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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Cleveland Indians: Indians Rumors


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There was a good article by Bud Shaw in today's PD about the Indians' recent struggles, and what it could mean in the race for the Central Division. Usually Memorial Day is a time for clubs to take a look at the state of the franchise. Mark Shapiro and Co. can't like what they're seeing when studying the Indians performance so far this season. At 24-26, the Indians are now 10.5 back on the Tigers and 9 in back of the White Sox.

Unlike last season, the causes of the Indians' early-season struggles have been largely due to lackluster pitching, not the offense which has produced 284 runs through Monday's action, 2nd in the majors to only the Yankees. If Cleveland has any hopes of turning things around they must get better production out of their starting pitching. C.C. Sabathia has pitched like a Cy Young candidate since coming off the DL, but Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Jason Johnson, and especially Paul Byrd have been inconsistent at best, and awful far too often.

Johnson's last start against Detroit--0 runs, 6 hits, 6 innings--saved his spot in the rotation for now. The Indians need to be ready to call up Jeremy Sowers, who has pitched brilliantly at Buffalo. Sowers should be inserted into the rotation at the next sign of trouble.

For Cleveland to string together any sort of winning streak improved play from the bullpen is a necessity as well. Improving the starters, keeping the pen fresh, should help. It is obvious however that losing Bobby Howry was a major blow, and the Indians will need to acquire another arm for the back of the bullpen before the trade deadline.

Look for recently demoted catcher Kelly Shoppach to serve as trade bait. With Victor Martinez serving as the everyday catcher, Shoppach was getting very little playing time in Cleveland. Moving to Buffalo will give the young catcher time to develop, as it will give other teams an opportunity to see him play. Shoppach could be a mediocre starter in the majors today, yet the Indians don't really need him unless Victor Martinez gets hurt for a significant period of time.

Also, I wouldn't be surprised to see one of either outfield prospect Brad Snyder or Franklin Gutierrez shipped off. Some scouts question whether either player has the offensive skill-set to stick at the major league level. It seems like giving up on such a question mark would be a good trade if Shapiro could land a solid reliever. If Cleveland gets a chance to add a veteran reliever (Eddie Guardado perhaps?) look for them to jump at it.

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