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Tribe Needs to Find That Lock Down Closer

Joe ScumaciCorrespondent IMay 1, 2008

After Rafael Betancourt's blown save Thursday night to the Seattle Mariners, the Tribe's bullpen is now 4-for-10 in save oppurtunities. Good for last in Major League Baseball.

Manager Eric Wedge's hair has to be falling out or turning gray, or both, the way the season has been for his Indians.

Between Joe Borowski's struggles to close a game out or throw 85 mph for that matter and Rafael Betancourt's inconsistent 9th inning showings. The Indians have been giving away games early in the year that they cannot afford. Especially with the bats hitting a collective .250 following the first month of the year.  

The Indians really have not had that dynamic closer that was almost a sure lock since the Jose Mesa days in the late 90's. Last year, the Indian's bullpen was considered one of the best in the league, but this year they can't seem to get an out if they need to.

With the bats still cold as the weather, Cleveland has struggled to hold leads and let another good starting performance slip away. Paul Byrd shutout the Mariners through 7 2/3 innings before turning the 1-0 lead over the bullpen. The lead quickly discintegrated with a wild pitch, stolen base by Ichiro thanks to a Casey Blake error and then a home run on the first pitch of the 10th by Richie Sexson quickly gave Seattle a 2-1 lead.

The home run, surrendered by newest bullpen member Masa Kobayashi, was the 35th home run the Tribe pitching staff has allowed. 

Starter Paul Byrd's wasted gem is frustrating because his run support is hovering around 1. The Indians bats are struggling still with Hafner dropped in the lineup to the 6th spot and Ryan Garko just getting out of his recent 0-for-25 slump.

Although, Garko's one-out single started the rally that got to Mariner's closer J.J. Putz, as Grady Sizemore's bases-loaded walk scored Jamey Carrol to tie the game at 2. In the bottom of the 11th, the Tribe loaded the bases with 2 outs and young stud Asdrubal Cabrera laced a single into right to save the Indian's pathetic bullpen effort.  

With the month of May turning the corner, the Indians should search the free agent market or look to make a move for a consistent closer. Their young guns (Perez, Betancourt, Lewis) have yet to prove that they can hold the lead night in and night out like they did last year during their ALCS run. GM Mark Shapiro is a bright guy who usually has a good sense for talent and will evaluate a good closer from a bad one.

The Tigers, the Indians real threat at the AL Central crown, have not played anywhere near their potential. But with the Tribe's bullpen not capitalizing, maybe that one move for the shutdown closer will get them over the edge and make them again, the elite team to beat in the AL.

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