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2.16.2010

2010 Spring Training Primer: 40-Man Roster - Pitchers

Nino Colla | Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | | | Best Blogger Tips
The 2010 Spring Training Primer Continues On!

We now dive into the list of 40-man players on the roster, starting with the pitchers. However, just because a player is on the 40-man doesn't mean they'll be entering 2010 on the Indians roster or even in the Indians organization. For example, Jeremy Sowers and new acquisition Mitch Talbot are both out of options. If they don't make the club, they'll have to be sent through waivers, released, or traded.

Each player will be briefly profiled in terms of their situation and if they are fighting for a job or not.

$ - Indicates Free Agent Signing
T - Indicates Trade Acquisition
5 - Indicates Rule V Pick Up
# - Indicates Cleveland Minor League Player
Previous Club Listed

Starters


R Fausto Carmona
What to Expect: Number Two Starter

Settle down. Fausto Carmona just needs to settle down.

Things will be different for Fausto. The training wheels are off and he has to adjust to not having his security blanket, catcher Victor Martinez, around to catch him.

Carmona had a year of hell in 2009. He went to the lowest part of the Indians minor league in an attempt to get fixed. Cleveland decided to send him to Rookie Ball so they could get him with team psychologists at their training complex in Arizona.

Now Fausto returns to the site of his reformation, hopefully at a progressed stage. The Indians have attempted to rebuild Carmona into a different pitcher, more of a pitcher rather than just a thrower. Tim Belcher might have had a hand in that process as a special assistant that worked at different levels of the organization and now he's Carmona's pitching coach.

He'll have to help Carmona continue that. As for this spring, that's what Carmona is going to be doing. He just needs to keep showing that rebuilding process. Carmona threw 13 innings of winter ball and didn't walk a batter, which is still the biggest thing you need to watch when you evaluate how he's doing.

More of the same this spring for Fausto.

R Carlos Carrasco - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Contention for Fourth/Fifth Starter Spot

Last year's key piece in terms of immediate impact was probably Carlos Carrasco.

While Jason Knapp has the most upside and figures to be the one with the highest ceiling, Carrasco comes over as a top prospect himself. In fact, when the Indians were looking to trade CC Sabathia, Carrasco was an arm they targeted, but the Phillies wouldn't budge.

But now he comes over in the Cliff Lee deal and after a short audition in 2009, he looks to contend for one of those final rotation spots. In five starts, Carrasco went 0-4 and gave up 6, 5, 5, 4, 4 and 3 runs in each of his starts.

It wasn't pretty...But on the positive side, he' still young.

The biggest tick with Carrasco seems to be the fact that he cannot avoid the big inning. Once things start to go bad and then they get worse.

So that's something the Indians are going to have to continue to work on this spring. They had worked on his issues in Columbus, but will have to do more once camp starts up and Carrasco will have to deal with that in addition to competing for a spot.

He has a chance, but he is certainly on the outside looking in as a young player with options and development still needed.

L Kelvin De La Cruz - #Kinston (A)
What to Expect: Experience, Development

Added to the roster because of Rule V dangers, De La Cruz is coming off a year that was pretty much lost due to injury.

Kelvin will be in big league camp to start the spring and he'll mainly be worked on developmental wise. He could start the year in Kinston, but expect him to be in Akron rather soon if he can establish himself. He did lose a year, but he's still young to the point where no one is in a hurry to rush him through.

R Jeanmar Gomez - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Experience, Development

Another 40-man roster addition to the Rule V protection, Jeanmar Gomez is in the same position as De La Cruz, he's here for experience. However Gomez is a little bit ahead of DLC because of his phenomenal 2009.

The reigning 2009 EL Pitcher of the Year will probably be in Akron to start the year based off a pure numbers game. With guys like Carrasco and Rondon possibly not making the rotation in Cleveland, there may be limited spots in Columbus for Gomez on the outset.

Either way, Gomez will be in Columbus at some point. He proved all he needed to in Akron last year. This is a big season for Jeanmar though as he has to prove 2009 was his coming out party and not a fluke.

L David Huff
What to Expect: Contention for Fourth/Fifth Starter Spot

You are looking at one of the major competitors for the final two rotation spots in David Huff.

