As I was watching the last innings of the Indians/Yankees game Wednesday night, I started to look ahead to the Toronto series this weekend. It seemed like the Indians had things locked up (although, yikes, it got a little rough at the end). Because it already seemed like “game over” I thought about who would be taking Fausto Carmona’s spot in the rotation. In my mind, I went through the available pitchers in Columbus, and realized “darn…there are a number of possibilities.” It’s really a nice problem to have – several pitchers on the Triple-A staff that could reasonably earn a call-up to the Indians rotation. I decided to look at the Columbus options (particularly Zach McAllister, the pitcher chosen for the spot start) before I picked apart tonight’s game.
First of all the Columbus Clippers are having a great season so far, coming off of their Triple-A championship title in 2010. They lead the West division by 9.5 games, and have the best record in the International League. The Columbus pitching staff leads the International League in wins (57) and complete games (5), despite the fact that they are toward the middle of the pack in team ERA and team WHIP. Two Columbus starters, Jeanmar Gomez and Zach McAllister, are in the top five in ERA in the International League. (Side note – you know who else is in the top five? Dontrelle Willis, with a 2.63 mark. He’s currently with Louisville, Cincinnati’s Triple-A club…I wonder if there’s a call-up or a trade in his future?)
Theoretically, there are three different pitchers who have been quite good for Columbus recently – Zach McAllister, Jeanmar Gomez, and David Huff. While left-hander Scott Barnes has also been mentioned, the bonus of a McAllister, Gomez, or Huff call-up is the fact that the three are already on the 40-man roster. Even though I’m sure I could provide some DFA (designated for assignment) suggestions for the Indians in order to make room for Barnes, I figured they’d go with someone who was already on the 40-man. McAllister’s next scheduled start was Wednesday the 6th, so the open Thursday slot already seemed to fit with his schedule. Personally, I’m intrigued by McAllister…Indians fans have already seen Huff and Gomez at the big-league level, so at least the 23-year-old McAllister gets his shot as well.
For some reason, I had it in my mind that McAllister came from the Yankees in the Kerry Wood deal last summer. While he did come from the Yankees, it’s actually the Austin Kearns trade that brought McAllister to the Indians system. With Columbus in 2011, McAllister is 8-3 with a 2.97 ERA with a 71:21 K:BB ratio in his 15 starts; batters are hitting .241 off of him. So far, it seems like that trade last summer was quite a steal…half a year of Kearns for a solid young starter. Hopefully his Triple-A success continues at the Major League level against Toronto. I can’t help thinking “even though this is a spot start, what happens if he’s just lights-out against Toronto?” Carmona is supposed to return after the All Star break, so this is presumably a “one and done” for McAllister where he returns to Columbus, regardless of Thursday’s outcome. I guess too many good starters would be a nice problem to have.
I want to make a few brief comments about tonight’s Indians/Yankees game – first, Justin Masterson was very impressive. The Yankees lead the Majors in several offensive categories – runs (445), home runs (121), RBI (434), slugging (.450), and OPS (.792). Masterson held the Yankees to three hits in eight innings, and didn’t allow an extra-base hit until Derek Jeter doubled in the top of the 8th. At the complete other end of the spectrum, you have Vinnie Pestano. He’s been pretty much lights-out this season, but struggled during this series with the Yankees; he allowed a run in Monday’s victory in addition to the near-catastrophe in the 9th in Wednesday night’s game. I’m glad that Manny Acta went to Chris Perez quickly, rather than letting Pestano try to work his way out of it. I guess that’s the bonus of a late offensive surge – your closer is already warmed up since it looked like a save situation was on its way.
I was wowed by Asdrubal Cabrera’s defense (yet again) tonight. It seemed like he may be out a few days with the ankle issue, but was already back in the lineup Wednesday night. You know who else was back this evening? Matt LaPorta – fresh off the DL he went 2 for 4 in the game. I know I’ve been out of the loop while I’ve been traveling through California, but did he even do a rehab assignment? I don’t remember seeing him with any of the minor league clubs this past week. I was worried about how he would do tonight, but he put forth a solid effort. I thought the Indians may be able to tee off against Phil Hughes, since he’s struggled so far this season…I guess with Masterson’s performance they didn’t need an offensive onslaught.
I had tickets to the Toronto series this weekend, but unfortunately will miss it. I’m on the last leg of my California journey – the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) Convention in Long Beach. I’m presenting on Thursday afternoon, and will be doing a book signing for Integrating Cleveland Baseball right after the presentation. After that, I can relax and enjoy myself and learn a bit about baseball history and stats before I return to Cleveland.