Tribe Says No To Sizemore, Picks Up Carmona Option

By: T.J. Zuppe

June 27th, 2002 – It was on that day that then Indians general manager Mark Shapiro put his stamp on the organization by trading ace pitcher Bartolo Colon to the desperate Montreal Expos.

Flash forward to October 31st, 2011 – The day the team may have said its final goodbye to the last link to that deal.

Before the Monday deadline set by major league baseball, the Cleveland Indians declined to pick up the 8.5 million dollar option on outfielder Grady Sizemore, electing to buyout the often-injured center fielder for $500,000.

Free Agent Outfielder Grady Sizemore

This makes the 29-year old a free agent, eligible to sign with any club he desires. That could also include the Tribe, who could choose to re-sign Sizemore at a discounted rate with incentives.

Sizemore hit .224 in 2011, playing in only 71 games for the Tribe. He hit 10 home runs, while driving in 32 in 295 at bats. He also struck out 85 times and posted the second-lowest OPS of his career at .706.

After being acquired in the Colon trade from the Expos – along with infielders Brandon Phillips, Lee Stevens and pitcher Cliff Lee – Sizemore spent eight seasons with the Indians, hitting .269 in that span.

He is a three-time all-star and two-time gold glove winner in centerfield.

However, the last three years have left him injury plagued, only able to top the 100-game mark once since 2009. The one-time MVP candidate became more of a punchline recently, as he struggled to get on the field consistently.

He is expected to draw moderate interest at a smaller dollar figure per season. His services could peak intrigue from higher payrolled clubs, with more money available to take a gamble on him.

Cleveland is also not ruled out from interest, with a smaller incentive-filled deal making sense to take a flier on, providing a low-risk, high-reward situation.

Meanwhile, the club decided to exercise its seven million dollar option for 2012 on right-handed pitcher Fausto Carmona.

The 27-year old finished 2011 with a record of 7-15, with an earned run average of 5.25. It marked the fourth time in his Indians career his ERA topped five.

However, with recent Tommy John surgery done on right-hander Carlos Carrasco, and question marks surrounding the final two spots in the rotation, the club elected to keep the inning-eating Carmona, who has averaged 172 frames a season since 2007.

The team will keep an eye on other clubs around baseball, with other players being added to the free agent pool following Monday’s deadline.

Recently, designated hitter Jim Thome, pitcher Chad Durbin and outfielder Kosuke Fukudome filed for free agency.

Follow TJ on Twitter @TJZuppe

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Indians Tough Decisions About To Be Made

By: T.J. Zuppe

72 hours after the final out is recorded in the 2011 World Series, the Cleveland Indians will be on the clock. In that time frame, the team will have to complete their decisions on pitcher Fausto Carmona and outfielder Grady Sizemore’s options for 2012.

A great deal has been made about the seven-million dollar option on Carmona and roughly nine-million dollar option on Sizemore the Tribe holds in their hands.

But what will be the club’s decision?

Neither one has money due in the astronomical range next season. Both actually are reasonable figures when the two reach ultimate production. But can the team count on that?

Outfielder Grady Sizemore

Sizemore hit .224 last season, with 10 home runs and 32 runs driven in. He also struck out 85 times, while not stealing a single base, an element of his game that made him dynamic in the past.

The one-time talented centerfielder has only played in 100 games or more one time in the past three years. He has not reached beyond 500 at bats since 2008.

Sure, nine-million for the Sizemore of old is a steal, but lately its been Cleveland getting swindled.

As for Carmona, 2011 was not a season to remember. The expected ace pitched more like a back-end rotational arm, putting up an earned run average above five for the fourth time in his career. He also lost a career-high 15 games.

However, with question marks in the rotation, can the team afford to let the 27-year old right-hander go?

With Carmona, the team does have another route they could take. If the club decides to not pick up the 2012 option for him, he does not simply become a free-agent like Sizemore.

Instead, he would still be in control of the Indians as an arbitration eligible player. Yet, keep in mind, the seven-million dollar figure would probably save the Tribe some cash, and would help avoid the dreaded arbitration they so desperately look to avoid.

At the end of the day, it probably makes the most sense for the Indians to say yes to Carmona.

Sizemore, on the other hand, has many glaring negatives surrounding his option. But one notch in the positive category would be his trade value.

To Cleveland, a nine million trial would be hard to swallow. However, for a team like the Yankees, Red Sox or Phillies, that figure is much easier to absorb with the hope he regains some form of his old self.

