Sunday, October 26, 2008

Grady's Ladies.

Here is some talk from Terry Pluto, who is probably the most important sports columnist for the Plain Dealer....

As the Indians went through a series of postseason meetings, the need for a third starter behind Cliff Lee and Fausto Carmona became apparent. That man was supposed to be Jake Westbrook, but he's recovering from reconstructive elbow surgery and not expected back until the summer. A year ago, the hope was Aaron Laffey or Jeremy Sowers would have pitched themselves into that spot, but neither proved they were ready. Laffey (5-7, 4.23) did have some minor elbow problems at the end of the season, and that may have been what led to some of his struggles. As for Sowers (4-9, 5.58), he was given 22 starts to prove he belonged -- and had major problems.
The Indians would love to find a veteran pitcher to rent for a year or two, as they did with Kevin Millwood in 2005 when he was coming off some physical problems and his free agent value dropped -- or a Paul Byrd-type for a year. But no free agent seems in that same position this season. The pitching market is so thin, it would not be a shock if 37-year-old Byrd (11-12, 4.60) receives a multiyear deal. Yes, the Padres have Jake Peavy (10-11, 2.85) on the market, but he has a no-trade clause and has listed only four NL teams as destinations.

The Indians don't talk about it much publicly, but they believe David Huff might be ready to take a spot in the rotation despite not having pitched in the majors. A lefty like Laffey and Sowers, the difference is Huff throws harder -- his fastball consistently is in the 90-92 mph range, and can be as fast as 94 mph. Huff is 24 and had a combined 11-5 record and 2.56 ERA between Class AA Akron and Class AAA Buffalo. He averages nearly nine strikeouts per nine innings, compared to 2.1 walks. In 80 innings at Buffalo, he fanned 81, walked 15 and allowed eight homers. The one drawback is having only 214 pro innings, and he did have elbow problems in 2007, limiting him to 11 starts. But if he stays healthy, he could be the Tribe's big surprise of 2009.

The Tribe would love to add a veteran closer, but there is strong support from manager Eric Wedge and his staff that Jensen Lewis could do the job. He was 13-of-13 in saves with a 2.94 ERA after the All-Star break and batters hit .250 against him. He doesn't walk many (2.1 per nine innings) and seems to emotionally handle the pressure, something that unraveled Raffy Betancourt last season. Lewis is about as effective against lefties (.267) as righties (.264), a key to closing.

If Lewis were a free agent, he'd be a hot item and the Indians would be considering him as a closer. So why shop if you have a developing closer on the roster? The plan then would be to add some veterans to bolster the bullpen, and at least one with some closing experience. In his limited big league career, Lewis has a 3.30 ERA and 86 strikeouts in 95 innings over two seasons, very solid numbers.

My pick to surprise in the bullpen is Jeff Stevens, who played in the Olympics. In between, he had a 5-1 record and 2.51 ERA at Akron, followed by going 0-3 with a 3.94 ERA at Buffalo. I liked that he averaged 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings this season, but his 4.2 walks is a bit high. He throws 93-95 mph, he's 25 -- and he is the player to be named later from the Reds for Brandon Phillips. It would be nice to get something from that trade.
He makes an interesting point about about if Jensen Lewis were a free agent. One closing name that popped up recently is Brian Fuentes of the Rockies. The Indians are supposedly one of at least three teams taking a serious look at him, but he is expected to get around a 3 year $36 million deal.

The magazine might have more pictures, but here is a link to the Grady Vogue article...

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