Mailbag: Borowski fixed as closer?
Beat reporter Anthony Castrovince answers fans' questions
I peaked at age 12.That's the conclusion I've drawn from digging up an old copy of Game Face Magazine I had stashed away in a box in the attic. Leafing through the issue from Sept. 25, 1993, I came across the startling site of a scorecard filled out perfectly by my 12-year-old hand. The Indians, for the record, beat the Brewers, 6-2, that day, in the midst of the second-to-last series at old Cleveland Municipal Stadium, and I chronicled every last out with textbook, penciled-in precision. I look at the scorecards I now fill out on a nightly basis in the Jacobs Field press box, and they're a jumbled mess. And in pen, no less. That means every mistake is either scribbled over or taken as erroneous documented fact. But another thing struck me about this scorecard. Even though the Tribe stuck it to Jaime Navarro for six runs in 5 2/3 innings, the game lasted all of two hours, 20 minutes. I can only reach the logical conclusion that a direct correlation exists between the erosion of my handwriting and the increase in the average length of a Major League ballgame. Scorecards are as powerful as photographs for their ability to capture a moment in time. I look out into the stands today and see few, if any, 12-year-olds taking advantage of the opportunity to create such snapshots by noting each K and 6-3. If I could, I'd write a heartfelt letter to the kids out there, imploring them to make the most of their day at the ballpark by scoring the game and sculpting a souvenir that will allow them the opportunity to reminisce years down the road. But that letter probably wouldn't be legible anyway, so forget it. Let's get to your letters instead. While Joe Borowski's ERA might be high, can you tell me what it would be without the implosions against the Yankees and A's earlier this year? I believe those two outings, given the number of runs allowed, have caused his ERA to flare up.
-- Tim C., Chicago This tidbit is included in the Tribe's daily notes given to the media. If you take away Borowski's outings on April 19 and May 13, his ERA is 4.05 (53 1/3 innings pitched, 24 earned runs). Of course, that's a little silly. Those outings can't be taken away. That's like saying, "If you take away Jose Mesa's appearance in Game 7 of the '97 World Series, the Indians are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their third title." What intrigues me about Borowski is his opportunity to make history this season. Since the save became an official statistic in 1969, no pitcher who has led his league in saves has had an ERA over 5.00, according to the Society for American Baseball Research. The closest was Antonio Alfonseca, who had 45 saves and a 4.24 ERA with the Marlins in 2000. Borowski has been the No. 1 topic in my inbox the last week or so, which is why he's the lead question here. Fans seem fed up with his flair for the dramatic and want the Indians to move Rafael Betancourt or Rafael Perez to the closer's spot. Borowski's been teetering on the edge often in the past month, but until he completely implodes for a sustained stretch, manager Eric Wedge doesn't have reason to mix things up that drastically.
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-- Andrew A., Chicago The only wake-up call Westbrook likely needed was that 6.20 ERA he was carrying around at the time of Lee's demotion. Actually, Westbrook had shown significant enough signs of life at the time Lee was sent down that the Indians had reason to believe he'd come around. In his July 18 start against the White Sox, Westbrook gave up four runs in six innings, but three of those came in one inning. In his July 23 start against the Red Sox, he allowed five runs in six innings, but all of those came in the first two innings. The Tribe's decision makers were confident Westbrook would show an ability to put complete outings together, and he rewarded their faith with a splendid August. How rare was it that Perez faced only one batter in last Monday's win over the Twins, but got that batter to hit into a triple play? Oh, and if it'll help me make the mailbag, I have to point out that my local Toledo Mud Hens have a pitcher by the name of Yorman Bazardo. Think you can get the Tribe to trade for him, so we can talk about "Bizarro Bazardo" in a future mailbag column?