The team could decide to pick up that option and test the trade waters on a player like Sizemore. They could also see how he starts the season, before attempting to ship him off mid-year.

After all, if the Indians do let him walk away, they gain nothing in return.

We should find out within the next few days the fate of both players in Cleveland. But keep this in the back of your mind; whatever the Tribe decides may not be the final indicator of their long-term plans with the club.

Follow T.J. on twitter @TJZuppe

Pondering Option on Carmona

By: T.J. Zuppe

Indians fans have grown to know two distinct things about pitcher Fausto Carmona; there is good Fausto, and there is bad Fausto.

With the 2011 season winding down, the Wahoo faithful have been seeing a lot more of the bad, bordering on unwatchable Fausto. His alter-ego has faded into a distant memory.

For a while, due to the question marks surrounding the rotation in 2012, it seemed cooler heads would prevail regarding Carmona’s future with the Indians. Possibly some time away from watching his frustrating style, paired with the fact that he still has youth on his side would keep the Chief Wahoo on his hat for the time being.

However, as 2011 has closed out, his option next year looks less and less appetizing.

Under his current contract, the Indians hold club options for the next three seasons. In the offseason, the Tribe could decide to keep the soon-to-be 28-year old righty at roughly seven million dollars.

After a sluggish start to this season, where he posted a 5.98 ERA in his first 16 starts, Carmona seemed to make that option a no-brainer. He settled into a grove between June 26th and August 22nd, posting an ERA of 2.62 over nine starts.

Indians Pitcher Fausto Carmona

The team won five of those games.

Then the world came crumbling down around him. In the next six starts that followed, Carmona has been nothing short of abysmal. He has surrendered 29 runs in that period, in just 31 innings of work.

He also walked 13, compared to just 18 strike outs.

That includes Tuesday’s first game of a double-header with the White Sox, where he worked six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits. However, he did pitch well enough to give his team a chance at victory, as he picked up the win, in the 4-3 ballgame.

It has been that maddening nature of his outings that has plagued him his entire career with Cleveland. When he reaches a point where he begins to build on positives, he regresses into a helpless state where outs are tough to come by.

He battles through some contests, as he did Tuesday, providing hope for his next outing. Then, the Hyde to his Jekyll emerges and situations get nuclear.

“Overall, he has been up and down,” Indians manager Manny Acta said of his starter this season. “I think he’s got good enough stuff to be better than that.”

This would be easy to accept from a first or second year hurler, not so from player ready to enter his seventh season in the big leagues. It is no longer just a small trend, it is the norm.

However, his manager did note one element in his favor.

“He’s very durable,” he added. “He’s pretty consistent with taking the ball every five days.”

Even missing some time with injury this season, Carmona is nearing 400 innings over the past two seasons. His ability to be a workload monster is arguably his largest strength.

Yet, if the team truly hopes to compete with the big boys next season, relying on Carmona is becoming a tougher option for success. The club must consider moving in a different direction and finding more consistency in the back of the rotation.

To come to this conclusion, the front office must ask themselves the question; in the heat of a playoff race in September and October, do you feel comfortable with the right-handed starter on the hill? Are you willing to play a game of chance on which Fausto will appear?

At this point, it is really difficult to argue yes to either question.

When the dust settles, it is still hard to see the team moving forward without him in 2012. At seven million, with a flexible contract, odds are good the team will take the large risk on bringing him back for another go.

Largely, this will be decided by what veterans the team can chase in free agency and via trades. If the team feels good about the pitching market, cutting ties with the former ace will be easier than expected.

But it is very likely that next year’s campaign will be Carmona’s very last to prove his worth. If we see the same inconsistencies in the early stages, he will be greeted with a quick hook and shaking heads.

He cannot skate by on youth and promise any longer.

Roda’s Weekend Thoughts

By: Kenny Roda

Hats off to the Indians for sweeping their 3rd series of the year, in route to an (11-4) start.  Granted their 3 season sweeps have come again teams with a combined (15-29) record, but they all count the same in the end.

Indians Outfielder Grady Sizemore

That’s the last time I question Manny Acta in a while. The Tribe’s skipper is pushing all the right buttons right now. He places Grady Sizemore right back in the lead off spot, against my wishes, and all Sizemore does is go 2 for 4 with a homer and a double!

After a crapola of a season opening start against the White Sox, Fausto Carmona has settled down and thrown 3 quality starts in a row.  That’s what an ace is supposed to do.

We’re getting closer and closer to the NFL draft and nothing I’ve heard, seen or read, has made me change my mind on my draft order for the Browns in the 1st round.  My top 3 for the Browns are still: 1) A.J. Green – WR – Georgia    2) Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU 3) Von Miller – OLB – Texas A & M.

