Too Early for Tribe Conclusions

While it is certainly a sign of spring to see baseball box scores and watch exhibition games (yes, that’s what baseball calls them) on television, it is funny that after a handful of games, people are making conclusions.

At this point, the only players who should be anxious for good results are those on the bubble for roster spots, and really, these guys can only play themselves out of coming north.

For example, it wasn’t good for Tribe reliever Frank Herrmann to give up four runs in the first exhibition game. 

Although Herrmann will get other opportunities, he better pitch well in his next outing if he wants to make the opening day roster.

It’s also not in Matt LaPorta’s best interests to struggle right out of the gate.  He’s a guy who needed to show immediately he could help the 2012 Indians.  

Instead, he looks like the guy who played here last season.

On the other hand, let’s hold off on putting Shelley Duncan in LF against Toronto on April 5th.

Certainly, Duncan should be the front-runner to take the spot, based on what he did in limited time last season.  However, he’s a dead fastball hitter, and most pitchers haven’t fine tuned their breaking stuff at this point in camp.

There is no question Duncan should and will open the season in Cleveland.  He earned that right with his season last year. 

Still, we don’t know if the right-handed power hitter can be successful playing every day.  His best role, and his most productive role, may be playing against left-handed pitching at either LF, 1B, or DH.

Since the Tribe has a shortage of right-handed hitters, Duncan would get plenty of at bats in this role.

Fans should not be concerned about the performances of Cleveland’s top two starters:  Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Masterson showed last year he can be a consistent starter, but his delivery can get out of whack, and he may not have discovered his arm slot in his first start.

Jimenez is more of a concern since he struggled after coming over from Colorado last year, but he was throwing hard in his spring debut, and new pitching coach Scott Radinsky is trying to smooth out his mechanics.

If he continues to get hit, it won’t cause any warm and fuzzy feelings in the Tribe front office.

Speaking of the starting rotation, it will be interesting to see if RHP Jeanmar Gomez gets a legitimate shot.

After his return to the Indians in late August last season, Gomez went 4-1 with a 3.63 ERA in six starts.  Those stats include a pasting at the hands of the Tigers in his last appearance (4.2 IP, 10 hits, 8 ER). 

He’s just 24 years old, and has a lifetime 9-8 record with a 4.58 ERA in 21 starts.  He certainly has more upside than Kevin Slowey or David Huff does.

Knowing the Tribe’s preference for veterans, Slowey has the edge.  However, if Gomez can keep putting up zeroes as he did in his first spring training outing (2 IP, 0 R), he could push to open the season in the rotation.

So, as you check the box scores from Arizona, look at the players who are borderline to make the 25 man roster.  See how they are doing. 

Keep an eye on guys like  Aaron Cunningham, Russ Canzler, Ryan Spilborghs, Felix Pie, and Fred Lewis.  In the bullpen, watch Herrmann, Dan Wheeler, Chris Ray, and Jeremy Accardo

The final spots on the roster will come down to these players.  It’s too early to get excited right now.



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