House Has Laid Foundation as Arm Indians Can Trust
Craig Gifford | On 13, Jun 2014
When the 2014 baseball season began, it seemed the Cleveland Indians had a pretty deep rotation. After the starting five, the team had Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin waiting in the wings in Columbus should something go awry during the regular season.
Things went awry fairly quickly for the Tribe’s rotation as No. 4 and 5 starters Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco were ineffective, at best, during the month of April. By the second week of May, Tomlin and Bauer were both in the majors and pitching far better than the duo that had preceded them.
While Bauer and Tomlin have shored up a shaky back end of the Cleveland rotation, having the two in Cleveland seemingly weakened the reserves for the Indians to turn to in times of need. Beyond the young Bauer and Tomlin, coming off Tommy John surgery, there did not appear to be a lot Major League-ready options in Triple-A.
When Zach McAllister went down with a back injury a few weeks ago, the mystery was who would take his spot in the Major League starting five. Salazar has not looked good in three starts for the Clippers and is currently on the disabled list, himself. Carasco had been moved to the Cleveland bullpen where he has been far more effect than as a starter. Neither were really an option for what would amount to a handful of starts.
The Indians turned to the recently promoted, little-known T.J. House. Shortly before McAllister was put on the DL, House had been called upon to fill a spot in the bullpen. A lefty, he was called up during a time in which Cleveland’s bullpen had been overworked and an extra arm was needed. He threw one scoreless inning in relief, before being thrust into the lime light of starting.
House, a 24-year-old, had been having a solid season with the Clippers. In seven starts he was 1-2, with a 2.40 ERA. Still, like Salazar a year ago, he was not on the radar of the average fan as a guy who would be contributing in the big leagues the season.
Yet, there he was on May 23 taking the hill against the Baltimore Orioles. His first start in the Major Leagues was not a memorable one. House looked very much like a rookie facing a solid offense. He surrendered five earned runs in six innings pitched. It made fans long for McAllister and pray for his speedy recovery.
Then, a funny thing happened. House seemed to settle down in his next couple of starts and pitched even better than he guy for whom he was filling in had fared much of the first month and a half.
In outings against the Chicago White Sox and defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, House went a combined 12 innings and allowed just three earned runs. It put him on the map in the minds of Tribe fans as someone who might be able to pitch at the big league level.
House was rocked by the Rangers for five earned runs in three and one-third frames on Monday. In a 17-7 win for the Indians, in which House was staked to an 8-1 lead, the rookie may have settled down too much and allowed the hard-hitting squad from Texas to rock him.
All told, the young lefty has made two good starts and two that he would soon like to forget. It has amounted to a 5.24 ERA. He will start again against the Red Sox on Saturday. It may well be House’s last chance to make a statement in an Indians uniform as McAllister is reportedly close to returning to the Tribe. McAllister could be back in Cleveland by early next week after going six innings in a rehab start Tuesday with the Clippers and allowing two runs and three hits.
House held the Red Sox to two runs in five and two-thirds innings at home on June 3. He will be on the hallowed grounds of Fenway Park this time around. If House can again look good it would be a huge feather in his cap.
No matter what happens, House seems to have at least given back to the Indians some of the pitching depth they had lost when Carrasco and Salazar had to be removed from the starting rotation. Cleveland now has a sixth starter it can again turn to when needed.
House is very much a rookie and has had the ups and down associated with a rookie. However, the mere fact he has had ups puts him ahead of Salazar and Carrasco in the starting pecking order. Even when the certain demotion comes in the near future, it is almost a certainty House will not be down for good. McAllister has been on the disabled list twice in two years, now. Surely he could go down again. It is unlikely the Indians will go through the same five starters without injury from now until the end of the year.
Unlike the middle of May when fans had no idea who the team would turn to, next time there is a time of need, House will not be an unknown name. He is now known and even somewhat trusted. It is not dark days ahead, as once feared, if another starting pitcher goes down with injury.
Photo: Brian Kersey/Getty Images