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2.11.2011

2011 Spring Training Primer: 40-Man Roster - Pitchers

Nino Colla | Friday, February 11, 2011 | | | Best Blogger Tips
As always, the Spring Training Primer takes another section of the team on, all the pitchers on the 40-man roster.

We enter a different situation for the pitching staff this year than we did last year. Most of the rotation spots are nailed down, with four of the five spots assumed to four of last year's starters. The fifth spot is still up in the air and it is a battle between many different options, all of which are pretty much on the 40-man roster. The bullpen battle also takes on a similar situation. The option status for all of these pitchers are going to make for some interesting competitions.

Each player gets profiled as we discuss what to expect from them in the spring and what they're fighting for.

$ - 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 One Starter

It's amazing how far Fausto Carmona has come after one year. Last year we were wondering if he was going to be a productive member of the rotation (disastrous to think about considering he was the number two guy) and now there is phantom trade discussions surrounding the Dominican product.

Carmona is the number one and that is the number one reason to not trade him. He's the guy that has to stabilize this rotation, not just this year, but for the immediate future. The club is going to hold onto Carmona and this spring is about establishing himself as the ace of the staff. Will he put up ace-like numbers? We can only hope, but it certainly seems like he's ready to take on that kind of pressure once again.
 
R Carlos Carrasco - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Number Four Starter


Last year at the end of spring, out of no-where, Manny Acta suddenly proclaimed Carlos Carrasco as a final contender for the final rotation spot with David Huff. It would seem like Carrasco was just a pawn in Acta's play to get David Huff to to play up to better standards.

Now, after a successful September call-up, Carrasco seems to have earmarked himself as not only part of the rotation, but a very big part of the rotation. Car-Squared will likely come in and unless he looks absolutely horrendous, will claim the fourth rotation spot. The Indians may proclaim an open battle for the final two spots (much like they did last season), but Carrasco definitely has the inside track.

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

It was a rough 2010 year for young Kelvin De La Cruz. He's pretty much in the same position he was last year at this time, only last year, he was coming off an injury that cut his season short. The hope is that Run DLC ends the year in Columbus and puts himself on the major league radar because this is his second year on the 40-man. The clock is now ticking on this youngster and he needs to start to prove himself, despite his very young age.

R Jeanmar Gomez
What to Expect: Contention for Fifth Starter Spot

Speaking of youngsters, the kid who is just a few months older than DLC has already made an impact. Last season Jeanmar Gomez wasn't expected to sniff the major leagues unless it was towards the end of the season as a call-up. But injuries and trades (and tweets) forced the Indians hand and it was a pleasant surprise.

Now Gomez is on the radar and very much in contention to claim a rotation spot. He will be one of the primary candidates to win the fifth rotation spot if the Indians indeed do not sign Jeremy Bonderman or Kevin Millwood to the roster.

The good news is that Gomez is pretty much on equal footing with the rest of the contenders and if he pitches well, he can find himself in Cleveland to start the year. It will be unlikely though that he goes through 2011 without an opportunity if he stays healthy.

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

As mentioned earlier, it took a little bit of a lit fire to get David Huff up and moving, but it certainly worked. Huff claimed the fifth rotation spot and promptly fell flat on his face. It took a few starts, but Huff was not good. After winning 11 games his rookie year, Huff lost 11 last season. He got demoted to Columbus and had he not tweeted himself out of a start, may have had another opportunity after pitching well in Columbus.

It remains to be seen if he remains in Manny Acta's doghouse, but again, let's assume he's on equal footing with the rest of his fifth rotation competitors. He probably has the most to prove out of everyone and if competition can once again light a fire under Huff, he may be able to rise above and claim the spot for the second consecutive year.

The jury is still out on if he can productive major league starter and we are likely a the closing arguments portion of Huff's trial.

R Corey Kluber - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Development

The Indians acquired Corey Kluber from the Padres in the Jake Westbrook trade last year. Kluber was the strikeout king before coming over and ended up pitching for the Clippers during their playoff run. He will likely open up there and be an option down the road or if mass-injuries occur. He was placed on the 40-man roster this offseason, so the club has time and the Indians probably want to get him acclimated to their system this spring.

