"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

Cleveland Indians

Cleveland Indians

2007 Record: 96-66 (.593)
2007 Pythagorean Record: 92-70 (.570)

Manager: Eric Wedge
General Manager: Mark Shapiro

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Jacobs Field (103/102)

Who’s Replacing Whom:

25-man Roster:

1B – Ryan Garko (R)
2B – Asdrubal Cabrera (S)
SS – Jhonny Peralta (R)
3B – Casey Blake (R)
C – Victor Martinez (S)
RF – Franklin Gutierrez (R)
CF – Grady Sizemore (L)
LF – David Dellucci (L)
DH – Travis Hafner (L)


R – Jason Michaels (OF)
R – Jamey Carroll (IF)
R – Kelly Shoppach (C)
R – Andy Marte (3B)
R – Ben Francisco (OF)


L – C.C. Sabathia
R – Fausto Carmona
L – Cliff Lee
R – Paul Byrd
L – Jeremy Sowers


R – Rafael Betancourt
L – Rafael Perez
R – Jensen Lewis
R – Masahide Kobayashi
R – Jorge Julio
L – Craig Breslow
R – Tom Mastny

15-day DL: R – Jake Westbrook, R – Joe Borowski, L – Shin-Soo Choo (OF)

Typical Lineup:

L – Grady Sizemore (CF)
L – David Dellucci (LF)
L – Travis Hafner (DH)
S – Victor Martinez (C)
R – Jhonny Peralta (SS)
R – Ryan Garko (1B)
S – Asdrubal Cabrera (2B)
R – Franklin Gutierrez (RF)
R – Casey Blake (3B)

It was a reminder of just how early in the season we still are when the Indians swept a double-header against the Royals yesterday and, in so doing, jumped from last place in the AL Central to second place. Cleveland swept the entire three-game series in Kansas City, which was just their first series win since they took two of three from the White Sox to start the season. In fact, the Tribe won its first two games, then went 5-12 before arriving in Kansas City on Tuesday.

Part of the problem has been a wildly inconsistent offense. Over their last three series, the Indians have scored a total of 35 runs in three of their eight games and just nine runs total in the other five games. Looking over their lineup, platoon left fielder David Dellucci is hot (.324/.390/.649 over his last 12 games), but no one else is even hitting up to their usual standard. Center fielder Grady Sizemore, catcher Victor Martinez, and first baseman Ryan Garko are all getting on-base at a high clip, but none of them have shown their usual power thus far. Martinez is hitting for average, but is homerless on the season. Sophomores Asdrubal Cabrera and Franklin Gutierrez have both been awful, and Travis Hafner looks more lost than he did last year, negating Dellucci’s production by hitting .180/.250/.260 over his last 12 games with 12 strikeouts.

Things look better in the rotation, but despite being in Cleveland for four games, the Yankees will miss the three Indians starters who have been the most effective this April. Jake Westbrook (2.73 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) just hit the DL with a pulled muscle in his side. The Yankees will thus see replacement groundballer Jeremy Sowers in tomorrow’s nationally televised game (a corresponding roster move has yet to be announced, but it’s assumed extra outfielder Ben Francisco will be sent down). The lefty Sowers was a first-round pick in 2004 and moved quickly through the minors, but was awful after being installed in the rotation to start last season. The Yankees gave him a beating in April and hope do to so again. The Wednesday rainout that forced yesterday’s double header pushed Fausto Carmona (Wednesday’s scheduled starter) out of this series as he’d now be on short rest on Monday and will thus start Tuesday instead. Carmona is still a powerful groundballer, but he’s posted a troubling 1:2 strikeout-to-walk ratio thus far. Still, he’s survived it to go 3-1 with 2.89 ERA. One or the other will have to give, but I’d guess it’ll be the wacky peripherals. Finally, yesterday’s other starter, Cliff Lee, has been flat out dominant thus far, but will also miss the Yankees.

Consider these two lines:

0.28 ERA, 4-0, 31 2/3 IP, 29 K, 2 BB, 0 HR, 0.41 WHIP, 4 GS
10.13 ERA, 1-3, 24 IP, 25 K, 16 BB, 5 HR, 2.16 WHIP, 5 GS

Which looks like last year’s Cy Young award winner and which looks like the guy who pitched himself out of the rotation a year ago?

