Indians Must Continue to Make In-House Moves Now
By Kevin Schneider
Almost half way through the season and hovering just above .500, the Indians can’t afford to continue trying to catch the White Sox with a punch-less lineup and imploding bullpen.
At 38-38 before Saturday’s game, the Indians called up Jason Donald after third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall fractured his arm during Friday’s game. The Tribe is expected to activate Travis Hafner from the disabled list today. But that’s not enough.
A slow-developing trade market coupled with Chicago’s willingness to make moves early means the Indians must make moves – in-house ones, at least – now. The White Sox plugged Kevin Youkilis into third base, a spot that had been even weaker than the Indians’ left-field hole – and that’s saying something.
The Tribe has made a few good changes lately. Namely, Jeanmar Gomez gave way to Zach McAllister in the starting rotation. In his June 28 start, McAllister secured a win after giving up two runs in a solid 5.2 innings while striking out six and walking only one.
And, partly based on Carlos Santana’s injuries, Lou Marson has earned more playing time. The back-up catcher rewarded Manager Manny Acta in Saturday’s trouncing of the Orioles by going 4-for-5 and finishing only a homer shy of the cycle. Here’s what else the Tribe can do to continue its winning ways:
1. Acta needs to stick up for his players. He missed two opportunities in the Yankees series to fire up his team by complaining on the field to umpires who blatantly missed two calls. First, Acta sat in the dugout as the umpires called fair a liner down the third-base line that got by the smooth-fielding Jack Hannahan, in foul territory.
More troubling, Acta stayed on the bench when Yankees left fielder Dewayne Wise appeared at first to make a spectacular catch of a long foul fly hit by Hannahan; however, replays clearly showed a fan holding up the ball that had bounced on the ground in the stands. Maybe Acta called the recent closed-door meeting to apologize to players for not taking their backs. Like most Tribe fans, I’ve been impressed with Acta’s ability to get the most from this team, but the manager’s recent lack of fire has been troubling.
2. Aaron Cunningham needs to go. The utility outfielder added another two strikeouts to his total in a typical 0 for 6 performance in Saturday’s 11-5 win. He left two more runners in scoring position and dragged his average down to .167 in 78 at bats.
Team officials often tout Cunningham’s intangibles, like his ability to back up center field and pinch run. But Cunningham has no steals this year, and the team’s minor-league teams present numerous options for a speedy defensive-minded fielder. Cunningham’s out of options, but the Indians must put priority on winning games and not saving players who haven’t taken advantage of chances.
3. Trevor Crowe should return to Cleveland. The former Tribe first-round pick has disappointed career-wise based on what the team expected from him, but he provides just the skill set the team needs now. Crow could fill the role of Cunningham by relieving Duncan and Damon in left in the late innings; he also could pinch run or hit in important situations and has 5 steals in 8 attempts this year. Crowe also could start in center some days to give Brantley a needed break.
At Columbus this season, Crowe has hit .267 with 3 homers and 11 RBIs; the switch-hitter, though, should heat up as he continues to play regularly following injuries.
4. Chris Ray deserves his bullpen call-up. His consistent 2.38 ERA would help stabilize the middle-relief innings that have plagued this ballclub. Even after giving up two runs in Columbus’s loss to Toledo Saturday, Ray would add Major League experience and fill in until Nick Hagadone and Tony Sipp, among others, regain their forms.
5. Lou Marson deserves more starts and a better lineup spot. In fact, Acta should make Marson his regular catcher, with Carlos Santana starting a few games a week at catcher and perhaps a few others at designated hitter or first base.
Marson has raised his average to a blistering .284, and his 14 walks to go with 18 strikeouts shows he has been selective. At this rate, until his bat cools, Acta should consider moving Marson to fifth or sixth in the order.