It has been a tough weekend for the Cleveland Indians. Despite taking two of three games from the Tampa Bay Rays in Tampa, the team had to make a critical decision by removing John Axford from the closer role for the time being. Manager Terry Francona says that the goal is to put Axford back as the closer, but right now there are four players who can close games for the team.
Sunday the Indians turned what looked like an easy win into a ball of nerves for fans, as they had a 6-2 lead entering the eighth, but the Rays rallied for three runs to suddenly turn it into a 6-5 game. That’s when Francona gave the ball to Bryan Shaw in the ninth, and all he did was get two ground outs and a fly out from Matt Joyce to end the game with what seemed like ease.
It may be a tad bit early, but seeing Shaw and seeing how he’s thrown in 2014, the Indians should seriously look at him as the closer moving forward. The 26-year-old came into Sunday sporting a 1.53 ERA, throwing in a league-high 19 games with allowing just three runs in 17.2 innings. He’s been as good as he was a year ago, throwing mostly in the seventh inning of games. In 2013 he was 7-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and was as good as any pitcher on the staff during the team’s playoff run in September.
Shaw has a nasty cutter, and when it’s on, as it has been thus far in 2014, he’s nearly unhittable. He’s done enough to earn a shot, and with a solid 1-2-3 ninth against the Rays, Francona should have the confidence to go back to him while the team tries to get Axford back on track. If Axford fails to reclaim the role, Shaw should be the first man up to get the chance to keep the job long term.