Like many things, the Cleveland Indians season ended too soon.
After a wild ride that ended with a 10-game winning streak to complete the regular season, winning the first Wild Card spot and hosting the Tribe’s first playoff game in six years, Cleveland finished the season as Major League Baseball’s hottest team. However, Alex Cobb and the Tampa Bay Rays needed just one win to extinguish the energy and enthusiasm behind the Tribe. Wednesday’s 4-0 loss to Tampa ended the Indians’ season while it was at its peak.
The Indians exceeded most projections for the 2013 season. After hiring new manager Terry Francona, the organization openly discussed and created a new culture. Francona spent last winter traveling to personally meet players and sell them on his ideas, while general manager Chris Antonetti reconstructed a roster that was embarrassingly short when it went 68-94 in 2012.
Any time that the Indians have been good over the past 20 years, they have had an outstanding bullpen. The 2007 crew that finished a game shy of the World Series featured a 45 save Joe Borowski and the best Rafael duo in baseball history. The 93 win 2005 group had another 45 save man, Bob Wickman, as well as Bob Howry, Rafael Betancourt and Arthur Rhodes firing with ERA’s under 3.00. On the division champion ’01 squad, Wickman was joined by Paul Shuey, Ricardo Rincon, Danys Baez, David Riske and Steve Karsay. Of course, the juggernaut teams of the 1990’s also trotted out big time relievers like Jose Mesa, Paul Assenmacher, Mike Jackson, Eric Plunk and Julian Tavarez. A good Tribe team seems to need a good ‘pen.
Coming into 2013, the bullpen promised to be not only a strength, but perhaps the backbone of the roster. They boasted star, young players as well a collective cool nickname that showed camaraderie as well as confidence. It seemed early in the 2013 season, however, that the ‘Bullpen Mafia’ was dissolved. The Family was neither cohesive nor effective and the members were not living up to their high expectations.
There seems to be some sort of family reunion of late.
Prior to Saturday’s disastrous loss at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, Indians manager Terry Francona announced a slew of callups for the next several days that will, at nothing else, provide Cleveland with some relief for their heavily overworked team.
The most pressing need for the Major League club appeared evident to most, as the offensive effort has been absolutely horrendous.
So, of course, ten players will be added to the active roster, including two position players and eight bullpen arms.
At some point yesterday while the Indians were dropping the rubber match of a three game series with the Oakland Athletics, I finally admitted something that I think I probably have always known in my heart.
The Cleveland Indians are not a playoff team.
A team with below average starting pitching, no real cleanup hitter and underachieving star players is hardly a playoff team. Once Corey Kluber was injured and Scott Kazmir was believed to have a, “dead arm,” the starting pitching is not nearly as reliable. That happens when any team loses their second and third best pitchers. After more than half a season of trying to fit Nick Swisher into the cleanup spot, Indians manager Terry Francona has finally gone looking elsewhere. What he’s found is no one truly qualified for the job. And while the bullpen has been improved since Chris Perez returned from the disabled list, they’re still weak on the left side and former eighth inning man, Vinnie Pestano, is in Triple-A.
Every person in life is going to face challenges and roadblocks at some point in time. The way that you can find out a person’s real character is by seeing how they adjust and adapt to these moments. Vinnie Pestano is currently in one of those moments. Pestano was sent down to Triple-A Columbus on July 30.
“Obviously I would love things to be going different but you can’t control going up and down and roster moves,” Pestano said. “The only thing you can really control is your own attitude and how you are going to come out to the ballpark every day.”
This season has been somewhat of a trying season for Pestano, as he came into the season with great momentum after last season but was unable to capture and use that momentum to find success. After a year where he posted a 2.57 ERA with 24 walks, 76 strikeouts and a crucial 36 holds as the set up man for the Indians, Pestano was set this season to be a key piece of the bullpen. However things did not go his way this season, with his numbers going up in all categories. Pestano saw his ERA balloon to 4.05 with six home runs, compared to just seven all of last year.
