Mitchell: Looking toward 2012- Starting Pitchers
So the baseball world has dispersed from Dallas and the Indians did not have any roster shifts. The Indians look to have a pitching staff that will look a lot like the one they had in 2011. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona and the newly acquired Derek Lowe will be the rotation. Although Jeanmar Gomez, Zach McAllister and David Huff will have a chance to win a job, it would seem that barring injury, it would have to be in the bullpen. David Huff has one option remaining as does Jeanmar Gomez. Neither of them have been relievers, but for Huff in particular, maybe this is the year for a switch. He’s in his 6th full season and it appears that others in the organization are beginning to pass him by.
As for the Columbus rotation, assuming no shifts are made to the bullpen and no more veteran depth signings are made, The Clippers look like that have a spectacular Triple-A starting staff.
Jeanmar Gomez, last year’s league ERA leader, should be at the top of the rotation. Gomez never allowed more than 4 earned runs in a start and never went less than 5 innings. he finished 10-7, but with a little run support, he could have had a much better mark. Gomez had an 8-3 record with 4 no-decisions in games where he allowed 2 or fewer earned runs. His WHIP was quite high last year and the Tribe would love to see him trust his stuff and challenge hitters to cut down on his walks.
David Huff has had very good success with the Clippers. He parlayed a strong start in 2009 to an 11-win Major League rookie campaign. The next season, after struggling in the Majors and being optioned down, he was a very vocal leader in the 2010 play-off run. Huff started a little slowly in 2011, but had a magnificent June and July to earn his way back to the bigs. He went 2-6 with the Tribe, but seemingly pitched better than the results. It is concerning is that his ground ball rate has declined the last few years. David is a lefty who can throw 92-93. Those don’t grow on trees. He is still a valuable commodity, though he will have to assert himself to stay near the front of the line when an arm is needed in Cleveland.
Zach McAllister put himself right into the mix for a Major League job last year with a tremendous bounce-back season. Pitching mainly for Scranton in 2010, McAllister had a 5.09 ERA and gave up 20 home runs, taking some of the shine off of his rising star, but he pitched well for the Clippers in the ’10 play-offs and it carried over into 2011. Pitching in cozy Huntington Park, you’d think he’s give up more homers, but he cut his HR rate in half, while increasing his K/9 rate from 5.9 to 7.5 with a fastball that ramped up in velocity considerably due to a heavy program of off-season conditioning work. McAllister pitched well in three of his four big league starts last season and he is in the Indians future plans.
The Clippers 4th starter will likely be Scott Barnes. Barnes had a wild start to the season in 2011. He walked 10 batters in his first two starts for Columbus, but he also struck out 11. His control improved and he went on a roll. June was a breakout month for Barnes as he went 4-1 in six starts, with a 1.66 ERA, a 9.2 K/9 and a 1.00 WHIP. After pitching more than 5 innings only once prior to June, he went into the 6th in every start thereafter. Barnes season was cut short due to a knee injury suffered while fielding a ball against Toledo on July 10th. Hopefully he is fully recovered and picks up right where he left off. If so, expect him to get his first look in the bigs this year as the Indians put him on the 40-man before the Rule V draft.
Rounding out the rotation will likely be right-hander Corey Kluber. He has the tools to be very very good, but Kluber’s issue in 2011 was the big inning. He would cruise through the opposition for several innings and then come out and seemingly lose his feel for the baseball. he made strides throughout the season in being able to bounce back from a bad frame to recover and pitch well the rest of his outing. Kluber is a big guy at 6’4 215 and has a good arsenal and a strong work ethic. The Indians gave him a look out of the bullpen last season and he remains on the 40-man roster. There is a lot to like about Kluber and if he continues his development and can limit those occasions where an inning gets away from him, he can be a player the Indians will look at.
Next time, we will look at the bullpen.
Notes of interest:
The Big Swede becomes the Big Swing- Former Indians southpaw prospect Chuck Lofgren has resigned with the SF Giants organization, but his days as a pitcher appear to be over. The Giants want to convert him to an OF/1B because they liked his swing enough to see some value in it. Hey, it worked for Rick Ankiel. Lofgren was taken by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2009 Rule V draft and signed with SF as a free agent in 2010.
MVP goes West- Joe Martinez who won the Triple-A National Championship game MVP award has signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Martinez bounced between the rotation and the bullpen for the Clippers and was a true professional. Joe is a heck of a nice guy and will be missed. Broadcast team fav Jensen Lewis also signed with the Diamondbacks this off season. Jensen and Kirk Gibson, that’s an interesting pair.
No Rhymes or Reasons- Will Rhymes will be non-tendered by the Tigers. Rhymes was an IL All Star for Toledo, has a +.300 career average in the minors, hit .283 in the bigs a very solid OBP, the Tigers have a platoon at 2B and not a ton of middle infielders in the system. Rhymes was not the future at 2B in Detroit, but he was a nice depth player who was not arbitration eligible. Why is he let go then? I don’t know the answer, but it IS interesting that he blasted Tigers manager Jim Leyland on Twitter during the 2011 play-offs. Coincidence? You decide.
Who Wants some Pie- The Indians have signed former Oriole OF Felix Pie to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite, according to the Baltimore Sun. At this time the Indians have not confirmed the report. If Pie is signed and makes the Indians roster, it will obviously have an impact on the breakdown of outfielders. The Sun reports that Pie would have an out clause if he doesn’t make the club out of spring.