Movin’ On Up…

It’s officially September when a select handful of minor league baseball players get to swap their Bison jersies for ones that say “Indians” across the front. The Tribe has taken the late-season plunge with six players, most of which we have seen at the big league level at some point in the past five months. Those that were called up: Infielders Josh Barfield and Michael Aubrey, pitchers Brian Slocum, Tom Mastny, John Meloan and Rich Rundles.

Unfortunately, the two players that I’m most interested in seeing, Meloan and Rundles, will likely be limited in terms of playing time. Meloan came over in the Casey Blake deal, and appears to have some killer pitches that could translate well to the back of the bullpen. The fact that he is only 23 makes things that much better. Rundles is a tad older, at 27-years old, but has fanned 60 batters in only 52 and two-thirds innings this season with a WHIP just over 1.20.

I wish I could be more excited about Barfield and Aubrey, given that the Indians could use a little help in the hitting department from both positions. However, Barfield hit .251/.292/.368 for an OPS under 700. Aubrey saw some time with the Tribe, but did not accomplish much. He now has a shot at redeeming himself after a .281/.328/.418 clip with the Bisons; though still not the power numbers that we would like to see from a first baseman.

Slocum is wrapping up his third season in Buffalo and is now 27-years old. One has to assume that it is now or never for the right-hander. He has averaged close to a strikeout per inning pitched, but simply hasn’t been able to make the jump. Mastny, also 27-years of age, has more impressive numbers, fanning 442 batters in 420 innings pitched. He has somehow been called up in each of the past three seasons and even managed to go 7-2 last season. However, in nine games this year, his ERA is north of 10.00. Not good.

A couple of names mysteriously missing? Aaron Laffey, Jeff Stevens, David Huff and Matt LaPorta.

Huff has reached an innings limit, and appears to be done for the season. Though the fans would love to see Matt LaPorta up at the big league level, it appears that the team will progress him naturally through the minors. Plus, with EL playoffs going on, why not get him a few more at-bats with the Aeros?

There is not much out there on Stevens, but he too may be on the “Huff” track and could be done for the season due to innings pitched. But then there’s Laffey

His season appears to also be over – but not for the same reasons.

The left-hander, who spent close to four months in the Indians’ rotation and was expected to be one of the roster additions arriving Tuesday, has been shut down with inflammation in his pitching elbow.

Laffey reportedly said that it is “nothing major” and that he could pitch through the pain if needed. However, at this point in the season, the team is in no hurry to force him into more innings. I wouldn’t expect the six-man rotation that has been rumored over the last few weeks. I would also keep an eye on this situation, as “inflammation of the elbow” is typically the first step to the process that ends in “Dr. James Andrews.”

This move to shut Laffey down could have also been made with contract situations in mind. If Laffey would have spent any more time with the big league team – think after Fausto came back – then he would have been eligible for arbitration earlier. Now, given the premature end to the 2008 season, the ground-ball specialist is not eligible for arbitration until 2012, with free agency being pushed back to 2014 – a very big difference for the front Tribe front office.