The Indians found another guy who can fill in at the back of the rotation when they traded prospect Zach Putnam to the Rockies for Kevin Slowey. Putnam had worked in the Indians organization for a few years now and finally made his debut in 2011, getting most of his time out of the pen.
Slowey had an awful season for the Twins last year so you wondering what the Indians were thinking (Putnam made the Indians top ten prospect list). He was 0-8 with a 6.67 ERA but that was for an awful Twins team. He looks like a below average pitcher who managed to win his share of ball games despite some mediocre stats. His best season was 2008 when he threw 160 1/3 innings with an ERA of 3.99 and a 1.154 WHIP. He’s a typical Twins pitcher. Not a ton of strikeouts but a low walk rate.
The prospect lists continue to roll out and the latest is Kevin Goldstein’s. Topping the list is the lone five star prospect and that’s 2011 first round pick Francisco Lindor. He made his debut at High-A and while he only got into five games, he had a solid enough showing. That’s most likely where he’ll start the 2012 season.
Number two is Dillon Howard. He’s the second pick in 2011 and he signed too late to play. He’s a big guy and another high school guy so we won’t see him with the Indians for a while. Still, he’s pegged as having a 2015 debut.
Ronny Rodriguez is third and this shortstop struggled at the plate at Low-A but that was a nineteen year old. Like the other top guys, he’s several years away from a debut. Austin Adams (RHP) and Tony Wolters (SS) round out the top five.
1) Francisco Lindor SS
2) Dillon Howard RHP
3) Nick Hagadone LHP
4) Chen Lee RHP
5) Luigi Rodriguez OF
6) Zach McAllister RHP
7) Tony Wolters
8) Austin Adams
9) Scott Barnes LHP
10) Zach Putnam RHP
The Indians signed infielder Andy LaRoche to a minor league with an invitation to spring training. I also like these moves because adding guys with a little potential always makes spring training interesting. Once a top prospect in the Dodgers organization, LaRoche never panned out and now he’s 28. He had one decent year at Pittsburgh but outside of that, he’s been mostly used as a part timer. Last year he had a .654 OPS in 104 plate appearances and he didn’t have a single home run.
Jason Donald is LaRoche’s primary competition because he plays a lot of the same spots as the Indians utility infielder. Still, having a guy like LaRoche at Triple-A can be nice because he can fill in for a few different spots if someone goes down.
The Indians pulled the trigger on a deal that sent Cory Burns to the Padres and brought in outfielder Aaron Cunningham to the team. Cunningham has spent parts of four seasons as a part time outfielder for both the A’s and the Padres and he’ll most likely be the team’s fourth outfielder in 2012. He’s out of options so the minors is no longer one. His best season was 2010 when he had an OPS+ of 109. He’s a career .231 hitter but the Indians liked him because he can play both corner outfield spots.
Burns is a solid relief prospect so this wasn’t a give away. He struck out 70 in 59 2/3 innings for Double-A Akron last year and he has a career 188/35 strikeout to walk ratio with a 2.02 ERA in three seasons. He’s also been a closer at each spot and he has 88 career minor league saves.
The Indians are on the verge of signing fan favorite but oft injured Grady Sizemore for another year. Once the best player on the team, Sizemore has had his share of injury problems the last three years. The last time he played an entire season was 2008 and that was his best. Since then he’s played in just 210 games total over the past three seasons.
His latest problem was knee surgery. He can’t go through a full work out so the Indians won’t quite know what they’re getting. They declined his $9 million option and that made a free agent but as expected, the Indians are still the front runner to land him. In the past three years, Sizemore has had five different surgeries. It’s also not for certain that he’ll be roaming center field either.
Still, I’ve always liked Sizemore and it’s too bad the injuries have kept him down. It would also be nice to see, if the Indians make another run in 2012, to have him with the team leading the way.
Indians manager Manny Acta showed up on ten of the 28 ballots in the American League Manager of the Year award and that was good for fourth place. He picked up three second place votes and seven third place votes. Joe Maddon won the award with 26 first place votes and one second place vote. Jim Leyland (one first, 13 second and 10 third) came in second place while Ron Washington (one first, seven second and six third) came in third place.
Acta finished ahead of Joe Girardi, who was on eight ballots. The only other manager to be named on a ballot of Mike Scioscia, who picked up a second and a third place vote.
The Indians must have a thing for ground ball pitchers. They traded minor league left hander Chris Jones for Derek Lowe and the Braves will cover $10 million of the $15 million that they’ll owe Lowe in 2012. So in effect, they’re getting Lowe for $5 million in a one year deal. Lowe fell off of a cliff in the second half of 2011 but these kind of deals are pretty low risk.
The Indians liked the fact that Lowe got in his starts. He’s pushing 38 but he’s had 32 or more starts the last ten seasons. Not too shabby for a former closer. Of course the bad side of all that is that Lowe lost 17 games and he had an ERA north of 5.00 in 2011.
The guy they gave up is a left handed reliever. Jones struck out 66 in 72 1/3 but he was 23 pitching in A-Ball. This is a little more then a quick fix at the back end of the rotation but I like the chances that it’ll work.
At this point, the Indians are playing for second place and a winning record. I know they weren’t as good of a team as people thought in the first half but I also think they weren’t as bad as they should have been in the second. So in the final weekend series of the season, it’s interesting to see the Indians going head to head with the team their neck and neck with for second place.
Jeanmar Gomez got it done as did the offense. Gomez gave up two runs on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts in six innings. Three different relievers threw a shutout inning a piece to close out the game.
Asdrubal Cabrera had a huge day at the plate. He went three for five with a home run and he drove in five runs. Kosuke Fukudome also had a nice game and he went two for four with three RBIs and two runs. Ezequiel Carrera went two for three with three runs.
I guess there’s just one week left so it’s best to enjoy Indians baseball when it’s still around. This time next week, it won’t be.
It’s only one win but a few days ago the Cleveland Indians fell into third place in the AL Central. They’re still keeping their head above .500, but you wonder if this is a race they’re going to stick in. The Jim Thome trade was a good one and it’ll help, but it might be too little to late. Of course there’s still a month to play so we can hope for the best.
Yesterday was a nice 6-2 win. Carlos Santana and Jack Hannahan went yard in the win and Hannahan finished with three hits. Jim Thome did his job with a single and a pair of walks.
On the pitching side, Jeanmar Gomez did his job. He pitched six strong innings and he gave up just one unearned run. Rafael Perez gave up the other run and Chad Durbin pitched a shutout seventh inning.
Tonight, it’ll be Ubaldo Jimenez going up against Rich Harden. This could go either way because while Harden has had some stuff in the past )like Jimenez), he’s also had some stinkers.
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