Win/Loss record aside, the Indians have had some major problems with injuries over the first half of August. The outfield has been the site for most of these and Terry Francona has been scrambling all month to field three men who can run and provide at least a little offense. In all, Chris Dickerson, Nick Swisher, David Murphy and Michael Brantley have all dealt with problems of various severity, leading most recently with Murphy and Swisher reaching the disabled list.
Brantley is the biggest player to miss time and the Indians have not officially announced anything, but he has been playing DH for the past few games with Swisher taking his place in the outfield. That lead to poor defensive performances by players who shouldn’t be outfielders like Swisher and Mike Aviles. If there truly was nothing wrong with him, he would have been in the field, but whatever is bothering him has clearly not affected his bat as he has hit .357 with five extra base hits, five runs, six RBI and a steal in the past week.
Nick Swisher’s injured knees have obviously been bothering him, both offensively and defensively. He had been primarily a DH of late, but his recent outfield stint may have been the last straw. He originally showed some defensive lapses at first base, a position he has generally been astute at throughout his career. These early season errors could have been a result of a series knee injury that Swisher has already spent time on the DL with once this year. This is pure speculation, but often players who have chronic knee pain need arthroscopic surgery. If that is the case, Swisher could miss the rest of the season, but be ready for Spring Training in 2015. Considering his .208/.278/.331 line, that could be the best for both Swisher and the team as he could possibly return to his old form in time for next season.
The other player to jump on the DL train today was David Murphy, who went down with what is being called a “right abdominal strain.” While this could be a simple injury, it is more likely that the Indians are downplaying yet another oblique strain, an injury that generally lasts at least a month and seems to linger even after that. Jason Kipnis is the perfect example as he missed most of May with a similar injury and even now is still showing the effects on defense if not at the plate. This being considered, the Indians may be better off resting Murphy for the rest of the season as well. Unlike Swisher, Murphy has been useful at the plate for the Tribe, but his injury may be even more serious over the short term and there is little reason to push him back too quickly, only to reaggravate his injury.
The good news in all this for Indians is that they will get to see a couple of their young players at the Major League level. Today, Tyler Holt and Zach Walters have been called up from AAA to play outfield. In addition to immediately improving the outfield defense, this will be the first time either player sees significant Major League time with the Indians. Holt has been with the team a few times already, but was always simply a depth option and received just two plate appearances. With Tyler Naquin out for the season with injury, Holt is the Indians most developed outfield prospect and there is little left for him to learn in Columbus.
Walters was the single player brought back in return for Asdrubal Cabrera from the Nationals and he looks to be a good one. A true power hitter, Walters is listed as a short stop, but is an extremely poor defender in the infield. While he hasn’t played a game in the outfield in the Majors, he has no errors in nine games in the minors, not a very qualified number, but better than his .937 fielding percent at short stop. He could also see some time at second base, where he has been a more serviceable defender (.976 FLD%). In the week since joining the Clippers, Walters has batted .387/.387/.710, hitting two home runs and knocking in eight in seven games. He will start in left field in his first game with the Tribe on Sunday and will likely remain an outfield starter until Michael Bourn returns from the DL or Michael Brantley returns to the outfield.