Top of Cleveland Indians Rotation Living Up to Hype Early

By Casey Drottar
Bob Levey-Getty Images
Bob Levey-Getty Images

There were more than a few people who decided to peg the Cleveland Indians as a contender this season. And, while there were likely a handful of reasons why someone would label the Tribe as a team to watch this summer, one of the biggest was the club’s starting rotation.

Obviously, the team has Corey Kluber – last year’s Cy Young Award winner – leading the way.  Additionally, Carlos Carrasco’s phenomenal performance in the back half of the 2014 season, along with the buzz surrounding Trevor Bauer, had many believing the Indians boasted one of the better rotations in the MLB.

Now, expectations are one thing, living up to them is another. Though Kluber certainly seemed like a sure thing this year, Carrasco and Bauer couldn’t be labeled as such just yet. One of the things noted in my season preview of the team was how important it was for Carrasco and Bauer to avoid the mistakes which have plagued each of them more than a few times in their Cleveland careers.

Though it’s clearly too soon to make any definite claims just three games into the year, early returns seem to prove the Indians’ top three pitchers are worth keeping an eye on this season.

Kluber, Carrasco and Bauer each shined during the Tribe’s opening series against the Houston Astros. In three games, these starters combined for 28 strikeouts. Only one of the three left Houston with an ERA above zero, thanks to Kluber allowing two runs in his debut.

While Kluber’s performance was to be expected, it’s an entirely different story for Carrasco and Bauer.

The former had a great second half last year, sure, but he’s been erratic during his time in Cleveland. With the ink still drying on his brand new contract, some wondered if Carrasco could come close to replicating his outstanding finish to the 2014 season.

If this past Wednesday is any indication, it definitely looks like Carrasco not only has the ability to perform at the same level he did last season, he might even be better. The Astros looked helpless attempting to hit the gas the young Venezuelan was throwing, with pitches frequently hitting 97 MPH. In the end, Carrasco tallied ten strikeouts and gave up just three hits.

As for Bauer’s start, well, it was everything you’d expect from the perplexing 24-year-old.

Bauer still struggled finding the strike zone, something which has been an issue with him for quite some time. His pitch count was much higher than the coaches would like, throwing 111 pitches on just six innings of work, as well as handing out five walks on the day.

However, on the other end of the spectrum, walks were the only way any Houston players were able to touch the bases yesterday. Bauer didn’t give up a single hit, and 11 of his 18 outs were via strikeout. While there still appears to be some issues to work out as far as his control goes, it’s safe to say Bauer showed a ton of potential in yesterday’s victory.

Of course, it needs to be noted all three pitchers dominated an Astros team which isn’t exactly near the top of the league in terms of talent. A weekend series against the Detroit Tigers will certainly be a more legitimate measuring stick for Cleveland’s starters. And, Kluber, Carrasco, and Bauer each only has one game’s worth of action on their 2015 resume, so you can’t rush to any judgments on either just yet.

However, if the Indians plan on meeting the expectations laid in front of them for the 2015 season, the performances from these starters will be crucial. Judging from the first starts from Kluber, Carrasco and Bauer, things certainly look more than promising.

Casey Drottar is a Cleveland Beat Writer for Follow him on Twitter or “Like” him on Facebook

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