The Indians have reorganised their starting rotation going into the second half of the season, in order to keep the cream on top. The new order will be Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Derek Lowe, Zach McAllister and Josh Tomlin. The main changes are that McAllister has been bumped ahead of Tomlin and McAllister, Lowe and Tomlin are being skipped for this turn in the rotation.
The Indians started the first half of the season against Toronto and will now start the second half against them as well. The first time around didn’t go very well as the Tribe lost the first two games of the year in extra innings as they looked to set a new record for most innings played in a season. The first loss was Chris Perez‘s only blown save until he blew the last game of the half against Tampa Bay. He will certainly be in fine form and raging as he was kept out of the All-Star game and will be looking to make up for those two blown save. His beard may even catch on fire if he makes it into the opener.
July 13th, 7:07 EDT: Justin Masterson, RHP, 5-8, 4.40 ERA vs Ricky Romero, LHP, 8-4, 5.22 ERA
Masterson’s goal for the rest of the season should be to make his win-loss record further away from his height (6-6) and get his ERA closer to his weight (250). Excelling in the land of snow and socialized medicine will be his first step in proving to management that he deserves their faith in him. Masterson was blown out in his last start, but the six prior to that were all good, so at this point we can assume the game against Tampa was an outlier. After facing Toronto this week he will have to pitch against Tampa again so these games should be a good show of whether it was a one game hiccough or something more serious.
Romero opened the season against the Indians (in fact this is a rematch of opening day) and allowed 4 runs in 5 innings. Although he didn’t get a decision in that game, Romero went on to win 8 of his next 9 decisions. Since then he has lost three in a row and raised his ERA from 4.94 to 5.32. Going back slightly further, over the last 10 games he has raised it from 3.64. Overall the Blue Jays ace seems to be tanking a little bit as his rate stats (ERA, K/BB and WHIP) are all at their lowest point in his career since his rookie season. The walks are especially bothersome as he currently leads the league with 58. This is a great sign for a very patient Tribe team and should help the most selective hitters like Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner force him to throw pitches they like.
July 14th, 1:07 EDT: Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, 8-7, 4.50 ERA vs Aaron Laffey, LHP, 0-1, 2.67 ERA
Jimenez has finally fixed his control problems and with it, the rest of his game has come around as well. He hasn’t allowed 5 or more walks in a game since May when he did so four separate times. Going perfectly with that, he hasn’t allowed 5 or more runs in a game since May either, when he allowed 7 twice. The opposite of Romero, Jimenez has been lowering his ERA and it is now at it’s lowest point since his May 26th, 7 inning shut out of Texas. He has dropped it about 10 points in each of his last three games alone. Ubaldo should have no trouble dominating a team that has three of the American League’s top 20 strike out victims in it’s starting lineup.
I miss Aaron Laffey and wouldn’t mind one bit if the Indians traded to get him back, even if they only used him for long relief. The Indians trading him to Seattle to make room for Chad Durbin on the active roster was one of the biggest mistakes in recent memory. Laffey started this season out of the bullpen, but was pulled to be a starter on June 26th. He has since made three starts and has pitched 6 innings in each and allowed a total of 5 runs. This could be a tough test for the Tribe as they generally fare poorly against soft throwing left handers, but as long as Lou Marson and Shelley Duncan (as they have in recent games against LHP) can pick up the slack, the Indians should be fine.
July 15th: 107 EDT: Derek Lowe, 8-6, 4.43 ERA vs Carlos Villanueva, RHP, 3-0, 3.05 ERA
Derk Lowe had a terrible June and things aren’t particularly looking up in July, but it’s possible the extra long break will give the old man’s arm some time to rest. As I have been saying, the Indians need to keep Lowe on a very short leash and if he is struggling in the 6th inning at all, he should be pulled immediately. He doesn’t have the stamina he once had and it has seemed this season that once it starts to go bad for him, it goes really bad.
Villanueva has also been in the bullpen most of the year and in fact had earned a hold and two wins in 22 relief appearances before being converted to a starter on June 26th. This will be his third start of the year, so it is hard to know what to expect out of him. He did start 13 games last season, but still pitched the majority of the time out of the bullpen. He does not have the control of a great reliever and he has allowed more than 1.30 base runners per inning this season.