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Indians Notebook: Starting pitching has been strong

Starting pitching has been the key to the Indians' 9-1 Spring Training start

Indians Notebook: Starting pitching has been strong
March 10, 2014
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If there's a such thing as a good omen, then the Cleveland Indians should be feeling pretty good right about now.

The Tribe was outstanding this past week as the team went 6-0-1. As you might expect, the Indians are alone atop the Cactus League standings with a 9-1-1 record.

It's hard to imagine anything really going better for the Indians so far. Almost every starting pitcher has looked good to this point, and the team seems to be getting ready for the season to begin.

As hard as it may be to believe, there is now just officially three weeks until the Indians begin their season against the Seattle Mariners. With that being said, here are some thoughts, both deep and shallow, in regard to this past week's Spring Training action...

Player of the Week

Mike Aviles — Shortstop

4 G, 5-for-11, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB

It does seem a tad trivial to name a player of the week for Spring Training games, but Aviles definitely had a solid performance. After so many years of having players like Austin KearnsTravis Buck and Jayson Nix round out the Indians' bench, it really is refreshing to know that Aviles will remain in the fold for the foreseeable future. He was a consistent performer last season for the Indians and that will probably remain true in 2014. Many fans have clamored for the Indians to trade Asdrubal Cabrera at one point or another, and there is merit to that argument. Cabrera's regression has been frustrating at times and there certainly is reason to believe that Aviles could at least match his performance as a starter. However, the Indians are very fortunate to have Aviles as a player on their bench and it would not be easy to replace that role on the team. Aviles' presence also ensures that the Indians are not rushed in their development of Francisco Lindor or Jose Ramirez. Any way that you slice it, it's hard to find a more valuable bench player than him.

News & Notes

— If you've remained cautiously optimistic in regard to Trevor Bauer, now may be the time to officially get excited. In his appearance on Thursday, Bauer pitched two innings, allowed three hits, zero runs, walked one and struck out four. The stat line is impressive, but the best thing about the outing might go beyond the actual stats. According to reports, Bauer was throwing 98 miles per hour in the contest. This is now the second time that we have heard that this spring. That is a stark comparison from last season when Bauer struggled to hit even 90 miles per hour in some Triple-A Columbus outings. If this is true, then Bauer could be in line for a special 2014 season. It obviously is going to take more than just velocity to have a strong season, but he also is making strides in many other areas as well. So far, his walks have been down and his strikeouts have been up. He remains a longshot to win the fifth spot in the Indians' rotation, but everyone knows that he still has the highest upside of any of the candidates. A player like Bauer can have a dramatic effect on the Indians' future, so if he is indeed on the right track, then this team becomes all the more dangerous. Because of his ace-like upside, Danny Salazar was viewed as a rotation savior at times last season. The remarkable thing is that Bauer has that same kind of upside. Just imagine what could be ahead if we are really starting to see a different Bauer on the mound.

— As noted above, the Indians' starting pitching has looked exceptional this spring and that was definitely the case this past week. One of the players who has been overlooked is Josh Tomlin. The right-hander is just a few seasons removed from a 12-7 campaign where he posted a 4.25 ERA in 26 starts, but no one seems to figuring he has a chance at this final rotation spot. While that may ultimately true, Tomlin certainly is still performing well as he has a 2.00 ERA in three games and nine innings. This past week he appeared in two games and allowed two earned runs in seven innings of work. He also struck out seven batters during that span, which is a tad unusual because Tomlin has never been much of a strikeout guy. Nonetheless, it's definitely a good sign, and it's an even better sign when you consider that Tomlin is not that far removed from Tommy John surgery. It will be interesting to see how the Indians handle Tomlin this season because the reality is that he probably will not earn a spot in the Opening Day rotation unless something drastic happens. Barring something crazy, that spot seems to be all but guaranteed to Carlos Carrasco. However, where does Tomlin then fit in? It probably does not make much sense to keep him around in the bullpen, so he probably will start the season in the rotation at Columbus. That will also allow the Indians to monitor his outings since he is still working his way back from the surgery. He could prove to be a valuable insurance policy down the line. Also, what if Tomlin starts to see his velocity increase a bit now that he is over a year-and-a-half past the surgery? This was around the time that Carrasco saw the jump, so could the same be expected from Tomlin? We know that Tomlin's precise control makes him valuable, but now imagine if he could consistently even sit in the lower 90s. That would certainly help his game, and it will be interesting to follow the radar guns on Tomlin this season.

