As promised, here is a preview of the Clippers starting pitching candidates:
1. Aaron Laffey
Left-hander, 6-0, 180 lbs., 24 years old
Last year: 5-7, 4.23 ERA w/Indians (16 games); 6-2, 4.38 ERA w/Buffalo (11 games)
How did he get here? 16th round pick in 2003 draft from Allegany High School in Maryland.
The skinny: Laffey is probably the favorite to win the #5 spot in the bigs. He had better numbers than Cliff Lee last May, but couldn’t sustain that momentum. His season ended with a thud after allowing 14 runs in his last two Triple-A starts. Don’t be surprised if Laffey starts with the Indians, but he’ll need a solid April to stay out of Columbus.
2. Jeremy Sowers
Left-hander, 6-1, 180 lbs., 25 years old
Last year: 4-9, 5.58 ERA w/Indians (22 games); 4-3, 2.08 ERA w/Buffalo (10 games)
How did he get here? 1st round pick (6th overall) in 2004 draft from Vanderbilt
The skinny: Sowers is probably not the favorite to be the Indians #5, primarily because of his struggles last year. He could win the job back with a strong spring showing, but it looks like the Indians confidence in him is lower than ever before. Sowers has been very good at the Triple-A level and could be the ace of the Clippers rotation.
3. David Huff
Left-hander, 6-2, 190 lbs., 24 years old
Last year: 6-4, 3.01 ERA w/Buffalo (16 games); 5-1, 1.92 ERA w/ Akron (11 games)
How did he get here? 1st round pick (supplemental) in 2006 draft from UCLA
The skinny: The Indians are probably more excited about Huff than any other young pitcher in the minors. He made his Triple-A debut last year after dominating the Eastern League. He has outstanding command of his pitches and uses a slider and change-up to off-set an average fastball. Huff has already been compared to Tom Glavine as a “crafty” left-hander with all the tools to succeed. He will start with the Clippers, but should be on the short list to get a call up.
4. Scott Lewis
Left-hander, 6-0, 185 lbs., 25 years old
Last year: 4-0, 2.63 ERA w/Indians (4 games); 2-2, 2.63 ERA w/Buffalo (4 games); 6-2, 2.33 w/Akron (13 games)
How did he get here? 3rd round pick (77th overall) in 2004 draft from Ohio State
The skinny: 2008 was a whirlwind season for Lewis, who went from Double-A to the bigs seemingly overnight. His tremendous debut with Cleveland means the Indians will have a close watch on his performances this spring. Most likely, he’ll start with the Clippers and the former Ohio State star will be a fan favorite in Columbus. He may be the perfect candidate to take the mound for the opening of Huntington Park on April 18th.
5. Zach Jackson
Left-hander, 6-5, 220 lbs., 25 years old
Last year: 2-3, 5.60 ERA w/Indians (9 games); 3-1, 4.05 ERA (8 games)
How did he get here? Acquired on July 7th, 2008 from Brewers in CC Sabathia trade
The skinny: Jackson was struggling with Triple-A Nashville (1-5, 7.85 ERA) before getting traded. He seemed to get back on track a bit late in the season and was called up to the Indians in August when Paul Byrd was dealt. The Brewers were looking at moving Jackson to the bullpen permanently, but the Indians still see him as a starter. He’ll get a chance to prove his worth with the Clippers.
Others in the mix: Tomo Ohka, Kirk Saarloos, and Ryan Edell
The bottom line: The Clippers should be stacked with left-handed pitchers in their mid-20′s. It’s a group that has the potential to be as good as any staff in Triple-A. The success and health of the Indians staff will determine whether the Clippers can keep a consistent rotation together.