Should Tribe Move Forward with a House-less Rotation?

Coming into the season, the Indians rotation was heralded as one of the strongest aspects of the team. At it’s strongest, it boasted the American League Cy Young award winner, a starter turned reliever turned starter who had one of the most impressive ends to a season, and a youngster on the brink of a breakout career. The names to fill in the back of the rotation were hardly names to scoff at, though fans and the team likely knew that there would be some back and forth in filling out the rotation before a solid,full group was chosen.

However, it was unlikely that fans – or the team – anticipated such a chaotic rotation situation.

Corey Kluber has not pitched as he did to close out last season, though his numbers mirror what they did last April. It’s not cause for much concern at all – he still leads the team with 36 strikeouts. Sure, he doesn’t have any wins yet this year, but that is not wholly his fault at all. It’s hard for a pitcher to rack up wins when he has no run support and flawed defensive help behind him.

Carlos Carrasco is 2-2 this season with a 4.60 ERA, but suffered from a line drive to the face early this season, which threw a wrench in his progression. It hasn’t caused a decline, honestly, but the injury did cause some rotation shuffling.

Trevor Bauer has pleasantly been the breakout name of the Indians rotation thus far. He leads the team with a 1.80 ERA in four starts, including his most recent start in which he was plagued by food poisoning from some bad alfredo. The youngster has been touted for seasons as a pitcher with potential, though Indians fans have gotten only glimpses of what he is truly capable of on the mound. This season, Bauer has shown just what all the talk is about. He has struck out 28 batters, though his walks leads the team at 13. He is 2-0 on the season.

The Indians began their season with Zach McAllister also in the rotation, though he quickly found himself relegated to the bullpen after one start. McAllister is 0-1 in 15.2 innings pitched with a 4.60 ERA throughout the season.

Since McAllister’s shift to a relief role, and to help with the injury faced by Carrasco, Danny Salazar has been brought back to the rotation from Columbus, and he has since regained his composure on the mound. After a struggling spring, Salazar is now 3-0 with the big league team. He is tied with Bauer with 28 strikeouts on the year, and boasts a 3.32 ERA. Combined with Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer, Salazar is helping to round out what should be a strong rotation.

The dilemma, however, comes from T.J. House.

House was an instrumental part of the Indians rotation last season, when he went 5-3 with a 3.35 ERA in 19 games. He struck out 80 batters and walked 22 while facing 429 total batters throughout 2014. This season, however, is a completely different story for House, and is quickly helping to write the story of the 2015 Indians thus far.

The team’s starting pitchers haven’t earned a ton of wins because, as previously mentioned, the offense and the rest of the defense and even the bullpen have been struggling to provide the necessary support for wins. However, House’s performances have been a different story. He has been, truthfully, quite disastrous on the mound this season. His longest outing this season came on April 19, when he went 5.2 innings in Minnesota and gave up five runs on seven hits. His first start with the Tribe came on April 12, when he lasted for only two innings before he was taken out of the game. He left after giving up six runs on six hits, including one home run, and posted a 40.50 ERA.

House’s ERA is now down to a still-dismal 13.15 ERA after his four starts. He went three innings on April 25 and another four on April 29, surrendering four hits in each outing. He has struck out only seven batters all season while walking 12.

House has had an irregular schedule in his first month of the season, having as much as two weeks’ rest between starts followed breaks of a week. He was supposed to have nine days after April 19, but he had to fill in on a moment’s notice for Bauer during Bauer’s bout with food poisoning.

Inconsistencies, irregular schedules… The actual cause of House’s struggles are up in the air. He was placed on the 15-Day DL on Friday with left shoulder inflammation, with outfielder Tyler Holt being recalled from Columbus.

The Indians don’t need a fifth starter until May 9, giving them more than enough time to scout out the possibilities in Columbus such as Shaun Marcum and Bruce Chen. The question will be, though, what happens to House once his stint on the DL is up? Does he make his way back to the big league club, or does he find himself taking a detour to Columbus?

How the team fares without him for the span of his time on the DL will say a lot about the state of the rotation and of House’s performance. Adjusting the rotation won’t be the only thing necessary to fix the team’s struggles this past month, but it may be a required step into improving their outcomes as a whole. The next few weeks will be telling as to the future of the Indians starting pitching staff, and mid-May will leave the Tribe with a decision they can’t take lightly.

Photo: Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer

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