Cleveland Indians' Wahoo Weekly: Inaugural Edition
Welcome to Wahoo Weekly, a round table of sorts covering anything and everything Cleveland Indians baseball. For this first edition, we will examine our thoughts and feelings of the 13-8 first place Tribe, including pleasant surprises, disappointments and what we think the Indians will do next.
For this week's edition, we will tackle some of the questions facing the team, as well as a special "one-word description" segment about various players and facets of the ball club.
Question No. 1: Who Will Be Called Up Next from Minors?
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Pitcher Jeanmar Gomez was recently called up from AAA Columbus to take the spot of injured Mitch Talbot in the rotation. Who do you think is next in line for a promotion?
Geoff Estes: Now that Gomez has been called up, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an infielder, particularly a second baseman, being called up sometime soon. Luis Valbuena and Jason Donald are still in Columbus, and Orlando Cabrera is currently the only second baseman on the roster. I just wrote last week how pleased I am with the O-Cab signing, but he is getting up there in age, meaning an injury is always a concern.
If the Indians are not ready to call up Jason Kipnis (and why rush with the way O-Cab is playing), I wouldn’t be surprised to see Valbuena or Donald called up to provide O-Cab with a day off here and there.
Jensen Lewis is always just a call away if the bullpen needs help. Overall, I am not expecting any big-name prospects call-ups, like a Chisenhall or Kipnis, too soon. I think for the time being, we are more likely to see guys like Huff or Donald, who have some major league experience, called up to plug some holes if needed.
Jim McCarthy: David Huff will be the next pitcher called up from Columbus. We already know that when he has his good stuff, the kid can be a solid Major League starter. It looks as though he is putting it together down in Columbus so far this season. He is 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA with 17 innings pitched.
Cord Phelps is another guy that I see next in line for a call-up. He is off to a great start batting .327 with two HRs and nine RBI. He can also play the outfield, which helps his cause.
Alex Painter: I was a little bummed out that Travis Buck was demoted. I really liked the guy, and he was really starting the swing the bat well after a rough start. I would have to agree with both Geoff and Jim. I think an infielder is probably going to come up soon, although admittedly, I hope it is not Valbuena. David Huff started spring training well, but then then floundered, but it does look like he is putting together some quality starts down in Columbus. He will most likely be next if there is an injury in the rotation.
Question No. 2: What Has Fueled the Indians Fast Start?
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Geoff Estes: The key so far has to be the pitching in general. The main three guys out of the bullpen (Sipp, Raffy Perez and Chris Perez) have been lock-down. The starters have looked great also, with the exception of the first two games of the season. Fausto has looked like an ace in his last few starts. Josh Tomlin has been mixing it up. The best surprise has been Justin Masterson. He has looked just awesome in his [four] starts. If he continues to get out lefties like he has been, he could be looking at an all-star caliber year.
Jim McCarthy: Manny Acta. He has had these guys believing they were contenders since the first day of spring training. His in-game managing has been very impressive thus far as well.
Alex Painter: I would definitely have to say pitching as well. While the starters have cooled off a little bit, Justin Masterson has looked great. It's been fun to watch him hurl this season thus far. I think that the hitting has been timely thus far as well. With men on base, the Indians are hitting .308. They have been putting themselves in a position to compete every single day.
Question No. 3: Who Has Been the Most Surprising Player This Year?
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Geoff Estes: It may seem strange to say this with all the young guys playing great, but the biggest surprise to me has been Travis Hafner. The last three or four years, I haven’t had any hope when Pronk comes to the plate. This year, he has me on the edge of my seat like Pronk circa-2006. Not to doubt him, but I think many people, while believing he was injured, had just thought he was losing it the last few years. Maybe that injury was as nagging as it seemed, and he may have finally let his shoulder heal enough to be the Pronk of old.
Jim McCarthy: Justin Masterson. After last season, many, myself included, were skeptical if Masterson should stay in the starting rotation. We knew he had great stuff, but his inability to get left handed hitters out made me think he was better suited for the bullpen. After going 4-0 with an ERA of 1.71, he looks like a CY Young Candidate.
Alex Painter: Right there with Jim. Like I said before, Masterson has been great to watch pitch this season. He has gotten into some jams, but it seems his composure is improved to get out of them. Unlike Jim, I have always been a big fan of him, despite subpar seasons. I was waiting for him to break out after his second half last season, where he looked much improved. I could not have guessed the work he has put in up to this point, though!
