Judging from the reactions of most fans—not including those who attempted to brave the elements—the consecutive rain-outs, effectively preempting the final two games of the Indians’ four-day Opening Series, was a welcomed relief.
The excitement and anticipation surrounding the lineup is largely still there, but the concern over the rotation, having just allowed 25 runs to the injury-riddled Yankees, is very real. Save for Justin Masterson, who has managed to defeat Cy Young winners in each of his first two outings, the men taking the bump to start games invoke emotions that range anywhere from cautious optimism all the way down to the throwing of blunt objects. The successful 2013 debut of Ubaldo Jiménez is largely an afterthought due to his woeful start in front of 40,000-plus fans on Opening Day. Brett Myers has yet to show that he resembles anything close to a middle-of-the-rotation arm let alone one that commanded $7 million and forced would-be starters to various minor league situations. Zach McAllister has the peripherals that say he should take the leap this season; he had a quality start during his first outing of the season, but the Indians lost.
Then there’s the revolving door at the back end—Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Scott Kazmir—that has managed to provide little aside from a head-scratching debut and a forehead-slapping return. Certainly, Kazmir has little blame to be tossed his way as he has yet to contribute to the blood-letting of his peers. Given his injury history, however, how can we asceratain that the veteran lefty can pick up where he left off during spring training? Kazmir threw some long toss earlier this week and is slated to have a bullpen session this weekend. But even if these go as planned, fans are looking at at least another week of simply hoping that the starting pitchers can stretch through enough innings to keep the bullpen in working order.
Not helping matters is the fact that the Indians, coming off of two-straight games that would have had parents asking about the mercy rule had they been played at a suburbial field, will host the rival Chicago White Sox this weekend. The good news is that regardless of the score, the losses against the Yankees only count as one a piece—the Indians are just 2.5 games out of first place in the division. The break also allows catcher Carlos Santana, day-to-day with a bruised thumb on his catching hand, to mend without missing games. The rub: the Indians have allowed 16 home runs thus far, the third-worst number in baseball, while the White Sox are amongst top-four in the league when it comes to hitting them.
Tribe fans can easily recall what Adam Dunn has managed to do to this team over the course of his career, whether it’s winning games in Cincinnati or adding a few runs to the box score with the White Sox. Paul Konerko may have single-handedly turned the Tribe’s tides in 2012, 1 hitting a go-ahead home run in the third game of what would be a series sweep. The Indians entered that series winners of eight of 10, but were outscored 35-16 by the Sox. For good measure, Alex Rios is off to a torrid start, hitting .429 with four home runs and eight runs batted in to go with three stolen bases.
There is plenty to hang your hat on if you opt for optimism. The Indians, after all, have managed to score at least six runs in two of their five losses, a number that is well north of the average per game in the MLB. Masterson will take to the mound on Friday night, an evening which is expected to be cold, but at least dry. If the team has anyone who resembles a stopper, it is Justing Masterson. Due to the consecutive rain-outs, Jiménez will see his next start pushed into next week as McAllister will follow up Masterson’s start on Saturday. If these two men can throw as they have, and the bats can provide what is expected instead of the goose eggs that were laid in Tampa Bay, there’s a chance that this team heads into Sunday as the winner of two-straight, looking to sweep a divisional opponent.
The two-day break was much-needed. The players should be rested enough to allow Terry Francona to deploy his starting lineup for all three of the upcoming games. The bullpen should be completely available. Carlos Santana may be close to returning. Let’s just hope that it provided the same level of mental ease to the team as it did the fan base.
Among other things