We all remember how badly the Indians played during the last two months of the 2012 season. After coming from behind to beat Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers on July 26, the Tribe that day stood at 50-49, 3.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. Then they went on a swoon of near-historical proportions, losing eleven straight games and thus taking themselves out of contention. Not long after that losing streak finally ended, they reeled off another streak of nine losses, and followed that with two smaller losing streaks of “only” six and five games before the calendar finally brought an end to the train wreck that was the 2012 season.
With all that losing going on, there wasn’t much to be happy about with the way the club played in August and September. But one bright spot was the relief pitching of Frank Herrmann.
The 6’4″ right-hander was called up from the Columbus Clippers on August 7, the day the Indians lost their eleventh consecutive game. Herrmann entered the game with two outs in the ninth, the Indians down by two runs to the Twins after Chris Perez failed to hold on to the one-run lead he took into the top of the ninth inning. Herrmann retired the only batter he faced. The Tribe went one-two-three in their half of the ninth, and Perez was saddled with the loss.
In his next six outings, which included a period where he saw no game action over two entire weeks, Herrmann wasn’t very effective, giving up five earned runs over 9 and 1/3 innings. But over his last eight outings, Herrmann didn’t allow a single run, earned or unearned, over 9 and 2/3 innings. He gave up only three hits and just one walk in those last eight appearances. A small sample size, of course, but a fine way for Herrmann to end 2012.
Even so, Herrmann was not guaranteed a position in the bullpen for 2013. But as a member of the Indians’ 40-man roster, he was invited to spring training this year, and had every hope of making the Opening Day team. But it is not to be. On February 25, Herrmann tore the elbow ligament in his throwing arm in an exhibition game against the Oakland A’s. As Jordan Bastian reported for MLB.com, Herrmann underwent ligament replacement surgery in New York City yesterday to repair the damage. Commonly called Tommy John surgery as a nod to the former Indians pitcher who, in 1974, as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was the first professional athlete to undergo the procedure, it typically takes 12 to 18 months of recuperation and therapy before the patient is ready to resume playing again. Herrmann most likely won’t so much as touch a baseball until March or April of next year.
In his story, Bastian reported that Herrmann had a stoic, philosophical attitude about his injury. “I’m ready for whatever comes my way, [whether that means] having to sit out a year or the off chance you never get the opportunity to pitch again. It’s just kind of how it goes.” As a Harvard graduate with a degree in economics, it’s likely that Herrmann will do just fine for himself when his playing days are over. But I’m sure he’d welcome the opportunity to go out on his own terms. Here’s hoping he gets that chance in 2014.