Masa Kobayashi should not be breaking camp with the Cleveland Indians, but Wedge and Co. have already given indications that he'll be in the bullpen come April 6.
Signed to a two-year deal in the 2008 off-season by Mark Shapiro, Kobayashi has done little to earn the paycheck. Most likely, he was purchased as a cheap insurance option in the likely event that Joe Borowski couldn't skate through the majors another year by throwing an 85 mph fastball.
Borowski did fail, predictably, but Masa provided no relief, compiling a 4.53 ERA on his way to yielding 65 hits in approximately 56 innings. He was shut down in late August last year after his ineffectiveness reached conspicuous proportions.
This spring, he has continued to display a penchant for giving up tape-measure home-run blasts. He has a 10.00 ERA, and as of today has had one acceptable outing and even that was not particularly impressive.
His fastball has been slow and flat, and his location has been off, a beautiful concoction if you're an opposing hitter. Earlier today, he gave up a moon-shot to Reed Johnson, who's not exactly Adam Dunn.
Still, the Dolans are paying him $1.5 million, so you can bet he will get his opportunity to fail in plenty of critical situations on the major league level before they finally pull the plug.
This highlights a frustrating trend with the tribe brass: they are never ahead of the curve on personnel decisions. They wait for a player to cost the team two or three games before making necessary and patent roster moves.
For instance, they stuck with Trot Nixon, David Delucci, the aforementioned Joe Borowski, after it was clear to scouts, reporters, and passionate fans that these guys no longer had the skills to compete.
Mediocre at best during the pinnacle of their production, these players can't be expected to be valuable contributors toward the end of the careers.
Masa Kobayashi is the latest example of a mediocre over-the-hill journeyman to extend his career in Cleveland. He should be relegated to AAA Columbus until he proves he can get batters out. The Tribe invited a veritable throng of bull-pen arms to camp and there are plenty of candidates to step up.
Shapiro and the Indians brain trust have routinely exhibited a reluctance to sink an already sunk cost. They need to begin to make decisions unclouded by financial considerations.
Both Eric Wedge and Mark Shapiro have talked a lot about compiling the best 25-man roster, regardless of dollar figures. Let's hope that in 2009, it's more than talk.
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