We’ve waited a long time for the much anticipated 2013 Cleveland Indians season to begin. The complete makeover of the team, a culture change if you will, has been universally lauded across our fair city. It starts with manager Terry Francona. I think it was a good thing that the Indians started on a tough six-game road trip to AL East beasts Toronto and Tampa Bay. Because of how things would shake out, they would see arguably the two best starting rotations in the American League right from the jump. The question was how would the new, deeper lineup respond.
After taking two of three in Toronto where they scored 15 runs in three games, the Wahoo attack looked extremely sleepy Friday night, where they were completely befuddled by hard-throwing lefty Matt Moore. They only managed two hits – both by Michael Bourn – in a 4-0 loss. The Indians didn’t get into the Tampa are until 4 AM Friday morning, that certainly didn’t help matters. But they figured to get back on track a night later against second year righty Alex Cobb. Instead, the bats extended their slumber a second game, as Cobb and two relievers blanked the Tribe 6-0. They could only muster six singles in this one. The Tribe faced a sweep yesterday as the Rays sent Cy Young Award winner David Price to the mound. It looked like quite the daunting task. But days like Sunday are what makes baseball such a great game.
Just when you think you have things figured out, everything goes the other way. The Wahoo attack exploded on Price for eight runs on 10 hits in five innings, this against a pitcher who had never lost to the Indians inside of Tropicana Field and has owned them over the past three seasons. In total, the offense put up a 13 spot on 17 hits against the Rays, blasting out five homers. Somewhere in Bristol, Connecticut, Manny Acta was shaking his head.
So as we have done over the past four seasons here at WFNY, let us take this Monday morning to look back at the good and the bad of the weekend that was in Wahooland.
The Trevor Bauer Experience Was Just That….An Experience.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Tribe phenom Trevor Bauer was supposed to start the season heading up the AAA Columbus rotation, take his time, and continue to develop. Instead because of the injury to Scott Kazmir and the suspension of Carlos Carrasco, Francona and GM Chris Antonetti were given a choice – give Bauer the spot start and see what he can do, or go with Corey Kluber, who they know is essentially just back of the rotation depth. Previous regimes would have gone with Kluber and not thought twice about it. But the Francona-led Indians want to win NOW. So the kid with the sky high ceiling got the call.
I think we learned a few things watching Bauer Saturday night. The kid has electric stuff. No question about it. But he still has plenty of learning to do. He started off the game walking the first four Rays he faced. The last time a Tribe pitcher did so in his debut was Rick Vaughn. “I don’t know how these guys can lay off pitches that close!” In all fairness to Bauer (and Cobb for that matter), home plate umpire Dale Scott umpire had a strike zone for my six year old son, not for Major League hitters. Both guys were getting squeezed both high and low.
The Rays made Bauer work, but things could have been much worse. Despite walking the first four batters, Trevor got out of the first without allowing any more damage thanks to an outfield assist from Ryan Raburn, making his first start of the season. In the third inning, the wildness returned as he walked three more, but the Rays never were able to push a run across.
Bauer ended up laboring through five innings, throwing 105 pitches. He gave up just two hits, but he walked seven.
“I was missing by feet, not inches,” Bauer said. “Sometimes I have outings like that, where I just can’t find it and then I find it, and it’s kind of what happened tonight. I had a rough first and third and then, after that, kind of found it and was able to locate again.”
The 22-year old will be returned to Columbus Tuesday with Carrasco taking his spot in the rotation. Brett Myers, the originally scheduled starter Tuesday, will be pushed back to Thursday.
Lou Marson is a Man
In the fourth inning of Saturday night’s game, Tampa’s Matt Joyce banged a chopper to Mike Aviles at third. Desmond Jennings was running on contact from third and absolutely crushed Tribe catcher Lou Marson. Laser Lou’s head snapped back off the ground, but he managed to hang onto the ball for the out. It was as hard of a collision as you will see. Marson stayed in the game for another inning before coming out with a neck-strain.
“It was clean,” Marson said. “He got me pretty good. He had nowhere to go. I had the plate blocked pretty good, but it’s just my neck is a little sore.”
One thing is for sure. You don’t mess with Laser Lou.
Mark Reynolds Will Destroy Baseballs From Time to Time
Many people were iffy about the signing of Reynolds this offseason. He actually was the first guy to come here. As I said many times on this site over the winter, Reynolds has that kind of power from the right side that the team sorely lacked in 2012. Yes, he is a boom or bust guy who strikes out a lot, but when he gets going, look out. You could see it this weekend. Thursday night in Toronto, Reynolds was 2-5 with a homer and two RBIs. Friday night in Tampa, he was 0-4 with three K’s. Then yesterday, he exploded again.
Its not just the value of his home run power, its the sheer force in which he hits them with. Reynolds crushed two more jacks (a three-run homer off of Price) and added a double to boot. With Michael Brantley given a day off, big Mark moved up to the five hole and responded about as well as Francona could have asked. His four homers and seven RBIs now lead the team. He is also hitting .300 with a 1.134 OPS.
“It was important for me personally to come out and get off to a good start. To be able to do it this year, especially against the pitchers we’ve faced, is a huge confidence booster, and hopefully this will get some kind of rollover for me and I can kind of put it together a little bit,” said the Tribe DH.
As Good As Reynolds Has Been, How About Carlos Santana?
2012 was a disappointing season for the Tribe’s catcher. With a lineup full of holes, guys like Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jason Kipnis could not go through long slumps or else the offense couldn’t sustain itself. In 2013, its a different story.
Francona has smartly put Santana in the sixth spot in the lineup. It has taken the pressure off him and added depth to the middle of the order. From game one, Carlos has been raking. This was the kid we had seen tear up the minors at every level. He is doing it from both sides of the plate, spraying the ball all over the diamond. The capper was yesterday’s 5-5 day. On the week, Santana went 12-24 (.500) with a .538 OBP/1.455 OPS. He just looks much more relaxed at the plate.
One thing is for sure, if Santana turns into the All Star catcher we all hoped he would be, this offense will be extremely tough to deal with.
Can This Be The Real Justin Masterson? Please?
Like his battery-mate yesterday (Santana), Masterson is coming off of a forgettable 2012 campaign. However, also like his catcher, Justin has opened 2013 on fire. After defeating NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey on Tuesday, Masterson turned the trick again and outdueled AL Cy Young Winner David Price yesterday. It is believed to be the first time in modern baseball history that a pitcher has defeated both reigning Cy Young winners in the same week.
Masterson was dominant in Tampa, going seven innings of scoreless baseball, allowing just two hits while striking out seven. “Masty really showed his colors today,” said Francona. “We needed that today and I think he felt that responsibility. From the get-go he had a two-seamer, four-seamer and the best breaking ball I’ve ever seen him throw.”
On Tuesday he retired the final 11 Blue Jays he faced. He one-upped himself yesterday, setting down the last 13 Rays before turning things over to Joe Smith. In his first tw0 starts, Masterson has given up just one earned run in 13 innings.
This is exactly what you want from your number one starter.
Up Next: The New York Yankees
Rick will have much more on Opening Day this afternoon. Ubaldo Jimenez will get the ball from Francona, looking to build off his solid first start last Wednesday in Toronto. He will face Yankees righty Hiroki Kuroda.