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Cleveland Indians II: Comin’ Up

Posted By Cliff Corcoran On July 26, 2010 @ 6:00 pm In Cliff Corcoran,Series Preview | Comments Disabled

The Yankees took two of three from the Indians at the end of May, but the Indians team they face for four games this week is better than the one they faced two months ago. Since June 27, the Indians have gone 15-9 (.625) thanks to an improved performance from their pitching staff, and a coalescing young offense.

Blue-chip catching prospect Carlos Santana made his major league debut on June 11 and has hit .270/.418/.516 since, most impressively racking up more walks (34) than strikeouts (25). Matt LaPorta, the blue-chipper received from the Brewers for CC Sabathia in 2008, returned to the majors on June 27 to replace Russell Branyan at first base after he was dealt back to Seattle, and has hit .320/.386/.560 since. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera just returned from the disabled list last Tuesday and has hit .294 in the Tribe’s four games since. Cabrera has pushed Jason Donald, the infielder received from the Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal, over to his proper place at second base, which should only increase his comfort level. Donald has hit .304/.366/.461 since June 10 and .321/.345/.571 in eight games at second base this year. Heck, even 30-year-old Yankee castoff Shelley Duncan is contributing, hitting .283/.359/.522 while spotting in the outfield corners, first base, and DH.

On the mound, former Red Sock Justin Masterson, who had a 6.13 ERA entering the Indians’ last series against the Yankees, has settled down with a 4.56 ERA in 11 starts dating hack to his quality start against the Yankees on May 30. Jake Westbrook, returning from Tommy John surgery, has posted a 4.38 ERA in 14 starts since May 11. Former Rays prospect, rookie Mitch Talbot, who faces Andy Pettitte’s vacated rotation spot on Thursday, has been solid all season (3.89 ERA). Ditto All-Star Fausto Carmona, who will bring his 3.51 ERA to face A.J. Burnett on Wednesday.

The Cleveland rotation did spring a leak in David Huff’s old spot. With replacement Aaron Laffey having just gone down with a bum shoulder, the Tribe will turn to 25-year-old rookie righty Josh Tomlin Tuesday night against their former ace CC Sabathia. I’ll have more on Tomlin tomorrow, but “25-year-old rookie righty vs. CC Sabathia” tells you most of what you need to know.

The Yanks face former David Justice trade bait Westbrook tonight. By providing 1,183 1/3 league-average innings for the Indians over the years, Westbrook has actually made that trade a net loss for the Yankees, though I can’t imagine many Yankee fans have any regrets about the deal. From 2003 to 2007, Westbrook posted a 4.11 ERA in 922 2/3 innings over 143 starts and 15 relief appearances for the Tribe, but in 2008 he made just five starts before going down with an elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery. He then missed all of the 2009 season, but has returned to his old form this year and, in the final year of his contract, is actually considered a low-end starting pitching option for teams looking to fill a back-end-of-the-rotation hole prior to the trading deadline, teams that could include the Yankees in the wake of Andy Pettitte’s groin injury.

I still think the Yankees would be better off giving Ivan Nova a look, but that’s a rant for another day. Tonight, they have Javier Vazquez looking to rebound from a poor start against the Angels. Vazquez seems to have finally settled in as the mid-rotation starter the Yankees hoped he would be when they acquired him from the Braves this past offseason. He hasn’t had consecutive poor outings since April 25 and May 1 and nine of his 12 starts since then have been quality starts. Vazquez hasn’t faced the Indians since he was with the White Sox in 2008, which means half of the Cleveland lineup has never seen him before.

The Yankees run out their standard lineup tonight with Jorge Posada at DH and Francisco Cervelli behind the plate. Despite his hit-by-pitch scare, Alex Rodriguez is back at third base, still sitting on 599 career homers. Nick Swisher remains in right, batting second.

Cleveland Indians

2010 Record: 41-57 (.418)
2010 Pythagorean Record: 42-56 (.429)

Manager: Manny Acta
General Manager: Mark Shapiro

Home Ballpark: Jacobs Progressive Field

Bill James Park Indexes (2007-2009):
LH Avg-100, LH HR-91
RH Avg-95, RH HR-96

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Carlos Santana (minors) has replaced Lou Marson (minors)
  • Michael Brantley (minors) has replaced Russell Branyan
  • Asdrubal Cabrera (DL) has replaced Luis Valbuena (minors)
  • Jayson Nix has replaced Mark Grudzielanek
  • Chris Gimenez (minors) has replaced Mike Redmond
  • Andy Marte has returned from the DL
  • Josh Tomlin (minors) will replace* David Huff (minors)
  • Frank Herrmann (minors) has replaced Kerry Wood (DL)
  • Joe Smith (minors) has replaced Aaron Laffey (DL)
  • Jess Todd (minors) has replaced Jamey Wright

*note that a move will have to be made to add Tomlin to the 40- and 25-man rosters before his scheduled start on Tuesday

1B – Matt LaPorta (R)
2B – Jason Donald (R)
SS – Asdrubal Cabrera (S)
3B – Jhonny Peralta (R)
C – Carlos Santana (S)
RF – Shin-Soo Choo (L)
CF – Michael Brantley (L)
LF – Trevor Crowe (S)
DH – Travis Hafner (L)


R – Austin Kearns (OF)
R – Shelley Duncan (OF/1B)
R – Jayson Nix (IF)
R – Andy Marte (3B)
R – Chris Gimenez (C/UT)


R – Fausto Carmona
R – Mitch Talbot
R – Justin Masterson
R – Jake Westbrook
[R - Josh Tomlin]


R – Chris Perez
L – Tony Sipp
L – Rafael Perez
R – Hector Ambriz
R – Frank Herrmann
R – Joe Smith
R – Jess Todd

15-day DL:

RHP – Kerry Wood (blister on right index finger)
LHP – Aaron Laffey (left shoulder fatigue)

60-day DL:

CF – Grady Sizemore (surgery on left knee)
RHP – Anthony Reyes (Tommy John surgery)

Typical Lineup:

L – Michael Brantley (CF)
S – Asdrubal Cabrera (SS)
L – Shin-Soo Choo (RF)
S – Carlos Santana (C)
R – Matt LaPorta (1B)
L – Travis Hafner (DH)
R – Jhonny Peralta (3B)
S – Trevor Crowe (CF)
R – Jason Donald (SS)

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