R Justin Masterson
What to Expect: Number Two Starter

It's a scary thought to think that Justin Masterson is probably going to be the second guy out of the rotation when the season begins. But that is the case and the spring will tell us if that is a status he is worthy of.

Masterson had as much of an up and down season as anyone. There are times that make you think Masterson is nothing more than an high-end reliever and others when you think he could be a top-flight starter. The development of a changeup is something the club has wanted from Masterson and this spring we'll definitely get to see if he's made any progress (or plans on making any progress) with that venture.

He has nothing to worry about in terms of competition as it would take an injury for him to not start the season as a starter in the rotation, so this spring can be yet another period for him to focus on being just that.

R Zach McAllister - #Columbus (AAA) 
What to Expect: Development

Like Kluber, the Indians acquired Zach McAllister at the deadline last year. The strange twist is now the club has reclaimed the piece they used to acquire McAllister in Austin Kearns. With both on board and in big league camp, on with the show.

McAllister went right to Columbus and he too pitched in the playoffs for the Clippers. He too will likely start there once again and be an option down the road. Like Kluber, the club will use this period to acclimate him to the system and get him back on track after he had a down year.

R Hector Rondon - #Columbus (AAA) 
What to Expect: Rehab

Poor Hector Rondon. Not only did he miss pretty much all of 2010 with an elbow injury, he'll likely miss all of 2011 with an elbow injury. Rondon didn't go for surgery early in the process and then late in the process, he and the Indians opted for Tommy John, which pretty much wipes out this season as it did the last.

That's where we are with Rondon. He is on the 40-man and will be in big league camp, but I'd expect the Indians to add him to the 60-day disabled list and focus on whatever stage of his rehab he is at. If they want to treat him with kid gloves, he probably won't even see a minor league mound this season.

R Mitch Talbot
What to Expect: Number Three Starter


Should we be etching Mitch Talbot's name in pen or pencil when it comes to the rotation? I'm etching it in pencil, but really, even if he has a not-so-good spring, I think the Indians are committed to giving Talbot a start to his season in Cleveland and in the middle of this rotation. You can say what you want, but Talbot proved he was capable in the first half. I think the belief is Talbot isn't a long term answer and that is fine, but right now, what other options do we have to throw out there?

Was the second half down turn due to injuries or just the league catching on? Maybe a little bit of both, but we can't be sure. So why not find out? I really think it would take Talbot getting hurt to knock him out of the rotation to start the year, so I'm just going to assume he's got a spot locked down, despite what might be said.

R Josh Tomlin
What to Expect: Contention for Fifth Starter Spot

It is hard to not like Josh Tomlin. Is he the flashiest pitcher with the best stuff? No, but that is a good thing because he's learned to be a pitcher and is almost one of those young veteran types. If I was picking favorites and had to select someone now without the benefit of spring training, I'd pick Josh Tomlin to occupy the fifth spot.

Does that mean I'm predicting him to win the fifth spot? We'll see, but I think he has as good of a chance as anyone to nail it down and I myself can only hope, just based off what I saw him do last year, he pitches well enough to earn the spot out of the gates. I'll repeat this, but the guys in contention are all on a level-playing field, so we will likely see Acta base a large part of his decision of who gets the final rotation spot on what he sees this spring.

Relievers

L Nick Hagadone - #Akron (AA)
What to Expect: Experience, Development

Is Nick Hagadone a reliever or a starter? I don't think the Indians really know right there. I think they are just going to slot him in wherever they need him as the season goes on. The line on moving him to the bullpen last year might sound something along the lines of limiting his innings, but they seemed to do that enough by piggybacking him and pulling him early.

Hagadone was added to the 40-man roster this offseason, so the clock is now starting. If they keep him in the bullpen and he proves to be healthy, they could really fast-track him and get him to the majors sooner rather than later. But if they want to develop him into the top-line starter they think he'll be, it may be a bit longer before we see Hagadone at the next level.

