Time and Chances Are Running Out for Gomez and Tribe
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 examine a player who is out of minor league options, meaning they must be on the 25-man roster.
By Mike Brandyberry
Jeanmar Gomez could be out of last chances, and if he’s not, he is probably down to his last one.
Just like the Tribe, Gomez’s season started with promise and exceeding expectations, only to end in wreckage and disarray and little direction heading forward. When looking at his 5-8 record and 5.96 ERA for 2012, it is hard to believe that on May 19 he shutout the Miami Marlins for 6.1 innings on three hits to run his record to 3-2, with a 3.19 ERA.
When Roberto Hernandez was arrested in January in the Dominican Republic for falsifying records and his identity, the Indians acted fast to trade Zach Putnam to the Colorado Rockies for Kevin Slowey. Slowey was expected to join Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe and Josh Tomlin as the fifth member of the Tribe rotation, but Gomez had other plans.
In six spring training appearances Gomez allowed only three runs over 19.2 innings, while Slowey sputtered to allow nine runs in only 12 innings. Despite Slowey’s guaranteed contract, they used his last minor league option and sent him to Triple-A Columbus and rewarded Gomez with the fifth spot in the rotation.
Early, it appeared the Indians uncharacteristic move to reward a young player over a veteran with a guaranteed contract would pay off. While Slowey struggled at Columbus and was eventually shelved in May with injury, Gomez shined through April and early May. Indians manager Manny Acta raved about Gomez improvement in his slider, pointing to it as a strike out pitch.
“It’s been part of the maturation process and he has been great at that,” Acta said of Gomez after his May 19 start. “He doesn’t let things bother him or carry over from the last start.”
However, like July 26 was the tipping point of the Tribe season, May 19 became that for Gomez. After his six strong innings against the Marlins, Gomez was 1-5 over the next month. His lone win was a five inning, six earned run effort against the Detroit Tigers on June 6 that did little to calm the nerves of the rotation. After three more disappointing starts—all losses—Gomez was optioned back to Triple-A Columbus, his strikeout slider seemingly missing and his fastball rising in the zone.
“(The ball) moved too much, it got up, (and) when I made that mistake, I paid for it,” Gomez said this summer while pitching in Columbus.
Gomez had lukewarm success while in Columbus this summer, going 6-5 with a 4.41 ERA in 11 starts. His work was not necessarily deserving of another chance, but he received one in late August when he was recalled to Cleveland to aid an ailing and overworked bullpen. The bullpen had pitched too many innings through the Indians’ dismal 5-24 August. However, after one scoreless inning out of the bullpen, Gomez was inserted back into the rotation when Hernandez suffered an ankle injury and was sidelined for the rest of the season.
His next chance in the Tribe rotation had many of the same results as his late May and June efforts. After three starts and none of them quality starts, Gomez was again removed from the rotation and replaced by David Huff for the last two starts. He only made it to the fifth inning once in the three starts.
Moving forward, one has to wonder how many chances Gomez has left with the Indians. Team President Mark Shapiro and General Manager Chris Antonetti have each pointed to the starting pitching as the result of the Tribe’s second half swoon and Gomez certainly played a part in the futility before the catastrophic August.
With Masterson and Zach McAllister expected to be in the rotation and Jimenez’s option expected to be exercised later today, Gomez will have to battle Carlos Carrasco and David Huff for the final two spots in the rotation. That’s also assuming the Indians don’t acquire more starting pitching through the winter, which seems reasonable since it has been identified as the result of the team’s second half slide.
Huff and Carrasco are both out of options just like Gomez, and each will have to be on the 25-man roster or clear waivers to return to the minor leagues. It seems each will receive another chance of some kind in 2013, but the list of competitors for a roster spot will probably grow throughout the winter. Gomez and Huff have each pitched out of the bullpen at times and could possibly make the team in that role, if not the rotation, but one thing is certain…time is running out for Gomez with the Indians.
Photo: Getty Images