The Cleveland Indians have their starting rotation mostly set. Given that they traded the pitching farm to bring in Ubaldo Jimenez, he and Justin Masterson are naturally the 1-2 punch to start things off.
After that, Josh Tomlin is the realistic third option. He had a lot of good luck last season to get 12 wins, but you can't put a price on his low walk total. After that, it gets cloudy and a lot of it is dependent on whether or not Carmona's option is picked up.
Let's presume that they pick up the option and he's a fourth starter. He's had enough chances and Carmona will go into 2012 knowing that this is his last one.
Who should be the fifth starter then? Carlos Carrasco is out for most if not all of 2012, Mitch Talbot is gone after showing he was a fluke in 2010 and Alex White, who would have been my pick in July, is now with the Colorado Rockies.
That leaves Zach McAllister, David Huff and Jeanmar Gomez if we don't count starters from Columbus who have not made a major league start (Corey Kluber, Scott Barnes). Ironically, it's not that far off from last year's rotation battle, which was Huff, Gomez and Tomlin.
McAllister was great at AAA Columbus last year, going 12-3 with a 3.32 ERA. but his few appearances in Cleveland were unimpressive. The 23-year-old will be on the outside looking in, as he still has time to grow and develop.
That leaves Huff and Gomez. Huff finally showed some life in 10 starts after looking bad the past two years. He was also great in Columbus and despite the 2-6 record there, his K/BB ratio went up, his ERA went down and he showed that he could actually pitch.
Who should be the fifth starter?
While Huff seems to have the inside track according to many sources, including WFNY, I have a better feeling about Gomez. He doesn't wow fans watching the game, but he's continuously improving. Not to mention if you take out his horrible game against Detroit, his stats look far better (Granted, you could say the same about Huff and the Mariners outing in mid-September).
There's no reason to get free agent depth, as many of these pitchers are showing that they can dominate at the AAA level. All that's left is to finally cross the major league hump, which they can't do stuck in Columbus.
The only real concern I have about Gomez compared to Huff or a free agent pitcher is his pitch count. He failed to break 100 pitches once in 2011 and I'm not sure if it was a coaching decision to keep that from happening or if there are stamina concerns. As great as the bullpen is, the Indians can't have pitchers who can't make quality starts rounding out their rotation.
Whether it's Huff or Gomez that ends up with that spot though, all Tribe fans can do is hope that one of them plays in 2012 the way that Tomlin did in 2011.