Until Tuesday, T.J. House’s chances of making the Indians rotation from the start of the season lay to chance. Heading into Spring Training, it seemed the Tribe only had one opening. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer were shoo-ins to start, and with the addition of Gavin Floyd who, if healthy, would command a starting spot, House, Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin, and Zach McAllister were the candidates for the fifth spot.
House may have had an edge solely due to the fact that he would have been the only southpaw in the mix. However, his chances of making that starting five rose astronomically earlier this week when Floyd was found to not be fully healed from his injury-plagued seasons of the past.
Now, the Tribe’s starting rotation has two spots wide open. And it’s House’s time to prove that one of them belongs to him.
Last season, House went 5-3 in 19 games with a 3.35 ERA. He gave up 38 earned runs and walked 22 batters while fanning 80 in 102 innings. The Indians were 13-5 when House started last year. It was his first season in the major leagues.
House joined the Indians rotation last year in the second half, and, as the numbers show, surprised fans in what he delivered. House is not the flashiest name in baseball, nor a prospect that many fans knew to look for rising through the system. House himself, and his performance, were both a bit unexpected, though not at all unappreciated.
House is 25 years old, poised to rise to the standards he set during his first performance on the big league stage. Although he gave up three runs in in three innings during his first Spring Training start (two of those runs were the result of a Jared Hoying home run), Tribe Manager Terry Francona is quoted on Cleveland.com as being pleased with the performance by House.
“For the most part he really stayed down in the zone,” Francona said in Arizona on March 8. “Good things are going to happen for T.J.”
Those good things likely weren’t meant to be at the hands of a bad thing happening to Floyd. Although Floyd’s injury does, again, make the rotation race a little less competitive, House would likely have had an edge in making the rotation.
Salazar, though dominant in 2013, had a rough 2014 season. He is still a pitcher to watch, though just how much he’ll have to do to get back to his blazing abilities of two seasons ago remains to be seen. Tomlin and McAllister both struggled quite a bit last season, sparking groans and complaints in their performances. Both also appeared in the bullpen, which could be another option for either or both this coming season, depending on how Francona chooses to shape up his relief pitching staff.
House has been leaving his mark on Goodyear, with his attitude and performance throughout Spring Training. Francona has said that House arrived at camp in top shape, knowing what he has to accomplish in Arizona. Francona has also expressed positivity with House’s performance during practice and the way in which he is delivering his pitches. The Morning Journal reports that Francona said House is continuing “to pitch down, with a lot of movement,” and is “going to get a ton of ground balls, but he’s also going to get some swing and misses, because he gets below their barrel so much.”
It’s a formula that has worked for House before and, in the eyes of those watching him, is, thus far, working again.
Spring Training games have only just begun, and the decisions affecting House’s future won’t be made for a bit of time. However, his early performance and the mark that he is leaving on the staff in Goodyear seem to bode well for the season that is ahead. House has shown in the past that it isn’t flashy play that dazzles during a game; it’s consistency and solid performance. House is a prime example of “slow and steady wins the race” — he is not a pitcher who is going to hold hitters at bay with speed, but rather with finesse. He may not be a big name, but House can have the makings of a player with a big future.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer