MLB: 5 Ways the Cleveland Indians Can Improve Their Pitching

Brian Belko@@BrianBelkoContributor IIIApril 18, 2012

MLB: 5 Ways the Cleveland Indians Can Improve Their Pitching

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    So far this season, the Cleveland Indians have had their ups and downs.

    Moments of great offensive production, stellar starting pitching and solid bullpen relief have been interspersed with times of a sluggish offense, mediocre starting pitching and terrible relief pitching.

    The pitching has been especially poor for the past several games.

    Starters have not gotten deep into games and the bullpen has given up quite a few runs. Thankfully, it happened during a series that saw the Tribe score 32 runs against the Kansas City Royals.

    However, it's not time for Tribe fans to panic about the state of the pitching staff.

    Here are five things the Indians can do to improve the quality of their pitching.

Give the Bullpen a Rest

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    Thanks to a 16-inning marathon to kick off the season, some early exits by their starting pitchers and several other extra-inning games, the Indians' bullpen has already experienced a huge workload.

    That overuse has taken its toll considering the amount of runs the bullpen has already given up along with the two blown saves.

    The bullpen needs to have someone on the starting pitching staff throw late into a couple of ballgames in order to get some much needed rest.

    In the past series, the Tribe's starters only threw 13.2 innings. That meant the bullpen was responsible for taking care of the other 19 innings that the series consisted of.

    That type of overwork is an easy way for the bullpen to never really find its footing early in the season.

    If the Tribe wants to contend in the AL Central division, they must get their bullpen the rest it desperately needs.

Play Better Defense

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    The Tribe's rotation is full of sinker ball pitchers that rely on the team's defense for a lot of their outs.

    That's why the front office went out and signed first baseman Casey Kotchman, who is know for his outstanding defense. That is also why Jack Hannahan, also known for his stellar fielding, earned the starting third base job out of spring training.

    However, there have already been several innings that went longer than they should have because of errors. Whenever you give an opposing team extra outs, it's likely they're going to hurt you with them.

    In order to help out the pitching staff, the Tribe defense must play up to the high level that they're capable of.

Get Rid of Dan Wheeler

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    Relief pitcher Dan Wheeler made the Indians roster out of spring training mostly due to his veteran status.

    However, Wheeler has not brought much to the team since the regular season started.

    So far this season, Wheeler has pitched three innings and earned a 8.10 ERA. He has also walked three batters and given up a home run. He has zero strikeouts and opposing batters are hitting .286.

    Needless to say, Wheeler's pitching leaves a lot to be desired.

    The Tribe has several talented young relievers in the minor leagues they could call upon to fill a spot in the bullpen.

    In fact, they just called up lefty Nick Hagadone to take Asdrubal Cabrera's roster spot. Cabrera is currently on the bereavement list and expected to be gone for six games.

    If Hagadone performs well over those six games, then it wouldn't be a surprise if Wheeler is the odd man out upon Cabrera's return.

Don't Be Too Patient with Josh Tomlin

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    Last year, Josh Tomlin put together an impressive season in the Tribe's starting rotation, especially for a former 11th-round draft pick. He went 12-7 with a 4.25 ERA over 26 starts.

    However, there were several signs that hitters were adjusting to Tomlin. He gave up 24 home runs last season and only went 2-3 with a 5.26 ERA after the All-Star break.

    While Tomlin has definitely earned his spot in the rotation with his performance last season, the Tribe brass should not be too patient with the young pitcher. Tomlin's stuff is in no way over-powering and has a tendency for giving up big innings.

    His stats so far this season have not instilled much confidence in his skill set. In one start and one relief appearance, Tomlin is 0-1 with an 8.31 ERA and has already given up two home runs.

    The Tribe has several other options in the minor leagues that would be worth a look if Tomlin continues to struggle.

Keep Scoring Runs

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    The easiest way for a team to help its pitching staff is to score runs and the Tribe did plenty of that in their last series against the Kansas City Royals.

    The team scored 32 runs in that series to be exact and ended up sweeping the Royals despite having their pitching staff give up 19 runs.

    That kind of run production would make any pitching staff in the majors happy and has certainly helped the Tribe so far this year.

    If the Tribe can continue to score runs in a similar fashion to the Royals series, Cleveland should make things interesting in the AL Central this season.