Decisions Looming for Tribe

The news that Grady Sizemore went back to the disabled list with a bruised knee startled some people because it had been thought that the centerfielder’s latest injury wasn’t serious.

And it may not be.  It could be the Tribe didn’t like the thought of playing Austin Kearns a lot while Sizemore is out of the lineup, and wanted to give Travis Buck, who is hitting well in AAA, an opportunity for the next week or so.

It also provides an opportunity for Sizemore to heal completely, because his reputation is that he wants to be out there if he can walk. 

Regardless, the front office will have some tough decision regarding the roster over the next couple of weeks, most notably with the pitching staff.

Mitch Talbot is making another rehab start this Thursday in Columbus, and if all goes well, he will be ready for reactivation after that outing.  When he is ready to go, Manny Acta and GM Chris Antonetti have a decision to make.

The most likely pitcher to be sent back is rookie Alex White, who wouldn’t have been in Cleveland in the first place had the elbows of Talbot and Carlos Carrasco not been sore. 

However, White has been impressive in both of his starts, one of which resulted in his major league win against the Angels.  Can the team afford to return him to Columbus if he pitches well again versus the White Sox this week?

The decision may get murkier if Carrasco struggles again in his start against Kansas City.  Carrasco did okay in his first start since getting off the disabled list against the Rays, but showed some rust.

With the Indians in contention right now, and not playing for the future as they have over the past few years, how can they justify dropping White from the 25 man roster if he is pitching better?

There is another alternative in the meantime.  They could activate Talbot and use either him or Carrasco in a long relief role and send Justin Germano packing. 

If Acta would decide that, it is more likely Talbot would go to the ‘pen because the organization would rather have Carrasco starting in Columbus every fifth day to further his development.  Remember he’s still just 24 years old.

Having Talbot replace Germano would give Acta an option he trusts more in close games.  Right now, Germano only pitches when the Indians are either way ahead, way behind, or there is no other alternative.

As for Kearns, it is becoming apparent that whatever the veteran outfielder had going for him last year early in the season, it’s no longer there in 2011. 

Kearns has just eight hits in 50 at bats this season, and has just two extra base hits, both doubles, on the year.  He has also struck out 16 times in those plate appearances.  He can still work a walk from time to time, but you’d like a little more from a reserve corner outfielder.

The only problem with Buck in the long-term is that he’s a left-handed hitter, which the Tribe has a boatload of.  If he batted from the other side of the plate, he would have already been here.

So Kearns ultimate replacement could be Chad Huffman (.287, 5 HR, 21 RBI at Columbus) or you might see Cord Phelps getting some time in LF to make him more major league ready.  Phelps (.292, 5 HR, 20 RBI) is a switch hitter, which would give Acta more flexibility.

Another situation to keep an eye on is at 3B, where Jack Hannahan has just five hits in 27 at bats in May.  Hannahan is providing solid glove work, but you still have to hit to play everyday in the big leagues. 

By the way, Lonnie Chisenhall is hitting .280 with 3 HR, and 20 RBI in his first AAA season.

Good teams can’t get complacent in baseball, and with guys ready to come off the disabled list, Antonetti and Acta have to make some tough decisions. 

Decisions which will have a bearing on how long the Cleveland Indians can keep the momentum going.

KM

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