I like looking at things long-term, and I don’t like making drastic moves based on small sample sizes. Given the play of the Indians to this point, it’s really easy to go Shaw and rip the entire organization, calling for their removals. My previous attempt at humor aside, the long-term prospects of this team is still pretty good. Bob Wickman, Scott Elarton, Kevin Millwood, Jose Hernandez and Bob Howry are this year’s crop of free agents, and given that Millwood is going to test the market no matter how much the Indians offer, there’s no one there I’d recommend keeping for more than a team-friendly price.
But how are the Indians going to compete in the short-term? Well, there are a couple things I’d like to see happen, namely:
(1) Release Scott Elarton and call up Brian Tallet.
That Scott Elarton was one of the team’s best starters in the second half last year said more about the Indians’ rotation than it said about Scott. This season, he’s allowed 41 hits in 31 innings. That’s not good. Hitters are batting .325 so far this season, and half of his starts came against Kansas City and Seattle. Brian Tallet, a guy the Indians drafted in 2000 (the round after Corey Smith), is pitching very well in Buffalo, and he would slot easily into the rotation, as he pitched last night. I’m not rooting for an all-out implosion from Elarton to force the team’s hand, but I just think they’re wasting their time holding on to Elarton. It’s not like last year where the team had no good options to turn to; Tallet is just one of three legitimate alternatives (the others being Steve Watkins and Jason Davis) they could plug into the rotation.
(2) Call up Kaz Tadano and send Jason Davis to Buffalo
Until the Indians decide one way or the other if JD is a reliever or starter, he should be throwing regularly. That isn’t happening right now, and Davis is a guy who needs reps. I’d put him back into the rotation, but I’d be fine with having him set up Fernando Cabrera in the Bisons’ bullpen. At least this way he can get some consistent work in. Tadano has essentially been Buffalo’s long man, only getting one start, so he wouldn’t have to make much of an adjustment.
(3) Send Aaron Boone to Buffalo and call up Jody Gerut
You don’t like to send veterens down, but I really think this is in the best interest of the team. Boone is hitting an empty .147, if that’s possible. His OPS is an absurdly-low .476. While his defense has been as advertised, it certainly can’t make up for what he’s done at the plate. Maybe a fresh start, without the pressure, can help Aaron figure out what’s wrong his swing. Jody Gerut, once his knee has been declared sound, should probably be up in Cleveland. Will that mean he and Eddie Murray will get along? Probably not, but maybe he’ll give the Indians some production in right field.
(4) Platoon Casey Blake and Jose Hernandez at third until Boone returns
Wait? Aren’t both players right-handed? Yes, they are, but Blake doesn’t have standard platoon splits, and Jose Hernandez does. Blake, in his career, is hitting .257/.323/426 against right-handed pitching, and Jose Hernandez is hitting .262/.324/.490 against left-handers. Ben Broussard is in the midst of one of his hot streaks, so I’d try to run him out there as much as possible.
(5) Spot Josh Bard against right-handers more often
Victor Martinez as a right-handed hitter is an All-Star. Martinez as a left-hander looks like Tim Laker. Given that you have Josh Bard, who’s a halfway decent offensive catcher, it wouldn’t hurt to spot him against a tough right-hander, regardless of normal playing schedules. Also, when Martinez is in the lineup against a right-hander, move him down in the order, and move Broussard to the third spot in the order, at least until Victor starts to hit from the left side again.
So there you have it. Nothing dramatic, other than the release of Elarton, but at this point I think you’re stuck with what you’ve got.