If we see Hagadone at the next level. He'll start in Akron, that is for sure, but he struggled there last year after getting the call up. The big question to watch during the spring is if they prepare him as a starter or a reliever, because his long term future is very much tied to that decision.

R Frank Herrmann
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention


Last year, Frank Herrmann finally broke through and made it to the big stage. An undrafted free agent, Herrmann is one of the select few to not be selected in 50 rounds worth of picks to make it to the major leagues. Can he stick?

Herrmann occupied a spot in the bullpen for a good portion of the season and for awhile was one of the more reliable options for Manny Acta. Then he started to come down to earth, sometimes crashing harder than other times. He'll come into spring without a guaranteed spot and is in the position a lot of others are. He'll have to fight for his spot, but he at least has the positives of 2010 to add to his case.

R Jensen Lewis
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention

You could begin to feel the frustration Jensen Lewis had in 2010, even if you didn't follow him on twitter. Who wouldn't be frustrated in being the designated Edwin Mujica of the season?

The silver lining in all of it for Jensen is that what bad experience doesn't end you can only make you stronger and that he's definitively out of options. So guess what buddy? It's now or never for Jensen Lewis and the way he finished up 2010 should leave all with a sense of optimism. In his final stint he showed us the best of Jensen Lewis, even after all the crap he went through.

If he comes in with a clear head, and belief he can win one of those final bullpen spots up for grabs, he'll find himself in the bullpen to start the year. Of course that was the same situation he found himself in last year, but with no options, the club might be more open to giving him some leeway and not make him the first guy to go if things go bad. He has to prove he can win himself a spot this spring first though.

R Josh Judy - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention


If you want a darkhorse, you got one in Josh Judy. A lot of people like this guy, a lot and with good reason. He's just one of the many youngsters that this organization has in the upper levels ready to get a shot at the major leagues.

Will he get it right out of the box in 2011? I think Judy has good a chance as any to make the roster and with 40-man status, he has a better shot than the likes of Putnam and Stowell. With a perceived free-for-all in regards to a few of the bullpen spots, Judy could win one with a solid showing. If he doesn't win one, he can certainly make it so he's the first man up from Columbus when (not if) the need arises. We'll see Judy in Cleveland in 2011, and spring will give us a good indicator of just when that is.

L Aaron Laffey
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention, Contention for Fifth Starter Spot

I guess you can throw Aaron Laffey into the rotation discussion, but I think it becomes more likely to see him battle it out for a bullpen spot. The fact of the matter is this. The Indians have flipped Laffey's role so much, I think he's at a point where Laffey's arm doesn't know what to expect. I think that could be a reason for all the injuries the kid has had.

At this point, with all the options in the system, the Indians are probably set with him being a relief pitcher and that is what they'll prepare him as. That could be an excellent thing for Aaron moving forward. He will now be lumped in with the rest of the options for a bullpen spot and it will come down to what the Indians want to carry and who has a good spring. Laffey is certainly in the running and if they want someone that can give them a little bit of length just in case, he certainly becomes a favorite to make the roster.

R Joe Martinez - T Pittsburgh
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention

One of the new additions to the club this offseason, we don't really know much about Joe Martinez. Is he more of a reliever or a starter? What does this guy bring to the table that someone like a Laffey or a Lewis doesn't? I guess we'll find out this spring.

While I think there is a slight, and I mean ever so slight, chance that Laffey can contend for the rotation, Martinez's chances are non-existent if you ask me. The best case scenario for Martinez is that he makes the roster out of spring and is a surprise addition to the 25-man squad. Worst case is he gets outrighted and ends up out of the organization. Middle-road scenario is he doesn't make the roster and ends up in Columbus as yet another depth option.

To spend a 40-man spot on him though, the Indians must see something there. But remember, this is the same club that saw something in Juan Salas.