— One interesting thing about the Indians' Spring Training contests is the fact that both Tyler Naquin and Carlos Moncrief have played in 11 games this spring. In fact, both players played in every spring game during this past week. It's hard to say what that means, but it's interesting that the Indians are getting the two players so much time in games. By default, Naquin and Moncrief are the Indians' top two outfield prospects and the team seems to be treating them that way by making sure that they play so much this spring. It's been a long, long time since the Indians have developed a quality major league outfielder, so it will be interesting to see if either Moncrief or Naquin have the chance to crack the majors some time this season. It's likely that neither player has the potential to be an All-Star, but if one of them could develop into even an everyday outfielder, then the Indians would be in good shape. So far, Moncrief is hitting .267 (4-for-15) this spring while Naquin is hitting .273 (3-for-11). These are obviously miniscule sample sizes, but both players have done a solid job of hanging in there against major league pitching thus far. Both Moncrief and Naquin are not too far away from the majors, so 2014 will probably be the biggest season of their careers to this point. It appears as if they've started the season out on the right foot thus far.

Steve can be reached via email at orbaneks@gmail.com.

User Comments

Wasting Away again in Margaritaville
March 13, 2014 - 7:42 AM EDT
A player of the week? Mike Aviles?

Trevor Bauer is back?

Naquin and Moncrief?

How many ways can I waste my Thursdays? Another trite affair at this blog. Such a stupid, wasteful blog.
yourtribe
March 10, 2014 - 11:59 PM EDT
Let's be clear. The speed IS meaningless unless he throws strikes. End of discussion.

Walter
March 10, 2014 - 10:50 PM EDT
It's too early to give up on Bauer. Remember the D backs gave up on Max Scherzer. Tigers traded for him and it took him couple of years to figure out and now he could be better than Verlander.

Dbacks also gave up on another pitcher that the Indians were interested in Tyler Skaggs who is with Angels now. It seems they know how draft pitching talent, but impatient on waiting for them to develop.

shy
March 10, 2014 - 9:50 PM EDT
Now is the time to get officially excited, hmmmm. I stated unequivocally the first time I saw Trevor Bauer pitch in an Indians uniform- actually I was watching a D Back video, he would not have a long or productive career in the Bigs. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. I think he'll be out of the MLB in 2-3 yrs UNLESS he gets some kind of legitimate check up from the neck up.. I was encouraged by how he looked the past couple times out this Spring- good velocity, authoritative body language and demeanor on the mound. And then when I saw him fall apart today a light bulb went off. This poor guy may have some kind of personality disorder- he doesn't know who he is. One day he might channel Bob Gibson. One day he might channel Pee Wee Herman. He might be ADHD or OCD or something. Seriously. A lot of this stuff is very treatable nowadays. If I'm the Indians I want him to go to a clinic where they do brain scans and see if they can diagnose it and figure out how to help the kid. It seems like if he is left to his own devices he unconsciously puts himself in a bad place. They can Hagadone to the clinic as well. I mean you got 2 kids that kind throw the ball thru a brick wall and they can't out of their own way.
Joe Chengery
March 10, 2014 - 9:22 PM EDT
YourTribe,

And all of 23-years old; he will be given time to make the new delivery work- there were bound to be setbacks, especially when you've been throwing a specific way for, what, 10 years or thereabouts? It probably doesn't feel natural to him yet and still thinking too much. What he needs is reps and time, both of which he should get. Even if he were throwing perfect games in Arizona, he'd probably still head to Columbus for regular season game action, since Cactus League action will only vaguely represent actual baseball action, never mind the fact that Carrasco is virtually guaranteed the 5 spot anyway.

