Talbot to the rotation, Laffey to the bullpen
By Anthony Castrovince/MLB.com
We 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, 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.