Inbox: Filling out the 2011 starting rotation
Indians reporter Anthony Castrovince fields fans' questions
Writing on the road can be an arduous process, because so few outside elements are under your control. Dispatched to Philadelphia to cover the NLCS between the Phillies and Giants for MLB.com over the weekend, the pomp and circumstance of the postseason environment at Citizens Bank Park did not lend itself to the quiet solitude and deep reflection necessary to pore over your Tribe-related e-mails.And my downtown Philly hotel didn't offer such comforts, either. In one distracting development, there was a full evacuation of the hotel because of a pull of the fire alarm that turned out to be false. In another, there was a would-be purse-snatcher who darted through the lobby, only to drop the three totes he had taken in order to optimize his speed as about a dozen angry citizens chased him out the building. The fact that the World Bridge Championships were also taking place at the hotel didn't help matters, either. Because, honestly, who can turn down the opportunity to watch a bunch of Dutch dudes play bridge? Not me. Indeed, the working conditions were not ideal. But the great ones endure. Thankfully, so, too, do some of the mediocre ones, which is why I'm able to bring you this latest edition of the Indians Inbox. As far as I can tell, Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson and Mitch Talbot all pretty much have guaranteed spots on the rotation next year. So where do Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, Jeanmar Gomez and -- gulp -- David Huff fit in the picture? And could we possibly throw Alex White into that mix already? -- Buck J., Camp Lejeune, N.C. I would add Carrasco to the guaranteed group, Buck. While September results can be skewed, the Indians saw enough from the 23-year-old to consider him a legitimate Major League option. He showed tremendous growth from his five-start stint in September '09, when he posted an 8.87 ERA and a 2.28 WHIP. In seven starts this time around, the ERA was at 3.83 and the WHIP was at 1.37. Some might not consider Talbot locked in to the rotation because of his struggles in the second half (5.29 ERA vs. a 3.99 ERA in the first half). But the Indians will chalk those problems up to the rookie dealing with some stamina issues after an injury plagued '09 in the Rays' system and, in general, having to learn to make adjustments over the course of a long season. Barring an external addition -- which, at this point, doesn't appear likely -- that leaves the Indians with just one rotation spot to fill. Tomlin, Gomez and Huff would all be options to vie for that spot in Spring Training. White is not yet in that mix, as he's yet to set foot in Triple-A Columbus, but he could be an option for the Indians by midseason, if his current progression holds true. Anything new on Adam Miller, or is he done playing baseball? -- Conrad S., Buffalo, N.Y. Despite four surgeries on his right middle finger, Miller is actually far from done. He threw in the fall Instructional League and, I'm told, got it up to about 93 or 94 mph. He has shown no signs of relapse, in terms of the finger issues. He could be in the Tribe's Major League camp next spring, if he stays healthy. The Indians will, of course, be cautious in any enthusiasm over these developments, because Miller's mysterious middle finger has betrayed him several times before. But the fact that Miller is able to take the mound at all after so many unprecedented problems with that finger is incredible. If he makes a full comeback and can pitch in the bigs next year, it would be one heck of a story. I've heard some whispers about the Tribe getting new uniforms for the 2011 season. I'm assuming it's more than just swapping the polyester material for cotton, a la George Costanza's influence. Do you have any insider information you could share, such as changes to the look or a reveal date? -- Mike A., Mount Vernon, Ohio The uniforms will receive some subtle, not drastic, changes for 2011. The new unis are expected to be unveiled in November. And because of the threat of "shrinkage," I'm not expecting them to be 100 percent cotton. The Indians Down Under Fan Club, of which I think I am the only member, wants to know your latest advice on the prognosis for Messrs. Sizemore and Santana. Just the facts as you see them. -- Mike S., Newcastle, Australia Because of the outrageous shipping costs associated with sending this e-mail from such a remote distance, I would be happy to appease the DUFC, Mike. I'm no doctor; I just know that microfracture surgery is still rare enough in baseball that it's difficult to guess how quickly (or if) Sizemore can return to his old form. For the sake of caution, I would brace myself for the possibility that he won't be quite the same player on