R Chris Perez
What to Expect: Closer

Chris Perez is quickly becoming one of the faces of this franchise. With a high powered arm, a big personality and some numbers to back up his recent success, it is hard to not like what he brings to the table. With all the troubles the Indians have had closing out ball games, it certainly is nice to not only have the closer position nailed down for 2011, but beyond that as well.

And isn't it nice not have to worry about this guy's health? Not saying he won't get hurt (anyone can get hurt or nicked up) but the past few years with Borowski and Wood, we've always had to put them on the injury watch list and HOPE they remained healthy. Of course we hope Perez remains healthy throughout the spring, but at least it won't be something we are just waiting to happen.

L Rafael Perez
What to Expect: Set-Up Role

Last year we were wondering if Rafael Perez was in jeopardy of losing his spot at one point in the season. As the roles began to become defined and Chris Perez took over the closer's role, the other Perez started to settle back in as the Raffy we once knew.

Guess what guys? Rafael Perez is the primary set-up guy on this squad right now. So cross your fingers he doesn't have yet another cold start and hope we get something close to the vintage 2007 Rafael Perez we all know and yearn for. Will a bad spring put him in danger of losing his primary relief role? Possibly, especially if someone like Tony Sipp has a good spring. But let's face it, beyond Sipp there isn't anything real sure-fire or proven enough to not give Rafael the benefit of the doubt.

L Vinnie Pestano - #Columbus (AAA)
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention

First off, is there a better nickname than "Vinnie The Gangster"? No there isn't. Now to continue on, Pestano managed to break through last year and get his cup of coffee in September. After a season in which he put forth a full-effort in just half a season in Akron, Pestano continued his success in Columbus.

Now after a decent showing in which he earned his first major league save, Pestano is right in the middle of contention for a bullpen spot this spring. Like Judy and Herrmann, he has 40-man status on his side, so he has an edge over some like Putnam and Stowell. However he doesn't have as much perceived potential from scouts as Judy or as much experience as Herrmann.

Pestano has as good a shot as any of them though and with a major league bullpen, he'll definitely get a shot at some point in 2011.

L Tony Sipp
What to Expect: Middle Relief

Four spots are considered locked up in the bullpen and other than the Perez's the Tony Sipp/Joe Smith combo would likely occupy the other two. Sipp is more of a lock and his performance over the past season plus makes him a more reliable and trusted option for Manny Acta. He shouldn't have to worry about fighting for a spot and his role seems pretty defined, but a good spring could give Acta more faith about using Sipp more often.

Sipp was amazing at one point last year and then he hit a wall. He managed to bounce back and seems to be more than just a matchup-lefty. Still that will be the situation more often than not that Acta turns to Sipp.

R Joe Smith
What to Expect:Middle Relief

If last year proved anything, it probably proved Joe Smith should stick to right-handers only. He's had marginal success against lefties and when he was defined in a role that handled mostly right-handers, he had some of his best outings.

There isn't much for Smith to fight for. He seems pretty locked into a spot in the bullpen and I think after years with the Indians and the Mets, we all know what he brings to the table. For him he just needs to stay healthy and get ready for the season. More importantly, stay fresh, which is something he was last year when he pitched well.

R Jess Todd
What to Expect: Bullpen Spot Contention

A big disappointment the past few seasons has been the highly-rated reliever the Indians got from the Cardinals in the Mark DeRosa swap. The other highly-rated reliever, the one without major league experience. Jess Todd came over as the PTBNL with Chris Perez and to this date, hasn't shown much. He's been up and down the past season and a half but whether it is with Cleveland or Columbus, he's left a lot to be desired.

Some are even surprised he's still on the 40-man, so his status is definitely in jeopardy. A club always makes moves towards the end of the spring, so not only is Todd going to be fighting for a bullpen spot, he is probably fighting more for a spot in the organization. He's probably more of a long-shot to win a bullpen job, but he does have options so that gives the club some flexibility if they are deciding between him and say, Jensen Lewis.

NEXT EDITION OF THE PRIMER: Monday, February 14th: 40 Man Position Players

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