Lost in the euphoria over the return of Jim Thome to the Indians was the news that the team put OF Michael Brantley on the disabled list with his problem wrist.
Brantley had been in and out of the lineup because of the injury in recent weeks, and today was ruled out for the season and put on the 60 day disabled list. OF Jerad Head was called up from Columbus to take his place on the roster.
Also, Shin-Soo Choo followed up hitting home runs in both games in Tuesday’s doubleheader by having to be scratched from the following day’s game with tightness in his lower back. Choo came in for defense on Friday, and had two at bats last night before leaving once again.
And starter Josh Tomlin also had to go on the DL with an elbow problem, and now, the starting rotation, which was thought to be deep with three options at AAA, is down to one. Jeanmar Gomez will likely make the start on Tuesday night in place of Tomlin.
Although we’ve been a little critical at times regarding Manny Acta’s in-game strategies, he has done a masterful job keeping this team together and in contention despite all of the missed time by key players.
Besides the players already mentioned, everyone knows about the problems Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner have had, and also hot hitting rookie Jason Kipnis in already out with an oblique/hamstring problem.
Sizemore and Hafner have missed most of the last three seasons, so their problems cannot be a huge shock. And those problems have to be brought to mind in the off-season when the front office determines should either or both be included on the 2012 roster, or at the very least, how much they can be counted on.
One question for the Tribe front office is are they too patient with the guys who are playing hurt? Yes, as an organization, you want your players to be gamers. You don’t want them sitting out with bumps and bruises.
However, Hafner was in a second half slump before being put on the disabled list, and basically being replaced by Thome. Was his foot problem a cause of the funk? If so, having a DH hitting .220 with no power for a month isn’t helping the team.
The same with Brantley. While it’s admirable that he wanted to go out and play while hurt, he was hitting .211 with a .237 on base percentage in August while struggling with the wrist. And it should be noted once again that the Tribe’s hitting has suffered greatly this year when Brantley, Hafner, and Asdrubal Cabrera aren’t going well.
Perhaps a move with the outfielder should have been made sooner, because it was obvious to all who watched him that he hasn’t been the same player who was hitting close to .270 before the all-star game.
So now Head finally gets his opportunity. No question, a late bloomer, Head is having his best minor league season at age 28, hitting .284 with 24 HR and 70 RBI’s (864 OPS) at Columbus. He’s also a right-handed hitter, something the Indians badly need.
Head was also the MVP of the International League playoffs last season in leading the Clippers to the championship.
Lifetime he has an 814 OPS in the minor leagues, but he is prone to strikeouts, so he will fit right in with the Tribe, who lead the American League in that category.
The Indians organization prided itself on their depth prior to this season, but they probably didn’t want to have to use it this much, particularly in a year they are surprisingly in contention.
However, they’ve had to, and for the most part, their manager and mixed and matched and held a patchwork team together.