This is it. Now that Detroit has taken care of business, sweeping their two divisional rivals back-to-back, the Central Division race is over and Wild Card race never began. Now is the time for the Indians to ready the ship for 2012 and a more series attempt at winning a championship. The success of the 2011 team took a lot of people by surprise, but no one will be surprised next year. In order to make sure everyone is ready for next season, there are a few things that need to be done this year still.
Heal the Wounded
The most prominent reason for the Indians failure down the stretch was the plethora of injuries that occurred to almost every starting player on the team. Since there is nothing left to play for, these players should get extra time off for any surgeries, rehab or just plain rest. Michael Brantley and Carlos Carrasco are already out for the season with hand and Tommy John surgery respectfully, but there are a few others that could use the rest of the season off. There has been a lot of talk about Travis Hafner needing foot surgery to repair a tendon and he might as well do it now. The earlier the better as it will give him more time to get into running shape for next season. Jim Thome is a more than capable replacement at DH and will be a bigger draw for the fans anyway. Other veterans who have battled injuries should also get more time off, including Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo. Both players will be extremely important to the team next season and need to get any series medical issues fixed now.
Play the Rookies
Baseball pundits often talk about how inexperience can hurt a team. This is the perfect time to help some of the younger players get some experience. Lonnie Chisenhall should play every single game for the rest of the year. He has had a lot of time off of late so Manny Acta could play Jack Hannahan‘s hot bat, but with Hannahan injured and certain to be gone to free agency after this season, Chisenhall should see all the playing time at the hot corner. Seeing him in the pros for another 20+ games will go along way to finding out exactly what he is capable of. Jason Kipnis and Ezequiel Carrera should also play just about every day. For Kipnis this is mostly just for experience, but Carrera needs to prove that he deserves a spot on next years squad. The Indians should have a lot of outfield depth with Grady, Brantley, Choo and Trevor Crowe available to play. A couple of relief pitchers should also get a closer look. Josh Judy and Nick Hagadone could be great assets to future Indians teams as Chad Durbin will be gone and Rafael Perez is getting older.
A Day of Rest
Asdrubal Cabrera deserves a day off. He has done absolutely everything within his power to help the Indians win and he is starting to look dead out there. Let Jason Donald take over short at least one day a week with Kipnis and Cord Phelps manning second. This will not only give the three young players a little more playing time, but will give Cabrera a break after working harder than just about anyone else all season. He is not going to win the MVP, so Manny doesn’t have to try to get him every single at bat he can for the rest of the year. Another player who has been playing every single day at a high skill position is Carlos Santana. He has played in every single Indians game since July 8th at either catcher or first base. Of course during his games at first, Lou Marson has had to catch, so I’m sure he could use some time off as well. The Indians need to bring back Matt LaPorta to take over first base on a daily basis and to bring up another catcher, hopefully Luke Carlin, to spell Lou Marson. The Bullpen Mafia could also use some time off after being the work horses of the Tribe. Save their fantastic ERAs and get some other pitchers some playing time by cutting back the use of Rafael Perez, Chris Perez, Tony Sipp, Vinnie Pestano and Joe Smith. Already mentioned Hagadone and Judy are good options for this, as well as Josh Tomlin (who will be returning from the DL soon) and Mitch Talbot (who is still in AAA). Both players have started for the Indians this season, but are no longer needed with Jeanmar Gomez and David Huff pitching well in the rotation.