Rotation Questions Abound After Five Games

April 27, 1948

Entering the season, the Cleveland Indians were aware that their major question mark was their starting pitching. After five victories, the questions remain and even might have grown.

At the top of the rotation, Bob Feller and Bob Lemon have combined for three quality starts. Feller shutout the St. Louis Browns last Tuesday in the home opener and beat the Detroit Tigers 4-1 on Saturday. Lemon threw a complete game of his own in the Indians’ first game in Detroit, a 8-2 victory.

However, the last two games have seen Indian starters not make it three innings. Al Gettel pitched only two innings on Sunday in Detroit before getting the hook, and Don Black could survive only two and two-thirds innings yesterday in Chicago. After two subpar starts from Tribe hurlers, Indians manager Lou Boudreau made light of his future plans for the rotation.

“Feller and Lemon and then two days of rain,” Boudreau joked. “And then Feller and Lemon again.”

The problem, however, is no laughing matter. Cleveland currently is leading the American League in most offensive categories, which is the reason they find themselves at 5-0 in the standings and the only undefeated team. Feller already has pitched 19 innings in just five games and even he cannot continue at that rigorous of a pace.

Lemon is slated to take the mound this afternoon in Chicago and then Feller tomorrow despite his inning of work in relief yesterday. Feller was strong enough to throw batting practice before the game yesterday, then provide an inning of relief.

But Boudreau was clear that he would continue to count on Gettel, Black and Bob Muncrief as his main starters behind Feller and Lemon. Muncrief worked four and one-third innings of relief behind Gettel on Sunday in Detroit and earned the win. Thursday, however, Boudreau plans to start his only option he has not used to date: Gene Bearden.

Bearden, a left-handed rookie, predominantly throws a knuckleball and should see his first game action against the St. Louis Browns. Thursday’s game will open a short two-game series with the Browns before the Indians complete their eight-game westward journey and return home for a May 1 contest with Detroit. Bearden has not appeared in a game so far this season and only has one big league appearance, allowing three runs while only retiring one hitter in relief work with the Tribe last May.

Bearden did pitch well in exhibition games against the New York Giants before the season began, earning the opportunity as a starter.

While Bearden is slated for Thursday’s game, rain is in the forecast for the next two days in Chicago. If either game in the Windy City were rained out, it’s likely Boudreau would push Lemon and Feller back a day and skip Bearden’s start.

Boudreau’s rotation might work better with Mother Nature than he even hoped.

Photo: Cleveland Memory Project

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