Life without Lee, Martinez begins for Tribe
Cleveland searching for pitching answers moving into 2010
Here's one guess as to how the Indians' Opening Day rotation might look in 2010:
|1.||RHP Jake Westbrook|
|2.||RHP Justin Masterson|
|3.||RHP Fausto Carmona|
|4.||LHP David Huff|
|5.||RHP Carlos Carrasco|
Before the summer acquisitions, the Indians' long-term rotation picture was looking rather dicey, to say the least. The 2010 options from down on the farm seemed to begin and end with right-hander Hector Rondon, though he's certainly nothing to scoff at. Rondon, 21, entered the week with a combined 10-6 record and 2.75 ERA in 19 appearances, including 17 starts, between the Double-A and Triple-A levels. He had struck out 97 batters while walking just 20 in 95 innings. "He's obviously advanced," farm director Ross Atkins said. "Even when he struggles, he doesn't give up walks or runs. We want to get his slider as good as it can be before he's thrown to that [big league] fire. If that slider starts to come, the sky's the limit." But beyond Rondon, the farm system's upper level starting picture, pre-Carrasco, looked poor. Left-hander Chuck Lofgren has pitched his way back onto the Indians' radar this season, but it's difficult to say whether he'd be in the mix for a job next year. And left-hander Kelvin De La Cruz might have been in the mix, had he not suffered a left elbow injury after two April starts. His lost year of development was a major blow to the Tribe's depth. As far as the Major League pitching picture this season, Carmona was demoted to rookie ball in June to get his head and mechanics straight, and the jury is still out as to whether the project of turning him into more of a pitcher and less of a thrower will prove successful. Westbrook, regardless of his strong track record of consistency before the injury, will turn 32 in September and is coming off Tommy John surgery. He comes with no guarantees, aside from the contract that will pay him $11 million next year. Pavano was signed to a one-year deal loaded with incentives, and, unless the Indians are willing to commit millions more to him in the offseason, it appears doubtful he'll be back for a second. Young left-handers Jeremy Sowers, Aaron Laffey and David Huff have all gotten extended looks in the Majors. But getting consistency out of Sowers has been an uphill battle since 2007, Laffey has been sidetracked by injuries and Huff is still learning on the job. At this point, don't even bother inquiring about left-hander Scott Lewis, who hasn't been heard from since straining his elbow during the Tribe's April 10 home opener. His fragility has removed him from the forefront of the Tribe's thinking. And Reyes is also currently out of the picture, as he had Tommy John surgery in June. What the Indians have, then, is a 2010 rotation that figures to feature Westbrook, Carmona and Masterson, with Carrasco, Rondon, Huff, Sowers and Laffey potentially competing for the last two spots. It could be another crowded camp, but one with significantly more upside than the competition the Indians held for their fifth spot in Goodyear, Ariz., this past spring. "We've gone out and added some plus arms and some guys already developing Major League pitches," Willis said. "We like the people that are going to make the crowd." The crowd might not be complete. Shapiro is not ruling out the possibility of venturing into the free-agent market, now that the 2010 options for Lee and Martinez, which were worth a combined $16 million, have been cleared from the books. "I'm never going to be comfortable, pitching wise," Shapiro said. "But I am much more comfortable now than I was a month ago. I think we will continue to infuse more pitching talent and add more pitchers, maybe via free agency." But no matter how many arms the Indians toss into their rotation next season, it will be quite a while before they own an ace.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.