Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona was quick to dismiss a question Saturday about the struggles of his starting rotation five games into the season. Sunday the concern may have grown just a tad, watching his All-Star pitcher from a year ago, Justin Masterson, fail to get out of the fourth inning in a rather long, ugly uninspiring 10-7 loss to the Minnesota Twins.
The loss puts the Indians at .500 on the young season at 3-3, and they also lose their first series of the weekend, dropping two of three to the Twins after winning their home opener 7-2 on Friday after a rough early start for starter Danny Salazar. Carlos Carrasco did himself no favors allowing five runs in three innings in a loss Saturday, but the most alarming outing belonged to the Indians ace in Masterson on Sunday. “A lot it we are trying to make it happen,” Masterson said Sunday after the loss. “It goes back to the fact we’re flying open a little bit, not quite striding, and saying ‘what can we do to get things over the plate.’”
In 3.2 innings, Masterson gave up six runs, five earned, on seven hits. He walked three while striking out four, and also had command issues from the start, plunking two batters including Twins LF Josh Willingham, who had to leave the game after getting hit on the hand. The Indians ace said that he could tell early that he was going to have a tough day. “Just as we were going out there I just didn’t find the zone very well,” Masterson said. “It just continued to be that way, just seemed like it was one of those days in general.”
All five Indians starters have had issues now with the poor outing by Masterson, and heading into the season it was the area on the team that had the most question marks after losing starters Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir this offseason in free agency. Those two pitchers were replaced by Salazar and Carrasco, and while Salazar was able to work out early issues on Friday, Carrasco wasn’t so lucky on Saturday during the 7-3 setback to Minnesota. “I don’t think we get discouraged that easily, I think we’re always trying to get better,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “This is [Masterson's] second time pitching, first time out he was pretty good. He wasn’t very good today.”
Masterson’s day can simply be described as ‘one bad start,’ but already that’s probably four bad starts in the first six games for Indians throwers, with the only two decent outings being the opener for Masterson against the Oakland A’s, and then Friday Salazar’s effort in the win over the Twins after he got past early control issues with his fastball. It may be just six games, and the throwers on the team will likely get things going and start to throw better, but right now it’s tough to watch them scuffle as the team gets ready for a home series with the San Diego Padres before a trip to Chicago and Detroit.
Francona is one manager that isn’t ready to by any means to throw in the towel on any of his starters, but it’s tough to see each one struggle a week into the MLB season. “I don’t think that you start to give up on your guys on April 6th,” the manager said. “Not saying that we don’t wanna do better, but I think you can rush to judgement and miss out on some really good players.”