How about the Spurs, Lakers and Magic all losing game #1’s  at home in the NBA playoffs.  While Miami, Boston, Chicago and Dallas struggled to win at home in Game #1.  Could set up for a great playoff season!

The Lake Erie Monsters played their first ever playoff games at The Q this weekend and came away with a disappointing split against Manitoba. The Monsters took game #1 by a 6-4 score, but lost in overtime in game #2 by a final score of 3-2. The Monsters allowed the Moose to tie up game #2 by scoring with :50 left in the 3rd period and then the Moose dominated the OT session to come away with the win.  Game #3 of this best of 7 game series is Tuesday night in Manitoba.  Face off is 8:30pm.

Follow Kenny Roda on Twitter @RoadmanWKNR

Inside The Wigwam

By: T.J. Zuppe

Baltimore Orioles (6-5) vs. Cleveland Indians (8-4) – Progressive Field

Friday’s pitching matchup: LHP Zach Britton (2-0 – 0.66) vs. RHP Justin Masterson (2-0 – 1.35 )  7PM

Shaking Up The Rotation

Indians Pitcher Mitch Talbot

Due to the off day on Thursday, Indians manager Manny Acta has made a small tweak to the starting rotation.

Right-hander Fausto Carmona will be bumped up a day, and will pitch in the series finale with Baltimore on Sunday. Righty Mitch Talbot, who was originally slated to start Sunday, will be bumped back until Tuesday, April 19th.

The Tribe will head to Kansas City following the three-game set with the Orioles.

Masterson On The Hill

Right-hander Justin Masterson gets the call on Friday, as the Tribe returns home to Progressive Field. The Indians have dropped two in a row, and are looking to the tall righty to stop the skid.

This is nothing new to Masterson, who took the ball following the team’s first two losses of the year, and sparked an eight-game winning streak behind an outstanding performance.

He’ll be matched up with lefty Zach Britton of the Orioles. The 23-year old hurler has the folks in Baltimore calling him, “the real deal.”

Smith In, Herrmann Out

The club has activated side-winding righty Joe Smith from the 15-day disabled list. Smith had been battling an abdominal strain, and had previously been rehabbing with Class-AA Akron.

Acta is counting on Smith to be the right-handed eighth inning setup man for his squad. He should provide the skipper with far better matchup options in late inning situations.

To make room on the roster, right-handed pitcher Frank Herrmann was optioned back to Class-AAA Columbus.

There had been some speculation regarding who would be sent down, to make room, but with Herrmann still with options, and Vinnie Pestano pitching well, the team opted to make an easy decision.

Herrmann had been struggling thus far in 2011, giving up six hits, five runs (four earned), in 4.1 innings of work. Fellow bullpen hurler Justin Germano had similar numbers (five innings, four hits, four runs), but no remaining options.

Sizemore Inches Closer

Outfielder Grady Sizemore is slowly rehabbing his way to big league shape, with his next stop in Class-AAA Columbus. On Thursday, Sizemore hit his first home run in his rehabilitation, going 1-3 in his first game with the Clippers.

Honoring Jackie Robinson

Friday will mark the eighth annual Jackie Robinson day around Major League Baseball. It was 64 years ago on this date, that Robinson broke down color barriers, and played in his first game with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

As in years past, all players, managers and coaches will wear the number 42 to honor Robinson’s great achievement.

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

Feeling The Fever?

By: T.J. Zuppe

The atmosphere at Progressive Field has changed over the last few days. Sure, it is still cold and the crowds are small, but the entire mood has lightened since Saturday’s loss to the White Sox.

Flash forward to Thursday afternoon. As the Tribe was putting the final touches on a sweep of the all-mighty Red Sox with a 1-0 victory, strange things were happening – they were winning.

Tribe manager Manny Acta was pulling out all the stops. Impressively, it was working.

Whether it was managing the fifth inning of Wednesday like it were the ninth, or shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera suicide-squeezing third-baseman Adam Everett home in the eighth on Thursday, Acta was coming up roses.

Indians Pitcher Fausto Carmona

Is this the “Wahoo Baseball” he had discussed at the tail-end of spring training?

Most Indians fans were in disbelief, watching the team play a little small ball. Moving runners over and getting them in was a foreign concept over the past couple of seasons.

To watch a team attempt them, on top of execute those moves to perfection, may have those same fans a little disoriented.

