Last season Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona spared little time in naming Justin Masterson as the starter for the club’s season opener against the Toronto Blue Jays. What started with a win over the Jays and R.A. Dickey began a run for Masterson that saw him pitch at an All-Star level for most of the 2013 season.
The team won 20 of his 29 starts, and when the team needed to come out of a slump, it was Masterson they turned to as he was named to the American League All-Star team for the first time in his career. The 28-year-old went 14-10 with a 3.45 ERA, throwing a career-high in victories and strikeouts despite missing most of the month of September with a strained oblique muscle.
The Indians will have two new starters in the rotation in 2014. Danny Salazar is already penciled in, while the club has a competition going for the fourth starter spot. That makes the season upcoming for Masterson even more important than the one he had in 2013. The Indians badly need another All-Star season out of their ace.
Masterson has been sensational this spring, throwing 13 scoreless innings, striking out 14 and walking only two. He’s allowed six hits. He’s put the fact that he and the Indians haven’t been able to get a long-term contract in place behind him and is focused only on helping the team get back to the postseason.
Last spring, Masterson boasted an ERA of 4.76, his best with the Indians. That he’s made it a point to be even better in 2014 says a lot of how much he wants to be an even better No. 1 starter this season. While many Indians fans will fret about losing Masterson in free agency, he seems to be ready to have his name mentioned among the best pitchers in the American League.