Talbot to the rotation, Laffey to the bullpen

By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
http://www.twitter.com/castrovince

talbot.jpgWe have some more clarity regarding the composition of the starting rotation and the bullpen.

Mitch Talbot, as anticipated, has won a rotation job. That was expected coming into camp, and Talbot, who is out of Minor League options, sealed the deal by going 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA in four appearances in Cactus play. He worked six innings in a Triple-A game Thursday.

The other, more surprising development is Aaron Laffey heading to the bullpen. Based off spring performance, Laffey (1-1, 3.07 ERA in 14 2/3 innings) seemed to have a slight leg up on David Huff for a starting job, and the Indians are already expected to carry two lefties in the ‘pen in Rafael Perez and Tony Sipp.

laffey.jpgLaffey, however, did have success in the bullpen last year, and he can obviously provide the Indians with some length. With at least four and possibly five right-handed starters (and the potential for some short nights for those starters), the Indians have the ability to counter with three lefties out of the ‘pen (Laffey, Tony Sipp and Rafael Perez).

So it’s down to the left-handed Huff and the right-handed Carlos Carrasco for the final spot in the rotation. Carrasco pitches Sunday in Tempe against the Angels, and Huff pitches Tuesday in Surprise against the Rangers, so a decision could come Wednesday.

This news also pretty much assures Jeremy Sowers of starting the season on the DL.

Full story, with quotes, coming soon on Indians.com.

Might as well just follow this news with today’s notes…

EXCRUCIATING MINUTIAE OF THE DAY…

  • So now it’s anybody’s guess what the Indians will do with the last two available bullpen spots. I had thought the injury to Kerry Wood all but assured jobs to Jensen Lewis and non-roster invitees Saul Rivera and Jamey Wright. But now your guess is as good as mine as far as which two of those guys will claim a job. (I am, by the way, operating on the premise that Rule 5 pickup Hector Ambriz, who was limited for a while because of an elbow injury, will not come away with a job, as he hasn’t pitched in an “A” game in a couple weeks).
  • The Indians would have to clear room on the 40-man for Wright or Rivera, so that’s an issue. And here’s something else to consider: Wright has an out clause in his contract if he’s not on the Opening Day club, whereas Rivera’s out clause isn’t available to him until May 15. So he could potentially be sent to Triple-A Columbus. Lewis has one Minor League option year remaining, so he’s a Columbus candidate, as well.
  • Rivera and Wright both pitched against the Rockies today. Rivera came on in relief of Jake Westbrook with the bases loaded and none out in the fifth. He walked Jason Giambi to bring home a run but then got out of the jam. In the sixth, he walked the leadoff man, gave up a double to Matt Miller and gave up an RBI single to Jay Payton. That was the first run charged to Rivera in eight innings of work this spring.
  • Wright was sporting a 1.04 ERA in 8 2/3 innings this spring when he came on in the seventh and walked the first two guys he faced. That’s never good. He went on to give up an RBI single to Ryan Spilborghs before getting out of the inning.
  • Manny Acta on Wright: “This guy made 65 appearances for Kansas City last year. He’s resilient. He struggled today, but we’re not evaluating guys after every outing. We like Jamey.”
  • While Joe Smith and Sipp are both assured spots in the bullpen, the Indians have to be concerned that Smith has a 6.75 ERA in 6 2/3 innings (and somehow let Ryan Garko… yes, that Ryan Garko… swipe a bag off him Thursday) and Sipp has walked six batters in five innings. 
  • Speaking of walks, Acta was not at all happy that closer Chris Perez walked the first batter he faced on four pitches in the ninth. Perez did, however, finish off the save.
  • Speaking of relievers, our old buddy Rafael Betancourt worked a scoreless inning against his former mates today.
  • Westbrook was not sharp today. He had trouble finding the strike zone. He was expected to go six or seven innings but didn’t record an out in the fifth. He was charged with two runs on seven hits with five walks and three strikeouts, and he threw around 80 pitches. “I felt good about where I was,” he said. “I was real close to being right where I want to be. But I was just kind of all over the place and threw a lot of balls and a lot of pitches.”
  • This was Westbrook’s final start in an “A” game. His next day to throw is Wednesday, when the Indians will be facing the White Sox. The Indians don’t want the Sox to get a look at Westbrook before Opening Day, so he’ll throw in a Minor League game.
  • Carrasco is excited to be under real consideration for a starting job. He said that after he got roughed up by the Rangers on March 13, he and pitching coach Tim Belcher took a hard look at video of his delivery and made some changes. “I felt so bad because I gave up three runs [to the Rangers],” he said. “I had to work on my mechanics. I was flying open. I worked on it, and the next game I felt so good. I was throwing all four pitches for strikes.” That next game was March 17 in Tucson, when he held the Rockies hitless for four innings.
  • The Indians have placed an added emphasis on the importance of infield defense because of the poor play last year and the number of sinkerballers in the rotation. But shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was never a concern. “Here’s what I like about Cabrera,” Westbrook said. “He can make the routine play, but he can also make the unbelievable play. That’s nice to know as a starter. That’s what excites me about him.”
  • I’m doing my annual manager Q&A with Acta next week. I asked my Twitter followers to send me their questions, and I’ll pick the best one(s) to ask Acta. I’m extending that invite to you, as well, so post your question in the comments section below or tweet me @castrovince.
  • Better mark your calendar for the release of the new Gaslight Anthem album on June 15.