Last year's rookie won double-digit games and really started to come on at the end of the year. In the final four games of 2009, Huff went 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA and gained a lot of momentum coming into this current year.

With three spots penciled in and that ending of 2009, Huff is the front-runner for a rotation spot. The 25 year old started 23 games last season and went through some growing after his promotion from Columbus.

It would be surprising to see him not win a rotation spot. But stranger things have happened. A good spring should keep him in line to start the year as the fourth or fifth starter. However you have to wonder what the fact that he has options will do to his chances. Someone like Mitch Talbot could steal a rotation spot based on that.

The fact Huff has options may keep him out, but eventually, he'll get his shot and he could impress.

L Aaron Laffey
What to Expect: Contention for Fourth/Fifth Starter Spot

It was an up and down year for Aaron Laffey in 2009, but 2010 is yet another new year for the bulldog lefty out of Maryland.

After not making the rotation, Laffey made a quick impact when he did get to the majors in 2009. After providing some shimmer of hope for the rotation, Cleveland's bullpen broke down and forced the Indians into making a bizarre move that put Laffey into the bullpen.

Aaron excelled in the long relief role, just getting the Indians through games, finishing three and even earning his first career save. Then he got hurt. When Laffey returned, he was eased back into the rotation.

The remainder of the season for Laffey was more up and down. So far, Aaron has been a teaser. He's shown brilliant flashes that make you believe he can be a middle of the rotation starter on a contending club. Yet he hasn't put it together for an entire season.

A reason for that has been injuries. There hasn't been a season so far that Aaron Laffey hasn't dealt with an injury, aside from 2007 when he debuted.

With Huff, he should be one of the two front-runners for the final few rotation spots. He's come into the battle for a rotation spot the past two years and hasn't won. He'll look to do it right this time.

Having the most experience out of all the contenders in terms of this battle, he should be well equipped. But he needs to stay healthy and he needs to stay consistent. If he does both of that, I think he's a virtual lock to get a spot to start the year and be an important part of the staff.

R Justin Masterson
What to Expect: Number Three Starter

Justin Masterson enters his first full season with Cleveland and is penciled in as the number three starter. The Indians made the decision to have Masterson as a starter rather than a reliever after coming over from Boston.

After one lights out performance in long relief (three innings, no runs, four strikeouts), Masterson began his transition back into the rotation. After a few short outings, Masterson found his groove before getting beat around a few times in a row.

His season ending on a very high note with a complete game, 12-strikeout performance against Chicago. Unfortunately for him, the one run he gave up was his tenth loss.

The Indians want to give The Mastard a chance to get a full-season, that means a full-spring training as well, in as a starter. There is still a concern over whether this transition will be a success for Masterson and the Indians, so there will certainly be eyes on him in that instance.

Provided he remains healthy, he'll enter the 2010 season in the rotation.

R Hector Rondon - #Columbus (AAA) What to Expect: Contention for Fourth/Fifth Starter Spot

Young Hector Rondon has come a long way in a few short years. A Future's Game Participant a few years ago and after a good chunk of 2009 spent in Columbus, he's knocking on the major league door.

He'll have some competition to get there however. Rondon has a legitimate chance to win a rotation spot this spring, but don't expect the Indians to rush things. If he doesn't completely blow the other people out of the water, he'll most likely start the year in Columbus again.

However, it won't be long before Rondon makes it to the show. A lot of talk has gone off Rondon since the acquisitions of Hagadone, Carrasco, Masterson, and Knapp. He's no longer the only hope amongst young arms for the rotation's future.

Still, he's the one guy the Indians have been developing and you'd like see that come to fruition.

L Jeremy Sowers
What to Expect: Contention for Fourth/Fifth Starter Spot and Bullpen

It seems like Jeremy Sowers is a regular these past few years in the battle for the final rotation spots.

This year is no different in terms of that position, but there things different this time around.

For one, Sowers is in a battle with a ton of arms fighting for two spots. He's more used to a three/four pitcher battle. Not only that but he's actually in two battles. Realistically, Sowers could even contend for a bullpen spot because of the unique situation he is in compared to others.

Sowers is actually out of options, so he is either going to make the 25 man roster out of camp, get released/traded, or clear waivers and go to Columbus.

