Indians’ GM Chris Antonetti did a major rehaul over the off-season to his baseball team, mostly concentrating on the offense, adding Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn, and Mark Reynolds to what was a moribund attack in 2012.
As for the starting pitching, not so much. He did sign veteran free agent Brett Myers to provide innings, and he traded for highly regarded Trevor Bauer to give help down the road, but overall he was hoping for bounce back seasons from Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Now we understand this is spring training, and things may be totally different down the road, but so far we haven’t seen anything that makes us any more confident about the starting rotation when the season begins a week from Tuesday in Toronto.
Both pitchers have done okay, but they don’t look like the top of the rotation guys that Detroit (Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer), Chicago (Chris Sale, Jake Peavy), and even Kansas City (James Shields) have.
Masterson doesn’t have bad numbers in camp, allowing the same number of hits as innings pitched and striking out 19 in 17-2/3 innings. But in the Tribe’s first televised game last Sunday, he gave up two home runs in a five run first.
That didn’t exactly inspire confidence that much has changed from 2012.
Jimenez is serving up batting practice in Goodyear, but he’s not exactly dominating either. While his walks are down and he’s throwing strikes (just three walks in 18 innings), he’s allowing hits by the boatload, giving up 26 thus far this spring.
Neither pitcher has shown an ability to limit damage either after starting an inning poorly. That may be due to not having stamina as of yet, but it is concerning because it was a problem for both last season.
Right now, it appears that Cleveland has a bunch of #3 and #4 starters, but no clear-cut ace at this point.
They do have more depth than at this time last season, with Zack McAllister showing signs he may be a solid major league starters, and it is likely that both Carlos Carrasco and Bauer will start the season in Columbus.
Myers has a long history of being a solid starter, but he’s an innings eater type, not a top of the rotation guy. That’s not to say those guys aren’t important. If Myers can go out there every fifth day and provide six or seven solid frames, that’s invaluable to a pitching staff.
McAllister had solid numbers in ’12, his first extended look at big league hitters. He has the potential to move up in the pecking order this season, but still has to develop consistency on an outing to outing basis.
The Tribe’s fifth starter will likely be Scott Kazmir, who is intriguing because he is coming off a year where he pitched in an independent league. Kazmir is a former big league all-star, and has regained the velocity he once had. Still, it’s hard to see him as the ace of the staff this season.
There is no question the Indians will score more runs than 2012, they have replaced many of the holes their lineup had with established major league hitters.
However, whatever success the Tribe has in 2013 will depend on the success of the starting pitching. Terry Francona needs someone to step up and be a guy the team feels can win every time they take the mound.
Right now, it doesn’t look like that guy will be on the team when Opening Day hits. The biggest hopes may be Carrasco and Bauer, both of whom have ace “stuff”.