-- Kirk H., Toledo, Ohio Perez's performance was straight out of "Bizarro World," as he became just the 11th pitcher since 1957 to face one batter and get three outs, according to baseball-reference.com. Perez, who needed just three pitches to get the three outs, did not, however, set a record for efficiency. SABR informs us that the Reds' Ken Ash used just one pitch to record a triple play on July 27, 1930. He got the Cubs' Charlie Grimm to ground into a 4-5-2-3-5 triple play with runners on the corners and none out. Now that's efficient. Almost as efficient as using a Label Baby Jr. to make address labels. What's with the apparent June Cleaver-esque pearl necklace worn by Asdrubal Cabrera? I expect him to holler to Wally and the Beav that dinner is ready.
-- Kevin R., St. Augustine, Fla. No, Kevin, those aren't pearls. They are merely beads on a necklace made for Cabrera by his wife. He says it gives him good luck, and it's hard to argue that claim. Are you surprised they brought up Luis Rivas?
-- Patrick D., Oregon, Ohio You better believe I'm surprised, especially considering Rivas wasn't on the 40-man roster. He had a nice second half at Buffalo, and the Indians brought him up to provide speed and/or infield defensive help in the late innings. But with Chris Gomez and Josh Barfield already on the bench, I was under the assumption the Tribe was set in that area. Speaking of defensive replacements, I heard a caller on a Cleveland sports talk show bemoan the fact that Wedge didn't put in a replacement for Jhonny Peralta in the ninth inning of Saturday's 7-0 win over the White Sox. I swear, if Wedge submitted a document to the World Health Organization outlining a fail-safe cure for diabetes, some Indians fan would criticize his choice in paper. We all know Victor Martinez isn't getting any younger. And while Kelly Shoppach does a great job as a backup, do we have any promising prospects coming up behind them?
-- David S., Mansfield, Ohio I've yet to meet someone getting younger, David. Martinez is signed through 2009 with a team option for 2010, and his improvement behind the plate this season leads me to believe he'll remain back there. That being said, the Tribe's backlog of backstops is stronger now than it was, say, two years ago. Shoppach, as we now know, is a top-quality backup who I could definitely see in a starting role somewhere, someday. On the farm, Double-A catcher Wyatt Toregas was recently named the Minors' best defensive catcher by Baseball America, but his bat has long been a question mark. The name to watch is that of Matt McBride, who has drawn raves down at Class A Lake County and was recently promoted to Double-A Akron. McBride was a second-round pick out of Lehigh University in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. He batted .283 with eight homers and 66 RBIs in 105 games for the Captains. He's a good, quick-footed defender and he has a gun for an arm. I like Cabrera's defense and his hitting potential, but can we give him a nickname? I was thinking maybe "Drubie" -- short for Asdrubal, of course.
-- Jonathan V., Toledo, Ohio A nickname is definitely in order. "Drubie" is fine with me, but I'm willing to hear other suggestions. With the final makeup game to be played against the Mariners in Seattle on Sept. 26, will the Indians get to be "home team," because the original game was a home game? How does this work?
-- Don C., Norfolk, Neb. Yes, the Indians will be the "home" team in the first game of the doubleheader that day. But the Tribe won't be wearing the home whites. A couple members of the Indians front-office staff had home clubhouse manager Tony Amato -- no fan of logistical hassles -- convinced otherwise last week, but they had to call off the prank before Amato could become a threat to society. I know this is beating a dead horse, but when I look at the upcoming schedule, I see one of the makeup games with Seattle was scheduled on Aug. 30 and the final makeup is scheduled for Sept. 26 in Seattle. Why couldn't they have played a doubleheader on Aug. 30 so they could have the same amount of home games as everyone else?
-- Jeff H., Westerville, Ohio The Indians are already playing 23 games in 23 days as a result of the one makeup game on Aug. 30. Getting approval from the players' union for 24 games in 23 days likely would have been impossible. I've felt all along that C.C. Sabathia would win three or four games in the second half. When do you think the deep thinkers in the front office will wake up and trade this stiff while we still have others fooled as to his true value?
-- Jack H., Where I Hang My Hat I don't know where you hang your hat, Jack, but you might want to open the windows and get a little more oxygen in there.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.