Most impressively, the club found multiple ways to win against the Red Sox. They blasted the Beantowners with a barrage of home runs on Wednesday. That gave way to a pitchers duel between Fausto Carmona and Jon Lester on Thursday.

A great deal of credit goes to Carmona, who matched Lester pitch for pitch. He gave his squad seven innings of two-hit, four strikeout, shutout ball.

He did what every ace needs to do, bounced back from a rough outing, and gave his team a chance to win. Carmona was flat-out dealing, mixing his pitches and tossing strikes.

It was not only important for the Indians, but for his confidence as well.

Also, give credence to left-hander Rafael Perez, who cleaned up a big mess in the eighth inning, Thursday. A return to old form means an entire complexion change in the bullpen.

And when it came time to shut the door, out strolled right-hander Chris Perez to slam it. Despite making things interesting, “Pure Rage” made the necessary pitches, and notched a couple of saves.

Through all of that, the roles of the two teams looked reversed.

Instead of the Indians looking like the young ballclub that they are, the Red Sox were making the mistakes. It was catcher Jason Varitek not tagging outfielder Travis Buck at the plate on Wednesday, handing the Tribe a run.

Boston pinch-runner Darnell McDonald was busy overrunning second base, allowing Everett to gun him down at the bag, ending Thursday’s game.

Looking flustered and confused, Boston remained winless.

And after starting the year 0-2, the Indians have now won four straight, playing fundamentally sound.

Are you feeling the Indians fever? Probably not.

However, in a season all about growing and progress, you cannot ask for much more.

Of course, it will not take long for things to work themselves out. Boston will be back near the top of the American League East soon, and Cleveland will likely be flirting with the .500 mark.

But damn, isn’t sports all about those unpredictable moments?

Take off the negative cap for just one day and bask in a little Wahoo baseball fun. There will be plenty of time for that negativity in the upcoming campaign.

Photos courtesy of the AP and Indians.com

Follow T.J. Zuppe on Twitter @TJZuppe

Carmona, Carrasco, Cause For Concern?

By: T.J. Zuppe

The combined pitching line of starters Fausto Carmona and Carlos Carrasco has not been pretty. In fact, the pitching in the first two days of the season has been downright putrid.

Indians Pitcher Carlos Carrasco

In both losses, the two have combined to surrender 17 runs in 9.2 innings of work. They have also given up 21 hits, including Carrasco getting knocked around the yard early by the White Sox, on Saturday.

If not for a few “at ’em” balls, his day could have been much worse.

For the top two men in the Tribe’s rotation, it has been anything but top-notch. Based on starting pitching being a question mark, it is fair to raise your eyebrow in concern.

However, manage Manny Acta does not seem to think so.

“It has only been two games, Acta said. “I think these guys are going to be fine. I’m not anticipating either of these two guys to struggle this way. They are both going to be fine.

“It’s early,” Acta added, stating he is not going to judge his team based on two games.

No one would expect him to do so. One start each is not enough to sell them down the river. But you do hope both have learned something valuable from their starts, that they can put into action in the near future.

Carrasco already knew some adjustments needed to be made, and it showed briefly in his outing on Saturday.

“I started throwing my breaking stuff and my fastball later,” Carrasco said. “When I started throwing my breaking stuff in the third inning, it got a little easier. In the first two innings I threw too many fastballs.”

Indians Manager Manny Acta has not gotten exactly what he hoped for at the top of his rotation.

Yet, no matter what the pitch, Carrasco noted, at times it did not matter. “They hit everything,” he added.

Chicago is a fastball mashing team. Carrasco threw mostly fastballs. The White Sox made him pay.

Hopefully, you can chalk that up to the learning curve of being in the big leagues, as he continues to grow. The same cannot be said for the 27-year old veteran Carmona, who does not have those excuses to fall back on.

One big difference between the two was the amount of innings Carrasco gave his team, saving Acta from taxing his bullpen two games into the young season.

Carmona tossed three innings on opening day, while Carrasco battled his way into the seventh frame.

“I think it’s a starters responsibility to do that,” Acta said. “It was very important that he was able to bounce back, after the first two innings.”

Not only from a team importance standpoint, but also based on confidence, it was key for him to be able to settle into a groove.

Now, it can come down to a few adjustments in the attack strategy.

Just as Carrasco was able to bounce back on Saturday, it is infinitely as important for both starters at the top of the rotation to find their groove in start number two.

This is certainly not how Acta wanted to set the tone for the rest of the rotation. Just hope it is indeed, “early.”

Take the finger off of the panic button. They are not cause for concern – yet.

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