Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cliff and Koby

Cliff Lee was horrible again on Wednesday, giving up seven runs in five innings during a 14-14 football game between the Indians and Mariners. Lee has been horrible all spring, or at least his numbers have been horrible. However, he seems to be happy with the way he's throwing, and so do Eric Wedge and pitching coach Carl Willis. They seem to think that the dry Arizona air that limits movement on breaking balls is hindering Lee's effectiveness. But they also seem inclined to give the reigning Cy Young Award winner the benefit of the doubt, and remain confident that once the bell rings Monday Lee will be fine.

However, Masa Kobayashi is another story. Wedge typically doesn't like to publicly show impatience with any of his players, but he is clearly growing weary of Kobayashi's up and down spring. When Kobayashi has been bad this spring, he has been really bad, such as Wednesday, when he gave up a single, double, triple, and home run to the first four batters he faced. I don't know if it's because he's facing tougher hitters in the major leagues than he faced in Japan, or whether, at age 34 - he'll turn 35 in May - he's just running out of gas. But there's never been any "wow'' factor for me when watching him pitch, either last year or this spring. Hitters seem very comfortable facing him, they rarely take bad swings, and he really has a hard time making any adjustments during an appearance. If he's bad when comes into a game, he tends to stay bad.

My guess is Indians officials will keep a close eye on Kobayashi in the first six weeks of the season. If he continues to struggle - he gave up some monstrous home runs at the worst possible time in many appearances last year - it wouldn't be a surprise if they tried to shop Kobayashi to other teams, or even consider releasing him. He's in the last year of his contract, though the Indians do hold an option for 2010 (yeah, right!), so they are only on the hook for the $3 million owed him this year. Like most managers, Wedge loathes relievers who are inconsistent because you never know what you're going to get from them when you bring them into the game. That's where Kobayashi is now, and that's why you probably won't see him pitching late in close games anytime soon.


Blogger Motherscratcher said...

I have no idea why the Indians are staying with Kobayashi at this point. Do they think that in his mid 30's he's going to get better because he's another year older? If they're only on the line for $3 mil why don't they just cut him loose and keep a guy like Vinnie Chulk who definately earned it this spring.

I sort of get keeping Zach Jackson over Chulk because it's nice to have a long reliever. I ust don't get what keeping Masa does for you at this point.

April 3, 2009 at 6:28 PM 

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