Opening Day, and it could be months into the season before he's up to full speed. As far as Santana is concerned, the Indians believe he dodged a bullet in terms of the potential severity of his injury. It will be interesting to see if the memory of that vicious collision has any lingering effect in how he approaches playing the position, though I wouldn't be overly concerned about that. Just remember that, for all intents and purposes, he'll still be a rookie on Opening Day, and he'll be a rusty rookie, at that. I guess what I'm saying is that to expect either guy to be an immediate savior for this lineup might be a bit misguided, given the circumstances. Does anybody remember Jody Gerut? He had microfracture surgery, and what has he done since? A reserve outfielder, at best. What I'm getting at is now is the time to trade Grady for a Major League third baseman. I know this will cause a stir if published, but what good is an outfielder with no arm and, now, no speed? Trade him while we can get something for him. He has a reasonable contract, so some team should be willing to take a chance on him. What do you think? -- Joe L., Litchfield, Ohio I'm not sure the Gerut-Sizemore comparison is a very fair one for either side, but point taken, Joe. Trouble is, two years' worth of missed time and diminished performance do nothing to augment Sizemore's trade value. Not that the Indians are interested in making such a deal, but even if they were, the return probably wouldn't be substantial enough to justify the means. Any coaching changes for 2011? -- Bob S., Sparta, Ohio All of the primary coaches are expected back (including your fellow Spartian, Tim Belcher). However, the Indians do have two coaching assistant positions on their staff used to groom guys with no previous Major League playing experience before they ascend in the Minor League coaching or managerial ranks. Dave Wallace and Ruben Niebla (until he suffered a season-ending knee injury) filled those spots in 2010. What did the Indians receive from the Yankees for Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns? -- Ray E., Beaverton, Ohio For Kearns, the Indians received right-hander Zach McAllister, who might also emerge as a rotation candidate in 2010. The Wood trade was a cash deal. The Yankees ultimately assumed $2 million of the $3.7 million that remained on Wood's contract. Because Wood made it through the rest of the season healthy, the Indians had the option of receiving a player or more cash. They went for the cash. The player component was never considered a major piece of the deal. Does Shelley Duncan fit into the 2011 plans as a reserve outfielder? -- Karl B., Erie, Pa. I wouldn't rule it out. Duncan did everything asked of him in 2010. He provided some pop, had an .857 OPS against lefties and was a great clubhouse guy. Then again, with Grady Sizemore expected back, Michael Brantley and Shin-Soo Choo guaranteed spots, Trevor Crowe possibly on-hand as a reserve and Nick Weglarz on the horizon, it's a little crowded out there. You recently indicated that you thought Omar Vizquel would probably go into the Hall of Fame as an Indian. That led me to wonder how it's determined how a player enters the Hall. Player choice or some other method? -- Dave B., New Cumberland, Pa. It is entirely up to the Hall which cap a player dons on his plaque. The idea, of course, is to choose the club on which the player made his most lasting impact. Did the Indians ever offer the manager's job to Buck Showalter? -- Phil A., Londonderry, N.H. No. Showalter was aboard as an advisor in 2007. At the time he came aboard, the Indians were coming off a disappointing '06 season, and it appeared Eric Wedge's job might be in jeopardy if '07 got off to a disastrous start. From my conversations with Showalter at that time, he was certainly hungry for another managerial opportunity, and he seemed curious to see how the Wedge situation would play out. Of course, it played out with the Tribe winning the Central, Wedge winning AL Manager of the Year and Buck going back to ESPN. After 3 1/2 years away from managing, the job he did with the Orioles down the stretch this season was certainly impressive. And finally ... Why not trade Andy Marte, Travis Hafner, Trevor Crowe, Luis Valbuena and whoever in order to get a decent starter for the rotation? Then, why can't the Indians keep Duncan and Jayson Nix around for utility and third base? Then play the kids, i.e. Matt LaPorta, Santana and the three guys from Triple-A that hit the cover off the ball last year. Their names escape me, but you know who I mean. If everybody that's on the disabled list comes back by Spring Training, we should be able to compete in 2011. We're getting impatient! -- Mark F., Allentown, Pa. An extremely interesting take, uh ... your name escapes me, but you know who I mean.