Less than five months ago, Vinnie Pestano was at the very top of the baseball world. He was the Indians set-up man, coming off of back-to-back dominant seasons out of the bullpen. He was also set to represent the United States in the World Baseball Classic, the event that every four years takes the game’s best players away from their team’s spring trainings to compete for world-wide bragging rights.
Pestano had a difficult time on that international stage. Unfortunately, for both he and the Tribe, those struggles have followed him into a disappointing regular season. Rather than setting up closer Chris Perez in August games with postseason ramifications, the right-handed reliever will now be trying to figure out where his issues lie on the relative obscure stage of Triple-A Columbus.
In a matter of months, one of Cleveland’s best players from the 2012 season has gone from potential future closer to minor leaguer. It is as shocking of a development as any this year. That is especially so considering the Indians are squarely in playoff contention without the bullpen stalwart providing anywhere close to what was expected.
As the trade deadline approaches, the Cleveland Indians brass was on the airwaves and in front of the media this weekend to discuss the state of the team and potential talks.
The message: Don’t spend a lot of time hitting refresh on your computer on Wednesday in hopes of a trade.
General Manager Chris Antonetti and Team President Mark Shapiro each discussed the high price of available trade commodities, the abundance of buyers and the lack of sellers in the trade market. You can’t trade for a starting pitcher if there aren’t many out there. Worse yet, why trade for one that isn’t good. With Matt Garza going for a pretty penny from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers and four teams pursuing Jake Peavy, settling for the likes of Bud Norris leaves something to be desired for a rotation that seems to be overachieving this season. The same is true for a power hitter for the middle of the order. If Alex Rios was such a potent bat, the Chicago White Sox probably wouldn’t be having a yard sale with their roster.
Great pitching and poor defense was the theme of the game for the Indians for the second night in a row. Following the exact same script as yesterday, Corey Kluber allowed just three hits, two walks, and no runs over five innings. The problem however for the second night was errors and fielding mistakes costing the Indians dearly as they lost another game by the score of 3-2.
During the first five innings of this game, both starting pitchers, Kluber and Kevin Correia, were locked in and kept the batters in check. Kluber was able to set down the first two batters in every inning he pitched, allowing only three hits and two walks over his five innings. Correla was able to do even better through five innings, as he was able to allow just one hit, a Jason Kipnis single in the fourth inning, and only one walk.
The month of July is more than half over. In the world of baseball, this means the conversations about trades are going to heat up. With the trade deadline fast approaching on July 31, teams near the top of the standings will attempt to get better through deals to solidify their weaknesses.
At 51-44, one and a half games behind the Tigers in the AL Central, the Indians are one of those teams in discussions to improve through a trade. That is great news. Cleveland could really use a boost in the bullpen or starting rotation. The right trade for a quality pitcher could have the Indians in playoff contention as the season winds down.
There are games over the course of a 162-game schedule that feel like they were winnable games. Tonight was one of those games that got away from the Cleveland Indians.
A three-run ninth inning, capped off by a bases-clearing single by Munenori Kawasaki, gave the Toronto Blue Jays a 5-4 win over the Indians on Wednesday night.
If it feels like it has been a long time since the Cleveland Indians and Toronto Blue Jays met up, you are right.
The Indians (46-43) took two of three from the Blue Jays to open the season at Rogers Centre. Both Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez were stellar against the Jays, each pitching six innings and allowing one run on three hits. Masterson earned the win in his start, while Jimenez was hit with a no-decision after a ninth inning blown save. The team is 8-19 against the American League East.
The Blue Jays (43-45) had an impressive eleven-game winning streak in June. However, in the time since, they are just 5-9 and had not won a series until taking two of three from Minnesota this weekend.
In the first game after a players’ meeting following ugly losses to the Detroit Tigers on Friday and Saturday, the Cleveland Indians offense provided some solid run support and starter Corey Kluber provided the team with a dominating quality start. The bullpen, however, must not have been present for the meeting.
Thankfully for the Indians and their fans, Michael Brantley had a career day at the plate, including the go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Indians a 9-6 win.