Originally posted on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 3/26/12

When the entire Fausto Carmona identity situation came to light, the Indians were left with a dilemma. Should they look for outside alternatives to fill the new void at the fifth spot in the rotation or should they consider the in-house candidates that were expected to start the season at AAA Columbus? As it turned it, the battle would be a combination of both.

Two days after the arrest of the man we now know as Roberto Hernandez, the Tribe traded for right-hander Kevin Slowey who struggled with injuries last year in Minnesota, but was a solid back of the rotation guy the previous three years. Just before Spring Training started, they kicked the tired on veteran righty Jon Garland, who was coming off of shoulder surgery. As it turned out, Garland failed his physical and never joined the club. So Slowey would enter the battle as the lone new guy and would take on Jeanmar Gomez, David Huff, Zach McAllister, and Scott Barnes. All of these pitchers have Minor League options.

But would the best man really win?

Economics always play a part in the Tribe’s thinking and Slowey is scheduled to make $2.50 million this season. The Tribe is only on the hook for $1.25 of it. Nevertheless, they are paying him more than the other candidates and he has more of a major league track record as well. McAllister and Barnes were never serious candidates to take the job, but Barnes is seen as a guy who could help at some point this season and should be a guy that is in the rotation in 2013.  So really the competition was down to three guys – Slowey, Huff, and Gomez.

Slowey has shown this Spring that he is what he is. He’s made four starts, allowed nine earned runs on 19 hits in 12 innings pitched (6.75 ERA). He has walked four and struck out five. Nothing special and certainly nothing that has been attention catching for the Tribe staff. But he does have a major league track record.

Huff is Huff. We know what we have there. Despite his five-start hot streak last season (before coming back down to earth) the Indians have to know he is a fringe guy. With the final bullpen spot still up for grabs, the Tribe may be best suited keeping Huff as a long man. Like Slowey, he hasn’t been great this Spring, sporting an ERA of 5.79 (17 hits in 14 innings pitched).

This brings us to Gomez.

When the moves were made to add Derek Lowe, Slowey, and then the attempt at Garland,  I wondered if the Indians were down on Gomez despite his solid performance down the stretch last season. It seemed as though they were, to use a college football recruiting term, “signing over” him. But the 24-year old Venezuelan had plans of his own. He showed up in Goodyear ready for action and all he has done has produced. Ask anyone who has been in Arizona over the last month, the most impressive pitcher in camp thus far has been Gomez.

He’s made five spring appearances and has posted an ERA of 1.69 (three earned runs in 16 innings), a WHIP of 1.06, and opponents are hitting just .196 against him.

“It’s interesting to see how far he’s come as a pitcher. We’ve not penciled in [any names] for the rotation, but he’s making a case for himself,” said Manager Manny Acta.

With the way Gomez has pitched this spring and the fact that Slowey, Huff, and the others haven’t exactly set the world on fire, how can the Indians even consider not breaking camp with Jeanmar as their fifth starter?

Count the PD’s Terry Pluto as a guy who is firmly in Gomez’s corner. There were reports over the weekend that the Indians are still searching for more starting pitching help, but to be honest, everyone is. But with the way Gomez has looked this Spring, I think it’s time to give the kid a shot.

We can’t overlook how he pitched down the stretch last September with the big club. In the first four of his five September starts, Gomez was 4-0, allowing six earned runs in 24 innings pitched.

Give him his shot.

 

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