Of course the first line is Lee’s, while the second is that of defending AL Cy Young award winner C.C. Sabathia, who will start against Chien-Ming Wang on Sunday. It could be that the Yankees are getting to Sabathia a bit late, as his last start saw him throw 6 scoreless and strike out 11. I’d certainly put my money on Sabathia to out-pitch Lee going forward, but those 256 1/3 innings (including the postseason) Sabathia threw last year are enough to put some doubt in your mind, particularly given the fact that his postseason line looked a lot like the one above (8.80 ERA, 1-2, 15 1/3 IP, 14 K, 13 BB, 3 HR, 2.22 WHIP, 3 GS).

Even without facing Lee, the Yankees will see three lefties in this series after the right-handed Paul Byrd tonight. Sowers, Sabathia, and Monday’s spot starter Aaron Laffey are all southpaws. Monday will be the Yankees’ first look at Laffey, who made nine starts for the Tribe in August and September of last year and was consistantly average, turning in just one quality start, but only once lasting less than than five innings or allowing more than four runs.

Lee’s dominance (he threw a three-hit, nine-K shutout in last night’s nightcap) has helped keep the Cleveland bullpen fresh for this series. In fact, only the White Sox and Mariners used their bullpen less this season (in contrast, the Yankees have used their pen to eat up more innings than any team other than Pittsburgh). That’s important because the Cleveland pen has been another one of their problems in the early going, posting a collective 5.07 ERA that’s the sixth-worst in baseball. Joe Borowski’s been on the DL with a triceps strain for more than a week, but it took until yesterday for anyone else to earn a save. Rafael Betancourt, who is again pitching well, but not quite dominating the way he did last year, did the honors there. Unfortunately, the other Rafael, lefthanded Perez, has struggled, and the presence of Jorge Julio in the Cleveland pen speaks for itself. Worth watching will be veteran Japanese righty Masahide Kobayashi, who has been getting it done with groundballs (a popular method in Cleveland).

As for the Yankees, according to Pete Abe, Brian Bruney’s mysterious foot injury a Lisfranc fracture (which is a bone fracture, not a torn ligament as Pete states) that will require surgery and could keep him out all season. He hits the DL today and both Jonathan Albaladejo and Chris Britton have been called up (no word yet on how the Yankees plan to make room for Britton on the 25-man roster). Albaledejo was optioned to Scranton less than ten days ago, but is able to return before spending the requisite ten days in the minors because he’s an injury replacement. That means that Albaladejo was chosen over Edwar Ramirez, who was also optioned less than ten days ago, but that Britton was not. Albaladejo has pitched well in two long-relief outings thus far this year, striking out seven against just one walk in 5 2/3 innings. Britton has struck out ten in 11 innings against four walks for Scranton this year. He has a 2.45 ERA, but is just one of a long list of bullpen candidates pitching well in Scranton this April (also Albaladejo, Ramirez, Jose Veras, Sean Henn, Heath Phillips, Dan Giese, and Darrell Rasner). That long list of successful Scrantonites makes the loss of Bruney easier to take, though it still hurts to lose a guy with a 1.59 ERA and 12 Ks in 11 1/3 innings whom the manager had begun to use ahead of Kyle Farnsworth in key late-game situations.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see another move before tomorrow’s game. With Cleveland running out three straight lefties tomorrow through Monday, it seems the time has finally come for the Yanks to recall Shelley Duncan, who crushed another homer last night (his sixth since being optioned). Alex Rodriguez is back at third base tonight, which eases the roster crunch a bit, but with Posada starting behind the plate for the third time in four days and Jose Molina having gotten the other start, it’s time for Chad Moeller to go. The Yankees have held on to him because he’s out of options and they didn’t want to lose him only to find out that Posada can’t stop a team that actually does steal bases (which the White Sox don’t), but the risk of losing Moeller to waivers isn’t high enough to waste the roster spot on him.

Tonight is the first time the Yankees have had all nine of their Opening Day starters in the lineup at the same time since Opening Day itself.

Update: Per Pete Abe, Moeller has indeed been designated for assignment to make room for Bruney. The Yanks will the likely option a pitcher to make room for Duncan tomorrow (per Chad Jennings, Duncan is not in the Scranton lineup tonight, and his locker is relatively empty). Tonight they have a three-man bench and 13-man pitching staff.

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