The heat is on for Jeremy. If he were to ever show those flashes of brilliance most consistently, it would be now.

R Mitch Talbot - T Tampa Bay
What to Expect: Contention for Fourth/Fifth Starter Spot and Bullpen

Coming over from Tampa Bay in the Kelly Shoppach deal, Talbot is in the position that Jeremy Sowers is. However Talbot doesn't have familiarity with the Cleveland organization.

That could be a good thing or a bad thing, for both parties.

Because the team hasn't really had a first hand visual of Talbot for as long as they have with Sowers, they might be more open to giving Talbot a shot in the rotation even if his production this spring isn't up to par.

Talbot is the great unknown this spring. He could change things in a dramatic way as far as the rotation goes. He too could also slide into the bullpen like Sowers out of a "last chance" type of a deal, but you have to imagine the Indians got him thinking he was either going to succeed in the rotation or not at all.

Talbot has to make the roster or face the same fate as Sowers. One has to wonder who would take a chance on Talbot or if anyone would want to. If Talbot doesn't make the roster, gets waived and someone takes a chance, a lot of people might get upset that Shoppach was essentially given away.

One thing to remember is this... Shoppach would have been non-tendered and left for nothing if they didn't trade him. Just to have a chance with Talbot is bonus.

R Jake Westbrook
What to Expect: Number One Starter, Rehab

Right now prognosis is good for Jake Westbrook to start Cleveland's season off as their ace.

Right now prognosis is good. So far, he hasn't thrown a pitch at Spring Training off a major league mound. Westbrook did spend the offseason pitching some rehab games in Puerto Rico and that's a positive.

Jake Westbrook has the number one spot in the rotation. Provided that he's healthy, he'll be on the mound opening day for the Tribe.

But he needs to be healthy and ready to go 100% It's been more than a year since surgery, so he should be approaching that date where he doesn't feel effects. Now everyone is different and Jake is older, so who really knows.

Plus not ever pitcher comes back from this surgery.

Either way, we're looking at Jake this spring and just watching his progress. It's not everyday you come into spring training with un-settlement in each spot in your rotation and it starts at the top with Westbrook's rehab.

Relievers

R Hector Ambriz - 5 Arizona
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention

Hector Ambriz is familiar to the Indians because when scouting UCLA teammate David Huff, it was impossible to not get a look at Ambriz the day before.

The former rotation mates at UCLA are now reunited, but Ambriz isn't fighting for a starting spot, but rather the bullpen.

The whole bullpen concept is new to to Ambriz, but the Indians believe he's got the stuff that translates better as a reliever.

Oh and not only that, but Ambriz has to make the roster if he is going to be in Cleveland. A lot to handle in your first spring with a new club, but if he handles it, then you know he's cut out to come out of bullpen.

Ambriz comes over to the Tribe from the Rule V Draft when the Indians pulled him away from Arizona. Ambriz can make the club out of the pen, or be offered back to Arizona for half the $50,000 Cleveland paid to acquire him.

R Jensen Lewis
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention

Things aren't guaranteed this time around for Jensen Lewis.

He will have to work for his bullpen spot, but he does have a leg up on the competition given his history.

Still, he will really have to out pitch the glut of names vying for a bullpen spot. It was only a year ago that Jensen Lewis came into spring as a name the Tribe was really relying on. Despite his performance to close out 2008 as the Indians closer, they still signed Kerry Wood to shut the door at the back end.

That moved Lewis into a prominent setup role.

For whatever reason, Lewis struggled again.

Now its his chance to regain himself, win a spot and show he can be an option.

He has to win a spot, that's for sure, but he should have a leg up on the rest of the relievers heading into the start of spring.

R Chris Perez
What to Expect: Set-Up Role

One year ago, Chris Perez was with St. Louis. He was vying for a chance to close out games for the Cardinals.

Now thanks to the Mark DeRosa trade, he's got himself a spot in the Indians bullpen to start the year as one of their primary setup men.

Perez's debut with Cleveland last year didn't go so well. But at some point things clicked for the young reliever and he went on a roll.

