Tribe Injuries Cause Fans Angst

With the Cleveland Indians winning the American League championship in 2016, expectations in northeast Ohio are as high as can be.

With these expectations come the worry that sports fans in this area are famous for.  That angst popped up for Tribe fans at the end of last week when both 2B Jason Kipnis and starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco were reported to be injured.

Kipnis is dealing with pain in his shoulder area and will sit for two weeks before trying to play again.  Skipper Terry Francona said this will put Kipnis on the disabled list for the season opener in Texas.

Compounding the concern on Kipnis is Michael Brantley’s injury.  Brantley suffered a torn labrum diving for a flyball in September 2015, and missed virtually all of 2016 with the problem and later developed tricep tendonitis.

So, of course, since Brantley missed most of last year, fans and media alike extrapolate that Kipnis will miss a significant amount of time.

Now, we don’t know the Kipnis’ ailment is minor, but Francona did say Kipnis could DH right now, and could play second too, but the team is taking a precaution.  Obviously, it is better for Kipnis to miss the first couple of weeks of the regular season rather than miss a month later.

What is puzzling is the Tribe’s solution to the problem.  To most, the obvious move is to put Jose Ramirez back to his natural position, and use someone else (Giovanny Urshela, Yandy Diaz, etc.) at the hot corner.

However, it seems Tito wants to keep Ramirez at third, and play a combination of Erik Gonzalez, Michael Martinez and others at second.

We understand Francona loves Martinez and values his glove, but the guy is arguably the worst hitter in the majors (his career OPS is 507), so you can’t put him in the lineup on a regular basis.

We would love to see Diaz get the first shot.  He’s been a .300 hitter in the minors (854 OPS in ’16) and reports out of Goodyear say he seems like he’s one of those guys who could fall out of bad and hit a line drive.

Urshela has a very good glove, but didn’t hit (608 OPS) in his brief shot in 2015.  However, he was called up before spending a full season in AAA, and remember, he wasn’t regarded as a top ten prospect in the organization.

Carrasco’s elbow showed some swelling after a lackluster start on Wednesday, and Francona said he will miss a start.

If he has to miss some time, Mike Clevinger should be the choice to replace him, although in the beginning of the year with off days, his absence could be minimized.

Clevinger started some games a year ago, and made the post-season roster, and the front office has slotted him for the “sixth” starter role anyway.  It just may be those spot starts come in April instead of the middle of summer.

Carrasco’s elbow didn’t show any structural damage, so hopefully it’s just some inflammation and he will be fine with some rest.

While no team wants injuries, and the Indians are no exception, having players miss some time early in the year, when the schedule has some off days, is better than being out later in the year, as the Indians found out when Carrasco and Danny Salazar missed time in the playoffs.

Fans should try to relax a little and hopefully the injuries to Kipnis and Carrasco won’t result in a lot of time being missed.

Remember though, the Indians overcame Brantley’s injury a year ago to win the AL Central Division, and the starting rotation’s hurts didn’t stop them from making the World Series.

MW

 

 

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Early Spring Battles For Tribe

Baseball’s exhibition games have been played for just a little over a week, and the Cleveland Indians are right where they should be record wise.

We have long maintained a .500 record is what every team strives for, so as to not overly encourage or discourage a fan base.

Of course, after your team goes to the seventh game of the World Series the previous year, it should be difficult to temper expectations.

Because of the World Baseball Classic and the number of Indians playing in it, several young players will get a longer look than normal, not only because of the tournament, but also due to a longer spring training.

As we have said previously, there aren’t a lot of open spots on the 25 man roster, barring injuries.  There is one spot open in the bullpen, and the utility man position is also up for grabs.

We also have serious doubts that Michael Brantley will open the season on the active roster, so there is an extra spot open for manager Terry Francona.

The frontrunner for the last spot in the bullpen would seem to be Shawn Armstrong, who has put together three straight scoreless outings to open exhibition play.

The real reason Armstrong should be the leader is his 1.84 ERA at Columbus last year and his 72 strikeouts in 49 innings.

The other contenders are Joe Colon (15.75 ERA in four innings), Perci Garner (3-2/3 innings, allowed 5 hits and 5 walks), Nick Goody ( 3 scoreless innings), and rule 5 draftee Hoby Milner (one horrific outing, but 7 strikeouts in four innings).  Milner has to be offered back to Philadelphia if he doesn’t make the big league roster.

The utility man spot is complicated.  Erik Gonzalez should be the front runner because he is out of options and the organization could lose him if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster.

Gonzalez is primarily a shortstop and is very good defensively at that spot.  Good enough that he could definitely help another team if they have a chance to get him.

The other primary contender is Michael Martinez, a Tito favorite, and also a guy respected by the clubhouse.

Martinez is solid defensively at several positions, but is also has been one of the worst hitters in the major leagues over his career.

He is also not currently on the 40 man roster, which means someone would have to be removed if he were to make the team.

Our guess is that Gonzalez gets the job with Martinez being the good soldier, starting the season in Columbus where he is just two hours away.

That is, unless both make the team as outfielders replacing Brantley on the roster to open the year.

With Brantley healthy, we would expect the outfielders to be him, Tyler Naquin, Abraham Almonte, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Brandon Guyer.

Assuming Austin Jackson is healthy, he would be the favorite to take Brantley’s spot to start the season.  If he can’t go, you could see both Martinez and Gonzalez open the year on the big league roster, or perhaps Chris Colabello makes the team.

On the other hand, a lot could happen between now and April 3rd, when the Tribe opens up in Texas.

But keep on eye on these players to see how they handle being the frontrunners.

MW