Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Stumbling Out of the Gate

So I am back from vacation and so are the Indians. Unfortunately for Cleveland fans, I have been much more productive and gotten more positive results than the Tribe these days. Travis Hafner got a contract extension, which is good. Eric Wedge got one too, which we'll see how it plays out for the remainder of the season. But other than that some less that inspired baseball from the Erie Warriors.

The Indians have stumbled out of the gate as they managed to hang on to win 2 of 3 over the lowly Royals and got lucky in taking 1 of 3 from the putrid White Sox. The White Sox series was extremely painful to watch as the Bad Sox have been a complete train wreck this season. Especially on the offensive side of things and they managed to light up Tribe pitching for 3 straight days. This dropped the Tribe to 2 games behind the division leading Tigers.

Rumors abound of a third return to Cleveland for fan favorite Kenny Lofton, which I am for, but the main concern, surprisingly, for the Tribe is pitching. The first and foremost concern for the Indians are Jake Westbrook and Cliff Lee. Both have been hurt and missed time and it shows. While C. C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Paul Byrd have been somewhere between solid and spectacular all year, with a minor speed bump here and there, I find myself praying that Jake and Cliff can just keep us in the game. This has been a very difficult task for both all season and it was readily obvious in the Sox series. When they have pitched the Tribe is generally out of it by the 4th and the bullpen is gassed for the remainder of the series. The Indians need both, not one, both, of these guys to step up and get in gear if the Indians want to make a serious run at the Division or Wild Card.

The bullpen despite the vast improvement over last year still has question marks. Fernando Cabrera looks dead in the water with no hope of salvation. Tom Mastny continues to be a roller coaster in terms of performance, although he has been a little steadier lately. It appears as we will see the revolving door of relievers from Buffalo in an attempt to catch lighting in a bottle for a stretch run. We have already seen Mike Miller, Mike Koplove, Eddie Mujica, and now Jensen Lewis. I have a feeling that while Mark Shapiro continues to try and find a veteran reliever via a trade , we will continue to see some of the minor league "young guns" like Juan Lara, J. D. Martin or even Adam Miller to see if they can find help from within.

Joe Borowski is quietly having a spectacular season. Rafael Betancourt has proven to be one of the best set-up men in baseball. Rafael Perez and Jason Stanford appear to be here to stay and Aaron Fultz is due of the DL next week. It's a solid foundation to build upon but there are still a few pieces of the puzzle to be added.

Up next, a four game set in Texas followed by a four game home stand against the powerful Boston Red Sox.

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