Justin Masterson is still building back arm strength after missing time with an oblique injury late in the season and Chris Perez pitched his way out of the closer job with a brutal final month, so Mark Emery of MLB.com wonders if the Indians could end up giving Masterson a look in the ninth inning.
For now manager Terry Francona is simply saying he’ll use a closer-by-committee approach, but Masterson looked good in some late-September relief outings and has plenty of bullpen experience from his days with the Red Sox. Francona called having him available out of the bullpen “quite a weapon” and “we plan to use it.”
Masterson was Cleveland’s Opening Day starter and was on the verge of his third consecutive 200-inning season before the injury. He still ended up leading the Indians with 193 innings, posting a 3.45 ERA and 195/76 K/BB ratio while allowing just 13 home runs. If the Indians make it deep into the playoffs moving him back into the rotation could be an option, but in the meantime he seems destined to get some high-leverage relief work.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.