Question No. 4: Who Has Thus Far Been a Disappointment?
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Geoff Estes: The biggest disappointment to me has probably been Matt LaPorta. Shin-Soo Choo would be an easy pick, but I have faith in him to turn it around. He is too solid of a hitter not to.
LaPorta, on the other hand, hasn’t looked real comfortable at the plate again this year. It is almost entering Andy Marte territory. We have all been waiting for the dynamite hitting we have heard about and saw in AAA ball to translate to the majors, and it just hasn’t quite done it yet. I still have hope for LaPorta, but he needs to figure it out soon.
Jim McCarthy: Nobody!
Alex Painter: Would have to go go with Fausto Carmona. He had a terrible opening day, but rebounded with three pretty decent starts. He then went out and got touched pretty good against the Twins. He gave up six runs on seven hits in five innings. He also issued four walks and only struck out one. He is sitting at 1-3 with a rotation-high 5.76 ERA. He has got to get some better consistency, especially for the No. 1 on the staff.
Describe in One Word...Michael Brantley
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Geoff Estes: Promising
I was worried about Brantley being the third outfielder or the successor to Grady, but he has looked very solid in the opening few weeks. He is a big part of the Indians' future plans, especially if they don’t re-sign Grady, or trade him, which many think they may. Makes for a more promising future.
Jim McCarty: Moxie
The kid plays like he has been in the majors for 10 years. I have been very impressed by the way he carries himself.
Alex Painter: Relaxed
He said before the season that the expectations are no longer bothering him and that he is comfortable. He has certainly played like it.
Describe in One Word...Travis Hafner
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Geoff Estes: Resurgence
He has looked like the Pronk of old. It is great to see him hitting the ball again. He has been very loyal to the Tribe (and why wouldn’t he be with what they are paying him), and it is nice to see him produce.
Jim McCarty: Pronk
Hafner is back to playing the way that earned him his nickname. He looks bigger, healthier and very locked in right now.
Alex Painter: Powerful
On pace to hit about 32 home runs this season. He is swinging the bat very well, and it looks like the shoulder issues are behind him. The Tribe have gotten the brute force back into the lineup.
Describe in One Word...Orlando Cabrera
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Geoff Estes: Winner
I wrote a piece on O-Cab a [while ago], and looking back at his career, it is amazing to see the teams he has been a contributor for. It appears he is already having a positive influence on the young Tribe. I am very happy so far with the O-Cab signing.
Jim McCarthy: Winner
Orlando Cabrera has brought valuable veteran leadership to this young team. He is a proven winner and has brought that mentality to the Indians this year.
Alex Painter: Swagger
The 36-year-old has brought a great veteran presence to the diamond. Love the way this affects the make-up of the team. Whether his numbers are great or not, he is making a positive impact on the team.
Describe in One Word...Tribe's Attendance Numbers
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Geoff Estes: Disappointing
I am from Iowa; I am not a Clevelander, but I can sympathize with Cleveland. The economy, LeBron, the Browns, I get it all. I am not only an Indians fan but also a lifelong Pacers and Vikings fan (long, interesting, legitimate back stories for all of them), so I know fan disappointment. Believe me, I get it. I wish the Indians fans in Cleveland would join me in the excitement this young Indians team has provided me and show them some support.
I get the Extra Innings package and plan on going to Cleveland this year for a game or two, like I do every year, and I would like to see Progressive rocking like it used to be.
Jim McCarthy: Summer
It’s still cold in Cleveland! Considering this, I have been happy with the attendance so far this year. You can’t expect a blue-collar town like Cleveland to have great attendance numbers in April, especially one that has been this bad the last few years. If the Tribe continues to play this way, they will start to turn out in the summer. But the Indians have to play well for more than a few months and even a year to warrant great support from the fans.
Alex Painter: Improve
While this has yet to be seen, I can only imagine that after a record-setting April for low attendance, the Friends of the Feather will be back at Progressive Field if the Indians show they can continue to win ball games.
Wahoo Watch: Looking at the Week Ahead
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The Tribe have two important series coming up with the second place holders. A three-game set against the Royals will begin on April 26th, followed by another three-game series, this time against the Tigers.
This could be a great time for the Indians to create some distance between themselves and the two respected teams. The AL Central picture will undoubtedly be shaken up as a result of these games.
Thanks again to Geoff and Jim for making this possible.