Fireworks on the Fourth

The Indians now stand ten games above .500, the team’s high-water mark thus far. On Sunday and Monday, the team won three games rather easily, thanks to good hitting and very good pitching.

First, let’s recap the small flurry of moves that happened in order to allow Jason Davis to start last night’s second game.

(Before Sunday’s Game)

Placed RHRP Rafael Betancourt on the 15-day Disabled List (shoulder)

Recalled RHP Kazuhito Tadano from Buffalo (AAA)

I have no idea how serious the injury, but if Raffy just misses the requisite fifteen days, the DL stint probably does him more good than harm. The move was retroactive to June 30th, when Betancourt first started to complain about the injury, but I’d think the Indians would like to wait until after the break to bring him back. Missing a key bullpen cog for a couple more days is a small price to pay for having him healthy and effective in August and September. Kaz Tadano filled Betancourt’s roster spot on Sunday and the first game on Monday, and would have been the longman. It turned out that he wasn’t needed.

(After Monday’s first game)

Optioned RHP Kazuhito Tadano to Buffalo (AAA)

Recalled RHP Jason Davis from Buffalo (AAA)

Davis was brought up to start Monday night’s game against the Tigers. Davis, who has filled in a couple times before, looked shaky at time against the Tigers, but got out of a couple jams and left after a scoreless six innings. In all probability, he’s going right back down to Buffalo, where he should make his next scheduled start with the Bisons. At this point in his career, the thing Davis needs more than anything else is stability; he needs to be given the ball every fifth day until the end of the season, because he could start the 2006 season in the big-league rotation. In fact, he’s probably Plan B if Kevin Millwood leaves at the end of the year. Tadano, thanks to good outings from Cliff Lee and Scott Elarton, wasn’t needed, and he’ll return to his role as the Bisons’ longman.

So who comes up to fill Davis’ spot before tomorrow’s game? I’d have to think it would be Fernando Cabrera, and if it wasn’t Cabrera, it’d be Andrew Brown. Both guys are on the 40-man roster, both have pitched well as of late, and each has good enough stuff to fill in for a week or so. Because Fernando is a week away from appearing in the Futures Game, it might make sense to see what Brown has now, and if he doesn’t work out, then you can call up Cabrera just after the break, or reinstate Betancourt when he’s healthy. Davis Riske seems to have recovered from week-long string of ineffective games, so you have some flexibility to work a youngster into the bullpen mix.

Of course, the All-Star Rosters were announced on Sunday, and with it brought the usual cacophony of jilted fans everywhere. I’ve learned not to care as much about All-Star rosters, because it’s not really worth it. But it did gall me somewhat that the lone representative was Bob Wickman instead of Travis Hafner or [other Indians player]. It wasn’t really Terry Francona’s fault; he only picked four players to fill out the roster, and I believe all four were of the “one per team” variety. But picking Wickman as Cleveland’s lone All-Star is a double whammy; you realize he’s the only one that’s going, and you just know that he’ll do something idiotic if he’s put into the game. I can just imagine it now: Mike Piazza beats out a chopper to the mound because the first baseman loses Wickman’s toss in the lights, then steals second and third, and scores the winning run on a balk. Of course, if that means Boston doesn’t get home-field advantage in the World Series, Terry Francona would have no one to blame but himself.

Back to Hafner for a bit. Now that Pronk has gotten his OPS just under the 1.000 mark, it should be interesting to see how many teams actually pitch to him in the next couple of weeks. Obvously Coco Crisp has been getting a ton of fastballs in the past month of so, but the 4-5 hitters, whoever they are, need to remain dangerous hitters to enable Hafner to swing the bat. This dovetails nicely into the speculation as to who the Indians are probably targeting. Mark Shapiro has been publicly stating lately that the team is looking into trading for someone to join Hafner in the middle of the lineup. Here’s what Shapiro had to say in today’s Morning Journal:

‘Prior to talking to clubs, we have to determine which ones could be or are willing to trade,” he said.

He figures the sooner he can add a big bat, the better off the Indians will be toward making a run at the playoffs.

”I’m not going to trade for a name or someone who is marginally better than what we have,” he said. ”If there’s not significant separation, we’ll stick with the players we have.

”I believe these guys can win. If there is a move out there and a chance to bring in a guy with significant offensive production, we’ll do it.”

Shapiro isn’t overly concerned with messing up the Tribe’s chemistry.

”It’s always a concern,” he said. ”It’s my obligation to make the club better.”

It’s nice to see this type of thinking. I don’t want Shapiro to deal for Preston Wilson just to say “Look at me! I just traded for a name!” The deal has to make sense for this year as well as for the future. I’d be much more willing to lay off the picked-over rentals that are out there now and spend your prospects on 2-3 years of a guy like Mike Sweeney or Adam Dunn. Of course those types of deals are extremely difficult to consummate, but the payoff would be felt not only the remainder of this season, but in 2006 and beyond as well. Hopefully Shapiro can find last year’s Larry Walker instead of last year’s Richard Hidalgo.

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