Notes From the Wigwam: Indians fall in divisional race
Indians fall to seven games back in AL Central after going 1-6 during week
August 12, 2013
The Cleveland Indians have had some pretty rough weeks, but it's difficult to think of a rougher one than the one endured this past week.
The Indians went 1-6 during the week to fall to 63-55. What's also so devastating about the performance is that the Indians lost significant ground to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central as they now trail the team by seven games despite the fact that they faced only a three-game deficit in the divisional race just a week earlier.
Of course, that's what happens when a division-leading team completes a four-game sweep against a second-place team, and that's unfortunately exactly what happened to the Indians. There's still a month and a half in the season, but after this past week's performance, it does indeed seem as if the Indians may now no longer have a chance to win a divisional title.
The week was certainly one that both the Indians and the team's fans would soon like to forget, and it's easy to see why. Nonetheless, let's take one look back at the week that was before we start this week with a clean slate...
August 5 vs. Detroit, L 4-2 (WP: Alburquerque, LP: Perez)
August 6 vs. Detroit, L 5-1 (WP: Verlander, LP: Masterson)
August 7 vs. Detroit, L 6-5 (WP: Bonderman, LP: Shaw)
August 8 vs. Detroit, L 10-3 (WP: Scherzer, LP: McAllister)
August 9 vs. Los Angeles, L 5-2 (WP: Weaver, LP: Kazmir)
August 10 vs. Los Angeles, L 7-2 (WP: Wilson, LP: Jimenez)
August 11 vs. Los Angeles, W 6-5 (WP: Albers, LP: Gutierrez)
Player of the Week
Danny Salazar — Starting Pitcher
1 GS, 7.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R/ER, 2 HR, 1 BB, 10 K
Plain and simple, it's almost impossible to really pick a player to highlight when you consider the results of the past week. However, there was one positive memory from this past week, and it was Salazar's second career Major League start where he was just electrifying and struck out 10 batters in over seven innings of work. Salazar ultimately did serve up a deflating two-run home run to Miguel Cabrera, but we all know that there's no shame in allowing a home run to the best player in the game. I analyzed Salazar's career a bit more in depth in last week's Orbiting Cleveland column, but the bottom line is that he is the most promising starting pitching prospect that the Indians have had in years and starts like last Wednesday's show exactly why. It will be interesting to see how the Indians use him over the next few weeks as his innings will definitely be closely monitored. Nonetheless, every start of his now essentially has become must-see television, and it will remain that way for as long as he's up with the big league club. Oh, by the way, Salazar will be making his third Major League start tonight against the Minnesota Twins, so have your popcorn ready.
Minor League Player of the Week
Bryson Myles — Outfielder, Carolina Mudcats
6 G, 14-for-29, 5 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 RBI, 2 BB, 8 K, 1 SB
For the second consecutive week, Myles receives the Minor League Player of the Week honor in Notes From the Wigwam. Myles has been outstanding as of late as he's now hit in 23 games, and he seems to be doing a bit of everything. His average sits at .304, and one has to believe that a promotion to Double-A Akron could be on the horizon. The outfield has been an area where the Indians have really struggled to develop players in recent years, so if Myles is able to break into the Majors at some point, then he could be a huge boost for the club.
A Rough Week
Asdrubal Cabrera — Shortstop
7 G, 4-for-26, 3 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 4 K, 1 E
Cabrera's struggles have been well documented all season, but the exclamation point to what has already been a rough season came Sunday against the Angels. After what appeared to be a ball was called a strike, Cabrera was visibly upset, and he then proceeded to swing and miss at an inside fastball. Cabrera then started to jaw with the umpire and was thrown out for his efforts. It's not as if it was all that big of loss anyhow as his performance really has not even been as good as his backup's, Mike Aviles. This would ultimately end up being a moot point though as the Indians would later rally for a victory, but it's still disheartening to see Cabrera unable to control his emotions in this type of situation. When things are going bad, both individually as a player and as a team, it's easy to get frustrated, but it's also important to keep your emotions in check. Cabrera certainly is not having the season that he probably expected, but it gets no better after days like this.
The amount of runs that Justin Masterson allowed in two starts this past week. Masterson allowed a total of 10 runs in his six previous starts.
News & Notes
— If it was not bad enough to lose six out of seven games, the Indians dealt with some other bad news this past week as right-hander Corey Kluber was placed on the disabled list with a sprained middle finger. This is especially unfortunate as Kluber has been an outstanding surprise this season as he has a 3.54 ERA in 122 innings. Aside from Justin Masterson, Kluber has been the team's next best starter, and he's really become a stabilizing force in the rotation moving forward. When it comes to making a playoff push, Kluber is incredibly important, but it now seems as if he may not be a part of that potential push as he is scheduled to miss four to six weeks with this injury. The most difficult part of the injury is that the Indians just can't suddenly replace Kluber or his performance. Salazar has replaced Kluber in the rotation for the time being and while he certainly has electric stuff, his innings will be monitored. The bottom line is that the Kluber injury is one of the worst possible things that could happen to the Indians at this point of the year. Yes, the six-game losing streak was a tough blow and certainly took the wind of the Indians' sails, but the loss of Kluber was arguably an even bigger blow. Plain and simple, the Indians will be better as soon as Kluber can get healthy and return to the mound, but there is no telling when that will be.
