With the recent slough of injuries working its way through the Tribe line-up, there has been a lot of speculation regarding call-ups, promotions, demotions and designations for assignment. While much of this is merely Twitter talk, there are a few options that the Tribe should take into consideration, regardless of whom is or isn’t injured. In this case, I’m referring to the bullpen.
The Indians bullpen has three men whom I’d place in the “reliable category”: Vinnie Pestano, Joe Smith, and Chris Perez. I know Smith has looked a bit shaky as of late, but overall, it’s tough to argue that he’s been pretty formidable. As for Pestano and Perez, if you don’t see the value of these two arms, you’ve got to tell me what kind of crack you’ve got in your pipe. Essentially, we know what we’re getting when these three guys pitch. When Pestano and Perez are available, we know the eighth and ninth innings are on lock. But when they’re not available, we never know what we’re going to get.
Then there’s Nick Hagadone, whom is still pretty reliable. I’ve been riding the Hagadone bandwagon from the start, and for the most part, he’s made a good case for himself. And then there’s the rest of ‘em: Tony Sipp, Jeremy Accardo, and Rafael Perez when he returns. These final three guys are the ones to take a look at, and they’re the ones I’m looking at replacements for.
Hagadone is here to stay – that is, if the Tribe front office wants to keep the storm calm. If they demote him, there will be hell to pay, and I personally will be leading the pack.
As for Sipp, I don’t think it’d be a bad idea to send him down to AAA-Columbus to smooth out some of the bumps. His struggles have been painful and they can’t continue when there are other arms capable of doing what he can’t. Accardo certainly hasn’t been terrible through his five appearances, but I still don’t breathe easy when he’s in the game. He may be a keeper for the time being, but he is definitely not a long-term keeper yet. As for Rafael Perez, I fully expect him to spend some time down in AAA-ball (even AA) before he returns. Regardless of how he feels, he needs the work down there, considering he struggled even before his injury.
This all raises the questions of who to call up to replace the weaker arms in the pen. If you take a peek at the Columbus Clippers roster, there are a couple of guys who are making pretty solid cases for themselves.
First there’s Scott Barnes, who is already on the Tribe 40-man roster. Barnes is a lefty out of Massachusetts who has appeared in 11 games with the Clippers, and started three of them. Presently, he posts a 3.81 ERA, but he has yet to surrender a home run and has made a fairly easy transition into a reliever role. He may need more time to settle in to his new role, but from the look of, he’s made the switch without too much trouble.
Then there’s Cody Allen. This one’s a bit of a stretch, being that Allen started the season in high-A Carolina and jumped all the way to AAA, but his promotions have been justified as Allen has been one of the organizations better arms these first two months. Jumping from A-ball to triple-A is quite a difference though, so pushing Allen to the majors could be asking a lot. That being said, Allen has done well in AAA as he has posted a 3.95 ERA and relinquished just four walks in nine games.
Also look at Matt Langwell. Langwell was incredibly impressive down in AA-Akron, where he started the season. In 10 games with the Aeros, he only allowed one earned run and struck out 18. His dominance has tailed off a bit in Columbus, which is expected, but he has still thrown the ball well there as he posts a 3.18 ERA in just over 11 innings pitched.
Finally, there’s Ubaldo Jimenez. Yes, you read that right. It’s clear that Jimenez is struggling and that if the Tribe is to continue its first place run, Jimenez cannot continue to start. The issue is, the organization has invested too much in Jimenez to merely let him go or trade him, and there is no option to merely demote him into the minors. It seems that one solution the team could consider is moving Jimenez into the bullpen to a long reliever role. This would give Jimenez the chance to work on all of his issues as well as keep him with the ballclub.
The Tribe bullpen is still one of the better pens in baseball, especially in the AL Central division, but there are still some concerns and still plenty of bad days ahead if the issues aren’t addressed. The farm teams have a small handful of potential problem-solvers to keep an eye on, especially if the injury bug strikes again.
In a perfect world, Rafael Perez would return with a bionic arm, Joe Smith would stop caring about the opinions of people at Put-In-Bay, and Chris Perez would continue to throw raging strikes in front of crowds of 20,000 or less. While said perfect world doesn’t exist, we can be thankful for one thing – at least Dan Wheeler’s gone.