Hagadone Has a Place in the Bullpen, Only Question is Where?
After a disappointing 2012 Cleveland Indians season the organization is at a crossroads to decide how to progress with the organization, not just for the 2013 season but several seasons to come. Decisions involve ownerships, the front office, managerial and coaching decisions and the players. For the month of October, we’ll look at how the Indians ended up in their current predicament, but most importantly, Where Do the Indians Go From Here. Today we analyze a player that will most likely see an increased role in 2013, versus the role they had in 2012.
By Craig Gifford
Nick Hagadone has a world of potential and possibility. If his head is on straight, he could be a key player coming out of the Cleveland Indians bullpen for years to come.
In late 2011, combined with the early portions of 2012, Tribe fans saw just what the left-handed reliever could become. He closed 2011 with nine appearances and a 4.09 ERA. From April 27-May 26, this year, the ERA was a sterling 1.93. Then a slump, followed by anger issues, took over.
By the time Hagadone left the pitcher’s mound on July 6 against Tampa Bay, his ERA had ballooned to 6.39. Indians management had decided it was time to give him some more grooming at Triple-A Columbus. That trip down I-71 was never able to happen. After his last outing with Cleveland, Hagadone reportedly punched something on his way to the clubhouse, in frustration. He injured his left forearm and missed the remainder of the season.
Hagadone’s 2012 ended with many more questions than answers. The big question is whether or not the southpaw is ready for the big leagues. He sure seemed like it for a month and then the wheels came off. It is possible that was simply a bad stretch. Hagadone has been good at every level of baseball to this point.
Hagadone was good enough at the University of Washington to be a first round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2007. He showed enough promise in Boston’s minor league organization that the Tribe wanted him as a big part of the 2009 trade that saw Cleveland ship out Victor Martinez. Along with current ace Justin Masterson, Hagadone was a central part of what the Indians were getting in return for their All-Star catcher. In 2011 and early 2012, the lefty tore through the Triple-A teams enough so that he was the top minor league reliever coming out of spring training. He was the first bullpen call up of the year when Rafael Perez went down with injury in late April.
The miserable month of June could be chalked up as a fluke. It could be that Hagadone needs more seasoning. That will not really be known until spring training when he takes the mound again. Either way, he is an important part of the Indians’ future.
Hagadone has the pure stuff to be a late-inning pitcher. Cleveland will need that. With closer Chris Perez being possible trade bait over the next year and once-late-inning stalwarts Raffy Perez and Tony Sipp being question marks and arbitration eligible, Hagadone will be needed sooner rather than later.
The bullpen, once a strength for the Tribe, is now in serious disarray. Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith are the only sure things. Sipp struggled all year, while Rafael Perez never could return from injury. One or both may be gone by the start of 2013. Chris Perez is a favorite, along with Shin-Soo Choo to be traded in the offseason. Cody Allen is young and talented, the next closest to a sure bet for the 2013 relief corps with Smith and Pestano.
Next in line is likely Hagadone. He was the last player out of last year’s Cactus League squad to not make the Tribe regular season roster. He would have to be considered a favorite to fill a spot next year. It really is all about Hagadone getting his head right. If he can pitch the way he is capable and avoid self-inflicted wounds, he can be every bit as good as Masterson when it comes to players received for Martinez. In reality, the Tribe could have an ace and closer for years to come in that deal. Hagadone did prove in his early season call up that he can close out a game in the majors, earning his first career save. The ability is there.
His place in the organization is likely as a middle reliever with the Indians to start next season. It would not be shocking to see Hagadone pitching in the late innings by year’s end. That part really is up to him as he will only be as good as he wants to make himself.
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