Thursday, May 27, 2010

Changes coming?

After stumbling through a 2-6 homestand, the Indians now face a daunting upcoming schedule. Eleven of their next 14 games are against three of the top teams in the American League, the Yankees, Tigers, and Red Sox. And seven of those 11 games will be on the road. Not that playing on the road is necessarily a bad thing for the Indians, who have the worst home record (8-14) in the league.

As the Indians begin this stretch of their schedule, there is the potential for a couple major pieces of news. Don't be surprised if Justin Masterson doesn't make his next scheduled start, which is Sunday in New York. Manager Manny Acta danced around the quesiton of Masterson when asked recently if a change is going to be made in the rotation. If Masterson is pulled from the rotation nobody can accuse Acta of being quick with the hook. Masterson is 0-5 this year and 0-11 in 16 starts since his last win, which came on Aug. 20 of last year. The most logical replacement for Masterson would be Aaron Laffey. The Indians may wait to see if they can get through the games Friday and Saturday without needing Laffey as a reliever. If they can, Laffey could be moved into Masterson's spot in the rotation, and would make the start Sunday vs. the Yankees.

The other looming news is the condition of Grady Sizemore, who is on the disabled list with a deep bruise in his left knee. The Indians are being very vague about Sizemore's condition. But Sizemore spent the week flying around the country getting second and third opinions. One of the options, apparently, is micro-fracture surgery. If that's what Sizemore has, his season is over, and the rehab from that surgery might even carry over into next season. He could have another type of surgery, or he could have no surgery at all. It seems like a decision of some sort will be forthcoming at some point during the weekend.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

The Wood watch

I have to say that it was surprising to see Indians closer Kerry Wood make his 2010 debut Saturday not in the role of closer but as a middle reliever. In 25 years of covering the Indians I have never seen a closer come off the disabled list and not go right back into the closer's role. Wood's first appearance came in the seventh inning of a tie game. Manager Manny Acta later explained that he wanted Wood's first couple of appearances to be in the middle of games, "So we could see if he is ready to close games up here.''

That was an odd explanation. If Wood is deemed physically healthy enough to be activated off the disabled list, wouldn't that, by definition, mean Wood is ready to resume closing games? It's not like it's the middle of September and the Indians are in a heated pennant race, and ever game is critical. It's early May. The Indians are in last place. The stakes aren't exactly huge. Why not just put Wood back into the closer's role, which is what the Indians are paying him $10 million to do? If he struggles in his first few outings, so what? He's the closer. If he's healthy enough to pitch he should probably be closing games.

The way this was handled makes you wonder if maybe Wood didn't want to do any more minor league rehab appearances, and Indians officials wanted him to. The compromise may have been the Indians telling Wood, "Ok, you can come back, but we're not going to use you as the closer until you prove you're ready to do it (by pitching first in middle relief).'' Acta may have used Saturday's appearance by Wood as essentially another rehab outing.

When asked about the situation following the game, Wood, who hadn't pitched in the seventh inning as a reliever in three years, seemed a little brusque with reporters. Hard to tell whether he was just upset with how he pitched, or with how he was used.