Going into the off-season, people were raving about the Cleveland Indians’ starting pitching.
After all, they had the American League Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber, heading up the staff.
Kluber went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and struck out 269 batters in 236 innings. And from May 1st through the end of the season, the right-hander went 16-6 with an outstanding 2.13 ERA. There wasn’t much of a question that Kluber was one of the game’s best pitchers.
They also were the recipient of the best pitching Carlos Carrasco did in his really brief major league career. In 12 games, 10 of them starts in August and September, Carrasco went 5-3 and allowed just 14 earned runs in 74 innings, a 1.70 ERA.
You put these two at the top of a rotation, and you have a pretty good foundation.
Add in Danny Salazar, who was 3-4 with a 3.61 ERA over the last two months of the season, and Trevor Bauer (4.08 ERA in August/September), and considering that Kluber is the oldest of the quartet at age 28, and you had to feel optimistic about the Indians’ starting pitchers.
And an unheralded southpaw, T. J. House, an afterthought at the beginning of the season, contributed with a 4-1 record in August and September with a 2.25 ERA.
Over the winter, GM Chris Antonetti added veteran Gavin Floyd, coming off a broken elbow, to provide depth and an insurance policy should one of the youngsters take a step backward.
Then spring training started and the old baseball bromide was never more evident…when you think you have enough pitching, you go out and get more pitching.
First, Floyd’s elbow problems recurred and he has to undergo surgery to repair another fracture. Since Floyd added to the rotation’s depth, it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time.
Then, Salazar’s command problems reared their ugly head once again. While he was throwing hard and did strike some people out, fanning 15 in 11 innings of work, when batters did hit the ball, it went a long way.
He allowed five long balls in those same frames. The righty needs to keep the ball down, and when he doesn’t he gets hit.
The consensus from Terry Francona and Mickey Callaway was that Salazar couldn’t help the team coming out of spring training, so off to Columbus he went.
The back up plans going into the spring were Zack McAllister, who we believe the Tribe management wanted to use in the bullpen, where he had some success at the end of last year, and Josh Tomlin.
Tomlin also struggled in Arizona, so he was sent back to AAA, leaving McAllister, who has had problems developing another pitch besides a fastball, to claim a rotation spot.
Others who could figure as the season goes on are Shawn Marcum, who has battled injuries over the last two seasons, but has won more than 10 games three times in his career. However, the last time was 2011 and he is now 34 years old.
The Tribe also brought in veteran lefty and Indian killer, Bruce Chen, who will be 38 years old in June and had a 7.45 ERA with the Royals last season. He did win 44 games for Kansas City from 2010-13, and he is left-handed which means he will have an opportunity until his arm falls off.
What’s that old saying about the best laid plans of mice and men?
All this means, is the Indians are probably looking for more pitching. Not that they ever stopped.