~AC

26 Comments

Wow. Well, I guess we were just talking about this, but I never thought it was a real option. I mean, I suggested this last year before they did it, but that was because the bullpen was awful and we had no one who could come in and either eat up innings or get the needed double play ball.
I can’t help but think that AC’s inclusion of “importance of infield defense” to be a nod towards what I suggested before, that perhaps they want to mix up the rotation and bit and now throw Westbrook, Carmona, Talbot, and Laffey at our infield over the course of 5 days.
I think I’m siding with ST over AM on this one: I’d prefer to see Lewis start in Columbus. I just don’t have a whole lot of faith in him, to be honest — and this is coming from a guy who named him our future closer a few years ago!
Purely by numbers, you’d think Carrasco gets the edge here, which I NEVER would have predicted going into this season. I do wonder if they’d like to have at least one lefty in the rotation, though.

I was against Laffey anywhere but the rotation when spring training started, but with Carmona, Talbot and Carrasco having looked better than expected and the injury to Kerry Wood, maybe Laffey’s best use is the bullpen. I only like it if Carrasco pitches well and gets the job over Huff.

for the record, I was never in favor of Jensen Lewis but I assumed, much like AC did, that Wright and Rivera were going to be in the bullpen to start the season. I’m really surprised about this Laffey decision.

Laffey, if i remember correctly, did a fine job out of the pen last season.

I think Laffey’s stuff translates better for what the Tribe needs from the ‘pen, gt1. I mentioned before how I thought it was odd they never even considered such a move, though, but I’m beginning to see the wisdom of it, at least as far as debating between Masterson and Laffey.
I think we also got fed something of a line going in. I think either Laffey or Talbot were going to be in the bullpen when the season started. I don’t think the battle for rotation spots was what we thought it was. I think Talbot beat out Laffey for a rotation spot that was going to one of the two of them because they wanted a ground ball pitcher who could eat innings in the ‘pen.

Not sure what to think about the Laffey move. I think Laffey earned a spot in the rotation, but he did do well last season in the pen. But he did well as a starter as well…

Why not put Masterson in the pen and Laffey in the rotation?

Wow, I thought for sure Laffey and Talbot were all but sure things for the rotation. And, it’s not as if any of the guys we’re talking about won’t have some sort of shot somewhere in the season.
Even though I still really like Huff (much to ST’s chagrin), I think he is still probably destined for Columbus. But, if that be the case, we’ll have 5 RHP in our rotation…My guesses haven’t fared well this year. So, I will hold my guesses to myself for a while.

Questions for Acta:

What do you see as the club’s biggest weakness going into the season?

How do you feel about grinders?

Is there still a Grinders in Athens? I loved that place. Everything they put on their sandwiches was thinly sliced — everything.

Questions for Acta: 1.) If Russell Branyan were currently confined to a wheelchair, would you be concerned about his ability to be ready by opening day? A related question, if at some point this season Travis Hafner’s left arm fell off while he was eating dinner, would that injury concern you?
2.) Jhonny Peralta is hitting .220 on May 1st. Do you a.) bench him b.) release him c.) do nothing, continue giving him consistent playing time
3.) It’s important to have Chris Gimenez on your team because a.) strikeouts can be good–at least they don’t result in 2 outs b.) he can play 3 positions, which makes him 3 times better than most players c.) he’s a nice guy d.) none of the above, it would be better to have Jordan Brown, even if he can only play 2 positions
4.) I saw that Jason Donald referred to himself as a grinder. Does that a.) make you want to promote him b.) make you wish he were still with the Phillies organization c.) make you hungry
5.) What are the odds that Carlos Carrasco has a better year than Cliff Lee?

Thanks for your always-excellent blog, AC. I plan on attending a game during the Tribe’s first series at Target Field, and I hope you enjoy the scenery. I love this town… if only the Tribe played here.

Question for Acta:
How difficult is your balancing act between putting the best team on the diamond, and preventing players like Michael Brantley (likely our best option in LF) from starting their arbitration clock? Also, given that backdrop, is it possible to build a consistent winner in a small market with guaranteed turnover?

I love the Gaslight plug, AC! Those kids thrash.

I second that. “American Slang” sounds great, I can’t wait for the full album.

Why do you hate me, Fausto Carmona? Why?
Sure, we have a lot of question marks, but, as AC has said before, having an honest to god ace changes the entire complexion of this team.

yeah, I will still remain cautiously optimistic about Carmona but you cannot deny the fact that he has opened a few eyes this spring. When Manny Acta was hired there was a subset of comments on a thread talking about Acta’s heritage as being a true asset to guys like Carmona and Peralta. I think we might be seeing that trust come to life in Fausto.

How difficult is your balancing act between putting the best team on the diamond, and preventing players like Michael Brantley (likely our best option in LF) from starting their arbitration clock? Also, given that backdrop, is it possible to build a consistent winner in a small market with guaranteed turnover?

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