— Believe it or not, the injury to Kluber is just the start of the Indians' starting pitching woes. Yep, it's unfortunately just been one of those weeks. It was announced this past weekend that the Indians would give some extra rest to left-hander Scott Kazmir in an effort to tend to Kazmir's "dead arm." Kazmir struggled in his start on Friday as he allowed five runs in just three innings of work. Kazmir said he felt some fatigue in some of his recent starts, which is why Tribe Manager Terry Francona has decided to give him the extra rest. There is no telling as to the seriousness of Kazmir's fatigue, but this is definitely something to watch moving forward. It could be that it is indeed just fatigue, which would make sense since Kazmir has now pitched 114 professional innings this season after pitching 17 in 2011 and 64 in 2012. It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that Kazmir would eventually tire, but is that all this is? The troubling thing is that it seems to be so serious that Francna said he plans to push his start back by four days or so. Like Kluber, Kazmir has been somewhat of a staff saver this season as he's proved to be both a reliable and effective starter. Many fans have been clamoring for the Indians to engage in discussions with Kazmir about a possible contract extension, but who knows if that actually happens, especially if Kazmir does not get all that much work in before the end of the season. Nonetheless, everyone should be crossing their fingers and hoping that Kazmir just skips one start and that that number does not suddenly turn into two, three, etc.
— Carlos Carrasco will be making a start in place of Kazmir on Wednesday. Carrasco was recalled from Triple-A Columbus this past week, so he could fulfill a long relief role in the team's bullpen. He got his first opportunity in that role on Friday as he actually came on in relief of Kazmir and proceeded to blank the Angels across five innings while allowing just one hit. Aside from his brilliant start in June where he allowed one run in 7 1/3 innings against the Royals, Carrasco has really been a major disappointment. If the Kazmir injury does indeed become more serious, then it will probably be Carrasco who will join the Indians'rotation. Knowing that, it's imperative that he starts to perform with the level of consistency that many of us have been expecting for years. Carrasco has been very effective in Columbus this season as he has a 3.14 ERA in 16 games and 71 1/3 innings of work. Of course, the other worry with Carrasco is that like Salazar, his innings totals will probably be heavily monitored. Carrasco underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011, so it's been quite some time since he's had a full workload. It will be interesting to see how many innings the Indians allow him to pitch, but one has to expect that he probably will not be allowed to pitch any more than 150 innings. If Carrasco remains in the bullpen, he likely won't even approach that number but if he does indeed take Kazmir's spot in the rotation, then he could only end up being a temporary solution.
— A number of noteworthy moves were made during the past week. First, the Indians resigned Ryan RaburnWednesday to a two-year contract with an option for a third year, and the team then followed that up by designatingMark Reynolds for assignment on Thursday. In a week of negatives, both of these moves seem to be positive ones for the Indians. The Raburn move seems to be a safe move as the contract is worth $4.75 million across two years and the third-year option is for $3 million. Raburn has proven to be an excellent signing as he's hitting .270/.364/.550 in 68 games so far. Raburn's emergence is also probably another reason as to why the team felt they could rid themselves of Reynolds' services. Reynolds had essentially been in a slump for three months, and the worst thing was that he was not even hitting for power anymore as he had recorded just two doubles since May 15. The move was unfortunate as it does seem to indicate that the Indians' $6 million signing of Reynolds was a flop. It was probably a tough move for all involved as Reynolds does still have plus-plus power, but the reality is that it just was pretty much impossible to keep sending him out there given his numbers. The right-handed hitting Reynolds had hit just .181/.271/.248 since May 15, and he also recorded 86 strikeouts during that span while drawing just 24 walks. Those type of numbers are just painful to even look at, so it was probably best for both parties to part ways. It seemed as if everyone just kept waiting for Reynolds to suddenly get hot again because he has shown he is capable of strong streaks, but a team can only wait for so long, and that final hot streak unfortunately never came to fruition.
— Had the Indians not earned a 6-5 come-from-behind victory Sunday, it would have tied the record for the longest losing streak at Progressive Field at seven games.
— Salazar will oppose another rookie tonight in Minnesota. Left-hander Andrew Albers will be making his second career start for the Twins. He was fantastic in his Major League debut as he allowed just four hits in 8 1/3 innings of shutout baseball.
Steve can be reached via email at email@example.com.