Inbox: Who'll start for Tribe in 2011?
Indians reporter Castrovince fields fans' queries
I have nowhere else to go on the record with this information, so I'm going to do so here: I invented the Dairy Queen "Cookie Jar" Blizzard in 1998.Unfortunately, I have no documentation (i.e., no receipt) to back this claim up. All I have is my buddy Brian's testimony as a witness, though I haven't bothered to ask him if he even remembers this event. But suffice to say, there was a glorious day in 1998 on which I boldly ordered an Oreo and Cookie Dough Blizzard. The DQ machines, which have since been upgraded to handle such a workload, nearly exploded that night, when trying to cram so much flavor into a single 12 ounce cup. Three DQ workers got too close to the machine while it was churning and were knocked unconscious. The fire alarm went off, and neighborhood dogs could be heard howling throughout a four-block radius. The cashier who served it to me had to wear sunglasses. I'm still not sure why. These days, DQ is profiting off my invention, which they have lamely branded the "Cookie Jar," when it clearly ought to be called the "Castrovizzard." I'm not asking for royalties, but a coupon for 75 cents off my next "Cookie Jar" purchase would be acceptable. If I were the GM, my rotation next year would be Fausto Carmona, Josh Tomlin, Jeanmar Gomez and Mitch Talbot. Seems like decent pitchers for what we have to work with. If we added another free agent arm or Justin Masterson turned things around, I could see the Tribe slightly over .500 next year. Or am I the guy that convinces us to stay at Bernie's for the weekend? Seems like a good idea; what could go wrong?
-- Cam M., Auburn, Maine Cam, if you were GM, I certainly hope you would add another arm. Because, otherwise, the Indians would have a four-man rotation, and each guy would probably be on the DL by the end of July. But kudos for the first "Weekend at Bernie's" reference in many moons. I would have to see a lot more of Gomez and Tomlin before I'm convinced they are going to be real factors in the rotation next season and beyond. They have certainly exceeded expectations thus far, but it's too early in their careers to read too much into the results. Neither has awe-inspiring stuff, so their command must be impeccable. Carmona and Talbot appear to be the only locks for the 2011 rotation. The Indians certainly would like to see Carlos Carrasco figure into the mix, and he should get a look this September. Hector Rondon essentially lost a developmental year in Triple-A because of injury. There is hope on the horizon if Alex White continues to ascend or the recently acquired Corey Kluber or Zach McAllister pan out as back-end rotation options. But the early outlook for the 2011 rotation still looks pretty thin to me, and I wouldn't be surprised to see the Indians shop for a free-agent veteran to eat up some innings.
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-- Kevin S., Lambeth, Ontario If you're missing it, Kevin, I'm missing it, too. In a rebuilding year, it made plenty of sense to give Masterson a meaningful opportunity in the rotation. But his inconsistency, his continuing struggles against left-handers (.309 AVG., .850 OPS, 10 HR, 17 2B, 42 BB) and the fact that he seems to possess only two pitches that can be counted on at this level all point to him being better off in the bullpen. The big-bodied Masterson has struggled to keep his delivery intact over the length of a start. In the 'pen, that would be less of an issue. He has the stuff to potentially thrive as a setup guy. We might see Masterson in the bullpen by season's end, as the Indians will likely seek to limit his innings down the stretch. And that move, if it happens, could be a sign of things to come in 2011. With Shin-Soo Choo becoming more and more a fan favorite, do you think the Indians might spend the money on this guy in 2011 and build around him?
-- Dennis R., Parma, Ohio I think the Indians would be wise to try to work with Choo on a three-year contract this winter that would take him through his arbitration years. As it stands, Choo is due a hefty raise and has a real chance of becoming the first Tribe player to go to arbitration since 1991. But if the Indians can work out such a deal, they could guarantee themselves some cost control (or, at least, cost awareness) for the next three years, rather than going through this process each of the next three winters. At this point, it's hard to imagine the Indians being able to sign Choo into his free-agent years. He is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season. What's your impression, as well as that of scouts and coaches you've talked with, about the long-term prospects for Lonnie Chisenhall? He seems to be "stuck in Akron," and I was wondering why?
-- Jim H., Canton, Ohio Chisenhall has the natural swing and the makeup to be a Major Leaguer, but he still has some progress to make defensively (keep in mind, he didn't make the move to third base until the end of the 2008 season), and his power is still developing. Having not had a truly dominant season in Double-A, Chisenhall probably can't claim to be "stuck in Akron" (or "stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again"). He had a slow start that included a bout with a shoulder strain, and he didn't begin to hit his stride until midseason. Don't look for Chisenhall to be the answer at third base at the outset of 2011. The Indians, I'm sure, will want to give him prolonged time in Triple-A before they're ready to promote him. And given all the ugliness we've seen at third in the wake of the Jhonny Peralta trade, as well as the fact that Jared Goedert has cooled off in Columbus, look for the Indians to try to find a veteran stopgap at third this winter to keep the position warm for Goedert or Chisenhall. AC, something has always confused me about pitchers that get traded from one league to another. Why does their W-L total reset to 0-0? This doesn't happen if they get traded within the same league. For example, Jake Westbrook's record with the Cardinals was 0-0, but Kerry Wood's numbers remained the same with the Yankees. I used to think it was an AL-NL old school rule, but Westbrook's record this season against the NL was 1-1 in three starts. Why didn't these stats count?
-- Doug G., Medina, Ohio The leagues are considered separate entities, statistically. That's why there are separate AL and NL league leaders and, at year's end, MVPs, Cy Youngs, etc. Even if you pitch against an NL team, if you're wearing an AL uniform those numbers go toward your AL statistics. That's the way it's always been, and that's the way it will always be. No. 1 pick Drew Pomeranz is a left-handed pitcher, correct? But in the photo posted on your blog, he signs his contract with his right hand. Why is that?
-- Jeff, Westerville, Ohio I'd say it could be any one of the following three reasons, Jeff: 1. The front-office intern dispatched to Hopkins Airport to pick up Pomeranz brought back the wrong guy, and the Indians are now forced to pay $2.65 million in signing bonus money to some right-handed dude who happened to be here on a layover during a trip from Newark to L.A. 2. That photo is an optical illusion that has permanently distorted your neural paths, which would explain why you got in the passenger's side door when you left for work this morning. 3. Pomeranz throws with his left hand and writes with his right hand. No word on which hand he uses to deposit his bonus. We keep hearing about a lot of guys in Columbus and Akron, such as Goedert, second basemen Jason Kipnis and Cord Phelps and outfielders Jose Constanza, Matt McBride, and Nick Weglarz. Regardless of this September, which of these position players and others have real shots with the Tribe next season? Also, where are the careers of pitchers Jeremy Sowers and David Huff headed?
-- John L., San Diego Regarding the position players you mentioned, Goedert has the clearest path toward claiming a Major League job because of the current hole at third. Phelps and Kipnis could both factor into the second-base picture next year. For now, the Indians are intent on determining whether Jason Donald is the answer. McBride and "Can't Stand Ya" Constanza have each had a strong year, but both guys are billed more as role players and both are in a position where the Indians currently have a logjam. Weglarz is in the same position, but probably possesses more offensive upside. Alas, his season at Columbus ended prematurely because of a sprained ligament in his thumb. Huff will probably have an opportunity to fight for a job next spring, but he certainly took a step back this year with his inconsistent command and dismal results at the Major League level. I'm afraid we've probably seen the last of Sowers, who had 71 starts in the big leagues and simply did not make the most of them. He's been pitching out of the Columbus 'pen with uninspiring results. And finally... Thank you very much for your article on Luke Holko and Ben Carlson. I've followed sports ever since I was a boy, and my impression is that writers sometimes try to skirt around the topic of a player's thinking about God, a player's thinking that there might be more to life than a game. Thank you very much for including Ben's statements about God and about his conversion to Christianity. I think they reflect an important part of his story and provide a refreshing, edifying perspective within the world of sports.
-- Leonard S., no location given I'll admit that when composing a game story, I rarely use quotes in which players cite God as the inspiration for a game-changing at-bat. Not because I scoff at the player's beliefs, but because such quotes often do nothing to augment the analysis of the sport. But in telling the story of Carlson, a player whose relationship with God was strengthened after nearly killing a 4-year-old boy with a foul ball, those statements were instrumental to the piece and to capturing Ben's newfound perspective. I'm glad you appreciated them, Leonard. For those that might have missed the Holko story, you can find it here.