And Jwahoo brings up a great point, the point that Tomlin is often overlooked. If he does hit the low-90s now, certainly not out of the question after TJ surgery, with his excellent control, that's arguably a 3 starter, and certainly a 4-5 starter, certainly a weapon to bolster the rotation, one that many teams would love to have. That gives Bauer even more time if needed, since the 5 spot is likely Carrasco's spot to have to start the season, with Tomlin probably being next in line for it or another starting spot if there is an injury or underperformance. Marcum is a long shot with his health, and Harang probably isn't here if he doesn't make the roster (which doesn't seem likely at this point).

Would we like Bauer to be further along? Sure. But, he has time- look at how long Cincinnati waited for Bailey (and, yes, I know he was a high school pick, picked seventh in the 2004 Draft), and I still think Bauer can be more dominant than Bailey, since Bailey's stuff and velocity don't seem as good to me, nor has he shown consistent dominance (didn't even at the end of last season when Cincy couldn't hold off Pittsburgh for the first Wild Card spot, then lost the Play-in Game to the Pirates in Pittsburgh). It may take a while, but the result may be worth it long-term.

Even if Bauer doesn't make it (and that won't be known for several years if that is the case- far too soon to even think that's the way it will be), with the fact Choo wasn't staying, Sipp had become ineffective, and Anderson being a non-factor, the trade was worth the gamble (never mind the fact getting Shaw, Albers, and Stubbs in the deal). Like I said, still plenty of time for Bauer to live up to that potential, and the Indians will likely give him that time, as they should.
Jwahoo
March 10, 2014 - 8:56 PM EDT
@ yourtribe

LOL I mean you make a valid point but its FAR from "meaningless" There is a major difference between sitting at 90-92 or 95-98. Sure, he still needs to locate to be a major league pitcher but it could be a huge thing for him.


Maybe they are giving Moncrief and Naquin time because like I have said many many times before it really does no good to have Santana take over 3B if your going to be running Jason Giambi at DH at the same time. I would much rather give the 25 year old Chisenhall a shot. Now, if Chiz struggles, Santana looks good at 3B and say Naquin seems ready to spend time at DH/RF then it could really help. You could have one of them platoon with Aguiler or Francouer.

Having Josh Tomlin around to maybe be the 5th starter is one reason I am not worrying so so much about the rotation. I feel like if nothing else works he could be a solid 5th starter especially if he is able to pound the strike zone in the low 90s now.
yourtribe
March 10, 2014 - 8:21 PM EDT
By no means am I giving up on him. but it is disconcerting that the #3 pick in the '11 draft after 3 years in college still can't throw strikes. And just recently changed his delivery.
Joe Chengery
March 10, 2014 - 8:11 PM EDT
Two good outings and one bad outing; after last year, I think we'd have taken that. Not the end of the world, and not totally unexpected either- growing pains were to be expected.
Walter
March 10, 2014 - 8:03 PM EDT
He gave up 7 runs in 2 innings plus. just got hammered. His velocity is back. Just need to work on command down in Columbus. He will be factor sometime this year.
Joe Chengery
March 10, 2014 - 7:23 PM EDT
While not seeing the final stat line, it's unlikely Bauer is going to be up all the time with his command; a setback or two is not to be unexpected, nor the end of the world either. Better to do it now than next month- time to fix the kinks and flaws.
yourtribe
March 10, 2014 - 7:00 PM EDT
As I said the other day regarding Bauer, 98 or 108 is totally meaningless if he can't locate pitches and consistently throw strikes. Back to the drawing board after today.
James
March 10, 2014 - 6:48 PM EDT
Well, you jinxed Bauer pretty good....

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