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September Callups Will Provide Relief

September Callups Will Provide Relief

| On 01, Sep 2013

Prior to Saturday’s disastrous loss at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, Indians manager Terry Francona announced a slew of callups for the next several days that will, at nothing else, provide Cleveland with some relief for their heavily overworked team.

The most pressing need for the Major League club appeared evident to most, as the offensive effort has been absolutely horrendous.

So, of course, ten players will be added to the active roster, including two position players and eight bullpen arms.

Easily the most intriguing of the callups will be the one player to join the team that has yet to make his big league debut. Young infielder Jose Ramirez is slated to be promoted to the club for Sunday’s ball game, a somewhat curious move for the 20-year-old Akron Aeros prospect who will become the fourth-youngest player in the Major Leagues.

Ramirez saw time at second, short, and third base for the Aeros this season after skipping the Single-A Carolina stop of the minor league level. He batted .272 in Akron in 2013, stole 38 bases, and drove in 38 runs while scoring 78 times.

Barring additional youth movements around the league, he will be the fourth-youngest player at the Major League level, trailing just Jurickson Profar (Texas), Bryce Harper (Washington), and Xander Bogaerts (Boston).

As of Saturday night, only infielder Juan Diaz and outfielder Tim Fedroff were non-pitchers on the Columbus roster who were also on the current 40-man roster for Cleveland. Other potential candidates to possibly provide some offensive punch from the bench were not considered, including familiar faces Matt LaPorta and Ezequiel Carrera and veteran Major Leaguer Jeremy Hermida.

LaPorta was limited again this season to just 42 games at Columbus due to injuries. He did hit nine home runs in his brief duty and drove in 26 runs, but batted .234 with a .301 on-base percentage. His four previous years with the Indians did not garner him a look this September.

Carrera led the AAA club with 43 stolen bases in 55 attempts, but batted .248. He trailed only Cincinnati’s super-speedster Billy Hamilton (75) for International League dominance in the base theft category. Carrera spent some time this season in the Majors with both Philadelphia and Cleveland, hitting a combined .176 between the two stops.

Hermida led the team in home runs (17) and RBI (66), but batted just .249 on the year. The 29-year-old struck out 147 times in 466 at bats. He had spent parts of each of the previous eight seasons at the big league level, hitting .257 for his career with 65 home runs.

The recently re-acquired Kelly Shoppach, a former Indians catcher, will join Ramirez on the offensive side of the September upgrades on Sunday. Shoppach requested and was granted his release from the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A club during the week and was signed by the Indians, who assigned him to Columbus.

The bullpen will receive the other eight ball players, all of whom will be called up from Columbus between Sunday and Tuesday. Unlike Ramirez, these eight all have some degree of big league experience, although all but two have done so in an Indians uniform at some point this season.

Left-hander Nick Hagadone and right-handers Preston Guilmet and Blake Wood will be called up on Sunday, the first day of the expanded Sunday rosters.

There have been plenty of theories about the struggles of Hagadone at the Major League level earlier this season. Some have speculated that the short leash and the frequent trips back and forth between Cleveland and its Triple-A affiliate gave him a bit of a complex. Others questioned manager Francona’s use of the lefty, as he oftentimes saw entire innings of work instead of being used as a situational lefty matchup reliever. Others still have debated Hagadone’s makeup, especially in light of the uncharacteristic injury he sustained last season prior to a demotion.

He was second on the Columbus staff with seven saves and finished his Triple-A season with a 2.51 ERA. He had a 5.33 ERA in 28 games and 25 1/3 innings with Cleveland.

Guilmet was the Columbus leader in ERA (1.68), WHIP (0.89), and saves (20). He struck out 72 batters in 64 1/3 innings pitched and had a 5.14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He may get a solid look through September, as he may factor largely in the makeup of the 2014 version of the Indians bullpen. His 10.80 ERA in two outings in Cleveland are deceptive, as he was working in mop-up duty of a bad Zach McAllister effort in early August and allowed four runs on six hits in two and two-thirds innings of work against Detroit.

Wood was acquired in November 2012 in a waiver claim from the Kansas City Royals while he was attempting to return from Tommy John surgery. In his last season with the Royals in 2011, he was 5-3 with a 3.75 ERA. He averaged eight strikeouts per nine innings and had appeared in 69 2/3 innings in 55 games. He earned a 2-0 record across four minor league levels this season in 29 games and had a 2.39 ERA for the season, including a 2.16 mark in 18 games with the Clippers.