With some major faith instilled in him, Cleveland will move forward with Chris Perez as their eighth inning guy, baring any unforeseen craziness. But more importantly, at some point if Kerry Wood is traded, Chris Perez could be the closer for this club.

L Rafael Perez
What to Expect: Set-Up Role

I don't know if the excitement can be contained about Rafael Perez's winter league performance. What's weird about what Perez did in Winter Ball was he did most of it as a starter.

No Perez won't be moving to the rotation, but what the Indians did with Perez is interesting.

The idea behind it was to get Perez repeating his motion, repetition repetition repetition. As a former starter, he could probably handle the innings load, so that wasn't an issue.

Maybe it's worth. Perez threw 27 innings to the tune of a 0.33 ERA. That's fantastic.

Now let's hope this transitions well. Last year, Perez took part in the WBC and was downright dominant. Then the season came and he struggled. A lot of the struggles were blamed on the cold weather, but as the season progressed, he was far from the Perez of old, or even the Perez of the WBC.

Now he enters, with a job in the bullpen, but no longer the primary setup guy. Perez is going to share setup duties with his right-handed Perez pen-mate, but if he steps up and returns to old form, that will mean big things for the Tribe bullpen.

L Tony Sipp
What to Expect: Left-Handed Specialist

Last year, Tony Sipp made his debut and things were good for awhile. Then he got sent down, only to return a little later.

He teamed up with Joe Smith at one point to provide some reliable relief in the late innings. The left-hander became more than just a matchup lefty with Perez's struggles.

Now, expectations are that Sipp will have a spot in the bullpen from the outset. While it isn't guaranteed, he would have to really have to have a bad spring to not start the year in Cleveland.

The hope is Rafael Perez and Chris Perez combine to provide a one-two, lefty-right punch in the 7th and 8th innings. Their next hope would be for Sipp and Joe Smith to provide that second line of a lefty-righty punch in the 6th and 7th. It would be good to have a four-deep late inning combo and Sipp figures into that.

R Joe Smith
What to Expect: Right-Handed Specialist

Last year's spring wasn't fun for Joe Smith. Sickness pretty much put him on a set-back for the entire spring, which eventually led to an injury during the 2009 season that pretty much destroyed his first year with Cleveland.

But now, Smith should be healthy and ready to go as Cleveland's Right Handed specialist. Later in the year, he did team up with Tony Sipp to provide some much need relief in the late innings. Word is, Joe Smith is guaranteed a roster spot, so it's just about getting through this spring healthy and ready to contribute in 2010.

R Jess Todd
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention

Jess Todd didn't come over to Cleveland with Perez in the Mark DeRosa deal, no, Todd was the Player to Be Named Later.

Eventually though, Todd made it over and had his crack at the Cleveland bullpen. Things didn't go smoothly, but the Indians have some faith invested in the youngster.

When he came over, the real goal was to "stretch" Todd out. Even though he's a former starter, the Indians wanted Todd to be able to rack up some innings out of the pen. Opinions on that aside, Todd closed a lot for the St. Louis organization, but it doesn't look like he'll be doing that here.

He's got an outside shot this spring to win a bullpen slot, but don't expect that to happen. With options remaining, Todd will probably start the year at Columbus and get called upon later in the year when situation and his progress calls for it.

R Kerry Wood
What to Expect: Closer

The most popular player of the Tribe's offseason besides Mike Redmond was probably Kerry Wood. Because of his production last year and the money he's making, Wood's name came up a lot in discussion trade options.

But because of the money he's making and the production of last year, no one would take that on for a fair trade.

So Cleveland is going to hold on and why not? Provided that he doesn't finish enough games this year, Wood will be coming off the books next year, so he becomes a mid-season trade candidate if the Indians aren't in the race.

And if the Indians are in the race, then Wood being the closer and being effective will probably have something to do with it. Does he still have anything left in the tank? We'll find out, but he showed at points last year he's still Kerry Wood.

Consistency in terms of work is key though.

NEXT EDITION OF THE PRIMER: Thursday, February 18th: 40 Man Position Players
(Brief note: I had the dates all screwed up.. For whatever reason, I had dates that didn't exist on my original schedule. I have no clue what happened. The only ones that were right were the first one I posted and the date of the wrap up (Sunday). Fixed it all though.)

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