By Michael Hattery
The Cleveland Indians rotation last season could not be described as anything other than abysmal. To general manager Chris Antonetti‘s credit as well as promulgating from Terry Francona‘s leadership the Indians were able to entice quite a few experienced pitchers looking for opportunities on minor league contracts. The invitees competing for the fifth included Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka as well as recently acquired Trevor Bauer and Indians farmhands Carlos Carrasco and David Huff.
As Spring Training has unfolded, Matsuzaka went down to core injuries and has agreed to remain on in the system, while Huff was shifted to the bullpen to battle for a spot. This leaves the Indians to pick between Kazmir, Bauer and Carrasco.
Bauer is an immensely talented young right-hander whose idiosyncrasies have become a more popular discussion of late than his nearly limitless ceiling. It seems Bauer’s personality rather than his abilities is what led the Arizona Diamondbacks to deal him to the Indians for a slightly above-average shortstop prospect (fleeced).
While Francona has said that Bauer’s free-agency clock is irrelevant to whether or not they will bring Bauer with them out of camp, it is clear they would like to keep him in the minors for a few months to hold that clock off for an extra year of this future ace. Thus Bauer would have to out perform his competitors by a large amount to be the fifth starter on April 1st.
There seems to be absolutely no reason why Carrasco is still in this competition even though he began as the prohibitive favorite. Carrasco will begin this season in Triple-A for two simple reasons. First, Carrasco is recovering from shoulder surgery and has been more erratic then even his past wild self. Second, Carrasco has an option remaining and if the Indians can bring him along slowly and allow him to smooth his mechanics out he will be valuable later on in the season, as soon as Ubaldo Jimenez inevitably collapses.
Finally to Kazmir, who up until a minor league game this week had posted an unblemished spring training performance including a solid performance against a potent Los Angeles Angels starting lineup. What’s more Kazmir offers the Indians a much needed left-handed starter who could split their current rotation of all right-handers. While Kazmir is competing for the “fifth slot”, Francona could place him in the three or four slot to begin the year in order to break up the excessive collection of righties. Kazmir’s comeback from a collapsing career has been well documented (deservedly so) and it appears that this time it will begin with a well earned opportunity as a pitcher in the Indians rotation.
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