Another left-hander, Clay Rapada, will join the Indians in Cleveland on Monday. The Major League veteran of the Cubs, Rangers, Orioles, Tigers, and Yankees organizations, he had appeared in 70 games last season for New York and compiled a 3-0 record with a 2.82 ERA. He was signed by the Indians in June after being released by the Yankees. He has a career record of 8-0 in the Majors with a 4.15 ERA.

He spent a month in the minors with the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders, where he had a 4.66 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in ten appearances. After joining the Clippers, he appeared in 26 games, logged 23 innings, and had no record with one save while posting a 1.13 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. Lefties batted just .188 off of him.

Four right-handers will rejoin the ball club on Tuesday, as Carlos Carrasco, C.C. Lee, Vinnie Pestano, and Josh Tomlin return to the Indians bullpen.

Carrasco was just sent out on Saturday to make room on the 25-man roster for the newly acquired Jason Kubel. Carrasco has suddenly become a viable and fully contributing member of the pitching staff in his new role in the bullpen. In four relief appearances in August, he has a 1-0 record, his first win since 2011. He has not allowed a run in ten and one-third innings and has allowed just three hits and four walks. His 2.25 strikeout-to-walk rate is nearly one strikeout higher than his rate as a starter, and he has limited opposing batters to a .097 batting average against him.

Lee made a brief appearance earlier in the season, logging two innings in three outings. He put four of the ten batters he faced on base (three walks, one hit batter), but did not allow a hit. He appeared in 28 minor league contests between Lake County, Akron, and Columbus this season and finished with a 1-0 record with a 2.57 ERA. He averaged more than four strikeouts per every one walk and batters hit just .188 against him.

Pestano, the long-time setup man for the Bullpen Mafia, struggled through the midway point of the 2013 campaign and was sent down to Columbus after losing his setup role. While with the Clippers, he was not charged with a decision or a save. He posted a 3.46 ERA and struck out 12 batters in 13 innings. His five earned runs were limited to two different appearances. In five of his final ten appearances, he did not allow a base runner.

He was 1-2 in Cleveland with six saves. He had a 4.05 ERA in 34 games. He was allowing base runners at the highest frequency of his big league career and was averaging three fewer strikeouts per nine innings than just two years ago.

Tomlin has made an unbelievably quick recovery from Tommy John surgery. He was removed from his rehab assignment and assigned to the Columbus roster just one year and three days from the date of his surgery. While he was stretched out to five innings at AAA, he gives the Indians an option as a long man in the bullpen. He appeared twice for the Clippers, pitching five innings in each start. In his final start, he allowed just one hit and struck out four.

All of these moves, coupled with the potential activation of Corey Kluber in the coming week as he looks to return from a sprained right middle finger, will inject quite a bit of pitching depth into the Indians bullpen. While the starting pitching overall has produced results far exceeding expectations this season, several starters (Kluber, McAllister) have missed time this season with finger injuries, Scott Kazmir has struggled through some dead arm issues, and Sunday’s starter, youngster Danny Salazar, is on a limited pitch count.

The addition of both Hagadone and Rapada gives Francona a pair of situational lefties to pair with Rich Hill and Marc Rzepczynski late in ball games.

Tomlin and Carrasco can help to absorb some innings in the event that Salazar’s pitch count is too high or that he even needs to be shut down. The same could be said for Kazmir, who the team will keep a close eye on with his high work load in his first season back, and Kluber, who will not have the chance to get fully stretched back out into full game duty while avoiding rehabilitation starts due to the completion of the minor league seasons.

The additional right-handers allow Francona to match up more and to lighten the load of Cody Allen, Joe Smith, Bryan Shaw, Matt Albers, and Hill, who rank either in the top 50 pitchers in the American League in appearances, innings pitched, or both.

After all players (sans Kluber) arrive to the club on Tuesday, Francona will have a 20-man pitching staff to utilize.

With the offense struggling to put runs on the scoreboard with any degree of consistency, Francona may be forced to keep a much closer eye on his pitchers and give them the hook before things spin too far out of control. Having more cards in the deck may hopefully enable him to play the game a little bit longer.

If the Indians plan on playing meaningful baseball through the entire month of September, he is going to need all of the pitching help he can get.

Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer