The Indians' roster management leaves much to be desired

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Matt and Aaron
mentioned the Ryan Garko trade last night, but I’m still thinking about
one aspect of it this morning, and that’s the fact that the Tribe
called up Andy Marte instead of Matt LaPorta to take Garko’s spot on
the roster. Let’s suss that out a bit, shall we?

Matt LaPorta was the centerpiece of the CC Sabathia trade last year,
and he’s gotten nothing but a courtesy callup so far. For now he’s like
me: Tearing it up, but largely wasting his time, in Columbus, Ohio
while the big old world slowly passes him by. Andy Marte, on the other
hand, has had approximately 1,257 chances to make it work in the Major
Leagues and has failed every time. Yes, he too is raking in Columbus
this year, and yes he stands to be a minor league free agent this
winter, but those 1,257 previous chances still weigh heavy on the mind.
Could he be the next Carlos Pena? Sure. But I think it far more likely
that he’s the AAAA player that he’s shown himself to be for several
years now, and if you have to choose between him and LaPorta, you have
to give LaPorta the shot.

Of course the dumbest thing about all of this is that the Indians didn’t have to choose between Marte and LaPorta. They forced that choice upon themselves by carrying a 14 man pitching staff.

Let me repeat that.

The Indians have five starting pitchers and nine — nine! —
relievers on their 25 man roster. Mark Shapiro, in his infinite wisdom,
has decided that he wants to give his embattled manager the option of
running ten pitchers out in a given game. And that happens so often!

Here’s something that doesn’t happen so often, but happened last
night: Because Garko was traded, Travis Hafner couldn’t play (he gets
mandatory days off to rest his shoulder or whatever it is on him that
doesn’t work so good) and Grady Sizemore was sick, the Indians played
the entire game against the Angels last night with literally no one
available on the bench. If Asdrubal Cabrera went down, Cliff Lee is
probably playing short. And who cares? They’re trading him anyway!

In light of that, and in light of the fact that you have two guys
worthy of a callup to the big leagues, you’d think that the Indians
would maybe think about going from the monumentally stupid 14-man
pitching staff to a merely idiotic 13 or a somewhat excessive 12. But
far be it from me to argue against success.

[cough!] 42-58 [cough!]

The Cubs are in desperate need of relief

Associated Press
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Tonight in Chicago Yu Darvish of the Dodgers will face off against Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs. If this were Game 1, we’d have a lot to say about the Dodgers’ trade deadline pickup and the Cubs’ budding ace. If this series continues on the way it’s been going, however, each of them will be footnotes because it has been all about the bullpens.

The Cubs, you may have heard, are having tremendous problems with relief pitching. Both their own and with the opposition’s. Cubs relievers have a 7.03 ERA this postseason, and have allowed six runs on eight hits and have walked six batters in seven innings of work. And no, the relief struggles aren’t just a matter of Joe Maddon pushing the wrong buttons (even though, yeah, he has pushed the wrong buttons).

Maddon pushed Wade Davis for 44 pitches in Game 5 of the NLDS, limiting his availability in Games 1 and 2. That pushing is a result of a lack of relief depth on the Cubs. Brian Duensing, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. all have talent and all have had their moments, but none of them are the sort of relievers we have come to see in the past few postseasons. The guys who, when your starter tosses 80 pitches in four innings like Jon Lester did the other night, can be relied upon to shut down the opposition for three and a half more until your lights-out closer can get the four-out save.

In contrast, the Dodgers bullpen has been dominant, tossing eight scoreless innings. Indeed, Dodgers relievers have tossed eight almost perfect innings, allowing zero hits and zero walks while striking out nine Cubs batters. The only imperfection came when Kenley Jansen hit Anthony Rizzo in Game 2. That’s it. Compare this to the past couple of postseasons where the only truly reliable arm down there was Jansen, and in which Dodgers managers have had to rely on Clayton Kershaw to come on in relief. That has not been a temptation at all as the revamped L.A. pen, featuring newcomers Brandon Morrow and Tony Watson. Suffice it to say, Joe Blanton is not missed.

Which brings us back to Kyle Hendricks. He has pitched twice this postseason, pitching seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the NLDS but getting touched for four runs on nine hits while allowing a couple of dingers in Game 5. If the good Hendricks shows up, Maddon will be able to ride him until late in the game in which a now-rested Davis and maybe either Strop or Edwards can close things out in conventional fashion, returning this series to competitiveness. If the bad Hendricks does, he’ll have to do what he did in that NLDS Game 5, using multiple relievers and, perhaps, a repurposed starter in relief while grinding Davis into dust again. That was lucky to work there and doing it without Davis didn’t work in Game 2 on Sunday night.

So it all falls to Hendricks. The Dodgers have shown how soft the underbelly of the Cubs pen truly is. If they get to Hendricks early and get into that pen, you have to like L.A’s chances, not just in this game, but for the rest of the series, as bullpen wear-and-tear builds up quickly. It’s pretty simple: Hendricks has to give the Cubs some innings tonight. There is no other option available.

Just ask Joe Maddon. He’s tried.