Is Klieman More Than a Small Piece to the Tribe’s Puzzle?
Mike B. | On 02, Nov 2015
May 14, 1948
Despite being 11-5 after 16 games – and 13 road games – the Cleveland Indians still have a long-term problem with their pitching staff, namely their starting rotation.
Bob Feller and Bob Lemon have combined to win six of the Tribe’s eleven games and appear to be ready to be a one-two punch for the season. However, the only win by a starter other than the tandem is Gene Bearden’s 6-1 victory last Saturday in Washington. Al Gettel and Don Black have failed twice each. Bob Muncrief has stumbled once and Bill Kennedy will have his chance on Sunday against the struggling Chicago White Sox.
It seems everyone has had a chance to start, everyone except Ed Klieman.
Klieman has appeared in four games this season with a 2-0 record and 2.19 ERA in 12 1/3 innings. He pitched in back-to-back games last weekend in Boston, winning both in relief when Tribe starters faltered. Including his relief success, he’s even gone to Indians manager Lou Boudreau and offered to start, but it appears his offers have fallen on deaf ears.
According to Boudreau and new bench coach Bill McKechnie, Klieman does not have the endurance or strength to be a starting pitcher. During spring training and exhibition games, McKechnie wondered if Klieman could even make the team, despite going 5-4, with 17 saves and a 3.03 ERA last season. His 58 appearances led the American League.
Someone who can appear in more than one-third of the games last season must have some kind of strength and stamina. Last weekend when he pitched six innings of relief behind Gettel’s sour two inning start, he was able to hold the Tribe in the game and give the offense a chance to come back, despite pitching two and one-third innings the day before. Klieman was credited with the win in each game.
However, one of the biggest signs of Klieman’s potential is that he has had moderate success as a starting pitcher in the past. In 1944 and 1945, Klieman pitched both as a starter and reliever. He made 31 starts over the two seasons and was able to log innings like a good back of the rotation starter is asked to do.
McKechnie seems to be one of Klieman’s biggest doubters. Boudreau was the manager when Klieman was last a starter, but McKechnie has long been known as a specialist when it comes to pitching and defense. Considering McKechnie has 25 years managerial experience, with four pennants and two World Series titles, his opinion carries serious weight with Boudreau and the rest of the Indians coaching staff. His veteran leadership was brought in to help the young Boudreau with these decisions.
However, it was McKechnie two years ago who told his fried Boudreau that he did not think Lemon had the necessary stuff to transition from outfielder to a solid starting pitcher. Lemon is now 3-2 with a 2.15 ERA in five games. Lemon has completed four of the five starts, proving he is a front of the rotation starter and McKechnie is wrong.
McKechnie may or may not be wrong about Klieman, but something everyone is right about is that the Indians need another starter or two behind Feller and Lemon if they are to contend for the entire season. With not even 20 games gone in the season, most of the Tribe’s options have been exasperated. Soon the Indians will have to explore trade options to aid the staff if nothing improves.
One of the last internal options yet to be explored remains to be Klieman. Being wrong could pay dividends.